September 14, 2010

BBAW 2010: New Treasure (Interview Swap with The Betty & Boo Chronicles)


I have the great pleasure of interviewing a book blogger for today's BBAW Interview Swap post.

*photo from Melissa's header (pretty amazing right?)

Kate: Why did you start a book blog?

Melissa:
It actually started more as a family blog with the book blogging happening after the fact. We live about 2 hours from my mom and my in-laws, and I wanted a way to keep them updated on my kids' day-to-day activities. Shortly after I started blogging in August 2008, a few people I read were talking about an event called Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I was amazed and thrilled that there were people who loved reading and discussing books as much as I did. Since I've always loved reading book reviews and loved the idea of writing them, I decided to include such on my blog.

Kate: How did you come up with the name of your blog?

Melissa:
I'd kicked around the idea of having "chronicles" in the title for a little while, and it seemed to fit because I envisioned this as a chronicle of our daily lives (as boring as that might sound). Even though my blog was initially a private, by-invitation-only blog, I knew that I wanted to give my kids pseudonyms. Boo was easy - it's a nickname that we've had for our son since the day he was born. Betty was originally the un-original "Peanut." The Peanut and Boo Chronicles wasn't quite what I was looking for, though, but that was originally the name of the blog. My daughter reminds us so very much of my beloved, now-deceased grandmother and while watching her do something oh-so-familiar, I decided to call her Betty for the purposes of the blog. That was my grandmother's real name, and she would be thrilled that she is the only person to be referenced by her real name on my blog.

Kate: When you go into a bookstore or library, which section to you head to first?

Melissa:
I'm a heavy library user, and I always go straight to the New Books section. Always. I usually have Betty with me and we have a routine. After the New Book shelf, we'll peruse the Children's, then the Audiobooks, then the general fiction and nonfiction, and then the YA, with a stop at the "for sale" cart on the way to the circulation desk. (Lately this has been changing: Betty loves animals and recently discovered that there are animal books in the adult section of the library, so she wants to go there first.)

Kate: How do you balance family, life, and book blogging?

Melissa:
Lots of coffee. :) I tend to be a bit of a night owl, so a lot of my blogging is done while everyone else is asleep. Our house is always a bit crazy with kids arguing and lots of noise that I love having these nocturnal hours all to myself. I love nothing better than a silent house. A friend of mine recently asked me how I have time to blog so much and read so much (and frankly, compared to many other book bloggers, my paltry average of one book a week is nothing). My answer to her was that I have four things:

1. Someone who cleans my house once a month.
2. No interest in most movies or TV shows, with the exception of Rescue Me and Mad Men
3. Insomnia (due to the coffee ... most days, I need an afternoon cup)
4. A husband who does A LOT around the house (five loads of laundry every weekend, caring for the cat, making the kids' lunches, and much more) and who understands and respects how important blogging (i.e. writing) is to me.

Kate: What is one genre of books you tend to not read more of but would like to?

Melissa:
Classics. There are so many wonderful classic books that I either read in school and have forgotten, or that I never had a chance to read. I'm currently reading some of Louisa May Alcott's earliest stories (from 1852-1860) and they are fantastic (and a bit of a departure from Little Women!) I'd also like to read more poetry. I've read three new-to-me poetry collections this year (and abandoned one), and have several more in my library pile.

Kate: Name one book that has stuck with you throughout the years? Why this book?

Melissa:
Just one? Well, the first one that came to mind is Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, which was an Oprah Book Club pick in February 1997. I haven't always agreed with Oprah's selections but this one resonated with me in so many ways. There are many aspects of Trudi Montag's story that I can identify with, and for me it was truly a powerful and incredibly well-written book. Certain books find their way to us at the exact time that we need them, and I needed to read this one in early 1997. It has stayed with me ever since, and Ursula Hegi has become one of my favorite authors as a result (except for her latest book, which I wasn't crazy about).

Kate: On your blog, I notice that along with reading, you dabble in writing as well. Can you tell me about something you are currently working on?

Melissa:
It's a novel which has been in my mind for more than a decade now, but which I only started writing during NaNoWriMo last year (National Novel Writing Month). It's based on a summer that my husband and I spent caring for my uncle as he was dying. I have about 60 pages written as a result of participating in NaNo. I always thought it would be an easy, but emotional, story to write because I've thought about it for so long, but it is actually much harder than I ever imagined. There are a few excerpts on my blog (you can find them under the label NaNoWriMo) as well as some thoughts of the process.

Kate: What inspired you to start writing?

Melissa:
In regards to the novel? Turning 40. That and the fact that my grandparents are both deceased and that they never knew the full circumstances of how and why my uncle died while they were alive. There's the possibility that the story would be hurtful to them, which is something I would never want to do, but at the same time, it's a story that I am compelled to tell.

But I've always been compelled to write, even as a young child when I wrote short stories and poems. As adults, we get few opportunities to hone our creative writing skills and get feedback on our writing. That's one of the reasons I love blogging so much. It gives me an outlet for writing every day, sometimes more than once a day, and about a variety of topics. And knowing that there are people out there who are actually reading my words - and want to! - is the most incredible feeling and the most amazing gift, one that I appreciate and love more than I ever imagined.

Thanks for the interview Melissa! Be sure to stop by her blog today for her questions being answered by me!

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