Reading Journal, 23 January 2011: Branding

I’ve been in rather a reading slump, partially because of the issues I mentioned previously, like my grandma’s passing. But also, I have been reading an enormous amount in the past three years, and it’s a pace that seems cannot be sustained.

On average, I have read about 14 books or around 3,500 pages a month for about two-and-a-half years.  Some months have been much less, of course, but others have been more. The bottom line is that I’ve been avidly reading for quite some time. That’s a lot of reading for a stay-at-home Mom with a baby toddler preschooler.

I want to make sure it’s clear that I have neglected neither my son nor my husband in the past three years. My son, as a baby, slept very well for 15 or 16 hours in every 24, and then, gradually, the nap went away, and now he’s sleeping 11 or 12 hours a night. He wakes with the sun. That’s still a lot of break from mommy-hood, but it is far less time than it used to be, given his changing needs as he grows older. Also, for a good portion of the past few years, my husband has traveled for work, and thus has been away from home for three or four nights of every week. He’s since moved to a less travel-intensive job.  When he’s home, I blog and read far less.

That justification is simply to preface my observation of the inevitable fact that life continues to get busier, and reading and blogging has subsided as a time priority. My break last August proved to me that I don’t want to stop blogging for good, but as I’ve said before, my blogging schedule will probably continue to be sporadic. I do love writing about my reading, and I love being a part of a community of fellow readers. I especially love promoting the classics, and the Classics Circuit really is lots of fun to work with (although that has slowed down as well).

What I’ve Been Reading

I have not been reading much lately. I finished War and Peace for my book group (it took two months), and I found myself very impatient with it. I read Persuasion for fun (it took one month), and found myself impatient with it. Then I read the Very Short Introduction to Aristotle over the course of three weeks, and I wasn’t impatient with it because it was only 140 pages, so the 50 pages a week didn’t do me in.

For this week’s Classics Circuit (beginning Wednesday!), I’ve got to read and finish Aristotle’s Poetics. It’s only 60 pages, but given the little reading I’ve done lately, I need to push myself if I’m going to finish in time. I’ve started reading a collection of Hans Christian Andersen stories (just for fun now and then), and I’ve picked up The Cranford Chronicles by Elizabeth Gaskell (which has the novel Cranford and two other novellas similar to it). My book group is reading Cranford for next month, but I thought I’d read the other stories as well this time. My other book group is reading Mere Christianity next month, and I look forward to revisiting it.

Despite my book buying ban (i.e., I’m to read only from my shelves in the next few weeks, no buying and no libraries), I did get two books for my birthday (I’m now 30 years old! Yeay!). My mother-in-law gave me a biography of President Thomas S. Monson (of the LDS church), and last week I happened to find an Oxford World Classics copy of Hardy’s Return of the Native at Goodwill for 89 cents, so I “splurged” on that. Neither is on my first quarter reading plans, but who knows? I may feel in the mood for one of those books.  I’m trying to take things one day at a time. I’ll read what I feel like reading next, and I won’t force myself into anything.

Branding: Let’s Talk Classics

The fact is that I’m reading less and blogging less. Either because of that or despite of that (not sure which), I’m feeling the urge to better brand myself in the book blogosphere.  After my August blogging break last year, I reissued my site with a more clean and simple look (with a new “logo” to be my gravatar). I also dropped my participation in challenges. I also added a more “classics” focused tag line. Previously, it had been, “Thoughts on fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature, new and old.” In August 2010, I changed it to, “Thoughts on reading and rereading classic fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature.” Wow, what a mouthful.

I’ve changed yet again, but not really. This week, I shortened my Rebecca Reads tag to, “Classics, nonfiction, and children’s literature.”   Further, I’ve cleaned up my main landing page at www.rebeccareid.com. My tag for my entire site is Let’s Talk Classics, because that’s really why I have a public blog: to discuss the classics I’m reading and rereading.

Let’s Talk Classics reminds me that I want to approach literature more holistically, not as plot points for a specific novel, but as a part of all the classic themes we’ve already read. Classic fiction, especially, seem to be full of familiar themes, and while plots are important and fun, they often don’t matter as much to me in my reading reactions as the writing or the characters or the details of the plots. Reading a classic is an experience, even if one knows what will happen, as is often the case thanks to Masterpiece Theater or Hollywood productions based on the classics. And although I don’t really believe in spoilers, I will try to avoid plot details that could disappoint the rest of you, or at least I’ll give a warning at the beginning of a post!

Let’s Talk Classics seems to me to refocus my goal of the site.  My goal is to start a conversation and be a part of classics conversation. I want to hear from you, whether you’ve read and loved the books I’m mentioning or whether you read and hated them or whether you never plan to read them or whether you want to read them and have yet to. If you haven’t read War and Peace, for example, you may still be able to comment on my reaction to reading it. I haven’t always done well at writing in this way, but it is my goal: that we can relate to literature as a whole and enjoy doing so as a community. If I’m only going to have a few posts a month (or one a week), then I hope to make it a thoughtful one.

My main website links to both Rebecca Reads and The Classics Circuit, which are my two main projects. I’ve also been tinkering with my photo blog, Focus. I’m in the progress of transferring my photos from my old photo blog to that one. (A few  years ago I set up a pixelpost photoblog, but pixelpost software has not been updated for years–literally—so I’m transferring all to WordPress. No, there is no an easy transfer. I’m adding in each post individually.) I don’t take many photographs, but maybe having a clean and new photo blog will prompt me to do so more often!

I also want to add that I have been invited to attend the Book Blogger’s Conference to talk about blogging about classics! (Maybe that’s what’s prompted this second rebranding?) So I will be in New York City in May to attend BEA and the Book Blogger’s Conference. Although I wish I had as much time to read and blog as I did even just a year ago, I’m still glad I can be a part of this wonderful community, and I’m excited to meet some of you.

Will you be there in May? I can’t wait to meet you!

Do you think about “branding” yourself in the book blogosphere? Why or why not? I never thought about it until I started thinking about my desire to refocus my reading on classics.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. Best of luck with all of this – your goals, beginning to end, make a great deal of sense to me, and fit well with where you have been going with the blog. Also, happy birthday!

    Your “branding” question amuses me. I have never really thought about it, even though I’m pretty dang well branded, aren’t I?

    1. Amateur Reader, thanks for the birthday wishes! And yes, I think most bloggers happen to focus their blog with out thinking in terms of “branding.” Maybe it’s BEA/BBC that’s getting me thinking in those terms?

  2. While I’ve personally never done any branding, I think my blog is naturally tending more towards a classics brand. I spent a couple years enthralled with modern books, finding ones I liked for the first time since I was a little girl, but some of the appeal has worn off. Now I’m more balanced, reading about 50% classics and 50% modern and a whole lot less in the YA area. I’ve done a lot less reading (2 books per week) and a lot more listening to audiobooks, which is nice because I can keep up with the house more. Unlike you, I’ve had more time to read and blog since I started, because my kids have slowly all started going to school and now I have the entire day to myself. After a couple of very rough years with three kids under age 5 all at home with me, I gave myself over to just relaxing for awhile, but now I’m getting back into trying to keep up with the house and other things. I think I needed that break, and now I”m ready to move on. I love how many classics bloggers I’ve been able to find through the directory, and I LOVE that they’re including a classics panel at BBC. That’s the primary reason I want to go! I want to hear about that!

    1. Amanda, like you, I don’t think I was consciously “branding” myself but like you say, I was tending towards a direction! Branding followed, I think because I’m trying to figure out my place and my voice in anticipation of BEA/BBC. Anyway, I can relate to the “break from the house” thing! I’ve been doing okay at that stuff, but if I had THREE under five, I’d definitely let it slide 🙂

      I’m excited to talk classics blogging on the niche panel. It should be so much fun!

  3. Great post, Rebecca. I haven’t done any formal branding, but in my recent blogiversary post I set a goal to strengthen connections with classics bloggers, because I realized so much of my reading was in that genre. But not completely … I read lots of prize winners & nominees. I am still wrestling with how to define my niche in the blogosphere.

    1. Laura, I think the wonderful thing about the blogosphere is that everyone has their own place! no two bloggers are alike because we all read and enjoy different things! Yeay for reading more classics!

  4. I am so excited to see that conference will have a classics discussion! And of course I am always thrilled to see other bloggers who love classic literature. Your Classics Circuit project is a wonderful addition to my life.

  5. Life and living does interfere quite a bit with reading and blogging, so don’t feel bad at all. I took a two-week unscheduled break myself. I’m always interested in your reading journey so I’m looking forward your Classics adventure. I haven’t thought much about branding. I’m clear on what kind of a reader I am. I’m just not sure that I’m good at conveying it to others, lol. Keep up the good work.

    1. Kinna, I think the longer I blog the more I want to focus my blog and my reading for that matter. I enjoy reading your blog — even though I don’t always comment — and I think you define yourself well!

  6. Ha, something about thinking so explicitly about one’s blog as a brand is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying to me, Rebecca, but it sounds like it’s helping you think constructively about what you want to get out of blogging, reading, and the ensuing conversation, which is always a good thing. (And no judgment at all – I am a little allergic to marketing speak and the idea that I’m “selling a product,” so my reaction should be taken with many grains of salt.) I very much relate to your desire for discussion and a focus on details, which are in my opinion almost always the interesting things to pick apart. 🙂

    1. Emily, that’s how I felt at the beginning — and then I joined challenges and got a bit caught up int he “blogosphere” and then I stepped back from that — and then I was invited to BBC/BEA. I don’t think I’m selling a product — and I really don’t care about SEO or any of that — and that’s why I’ve started thinking more WHY I’m blogging. As in, here I am going to BEA where publishers want to dialogue, but I don’t want to read their books. And that’s why I want to make my “brand” clear, so people unfamiliar with my blog will know why I’m blogging: to discuss classics, to promote them, and otherwise enjoy reading and rereading. Just so people know where I am. Anyway, I can understand finding it hilarious. I have a personal blog (not public) with family pictures and so forth and if I think of “branding” that I want to laugh. That’s not what that blog is about. I don’t WANT strangers there.

      1. Oh yes, that makes a lot of sense – especially given that you’re about to attend an event where publishers will be interfacing with you about your blog. What’s funny is that phrases like “taking stock” and “reiterating focus” sound great to me! It’s just the corporate-derived terminology against which I have a knee-jerk reaction (and, as Teresa says, just as it relates to myself). 🙂

  7. I go back and forth about how important branding is, but I think my blogging will always be too scattered to fit neatly into a brand/slot – I don’t really have a niche. But I’m excited to moderating the “Blogging for a Niche Market” panel at BBCon, where you’ll be talking about your classics “brand.” Looking forward to meeting you and working with you on the panel!

    1. Florinda, I think the BBC panel will be lots of fun — especially led by you, who are such an eclectic blogger! I am looking forward to meeting you too!

  8. I’ll admit that I’m a little like Emily when it comes to branding talk, at least when it comes to branding talk for me. But I get what you’re saying out wanting to have a focus and structure–that makes sense to me, even if I choose not to think about it all that much.

    I’m going back and forth on going to the BBC–can’t quite make up my mind whether I’d get much out of it–aside from the chance to meet more blogging friends face to face, which may very well be reward enough. 🙂

    1. Teresa, I don’t anticipate thinking about it all that much, but I do want to reiterate my focus to my blog readers and to myself just so I’m clear. I’m constantly amazed at the publishers/publicists sending me blurbs about free books. They obviously have never read my blog or tried to figure out my goals or preferences at all! Anyway, that’s why I’m sayign these things. I don’t think everyone needs to “brand” their books blog. And I like your blog the way it is 🙂

      I am VERY excited to meet blogging friends face to face. More excited than any other aspects of it. But I do think it will be a fun experience to talk about blogging and books with other bloggers in different walks of life. I don’t plan on quitting my blog, despite the busy-ness of life…

  9. Happy (belated) birthday! I hope it was lovely.

    I certainly understand life getting in the way of reading and blogging! I’ll soon have much the same problem myself. I love how flexible the blogging community is; everyone understands. I’m glad to hear you’ll still be reading classics and blogging a bit, as yours has become one of the classics blogs that (a) I really enjoy reading, and (b) has gotten me reading more classics. So thank you!

    1. Erin, yeay for reading more classics! That makes the blogging work worth it, to know people have been inspired to pick up more of the great books of the past.

  10. I am leaning towards doing the BBC — I mean I’m in New York anyway! And it would be fun to meet all my favorite bloggers face to face. Just seeing if I can afford it. Publishing is fun but doesn’t necessarily pay all that well. :p

    1. Jenny, you’re in NY anyway!?! Yes, be there! But if you can’t, then make sure we communicate beforehand and we can meet somewhere or something. (I’m not sure how the week will go or when I’m arriving; my husband’s coming too for part of it I think and he wants to do some things, but surely we can work something out!?)

  11. When I first started blogging, I did it only with the intentions of getting out my thoughts. As time has gone on and I have become more immersed in the book blogging community, I realize that whether I intend it or not, my blog is a brand. Sometimes I find myself straying from my original intentions in my posts and I begin to review. I don’t want that. For me, my project in reading all these classic pieces is to learn and grow from the experience. I always try and remember the reasons I started when I start to go crazy blogging and planning things. I have always seen reading as an experience and I don’t want my little blog to get in the way of that.

    I do want to tell you that I adore the Classics Circuit. If you ever need help, do let me know. I would love to help as much as I can. I think it is a great project and is a wonderful way of seeing how different people react to different pieces by an author or from an era. I look forward to signing up every time you list a tour!

    I really wish I could go to BEA this year. I don’t think we can swing the expense, but now I am bummed knowing that there will be classics discussion! I would give anything to be there for that!

    1. Allie, I think that’s the hard thing: swaying from original intentions. I think there was a full year when my blog was not following the focus I began with, and while it was a fun year, I’m trying to get back to my original intentions now. As for BEA, I’m not sure how much classics discussion there will be in my panel, but I’m sure glad so many people do want to talk classics! We’ll keep talking about them, BEA or no.

  12. Branding is such a tricky thing. I like having a distinctive look and being recognizable from one social media platform to the next and I think over time I’ve developed a sense of what kinds of things fit in my blog and what don’t, but I hope that’s not limiting my reading too much!

    1. Marie, I think the distinctive look helps — I had multiple icons for different platforms, and it just wasn’t feeling like it was working. Everyone seems to make it work, in their own way. I don’t think people need to stress out about it.

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