So, here it is. My first blog post. It feels nearly as awkward as when you start a new class or job, and the trainer/teacher/whoever happens to be in charge asks you to say your name and a few things about yourself. Cue, a few seconds of panic as you try and remember what your name actually is and whether anyone cares that your favourite colour is red, and you like to eat A LOT of cheese in your spare time. Given that I was always at the end of the register alphabetically, I was usually able to copy someone else, normally by mumbling about a football team and breathing a sigh of relief when it was all over.
Come on Tasha, you’re in your late 20’s now, it’s not high school.
Despite my waffle, an introduction has changed in the book community to what it was in the past. I used to review books on YouTube, around 2012/2013/2014 when BookTube as it’s called was starting to become popular. It was a comforting environment, though quite nerve-wracking at times. Subscriber count seemed to matter a little too much, with those who had the high numbers put on untouchable pedestals, and just added more pressure to the smaller accounts, meaning that everyone was reading the same book whether they were interested in it or not. It was just a way to get noticed.
It wasn’t all negative, but the level of pressure and expectation from viewers back then was definitely not something I was prepared for. That, combined with people in ‘real life’ finding videos and sharing them to mock me, made reality come crashing down.
So I quit YouTube, and all my videos are privatised. Looking back, it’s nice to have a reminder of who I was in my early 20’s, but onwards and upwards as they say.
2020 has changed all of us, whether we admit it or not. I think we can all agree that we have realised what we take for granted, whilst also holding those close to us, just a little bit closer. It’s also for the most part, brought a sense of camaraderie online, even between strangers. I became more active on Twitter during the first lockdown, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Suddenly, that book community that I was a part of in 2012 was there, but bigger and better than ever. Authors were debuting with shops closed, and relied heavily on the community to promote and buy their releases. Authors asked, and the readers answered. It was fantastic to behold.
Strangers were taking part in book exchanges, looking at wishlists and buying from them, just to make someone who they had never met smile. I cannot put into words how helpful receiving the odd package or two with a kind message from a stranger helped in lockdown. People were writing more, whilst also helping those who were writing less. Important issues got brought to light about inequality within the industry, and steps were finally taken to start to address these points and provide wider representation.
And through all this, I read the posts, I joined groups and spoke to readers and writers alike, originally to discuss books but over time, to discuss our days and how the pandemic was effecting our lives. When I lost my Nana to COVID earlier this year, that group was there for me to talk to impartially, and I felt comforted and supported by people of all ages and locations.
Books brought us together, and in turn, brought us hope.
I joined webinars with publishers, agents and authors, learning about the industry and any tips I could use to write. I wrote a 62,000 word draft of a novel in 38 days to keep my mind busy whilst working, and whilst I’m unsure whether I will pursue that particular work further, it was cathartic in processing some of my own experiences.
To summarise, the book community online is such a welcoming place. It is easy to stumble on other parts of the Internet, and instantly feel worried or scared about the way the world is, whether that’s over a headline or seeing someone’s profile and thinking you’re doing everything wrong. They call it doom scrolling for a reason.
I’m happy that the community has changed, and has grown in such volumes over the past few years. I’ve made friends that I feel comfortable speaking with, even though we have different lives and may never meet, and have like minded people that I can discuss books with, without fear of reprimand.
It’s good to be back!