Sunday Salon: Book Blogger Unconference (with a bonus trip to Sleep No More?)

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?

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31 Responses to Sunday Salon: Book Blogger Unconference (with a bonus trip to Sleep No More?)

  1. Paperback Reader says:

    I’ll be in NYC until June 2nd so won’t be able to join you (it sounds so much fun!) You have convinced me to see Sleep No More while I’m there – I hope my experience will be as amazing as yours were!

    • Teresa says:

      Oh no! Such a near miss. I’ll probably be traveling to NYC on the 2nd, so it’s a very near miss. You’ll love Sleep No More–my first experience was very run of the mill as Sleep No More visits go, and I thought it was magical.

  2. I’ve been following that, but I won’t be able to go—I’ve got obligations in Atlanta until June 8. But I think it’s a wonderful idea.

    • Teresa says:

      Aw, I’d love to meet you. But if it works out well, I think the Uncon could become an annual event and maybe expand to other cities, so we can cross our fingers for more opportunities.

  3. Great session ideas! I’ll add your post to the master list! – Cassandra

  4. Lu says:

    Wow, that comment above was a fail. Could you please delete it? Heh. Anyway, I am always in NYC, so I am very much interested :D

  5. I like your two questions. I won’t be able to be at BEA this year, which is good considering you will be trying to drag everyone you know back to that weird play! LOL

  6. aartichapati says:

    Oh, jealous! I would love to go to the unconference, but cannot justify a day trip to New York City, really. I keep saying maybe next year, but really next year I WILL have an income, so it is much more likely to be the case then :-)

    I love the topic on finding a book blogging tribe. I never know if the tribe I choose for myself has also chosen me because I think I comment on some blogs a lot and those people never comment on mine, and there are some people who comment on my blog a lot and I try really hard but can’t always make it to theirs, so it would be interesting to see how people define it.

    And Other Jenny told me that she LOVED Sleep No More. I’d go see it, if I were to be there.

    • Teresa says:

      I wish you could come, but there will be other years. I’m lucky that the city is a cheap bus ride away–and of course that I’m gainfully employed with some disposable income, which I didn’t have for a long, long time.

      I have some of the same experiences you do with commenting and not and the whole reciprocity thing. Plus, there are blogs that I read faithfully (the ones in our blogroll mostly) but rarely comment on. And then there are people I interact with more on Twitter but whose blogs I don’t get around to visiting much. I don’t like to leave people out deliberately–or be left out–but none of us can do everything.

  7. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    aw, I wish I could go. I remember someone suggested the uncon format after the first BBC so it’s interesting to see it happen now!

  8. cbjamess says:

    I think the unconference sounds like lots of fun. If you ever have something like that in Northern California, I’ll be there. I hope there’s a way to post the transcripts.

    • Teresa says:

      I think it will be fun, and it would be wonderful to see more things like this happening all over so more bloggers could take part–and share what they learned after.

  9. Hi! I’m Cassandra, one of the organizers of the UNCON. We do plan on documenting the event and sharing any resources that we end up with when it is over. After we’ve done this first one, there might be some of us who are brave enough to try it in other locations. You can check the blog for updates as we go along –

    • Teresa says:

      I’m glad to hear that Cassandra. As you can see, lots of people would love to be there in spirit somehow, and it would be a way to extend the conversation after it’s over.

  10. Nicola says:

    I’m interested in your two questions. I think the question I’d like to consider is: Do blogs have a natural life cycle? We may be lifelong readers, but are we lifelong bloggers?

    • Teresa says:

      That’s a very good question! And a related question that I’ve seen other bloggers grapple with is how their blogs might evolve over time.

  11. florinda3rs says:

    Having already registered for BBC WAY back when (…it was cheaper, for one thing), I’m still on the fence about the UnCon, although I have put my name on the list. Keeping my options open…

    I’m arriving in NYC on Saturday afternoon before BEA and have no real plans yet before Sunday dinner, so please put me on that e-mail list for Sleep No More–I am VERY interested!

    • Teresa says:

      Of course, I’m naturally going to vote for you to go to the UnCon, because I know you’d have lots to contribute, and I’d enjoy hanging out with you–but we can manage that on the weekend, too. And I totally understand wanting to go to the event you paid for.

      I will definitely put you on the Sleep No More list. You can expect an e-mail from me by mid-week. Yay!

  12. Ooh, the unconference sounds fun. I love the idea of a book blogging barcamp, I can imagine so many good ideas and collaborations coming out of that. :)

  13. rebeccareid says:

    The blogger uncon sounds very good. I wish I could come and join with you! It was so fun to meet you last year.

    I think it’s too bad they are doing it the same day as the other one, though, because then it becomes us-versus-them kind of thing…

    • Teresa says:

      I wish you could be there too. I would love to see you again!
      I agree that it would be nice if it could be on a different day. It makes it look like people are choosing sides or making a statement with choosing one over the other. I think the BEA conference program looks fine for those who prefer a listen and learn format, or who want to meet authors–they’ve got a good line-up!

  14. Jenny says:

    Yay, Sleep No More! I’d actually really like to see it again (especially with a bunch of bloggers, how fun!), so would it be okay to add me to the email list with the caveat that I might end up being in Boston that weekend, and thus not able to come?

    • Teresa says:

      I was hoping you’d want to come. I’ll add you to the list and cross my fingers that you’ll be in town–also because I’d enjoy seeing you while I’m there :)

  15. jenclair says:

    My daughter saw this back in January and LOVED it! She directed me to several place on line that had the rooms and the actors, etc. Sounds like such fun!

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