Fuse #8

Friday, March 16, 2007

Getting to Eat at the Cool Kids Table

Monica Edinger recently brought up some fairly valid points about the blogosphere and relative levels of "coolness". Says she,
Over and over in my school, in the blogging world, in the children’s literature world, and elsewhere I see adults doing the same including and excluding that my fourth graders do. We write, read, and promote books that are suppose to help kids to think and not do this, yet we do it ourselves all the time. And what I see in the highly-valued community of blogging is another form of this. I don’t have a problem with it at all. What I do have a problem with is that no one seems to see it. That it is the elephant in the room.
So it got me to wondering. Her reference, the Are You an A-List Blogebrity quiz (most kidlit bloggers aren't), brought this to mind and made me ponder my status. By deint of location, I get more traffic because I happen to live in a city with more editors, publishers, and authors per square inch than are found in the rest of the country. Maybe that's why I have to ask: Do we have a problem with small bloggers not getting included in our dialogues? If I don't give a shout out to one person or another, am I misusing my bloggable power?

Are we too cliquesh? That's what I'm asking you here.

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At 5:27 AM , Blogger Monica Edinger said...


Thanks for the mention. Now maybe I'll move to B-List status:).

I wonder if the reason so many don't notice this is that they don't deal with it daily as I do. It is such a big part of fourth grade life. And as I keep saying, I find it something particular to our children's lit world since we write and promote books that promote not behaving this way yet do it ourselves. Indeed, I have often managed to sit at the cool table at a conference or two. I can remember once slipping into a spare seat next to an author I wanted to talk to at a publisher's lunch causing a friend I'd originally planned to seat with (but whom I knew would do fine without me) to be much amused (not because we didn't sit together , but because he didn't do the same --- being nicer then me).

Anyway, there is a bit of discussion of this in the comments of my post and I wish more would come and join in.

At 9:20 AM , Blogger MotherReader said...

I'll go look at Monica's post, but I'll add my two cents here first.

One of the reasons I wrote the article on being a B-list blogger was to show other blogs how to break into the dialogue. The thing is, like everything, it involves effort. If you want to be part of the group, you have to comment, you have to link to other blogs - that's how B-list blogs "find" you. I think most of the newer bloggers give up too quickly on this approach. They comment twice and disappear. So how do I know they're even out there?

I don't think that the B-list blogs are excluding other blogs, but we're not their blog moms either.

At 10:31 AM , Blogger Lindsey said...

Being a probably F minus blogger like myself, I think MR brings up some good counter points. Just because you have a blog doesn't mean you should automatically be allowed to land into the blogging spotlight. I really appreciated MR's article and am taking note of her hints. I think you have to keep at it. But I also think it's nice to get a little break every once in awhile. Kelly at Big A, Little a just mentioned on her blog that I existed. She didn't promote me or say you SHOULD read this. She just said, here is a new blog. The rest is up to me.

At 10:40 AM , Blogger Kelly said...

Zee: You're a smart new blogger :)

MR: I think you make great points here and over at Monica's. Well done!

At 11:46 AM , Blogger Jennifer Schultz said...

Speaking as a small blogger, I think it depends on from who (whom?) you want your "validation" and your goals for your blog. I can only speak for myself. I am not going to be a B list blogger. My blog is not a personal blog-it's a library blog. I don't have the devotion to my blog to make it a B-list blog. I just don't, so it's not going to happen.

When you start a blog, I think it's important to honestly think about your audience and your goals. Coming in late in the kidlitosphere game, I knew I was entering an already crowded field for such a small niche of the general blogging community.

It is very easy to get caught up in tracking your site statistics reader and your Technorati statistics. While they are useful, they can also be your downfall. If they remain slow, you can get discouraged.

This is when you should really decide your purpose for blogging and your goals. If your purpose is to get mentioned on the bigger kidlit blogs, that's another story. But maybe your purpose is to work on your writing skills. Maybe your purpose is to think more critically about your reading. Those are all great reasons for blogging. If you set personal goals for your blogs-and not base them on how many "shout outs" you get-you will feel that much more encouraged about your blog.

For librarians/library staff that want to blog: if your library doesn't have a blog, approach your supervisor, administration, etc about creating a blog for your library. If you blog for your library, you have an instant community of readers. You do have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of hosting the blog on a library site versus making it a personal blog. If you can live with that, there are many rewards that can come with it. Read up on Library 2.0, read the recently published books on the importance of coporate blogging, and present your findings if your supervisor/administration isn't aware of the benefits of blogging.

In the beginning, I would look at my site statistics reader and see that the majority of hits were from staff computers. I was stupid enough to be mildly disappointed about this, until a vision came to me, almost as if I were in a Disney movie. My coworkers were reading my writing. They were checking out the books I recommended on my blog for their children. If they saw a favorite author mentioned, they would come up to me and talk to me about that author. They asked me for recommendations. When I was mentioned on the SLJ blog, you would have thought I had been selected for the Kennedy Center Honors.

This would be great for anyone, but I was a fairly new employee. We're a small enough library system that everyone knows everyone and is friendly with everyone, but the blog quickly opened up another avenue of communication and expression that would not have been there but for the blog.

And when my first patron mentioned the blog to me, that was definitely more exciting than being mentioned on any blog. By then, I had focused my attention on not being shouted out/out shouted on other blogs and being linked on other blogs, but had decided to gear the blog more locally and intimately. That decision has paid off tremendously in ways that are hard to express. If I don't update every day, I don't feel nearly the pressure I felt when I was trying to build up the blog beyond my abilities.

Many communities have a weekly newspaper, and many of them have a web presence. This is a possibility if you aren't library staff or if your library nixes the idea of a blog. If they don't have a book review section on their site-and most don't-ask them if they would be interested in a volunteer run (you) children's literature blog. You would maintain the links, the posting, everything. It doesn't hurt to ask, and they might just jump at the chance to have a volunteer write book reviews/book news for their website. Again, it's creating an audience for yourself.

If you want to be a B-list blogger, go for it. But before you do that, think about other ways you can create an audience for your blog. There are kidlit blogs popping up all the time. It's often a lot to keep up with the blogs you regularly read, much less hunt around for new blogs. Newer blogs have a tough road to hoe if they want attention. Participating in the blog community is important, but if you are finding that you are not successful with that or if you don't want to invest that much time into that, there are other ways of creating a smaller, but loyal audience.

At 12:28 PM , Blogger MotherReader said...

As it turns out, I had a lot more to say.

At 2:41 PM , Blogger Gail Gauthier said...

Kidlitbloggers are far less cliquesh than other on-line communities I've been part of. There's much more interest in thought-provoking content within this world rather than in snuggling with my buddy who has the same attitudes I do, which is what I've seen elsewhere over the years.

That said, I have noticed that some blogs are promoting a hip, flippant, fluffy voice that sometimes seems more important than any real content in the post. And that's when you sometimes see the same names (bloggers and authors) being mentioned frequently. Perhaps some readers perceive that as a cliquesh attempt to create a cool in-group.

I think this...tone...isn't going to last very long. There are so many kidlitblogs out there now (according to JacketFlap, over 200) and many readers are professional people of one sort or another with limited time. There just isn't time to read stuff that doesn't relate to your work. (I try to skim 30 or more blogs every evening. When the fluffy stuff starts, I have to stop reading. I just don't have time for it.)

I think the "clique" blogs of this sort aren't going to maintain readership for very long.

At 2:44 PM , Blogger Becky said...

I posted a comment over on Monica's post as well, but I just wanted to mention my opinions here as well. :)

I think it's each bloggers choice how active or inactive they are in the community. They can write their own blog, do their own thing, and be happy and content with things just as they are. They may not have the time or energy to devote to promoting their site on a regular basis. They may not even see a need to promote their site. That's okay.

Other bloggers love not only to do their own thing but to see what everyone else is doing too. They like reading other peoples blogs. They like participating in memes. They like joining in on conversations. They love posting comments. They love to link back and forth and pal around. That's okay too.

It's not a matter where bloggers are purposefully seeking to exclude others. No, in this atmosphere, it's just the fact that if they don't know you exist, if they've never stumbled onto your site--it doesn't matter if it's wonderful and beyond compare--then they can't include you. It's not a choice on their part. It's not a vicious plot. You have to do some initial work on your part if you want to be part of the community. You have to post comments. You have to link. You have to let them know that you exist. You can't wait for the magical day when they'll discover you and your site and say "Hi" to you first.

Whether you choose to be a loner or try to make a community for yourself...it's really your choice.

And as far as the "B List" thing goes...most people don't set out with a goal of creating their website looking for instant fame and recognition. I say most :) You want your blog to reach its intended audience. You want to find loyal readers. You want fans. But not for the sole purpose of popularity in my opinion. But because it fulfills your deeper goal of meeting a need or filling a void. For example, I write reviews. My goal is to connect books with readers. That's it. A bigger audience means potentially that more books will be matched with readers. That would be exciting. Whether or not anyone ever would "rank" me on a scale doesn't...

At 3:47 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Gail, you are scaring me to death with the mention of the "hip, flippant, fluffy voice." That's my bread and butter, it is. I mean, it's hard to find enough posts for a day. Something has to fill the void. Otherwise you end up with a rote list of links (not that there's anything wrong with that). I like lists, but gimme me fluff any day. I mean, gummi bear chandeliers aren't exactly going to promote themselves, y'know.

At 3:48 PM , Blogger Gail Gauthier said...

What Becky describes in her post sounds to me very much the way people out in the "real" world have to behave in order to make connections with others. I think she's right. There may not be a lot of difference.

And just like in real life, sometimes you'll make an effort and it will work and sometimes you'll make an effort and it won't work.

At 3:57 PM , Blogger Gail Gauthier said...

I think there may be some Fuse wannabes out there. They wanna do the voice but they don't wanna do the posts on meaty things like the fiction buyer at B&N or publishers changing titles when books move from hardcover to paperback--two of my recent favorites from your site.

Of course, I'm obviously biased in favor of publishing-related content.

At 5:34 PM , Blogger MotherReader said...

Well, flippant and fluffy is my bread and butter too.

Some people like flippant and fluffy.

Some people like the book business news.

Some people want to read posts about books that they might want to read or might not want to read. Or about one person's experience on the edge of the kid lit world, not in the humming NYC center.

Some people might like all these things.

How wonderful that there are so many book blogs so everyone can find something worth reading - for them.

At 6:24 PM , Blogger Kelly said...

MR: You have been the wonderful voice of reason today. Thank you.

I guess what has been bothering me and why I have kept silent (except for posting over at MRs and CS) is that we are book blogs. Instead, this whole day has been spent talking about one another. And whether we're a clique. There was no high school nonsense until all of this was brought up. I'm not going to post about it or comment about it again. I'm just going to write about books and, yes, shout out to the posts I think are great.

At 6:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay this is 100% news to me. Honestly - I had no freaking clue there were cliques or exclusion. I can't imagine that I seem so incredibly cool that everyone was nice to me from the beginning because of that. I honestly had no problem - no problem at all - getting along with everyone. I linked to folks, they linked back. I commented at a few sites, they commented at mine. I'm sure a big reason why my traffic was up so fast is because of the column at Bookslut but still, my blog is not anywhere near the kind of popular that site is (please).

Bloggers feel excluded? Really? I'm just floored by this.

Colleen aka Chasing Ray

(my stupid google identity is not working!!!!!!!!!)

At 7:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Kelly and Colleen. I'm still a bit baffled. Maybe that means I'm part of the problem, though I'm still not sure what the problem is. I guess 7-Imp might look exclusionary with our blogger interviews, when really what we intend to do is keep doing them forever and ever amen 'til we're actually highlighting new bloggers as well. And the reason we do them is to get to know everyone better -- for instance, you'll find out on Monday (if I get the post done) that Jen Robinson has a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering. And Kelly teaches Russian. Who knew?

Blah blah blah I'm going to follow Kelly's lead and keep talkin' books. Buh-bye.

At 7:38 PM , Blogger Greg Pincus said...

Comparing school to the 24/7, trans-continental, multi-lingual, adult, opt-in, vast kidlit community isn't a fair parallel. And I would bet that Jacket Flap is off by a factor of 10 in the number of kidlit blogs out there. I don't find kidlit bloggers exclusive as much as overwhelmed with interesting posts AND at the same time unable to read the vast array of blogs out there. That's quite a different thang than being exclusionary.

Do I link to some blogs more? Yes, but that's largely because I read them more frequently. I read you daily, Fuse, so the odds are I'll link to you more. But I can't imagine any among us who think "hey, do I want to link to this really cool kidlit post or will that let someone in our clique?" I think we're largely all about inclusion. And if we're not, we certainly should be. It's what makes the kidlitosphere so fun.

And finally, as I said on Monica's site, this is not a topic unspoken of or unthought about, even in our community. It's a part of what MR has written about and I've given talks about, among other places it's popped up. That Monica hadn't encountered it before merely points out that the kidlitosphere is vast, indeed.

At 12:12 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Neat. Hot topic. I appreciate the good word, Gail. The question now becomes, is this an issue at all? I wouldn't mind hearing from someone who feels excluded. Anyone?

At 8:57 AM , Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Even though I'm standing here all by my lonely on this (and I again apologize for any and all hurt-feelings resulting from my evidently clumsy post on this topic), based on conversations and observations over many years I would argue that the issue does exist among adults in the real and virtual worlds, including this area of children's lit bloggers. That there are no comments from those who feel excluded is unsurprising to me. The strong voices here may well make it difficult for someone who does feel excluded, especially a shy newbie, to comment in this very public forum. The only reason I am comfortable standing out alone like this is that I feel that I'm among friends (even if many are in profound disagreement with me right now), people I know and have met either in the virtual world or the real one. There is no way I'd have written that post or this comment if I didn't feel fairly safe and secure that people knew me enough to not drum me out of this world for doing so or hate me forever:)

And so now, lonely as it may be, in response to the many posts on this topic, I have to disagree with most of you. To my mind this is not something particular to children, to schooling, or to blogging--- it is true for all of these situations and others --- it is the human condition. To my mind, we human beings are constantly trying to find our place in the world, trying to find a balance between the greater community and the smaller affinity groups, always teetering one way or another. What may seem totally inclusive to one of us may seem dauntingly exclusive to another. And so, the way I see it, no matter how well-intentioned, sincere, and open something may be, there is always the possibility that there are folks who feel left out.

Since I foolishly used the truly lovely tradition of Poetry Friday as an example, let me take you through a possible exclusionary scenario with it. Perhaps someone who has recently started a blog happens across the idea and decides to post a poem. Yet, feeling completely unknown by the better-known participants this individual does not feel confident enough to even write about the post in the comments of whoever is doing the weekly roundups. And so only his/her friends and family perhaps know about it and the individual feels lousy about that and doesn't do it again. This may sound absurd to someone with a more outgoing personality, but others, especially shy folks (of which I'm one) could very well have this response. So yes, the Poetry Friday tradition is indeed truly and completely open to all, but to someone a bit unsure, new to the children's lit world, to blogging, and such it could still appear to be something done by a bunch of folks who appear to all know each other (whether they do or not).

And about those dinners and parties. I went to the NCTE convention for decades on my own without being invited to a single publisher’s party or dinner. And even though I knew many people at the convention, they all stuck to their groups and it did not occur to them to invite me to join them for anything. Now things are very different for me, but I remember that situation vividly. And so when I was having drinks last fall with some child_lit folks at last fall’s NCTE convention I cringed in sympathy when someone said she’d see us all later at a publisher event and a couple of others said they hadn’t been invited. Knowing that everyone isn’t going makes me uncomfortable posting about these parties although I totally enjoy reading others’ posts on them. And I have and will again write a comment about an event (as I did about the Snicket thing last year).

Thanks a lot for all the passionate posts and comments on this topic.

At 11:16 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I'm definitely with you on the publisher parties, Monica. Part of the reason I had that Kidlit Drink Night during the SCBWI Conference here in town was because not everyone was invited to the official SCBWI Cocktail Party beforehand. There is no worse feeling in the entire world than seeing your friends go off to an "exclusive" party while you're left all by your lonesome somewhere else. The feeling that "everyone's having a wonderful time without me" is one of the worst in the world.

That said, I think we do a good job of including people. MotherReader's post on how to get your blog out there, the fact that anyone can put a link to their blog during The Carnival of Children's Literature, and the general good feeling amongst bloggers towards their fellows makes me feel as if this is one of the nicest group of peeps in the cyberworld. I have never seen one blogger directly put down another in a kidlit context. None of this is to say that a new person might feel excluded at the outset on viewing the kidlit blogosphere, but with only a few exceptions here and there, everyone seems very welcoming.

At 12:43 PM , Blogger Jenny Han said...

I'm gonna jump in the fray and respond to a few of the comments made here. I think that people should blog about whatever they want to blog about-- if you want to be fluffy, be fluffy. If you don't like fluffy, don't read fluffy. I personally like fluffy, am fluffy, and enjoy reading fluffy. But that's just me. I think people should first and foremost blog for themselves and let the rest of it figure itself out.

I also think that as far as real world jobs go, the kiddie lit industry is incredibly welcoming and gracious, by nature almost. But the thing is, it is a business. Not everybody is going to be invited to everything, and you (including me) have every right to feel lousy about it, but that doesn't make you (or me) necesaarily entitled to be invited or included. With all the warm fuzzies and awards and cuddles, I think it's easy to forget that (and I hate to say it, but I will) sometimes, it's not personal, it's business. Which sucks, but I think it's true. Just my two cents-- I represent only myself, not the Longstockings!! : )


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