Friday, June 8, 2012

Guest Post: The UNCON Experience

On this final day of Armchair BEA, we would like to welcome a guest article from Teresa of Shelf Love.  Teresa was one of many who attended the Unconference on Monday and today she shares what happened at the event.

I attended my first BEA and Book Blogger Conference in 2011 and had a great time. The greatest thing about it was the opportunity to meet and talk with other bloggers. In fact, as great as the panels during the Book Blogger Con were, what I really wanted was more time to exchange ideas with other bloggers. So when Jeff O’Neal, of The Reading Ape and Book Riot, put forward the idea of having a more interactive Unconference during BEA week, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. 

Around 20 bloggers attended the Unconference, which was held at the Center for Fiction on June 4. In the weeks leading up to the UNCON, bloggers had kicked around ideas for sessions. The day began with a discussion of those ideas as together we mapped out the day. Participants pitched ideas for sessions on close reading, comments, controversy, and more as Jeff wrote down our ideas on a chalkboard grid. Once we had a list of sessions, with room assignments, we marked on the board which sessions we’d like to attend to see if any needed to be combined or scrapped altogether. In the end, we decided to split into two groups for the first session only. For the rest of the day, we stayed together to discuss topics of interest to us all. 

Session topics included the state of publishing, close reading, social media, comments, reviewing, and the future of blogging. The bloggers in attendance represented several different segments of the larger book blogging world, including young adult, classics, and romance. Participants shared their own experiences with each of these areas, and the conversation was often spirited but never acrimonious. Bloggers sometimes disagreed about how they would handle certain situations, but participants didn’t attempt to convince others that their way was the only right way. Sharing and listening were the orders of the day. 

During the first session, one group practiced close reading while another mulled over the state of the publishing industry in a world of e-books and Amazon. The next session focused on social media and the benefits and drawbacks of Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and more. We talked about what bloggers can get out of these outlets and how best to use them. We also talked about our attitudes toward interaction with authors on social media. 

After lunch, we spent some time on comments and controversy. How important are comments? How can we encourage people to comment more? What kinds of comments would we disallow? Several bloggers talked about times how they’ve handled strong difference of opinions and personal attacks in their comment sections. The day ended with a conversation about reviewing and the future of book blogging. Participants shared their views on rating systems, spoilers, and reviewing everything we read. We mulled over whether publishers’ views toward bloggers are changing and what such changes might mean for the way we blog. 

When the day was over, participants agreed that the experience was valuable and that they’d like to do it again, so if this sounds like an event you’d enjoy, watch the UNCON blog and Twitter account for updates.

Thank You Teresa!