Saturday, 24 June 2017

EVENT RECAP: The Blogosphere Blog Awards 2017

I stopped reading magazines a few years ago. I was sick of the rotated content, the amount of hypocrisy that could be found in one issue alone, the constant feeling of being told what to do and how to look. Then I found Blogosphere Magazine, possibly the only physical publication for bloggers, and it quickly became the only magazine I ever bother buying.

That's why I was hugely excited when, earlier this year, I woke up to a tweet from them saying that I was shortlisted for Book Blogger of the Year in their inaugural #BlogosphereBlogAwards! Apparently there had been a nominating process beforehand but it seemed I'd missed it completely, so it was a massive surprise. To be nominated along with approximately 6,000 other blogs and then shortlisted with just four other people is mad, really.

Thursday evening came around and it was time for the awards ceremony! After a nightmare train journey, because we all know it only takes a slight change in the weather for our public transport to come to an immediate standstill, I ended up being the first person to arrive because I am literally the least cool person to ever exist. I was THAT person. But it was alright, because I got to chat to Albertine, Blogosphere's Editorial Assistant, and have a few snaps on the red carpet and by the flower wall (!) while things were pretty chill.

It was so beautiful inside, and someone said to me that it looked like a wedding. It really did! Ambient pink and blue lighting, a free bar, four white tables with beautiful pink flower arrangements, and a silent video montage on the wall which showed various shoots and behind-the-scenes clips, and highlighted how far the magazine has come in a relatively short amount of time. Plus, GIFT BAGS. You'll see inside those later, don't worry.

I sat with the lovely Heather from Digital Fluidity, and Jasmin from Just Lovely Little Things. It was so great to meet them, and the event as a whole made me realise how small the book blogging community is in relation to the entire blogosphere. I think Heather and Jasmin might actually be the first bloggers I've met from another niche?!

The team from Social Pantry served dinner, which was much appreciated. If someone could let me know how to recreate those glazed tomato and garlic pesto tarts, and possibly the pea, parmesan and mint arancini, that would be most excellent. Just saying.

Meanwhile, the awards were being announced by the magazine's Editor, Alice Audley, who is actual career goals. And dress goals. And everything goals.

For a list of the winners, check out @BlogosphereM on Twitter, or make sure to grab a copy of the next issue when it comes out in September. Unfortunately I wasn't crowned Book Blogger of the Year, and this went to the very deserving Little Novelist.

We were also treated to an amazing performance by Andrea Di Giovanni, and I'll be getting all the music of his I can find as soon as I finish this blog post! Definitely recommend checking him out.

Now for a haul courtesy of the award sponsors... I won't talk about everything because that would take approximately 78 years, but I'm very excited to try the primer as I've heard lots of good things about that brand. The tangle teezer, shockingly, is my first one - it's been hyped for SO long, but I never understood how all that praise could possibly be true. However, on having a go with it for the first time, I understood. It literally eliminates tangles with no pain. I don't get it but I love it (and it's shiny, hello.) I also like the look of the lipstick, which I'm looking forward to trying.

All in all, a lovely evening! This was my first Blogosphere Magazine event (they host quite a few throughout the year) and I'll definitely be going to another at some point. Thank you so much to whoever nominated me to be shortlisted, and whoever voted for me to be the overall winner. It didn't happen but it really, really means a lot, and apparently it was very close!

Instead of vlogging the day, I documented the event on my Instagram story. Watch that here!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How to Feel More Included in the Blogosphere

Being a new blogger can be hard. It's like that first day of school where everyone else seems to have their friendship groups sorted and you're not sure where, or if, you'll fit in. And like school, the blogosphere is full of unspoken rules. It's a hard one to navigate, that's for sure, and seeing as I've been kicking about for a while in this glittery community of greatness, I thought I'd put together a list of ways you can feel more included.

The first thing you can do is forget your shyness. Jump right in and talk to people! It can be a bit awkward just tweeting someone out of the blue and saying hello, which is one of the reasons Twitter chats are so great. Take #teenbloggerschat for example, which is over at @TeenBloggersGR every Sunday at 7pm UK time. I help to run it. Each week has a theme - past topics include exam stress, books, and politics - and for the next hour from our main account we ask questions relating to that topic, which everyone then answers using the hashtag. It makes socialising that little bit less awkward, because loads of people are in the same place, talking about the same things, and there's so many of us you're more than likely to have something in common with people. I've made lots of new blogging friends through this! Other chats you can get involved in are #SundayYA and #BlogosphereChat.

Click here for more blogging tips!

It also helps to comment on other blogs. Even if you don't get replies, after a few comments the blogger is sure to start recognising your name and may eventually search out your own blog. Actually, this is the same on all social media - interacting doesn't have to be by talking (though that is best!) Simply following, liking and retweeting regularly does exactly the same thing, and we're a friendly bunch. If you're a book blogger, following publishers and publicists isn't a bad idea, either - they always have fun book news to share!

Another idea might be to host a giveaway. Not everyone can, and I completely understand that - I haven't done a giveaway in ages. If you can, though, it can certainly help to get you some new followers... and if they stick around, you may well make some new friends, too.

Furthermore - and this is something I didn't realise until I'd already been blogging for seven years because I'm SO observant - is that there are so many bloggers in the world that you probably share a town with one, or at least a county! I know a handful of bloggers and vloggers who live around here and even though some of us have still never met, it's nice to know that not everything happens in London... because it sure feels like it, sometimes.

Along with that - book events! These are great places not only to meet fellow bloggers but also authors you admire. YALC is a big one, and ordinary bookshop events are great too - after all, you're in a room full of like-minded people!

Oldies - what tips do you have for becoming included in the blogosphere? Newbies - drop your links in the comments, I'd love to see your blogs!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Teens in the YA Community

The YA book blogging community is, funnily enough, very focused on teenagers. Why shouldn't it be? YA literally stands for Young Adult, and it makes sense that this is what the community would centre around. Having said that, for a community and industry focused on teenagers (and profiting from them) there are a lot of issues.

These are issues that I've never really spoken about, and to be honest, I don't think I've been massively affected by them. Yes, I've been publicly slagged off by adults who should know better multiple times, but others have had worse. I was still in single digits when I started book blogging, and by the time I was officially a Teenager™, I'd been in the community for so long that I don't think I ever felt inferior or excluded. Maybe I was and I was just blissfully unaware.

Now I'm eighteen, which puts me in the position of legally being an adult, but still in the 'teen' bracket, meaning I can consider myself a teenage blogger. (Good thing, too, seeing as I'm on the Teen Bloggers team.)

But what are these 'issues', Amber? Let me explain.

First up, I think we need to understand the difference between who YA is written for, who it is marketed at, and who actually consumes it. It's my belief - and, from what I've seen, a common one - that YA is for teenagers but that it can be read by anyone. By that, I mean that if you're 40, it's perfectly understandable if you don't relate to a particular YA novel, because it's not for you in the first place. As I've said, though, that doesn't mean you can't read it - you absolutely can, and I've written about that here. I encourage it! If you have a way of consuming literature, whether that's with your eyes or your ears or fingers on braille, you can read whatever you like. But YA is for young adults and that's never going to change. The author is aiming it at young adults. The book deals with relevant teenage issues, no matter when it is set. The cover is designed to appeal to a teenage market. Teams of people decide how else to market it to teenagers and young adults, with window displays, book club submissions, adverts which are purposefully placed in teenage spaces... my YouTube channel, for a start. You should definitely subscribe. Just saying.

We've got that, then. YA can be read by everyone but it is specifically for teens and young adults. Pretty simple idea. Quorn food might not taste like meat to people who eat meat, but that's irrelevant, because even though Quorn can be eaten by meat-eaters, it's not for them, y'know? Vegetarians don't necessarily notice or even care about that. They just want the delicious meat-free sausage roll.

Despite the fact that YA is for teenagers, most book bloggers are in fact adults. I know some excellent ones, and in my experience, most are the loveliest people you could ever meet. Actual teenagers who blog about YA however are less frequent, and whether this is because many lack the time or because reading is commonly seen as lame at that age, I don't know. But I'd be willing to bet that I know of most teenage book bloggers in this country. Due to the unbalance, a lot of teenage book bloggers have spoken out about how they don't always feel comfortable in the community: they feel unsafe, under-valued, not taken seriously, pushed aside in an industry that relies on them for money.

Even I feel like this sometimes. Like I said earlier, I don't think I've been negatively affected as much as some people, and definitely not in all of the ways I've listed above, but there have been three or four times where I have genuinely felt unsafe in our community, and I definitely don't feel like teenagers are at the forefront of discussion as much as perhaps they should be.

Take YALC, for example, always the highlight of my year. I love it. I can hardly fault it. But, for a convention for and about young people, it's quite sales-y. And, having been in attendance every year except the first one, I've personally never seen a panel or workshop consisting solely of the teenagers the event is so focused on. (I was actually invited to be on a panel once but declined because of my anxiety. I could probably manage it now, if anyone wants to, um, reinstate that offer. Just throwing that out there.) It's a shame because I bet some really cool stuff could come of this, and it would be a great experience for anyone involved.

I have nothing against YALC, rather I was using it as a well-known example, and like I said, it's the highlight of my year. You can easily criticise other panel events and workshops for the same thing. For example, I did a couple of author events in a bookshop at the start of 2017; one with Sara Barnard, and the other with Perdita and Honor Cargill. One of the responses I got afterwards was that it was refreshing to go to a teenage event hosted by an actual teenager, because so often panel events are discussing fundamentally teenage topics, and yet actual teenagers are nowhere to be seen on the stage. It's odd, although the former Media Studies student in me is whispering caaaapitalisssmm...

In addition to that, I recently saw a teenage book blogger note that their most important tweets or blog posts don't really gain traction until they're shared or interacted with by at least one adult book blogger. They mentioned that teenage book bloggers need boosting by adult book bloggers, or else they float around cyberspace with no one taking them seriously. It seems to be true in most cases... I've noticed that way more adult book bloggers, and adults in general, look at my stuff when another one has interacted with it or shared it first. For some reason, this is especially true for my book reviews.

Next up, we're getting personal. You wouldn't believe the amount of times I've had compliments from older people online or at events, quickly followed by "I hope that wasn't patronising!" It usually isn't patronising, and I'm quick to tell them that. I really, really appreciate this. However, I have had a lot of patronising comments thrown my way. I'm going to ask a question to the adult book bloggers of the world, here: has anyone in the industry who isn't a close friend ever commented on your looks? Has anyone told you that you look really old? No, I didn't think so. And yet on multiple occasions I've been told in professional settings that I look really young, or that I'm so little, or cute, or adorable. Honestly, it's kind of weird, and it wouldn't happen if I was thirty or even in my mid-twenties. As young(er) people, we're just not consistently taken seriously. Yes, there are some exceptions to this - the vast, vast majority of people I meet at events or whatever are WONDERFUL and I cannot stress this enough!! But the people who feel the need to comment on how young we look... why do you feel comfortable saying this? Why don't you say it to anyone else? Let me answer that for you: because you know it's weird, and you know you wouldn't get away with it with anyone your own age. If I'm at a party, or a presentation, or a meeting, or a press day, or I'm hosting an event myself, I'm there to do my job, just like you. Interestingly, this doesn't just go for the book industry - in fact, I've had comments like this at job interviews and at work parties, none of which have been anything to do with publishing. It just seems to be a thing. I once turned up to a job interview, dressed professionally and full of smiles and politeness, only to go to shake the interviewer's hand and instead be met with confusion. "You look far too young to be here about a job," she said. "You look like a little girl!"


"You're just so tiny!"

I'm eighteen now, and I was eighteen then. An adult. For context.

Furthermore, my first job - which I'm not going to go into detail about but I will say that it was in the media - was severely underpaying me. It wasn't even minimum wage - and I didn't realise it was just me until I'd been there for over a year. Funnily enough, I was also their youngest employee by far. Stats showed that my work was amongst their most popular, but hey, I was a teenager, so whatever.

Similarly, some of you will have read this post in which I told you about the time I completed a month-long unpaid trial for a publishing house. In that time, I got them national press coverage that weirdly, though now understandably, they'd never managed to get before. At the end of my trial, they finally decided to bother letting me know that the position had never actually existed in the first place, but they were happy to offer me £20 for all the work I'd done. I was 17, so I'd sit back and take it, right? I'd be happy with it? That appears to have been their thought process behind it, yes. I said no to the money and got out of there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Teen bloggers are now making designated safe spaces. The #teenbloggerschat Twitter chat has been praised for giving us younger bloggers the opportunity to talk about things without feeling judged or anxious. Don't even get me started on patronising articles about youth obsession with YouTube, or think-pieces on why millennials aren't buying diamonds, or the recent viral news that the reason young people can't buy their own homes is because they're spending all their money on avocados. HONESTLY.

I would just like to reiterate that I am so grateful for all of the support I've had from my slightly older blogger buddies. I adore our community and luckily the not-so-nice people are a minority, as are the issues that arise, because mostly it's a hugely diverse and supportive place to be. However, to make sure the YA blogging community continues to be a good place to be, issues need to be pointed out every now and then so that they can be worked on and improved. I'd also like to add, in the interests of reducing anyone's anxiety (because I know that whenever I see anyone talking about something bad, I always feel like it's about me...) that I highly doubt anyone involved in the situations I've rambled through above reads my blog, so if you're reading this... I mean, you might be ageist for all I know, but you're most likely not one of the people involved in the situations specific to me.

Regardless of your age, what is your opinion on this discussion which is so big in the blogosphere right now? And what can we do to create change?