Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Lessons Learned

Good morning and Happy May! April was not an especially productive reading month here by the lake. In fact, it was the least productive since I began blogging, but it was a month that taught a few valuable lessons.

There were several firsts for me this month:

Lesson #1
I am a social reader. This read-along thing is a lot of fun! Sure, I could blast through Wuthering Heights in a week, write a review, carry on a conversation in the comments, and be perfectly happy.

But, it's really fun to read three chapters a week and see all the posts appear on Wednesdays. We may focus on different plot points, have varying impressions or questions, or make some interesting (and often funny) comparisons. Jerry Springer was mentioned several times last week!

Thinking back to January, Woolf in Winter served the same purpose. The group read four Woolf novels and posted on one every other Friday. Although I only read Mrs. Dalloway, it was an amazing experience to read (and comment on) all the other posts that day! It certainly enhanced both my understanding and enjoyment.

In the past, challenges have filled this 'social' need, but that came primarily through sign-up and wrap-up posts. The read-alongs are much more fun - for me anyway. That said, I will be ending my 'no challenges in 2010' resolution soon. Bellezza tells me the Japanese Literature 4 Challenge will begin in June rather than July, and I have four books all ready to go.

Other events, such as Claire's Angela Carter Month and Rachel reading her way through Richard Yates novels, have also been very memorable... and social.

Persephone Reading Week, hosted by Verity and Claire, starts tomorrow! I still regret being away on vacation for last August's edition. Doreen by Barbara Noble will be my Persephone of choice for the week. Are you participating?

Lesson #2
I don't like deadlines. I've never really posted with a deadline in mind. Blogging has been all about fun. This month there were six. The four for Wuthering Heights Wednesday weren't bad... I'm sure people would have 'talked to me' even if I posted on Thursday.

Posting for The Classics Circuit and TLC Book Tours added pressure to have a review done on schedule. I don't write a review immediately upon finishing a book. It sort of percolates until 'inspiration' strikes.... and I haven't found a way to speed that process up!

I should mention that I loved The Classics Circuit tour last month! With participants reading many different books by the same author, the scope of discussion was very broad and interesting.

Maybe reading the books further ahead of time and setting an earlier deadline for myself would help.

Lesson #3
I'm uncomfortable with giveaways, and don't like gimmicks or limitations. I'm hosting one now in conjunction with the South Of Broad tour, but (at the publisher's request) it is open only to residents of the US and Canada. I apologize to my international readers.

There you have it - the April lessons. Now what will I do with this new self knowledge? More read-alongs, skip the giveaways, and, given my slow reading speed, carefully consider commitments with a deadline.

Any other suggestions?


  1. Re: Lesson 1 - I'm NOT a social reader, not in the scheduled way of the word. I can't read only so many chapters per week. When I start a book, I have to finish it. I like readalongs where it's just once a month and you finish whenever. :)

    Re: Lesson 2 - I don't like deadlines either. I try to read my tour posts very early and have the review written well in advance...

    Re: Lesson 3 - Ironically I just put up my first giveaway in almost a year. I did a couple a year ago and they were awful, with all the X points for following, tweeting, blah blah blah. This time it's just a thank you to all my readers for my blogoversary. Nothing extra to do, just pick out the book you like. :) I like that much better. At least I do so far - no spam on the comments yet! Last year I got tons of spam entries, yikes!

  2. I'm finding I prefer read-alongs to challenges. I like the discussion that occurs. With challenges, often people are reading different things, which is interesting too, but doesn't spark the discussion. Read-alongs are my version of a book club. With the benefit that I always get to choose what book I want to read, rather than having to give in to everyone else. :-)

  3. I like readalongs, particularly with books I would struggle through on my own. I enjoy reading other ideas and opinions about writing style, plot and characters. I'm still not sure how I feel about challenges! Have a great week, JoAnn.

  4. Sounds like you have found the right place to be. I enjoy following the read-a-longs, adding my two cents, but I've only been a member of one, which I admit I did not finish.

    I don't really understand all the angst about giveaways that so many people seem to have. I just say leave a comment if you'd like a copy, pick one randomly and drop it in the mail. I find they are kind of fun to do. Sort of like Book Crossing was.

  5. Hi JoAnn!

    I have to admit, I have never done any of the "read-a-longs" or "reading challenges". I am starting to think I have committment issues! LOL Maybe I will try one soon.

    Hope you are having a fantastic day!

  6. I share your opinion on read-alongs...they are fun and feed my social nature. I don't know if I am uncomfortable with giveaways, but I do think they can be overdone, so I try to minimize them. I also don't like deadlines. I had enough of them when I worked, but I got paid back then to meet them. Now it just stresses me out. I try to minimize them too.

  7. I tend not to do too well with read-a-longs I've discovered, especially ones that are more drawn out. I wish that wasn't the case because participants in read-a-longs make it look like so much fun!

    I always feel so bad when I'm hosting a giveaway that doesn't include international participants. I've been known to give my own copy away just so no one feels left out.

  8. I'm a social reader as well - the Woolf in Winter read-along was SUCH an amazing experience, especially because it allowed me to see how several smart, well-read people personally related to Woolf's work. But I'm not a fan of deadlines either.

    I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Doreen! I hope you love it as much as I did.

  9. I fell in love with readalongs. They are great fun! I don't like giveaways either. I did it at the beginning to sort of publicize the blog, but the angst wasn't worth it! And I don't like deadlines either, unless the book is exceptionally worth it! I suspect you'll find a lot of agreement with your 3 lessons learned!

  10. I do like the social element of blogging and combining our love of reading alone with interaction with fellow readers/bloggers. My last couple of read-alongs have been lovely although unsuccessful in the sense that a co-review has never materialised! I'm hoping that ones I have planned for the coming months will prove more fruitful.

    Angela Carter month was exhilarating in so many ways and I am thoroughly excited about Persephone Reading Week '10.

  11. First of all, I'm so glad you won't be staying away from the
    JLC4. That said, I agree with you completely: read-alongs are the way to go! They're relatively short in duration, and they're a wonderful way to interact through literature. I've loved read alongs this year, and it's the first year I've read in any starting with Woolf In Winter.

    Also, I'm really looking forward to Persephone week! Woo-hoo! We'll have such a good time talking books then, too!

    Finally, TLC tours are the best! The books selected for those tours are almost always exciting and worthy.

  12. I'm not a social reader, which is weird being a book blogger! I don't do deadlines well either- it's one of the reasons I don't do blog tours. I like doing giveaways sometimes but I don't like the sponsored ones because I feel like a shill. I like to give away things I loved and can be really enthusiastic about, and I like doing graphic novel giveaways as a way to promote the medium. But otherwise, I'll pass! :-) Have a great week!

  13. I'm not fond of deadlines either JoAnn but I find myself really enjoying reading/reviewing for TLC tours. I don't like gimmicks either but I don't think that giving away a copy of the book is a bad thing. I do wish they'd ship outside the US every once in a while. I like to give my books away a few per month. But lately shipping outside the US has become a hassle from the Post Office to me...they want my packages weighed before I get there or they won't ship them for me!! So right now I am limiting my books to US only. I don't do much to advertise the free books so I don't have to worry about spam..usually average 20 people and that's fine by me!!

    Hope May goes great for you!

  14. You make read-alongs sound like such fun! I hope there is one this summer in which I can participate :)

  15. Amanda - I think that's the way to go with giveaways.. straight-forward, no extras, no exclusions. There can't be too many people that like deadlines and, since this is fun, I'll try not to add too much extra pressure.

    Amy - Read-alongs seem to offer a lot more opportunity for discussion and interaction than challenges. They're different from book clubs (at least mine) because everybody is reading the book ;-)

    Gavin - I can see how read-alongs would offer moral support for those more 'challenging' books. I'd like to do another one in the fall.

    C.B. James - I think that's the way to do a giveaway! I feel bad the one I'm doing excludes readers outside the US/Canada, and I've never liked the idea of 'extra chance' by following, tweeting, etc.

    Diann - LOL! If you get over the commitment issues, there are lots of read-alongs and challenges out there.

    Sandy - You do look at stress a little differently when you actually get paid for it ;-) ...but hurray for read-alongs!

    Literary Feline - I just realized that with just three chapters a week, WH will be lasting into June. We'll see how I'm feeling about it at the end :-) Wish I'd thought about sending my own copy is someone overseas won... next time.

  16. Nymeth - Just read the first chapter of Doreen, and I think I'm going to love it!

    Rhapsodyinbooks - I'm expecting a lot of agreement on these lessons, too... just surprised it took me so long to learn them for myself!

    Paperback Reader - It's going to be a great week. Can't wait to see what you and Verity have in store. Looking forward to everyone's Persephone Posts!

    Bellezza - Can't pass up JLC4 now that I have all those great books ready to go. Persephone Week is going to be so much fun!

    Marie - It's taken awhile, but I'm finally able to put a finger on the aspects and activities related to blogging that I enjoy... and avoid the things I don't. Have a great week!

    Staci - Sorry you're having a hassle with the post office lately. I like being able to give away a book, but feel bad excluding overseas readers. It was great giving my own books away for a 'snow day giveaway' last winter.

    Molly - The read-along is such fun. I'm sure there will be more coming along for summer!

  17. I like your lessons, but I have to say that I'm quite different. I'm not a very social reader, I love reading my own books at my own pace. But I've always been that way. I love deadlines because they are my motivation. I need deadlines to help me move (faster). Without deadlines I probably would never never gotten my University degree. :) But it's good to know that we're all so different - makes for good discussion, etc. :)

  18. The Woolf in Winter read-along showed me that I am not a social reader. I didn't like the deadlines, and I read the books out of sequence! I like to read at my own pace, which can be pretty slow.

  19. I loved this post! It's so good to be honest with yourself and say actually, I don't like this, and I'm not going to do it again, and I don't care what anyone else thinks! I realised a while ago that challenges weren't for me - I don't like feeling pressured to read certain books by certain times - but I do enjoy read alongs and I will continue to take part in them.

    I'm glad you enjoyed my Richard Yates readalong! I loved it too. I should plan another of a different author soon.

    Persephone Week is exciting me - I have enough unread Persephones to read one a day but sadly I also have a job so I think one will just about manage to fit into my schedule. I'm starting with Housebound and I'm going to see what else I manage to fit in. I look forward to your thoughts on Doreen!

  20. Great post and had some fantastic lessons in it. I'm loving the Wuthering Heights read-along too, it's so fun to read what others are thinking. I also have an award for you!

  21. I like your three lessons learned. I find myself in agreement with you. I want to try a read-along and need to keep my eyes open for them.

    Deadlines are something I can only blame myself for. I'm the one who makes the choices and then I feel the pressure. I've tried to arrange my blogging schedule so it's easier on me to write some posts ahead so I don't have the daily "must post" pressure.

    I haven't done many giveaways but I'm planning to do a few more in the future. I want to share some of the special books I've read. But I don't want it to be a big hassle. Just sharing with others. We'll see.

    I enjoyed reading your lessons. It made me look at the same things in myself.

  22. Susi (The Book Affair) - Isn't it great that there are so many activities around the blogosphere that play to our various strengths/differences? It definitely makes for better discussions!

    Violet - My reading pace is pretty slow, so this read-along is working well for's the deadlines where I really run into problems.

    Rachel (Bookssnob) - I'm so glad you liked this post! These seemed like pretty basic lessons/findings, but I needed to think them through. Your Richard Yates posts were excellent, and I can't wait to read Easter Parade!

    Whitney - I have a feeling the Wuthering Heights read-along is going to be one of the highlights of my reading this year. I also love that I've discovered some wonderful new blogs! Thanks again for the award.

    Margot - You should definitely try a read-along! I'm enjoying this one so much. If you don't find any that appeal to you, you can always start your own :-)

  23. I'm becoming a huge fan of readalongs (it helps when people actually join your readalong :-D). I'm thinking Wuthering Heights would've been a giant downer without all the company.

  24. Softdrink - Can't believe it's taken me this long to try a read-along! I know I wouldn't be enjoying WH half as much reading on my own... so glad you organized this one.

  25. I'm just plain social, so I think I would enjoy a read-a-long, unless it was a page turner. I'm enjoying your experience.

    Just received a comp copy of South of Broad in the mail yesterday. I'm excited!

  26. Kim - The temptation to read ahead is definitely the hardest part of the read-along. Rest up before reading South of Broad... it is emotionally exhausting!


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