I was thrilled to hear from Amy that I’d been paired with Shana of Literarily for the BBAW interview—I’d been hesitant to sign up for this part of BBAW because I’ve never done an interview before and felt a bit intimidated by the process. But Shana was someone I already felt comfortable with—after all, she was the first person to comment on my new blog! She also writes one of my favourite blogs—and has been nominated for a BBAW award in the Best Literary Fiction Blog category.
Avis: When did you start your blog? And, more importantly, why?
Shana: I started Literarily on June 11, 2008.
I had started another book blog a month or so earlier, with plans for it to be a community blog for the town in which I live. I planned to recruit other readers to write reviews. I live in a town of 6,500 and there are at least four active book groups, so I thought it would be fun to share reviews. That concept is still mostly in my head, and in the meantime, I started Literarily for my own reviews and book-related musings so that the original blog wasn’t just me, me, and more me.
Literarily quickly grew from there and right now, it’s taking up most of my online time, which is very limited with three kids. So the other blog is languishing but I’m having loads of fun with Literarily.
- I wanted to share my thoughts about books with others who love them as much as I do, instead of babbling on to the non-readers or less enthusiastic readers in my life and watching their eyes glaze over.
- I love to write as a way of digesting my life. The very act of writing is calming and helps me make sense of things. This carries over into my reading. Writing a review is my way of figuring out what I really thought about a book, what I liked and what I didn’t.
- I had been regularly reading Books on the Brain, The Literate Housewife, and Booking Mama for several months and was inspired by them.
Shana: My design has not changed much, but it might soon (hint, hint).
In terms of content, it is constantly evolving as I try to make it better.
I’ve tweaked my review format—I’m a tinkerer—since the beginning. Instead of writing the summary, I use the most accurate one (in my eyes) I can find online. I just figured the summary is already out there in several places, so why spend my time reinventing the wheel, so to speak. It allows me to focus more on conveying my thoughts about the book, which is what I think people are looking for in a review anyway.
The one exception is the reviews I write for my local paper, the most recent one being my review of Night of Flames by Douglas W. Jacobson. In those cases, I write the summary as well as, of course, the opinion portion.
Avis: Have your reading habits changed since you started blogging? Do you read more or less? Has what you read changed now that you’re blogging about books?
Shana: Yes! How much I read hasn’t changed as much as what I read. I’ve always had diverse taste in books but I’ve expanded my horizons even more now that I’m blogging.
Avis: When do you blog? Do you dedicate a certain time of day to blogging? How much time, on average, per day do you spend working on your blog?
Shana: I usually blog when my kids are sleeping, so usually at night. Sometimes, I’ll write a post when they’re napping. Most days, I spend an hour or two on my blog. That includes responding to comments as well as writing posts.
Avis: Do your family and friends read your blog on a regular basis?
Shana: I’m not sure. Some do, I think. I’m kind of afraid to ask. What if they say no?
Avis: If you had to pick the three best books you’ve read so far this year, what would they be?
Shana: Okay, I know I’m the one who came up with this question, but what was I thinking??? There is no way I can pick three. I even tried to narrow it down to 10 and it was impossible. Fortunately, I like most books I read and end up loving quite a few of them.
Avis: What is the craziest place you’ve ever read?
Shana: I’ve read at football games. My husband walked on at the University of Nebraska and remains a HUGE fan to this day. We have season tickets and he goes to most of the games. I go to one or two with him. I’ve been known to hide a book in my bag and sneak out to read when I get bored with the game. Shhhh—my husband doesn’t know... he thinks it was just a frighteningly long trip to the restroom!
Avis: How many books are in your TBR pile?
Shana: Around 50.
Avis: What is the most challenging aspect of blogging?
Shana: Definitely, finding time to do it.
The second most challenging aspect would be keeping organized. There are posts I want to write, usually weekly community events (Sunday Salon, Mailbox Monday, Tuesday Teasers, Friday Finds, Weekly Geeks) that I would love to participate in but sometimes I get busy and forget to write them.
Avis: What’s been the best experience you’d had since you started blogging about books?
Shana: I think the best experience has been meeting fellow bloggers who are so generous and wonderful that they offer to send me books they know I’d like to read, not because I won a contest or challenge or giveaway, but just out of the goodness of their hearts (Jennifer, Marcia, Becca... I’m talking about you!)
A tie would be finding out how wonderful authors are. As avid readers, they are god-like figures to us. Definitely up on a pedestal (and a well-deserved one at that!) But since I’ve been blogging, I’ve found out that these very talented people are also kind, generous and down-to-earth. Elizabeth Brundage and Lesley Kagen come to mind—I was already a huge fan of their writing but have since discovered there is an awesome person behind the book. The same goes for several people I’ve met in the book industry—publishers and publicists.
Being nominated for a BBAW award was pretty awesome, too. I hate to sound cliché, but that nomination absolutely shocked me, and no matter what the results of the voting, I’m thrilled and honored beyond belief to have been nominated at all.
Avis: If you could give just one piece of advice to new bloggers, what would it be? (This was a bonus question for Shana as the “senior” blogger of the two of us.)
Shana: Well, if I were to choose just one, I’d say to learn from other bloggers. Like I said, I read Books on the Brain, The Literate Housewife and Booking Mama for several months before starting my own blog and they remain my role models. Also, J. Kaye at J. Kaye’s Book Blog has taught me so much, like always responding to comments, leaving comments for others, participating in community events, etc. It’s true that readers make the blog, and always showing them how much you respect and appreciate them is very, very important.
Thank you so much, Shana, for this great interview experience! Visit Shana’s blog to read her interview of me and Amy’s blog to read other BBAW interviews (scroll down to the links at the bottom of her post).