Four Years

11142787_1432203383742471_1179220403_nAs of today, it's been four years.Four. Years.I've been blogging for four years. I could laugh out loud right now because it's hard to believe I've only been this person for four years. Whoever I am - whoever I will grow to be - stems from this little website that I started on a whim four years ago after a trip to the Keys with my seventh grade class.Last year, I completely missed my blogoversary just because of lacrosse chaos, and this year, I've been shockingly excited for it. The days have been long and the years have been short, and it's so bittersweet to think that four years is the amount of time that it is. I can't help thinking of next year - when it'll have been five years - when I'll know where I'm going to college and who I'll be around and what high school will have been like.My blog is my most ingrained identifying characteristic. I can’t believe it’s been four years. Four years of this mind-numbingly phenomenal experience. I started blogging as a lonely nerd, and I’m still a bit lonely sometimes and I’m still very much a nerd, but blogging’s what’s given me the confidence and the certainty and the breadth of experience that has really made me grow as a person. Blogging has made me a person.Blogging is what really made me find myself.I was in a strange place when I started my blog. I was sad, and lonely, mostly just because I had been with the same group of forty kids for nine years already and was so tired of being compared to my twin and so full of this longing to do something purposeful perhaps. Something that would get rid of the nagging feeling that there was something out there I wasn't privy to, something deep and aching. Something that would make me feel like I actually meant something in the grand scheme of things and the days weren't dragging by with nothing but books to fill them.Books were what made the uncertainty go away. They were what filled me with tears, what made me feel so irrefutably alive because there were teenagers out there experiencing things that I would never get to touch. There were experiences I would someday have, and the idea that I would someday get to see those was what got me through the sense that I was a lesser version of my sister. They were what made me feel like there would be people I would connect with, words I would write, ideas that I would interact with and someday understand.I started blogging as a little seventh-grader. Words Like Silver, once upon a time, was a little blog with a plain-text header, a black-and-white theme, with an "About" page, a review archive, and a small picture in the right sidebar that told my readers (ahem, nobody) what I was reading. Often times, that book cover photo wouldn't even load. My first reviews were scraps of "OH MY GOD"s and "I LOVED THIS BOOK" and inconsistent formatting that I could never quite decide on.Now, I have a gorgeous blog design, a familiarity with branding/marketing/formatting that's made me settle on a distinct style of blogging and understand what I'm comfortable with, and a lovely support group of fellow bloggers with intriguing, beautiful blogs that never fail to take my breath away. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to develop into a professional and to have these business skills - that's what running a blog takes - but also that connection to the people around me because at the end of the day, I'm talking about what I love.When I first started my blog, I embarrassed myself thoroughly on a daily basis. Looking back to my first tweets as a blogger (as a person, even) I cringe and I blush and I'm so so sorry to all the people who had to deal with my thirteen-year-old self shamelessly self-promoting my terrible blog.But that doesn't go away, even as I learn. I still embarrass myself through blogging, but I'm only just realizing how valuable it is to be able to do this now when I'm surrounded by such a loving community rather than when I'm in the "real" publishing world. (Just in March, I reached out to a publishing house with blatantly wrong information and completely made a fool out of myself - but it’s an experience that’s valuable.) Then, I looked up to the big bloggers, the ones who effortlessly maintained beautiful, constantly-updated websites and got all the ARCs in the world and managed to be thoroughly accessible without being awkward. Some of them, I still haven’t had the courage to tell them how much I love their blogs. Some of them took me under their wing and taught me the ropes and for that I will forever be grateful.It’s still a learning process. I learn something new every day. I can’t code to save my life; I still struggle with finding the time to post or keeping a consistent schedule. I go through reading and reviewing slumps. The “magical” readership never happened - I like to think I have a solid audience but I could just be writing to my mom reading this on her email for all I know. But this is what home is.It's such a strange feeling to base my life on the idea that my life is based on words and not have the words to express that now. I am grateful. I am teary-eyed, choked-throat grateful that I get the opportunity to do what I love and educate myself on the subjects and talk to people who get it, who understand the feeling of having a passion and an outlet and getting absorbed into books so deeply that you can't remember what's happened to you and what's happened to a character you read about. I get to live all these lives throughout my own.It’s a weird feeling to describe to somebody who hasn’t been through it - that soul-deep knowledge of what you love and what you’re meant to do. I’m religious, and quieter about it, and blogging is what told me “this is what God wants you to do.” It’s a weird feeling to know you’re meant to do something, and that you get to do it, and it’s made me so happy that I'm finally able to get a foot into the door of the industry that will be my home for the next stage of my life. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.Some people say they’re jealous I have my life planned out. Honestly? I don’t. I have plenty of ideas of what I want to do - a lot of things - but I don’t know if any of it’ll happen. Who knows if I’ll even be able to get a job in publishing when the time rolls around? But this feeling right now, the feeling of being where I want to be and growing, being the person I was meant to be. Reading books that make me cry and laugh and sharing stories that make life worth living. Isn't that something?

THEN

When I was in seventh grade, I was filled with this consuming desire to do something - a desire that made me feel like I was living a smaller life than I wanted to. Somehow, I stumbled upon Random Buzzers, a small young-adult community that operated under Random House. They had reviews and a points system based on how you interacted with the website, and before I knew it, I was acing book quizzes and networking with the same groups of people every day. Some of them were bloggers.It was so exhilarating for me to see the other side - people who loved books and did something about it. I dove around other sites for a bit, similar communities operated by respective publishing houses. I started reading blogs. The Story Siren - which no longer exists - was a particular favorite.Somehow, there was a catalyst. Looking back now, I can't quite think of what it was. But somehow, when I was in the Keys on my 7th grade field trip, I realized that I needed to start a blog. So I came home, and spent a night in April randomly picking a blog platform and attempting to set up pages.A few months later, I got an email. It was from Kristi, the girl who ran The Story Siren, and she wanted to talk to me because she had gotten a blog comment from me that made her think about the community of bloggers, readers, and publishers. We had a short email exchange, and she offered to send me a few ARCs she had lying around her house that she wouldn't have time to read, and showed me a couple pointers to start me out on the right foot. That summer, I devoured the books she sent - I was overwhelmed with the emotion, the rush, the feeling of having a say or at least the access to the other side of the bookish world where I could read books before they came out and be a valuable tool in their publication. I began talking to authors. I began talking to readers.And I began truly blogging - throwing myself wholeheartedly into the craft. Researching, adjusting. A year later, I felt like a real blogger. When I went to BookExpo America in 2012, I was still a baby blogger, but I felt like I knew everybody. I finally met Kristi - who's such a sweetheart - and all the people I had talked to online and I felt so much like a part of the world. I felt relevant, like my opinion mattered, and I was around books and publishers and felt that certainty that this is what I'm meant to do.I wrote a blog post about it. I wrote a blog post about how much it hurt to have a passion and not be able to do anything with it and how I was so unbelievably certain about the path that books and publishing would take me. Somehow, that post took off and I got an overwhelming response - from bloggers I admired, from people I never dreamed I would meet, from others who I had met and others who I hadn't and all these people who suddenly got it. And none of them looked at me like I was fourteen. They looked at me like I had something to say. With that blog post came opportunities and connections and new ways to boost the blog that I had never dreamed of. And blogging became a part of me.

NOW

I have so many people to thank, especially over the years.Lots of love to my family: they put up with a lot, particularly when I'm cross-legged on the couch rushing to finish a blog post and they're all sitting patiently at the dinner table waiting to start eating. (Sorry about that, but I really was almost done with the post.) I can't believe the opportunities my parents have allow me to pursue through this. Even though they're only vaguely aware of what I really do - "Wait, you're editing a manuscript? You have a meeting? What?" - I appreciate their wholehearted embrace of my reading-under-the-table, spouting-publishing-sales-statistics, please-please-let-me-save-up-for-BEA-this-year self. The same goes to my friends who always deal with me rushing from the lunch table and ducking into a classroom to finish editing a graphic for my latest post, or hurriedly finishing up emails on movie nights.Lots of love to this fantastic community: quite simply, I wouldn't be able to do it without you. There are so many bloggers - peers and adults - whose holistic embrace of my failures and successes have built up the backbone of my growth as a person. I can't even begin to describe how much I appreciate everyone. I'm probably going to forget somebody somewhere, so cut me some slack, alright? Reut, Willa, Emily, Jen, Jamie, Kat, Kelsey, Martha, Elena, Kristi, Brent, Sasha, Mary Catherine, Kristen, all you wonderful wonderful people. (I'm going to go back and add links to respective blogs.) You're all so talented and I wish you the world.Lots of love to everybody who’s ever read the blog or told me that they’ve enjoyed it: I remember it all. I remember what you tell me and I can assure you - it has meant so much. You guys keep me going. You guys keep me up at midnight racing to finish a post because I can’t wait to share words and stories that keep me going. I hope all of you continue to love Words Like Silver as much as I do, for however long this lasts.And this is only four years, y'all. Here's to many more - I'm sure next year will be even more gushy and emotional.