Part Two

My Blogging Journey

One day, I was checking my emails when the wrong account came up. It was full of emails – around sixty – and I thought I’d somehow opened the wrong email account. I checked at the top for the name of the email: – my blog’s  email account. I hadn’t checked it since I first made it, when I started my blog. I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid to have completely forgotten about it. As I scrolled down the emails, I read their subjects: mostly related to book review requests, with a few from book marketing companies. I was in wonder at the idea that people wanted me to read their book to review it – that they’d actually let me read it for free just so that I reviewed it. I didn’t understand how all of those people found my tiny blog.

I went through all the emails one by one, replying to the requests that seemed to fit with my reading interests – I was still in shock that I was CHOOSING which books I wanted to read (for free) and review. I tried to make it clear to the people that I did reply to that I couldn’t guarantee I would even write a review, although I did promise to read it. They sent me PDFs of their books, and that was that.

The first review-copy book that I read, and later went on to review, was Crossroads, a collection of essays by Ugandan women about their lives and their experiences of the conflict between western and traditional values in their society. I didn’t know what to expect, as I had never read anything like it. But something about it drew me in – so I read it (on my phone), and loved it from the very first page. I enjoyed some of the essays more than others, but I certainly learned something valuable from each.

After I reviewed the book, I sent the link to Christopher Conte, the book’s author, who had requested my review; I got such a thrill from having fulfilled his hopes. I later saw that he featured my review on his website. I felt special, and appreciated.

I now get review requests fairly often, from authors, marketing teams and from a publicity agency with whom I work with to read books and write reviews for their clients, authors. I enjoy receiving books that I’m interested, however find it hard sometimes to express that I might not be able to write a substantive review of their book, or simply read it and write the review within the deadline – because after all, I’m becoming increasingly busy with school. Plus, I still want to carry on reading books that I find myself (bought from bookstores), upon recommendations and inspiration from Goodreads. I know how important it is to remain inspired by books.


Part One

My Blogging Journey

This is my blogging journey: the many ups and many, many more downs. At first I though I’d just write about difficulties with posting enough and balancing reading and blogging with school, but I soon realised that my ‘journey’ – which I’ve been chronicling ever since I started blogging – deserved to be shared. The jury’s still out on whether it’ll be worth it in the end, but even if my blog never becomes super-successful, I hope it’ll be a testament to my effort and my grit.

One summer, I didn’t have much to do, after desperately yet unsuccessfully hunting for a job in one of the three supermarkets near where we live. I had read a record number of books that summer, partly because of my boredom, but also because I’d joined the local library. I decided to start my own book blog – I’d read a few online and really enjoyed them, and I thought it would be something fun to do to fill my time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved books, but until I started Alia’s A-List, I was always a ‘passive’ reader – I never did anything with my passion for books. This felt like an opportunity to give back to books.

I wrote a few reviews in quick succession – of books that I had read recently as well as books I’d read a while ago. Writing about books seemed like the easiest, most natural thing in the world. I was simply writing down my thoughts on books, which I often discussed anyway, so it wasn’t so different. I created my ‘structure’, which I’ve used ever since – including the rating by ‘As’ system.

I was so excited about starting this new project. That feeling when you know you’re at the start of something special and important, something that could become really successful, must be the best feeling in the world. I looked towards my future and all I could see were opportunities. I didn’t get bogged down with the details – like how I would be able to read enough to keep the reviews coming at such a rate, or how I would find the time to blog during school-time. It all seemed so exciting, so fresh, so full of possibility, that I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly not work out. I didn’t know what it would be like trying to review during term time, but I vowed I would find a way to blog as much as possible when I got back.

Soon, the novelty wore off and the summer vacation came to an end. I was faced with reality: how was I going to fit reading and blogging around my busy school schedule? I underestimated how busy I would be: that fall, I moved up to the senior part of my school (like high school) – getting more homework plus joining various clubs – and started a Saturday job. I struggled to post even one review a month – not just because I was busy, so I had less time, but also because I found it hard to find the time to read enough.

Slowly but surely, my involvement with my blog, and even my reading, dwindled. When the new year came, though, I made it my mission to blog and read more. I got back into reading, making it my priority even over hanging out with my friends sometimes. But despite reading more, I still struggled to blog much more than I had been before. I was often unable to review the book that I had read straight after finishing it because I was at school, and so had homework that night. This meant that I had to wait for the weekend, by which time I had forgotten some of my thoughts about the book, especially as I had probably started a new book in the meantime. So when I wrote reviews, my opinions were often vague and inaccurate to how I had really felt.

Throughout the year, time-consuming things always seemed to pop up, like tests and schoolwork. I couldn’t prioritise my blog, and this reflected on the quality and frequency of my posts.

When summer came, it wasn’t much better – it certainly wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be. I started my job at the local supermarket (this time round I called in the winter/spring to secure my place). Aside from being pressed for time and tired from my job, I wasn’t feeling inspired or motivated to read. I read a pretty hefty book for quite a while, repeatedly coming close to putting it down but never quite able to bring myself to abandon it. After I finally finished it, the last thing I wanted to do was explore my thoughts in depth on it. But I forced myself to review it. I constantly procrastinated – the prospect of being on the beach relaxing, especially after a hard day’s work at the market, seemed far more appealing than staying cooped up inside, desperately trying to ‘explore’ and develop my limited opinions on the book. I eventually managed to write a review which I had to force out, reading other reviews online for inspiration. I was left disinterested and uninspired with reading and reviewing.

One of my parent’s friends was talking to me about my blog, and I described how I was feeling towards reading and blogging. She told me to blog or at least write notes as often as possible, so that I keep track of my views and feelings whilst reading the book. This was great advice, and I try to follow as much as I can will myself to. But the most important thing she told me was to make sure I enjoy reading and blogging; that when I write a review, I should be doing it for MY enjoyment, rather than to gain followers or likes. Every time I feel the pressure to read and write, I try to remember what she said: to enjoy it. Sometimes it’s a lot of hard work with no payback, but I’d like to believe that no matter how many views I get, my blog will remain special, relevant and valid.

After I started following her advice, writing notes and keywords whilst reading books, I found writing reviews much easier and more natural. They seemed to flow out of me, like they used to when I first started my blog. I began to enjoy reading and writing again – although this might have had a lot to do with the books themselves.

When I went back to school, blogging was harder, but I remained mostly on track, posting on average two reviews a month. I was pretty happy with how it was going. But that didn’t last long…