Friends often ask me - why do you read blogs? Why do you waste your time? They're boring, aren't they? Well ... no. I loved Miss Snark's blog, and she gave out a heap of relevant, straightforward info on how to get an agent (and not be a nitwit) that couldn't be duplicated anywhere else. I will forever be grateful for her Crapometer and the opportunity to put up a bit of my crime novel for evisceration.
I have about ten blogs that I read regularly. Three of them are by people I know personally, and I find it really interesting to read what they write, simply because they are writing for an (imaginary) audience, so it's different from what they'd tell me on the phone. They are aware of audience, and they are writers, so they write, rather than blather on like raving rabbiters (whom Miss Snark would banish to Rabbitania).
I have other blogs I dip into occasionally, to see what's going on. There are lots of blogs that I read via links from other people (e.g. recently I was reading the Neilsen-Hayden blog - a lit agency in NY - about the current A&R uproar that's going on - it was fascinating, if only because they were talking in NY about an Australian issue, and some of the comments were both insightful and hilarious).
Blogs tell you what's going on. What people in the industry are thinking and saying right now. Writers' blogs are great because they are written by writers. Think that's obvious? Try reading blogs written by people who don't seem to know what the English language was invented for. Yes, those are the time-wasters for me. Don't go there.
Blogs are also great for people who want to have a say about something. Right here, right now. No pussy-footing, no trying to be nice. So I loved the following blog. It tackles that bugbear of children's writers everywhere - the celebrity author who writes crap books and gets paid big bucks for them. Yes, we all know that editors justify this by saying the money the celebrity books make bankrolls unknown writers. I get that. This blog talks about this dilemma from the editor's point of view. Let's face it - what writers need is for book buyers to start asking for good recommendations and stop buying X or Y because Madonna or Billy Crystal wrote it.
The revolution is coming (I have faith!) - I believe this because of the number of people who have commented on how they don't buy books from A&R anymore because of the lack of quality. We live in hope.
If you buy children's and YA books, how do you choose? I look at CBC shortlists (because the books must be there for a reason), but if they don't appeal, I search the shelves for something I do like. I read reviews, and note books that sound interesting. In bookshops, I read blurbs and first pages.
I see and hear people, often grandmothers, in bookshops asking what they should buy for little Jack, and being given "safe options" - classics or prize winners or the latest hot thing. The sign of a good bookshop is staff who read. Readings has tons of shelf recommendations - from staff who've read something and want to tell you about it. But all bookshop staff need to be more adventurous in their reading.
By the way, am I the only person who thought that Neville pulling the Sword of Gryffindor out of the hat was a bit too convenient and doesn't hold up logically in the plot? (this is a HP7 question). Well, I know I'm not the only person because I've checked out some of the discussions! Quite a few people, however, seem happy to glide past that question with comments like "The hat has always provided Gryffindors with what they need in dire times". Huh! I'm not convinced. The curse of the writing teacher ... to pick out plot glitches.