Thursday, June 13, 2013

'Blog to Book': Three Questions for Karen Chase

Karen Chase will read for you, too.

Karen Chase, a designer who once had a studio in Roanoke and who now operates out of Richmond, will teach this month’s Writers Series class of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference Wednesday, June 19 at Community High School’s Limnal Space. Gametime is 6:30 p.m. There is no charge, but we will pass the hat at the end of the class. 

In order to get you in the mood for Karen’s class “Blog to Book,” we asked her a few questions, teasers for the class. There’s much more to know than this, but Karen gets the conversation started below.

Karen’s book Bonjour 40 is taken from a blog she wrote when she celebrated her 40th birthday with 40 days in Paris. She blogged about it daily and assembled the blog—with illustrations—when she returned. The self-published book is a gem and it is selling well. Here are the questions and Karen’s answers.

Should one write a blog with the specific goal of publishing it or should the blog simply evolve? 

Writing a blog should always be geared toward readers and consequently, whether they are following the blog or picking up the book, it should be well written for either format. The best advice an editor gave me was to make it personal. A blog can contain facts or researched bits, but if also contains your view point, your outlook, it will inherently become yours.

How do you pick and choose among posts for inclusion in the book?

This is a tricky question and one I'd like to cover in the class instead, because it's such a long answer and it depends on many factors. Perhaps this question instead…Should there be different entries in the book versus what was on the blog? Answer: Absolutely. If your book is only the blog entries, you're now trying to sell a free cow. Your readers want more–whether that means more pictures, content, guest entries or graphics–the book has to supply more.

How long are typical blog entries of this type and how long is too long?

The length of a blog entry, whether or not it's going to a book format is not only up to the writer, but it's somewhat dictated by the readers. How much do you want to write, and how long do you think your readers will stick around to read it? How much to write is dependent on how much time you want to dedicate to the blog, and how interesting and engaging the content is. Readers have other lives beyond hanging around to read your blog, and the writer has to let go of the ego that assumes everyone will want to follow. So gage your length by what you think is appropriate, look at similar blogs, and know that as you collect readers its easier to get away with a longer post here and there. 

We'll definitely cover more about this topic in the workshop, because there's a finesse to this, and it's driven so much not by word count, but by what you have to say and who is listening.

I'm looking so forward to the interaction with the writers who will be taking this workshop. While I'm coming in with my experiences, I'm hoping to learn from other bloggers eager to go to the publishing route too. The industry is changing by the day. 

I did a similar talk last month, and I think things are already different. Fortunately that means that all of us sitting in the RRWC Writers Series have the means to shape our publishing future. As a result, this class will be very interactive. Bring your questions, bring your ideas. I'm not doing a powerpoint talk, we're going shape blogs to book!

(Photo courtesy Karen Chase, and yes, I wish I'd shot this one.)

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