Blogger Query – Bookworm Blues

Today Blogger Query receives its answers from Bookworm Blues‘ Sarah Chorn. Sarah and I started blogging around the same time, though hers is the elder blog by a few months. I love reading Sarah’s reviews for their utter candour. If Sarah doesn’t like a book she’ll always say so, but she manages this without ever becoming purposely hurtful or rude. In addition, Sarah also has my utter respect on a personal level; her grace and (sometimes gallows) humour, which she has shown in her struggle with cancer in the past year, are something to admire. What’s more, she’s funny and kind and is always up for a chat on Twitter.

At the moment, Sarah is running Special Needs in Strange Worlds on her blog. This is a series of posts on disabilities in SFF, inspired by a guest post by Elspeth Cooper. It’s been a very interesting read, with thought-provoking and touching posts. If you haven’t checked the series out yet, I highly recommend you do so, as it’s well worth the read.

But let’s find out who the talented blogger behind this series is…

Let’s start off with the basics. Who is Sarah Chorn?

Oh, I’m just a thrilling person to learn all about. Let me tell you, between changing diapers and acting out books for my daughter I put on my superhero costume and go save the world!

In all reality, I’m quite boring and there really isn’t much to know about me. I am a recent college graduate with a degree in health promotion and nutrition. Before I had my daughter I traveled all over the world quite frequently and I am very into grassroots charity work to the point where I might be a bit obsessed with it. I’ve functioned as a United States coordinator for a charity based in Uganda, sponsored numerous children so they could get an education, and planned and organized a book drive to get books in African schools where I acquired over 1,000 books and over $1,000 to ship them all.

Everyone deserves an education. Period.

Now cancer and a severe back injury has sidelined much of what I use to do and dramatically changed my life. These days I’m very boring. I read a lot, blog and take care of a baby. My spare time is usually spent in one doctor’s office or another or gardening. Right now I’m growing a ton of herbs so I can make my own tea. Life has changed, big time.

What got you into blogging?

I organized my college classes in such a way that the semester before I graduated I took a ton of fluff classes because I knew my brain would be completely dead by that point. It was that semester that I started reading something besides health and nutrition books. I got back into fantasy and I suddenly realized that I get really excited about what I read – and nobody in my life cares at all. Suddenly I had all this free time and all this excitement and no outlet for any of it. I started my blog as a hobby. It was a place for me to be excited and pretend like someone out there cared. Trust me, I never expected anyone to actually read my blog. Never. That wasn’t what I was after at first, but out of some insane desire to share my excitement with the world, Bookworm Blues was born.

Why Bookworm Blues?

I think it’s a true tragedy that today’s kids and adults are more prone to picking up a DVD or video game than a book. I really think that this electronic era is wonderful in some ways, but we are also witnessing the death of imagination and “once upon a time” and that’s absolutely tragic. The name of my blog was chosen to reflect that. It’s depressing that I’m the only person I know who actually reads books. It’s depressing that electronic devices and video games are chosen over reading. I feel very alone with my book love – hence the Bookworm Blues.

What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?

I read this question to my husband and kind of laughed because I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if I have a unique selling point. I just do what I like to do. I try to write quality, in depth reviews and I try not to worry about being unique or standing out. I figure people will either read me or not, regardless of what I try to do.

What are your goals for your blog?

I’ve started doing author interviews. That was a huge goal of mine because I always wanted to do it but I was too intimidated. I’d like to continue doing that, and otherwise my only goal is to keep improving on what I’m currently doing. Nothing’s perfect, but I can sure try to get it there.

Of course, if some publisher wanted to scoop me up and say, “hey, Sarah, why don’t you work for us doing (insert name of job here)?” I’d jump at it – but I’m not holding my breath.

One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?

I have some conflicting perspectives here. First of all, I don’t really take ratings very seriously. Reading is a very subjective experience and I’m not sure if attaching a number to it makes any sort of logical sense. I mean, how would you rate a Mozart piece on a scale of 1 – 5? How about a painting by Monet?

On the other hand, I tend to pay more attention to reviews that have ratings, and I use them on my own. So many websites use ratings that I think it kind of keeps everything together when I use ratings as well. When I read reviews, I tend to read the rating first and then the review because usually the rating will make me more interested in the review.

That really makes no sense coming from someone who really doesn’t think ratings are that important….

Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?

Yeah, I’ll write negative reviews if I need to, but I’ve reached a point where I’m so busy and my backlog of books to review is so large that I’ve stopped reading books that I don’t enjoy. I just don’t have time and while one will sneak in every now and again, when I really look at my limited time, I’d rather spend it reading books I enjoy.

The past year has been tumultuous for you to say the least. How have your experiences dealing with cancer and becoming a mum affected your reading? Do you pay attention to different things in books now? Do certain things affect or bother you more?

Part of the reason I started the Special Needs in Strange Worlds event on my blog is because of my own feelings right now. I feel rather disabled in some ways. I’m very bitter. I spent a vast amount of time and money to get a degree I absolutely loved, just to be diagnosed with cancer a month after I graduated. Over a year later, my degree is basically useless. I can’t use it unless I go back to school to get a master’s. No one wants me, so if I work, it’s going to be a part time job at a book store or something. That really burns me inside. On top of that, due to the back injury I suffered while pregnant, I walk with a limp and it’s been over a year since I’ve had full function and feeling in my right leg. My doctor said that my nerves have been compacted for so long he doubts I’ll ever have fully functioning right leg again. So here I am, not even 30, with a useless degree and a leg that doesn’t work right. Yeah, I’m pissed. I’m bitter and upset. Has this factored into my reading? Of course. I tend to gravitate toward books with disabled people in them now. I can relate and it helps me to see how these literary characters have taken something which would probably piss them off as much as I’m pissed right now, and turned it into a strength. It helps me realize that, yeah, some things suck, but I have a beautiful daughter because of all of it if that character could overcome it, so can I.

Having a daughter also changes things. I never read young adult books before but now I find myself liking them. I kind of make mental lists of the books I want to read with Fiona when she’s old enough. That’s really fun for me, and it’s given me a respect of young adult that I never had before.

How important are blogs to your reading choices?

I have a few certain bloggers who I admire and usually if they recommend a book I’ll try to start reading said book ASAP. There are others whose reviewing style I enjoy and try to use their reviews as examples on how to improve my own.

How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?

This is another topic where I have complex feelings. Book reviewers can be a huge, important resource for the publishing industry. We really can serve to get the word out there for a book and that’s some very important advertising. There are a few authors who have recently said that they really credit book blogs for how popular their books have become. That gives us quite a bit of power, if you think about it. I think, with the importance of the internet, book bloggers are just going to get more important rather than less.

What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?

Right now I’m finishing up Miserere by Teresa Frohock. I am also reading From Blue Skies and Pain by Stina Leicht and I plan on starting The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett within a few days. I’ve been reading (off and on) The Weird short story collection by the VanderMeers. As for what I’m anticipating – nothing really. I usually have a list as long as my arm of books I’m eagerly waiting for but not right now. I’ve been so busy with cancer stuff recently that I’ve completely lost track of who is releasing what, when.

Is there something else you’re obssessed with other than books?

My baby girl, Fiona and photography. I’m hugely obsessed with photography. When life sucks ¬†you will always either find me with a book or my camera.

Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?

My personal shelving system will make your skin crawl. The top book on my bookshelf is reserved for books I read over and over again. Under that I shelve them by size and “personal interest level” – so all the books roughly the same size are on the same shelves. Series are always together (unless they are different sizes. That drives me crazy), and most read books are higher on the bookshelf unless they are doorstoppers. Doorstoppers go on the bottom shelf, regardless. They are too heavy for Fiona to move so they function as a good deterrent against my books being damaged by baby slobber or whatever else.

_________

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Sarah. And I can assure everyone that having seen the pictures, it’s not strange that Sarah is also obsessed with Fiona, because that is one cute baby! If you haven’t been following Bookworm Blues, why not? You can do so over at Bookworm Blues. You can also follow Sarah on Twitter and Goodreads.

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  • Sarah's long been one of my favourite bloggers – glad you pinned her down and got her to answer questions! Also, that shelving system gives me nightmares.

  • Well, I do get having the chihuahua killers at the bottom to deter the baby! Not looking forward to having to empty my bottom shelves again when Cat starts crawling.