Monday 5 May 2014

Community and Collaboration

(EDIT: I am hugely flattered that a couple of people have tweeted lovely stuff about this, describing it as an overview of the YA blogging community. While I've mentioned lots of wonderful people below, please note there are just so many that it would be impossible to name them all! For a list of around 50 amazing ones, check out this spreadsheet!)

Today's post was originally going to be a really brief one, making sure everyone who reads the blog was aware that my Countdown to 5th June tour has finally kicked off! It started on Friday at The Bookbag where I interviewed Keris Stainton, and moved over to Once Upon A Bookcase on Saturday for a brilliant interview between Jo and Sarah Sky, then continued with a great guest post from Bea Davenport over at The Pewter Wolf, before moving to To Another World today where Charli and Tori interviewed Helen Douglas. (For the full schedule, head over here - there's a month left!) I also wanted to thank everyone who's taken part again - particularly Daphne at Winged Reviews for the gorgeous graphics and for tweeting from @countdownya for me last week while I was getting stressed out about work.

However, while I'm thrilled and delighted at the massive response to Countdown to 5th June, I don't want to just focus on that. Because after reviewing for nearly five years, and blogging for over three, I think the thing I most love about book blogging is the incredible sense of community, particularly amongst UK bloggers. And while I consider myself massively lucky to have most of my favourite bloggers on board for Countdown, there are also a huge amount of other recent or upcoming events taking place that really show how awesome things can be when people work together.

Lucy at Queen of Contemporary ran the event which gave me the idea for Countdown, the massive Project UKYA blog tour, last November, and followed it up with her brilliant April Extravaganza last month. Both were utterly fantastic, while she's also been massively helpful in giving me advice on how to run an event like this. Perhaps her biggest achievement, though, is setting up and running #ukyachat, the Twitter hashtag which has seen a star-studded array of authors and bloggers take part and rave about their favourite UKYA books. (And even UKMG books, because some of us are sneaky like that...) If you haven't taken part yet, it's an experience not to be missed. Dizzying at times because of the sheer speed at which recommendations flood in, possibly expensive, and SERIOUSLY bad for your diet (it's rare for one to go past without at least one photo of burnt food as someone got distracted while making dinner), but always a brilliant hour or two. (And when Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman recommends something, that's about as big a seal of approval as you can get in the YA world!)

That's not to say #ukyachat is the only great Twitter chat out there, though! The recently started #ukmgchat, which is running on the last Wednesday of every month, organised by Miriam Craig and Lorraine Gregory, is another fantastic one and as someone who's really growing to love MG (despite the constant arguments over whether we should CALL it MG...) it's one I heartily approve of. There's also LH Johnson's fantastic #kidbkgrp which is an irregular one but is always absolutely fascinating. It looks at a specific topic each time and there are huge amounts of diverse viewpoints on most of them. (Saying that, I don't think it's run since I guest-hosted one on age ratings for books - I didn't MEAN to break it, honestly!)

Moving away from Twitter (is it worrying that I practically got withdrawal symptoms just typing that?) there are lots of other great things going on. The currently-running UKYA games on It Was Lovely Reading You unites 12 fab authors with 12 brilliant bloggers (11 from the UK and a special Irish guest!) and is a cleverly-planned and massively entertaining read. I don't want to get too spoilery, though, but a certain favourite character of mine from a series with alliterative initials was ROBBED, in the balloon debate!

Perhaps the biggest-scale project of them all, in terms of participation, might be Amber's Blog Notes project at the Mile Long Bookshelf. Putting a new spin on the Secret Santa concept, Amber asked last month for people to sign up, be assigned a random blogger, and then e-mail Amber with a few lines (or more) about why they loved that person's blog. She'll send out the notes on a random day this month, and I know there are lots of my blogging friends eagerly anticipating them.   
With my usual complete lack of organisation, I made a note of how many people she said had signed up and I'm sure it was well over 100; however I've lost the note so can't remember the exact figure. It's a huge amount, though, and I'm in awe of Amber's organisational skills in getting it set up between this many people!

I was trying to keep this post to being about events which were centred on the UK blogging community (just to keep it manageable!) but I couldn't NOT mention #LGBTApril, which Cayce at Fighting Dreamer and Laura at Laura Plus Books did such an amazing job of organising. Apart from anything else, lots of my favourite British/British-based bloggers took part, including Leah at Uncorked Thoughts, Asti at Oh, The Books, Debbie at Snuggling on the Sofa, Faye at A Daydreamer's Thoughts, Jo at Once Upon A Bookcase, Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies, and Sophie at So Many Books, So Little Time. As did Dahlia Adler, who's arguably the most awesome person in America. (My bank balance is the one arguing against this!)

I love reading LGBTQ books and spreading the word around them as I think it's hugely important that it's important that people read about a wide range of experiences - both for LGBTQ readers to see characters who reflect them, and for non-LGBTQ readers to better understand others. I think diversity in general is something which is always great to see in books, so the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Twitter campaign is close to my heart as well. I'm not even going to attempt to summarise that one - partly because I WAS trying to focus more on British blogs, but mainly because it's so huge (with over THIRTY THOUSAND different tweets and a further 75,000 or so retweets) that it would be virtually impossible to. However, you can download the archive here - I'm planning on combing through to see which recommendations I missed!

Another subject close to my heart is mental health, so I'm massively looking forward to the upcoming Mental Health Awareness month in June, hosted by Leah at Uncorked Thoughts and Ula at Blog of Erised. Having met both of them at London Book Fair I know that they're going to do an amazing job of this and I'm definitely aiming to do several posts during the month.

My own first experience of really doing something collaborative with other bloggers was probably the YA Contemporary spreadsheet, which links to 50 or so British bloggers' reviews of YA contemporary novels. This is a staggering resource full of awesomeness, to be honest. I would feel bad about saying something like that about my own sheet, but I've done so little work on it for the last few months that I'm not taking any of the credit for it anyway. It's been kept up to date by the wonderful Debbie at Snuggling on the Sofa, who is one of the most fabulous of all the amazingly brilliant British bloggers out there. She is truly a marvelous person. (Debbie, NOW do you feel appreciated?) In addition, she's got her own spreadsheet which does the same thing for sci-fi and fantasy reviews which has just been published today. I know she's been working on it a while and it would no doubt have been published much sooner if she hadn't been covering for my absence from the contemporary one as well, so if you haven't checked it out yet, please do!

Speaking of Debbie, for various reasons (future and current career, and a general wish to avoid any confrontation ever), I quite often panic over something I've written and ask people to check it over. This is normally a really awesome thing to do, except today, when I asked Debbie to check this post to see if I'd missed anyone. Of course, I'd missed her - hence the frantic grovelling above! She's done this several times for me before (which makes me feel worse!) as have others including Sue Ransom, Jax from Live Otherwise, Cat Hellisen and Matt from Teen Librarian when I've been worried about stuff I've written. Thanks all!

I have to be honest and say that I don't really take part in single-author blog tours that much, for various reasons. Partly I don't like to commit to them before reading the book (and understandably, a lot of publishers want to get this sorted out before you've read the book), and partly I just don't get organised enough to take part a lot of the time. Of course, I'll make a few exceptions - I was thrilled to host Michael Grant, author of one of my very favourite series, recently. One person I was delighted to make an exception for was Kim Curran. Her new novel Glaze is coming out later this month and it's absolutely fantastic - even for someone like me who's not keen on dystopians generally, this is a chilling and scarily believable story. She's also awesome at guest-posting and being interviewed (don't miss her fabulous chat with me, Laura Lam, Keris Stainton and Siobhan Curham about 'hybrid' publishing) so when Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts said she was organising the blog tour I was keen to get on board for once.

And wow, I'm glad I didn't miss out on this one! I knew Faye would do an amazing job of organising but I wasn't prepared for just how big it would be, until the full line-up was announced earlier today. Nearly 30 fabulous bloggers are involved in what's set to be an amazing fortnight - and there'll be a tour-wide giveaway, which sounds really exciting, as well!

There's been a real outpouring of happy thoughts earlier today looking at the #BookishBrits hashtag started by Michelle on Twitter this morning, a fabulous way for everyone to praise their favourite bloggers, authors, publishers, librarians, and anyone else involved in UKYA! Too many to name but I agree completely with all the choices people have been making. Of course, the Bookish Brits isn't just a hashtag - it's also the name of a fantastic collaborative channel on YouTube where 9 brilliant vloggers record fabulous videos. While I wasn't initially planning on mentioning individual reviewers (because there's so many amazing ones), given that the title of this post is Community and Collaboration I can't resist plugging a perfect example of a collaborative review - Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts and Caroline from Big Book Little Book on Vicious by VE Schwab. THIS is how you sell people on a book you love, everyone! Faye and Caroline are both fantastic reviewers anyway but these buddy reviews are some of my favourite to watch because their friendship comes through so strongly, as do their thoughts on the book. Truly fabulous!

I think the one thing which might be even better than all the fab things happening online is getting to socialise with authors and bloggers in person, so there are several things coming up which have me VERY excited! YALC is going to be spectacularly great, as is the Fringe (being brilliantly organised by Sophia Bennett), while the Picnic YA event myself and Louie Stowell are organising on May 18th should be amazing. Details here. (PLEASE NOTE: If you're under 16 we're asking you to bring a parent or guardian along if you want to come; common sense suggests you shouldn't be meeting strangers from the internet without one!)

As brilliant as the community is today, one of the most incredible things has been how quickly it's changed. I know that when I first started reviewing for the Bookbag, I never felt there was this level of activity amongst bloggers. That's perhaps partly because I see it more now I'm completely hooked on Twitter, and partly because there seem to have been more amazing books released over the last few years. However I think we also need to give a huge amount of credit to Keris Stainton, Keren David and Susie Day, who've done so much over recent years to really push UKYA so strongly with their fantastic site, the event they ran so brilliantly for bloggers and authors last year (or was it the year before? Time really does fly!) and the upcoming Fringe.

As great as everyone above is, though, there are a whole load of other people I've not had a chance to mention who are equally, if not more, important - the readers. (And yes, I know in many cases they're the same as the bloggers, but not always.) I've never been a massively confident person and it still staggers me at times that people pay attention to what I say about YA. Those of you who actually spread the word by retweeting or tweeting about my posts, who favourite them, or who tweet me to talk about them - you are ALL amazing. (But maybe especially Laura, who retweets so many of my posts, and Michelle, who's by far my most frequent commenter!)

Looking back at all the great things going on really does show what a fantastic community this is! (And I'm really worried there's stuff I've missed - if there is, let me know in the comments section.) So, to keep the community spirit going, and to bring things full circle to where I started this post, I'm delighted to officially announce that we'll be following Countdown to 5th June with Countdown to 7th August! We have some fabulous authors on board and a few bloggers are already signed up as they've been helping me plan it out. We're not quite sure how many books are coming out that day - we don't THINK it's as many as on 5th June - so unfortunately we might not be able to fit as many bloggers in but if you ARE interested in getting on board for it, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail or DM.

Wow, what a long post! The TL;DR version - Awesome community is AWESOME!


  1. What a brilliant round up of the YA community and all the things that are going on!

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