Thursday, September 07, 2006

Coming out...

So, I haven't really come "out" as a blogger to people at work, or even some of my friends. And it feels a little weird thinking that more people I've never met in person are reading this compared to those I have. It was easier coming out in the blogosphere community, although certainly all of us BRGs have had that flash of paranoia and uncertainly--people are actually reading this? Who's out there? I have a feeling that every person who blogs feels this way at some point, so feel free to share your experiences.

I know these blogs are public: they shows up on google searches; I comment on a few popular blogs; I use my real first name, which is somewhat unique. It's not inconceivable that coworkers are reading it, and that's perfectly fine. But it's weird not knowing. Yesterday we had a meeting at work to talk about online marketing, and of course the blogosphere was mentioned. I wondered who in that room knew that I blog. I know a few who do, a few who comment (keep it up!). I wonder if the others would approve, if people would think it was weird. If I'm breaking any rules or doing anything wrong by blogging.

And it's also weird telling people. I outed myself somewhat impulsively at the SCBWI conference by announcing the blogs at one of my workshops, and it was ultimately liberating. But it was a little weird meeting people there and them telling me, "Oh, I read your blog!"--but it feels both great and weird at the same time.

How does one come out of the, er, internet closet? With friends it's easier. Someone asks me how the half marathon was, and I send them the link. I put it in the signature of my personal email address. Friends who do read it mention it in the presence of other friends, and they find out. But what about work? I don't think it would be frowned upon, necessarily, but for some reason I feel a little embarrassed about it. And what about coming out to my authors? I haven't really made it a point to tell my authors and illustrators about my blog, but I know quite a few of them have discovered it while googling their books.

But I like being a part of this community because I see which books are being discussed, which books people love. I gain insight into the minds of writers and illustrators, agents, librarians, other editors. I feel like I'm doing my part in writing about the books I work on. I'm getting to write stuff other than business correspondences. And it's fun!

Okay, quick tangent: speaking of "coming out," to authors, I revealed myself as a blogger to Justina Chen Headley a few months ago, although I have a feeling she probably already knew. Well, okay, just now I was reading a few blogs and found out that she has a new one, too! So if you're an author trying to market your books (I think very applicable to my fellow BRGs), check this out.

Justina, if you're reading this, I hope you don't mind me outing you...

If you're reading this and you're a friend, or a coworker, or an author or illustrator, or a librarian, or a teacher, or a bookseller, or a lurker, make yourself known! Come on out!

And those of you who are in an office work environment, how do you deal with this issue? Are you out at work? And authors and illustrators, how would you feel if you found out your editor had a blog?


Michelle said...

I didn't tell anyone at the office about my blog for a very long time. I guess I thought of the blog as my "secret identity", one that my coworkers didn't (and shouldn't) know about. I was very protective of it. A few months ago - April or May - I started telling a few people who I was on friendly terms with, because I thought they might also want to take advantage of the events I listed. When I did my interview with Nan Talese in July, I forwarded the link to a wider circle of co-workers. I didn't tell my supervisors about it, but they found out anyway. It was really uncomfortable at first, and I felt a little sad because the blog didn't feel so special anymore now that my co-workers knew about it. I actually went on break for a while because I just didn't feel up to blogging--it was a combination of physical (tendonitis) and emotional (paranoia) reasons. But I've gotten over that now, though and am happy to blog whenever, regardless of whether my coworkers read it!

Anna Alter said...

This is a very interesting topic! I am relatively new to blogging myself, its such a strange medium... on the one hand its more personal than visiting someone's web site, but on the other hand it can give you a false feeling of "knowing" somebody...

Anyways Alvina I'd love to hear more about how publishers view authors blogging... are there any bits from your meeting you can share? How much do blogs actually affect the success of a book?

alvinaling said...

They didn't really go into detail, it was more of a "this is what our department does" kind of meeting, but they mentioned author blogging as a positive thing. In general, I think we like it when authors at the very least have websites, and I think any kind of increased web presence can only be good (including Myspace profiles!). Our online marketing department sometimes helps authors develop websites or at least points them in the right direction about what kind of content to include, and we'll also link to the author's site from ours.

But as for how internet presence affects the success of a book, we can't really measure that. It's all kind of a crap shoot, just like most publicity and marketing. But one example of a success story was a Vidlit they produced for one of our adult books, Yiddish with Dick and Jane. I guess that got widely circulated and forwarded on, and they could directly relate it to an increase in sales, because they went up dramatically once the Vidlit went into circulation. (Go here for more info on Vidlits:

Anna Alter said...

Thanks Alvina! I've never heard of vidlit til now, its like a little movie preview! Do they market a link to that site, or do people just browse sites like that??

alvinaling said...

To be honest, I'm not completely sure--I think they forward them to the whole company, and also any email mailing lists they have, and hope that people forward it on.

Lisa Yee said...

My editor has a blog and so do I. And we both read each other's, which means we both have to be very careful about what we write!

Lisa Yee

Linda Salzman said...

I'm really surprised to hear you are considering this issue now. I think you can be pretty sure all the people in your office know about it. As a writer, I was excited to see you had such a personal blog that is being publicized to writers. I think you present yourself very well even when you talk about personal issues. There is another very well known editor who publicizes her blog, even linking to it to include conference lectures, etc. To me she comes off as very immature and unprofessional in her blog. I can't understand why she would want writers to read this stuff about her. Her reputation as an editor is stellar and any writer would love working with her, so why does she post about getting pedicures? It's a weird blogging world.
I'm also seeing things from the other side. As a writer, I had to decide whether to use my full name, after being advised and giving examples of how editors will google your name and find it so you must be professional at all times. Since I'm new to blogging, I decided to not use my name, at least not yet, until I figure out what I'm really doing. I wonder if you have ever "googled" one of your prospective writers to find more info. and if you found a blog that wasn't oh so professional, would it influence you at all?
I hope you'll keep your blog up because I for one enjoy reading it. But for me, the internet is still a mine field when it comes to mixing private and professional.

Libby Koponen said...

None of my friends have seen my blog. I told one that I was doing it and she said she thought it was a waste of time. I may tell another friend who blogs himself, but since his blog is about his life in Armenia, where he is on Fullbright scholarship and does things like go on a "drunken hootenanny" (as he puts it) and promises to do things like write articles for Russian literary magazines and only remembers when they call asking where the article is I'm not sure how interesting he would find this -- or we would find his blog! I don't link to this blog from my Web site, either, because my Web site is for my young readers and this blog is more for the publishing world....nor do I link from here to a fan site some of these young readers have made about me even though I'm very proud of it!

So, I guess I am really into keeping things separate!! But I will tell John (the mathematician living in Armenia) about our blog. You never know!

Meghan McCarthy said...

I worried about the whole blog thing for a long time. I kept removing my blog from my website... then changing my mind and adding it,,, etc. Ultimately I decided to leave it as-is. I don't talk about certain aspects of my life on it in case little kids find it (rated R stuff obviously!) but I don't exactly sound professional on it either! But the blog represents me. I'm NOT professional all the time (er... any of the time?). I tried to separate the blog from the rest of my site so hopefully that's enough.

My editor or editors (?) have read it. I certainly don't mind! If they had a blog I'd definitely be reading it, although I'm not sure if I'd admit to reading it right away. I wonder if a lot of people do that. That's why the internet is weird--you never know who's lurking.

Alvina, I think your blog is great. The only time I'd think an editor having a blog would be unprofessional is if he/she represented the blog as being connected to the publisher in some way.

the internet is still expanding and blogs are becoming more popular. I think this is still a time of learning for all of us.

Agyw said...

This is an interesting concept all around. I'd blocked aspects I wasn't willing to consider. I have a web prescence (darn, I've spelled that five times I KNOW it's wrong, but I'm letting it go!)between message boards and other websites. But my big no-no (of many no-nos) I don't have my own website, under my own domain name that I can change the work I do regularly. I knew it wasn't a good thing, but didn't really consider it too much. Money, time and energy wrapping around designing my own site, I kept putting it off.

I've blogged, more recently just for blowing off creative steam. My crit groups are fabulous but some of it was the personal stuff that I'd discovered about my friend and how I wanted or should incorporate that into my story. I tend to take a smaller view of a larger issue, or roll a couple of things into one (one of my projects, a fractured fairytale that deals in art concepts, kind of thing), but working that stuff out can take some belly-button gazing or blathering, just to get over the feeling of incapability.

But recently, I'd been tracking our group website and was surprised how often people accessed not only my page but tutorials. Truthfully, it freaked me out a bit; I'm always sending my teenagers artistic friends to our site, but to find some fairly heavy-hitting businesses or publishers accessing the pages, ironically came as a surprise to me. Still not sure if it depresses me or not. They aren't beating my door down with work, so in some ways it's another tacit rejection, lol.

So now, with this book pretty much ready to submit and a couple of others I've illustrated out sometimes next year, I KNOW I need to put up the website. The blog (and the viewing stats) have actually increased my feelings of professionalism, but it's not going to change the way I blog.

Personally, I like the more personal blogs. So many people don't see editors as people, which is truly sad. Perhaps it's the desire level-- people want to be published so badly, and subconciously editors hold that power. I like Tess Gerritsen's blog (not only because she's in Maine) for that reason. It's informative on lots of issues I find relevant, but she also humanizes that NYTimes Best-seller name of hers. During a bumpy patch in my marriage, I'd even printed out one of her entries to give to my husband. She'd reached inside me and poured out the words on her blog.

Ultimately no one probably wants to know what I had for supper. Unless perhaps that supper was life-changing or catalyzing in some way. It's true perhaps we need to be careful with how we share personal information, because it invites an intimacy that does not exist. I've had people I didn't know come up and quote my own words from past emails or blogs, that I didn't immediately recognize, and I admit to being taken aback. It was odd, and I'm sure I came off as arrogant. Near-sighted and wondering at their exuberance, I think I extricated myself as quickly as possible. It was later I realized they'd simply found resonance with something I'D said. Duh. But then I don't remember why I walked into this room, what was I here for...

I like the interaction. I like the thought process of others, it's prodded me out of some shells or even dark places I've found myself in. Sometimes simply knowing others are struggling with the same struggles has been a boon. (I hang at only a few of the blogs, because it's simply too time consuming. Unfortunately for me, I've been more politically active than I want to be, and slowly trying to break from that). In the end it affirms all things human through a cold medium. I kind of like that.

Nancy said...

When I first started announcing my blog, a friend sent me a heartfelt email expressing deep concern that I was wasting my time and sealing myself up in an artificial universe rather than getting out with "real" people. I wrote her an equally heartfelt response, explaining how much blogging had broadened my little world.

I only told one person at work, and that was only after I left the job. But that's mostly because I want to keep the two worlds separate.

Greg Pincus said...

I don't work in an office (well, I do... but no one else is in it), but I can't say as I've fully "come out" about blogging. Clearly, it's not that I hide it. I told everyone I was in touch with when I hit The Times, believe me. BUT... I didn't tell anyone in my other biz life, other than folks who are on the "friend" level (I use quotes, cuz it's Hollywood, baby!). It simply didn't seem necessary.

The thing is, I just think the Net is jtoo powerful to ignore... but once you're on there with your name and job info, anyone who wants to find you can. You have to make sure you don't do regrettable things, but once I committed to blogging with my name on it, my goal was to embrace the openness of the Net and see if I could use it to my advantage. VidLits are the same, really. They have a different life than a blog, but the Dick and Jane VidLit went viral, and that's what you hope for, but can't always control. Still, that VidLit and I are living proof it happens.

Anyway, I'm very sparse on personal detail on my blog, but that's one of those choices that everyone has to make for him/herself. There are no overall right or wrong choices, I don't think. Blogging is very personal, including whether you come out or not.

Agyw said...

Greg, and everyone else, when I decided to even go on the web I made a committment, no matter how ill-advised, stupid or naive to post with my real name. I figured it was one of the ways to keep myself honest and accountable for my words, or as much as possible. Which isn't to say I haven't been in the middle of a flame war or two (that direction-changing one with Amena a.k.a Rukhsana Khan for one). Most were humorous and based on a misplaced word or meaning. The side effect has been I've built a little bit of name recognition, which in this business can be a difficult task, especially for someone of meager means.

I guess I don't really see a difference between blogging, participating on the lists or message boards or attending conferences (though those have been more fun, though my sojourn into karoakeland my first conference gave me notoriety for about a year, lol!)

I've met people that I probably would not work as well as others with, but many I can't stop gushing about. I've worked in businesses that were cutthroat, and insulated with competition. This is the kindest business of all (outside of nursing, but it takes a different heart to do that kind of work. I couldn't separate myself enough). JMO.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alvina! Yeah, I sorta knew about your blog before you outed yourself. Super sleuth here! No, just kidding. You actually told me about your blog when we were chatting blah blah blah one day. No problem outing me...but how on earth did you find my marketing for authors blog? I just started it!

alvinaling said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Linbin, I'm not really just dealing with this issue now, but it's something that's still nagging a bit at me--I certainly don't mind if my coworkers know about it, but if they read it, I would love them to tell me, either by commenting, or mentioning it at work.

When I started to blog, even back when it was just on friendster, I was somewhat careful not to get TOO personal on it (which I think may have frustrated my friends, who wanted all the juice!). I also don't mention the company I work for here or on bloomabilities, although you can certainly figure it out by looking up the books I've edited. But I did this so it's clear this isn't officially affiliated to my company. But I also didn't want to just write about only professional or "safe" topics, because what's the point of that? Anyway, thanks for your kind words about my blog, and thanks for reading, too!

I'm not 100% sure which other editor's blog you're talking about (although I can guess), but as Agy says, editors are just regular people, too--and I think that's partially the point to show prospective writers. Sometimes I feel guilty posting about fun things I'm doing, because I think writers are going to think, "Hey, why is she running/traveling/playing ping pong when she has submissions to read/manuscripts to edit? I've been waiting for a response for months now!"(Grace and Tony, your edit letters are coming, I promise!) and then I think, Wait a second, that's my JOB, and this is my life, and my job shouldn't interfere with my life.

Anyway, I personally enjoy reading this other blog (that I think you're referring to) and don't think she comes off as immature. I've never met her, but I think she's probably young--maybe in her late 20s? And one should keep that in mind. Many of these bright editors out there are YOUNG! I'm young, too (early 30s), and at any age, I'm sure editors enjoy getting mani/pedis and I can't guarantee that I won't blog about it in the future. Hope that doesn't make you lose respect for me as an editor. ;) (I know that's not really what you were talking about overall, but since you mentioned it, thought I'd address that specifically)

And Justina, I found out from Debbi's blog--she had a link to you. I love it! I'm going to direct all of my authors to it, if that's okay.

Linda Salzman said...


Thanks for taking the time to discuss this some more. I just have a couple more points--hope I'm not pushing this too far. I just thought you might be interested in seeing it a bit more from my perspective as a writer seeking to get published. The reason I would assume everyone at your work knows about both of your blogs is how quickly and naturally I found them once I began to read something that you were linked to. Just quickly, I go on Verla's board a lot as many kids writers do and, from what I hear, a lot of editors and agents lurk. So Grace posted something there and I don't remember the exact chain of events but I thought she was interesting so I clicked on her website to her blog, to her other blog, to your blog, etc. Then reading you were an editor, I immediately googled your name. Then reading about the books you had edited, I sent an email to my friend saying perhaps she should query you b/c her books sounded like they would appeal to you.(I obviously missed the part that you are a closed house on the first go round.) But anyway, I think this was a pretty natural thing to do--one thing leads to the next and a mere three hours later I'm still reading about you guys and what you read and what you ate at your brunch and then I'm emailing Grace about her cupcakes b/c, yeah, I already feel like I know her and I wish she knew me. But my point about the linking was I would assume that this would be a common occurance for anyone at your editorial house and it would almost be difficult not to find your blog once they came upon any of the numerous ways of finding it purely by accident.

So, while I'm being so honest, I have to admit I found your response about the other editor's blog a wee bit puzzling. I don't care how old an editor is at all but yes, in my mind, I'd like to envision them as well rounded people who are very professional. I don't equate immaturity with age at all. Age is irrevelant to how you conduct yourself. As you said, a twenty something year old editor is not uncommon but, as far as I'm concerned, I don't want to feel they act like they are right out of college. I think its great to show other sides of you but no, I don't want to read an editor's blog, that has their full name on it, that I linked to from their professional website, that talks about them going out drinking and getting pedicures. No, I really don't. And when a writer friend emailed me saying she heard this woman was a dream editor I said, "but did you read her blog?" So she did. And she actually said, "Yuck, I'd think twice before sending her anything now." I don't think this editor's blog is cutting down on her slush pile one bit. And I believe everything I've read that she's an excellent editor and just a nice person overall. But my gut feeling is I wish she'd make another blog, not using her full name, that all of her friends, etc. can read at will. And I wish her website would link to a blog that talked about writing and made her sound like a sophisticated, intellectual children's book editor.
Why don't I feel the same about yours? Just what you were writing about and how you express yourself, I guess. But if you started blogging about how drunk you got last Saturday night and what color you were painting your toenails I'd probably lose interest. And if a fellow writer asked if I knew anything about you, I would definitely point out the blog and say, yes,it does make me wonder. And yes, I realize this is judging but it would be my natural reaction. Again, while this might make an editor more appealing as a person, I'd say it definitely projects on their reputation.Especially in a professional where so much of the writer/ editor relationship is an exchange of ideas and interacting. Of course, the other side is that with so few editors accepting unsolicited manuscripts, I'd send my book to any house I thought might be interested, no matter who said what in a blog. And then if I got to work with said editor, I guess it would just be a constant struggle not to bring up nail polish colors. :)

But you didn't answer the question of if you think its possible your impression of a writer could be negatively affected by reading their blog?

Greg Pincus said...

Linbin -- if I can jump in.

I'm positive an editor or ANYONE can get a negative impression of a writer by reading their blog. I've certainly run into blogs where I said "wow, I never want to work with that person" even if they're otherwise talented. It's human nature. I don't think it would be because of the writing style on a blog, by the way... but rather a personality thing.

I also think you should be incredibly grateful that you found this other editor's blog. You clearly don't want to work with them. You've saved a submission! I would argue that her blog is therefore effective from a professional point of view, too, as she is saying "hey, this is who I am. Don't like me? We probably shouldn't work together!" I guarantee there are others out there who love her digressions into salonage.

Remember, blogs are personal. I don't view them as strictly professional at all. I don't think they can be, and I'm also glad they aren't. Simply put, I read Alvina's blog and say "oh, yeah, I'd be happy to get notes from someone who thinks about the world like she does." And I get that more clearly from her blog than strictly from what books she's worked on.

Grace Lin said...

This is a really interesting discussion, especially as the content of my own blogging has been something I've struggled with. In general, I share greg k's viewpoint--that blogs are personal and are representative of personalities. But I also understand what linbin is referring to--in fact, it's what I fear when I write about the exposure of my book's shortcomings. It's the extra, perhaps unneccessary, information that can skew a reader's viewpoint. Blogs are dangerous that way, because they are unedited, except by the author who may be too close to the subject matter to realize how other interpret it. However, that is also the beauty of blogs too.

alvinaling said...

Linbin, I get your distinction, thanks. And to answer your questions, no, I don't google my authors or look for an online presence before signing a book up. For me, it's all about the book and whether I love it or not. If a blog or website is highlighted on the cover letter as a plus, I may look at the website after reading the manuscript (I don't generally like to read the cover letter before reading the manuscript, because I want to the book to speak for itself first).

But I would say that if I was on the fence about a submission and had read the author's blog and thought that it made the author seem difficult or otherwise unsavory to me, then perhaps it would influence my decision, but that's never happened so I can't say for sure.

Hope this helps!

Linda Salzman said...

OK, so for now no blog mentioned on my new business cards for me and more lovely posts about your parents on their rock in Central Park b/c that was incredibly great.

Gregory--thank you so much for chiming in, I agreed with all of your points, and a special thank you for the phrase "digressions into salonage." That was very enjoyable.

victoria said...

Hi there,

I'm taking you up on the invitation to "come out"! Actually, it's a relief- something about reading blogs always makes me feel like I'm a creepy stalker, or I'm hanging out at a party that I wasn't really invited to... So thanks for the invitation!

I'm a wannabe illustrator. I met you, Alvina & Meghan, at (different) CBIG meetings. (I made the banana pudding...?) As a newbie illustrator, it's nice to see a forum of seasoned professionals that's so open! It's helpful to hear about the trials and joys that occur in the day-to-day life of a full-time illustrator, and to hear the nuggets of wisdom everyone has to share.

Since I've "outed" myself, am i entitled to one free question for the group??!!? What are your respective opinions on taking on a picture book project with a less-than-perfect manuscript? It's a small publisher, but it would be my first published book. Would prospective art directors/editors be turned off if my first book had a not-so-great storyline (I didn't write it!)?

Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences!

Anna Alter said...

Hi Victoria,

Thanks for 'outing' yourself, we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have! We've decided to make your question the next question of the week (posted on Mondays), that way we can all give you an in depth answer.

victoria said...

That's great, thank you!

Anonymous said...

I don't worry about being "out" at work because my blog is filtered and locked to keep it safe from unwanted eyes. This allows me to keep more of a diary-type blog, where I can vent and rant and holler about whatever and whoever. It is also deeply embarrassing to go back one, two, or five years and see how ridiculous I was on certain days. But thanks to my blog, I can say this---I have DEFINITELY grown over the years. HAHA!

Anonymous said...

Man, I cannot stay away from this topic.

A while ago Meghan posted about Do we ever Google our names. This touched on my web paranoia. I started a reply that got so long, I moved it to my own blog . . . and then never posted it.

First of all, Alvina, I'm amazed the SCBWI conference was an impulsive outing for your blog! It was for mine, too (but in a far less reaching way, obviously). (More on that below.)

Second, I liked all of Gloria Estefan/Meghan's reply to this post. I found it extremely reassuring, and I am definitely still learning.

In fact, I love everyone's insights here. Especially Michelle also using the word paranoia. I find that reassuring.

Third, so glad to see Greg K. here on this topic, too! I've said it in person and I'll say it online: Greg and I both started our blogs at the same time, and I've admired his panache ever since! He's my peptalk guy when it comes to blogging.

Since the conference, my postings have gotten more sporadic. Perhaps I wasn't as ready to out as I thought.

I can keep from changing what I blog—no problem. It's just making those entries public that has become the new barrier.

(I even wrote my first post after the conference "in code!" I wanted to share everything! Yet I wanted to hide, too.)

I'm overcoming that again now.

Thanks as always for great, great posts.

Avid BRG reader,

My answer to Do We Ever Google our own names:


It made me realize how things live on the web forever—even the most random guestbook comments from over ten years ago. (When I was younger, and the web was newer!)

That is why I, who have always loved unique aliases, have suddenly taken to posting using my (real) first name, only.

For me, my "real" name has become how I stay anonymous. Yet, because it is my name, I still feel committed.


Oh, and in case this needs to be said:

I think everbody's blogging (editors, agents, authors, illustrators!) is awesome. I love when they're personal. Keep it up!!