Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Armchair BEA

Going to BEA is near the top of my bucket list. I dream big?! Since I can’t do anything but hobble around these days, I decided to participate in Armchair BEA. Armchairs I’m good at.

“Any good event requires introducing yourself and getting to know your fellow attendees. Instead of NYC, we may be in our armchairs and pajamas this week, but that does not mean we cannot network right along side those heading to the Javits Center...This year's theme is all about community, and our main goal is to encourage visiting and getting to know the vast number of bloggers/participants. In order to do so, we decided to shake things up a bit with our interviews.” -- THE ARMCHAIR BEA BLOG TEAM

So here goes…

1.            Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

Who am I? I am the BookBitch. The first question I’m usually asked is how I came up with that name, which ties into the rest of the question so here’s the story.

I used to be a bookseller for Borders. Remember Borders? Big bookstore chain, then the CEO, Rich Flanagan retired, and everything went to hell. Now they are just a footnote in the decline of the book business.

Anyway, I started there when my daughter started kindergarden, back in 1997. I worked these crazy hours around my kids’ schedules – one of the only benefits of working retail is flexibility in scheduling. I worked my 40 hours in four days, including Friday and Saturday nights, the busiest times in the store. Booksellers literally ran for their eight hour shift, from one end of the store to the other, nonstop. If a customer had to wait more than a minute at the Information Desk for me to get back from helping my last customer, and if heaven forbid we didn’t have the book they waited ALL THAT TIME for, well, let’s just say I was called a bitch more than once.  If you want to learn about human nature, work retail. Or in the food industry.

Spring forward a year or so and the Internet starts getting more interesting. There were companies offering free web space for anyone who wanted it, with cool little programs that helped you create a website – think apps, before there was such a thing.  I embraced the bookselling world with arms wide open, and devoured as many books as I could, reading late into the night, usually a book a day. But there were so many more books I wanted to read!

I decided to sign up for one of the free websites, that way I could keep track of the books I read and better yet, I could keep track of the books I wanted to read. So I did it, using Geocities, a behemoth in the free web golden days, now long since forgotten.  It was fun! I loved it. I even made a website for my Borders, Store 13 in Boca Raton. I posted pictures of all the staff. I did a photo journal of a day in the life of a bookseller. It was awesome. Unfortunately, Geocities shut down with little fanfare and those pages are gone forever. Even the Wayback Machine can’t find them.

But I digress. There were book websites springing up and I wanted something that would stand out from the crowd and be memorable. Another crazy weekend at the store, another pissed off customer calling me a bitch because I wouldn’t let her darling child color in the coloring books we had for sale unless she actually bought one.  And in that moment, it hit me – I would be the BookBitch! Later that year my husband bought me the domain name, where I've been happily parked ever since.

2.            What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?

I read several books at a time. I’m reading a fabulous manuscript, a thriller set in Chicago, for an author friend. Once We Were Brothers by Ronald Balson, a self published Holocaust legal story which was recommended by some of my favorite library patrons. Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray, because she is one of my favorite authors, but I’m having a hard time getting into this one.  Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman, humorous suspense featuring an octogenarian Holocaust survivor ex-cop that I thought would probably appeal to my patrons.  I just started The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman, because I kept having to place reserves on it so I got curious. And I’m always looking at cook books, and if you don’t think that is reading let me correct you right now. A lot of the new cookbooks that have been coming out over the past year or two are filled with stories alongside the recipes, but I read the recipes too.  Right now I have Brunetti’s Cookbook by Roberta Pianaro, which is based on Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries. I’m also reading Cooking Without Borders by Anita Lo, a chef I’ve come to like and respect after seeing her on several cooking competitions, both as contestant and judge, and I’m happy to say that this book is definitely for home cooks like me. 

My favorite book so far this year is probably Defending Jacob by William Landay.

3.            Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

I ‘m a foodie.

4.            What is your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?

My favorite feature is definitely the book giveaways. When I first started working at Borders and found out that we got advance reader copies of books for free, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! Shortly after I started my website, I was contacted by a publicist at the former incantation of Hachette Books, asking me if I’d like to give away some of their books to my readers. I figured if I liked getting free books, other readers would like that too and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve never stopped to count but I bet I’ve given away thousands of books by now.

5.            Where do you see your blog in five years?

I debated whether to answer this one because I am in the midst of planning some big changes, but here goes.

For the past several years I’ve been extremely busy. I work full time, was very involved in my kids' activities, sports, marching band, etc. I was in school. It took me over 30 years to earn my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, then close to five years to earn my Masters in Library and Information Science. I toyed with the idea of going for my doctorate in either library science or literature, but put that off, at least for now. I’ve been working on my website and the blog, and writing reviews for Library Journal as well.

My kids are all grown up. I’m done with school, at least for now. That leaves me with a bit of free time that I will be devoting to my website and blog, incorporating the two entities into one, with a new, more mainstream name. I’ve hired a web designer and she is so fabulous that I know she will come through for me, despite my procrastinating in making design decisions.

One of my main goals is to create a searchable database of all the reviews now on the site. It has become too unwieldy, and needs a better layout and organization. It may take me five years to incorporate all the changes I want to make, but I promise, it will be worth it!

1 comment:

Mary Kennedy said...

I just discovered your blog as a link from Nancy Cohen's wonderful blog, "Reinvent or Die." I will be a faithful visitor!

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