Setting the Benchmarks for 2010

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.~ Lin Yutang

Brenda Power opened the 10 December 2009 of Choice Literacy newsletter with this quote. My  mind was moving toward the annual annual time-to-reflect trek, so it resonated quite loudly in my brain (so much so that when I got serious about writing this post, I had to go back and find it!) I also went back to  my answers to Pam’s Inner blogger questions from the Kidlitosphere Conference. Together, they helped me outline 2010, both as a blogger and a business owner. I come to the year with a mix of sadness and relief that I am cutting back on what I/we do.

readingtubGIFOn the business side, we are going to commit to doing a few things well. Like 2009, we will continue to emphasize the timeless objectives: getting books to readers in need, partnering with organizations that are the front-line literacy advocates, and sharing news about literacy and reading. There are only two“start-up” projects, one big, one small.

Let’s Read Together! has been on the books for four years and still remains our most challenging project. I have CLOSETS of books ready to go, but have yet to get the funding needed to launch.

I Can Read MEMEI Can Read – a monthly celebration of books for new and developing readers. Charlotte’s new middle grade Science Fiction and Fantasy meme at Charlotte’s Library got me thinking about doing something for new readers. I feel very strongly about hooking new readers, and this is a way to collect suggestions from around the blogosphere for this audience. Because hosts rotate, it will be an easy project to manage.

There are also a few things that I am going to tweak.  For example, we won’t be participating in book challenges, but I am going to commit to writing one book review each month for the blog.

  • In looking at the books we read in 2009, the smallest group is middle grade nonfiction. So I will try to find books that fit that bill.
  • I am also going to pick books that are AT LEAST one year old. There is a lot of saturation for brand new titles,  so I am going to  talk about books that are past the launch buzz and/or lesser known.

I am also going to do more to talk about literacy work that is more than an author interview in the 2010 Author Showcases. For example, I am VERY excited about the opportunity to chat with Liz Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy) about literacy for sight-impaired readers in February 2010.

And of course, I’ll be heavily involved in Share a Story-Shape a Future 2010. [Mark your calendars for March 8 to 12!!] I am not hosting, but will be collaborating on some other aspects of the event … like the guy on the runway with the orange cones!

Many of my writing ideas will return here or at the new blog Book(re)Marks. I LOVED my guest stint at Booklights, and I’ll continue to be available as a fill-in, but my day-to-day writing on literacy and reading will return here and at Before you jump in and ask “a new blog is less work?!” I’ll say “Yes, it is when it is an extension of this one.” Remember when I said I was trying to find a home for the daily literacy feeds? Well, Book(re)Marks will be it.  I’m actually thinking about changing my  name here and then making that just the “news” edition … what do you think?

Along the same lines, I will be continuing my effort to move beyond apprentice blogger and reviewer. There is still a lot of cleanup to do with tags and categories, and I plan to have all of the old stuff (2004 to 2008) cleaned up by the end of this new year.

I also need to find a better model for the book review volunteers. We had more than two dozen folks volunteer to write reviews, yet only four ever provided reviews back to us. Are they taking our template and then using it for themselves? I have a nagging feeling about that, but neither the time nor energy to deal with it … I hope they are connecting kids with books.

As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, I’m going to spend more time with pen in hand doing some writing, too. Most likely it will be journal writing and short notes, but I want to be a better model for Catherine.

So what are we NOT doing in the Reading Tub?

* Giveaways. We won’t be hosting giveaways here. They are a lot of work and incur expenses (shipping) we just don’t have. Frankly, it seems there is a giveaway with every new book that’s released (or just about to be), and I’ve grown weary of them.

* Challenges. I want to be more mindful of what I read, but I don’t want a reminder on my to-do list.  Same goes for comment challenges. Speaking of which …

* Commenting. I was really pushing myself to comment on at least three blogs whenever I was doing my reading. I was careful to not be too much of a fan-geek and be part of a discussion, but I was driving myself crazy. I don’t have time for virtual crazy.

* Reading Ahead. I had slipped the review-previews to a standard bimonthly schedule (and there is still 1 in the queue). In 2010, though, I’m not going to be posting about the new arrivals that are intriguing.

* Asking for books to review. When I receive a publisher’s catalog, I will add titles of great interest to a wish list and our TBR pile, then ask reviewers to see if they can find them in their libraries. There remains one undecided for 2010: accepting unsolicited requests for book reviews. Will we or won’t we?

The Reading Tub is, in essence, a book facilitator. Seventy-five percent of our books arrive, unasked for, from the industry.* Authors and publishers send them with the hopes that we will review them before giving them to readers-in-need.  It has been two years since we have routinely accepted books from new authors and publishers with whom we have not worked in the past. Even with that, we received more than 500 books in 2009!

Our review model of including the audience perspective doesn’t allow for “instant” reviews, so getting a review for the current “it” book doesn’t come into play. It has been a long time since we sent books to reviewers (along with the return postage). Now we just send a list of books we have received. With libraries cutting back on book purchases, it is getting harder for our reviewers to find some of the titles, even from big publishers. 500 is a lot of books we can get to kids … yet about 20% are books that aren’t suitable (e.g., very specific niche audience, poor quality, filled with typos, etc).  I’m not sure what the answer is … but I have a new year to think about it and come up with a fresh idea. Any and all suggestions welcome!

Here’s to opening the year with a fresh slate and a streamlined to-do list …


* In years past, we have asked for 10% (or less)  and 15% are from the library or personal collections.

6 responses to “Setting the Benchmarks for 2010

  1. Wonderful! I constantly find myself trying to focus what it is I want/need to do versus what I don’t and I think you’ve done a wonderful job here of doing just that. It looks like you have an amazing year ahead continuing the wonderful work you do, I wish you the best of luck for a successful year!

    1. Thanks, Michelle. One of the great things about the book and kidlit blogospheres is the sense of community and the feeling that there is always a *party* somewhere. I’ve finally come to accept we need some blinders so we can stick with a plan that works. You’re a pro already … Like others, I’d have sworn you’ve been doing this for years. You have a natural ability to sort through it all and find what’s important. Here’s to a great 2010 at Galleysmith, too!

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  3. I think that knowing what you aren’t going to do is so important, Terry. I’ve found, since I started my blog, that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. And hard to say no to things. But I think that your guidelines will help you a lot. Here’s to a more streamlined 2010!

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