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To blog or not to blog?

In a saturated market, it takes more than a hot concept, great writing, and an appealing cover to ensure a book's success. No wonder, then, that so many authors are trying blogging on for size. After all, a blog (short for "web log") picks up where a standard, static website leaves off. Not only does the blog provide a forum for daily musings, it creates a direct connection between author and audience--the kind of access Holden Caufield would've killed for.

Take Sarah Dessen. The award-winning author inspires a following so rabid they've named themselves "Dessen Heads." Luckily for them, Dessen keeps a LiveJournal that she updates every weekday morning. The subject matter is mostly pop culture oriented--everything from her obsession with America's Next Top Model to what's loaded on her iPod.

"The writing I do on the journal is so different from my novels," Dessen says. "There's less pressure and hardly any expectation, so I can just say whatever I want."

Within minutes of posting, Dessen begins to receive comments from some of her more than 900 registered readers (a number excluding countless others who bookmark the site for their daily dose of Dessen). She cites "contact with [her] readers" as the best part of blogging.

The success that bloggers like Dessen, Neil Gaiman (Coraline), and Holly Black (Tithe) have found, coupled with increasingly easy-to-use systems like Blogger, LiveJournal, and TypePad, has inspired even more YA authors to blaze their own blog trails. Other entrants into the world of blogging include Catherine Atkins (Alt Ed), Brent Hartinger (The Order of the Poison Oak), and Lisa Yee (Millicent Min).

Hartinger views his blog as a way of "branding" himself. "[It's] a means to an end," he says. "In this case, the end is to promote my books, and give fans more information about me." For Linda Joy Singleton, blogging delivers "a way to reach fans without actually posting on my own website, which I have to ask my webmaster to do." Singleton, author of The Seer series, maintains blogs on both LiveJournal and Blogger--programs that can be mastered by anyone with a working knowledge of word processing. HTML skills, while beneficial to the blogger, aren't

a necessity. Laurie Stolarz, author of the Blue is for Nightmares series, receives hundred of fan e-mails each week--and answers every single one. To cut back on this, Stolarz says she'd "like to start pointing my fans to my LiveJournal as a way to keep in touch." E. Lockhart (The Boyfriend List), who uses TypePad for her blog, is a member of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, a ring of chick-lit authors who promote each other's books and blogs through "virtual tours."

Not all authors are sold on the benefits of blogging. Some, like Jeanne DuPrau (The People of Sparks), cite time restraints and a fear that blogging would cut into their writing time. But others, like Marlene Perez (Unexpected Development), say that "if anything, [blogging is] prewriting, so I can then jump in and focus on my [work-in-progress]."

One thing most authors agree on is that the blogging craze won't be dying out any time soon. "It's basically free and is a no-brainer way of creating a network of people who share similar interests," says Tanya Lee Stone, author of the forthcoming ABad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.

Holly Black agrees. "[Blogging] is a great way to keep up with one another's lives," she says. "I have made new friends, stayed in touch with old friends, and hopefully entertained my fans."

Authors aren't the only ones drawn to blogging; increasingly the Internet is seeing more and more library and school media center blogs. They range from the personal to the "meant for public consumption" variety, cataloging everything from book reviews to resources students can use to write research papers.

Not all blogs are created equal. While it's easy for someone new to the medium to create their own blog, sustaining it--and keeping the material interesting for others to read--requires both time and creativity. And according to Cynthia Lord, author of the forthcoming RULES, "The key to the most successful blogs is the interaction. If the blog becomes a dynamic relationship between the writer and the readers, the blog almost takes on a life of its own. In fact, my readers often talk to *each other* on my blog, as well as respond to me." With so many people jumping on the bandwagon--a survey conducted by Perseus Development Group estimated that by the end of 2005, there were more than 53.4 million active blogs--has blogging already reached its tipping point?

No, says D. L. Garfinkle, author of Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl. "I believe that blogging will get more popular as people get more computer literate," she says.

Hartinger disagrees. "I totally think this trend will die out soon," he says. "Too much of blogging focuses on the minutiae of life, and that makes me think that people are fascinated with the gimmick, not the content."

"On the other hand," he continues, "I predicted Whitney Houston would be a complete flash in the pan and that Cyndi Lauper would rule the charts for decades to come, so what do I know?"

Lara M. Zeises is the author of Bringing Up the Bones and Contents Under Pressure. Her latest novel, Anyone But You, was published in November 2005 and named a Top 10 Pick by Teen People magazine. Lara is avid blogger; not only does she maintain her personal blog (www.livejournal.com/ users/zeisgeist), she moderates a LiveJournal community that catalogues the blog addresses of YA authors and advocates (http://www.livejournal.com/community/ yawriterblogs/.) Additionally, Lara conducts blogging workshops for librarians, teachers, authors and teens.

Blog site information:

Sarah Dessen--www.livejournal.com/users/writergrl

Neil Gaiman--http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp

Holly Black--www.livejournal.com/users/blackholly

Catherine Atkins--www.livejournal.com/users/cawriter

Brent Hartinger--www.livejournal.com/users/brentsbrain

Lisa Yee--www.livejournal.com/users/lisayee

Linda Joy Singleton--http://lindajoysingleton.blogspot.com/; www.livejournal.com/users/ljsingleton ; www.livejournal.com/users/lindajsingleton

Laurie Stolarz--www.livejournal.com/users/lstolarz

E. Lockhart--http://www.theboyfriendlist.comlelockhart_blog/

Marlene Perez--www.livejournal.com/users/marperez

Tanya Lee Stone--www.livejournal.com/users/tanyaleestone

Cynthia Lord--http://www.livejournal.comluserslcynthialord/

D.L. Garfinkle--http://www.livejournal.comlusers/dlgarfinklel
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Author:Zeises, Lara M.
Publication:Kliatt
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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