Reinventing Paperback Fool

OK, I won’t lie: I’ve done this a few times.

Part 1

I started this blog – called Paperback Fool because I was highly un-creative – five years ago. It was 2009, and I had just graduated from college, where I earned my BA in English Literature. I had finally found a job working as a bookseller at Half-Price Books in Cincinnati. I had just returned from New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute, where I learned everything you need to know to earn a meager living as a hopeful editorial assistant at a major publishing company. They sent me home with a lot of books. I obviously enjoyed reading – a lot.

But even though I’ve always been surrounded by fellow book lovers, I felt stifled. For the past four years – and in high school before that – everything that I read of great importance had been discussed in classrooms. I wrote papers about those books. I chatted with my classmates about George Eliot and Dan Brown. Reading a book was an EVENT in my life, and I loved it.

Then, graduation and the full-time job happened, and suddenly, no one wanted to listen anymore. I still loved reading, and I especially love coming up with “great thoughts” about those books. I also like sharing those great thoughts, if not to start a conversation with somebody else, but to help me clarify and expand on what’s rattling around inside my head. A naturally quiet and shy person, everything has always sounded better when I write it down.

You see, I also like to consider myself a writer. I was a Journalism major in college as well, and fully intended that field to to serve as my career. I wrote for my college newspaper, had a bunch of internships. For two-and-a-half years, I worked as an online journalist for a company owned by AOL here in Michigan. I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve always wanted to make a career out of it. Unfortunately, I feel that my most marketable skills are those elsewhere in the books/writing world – publishing, editing, and now curating and organizing as a librarian. But I still love to write, and hey! The Internet now gives us the ability to create these online journals of sort, where you can write as much as you damn well please, anyone can read it (or not). They’re called blogs, and they’re awesome.

So I started Paperback Fool as a “book blog”. It was fun, and I had no idea what I was doing. Now, there’s an entire market of book blogs out there – they have their own conferences, awards, and major “issues” – so I wasn’t being super creative. I was just doing what I felt was right for me: let’s write about the books I read! If not for other people, then for myself.

And for the past five years, that’s what I’ve done. With a few exceptions, I’ve written SOMETHING about nearly every book I’ve read during the past five years, and I’m so glad that I did. I can scroll back through my archives, and re-discover my thoughts about this book or the other, and it’s like visiting various parts of my life. Writing about the books I’ve read – from the classics to the not-so-classic – has also been a wonderful exercise in close reading and writing. This blog, more than even my jobs as an actual writer, has given me constant practice with my writing – which can fade if you don’t take care of it. It’s also forced me to THINK, and think deeply, about the books I read, making the reading experience even more fulfilling.

Part 2

At the same time, I’ve always wanted to do more with this space, and do more with my writing. At various times in this blog’s life, I’ve written about my life and stuff that interests me outside the world of books. At one point, I tried to utilize the same techniques that I used to churn out seven news stories a day for my journalism job (phew!) here, resulting in a series of themed, planned posts about various topics. That worked for awhile…until it didn’t. After trying various things, I decided that it was safer, easier, and simpler to stick with straight-up book reviews, with some quotes along the way. Keep Paperback Fool strictly the “reading journal” I created it to be.

But I kept getting struck with the desire to do more. I was interested in more than just books, and I wanted to write about them. I started reading a number of blogs written by fascinating, smart, and driven women who took their core interests and created the most wonderful lifestyle blogs around them. I was inspired. I felt like the posts they were writing would also serve as valuable, and interesting, writing prompts for myself. It would be another way to record my LIFE, not just what I read.

Most recently, I created another blog – A Homebody – on WordPress in order to do this exact thing. But it too floundered. Of course, it’s my fault – I don’t think I had the motivation or the time to work on two entirely separate blogs. But I think I fell into the same trap as before: I tried to give A Homebody a dedicated purpose, and I tried to plan “content” for it the same way I ran my editorial calendar as a journalist. And just like that job completely wore me out, I found myself driven away from A Homebody.

But I’ve never been driven away from Paperback Fool – mainly because I’ve never stopped reading, nor have I ever lost the desire to write about the amazing books I read. And yet, still, I want to do more.

Part 3

Which brings me here: what I’m doing now. Maybe this will be just another phase, another iteration of what I’ve been trying to accomplish for five years now. But that’s OK. Paperback Fool, if anything, is an ongoing project of love. I’m not paid anything. I don’t even own my URL. I had not received one ARC from a publisher for review. While I never wanted to turn this blog into a straight-up journal (bad times with Live Journal as a kid scared me away from that), I’m not surprised that I have this drive to write more about life – my life. Why not?

And so, I guess this is where I’m supposed to outline my “new” goals for Paperback Fool, but the truth it, I don’t have any. What I have is visions of a space without boundaries. This isn’t strictly a “reading journal” anymore, though that’s primarily what I’ll be writing about. This will also be a space for me to muse on other topics, post pictures, share things I like. If I write about one thing more than the others during certain times, that’s OK. If all I can muster up the energy for is book reviews, that’s OK too. I’m not going to plan anything anymore. Is that the best strategy if I’m looking to attract sponsors and become “legitimate”? Probably not. But you know, if I haven’t attracted much “official” attention during these last five years with all the efforts I have made, I don’t think it matters much anyway.

If anything, I just want this space (I like calling Paperback Fool a ‘space’ much more than a ‘blog’) to reflect more of who I am, and I don’t want to split my interests into two blogs in order to do so. And I’m much more than a reader. I:

  • Play roller derby.
  • Am a uber-organizer and cleaner.
  • A wife, sister, and daughter.
  • A cat lover.
  • Am studying to be a librarian.
  • Consider myself to be a feminist.
  • Like to cook to bake.
  • Just bought a house.
  • Live in SE Michigan and work in Detroit.

I’m all that and more. Now, sure, I can share these parts of myself on various social networks, but over the years, I’ve become disenchanted with much of what’s out there. I’ve been hot and cold on Twitter, and now only use it to post my Foursquare check-ins and Instagram pictures. I like sharing on Facebook, but at the same time, am overly conscious of over-sharing. I have Instagram, but I’m notoriously bad at taking pictures (and RSVP’ing).

In fact, I think Paperback Fool is the best online space I’ve found for self-expression over the years, so why change a good thing?

And so, on to the nuts and bolts: I’m going to be making some changes around here, but not all at once. Moving a few things around, changing the links, etc. Not today though…it’s 10:30 am on my day off, and I’m still in PJs, delaying putting off a day of chores and homework. I’m still going to leave A Homebody out there for anyone to find it; I wrote some great pieces (well, I liked them) on some feminism issues over there, and while that’s something I’ll now move over here, I don’t want them to go away.

So, to anyone reading this, I hope you enjoy things. Welcome to my life. Feel free to come in, lay on the couch (but don’t worry about taking off your shoes…we’re not fancy around here), and grab a drink. Let’s hang out.

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