Can you even believe it’s been five years since I began this blog? Sure I may have started with Eat, Pray, Love which – BIG SIGH (and if you go read it, please know I am a vastly different person than I am now and so actually don’t read it at all) – and here we are now five years later. What a trip it’s been. Today I wanted to share some interviews with two of my blogging friends – Kate & CW – plus a giveaway!
What’s something that has changed for the book community over the years you’ve been blogging?
CW: Wow, this is a great question. I had to really stop and think about this.
Something that springs to mind is that, lately, there’s this sense that you have to be on multiple platforms to engage a wide range of audiences. When I first started book blogging years ago, it was mostly just book blogging on WordPress or Blogger or Instagram. Now, book bloggers have a bookstagram, a booktube, and now a booktok. In other words, the book community is such an immense space that is continually growing and changing. It makes me wonder what the book community will look like 5 years from now.
Kate: The support for authors from marginalized communities! In ye olden days of 2015 I had a very small bookstagram account that never really amounted to anything (and was quickly deleted after like a year, lol) and I remember all the popular photos with plenty of likes were Cassie Clare, V.E. Schwab, and Leigh Bardugo. Granted, that’s not a whole lot different from what’s popular now – but I can confidently say that there’s a lot more support now for diverse authors than there was back then. My hope is that as the years go by, this support increases and we a community continue to have nuanced conversations about all the issues attendant to diversity.
What has been your proudest achievement while blogging?
CW: To be honest, having a book blog that I am genuinely happy with! My old book blog, Read Think Ponder, will always have a special place in my heart, but I genuinely struggled with it. I was never happy with my content, never happy with the ways I expressed myself on my book blog, and was perpetually frustrated.
But with The Quiet Pond, I feel that it gives me so much fulfillment without the angst. I can sit down and focus on producing content that I’m passionate about without wasting time being frustrated at how my book blog doesn’t match my vision. So, really, it’s the simple thing for me: I love The Quiet Pond!
Kate: Oh that’s easy. Feeling like I’m really making a difference to Filipino authors and bloggers! Last year, I hosted Wikathon, a month-long readathon dedicated to Filipino authors, and it got so much attention and support and generated a lot of buzz for some of my favorite Filipino authors. Other Filipino bloggers have also come to me for advice on how to start blogs, how to draft reviews, how to join blog tours, etc. Although I love the bookish community in general, the Filipino bookish community is particularly close to my heart and being able to inform, inspire, and boost these people is, for me, an unparalleled accomplishment.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you began, what would it be?
CW: Oh, this is a great question. I’d tell myself to do what I enjoy doing the most.
It took me awhile to figure out, but I really hate doing book tags. They just don’t jell well with what makes me fulfilled and satisfied, but I felt this pressure that new book bloggers had to do tags to grow their platform. I’m glad when I made the decision to stop doing book tags and to do stuff that I enjoyed instead!
Kate: I would tell myself that I don’t need to join every discourse that happens on book Twitter. I made a resolution this 2021 that unless an issue is very serious and actually affects me or someone I know personally, I would stay out of bookish discussion online. It’s been pretty great not having to rehash old arguments about pirating books!
How do you tackle blog burn out and taking hiatuses?
CW: I try and mitigate burn out before it happens! I have a good sense of when things start to get exhausting, so I usually invest time in something else (not book-related) that gives me joy. But to be honest, book blogging is such an integral part of my life now that it just feels like my every day.
But I take breaks and hiatuses unapologetically! The Quiet Pond produces a lot of content – sometimes I worry that it’s too much content – so I feel like when I take a break, I’m also giving our readers a break.
Kate: To be honest, I used to be afraid of taking hiatuses. I thought doing so would mean my engagement would tank and the algorithm would banish me to the pits of obscurity. But in 2019, I had no choice but to take a hiatus because work was just kicking my ass all over the place. I learned that although taking a leave of absence as it were did hurt my numbers, the value of the rest that I got (both mentally and physically) was unmatched. And anyway, building your stats back up is possible. So now I’m not afraid of acknowledging that I’m burned out and stepping away from my blog!
Do you have a specific favorite memory of our time/friendship?
CW: I do! And it’s a memory I hold dear to me. I don’t quite remember what the book was now – was it Caster? – but you sent me a long voice message through Whatsapp, sharing with me your thoughts on the book. I remember just laying in bed and just listening to your voice and your thoughts. The voice message felt like a love letter.
Kate: Our Zoom calls while reading These Violent Delights were so great. I enjoyed seeing your lettering art coming to life real time and I know you enjoyed me yelling “ew” out loud when the bugs made their first appearance!
What do you think the biggest challenge to being an international book blogger is?
CW: Lack of access compared to our UK/US peers. As a New Zealander, I have the privilege of having decent access, but I do wonder sometimes what my book blog would look like if I was based in the US – I’d probably have way more ARCs, have made and met friends in book conventions, or have access to giveaways!
To be honest, I’ve just accepted that I’ll always lose out on opportunities because I’m based in the US. It is what it is.
Kate: Access, one hundred percent. Practically all the ways one could legally read books are near unavailable to us. If you want to buy books, either your local bookstores don’t carry the titles you want, or if they do the prices are downright wild (and this is coming from someone with disposable income – I imagine this would be even more inaccessible for students and/or young adults). Ordering online is problematic too because of astronomical shipping costs and untrustworthy customs or postal services. Plenty of non-western countries don’t have libraries that stock up-to-date fiction titles. And ARC access is spotty at best, although I do commend the authors and publishers that make active efforts to connect with book bloggers from the global south.
What are your thoughts on the amount of other social media platforms that bloggers have to branch out to? I know for me, it’s hard to tackle Bookstagram, Twitter, Youtube and feel like I HAVE to be there to be relevant while also seeing my blog as the origin of where everything started and trying to maintain that.
CW: I do feel like there’s a pressure; that we have to occupy multiple spaces to be relevant and engaging. I completely understand why my book blogger friends are also bookstagrammers, booktubers, and now booktokers – but it makes me worried about their mental health and the space they have in their lives to do other things that give them joy.
Personally, I’m content sticking to just book blogging. I have a busy full-time paid job and would never have the time to branch out to other platforms!
Kate: I definitely felt and succumbed to that pressure! I do have a booktube and a bookstagram (I drew the line at booktok, but only because I don’t like TikTok as a platform in and of itself), but recently I’ve decided to pull back and focus on my book blog. I feel like if I spread myself too thin, my content on all platforms will suffer. And I’d rather focus on my book blog because that space is where I feel I can be authentically me and create content that I enjoy.
Questions for CW
You’ve incorporated so much of your own personality, and artwork, into The Quiet Pond and I’ve loved seeing your blog, and art, grow over the years. Do you have any advice for people just starting out to establish their own ‘image’ or their own blogging personality?
Aw, thank you! My advice is that, though tricky, try and distinguish your authentic personality and way of expression from what you think others want from you. I think there’s a tendency for content creators to “adapt” or imitate someone’s expression, expecting that is what will make them successful. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t – but I firmly believe that if you use your own voice and your own way of expressing yourself, you’ll have so much more fun. It may take time to figure out what your “style” or “voice” is, but it’s worth it. Experiment! Try new things.
Can you talk about the process of working with co-bloggers? How did this relationship begin and what tips might you have for people who want to either BE a co-blogger or accept co-bloggers?
I am a huge advocate for co-bloggers, though I understand if it isn’t for everyone. Co-blogging can be scary; you are inviting people to be part of something that is important to your expression, and there’s a possibility that whoever you choose as a co-blogger won’t align well with your vision.
My tip is to have an organised way of selecting people. For me, I created a Google Form, wherein I asked questions that would help me choose who would be a good fit. For instance, The Quiet Pond is all about supporting marginalised authors and diversity in literature, but it’s also a creative, fun, and whimsical place. Therefore, I asked people about their thoughts on diversity in literature, whether they are a reader of diverse literature, and to also write a ‘Story-Time’ post where the applicant visited the Pond. When I read Skye’s ‘Story-Time’ post, I knew instantly that I was going to choose her.
Working with authors, which y’all do SO MUCH and SO WELL, is a big process. How have you managed some of the challenges and has anything surprised you?
Phew! It’s a doozy, and sometimes I look back and think: wow, how did we pull that off?
A significant challenge is balancing everyone’s features – we tailored our interview questions to each guest and we had authors collaborating with us in different feature as well. We managed those challenges by being organised! (I sound like an organisation nerd, because I really am one.) We utilised Notion to co-ordinate and keep track of each feature and the three of us communicated and supported each other through any challenges. Most importantly, we started early! We planned our events months in advance and reached out to authors either a month or two before the feature would go up. We’re busy, authors are busy, so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time.
As for what surprised us – to be honest, learning that some authors were readers of our book blog! It’s always so humbling to hear an author tell me that one of their author dreams was to visit the Pond – to which I was like, wait, what? I’m just a small book blog! That’s always so validating and heart-warming to hear… and it motivates me to keep what I’m doing!
Questions for Kate
Do you have tips for balancing your book blog and your personal life? I loved your V-Day Q&A, how do you balance how much you share with your personal life with your blog readers and the internet?
I believe heartily in the power of a good schedule. Whatever tool you use – a daily planner, spreadsheets, Notion – scheduling personal life commitments and book blog items helps things in both parts of my life stay on track tremendously.
I think you can never go wrong with practicing basic Internet safety. Don’t give out your home address, be careful of who you talk to and share information with in the DMs, and don’t be afraid to step back if you start feeling uncomfortable. Also, if you’re involving other people in what you share online (like my Valentine’s Day Q&A, which I’m glad you liked!) make sure to get their full, informed, enthusiastic consent first!
Do you think that blogging has changed the way you interact with media in general?
Being a book blogger has definitely made me more critical of the media I consume! While I may not talk about all the media I consume on my twitter or blog, I think being a book blogger has made me better able to process thoughts, feelings, and opinions on books I read and movies or series that I watch. Of course, there are still some media that you can’t help but mindlessly consume. It pays to take breaks, after all!
Since a lot of the online book community is very US/English speaking centric, how has your relationship with it evolved over the years? What are some challenges that you never thought you’d have to deal with, but have been surprised about? Are there some joys to this as well?
For the record, I don’t hate the English language (lol). While I on some level resent the western imperialism that made it the world’s lingua franca, I also acknowledge that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with other bloggers, both non-western and otherwise, that I’ve grown to love and care for without it. So I am grateful for that bridge!
However, one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever encountered with English not being my first language is that I often struggle to explain concepts that have no direct translation. For example, I once described the character of Jiang from The Poppy War as “gago on the surface” and while Filipino readers understood what I meant, I had a hell of a time trying to explain what ‘gago’ means.
I also enjoy the way my brain reverts to Tagalog when I talk about or refer to friends who are nonbinary, since Tagalog pronouns are gender-neutral!
About CW & Kate
Kate is a Filipino blogger and aspiring author living and working in Manila. She works in marketing, learning and development, and data analytics, and has experience in beta reading and sensitivity reading. Her blog Your Tita Kate is her space on the Internet to recommend diverse reads, discuss representation and advocacy, and promote Filipino authors and books.
CW is a Kiwi-Asian book blogger from the Aotearoa (New Zealand). She loves middle grade and young adult diverse literature, and you can find all her thoughts about them in her fantasy-themed book blog, The Quiet Pond. When CW isn’t reading, you will probably find her drawing wholesome and heartfelt art or taking photos of her five chickens.
I’m giving away TWO prizes: a 2021 YA Preorder of your choice (INTL as long as The Book Depository ships to you) and the other prize is an audiobook credit on Libro.fm!! There will be two winners and it’ll just be random which you win so please be okay with both prizes when entering! This ends on March 31st at midnight EST and I’ll be using Rafflecopter to pick the winners.a Rafflecopter giveaway