Today we welcome Madeleine of Books, With Occasional Food!
If my math is to be trusted (and it rarely is), I’ve gone through at least a half-dozen versions of this post. No tale has a single beginning, not even in a vaguely autobiographical sense, and my trouble is deciding what beginning best serves my book-blogging story: Is it the day I finally decided to give my strewn-everywhere book reviews a home, or is it when the slow death of newspapers heralded the end of my journalism career and effectively forced me to find work that didn't call for writing on a decidedly regular basis, relegating the only thing I want to do for a living to a mere hobby? Or does it go even farther into the past than that, when I declared a creative-writing major in college or when my high-school self had a moment of clarity brought on by a mercifully brief foray into writing NewsRadio fan-fiction that left me taking every writing-based elective I could cram into a stiflingly uninspired curriculum? Or am I looking at the wrong half of the story entirely when I should be focusing on the bibliophilia I've been sporting since I learned how to read nearly three decades ago? But whatever the starting point is, the outcome is the same: Being a writer with neither the patience for fiction nor the willingness to economize my language for the sake of poetry left me with nonfiction, which eventually led me to reviewing books, which finally led to the inception of my mostly review-centric blog, Books, With Occasional Food (in the interest of completely candid disclosure, I tacked on the food element because I am whatever the unholy mixture of a Foodie and a Gutter Palate is; also, because I wanted the rhyming whimsy of “eating” and “reading” deployed in my blog’s URL).
The Internet is littered with blogs that I've begun with a great deal of enthusiasm only to abandon with a shrug and nary a second thought sometimes not even weeks later. So when I finally decided to give book blogging a chance less than a year ago, I was skeptical of my own follow-through, wondering if that latest endeavor would turn into just another example of what happens when a knack for self-sabotage undermines seemingly invincible ambition. And when I perhaps a bit too overzealously tore through a good chunk of the reviews I had written on Goodreads, posting more than 50 of them in the first month of my nascent book-blogger ambitions, I realized that maybe such an uncommon display of unflagging enthusiasm for one project meant that I had finally found my home in the blogosphere.
BWOF began as a casual repository for my Goodreads reviews in the face of Amazon's still-much-grumbled-about purchase of the site and has since turned into an epiphany: For being a lifelong bookworm and a longtime writer, I'm a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out that reviewing books perfectly combines two passions of mine that have only changed in their growing intensity for as long as I’ve been me. Embracing this pursuit has already yielded armfuls of benefits: I now write reviews for both The Chicago Center for Literature & Photography and TNBBC's The Next Best Book Blog, I've "met" people I would have never had the pleasure of considering friends had I not fallen into this wonderfully supportive community of book bloggers, and I'm learning something new about the web's literary realms every day as I slowly venture beyond the safe familiarity of slinging creative-writing exercises masquerading as reviews.
I can thank one of my fellow TNBBC guest reviewers, Melanie Page of Grab the Lapels, for coaxing me into new bloggish territory: Earlier this month, I participated in a blog tour she had organized, which was something I’d never done before. While my contribution was, in fact, a book review, following the tour's week long journey as it traversed some blogs I knew and others that were completely new to me offered not only a more intimate look at a book from all its angles but also was a fantastic introduction to what can happen when a band of bloggers join together in a common effort to drum up interest in a new book. When Melanie asked me to be a stop on another blog tour she’s spearheading next month, I jumped at the chance—as if only a month prior I hadn’t been hemming and hawing and wondering if I really wanted to open my blog up to, like, an actual purpose beyond being a storehouse of reposted reviews.
My blog turns one in June. I’m still a little amazed that I’ve been keeping up with it for this long, but the most pleasant surprise is how generously an almost self-congratulatory pursuit has rewarded me. My vestigial English-major suspicion of contemporary books has been deftly bested by the small-press marvels I wouldn’t have touched before I discovered happier reading through review blogs, my paralyzing introversion that is so awkward it extends to digital interactions has let up quite nicely with every delightful fellow book blogger I get to know, and there is always a kindred bookworm just a few clicks or taps away every time I need to gush about an incredible read or mourn the beloved writers we have lost. I always knew that books were the key to happiness but I never knew how right I was until I found all the ways the joy of reading cozies up to the thrill of sharing that joy with others.
Thank you for joining us today, Madeleine, and we are so glad you joined the book blogging community!
Be sure to visit Madeleine at her blog, Books, With Occasional Food, and leaver her a comment or question below!