Monday, June 27, 2016

Ten Things After One Year

What a lucky coincidence that this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is a freebie.  Today is the first anniversary of my blog, so I'm going to take this opportunity to launch my celebration with a few top tens that reflect back on my first year of doing this.  I had a huge long post put together with all of it, but decided it might be more palatable broken into chunks sliced up like a birthday cake.

Mmm, cake!  Actually, I think I'm going to make myself a cake today to celebrate!

Here's the agenda:

Today: Ten Experiences I Owe to Blogging
Tomorrow: Ten Posts I'm Proud of
Thursday: June wrap-up
Friday: My Ten (plus four) Favorite Books I Read This Year
Saturday: Ten Thank Yous and a Thank You Raffle

Ready to start the party?

Ten Experiences I Owe To Blogging

  • Using Canva to design graphics.  I have no Photoshop experience, know nothing about HTML, and was happy for a long time that I'd figured out how to save book covers from Goodreads then upload them onto the blog.  My Canva game is still shaky, but I can put words on a picture and make wonky collages, both of which make me disproportionally pleased with myself. 
  • Signing up for a writer's retreat.  There is no way I would have been able to justify this retreat to myself if I hadn't spent the previous ten months writing on a regular basis.  
  • Judging the YA category for the CYBILS awards.  This was a major thrill.  First, because it got me to read six really great books published in 2015.  Next, because it gave me a great group of people to discuss and analyze those books with.  And of course, because it's kind of a kick to be an official judge.  Made me feel like a Newbery Committee member.  
  • Designing a poll and a scavenger hunt.  You think I was proud of myself for figuring out Canva?  When I worked out how to make a swipe left/swipe right poll, I felt like I had conquered the 21st century.  (It was actually super easy--shhh.)  The scavenger hunt I put together for last month's Wrap-Up Round-Up Rafflecopter giveaway was a lot more challenging, but the satisfaction of finally getting it right (two days AFTER it went live) was enormous.
  • Inspiring my teaching.  It's hard for me to separate this blog from the new position I had this year as a reading teacher.  The lines of what was inspiring what became very blurred.  I went to author events both at conferences and with my students--but would I have pushed as hard to get to those events if I weren't part of this community?  Heck, would I have KNOWN about these events?  Doubtful.  I participated in the Slice of Life challenge.  I learned about books for my classroom library.  I read inspiring thoughts of teacher-reader-bloggers.  I thought hard about how to leverage my reading life to improve my students' reading lives.  
  • Participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  This was such a treat for me.  You don't even know.  I went into it expecting that my family wouldn't really cooperate and that I'd get maybe 12 hours of reading in 16 hours of participation.  I ended up with great snacks, great family support, and round-the-clock participation. So fun.
  • Dipping my toes into the Twitter pool.  I still don't tweet often, still haven't participated in a Twitter Chat, still don't get how to organize my Twitter Feed--BUT.  I did start following some really interesting people, and I did get some good information from Tweets I saw, and I did have a couple of fan-girl thrills when authors responded to me.  I'm 46, people.  This is challenging.  But who doesn't love a challenge?
  • Two-way communication with other bloggers.  I have had two blogs before this.  The first one was a Xanga blog that I used to record and share our experiences when my husband and I spent a year overseas.  It was just for family and friends.  The second was a blog I kept the first two years my kids were home, dealing with my challenges, excitement, and occasional misery as the adoptive parents of two school-aged kids.  That one did get a few comments from the outside world, and I read a bunch of adoption blogs back then too, and was a frequent commenter on some.  But I didn't really feel like any of the bloggers I loved had any idea who I was.  They were getting dozens of comments per post; why would my occasional comments stand out?  But now, although I'm pretty sure Cait couldn't pick me out of a crowd, I feel like I "know" a number of the bloggers whose blogs I read frequently.  It's a little weird to be trying to teach my kids about internet safety and then be all, "Oooh, I just got a package from Nicole!", but it's worth it for sure.
  • Giving me the book knowledge that helped me get a Book Love Foundation grant.  In March of 2015, I applied for this fantastic grant.  I wasn't too shocked to not get it, because the application form asked a bunch of questions that weren't applicable.  My Twitter handle?  My blog?  Huh?  Wasn't it enough to be a bookworm and a teacher?  I started poking around the internet to figure out more about these things, and quickly discovered book blogs.  A few months later, when I realized I kept leaving multi-paragraph comments, I decided--maybe I need my own forum.  In a gorgeously circular fashion, when I re-applied for the grant this year, AND GOT IT, Penny Kittle told me that part of what they liked was my obviously extensive knowledge about the latest YA and MG books.  Well, where do you think I got all this?  From this lovely community!  So, thanks for those 500 books, y'all.
  • Strengthening my voice.  I am not happy with every single aspect of my life.  There are some weird politics at work, I have one huge parenting issue I can't seem to get on top of, I am fifty pounds heavier than I was three years ago.  (I was going to add, "And my house is always a mess," but I just read this awesome thing Jane Smiley said, that she LIKED being surrounded by clutter, because she knew she could either have a clean house, or write, and clutter reminded her that she always chose to write.)  All that being said, I have been more deeply content this year, more joyful even, because of the writing I do here, the reading I do online and of books, the way my work life enriches and is enriched by my creative life.  I can't say this blog has saved my life, because things weren't that desperate.  But it has let me reclaim some part of myself that I didn't realize was missing.  *wipes tears*  



  1. I thought the swipe poll was fun. I look forward to seeing what you choose for your ten posts. Though there's a good chance most of them will be from before I was following you.

  2. Great post! Must say, I had no idea when I began blogging how valuable the experience would be on so many levels.

    Here's my TTT -

  3. Nice that blogging has inspired and enhanced your teaching! Great list. I hear you on Twitter-- still figuring that one out :) and same with graphics... one of these days.

  4. Wow, excellent list and happy blogoversary! Book blogging is the best!

  5. I like your idea of celebrating with several top ten lists (and cake). You've written so beautifully already about the joys of blogging, and I look forward to the rest of the week. Happy blogoversary!

  6. Happy Blogoversary! (Or however it’s spelled). It’s great that blogging has had such a big impact on your life. I don’t know what I’d do without my blog. No one in my real life cares about my silly bookish nonsense. :)

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  7. This is a great post!! And Happy Blog Birthday!

    A tip for Twitter - Tweetdeck is the best web version. You can set up columns to see notifications, tweets you've liked, or to follow specific hashtags (#readathon) and see it all at a glance. It's SO much better than the regular If you use a Twitter phone app, I've used Tweetcaster and that's pretty good. I now use Fenix, which is a paid one but a lot prettier and slightly easier to use.

  8. I love the idea for this post! It's great to celebrate the things that blogs let us accomplish :) And I am so happy to see that blogging has done so much for you on a personal level. Happy Blog birthday :)

    I hadn't heard of Canva before, I am going to have to check it out! I usually use Pic Monkey, because I can't download software on my work computer and PM has the most comprehensive online graphic design I have seen. I really like Corel Paint Shop Pro, but I got a laptop that doesn't have a disc drive and I am too cheap to buy the digital version of a software I already own the disc version of :p

    My TTT.

  9. I say, "AMEN!" I know exactly how you feel. I started my blog for a summer Inservice, never thinking I would be a real book blogger. And now look at me...nine years at this and it's one of my favorite things I do.

    Congrats on your one year blogoversary. I'm adding you to my list of bloggers I like to visit because I really want to come back and talk about the Cybils some time and Readathon another time...oh, and do you know about Paris in July? It's fun, too! I will return!

  10. Happy blogoversary!
    My TTT:

  11. So...was it worth it? ;)
    Congrats on getting the grant for your school. That's huge! And I hope it means you can stock more diverse books, because you clearly have your finger on the pulse of that, more than most. Yay!

  12. I love that your blog has brought so much to your life! I look forward to following your continued journey!


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