Undergraduate Student Holly Miller Discusses Her Blog on Young Adult Fiction

When I started college, there were a few things I never thought I’d do but did. I took up swing dancing. I got hooked on Netflix.

I started a blog.

Yes, I know how flabbergasting that must be. A college student making a blog? Completely unheard of.

It all started when I took Digital Literacies (ENG 213) here. Honestly. I went into that class thinking I would know everything I would do in the class. I was a teenager, so obviously I knew everything there was to know about the Internet. I surprised myself in that class with the different things I learned to do.

It was the blogging part that interested me most. I was intrigued by the idea that I could have something to say that other people may actually want to read. I wasn’t in love with the format of Blogger or the way it functioned, so I looked around for other blogging sites. I stumbled upon WordPress, which was more my style. A month into the class, I started my own blog devoted to reviewing Young Adult literature.

Those first few reviews weren’t my best work.

I had a lot to say in my reviews. The only problem was I really didn’t know how to write a good review.  I’d done book reviews before for a couple of years on another book site, but those were mostly along the lines of “I love this book!  Check it out!”  I didn’t have any experience really critiquing a book that wasn’t assigned to me in class. Still, I was determined. It was mine. I could do with this blog what I wanted.

Only I didn’t really know what that was.

I quickly went through an identity crisis of sorts. I wasn’t entirely sure what image I wanted to present from my site. Was it professional or fun? Girly or neutral? I didn’t have an answer.

I fell back onto my personality to help me with this. I was making this blog for myself, to have a little fun. I named it Belle of the Library, a play on words with the phrase “belle of the ball” and Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, who is obsessed with reading. From there, I decided to carry on with the library theme and named pages after what someone would find in a library, like a Front Desk (the homepage) and New Arrivals (my last five blog posts).

For about a year, it stayed a hobby. It was something I would update when I was finished with a book but little else. I grew a very small following, but one that did grow.

In January of 2012, I began getting requests from authors to read and review their books on my blog. It was incredibly exciting for me. People actually wanted my opinion on their books! Of course, the reason for this is to get their name and book out there. I was far from the only person they asked to review it.

I didn’t receive too many book requests in the early days, but I accepted every single one I did get from excitement. That’s about the time I learned a very important lesson.

Refuse the books you honestly don’t think you’ll like.

This was one of the hardest lessons I learned while blogging. A very nice indie author contacted me about reading a couple of books she had published, and I agreed. A point I always emphasize when I accept books is that I will give it an honest review. I hadn’t counted on this one being one of the absolute worst books I ever forced myself to finish reading. It was horrible.  Then I had to review it on my blog, knowing full well that she was going to find it and read it.

Once it became known that I accepted books for review, I started getting more and more of them. My name got out there. This past summer, I actually had to turn down a number of them because I had too many, and I wanted to read some bestsellers too.

I absolutely love my blog. I’ve had some great opportunities here in the past 2 ½ years.  I’ve gotten numerous free books, which is always a lot of fun. I’ve also been part of a few “blog tours,” which are virtual publicity events. This begins with an author or publicist contacting a blogger (like me) weeks in advance. Then the blogger will post reviews, interviews with the author, guest posts from the author, or even segments from the book on their assigned day. The next day, the tour moves on to a different blog where the same thing happens again.

It really did all just start with a passion for books. From there, it grew into something bigger than me. I get in contact with different authors all the time, some of them coming back to me two or three times. While I may have started with small-time indie novels from self-published authors, I have recently been contacted to be part of a blog tour for Kami Garcia’s latest novel Unbreakable. (Garcia was part of the writing duo that wrote the Beautiful Creatures series.) I’m not the most famous blogger on the Internet, but that’s not my goal. I wanted to share my passion, and I have. I have 114 followers, a number that grows almost every day.

If you have something you’re passionate about, do it. Share it. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

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