Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Chat About Blogging, Books, and Controversial Topics with Lara Liz

You might have seen the interview the amazing Lara Liz did with me on her blog, "Another Teen Reader" about my novel 'Til the Last Star Dies. To return the favor, Lara's hopping over onto my blog today to talk about blogging, books, and controversial topics.

Lara Liz is a teen reader and blogger from "Another Teen Reader." She writes with an addictive voice, sense of humor, and wit that keeps you clicking on yet another suggested bookish post or review. During the past couple of years, Lara has been a wonderful friend to me and a fantastic addition to the blogging community. Go check out her blog immediately. You won’t regret it.

On with the interview!

1. How did you first get into blogging?

Well this is an interesting one actually because it kind of involves you. It was the Easter holidays from school, so I sat at home trying to avoid doing this essay I've been set to doing over the week, and I'm on Go Teen Writers, which is one of my favorite blogs. They had this list of blogs you could read, and your blog was one of the ones on there, so I clicked on it and had a look. I realized that you were kind of my age, a bit older, and I remembered people saying that when authors do end up getting published, having an online following is really important. So I kind of thought, why don't I start one? Because, you know, I needed to avoid the essay, and if I said to my mum, "I started a blog," I assumed that that would be a good excuse. So that's basically how I started blogging.

2. What’s your favorite part about blogging?

Hmm, tricky. I think the community, probably. I mean, everything about blogging is great, but, the people you get to meet--you get friends from Australia and America. America isn't exotic to you, but it is to me! It's just incredible. People you never meet end up being so nice to you--it's kind of amazing. People are so supportive and I think that's one of the things I really love about it.

3.    What’s the hardest part?

There are lots of hard things about blogging. It takes a lot of commitment. One of my favorite things to say is anyone can start a blog. You don't have to be committed, I mean--when I started blogging, I think I blogged about once a month. I just did it when I had time for fun, but then slowly I decided I wanted to meet more people, and that means getting more followers, and that means being more committed with it. I think it does take up a lot of time, and while you can manage that, you do have to take advantage of the time you have. Especially if you go to school, or you're homeschooling, or whatever, if you have other work to do--it's really tricky, so you have to make sure you plan ahead. I'm up for a good planning ahead in general.


4. What advice do you have for newbie bloggers who are nervous to get started?

Well the first thing is that you don't need to be nervous to get started. I mean, I know it might seem at first that you're not doing very well or no one's reading, but--it comes over time. I think you basically just need to start enjoying it for yourself, and then slowly you'll get friends who enjoy doing it with you, and you'll feel that it's a part of you that you can't get back, that you can't give up. Do you know what I mean? I read this statistic online during my early blogging days, I can't remember if it was 90 or 120 days, but there was a statistic that 90% of blogs on the internet are abandoned before they get to 120 days, and I just didn't want to be part of that statistic. I just thought to myself, "I'm going to make it past that 120 days," and I did, and, well, that's what got me started, I think. You just have to keep going at the beginning and it'll get better. You just have to trust that it'll be okay.

5. Have you ever had to deal with internet trolls? If so, how do you handle them?

I was wondering if you were going to ask me this question, actually, because I blog about controversial topics sometimes. I've done blogs on disability, I've done blogs on feminism, I've done blogs on mental health. And especially when I published the one on feminism, I was really worried that I was going to get trolls, and I wrote this massive thing at the end of the post saying, "Please be nice in the comments," and I didn't get any comments, and I was kind of like, "Oh, okay. That's how it works." I think the only "troll" I think I've ever had was on Twitter--they tend to live on Twitter--I wrote a tweet for the #IAmaFeminist hashtag. It said, "#IAmaFeminist, because if I wasn't, I'd be a sexist," because that's what I believe, I believe it's basically a binary thing. And yeah, you don't have to call yourself a feminist, but if you're not sexist, that's what I believe you are, because you believe in equality for all genders. And this guy tweeted me, basically saying, "the word FEMinism is sexist, because it doesn't mention men." Okay. So I look at his account, and it's completely anonymous, it seems to have been made up for the sole purpose of trolling people like me. I really wanted to reply to this guy, because I wanted to say, "I don't think it is sexist," but it's not something you can very easily do in under 140 characters. That was actually why I wrote my blog post, I think it's called, "Why I Call Equality Between Genders Feminism," because I basically wanted to give this guy the link and say, "This is why." So that was my only real trolling incident I've ever handled.


6. What websites or tools have been the biggest help to you with blogging?

There's this really good one actually that not many people have found, it's called "portent.com," and I think they're basically a blog about blogging. I don't really read their blog, I just Googled "content generator." And it comes up with this, and you put in your keywords, like "books" or "authors" and it comes up with hilarious titles. I think my favorite was, "Homer Simpson's Guide to Reading." That's a hilarious title, and it got me thinking. I never actually wrote that post because it turns out I know nothing about the Simpsons, but that's helped me to get the ball rolling, and really it's just a lot of fun.

7. Lots of bloggers are also huge readers (like me). What are the top three books you’ve read in the past year?

Oh, gosh. The first would probably be--I've recently reread Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star. It's about an American girl called Rory who ends up going to London for school. The whole thing is just hilarious, watching her interact with British culture, but it's mostly about a Jack the Ripper spree that goes on. Someone tries to emulate Jack the Ripper, and there are ghosts, and it's generally just a really good book, so that'd be one of them. Erm--you're making me decide, this is hard! I also like Maresi. I read it because everyone was saying it's this amazing feminist read. It's about an island where only females are allowed and it's a sanctuary from the rest of the world. But it was translated from Finnish, so some of the prose is a bit telling rather than showing? Which I only noticed because I spend so much time trying not to tell rather than show as a writer! But that was a really cool book, as well.

8. Is there anything you wish you could see more of in the blogs you read? Whether it be post topics, the style of blogging, or anything else?

Ooh, I was thinking about this the other day. Ely from "Tea and Titles," I got talking to her because she is really into disability blogging, as well. She has Type 1 Diabetes and a limp from a club foot when she was young, and she wrote this post about basically what her disability was. I was thinking that I'd actually love to see more of that in the blogging community. And sure, disability blogs are great, but the people that aren't in the disability community don't always see it, so that's why I like when it crosses over with books--because Ely is a book blogger--and other kinds of blogs because other people get to see it, too.

I think it helps to explain something unfamiliar to people in a familiar format, if that makes sense.

Exactly!

9. Gifs or no gifs?

First of all it is gif [with the hard "g" sound as in "goat"--I'd been saying it the opposite way]--we're not going to have a fight over this. [Laughing.] I love gifs. I think they're amazing, because I struggle a lot with finding copyright images. I know some people don't mind the copyright thing, but I just heard this horror story with someone who had to pay so much money to this photographer, and I just didn't want to get involved, so about three months ago I replaced all of the photos on my blog and it took--considering I had nine months of archives at this point, it took a month to do? It was pretty hard work, but I was really glad I did it. And gifs are great, because they're made from films and TV shows, so they're made for you to share. So no one really seems to mind if you use them, which I think is great.

10. Where does most of your inspiration come from for your blog?

Some of it seems to arrive when I'm on the toilet, which is really weird. But if I'm looking for inspiration, I'll often look at other people's blog posts. That's a big inspiration for me. I'll see someone do something and I'll go, "Ooh, maybe I can twist that, maybe I can change that somehow," and that's usually how I do it. But, if you're going to take an idea and remix an idea from someone else, unless it's wildly different, it's usually a good idea to tweet them first just checking if it's okay. Because plagiarism, you know, isn't great.

11. Do you ever find yourself holding back from posting something because it's controversial?

Sometimes. I get very nervous about posts. The one post I remember getting completely worked up about was a post called, "The One Word I Hate Reading." It was the first post I'd ever written about being disabled, I'd never mentioned that I was disabled before that post. And it's about how much I hate the word "spaz." It's basically about how much it doesn't have to be directed at you, it can be everywhere. It was really personal to me and I hadn't really posted much non-book content on the blog before--I mean, now I do it all the time--but I wasn't sure how people were going to react to it. That was before I had loads of blogging friends, so I shared it on Facebook, and my real life friends were so supportive. I think if you're ever nervous about posting, don't be, because as long as it represents how you feel and your opinion, then you can't go wrong, really.


12. Who are some of your favorite bloggers?

Well, you, first off. I like Cait from "Paper Fury," as well, I think a lot of people love her. [They do.] Ely, who I already mentioned. Julia from "The Tree of Books." You'll probably have seen her in the comments section of my posts. She's on every single post, she's amazing. I also really admire Amber from "The Mile Long Bookshelf." She basically just posts amazing stuff, and it's also really good to hear because she has anxiety, and I don't but I like to understand other people's situations, and she's really open about it, and I really admire that about her and her work.

13. What are some of the lessons you've learned throughout your blogging journey?

First of all, don't expect to be able to comment about a book the day it's supposed to go live. Secondly, if you feel like you need a break, take it. If you feel better posting on your blog and saying, "Hey, I'm just going to take a break for a week so I can rejuvenate," that's fine. But if you'd rather just go off the grid and not say anything, that's fine, too. No one will assume you've died. And number three, just be yourself. Blogging is fun, and it should be, and if it isn't, then you're not going to keep up with it, and that would make us all sad, so make sure you do whatever you can to make it fun.

I actually haven't been blogging for that long--maybe a year, slightly over?--and you've been blogging for like eight years, which is mad. I think a lot of people feel like they won't get there, that it's impossible to be as big or as professional as Cait from "Paper Fury" or you Kate, and I just feel like it is. You just start small, and you build up, and you see where it goes.


Thank you for being here, Lara! If anyone wants to have a chat with Lara, please visit her blog or talk to her on Twitter @otherteenreader.

8 comments:

Lara Liz said...

Can I just say again how awesome the bio you wrote for me is? I still feel all gooey inside when I read it, and it's so lovely of you to speak so highly about what I've written. Thanks so much for making this so much fun, for asking such great questions, and for generally just being awesome.

(Also? Those graphics = super cute.)

The Magic Violinist said...

@Lara

Aww, you're welcome! I meant every word! This was super fun to do. :)

Thank you!

Loony Literate said...

I love that Cait is the professional we all aspire to be (she's a critique partner of mine and her comments on my books are hilarious so I've never really thought of her that way!)

This was a lovely post. I definitely think that we shouldn't be afraid to post controversial things - as long as we can have discussions about things without descending to vitriol, it's a good community in my eyes :)

The Magic Violinist said...

@Loony Literate

Hehe, well the amount of stuff she does gives her such a professional quality we all have no choice but to bow down to (which I think is part of her sneaky plan to take over the world). But it's always good when you can have a sense of humor, too.

Agreed!

Jesse Porter said...

Controversial is crucial. I often have arguments with myself, just to provoke myself. Otherwise, I find myself wearing concrete shoes (metaphorically). Great interview! Giving a younger colleague a boost.

The Magic Violinist said...

@Jesse

I totally agree! It's always good to challenge yourself with another point of view. Thank you! Lara made it easy on me.

Boquinha said...

I love the answer to #1! What a fun, cool story. And I agree with Lara - super cute graphics! And Lara, you handled your trolling incident beautifully. Well done!

My impression of Lara after reading this is that she definitely seems like a genuine and naturally compassionate person. She sounds like a wonderful friend.

#ReadTheWholeThingInABritishAccent

The Magic Violinist said...

@Boquinha

You're spot on! Lara is fantastic. The blogging community has gained a great addition.

And the accent makes her that much cooler. ;)