One of the great surprise pleasures of blogging has been the opportunity to meet other bloggers face to face and talk about books, blogging, and life in general. For many bloggers, BEA week in New York is a great time to do that—and it certainly proved to be the case for me last year. However, the Expo itself was of limited value to a blogger like me, who isn’t especially interested in focusing on new books or making connections with the book publishing industry. The Book Blogger Conference itself was more helpful and interesting, but I wanted more opportunities to talk with other bloggers, not just in a social setting, but in settings in which we could discuss issues specific to blogging. So my plan was that unless the conference changed considerably to be more interactive, I probably wouldn’t go again this year. When the complete schedule for the conference was posted, I decided that, although they do have some great folks presenting, the format is not really what I’m looking for in a blogging conference.
When Amy posted about her experience at the Book Camp Toronto unconference, I thought that it would be a great format for a blogging conference, so with all that said, I’ve been following Jeff at The Reading Ape‘s proposal for a book blogging unconference with interest. This week, the Book Blog Unconference on June 4 at the Center for Fiction in Midtown Manhattan was announced. The Uncon is free and open to all book bloggers (although space restraints are requiring the organizers to limit the event to only 100 bloggers). This sounds like exactly the kind of thing I’d like, so I’ve registered, and I’d love for some other blogging friends to come too! It is, unfortunately, the same day as the BEA Bloggers Conference, so people who are interested in both will have to choose or figure out a way to split the day.
Bloggers who are coming are being encouraged to think up an idea for a session or two that they might be willing to lead, so here’s what I’m thinking about. These fall in the categories of “big questions” that I don’t necessarily have the answers too, but that I think are worth talking about.
- Finding Your Blogging Tribe. The book blogosphere has gotten so huge that it’s impossible for all of us to really get to know each other, so how can we find like-minded bloggers and build a community with them? What are some good ways to find blogs you enjoy reading, and how can you build relationships with other bloggers? And how can various circles of bloggers become close with becoming cliques?
- What Makes a Good Book Review? What are people looking for when they read book reviews? What are some of the different approaches bloggers might take to writing their reviews? Is the blogger’s personal opinion the only one that should matter, or is there value in trying to consider others’ possible opinions when writing a review? How much should personal enjoyment vs. literary quality inform our reviews? Should our approach change when reviewing classics or nonfiction or YA books?
I’d also really like to see someone (but not me!) lead a discussion on dealing with controversy within the book blogosphere. How do we decide when to speak up, and what’s the best way to do so? Or is it better to ignore all hot topics and hope they go away? What kinds of conversations about tough issues are best for Twitter, for our blogs, and for private e-mails?
So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you what I’m really extra super excited about! The ridiculously amazing interactive noir Macbeth-with-a-hint-of-Rebecca experience called Sleep No More will still be running during BEA week. I went last year with Other Jenny and loved it so much that I went again with Proper Jenny. (On that visit, Hecate took me into a secret room and told me a creepy story. And no I will never stop bragging about that because it was amazing.) Even after two visits, there’s still a lot I haven’t seen, so I’d love to go again, and I’d really love to get a group of bloggers to go enjoy it together—and exchange stories after. So if you’re going to be in New York the weekend before BEA (so June 2 & 3) and want to go, let me know and we can start an e-mail conversation about specifics. The show is not cheap, and it does sell out, so we’ll need to get planning.
As for BEA itself, I’m vaguely considering getting a day pass to go for one day, but I’m not sure that it’s worth the money to me. I enjoyed the show floor last year, but I have more than enough books to read, and I’m not lacking in sources for book news. I may just wait to see what authors are coming and whether any good workshops are planned for Tuesday.
So are you planning to be in New York at BEA time? Thinking about coming to the Unconference? What topics would you like to see discussed?