Book Bloggers and BlogHer

I had planned to write about an actual book today but there's a conversation going on and I have a lot of say about it. Please excuse me while I ramble about something that is important to me.

For me, this conversation started a long time ago (at least in my head, which means it's debatable as to whether it was an actual conversation at that point). But for those of you who don't live in my head, I guess it started this past Saturday night when I tracked down Florinda in the lobby of the Sheraton in Chicago that was playing host to BlogHer. It was about book bloggers at BlogHer, or rather the lack of book bloggers at BlogHer. I believe there were four of us that fit firmly into that category. Out of 1500 attendees.

Florinda has posted some great recaps of BlogHer this week, which I've commented on, but when I came to comment on her Book Blog(H)ers, We Need To Talk post my reply got way too long for a comment. It needed to be its own post.

Now, before I dive into this I need to give you some background. I didn't start off as a book blogger. I started off as a personal blogger because my friend Cat had a blog in 2004 and after awhile I decided I wanted one too. Then about a year later in the summer of 2005 I was living in Toronto with the Roomies From Hell and the only thing close to the apartment was a library. After a long dry spell I kicked my reading into high drive and out of that was born this little book blog. Starting both blogs was probably one of the best things I've ever done. My blogs have been a tremendous gift and my life would be so, so different without them.

In the winter of 2006 I joined BlogHer. Just as a regular ole member. My friend Denise told me about it and I checked it out and decided that there were smart, savvy women who wrote damned well and I wanted to hang out where they were hanging out. They were saying things that interested me and I wanted to be part of the conversation, even if I mostly lurked for the first little while. A little birdie told me that they needed some work done and I hounded emailed one of the founders Lisa Stone and volunteered. Lisa said sure and then insisted on paying me something. That blew my mind. What I was doing had nothing to do with books. About a month after that I heard they were looking for someone to cover the book blogosphere and I emailed Lisa again and said "PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME! PICK ME!" Ok, so it was ever so slightly more professional than that. (Emphasis on the slightly.) My role there has evolved over the past few years and now in addition to write about books I also write about Canada (which for awhile last year involved writing about politics - ick!) as well as do some other work for them that I love. To this day BlogHer is the only company that I have ever walked up to and said, "You should hire me. I'd be good."

I've been blogging for almost five years. I've been blogging on this blog for almost four years. I've been blogging on BlogHer for three. I have two different blogging communities - the BlogHer community which is huge and varied (I consider both my blogs to be part of this) and the book blogging community which is more focused and generally made of awesome. Ok, I have more than that. I also had a Toronto community and I have an Ottawa community. But books and BlogHer are the big two and it has felt as though the two would never get together.

So when I found out that Florinda and TexasRed would be at BlogHer I was thrilled. Book bloggers! At BlogHer! It was going to be my first annual conference (I went to the Boston stop of the Reach Out tour last fall) but I've been following the conferences online for years and I know there are not often book bloggers there.

I love the book blogging community but sometimes it seems that it's very isolated. What I'm trying to say is that it sometimes seems that book bloggers don't read a lot of non-book bloggers. At one point something was going on that needed a certain number of people to sign up and when I asked if they had approached non-book bloggers, many of whom also enjoy books but don't write about them, someone told me they didn't know any. It blew my mind and I'm not sure I understand. I love books, really love them. But I like many other things too. The same way I read books about many things I try to read blogs about many things. I read book blogs, food blogs, mommy blogs (and I'm not a mommy nor am I trying to have children), infertility blogs (ditto), health-related blogs, social media blogs, political blogs (yes, seriously), personal blogs, local blogs, author blogs, knitting blogs, fill-in-blog-definition here blogs.

I don't live in a world that is exclusively books and that's not all I want to read about. Some people do and that's fine.

But...

We don't blog exclusively in the book blogosphere. We blog in the blogosphere. We blog as part of this fabulous, wonderful, couldn't even imagine it twenty years ago movement called "social media." We have carved out this teeny-tiny corner of a massive entity for ourselves and that's fantastic. But what happens out in the rest of the blogosphere impacts us. The issues that impact other bloggers impact us.

Worried about whether to sell ads on your book blog? Or how much to charge? It's been discussed.

Worried about what to do with the freebies you get? It's been discussed.

On the receiving end of some truly bad email pitches? It's been discussed.

Wondering about how to drive traffic to your blog? It's been discussed.

Want to know how to write a query letter or find an agent? It's been discussed.

Want to know how someone makes their photos look so damn cool? It's been discussed.

Got trolls on your blog? Or an honest-to-goodness stalker? You aren't alone.

Want to know how people write? When they write? How they write? It's being discussed all the time.

Genre blogging matures at different rates for different genres. There are some other genres that have been through some of what we're going through before. Bloggers have formed partnerships with companies in ways that some book bloggers are thinking about forming partnerships with publicists and publishers. Are they dealing with the exact same issues? Possibly not. Maybe. Is their answer the right one? Possibly not. Maybe. But we don't have to start from nothing. The blogosphere is a rich, rich resource. We can all learn from each other. Are craft bloggers and book bloggers and travel bloggers all the same? No. And also yes. We're all writers. Yes, that's right.

You are a writer. And I am your reader.

This week alone I've read book recommendations, a post on laundry labels, a great recipe I can't wait to try, a post from a mother that makes my heart ache and I want to do nothing more than reach through the computer screen and give her a hug. I've read blogs that make me laugh and blogs that make me cry.

When I was at BlogHer I met TexasRed and Florinda. I also met Blondie and Laurie and Suzanne and Susan and Deb and Mir and Rita and Kalyn and Alanna and Kelly and Zoe and Virginia and Zandria and Melissa and Joy and Emily and Suebob and Nordette and Gena and Pam and Maria and Grace and Sarah and Sarah and Liz and as many darned other writers as I could before having to run to my room because the awesomeness was overwhelming.  Don't even get me started on the people I didn't get to meet and really wanted to. I could talk for days at how much I love the Community Keynote. Go to that link and click on every post and read all of them. It's powerful and moving and I cried buckets as each writer went on stage and read their post.

If I only read and participated in the book blogosphere I'd have missed out on a hell of a lot of awesome and that would suck. I cannot think of another single place were I would get to meet these wonderful and very different women in one room. Clicking on each those links you will find women who are very different from one another, whom you would sometimes think have nothing in common. But there we were, all in one place, all for the same reason. We came to see, and learn, to hear each other's stories and to tell ours. We came to meet each other, whether we knew it at the time when we registered or not. And if we had some fun, some drinks, picked up a Mr. Potato Head and went bowling along the way? Well why the heck not?

Is BlogHer for everyone? Honestly, no. But there's no book that is the right book for everyone either. Only you can decide if it is right for you. Will you have the same experience that I did at BlogHer? No. Just go check out the posts in Mr. Linky on Denise's Goodbye BlogHer 09 post. I swear you will wonder if some of those people were really at the same event.

It's because BlogHer is different for each of us. Like so many things in life you get out of it what you put into it.

BlogHer might not be right for you. And yes it does cost money, though as conferences go it's pretty darned cheap. Yes, cheap. Not inexpensive, cheap. There are ways to save on hotel costs (roommates, hotwire). There are ways to save on travel costs and food costs, though some meals are included with the conference pass. You don't need to buy new clothes or a new computer or an iPhone. BlogHer does indeed offer a limited number of childcare spots if you have children. Yes, spouses/partners/SOs show up. My husband is not attending the conference but I'll be buying him a pass to the cocktail parties.

Do I wish that there were more book bloggers at BlogHer? You have no idea. Really, you don't. Because I know how large and wonderful this community is. And I'd love to meet you all in person. There are worlds in my life that I really don't want to collide but the book blogging community meeting the BlogHer community? Nothing would make me happier.