Hello Subscribers and Visitors. This is me. The person behind The Lotus Readers. This is last August, on the beach at Beadnell with my dog Rafferty, during a brief relaxation of lockdown rules. This first year of my blog has been a tough one and this space, where I write about books is an oasis from the worries and concerns of the world out there. I’m lucky that I’ve not been touched by COVID personally. I have barely left the house since this shot was taken and it was my first time outside home since February 2020. I have multiple sclerosis, but I was having recurring problems with my breathing prior to the virus. I was waiting for an asthma assessment, then lockdown happened and of course there are more urgent priorities. This has made me more careful than perhaps I would have been, about who comes in and out of my space. I’m also lucky to have my partner and stepdaughters here, but I do spend a lot of time alone. I can’t do my job as a counsellor for MS patients inside my home because I’m at risk and many clients are too vulnerable to come out anyway. I quietly set my work aside last summer, hoping I will be able to start up again in the future. So, now I study from home, and last year I decided to start talking about books again – something I’d started and failed to keep up a few years ago. I truly believe that this blog, you readers, as well as the wonderful people I meet on book Twitter and other social media, have kept me going mentally. It’s been a huge positive in my life. So, in this first week of a new year and only weeks until my first blog birthday, what do I feel about book blogging in 2021?
I’ve seen many pronouncements on book Twitter over the last few days, about how people want to approach their new reading year. There’s been a lot of re-evaluation over several months on how we live our lives in general and I guess that’s bound to filter through to how we read. The added push of New Year marketing towards change and resolutions also affects us. It seems a few people want to scale back their reading – perhaps turning it back into something they do purely for pleasure and at their own pace. Going hand in hand with this has been talk of giving up blog tours. I know I’m not the only reader who has overcommitted at times, or felt the strain of a deadline and a book we simply haven’t clicked with. I can understand this approach, and I think it’s a genuine response to the pandemic. As our day to day choices are reduced by the government, it can feel too much to be obligated to read. We want to have choice in our personal activities and it’s natural to want to sit back and read solely for pleasure, especially for those who are still battling on in full time work or child care. My illness means I’m not working and I’m lucky that my stepdaughters are brilliant with helping out around the home. My time does have limits – my eyesight can be affected, fatigue and pain can prevent me from being active – but I do have a lot of time to devote to my love of books.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. If we think about it logically: the house is full of Christmas food and indulgent gifts; it’s usually cold and miserable outside; we’re all skint after Christmas shopping; we’re trudging back to work. It really is the most inhospitable environment for making changes, especially if those changes are to reduce, give up and take away things we enjoy. When we add a pandemic to the mix, it’s likely that we’re even more reliant on our indulgences just to get through – of course we know that drinking and eating have gone up since the first lockdown. The more natural times to start anew are spring and autumn. Spring aligns us with nature, everything is growing and bursting into life. We feel more optimistic as nights become lighter and we can be outdoors more. The other more obvious time is autumn and this is a learned feeling from our school days and the new academic year. Remember that first day back at school in new uniform, squeaky new shoes and looking forward to seeing friends again? Often adults still feel that tingle of excitement as days are crisper and signal the year is coming to an end. If you’re one of these people then this is a great time to make changes. My partner laughs because I’ve been really cranky towards companies telling me I’m obese exactly 24 hours after their advertising has been telling me to indulge!
My vices are books (and shoes) and I’ve spent a small fortune on mail orders to several different bookshops this year. It’s been those packages coming from time to time that have made my day. It’s been lovely to get unexpected ARCs or gifts from authors too, they lift me up. A great comment from an author or publisher on your review can mean everything on a day when you’ve seen no one, you’re still in yesterday’s pyjamas and you’re worried. I’m worried about my stepdaughter’s GCSE’s, my best friend having to shield again, being in the midst of buying and selling a house and my niece who’s having a baby amongst all of this. There are massive changes happening all around us and often it’s hard enough to take one day at a time and face what’s in front of me. I can’t make restrictive changes now and I’m not going to. Why restrain something that keeps me motivated and sane. Of course not all books on blog tours turn out to be my cup of tea, but I’m glad I stretch myself by reading them. Also, it helps out my bookish friends who are blog tour organisers. In turn some of the best books I read last year were on blog tours. I’m not going to restrict my amount of reading either; reading is my escape to different worlds, my travel, my meeting new people and my favourite way of passing time.
So what do I think about this new reading year? I’d like to remain part of a welcoming online community who’ve given me a home and help me with the technological stuff I’m not so good with. I think I could be better organised with a reading planner so that tours don’t spring up and surprise me. I’d like to add to my usual blogs with a ‘Throwback Thursday’ feature where I write about a book from my existing collection. Sometimes I can feel the pressure to get the latest ARC, and while that’s exciting, I’d like to focus once a week on the brilliant collection of books I have – maybe some that have passed others by. I’d also like to share my favourite writers with you in feature posts where I can explore and compare their work as well as looking at their life. Finally, I’d like to give back to all of you and my supportive fellow bloggers. So I’ll be hosting more book giveaways this year as I reach new milestones. As for my fellow bloggers, I want to make them feel their hard work is important. It’s all too easy to quickly like a post on Twitter or Instagram, and while likes are good, I have sometimes felt I’m writing into a void. Does anyone read this? Or the even less confident ‘ who would want to read this?’ We all have doubts about our blogging abilities so I’m going to make more effort to read my fellow bloggers work and leave more comments on the actual blog rather than on social media. It shows you’ve engaged with the piece of work someone has sweated over at 4am. It can spark conversation, but more importantly it lets the writer know you’re reading and enjoying what they have to say. So I look forward to spending 2021 with you all and wish you all a Happy Reading Year!