June 18, 2009

Contest Alert, and Thoughts on Reviewing

Attention writers! If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, don't miss the upcoming contest running July 1 - July 31, 2009, at Diamonds and Toads. For full contest rules and info, click here. The object: retell "Sleeping Beauty" in 1,000 words or less. And I highly recommend checking out the site, too, if you're interested in fairy tale research and writing.

Are you a writer 14 years old or younger? Then you won't be able to enter the contest above, but you're encouraged to enter a new contest sponsored by Imaginator Press in honor of the fifth anniversary of their publication of the fantasy The Dark Dreamweaver. Send in your story on the theme "Dream Power" by Oct. 31, and enter to win some amazing prizes, including an iPod Touch (sheesh, wish I were eligible!).

Via Twitter, Jen Robinson tipped me off to an interesting post and discussion on Read Roger that was in part about review copies, and who should receive them; and also went back a bit to the good vs. bad reviews idea and whether there's an obligation inherent in the acceptance of a review copy.

It was interesting for me to read about bloggers who actively request copies of specific books from publishers. The only time I've done this is when I've had a prior relationship with that publisher--and usually the publishers have approached US. In fact, for a while we were getting boatloads of unsolicited ARCs, which is why we put up our review policy. With unsolicited ARCs I feel far less obligation to post a review, and never do I feel obliged to post a positive review simply because somebody sent me a review copy. However, I've generally made it a policy--a personal one--to focus primarily on books that I was enthused about, or that I feel deserve attention even if I wasn't 100% enthused.

But there's been a confluence of events that has caused me to keep coming back to the idea of why I'm writing reviews at all. Firstly, there's been all the discussions about reviewers, review copies, and different groups of bloggers, which can be truly exhausting. Secondly, I've been so busy with work, and with writing, that I've hardly had time to write blog posts or read others' posts. It's really hard for me to post a review anywhere near promptly. I feel bad about that. But this isn't my job, and sometimes it feels like it is...and it shouldn't.

So I've been in the process of mulling over, of rethinking, how I'd like to do reviews on the site. (You may have noticed some "rethinking" in the form of weird roundups and musical interludes.) We originally started posting reviews here in order to recommend books we enjoyed to others in our writing group, and anyone else who might be interested. It turned into so much more, and it's been a wild ride. Only, I'm not sure my previous method of doing more in-depth reviews is feasible right now. You'll probably see more roundups and thematic groupings of reviews. In exchange, I'd like to post a bit more about writing and reading in general. And this is just me, and my own angst, talking--Tanita might feel differently. But expect less frequent, shorter, more pithy (one hopes) reviews from me for the time being.

And, as always, thanks for reading.


Jen Robinson said...

You know, I commented somewhere yesterday, I think it was Original Content, that these discussions were going to start up another round of blog focus angst. So, this is none too surprising. I think that it's your blog, and you have a lot of other things in your life, and you should write detailed reviews if you want to, but not otherwise. I'll be interested to read your posts about reading and writing in general.

Happy Friday!

Ethel Rohan said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you and with Jen. Blogs are a labor of love that shouldn't feel like a job or a chore. I love this blog, but will go with it no matter where it goes. Take care of yourself and your own priorities first and foremost, and thanks for a consistent great read here.

Charlotte said...

I like it when you all reocommend books, because I'm pretty sure I'll like them too, but I am happy to read whatever you feel like writting!

Sarah Stevenson said...

It means a lot to me to know that you're all reading, and to feel your support and good vibes coming my way! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I like your in-depth reviews, but the roundups are fun, too. Part of the reason I read the blogs I read is because I like the writing style and the writer's voice. I think most of us are like that.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I totally understand where you're coming from. I experienced something similar last summer and changed the way I do things. No more "reviews" for me, particularly of novels. I'm leaving them for myself to read and enjoy and savor. I might mention that I liked a book or quote an excerpt if I'm really moved, but no more of what I used to: Read a book and turn right around and blog about it (most of 'em).

Now, I show lots of art, focus on picture books, and try to let the book creators speak for themselves (interviews, in-their-own-words types of features). I just don't have time to keep up with the way I used to blog.

I think Adrienne hit the nail on the head. People who love your OWN VOICE, your writing style will come back, no matter what you do. I believe that, too.

Hoping I'm making sense in my head-cold-from-hell haze.

(P.S. I can't even keep up with these discussions about blog reviews anymore. I just do my thing, and if I have one person reading, I'll keep doing it.)

Colleen said...

I always feel weird in the blog review discussions (even when the blow up on my blog :) because what I do is not really blog-related. I think the last book I gave an indepth review to at chasingray was "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" and that was because I hated it so much I had to tell somebody! ha!

The one thing I have noticed though is that there are a lot of folks out there who are hard core serious about their blogging. We're talking a new review everyday, interviews every week, all kinds of events and carnivals, etc. They are very very busy on the blogs and I can't do that at mine. I like the "What a Girl Wants" feature I'm doing because really it's just sending the question out and then cutting and pasting the responses but it comes out really good and everyone seems to like it. Those are the kind of things I really enjoy doing - and I also like the round up posts the everyone does. They are a great way to hear about so many things I've missed!

All this is to say that yes, like everyone else I will read your posts regardless just because I like to see what's going on.

Beth Kephart said...

I think we all evolve with and toward our blogs. We discover what it is to be fully immersed in the blog world, and then we step back and rediscover ourselves off the blog. It's back and forth. As Jen says, you should do just what you wish to do on your blog. Short reviews are sometimes easier for blog readers—they tell us what we need to know, and give us room to make our own decisions.

Sarah Stevenson said...

This blog has definitely evolved--and because Tanita and I each have our own personal blogs, I think that the content sometimes overlaps and flows back and forth and sometimes it's completely separate...and, despite my best efforts to have this be "the writing blog" and aquafortis be "the personal blog"...well, it hasn't quite worked out that way. :)

I agree, though, with Jules and Colleen--sometimes it's just too hard to keep up. And there are times when my expectations of myself would be better placed elsewhere (like with my revision--argh!!).