Saturday, January 31, 2009

Young Readers Online

So, I'm doing this talk next weekend at the Oregon Reading Association conference on the subject of "Kids & the Kidlitosphere" -- that is, how young readers can connect with authors and other book-minded folks online and enrich their reading experience.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic?

When I was a kid, authors were. . . remote. Unreal. Inaccessible. I suppose they loved getting letters then as much as I love getting emails now, but I just didn't think to do it. People like Madeleine L'Engle and Paul Zindel just didn't seem like humans inhabiting my planet who might ever write back. I'm not saying they wouldn't have, it was just so different then than it is now. Authors are ONLINE. We're so easy to reach, and I can't speak for every author, but we LOVE to hear from young readers (and un-young readers alike).

In my blogroll I have a special section for awesome young bloggers, and right now there are only three on it: Lexi, Jehsyka, and Erica, all (I think) thirteen, all smart and funny. I love reading their blog entries, knowing they are writing books, hearing their unique voices. Jehsyka recently posted covers she designed for her series-in-the-works and they're so professional they could easily have been plucked out of a publisher's catalog. These young bloggers rock. I imagine myself at thirteen and how much I would have loved a space like a blog to connect with readers and writers around the world -- it would have been an amazing thing for me. A world-unfolding experience. As it now, as a writer, I love the opportunity to connect with other writers and with readers. I can't imagine if this ether-space didn't exist. How lonely!

For my talk, which I am devising now, I'll be talking about emailing authors and posting reviews on Amazon, and about fanfiction and blogging, and about readers' sites like Teenreads.com and Readergirlz. I'll also mention different book-give-away contests that authors have run, like Maureen Johnson's marvelous Zombie Idol of last year, in which she, along with fellow judges Meg Cabot, Justine Larbalestier, E. Lockhart, and John Green, read oodles of entries of great works of literature rewritten with zombie content. Awesome!

I had a drawing (no writing contest portion, though I'd like to do that someday) to choose early readers of the Silksinger manuscript, who would read the second draft even before my editor did and give me feedback. Lexi, mentioned above, did not win the drawing but I was so taken with the Dreamdark-inspired faerie character that she emailed me that I sent it to her anyway.

I'm trying to think of other particular ways that young readers can get involved with the reading & writing community online. Can you think of anything? Please let me know. Also, if you are a young reader/writer with a blog, let me know about it; I'd love to see it and maybe add it to my blogroll. If you are a young reader/writer who has thought about creating a blog but hasn't started yet -- start now! It's great. I encourage you to post reviews of your favorite books and let the authors know. For my part, I LOVE that! (I have Google Alerts that let me know about any new reviews). Also, post your writing and art. Find other bloggers, make new friends. (Don't use your full name, and don't put up clear photos of yourself, for safety sake. You can even create a cool secret identity if you want.)

Help, anyone? Thoughts? Insights? Personal anecdotes about interactions with favorite authors, or writers: interactions with readers? I'd love to hear it!

18 comments:

jennifer said...

When I was 7 I wrote to the author of the Serendipity series. ( Leo the Lop, etc) She actually wrote me back a super long letter with an ARC of a book of hers to review. I felt so honored.

I still have the letter and Camille reads all my Serendipity books now.

I think you MUST write authors when you are children. It just makes you so much more connected. I personally prefer snail mail letters though. Just more personal, but that's just me.

~Jennifer

PS Pic of new hair color please?

A Young Blogger said...

I always squee a little bit when authors respond to my emails. Okay, I squee a lot. I have an entire tag dedicated to squee-worthy emails in my gmail account. I love getting responses.

Charlotte said...

Hi Laini,

My son is a very young book blogger...he blogs at http://pickledbananas.blogspot.com.

cheers,

Charlotte

Nerd Goddess said...

I just want to say that I LOVE the online reading connection. For me, it started with Shannon Hale's fan forum (www.littleredreadinghood.com) which became a haven for teenagerish girls to chat it up about their favorite authors, see what other people are writing, etc. I've met several of the people from that forum in real life, and one of them has become a very good friend outside of the virtual world.

Following yours, Shannon's, and other author blogs, I've been able to see that the publishing world isn't quite as scary as it seems, and that authors still struggle with writing, even after several books.

Because of access through blogs, I've been to a lot of book signings and author events in my area, and have become less the intimidated fan-girl, and more of an interested audience. I've realized authors are just, overall, really awesome people. And I'd like to be one of them.

So, basically, I love blogging. Especially in the YA sphere.

Laini Taylor said...

thanks, Charlotte! That's great!

And Nerd Goddess, that's terrific. Can I quote you?
:-)

Lexi said...

First:
Being a Young Blogger is nice.
It is good.

But I never before considered getting a secret identity, and I think now is the time.

So-- I am a retired koala-tamer from the Bronx who now chews bubblegum and crochets sweaters out of shed dog hairs for a living.

Enna Isilee said...

Talking to other young readers has been a catalyst in my life. What started as visiting Shannon Hale's blog, blossomed into joining Little Red Reading Hood and talking to all of those young readers/writers. It's a wonderful place for feedback. It was there that I discovered the wonderful world that is book blogging.

Since I joined that site I now run my own sucessful book blog and I've made some very dear friends IN REAL LIFE that I never would have met otherwise (waves at Celes). I am a huge advocate of internet saftey and privacy, but at the same time I am also a HUGE advocate of having a group of people you can go to to talk about all things literary.

*steps off soapbox*

Christy Raedeke said...

Hi Laini - One thing that young readers may not know about is the Author's Now site, (http://www.authorsnow.com), which positions itself as The Internet’s Largest Collaboration of Debut Children’s and Teen Book Authors and Illustrators. If kids are interested in reaching new authors who would be eager to correspond/connect, this is a great resource. You can search new books by genre, location of author, age group, etc. It's also a great place for kids/parents/teachers to get supplemental material that authors upload. Author Cynthea Liu started the site and now it has nearly 100 author members. Cheers, Christy

Colleen said...

Hey Laini:

Part of why we do the SBBT & WBBT is so that readers can discover a bit about their favorite authors and then hopefully connect with them from there (through their own web sites). And we started Guys Lit Wire with the intention of getting book reviews to teen guys - so they are a key component to our entire mission.

I think I would just talk about the limitless possibilities that the internet presents to readers. When I was young it was very nearly impossible to reach your favorite author (where would you even begin?) but now it is only a google and email away. You might never hear anything back but it doesn't hurt to try.

Even now some of my greatest thrills have been found in corresponding with authors who I respect and admire. I have become friends with some of these people and it staggers me.

I think young readers should comment on blogs that mention their favorite books and authors, email group sites and see if they can provide a guest review (GLW would love this) and BY ALL MEANS email authors direct just to say you liked their book.

This is a time for readers - they should be fearless in reaching out to others to share their love of books.

Nerd Goddess said...

Please do quote me! And the friend I was referring to was Enna Isilee. :)

Laini Taylor said...

Thanks, Nerd Goddess and Enna Isilee, I'll definitely be talking about you two and Red Reading Hood; and thanks Colleen -- I have Guys Lit Wire down already as a cool resource and I'm glad to know you accept reviews from teen readers. That's great!

Found Artist said...

Hi, Laini:

I'm curious about the Oregon Readers Association conference. . .can't find it online. I'm a school librarian and wondered if it was something I should know more about.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Found Artist! Here's the link:

http://www.oregonread.org/annualconf09.html

I've never been to any of their meetings before; curious how it will be.

Stephanie Perkins said...

Ooo, perhaps you can mention that NaNoWriMo has a young writer's program? Supposed to be pretty awesome. Or you can talk about the Nerdfighting community? Where books meet videos meet . . . goodness, everything? It's such an amazing, supportive community. I wish it existed when I was in high school.

What a neat subject for a talk. You'll do GREAT!

Lainey said...

I just had to add my little input to this:

I first realized I could actually contact authors when I emailed Shannon Hale and she replied. I think I actually cried when I got her email I was so happy. Then, of course, I read your book and just had to share with you how much I had loved it. It always means so much to me when authors take time to read my appreciation for them.

Oh, and my blog isn't much, but if you're interested you can read some of my reviews and such at www.laineyru.blogspot.com

~Lainey~

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Lainey! My, what an excellent name you have! I like it! And I shall certainly check out your blog :-)

Sarah said...

Hi, Laini! (and everybody else!) I started reading author blogs about a year ago, and I stop by yours frequently.

I recently decided to start blogging about my own reading experiences at www.bookduck.livejournal.com.

(I'm 18, and a freshman in college, which isn't really young, but on the younger side of things.)

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