Friday, February 3, 2012

Texas Book Bloggers are Rockstars: Day 5: Maria Cari Soto, Sarah Evans, Christin Baker

elcome to Day 5 of Texas Bloggers are Rockstars! Today we’ll finish up the series with three bloggers made of awesome: Maria Cari Soto, Sarah Evans, and Christin Baker. Maria, who not only works at MD Anderson and blogs and travels to every book event she can but also works as Blue Willow Bookshop’s Web and Media Specialist, is a truly generous and amazing human being who has been a huge supporter of me and my books. Maria is passionate about the things she loves. Just ask her about her fan girl adoration for another book by my publisher, Sourcebooks, Catching Jordan! (Acutally, you don’t have to ask; she talks about it below!) Sarah is fascinating to me because she’s a math teacher who loves reading! I knew this species of renaissance woman existed, but I’d never met one before… and I taught high school for a lot of years! And Christin is a graduate student in music and from what I hear, a talented organist! All three of ladies support our local events in ways that humble us author-types and makes us teary-eyed as shove thank you chocolate in their hands.

(PICTURES: At Barnes and Noble table, from left to right: Christin Baker, me, author Chris Mandelski, Maria Cari Soto; at Empire Cafe, from left to right: Chris Mandelski, author Amy Fellner Dominy, Sarah Evans, Maria Cari Soto, me, blogger Melinda Russell Sheridan)

Make sure to visit their blogs.
You can find Maria at
You can find Sarah at
You can find Christin at

And now on with the final q/a of the week!

JP: What inspired you to begin blogging about books?

MCS: I get asked this from time to time and the simple answer is I started reading a lot after I read Twilight and the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Claire. My friends on twitter who also loved Twilight wanted to know what i was reading now or did I have a list of what I was going to read next. From there my friend Monica who is photo/life/fashion blogger said oh you should start a blog. I had no idea that people read blogs and much less about books. I was also certain that the only readers I would have would be the friends who talked me into the blog. Two and a half years later here we are.

SE: A blogger I met through Twitter and then in person at a few local book signings talked me into it.

CB: I was actually inspired - and encouraged - by my friends who already had book blogs. Before I started my blog I had been posting reviews on Goodreads, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to be able to connect with authors and other readers in a more direct way. A book blog seemed like the perfect way to do that.

JP: Talk about your own blog: what is its focus? Do you review books you don’t like? Do you interview authors? Do you post about other things besides books? How did you develop that mixture?

MCS: My blog is kind of random and it changes all the time. I review both books that I loved and books that were not for me. I also don't review every book I read. For me the book has to have an emotional impact. The good books are easy to gush about and the bad I can easily say what I didn't love. The books that are just in the middle are harder to write reviews for. How do you write a review for a book that didn't really move you?
I love doing author interview especially after I have read their book so I can really ask questions that fans of the book would ask. I post a "To Read List" every month and I have been doing this since I started my blog which lists what I plan on reading each month. I also love working with authors to do video readings, cover reveals, trailer releases, and anything else to help shine a spotlight on upcoming books.

SE: My blog, Sarah's Books & Life, is mostly about books, but I also wanted to have to place to talk about life if the mood hit. Since I started it in May 2011 it has been mostly about books, focusing on YA and MG books. While I LOVE to read YA books that are geared toward the upper YA's, I have expanded to include middle grades since I teach seventh grade math. There is nothing like recommending a book to a student and having them come back asking if a friend can now borrow it because they loved the story that much. Plus, my students get a huge kick out of the fact that their Math teacher LOVES to read, it helps break the ice. I generally don't pick up a book if it doesn't sound interesting to me, so I guess with that most books I'm going to like on some level. I've rarely picked up a book, read it and rated it a 1 or 2 stars for that reason.
I love interviewing authors, after all, without the author we wouldn't have amazing worlds to lose ourselves in. I also like to feature book trailers because they have helped get some reluctant readers pick up books they may not have tried otherwise. I'm still working on developing the right schedule/ pattern for posts since I'm still fairly new at this but my goal is to post 1-3 reviews a week, my trailer Thursday, and hopefully another feature.

CB: I review mainly YA books or books with crossover appeal. I post author interviews and guest posts when I can, and I am in the process of creating a new feature for my blog. I do review almost every book that I read, and I like to think of my reviews as balanced and fair rather than "positive" or "negative." Because the goal behind starting my blog was to connect with other readers and authors as well as to promote books, especially books by new or lesser-known authors, I try to have a variety of posts that can bring attention to many different books.

JP: Talk about your experience with the Texas book blogging community, author book signings, conferences you’ve attended like ALA or Texas Festival of Books, the various young adult conferences like Houston Teen Book Con or Austin Teen Book Festival, trade shows like BEA, etc. What’s the most fun and why? What encourages you to keep coming out to these events?

MCS: I am a big supporter of YA Authors and our local indie bookstores so I attend practically all YA events and I love posting pictures and talking about what went on at the events.
I have attended ALA, Texas Book Festival, Houston Teen Book Con and Austin Teen Book Con. The best part for me is getting to hang out other bloggers that I don't see everyday. Hanging out with the people I talk to practically daily on twitter and who love books as much as you do is such a treat.

SE: I try to attend as many author signings in my area as I can to support them and the local bookstores hosting the authors. For me, who is so not a writer, I love hearing how they come up with their ideas and what their writing process is like. As a teacher, it gives me ideas to suggest to my students or even ways to encourage them to follow their dreams. My first conference was the Austin Teen Book Festival and it was so much fun! I had the pleasure of helping out at the first Tween Book Con in Pasadena and I had fun sharing my love of reading with students in the area. I am looking forward to attending ALA for the first time this year and I'm a little nervous about it but excited at the same time! I guess I continue to go because I love reading and then sharing what I read with my students and friends.

CB: The Texas book blogging community is, in a word, amazing. We are so fortunate to have events like the Austin Teen Book Festival and Houston Teen Book Con as well as a number of signings. I've attended events and signings in Houston, Austin, and Dallas, and every time it is just as much fun to socialize with the other bloggers as it is to meet the authors present. Everyone is incredibly welcoming to new bloggers at book events, and we all try to support each other in what we do. Many of the bloggers have become close friends and get together even outside of book events. For someone who is still relatively new to Houston, I was very thankful to find this group of people.

JP: If someone asked you why supporting books, booksellers and authors is important, what would you say?

MCS: I love books and the sense of community. Books are now a part of our social lives. Before, bookish people were considered shy and would rather live in a book and while we may be that we now can talk to our favorite authors. Go meet them and meet other people who have a passion for books and that's a great foundation for friendship. Our booksellers make it possible to have connections with the authors we love and admire.

SE: Books are a doorway to the imagination. Even though someone else created the story, the reader creates the picture in their head as they read. I think the more you read, the better problem solver you can become, I guess that's the math teacher in me coming out :). Plus it's always great to support the art you love.

CB: Reading is so incredibly important. From reading books, we learn new things, expand our horizons, open our imaginations, find words for emotions and feelings that we cannot name, and see that we are not alone. Because of that, and as someone who grew up with her nose in a book, I want to help promote books and the authors who create these wonderful stories and worlds into which we can escape. Furthermore, booksellers, especially indie bookstores, give so much back to the community by hosting great author events and signings. Supporting these stores enables more events, which in turn can help foster the love of reading. It's a win-win situation.

JP: Any favorite author stories?

MCS: Oh my gosh where to start. Last year I worked really closely with the debut group Class of 2k11 and meeting them by either video chat or in person was a blast. They are all wonderful! There are two authors who I completely go fangirl over one is Kimberly Derting who I met and I'm sure I acted like a crazy person. The other is Miranda Kenneally and after reading and re-reading Catching Jordan last year well I knew that the world had to read it and I have made it my personal mission to make sure every person I talk to knows how much I loved the book and how they must read it ASAP. If I could buy a couple hundred copies and pass them out I would. I have met a lot of authors and they were all such amazing experiences.

SE: How the covers of some books evolved is pretty funny. I also find in interesting that several authors I've met started off doing something other than writing.

CB: There are so many! If I talked about all the authors I have been fortunate enough to meet, this answer might turn into a novella. Instead, I'll just say that I have enjoyed meeting all of the authors that I have. I always think it's fascinating to hear their stories about their road to publication and learn more about their books and their writing processes. I love the conversations and the chance to know more about the author behind the book.

JP: Thank you ladies for finishing out this series with such great responses!

Let's give a round of applause to all our bloggers ! *claps hands in a circle*
And a hearty shout out to Derry Wilkens and Kay Mitchell at Sourcebooks for taking time out from planning how we will conquer the world in August when Anastasia Forever comes out to spread some blogger love on the publishing side!



Mundie Moms said...

YAY for TX bloggers! I love getting to know each of the bloggers you've featured more. What a great series of posts. said...

I've meet these wonderful ladies, love their enthusiasm.

Oh, Cari - I will buy Catching Jordan today! lol

Kate said...

Love you gals! Thanks you for being so awesome and making me feel so welcome in the TX blogger community!

Stephanie said...

Great interview, ladies! I just love these gals.

Joy Preble said...

I had such fun doing this series with everyone! I hope you all had as much fun as I did!

Kiki Hamilton said...

Double YAY for Texas bloggers! As an author I've been SO grateful for their support and loved chatting online and having the chance to meet some of these awesome ladies at conferences. Two years ago I didn't even know blogs existed!! And now they are the first way I learn about new great books as well as spreading the news about any of my future books! Bloggers rock! :-)

gae polisner said...

Yay (and thanks) for bloggers. Double yay for Cari Soto. The Class of 2K11 loves her, and I love her best of all! Er. Fine. We all love her equally. *dodges pelted rocks*

Alissa Grosso said...

*Throwing rocks at Gae, but not too hard because I don't want to hurt her* Book bloggers are awesome and amazing, and yes from my experiences being in The Class of 2K11 I have to say that Cari is very extremely awesome.

Kristin Rae said...

Love these ladies!!

Amy Fellner Dominy said...

Can I be a blogger fangirl? Because I am. I don't want to dis the bloggers in my own state, but I gotta say, Texas bloggers are special -- and most especially Houston bloggers, home of Maria and Sarah and so many others who know how to make a girl feel loved!

Great posts Joy--thanks for shining the light of these wonderful peeps.

SJune said...

Thanks Joy for having me as one of your TX Bloggers today!! I have enjoyed all the awesome friends I've made since I started blogging.

Cari said...

Thanks Joy for not only your wonderful books but for being a part of our community! Thanks so much for having us all on your blog!

Class of 2k11 I HEART YOU! Throws candy not rocks ;)

Texas bloggers thank you all for being such great friends!

I Read Banned Books said...

Love my TX Bloggers! xo