The Evolution of WLS

Hey y'all!It's been a hectic few weeks. (I thought I'd have time to pop in on the blog, and clearly I have not.) In being home, I wanted to write about something that's been on my mind the past few years, really, about how Words Like Silver started and how it's changed over time.Blogging has inherently shaped both my personality and my habits as a reader. My taste, my browsing, the way I express myself. Especially since the teens are such a time of personal development, a lot of who I am is inextricably linked with the strides I've made in carving out a place for myself. Even if that's a book review blog that can be difficult to keep up with when the rest of my life is howling at me.I wasn't sure in starting school that I'd be able to keep up with WLS. It was something I kept a careful eye on. Because as much as I wanted to prioritize my book side, I also had to try and be social. Get involved in other things. Explore parts of my identity that weren't literary, because that's how I've always been defined.Although it's been slow-going, and largely experimental this year, I'm grateful that I've at least been able to post occasionally on here.But there are a lot of parts of WLS that are still here, and other aspects of the blog that are significantly different than they used to be. So I wanted to do a state-of-union of sorts to keep track.Outlets

  • I'm not as active on my Twitter as I used to be -- so I'm a little behind on trends, upcoming releases, etc,. I'm not as "in the know" as I was last year when I had more time to read Publishers Weekly. And yes, I know it's about priorities but this year was an adjustment year pour moi. (Also, it's not as book-focused as it used to be -- it's a lot more political.) Hoping to get back into it this summer and next year!
  • I'm not as active on here in terms of straight-up book content. I've been mixing it up with some more personal reflections -- and also, it's tricky to keep it mostly to book reviews when I struggle more to be able to finish whole books that aren't related to esoteric topics like the role of gender in Western religions or the function of synesthesia in fantastical poetry.
  • I'm a lot more active on Instagram. I've loved taking book pictures, branding, working on social media campaigns. I'm not as big as some other bloggers, but I enjoy it wholeheartedly. I also feel like I get to show a lot of personality on there. Considering I haven't been able to review as much, it's refreshing to still be able to feature books.

ReadingReading used to be my number one priority, especially in middle and high school when I almost exclusively defined myself by my reading habits.Now, it still is. I'm a book girl. I feed off of words. But it is significantly more difficult to carve out time to read whole books rather than poems or short stories, especially since I'm doing so much reading for class. I used to be great about reading a book or two a week in high school, I'd say, and it's not the case in college. If I do have time, I'll sit down and knock out a full book in the sun on the quad. If I don't have time, I usually delegate reading to breaks -- and end up reading nonstop. So I am reading less, but I'm doing my best.I can't say for sure how much that'll impact my end-of-year figures. Last year, I had a spell in February and March when I frankly didn't feel like reading because I was too busy freaking out about where I would end up going to school. So maybe the lack of consistency means that'll balance out this year? I bet it'll be significantly lower -- maybe 150 books rather than 250 -- but not absurdly so.Having to spend so much time in other endeavors has made me realize how much of a passion project Words Like Silver is. Now, because of other circumstances, I'm not entirely sure what I want to do as a career but I do know that every time I sink into a book, the rest of the world fades away. No matter what I'm doing or how much I'm struggling, reading is my pleasure. To clarify, no matter what I do when I'm older, I'll end up working with books. So that's something, that I still love the process just as much. How lovely it is that I can recognize feelings I didn't know how to express in lines I can underline and appreciate, or stories that make me cry with appreciation for this big, blue mess of a world.BrowsingOne of the issues I had about a year or two into blogging was that I knew too much about everything on the shelf. I missed the ability to blindly stumble into a book, with little regard for who the publisher was or the tropes used on the back cover. I wasn't aware of the psychological impacts were of cover art. I'd read enough and analyzed enough to lose a bit of that loose enjoyment; I was too busy picking apart the strategies used.Although college has surely contributed to that in terms of English classes, and I still deal with the disjointedness of not being able to immerse myself as fully in the reading experience, I'm a bit out of the loop.So browsing has been better. I don't know as much about the books coming out, or the authors behind them. (From 2013-2016, I lived off ARCs. If there was a book on the shelf, I'd probably already read it a few months before.) I rarely request upcoming reads because I just don't know as much about them. I'm in that strange place of feeling old for the blogging realm. A lot of bloggers I knew no longer blog. A lot of publicists I've worked with have moved jobs. There's a fresh generation of authors who interact and promote themselves in ways that I'm not entirely privy to.I look by publisher sometimes too -- imprints that fit with my reading taste. I can tell that a book will be different if it's a Katherine Tegen book vs. a Simon Pulse book, for example.TasteI can't tell whether my taste has changed or whether I've simply become more aware of the subtleties of my book taste. I still love a lot of YA, but I like it to be inventive or poignant in a way. It's definitely mood dependent -- so really, I'll read anything -- but in terms of which books become my favorites.I always say I know I love a book if it makes me cry. Either because it evokes strong emotion or because I'm sad it's over.For contemporaries, I like ones that focus on really small reflections. Lovely writing. Thoughtful characters. I like to feel a little grit of reality -- ones that challenge the way I think. I also don't really care what happens as long as it's rooted in strong, vivid moments and settings. (I also love reading about characters who are questioning and passionate.) Recently, I've enjoyed the trend of not necessarily needing a happy ending. Challenging the and-then-they-end-up-together trajectory.For fantasies and sci-fi and all that, I just need strong world-building and clear pacing. If you can pace well, you have my heart. I've really loved Arabian and Middle Eastern settings lately, especially in terms of fairy tale retellings. I don't really know, because I've definitely been drifting more towards contemporary lately.Magical realism! Please and thank you.Also, I've been reading more adult and new adult lately. A huge concern of mine in the evolution of this blog has been whether or not my reading taste would change. I'd say it's expanded a lot, but not entirely shifted because of my age.It's strange to go into a YA book now knowing that I'm on the other side. I used to read them when I was twelve and thirteen, doe-eyed at the thought of high school and first loves and all that. Now, I've experienced a lot of the timeless issues faced in those novels, and I'm looking at their portrayal in hindsight.I worried that after graduating, I would lose interest in high-school-centered stories, but I haven't. Because the concerns of 17-year-old protagonists still feel like ones I grapple with, and I would be able to appreciate them despite. I'm not a huge new adult fan, just because I don't usually read straight-up romance, but I like it when I want complete escapism. A quick read that I'll enjoy. And that's valuable.When I do read adult fiction, I've enjoyed short stories and existential novels. Quiet stories, really. Ones with lots of lines I can underline. Definitely writing-centric in terms of which books I appreciate. Stats and PublicityI haven't been able to prioritize this blog as much as I've wanted to, and so I haven't been focused on keeping track of how it's doing.It's been six years, and so it's grown into a solid establishment. It's been rewarding to see its growth and evolution as an entity. I've gotten a lot more traction on my social media accounts than in past years, and so a lot of WLS's attention has stemmed from that. I looked at my stats the other day and had a little burst of shock -- I'd barely registered how big it's gotten.WLS is not a viral blog. It's not going to be that outlet that has hundreds of thousands of followers. I'm not someone who gets stopped in public, and I don't consider myself a "public figure."But I will say that -- having crunched the numbers -- I have a steady, loyal following who largely trusts my book taste. I have a consistent flow of emails asking for recommendations, and I do feel respected within my niche.That's a good place to be.I haven't used the numbers to request a book from a publisher in a while -- like I said, I haven't requested ARCs this year in comparison to previous years -- but I do feel good about how WLS has been doing even without consistent maintenance. Hopefully with a little time and attention, I can consciously keep track of this and prioritize the blog a little more.In the meantime, feel free to keep up with WLS on other outlets (linked above.)The FutureSo in summary,

  • I've spent this year adjusting to college life and so I haven't prioritized Words Like Silver as much. I've been mostly keeping up with book world via social media, but still feel a little behind in terms of news, releases, and the latest generation of authors and bloggers.
  • I've really enjoyed my brief reprieve from the nuances of the publishing industry. It's refreshing to be able to go in blind again, and adjust.
  • I'm able to articulate my book taste more than I was able to previously, but I don't feel like it's gotten smaller. By virtue of having less time to read, I've drifted more towards standalone contemporaries (in both YA and adult) but still find myself drawn to all sorts of reads. Vivid settings, thoughtful reflections, and solid pacing will get me -- and I'm a sucker for any sort of existentialist questions. Make me feel something.
  • Although this year has been an adjustment year, and not one focused on growth, I'm pleased with the steady following and niche I've carved out for myself both on the blog and on various channels. Thank you again for letting me express myself and share what I love to do.
  • Not entirely sure whether I'm going to go into publishing, try to be a professor, or find my way to work with books in another way. I'm taking off this summer to do camp for the last time and keep my head down, but hopefully next year I'll be able to join up with everyone in NYC (and at BookExpo America.)
  • And of course, it continues to impact how I develop as a person. My habits, my organization, my consistent withdrawal to read or email or do all that. The personal and private/online and professional parts of me are always intersecting, and that balance is something I continually have to pinpoint and reevaluate. I wouldn't be who I am without this little site.

Cheers.