Monthly Archives: May 2013

Getting Tumblr: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve read my About Me section, you may have noticed the link to my book tumblr. It originally started as an aid for my thesis project, but it’s grown into much more for me: a way of collecting resources, following book releases and trends, and making connections with people interested in similar topics. Since starting it, I’ve more or less abandoned my personal tumblr in order to devote more of my free-time to one of my favorite hobbies – reading about reading.

Despite what that first paragraph might’ve led you to believe, this post actually isn’t dedicated to shamelessly plugging my tumblr. I’m mostly going to focus on my advice for using Tumblr effectively. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I’ve been using Tumblr for a year and a half now. Hopefully sharing from my personal experience might help get people who’ve been meaning to start tumblrs (but aren’t really sure how) started.

1)      Microblogging: Tumblr is a different kind of blog than WordPress or Blogger. It’s often referred to instead as “microblogging.” Tumblr makes it easy to share and comment on other people’s ideas. This creates more of a dialogue than the typical one-directional blog post you’d find on WordPress. Tumblr blogs, also known as “tumblogs,” are a lot more like the comments section from a traditional blog post– more back-and-forth. Try to avoid writing too many long posts. Post those to a separate site and link to them, or hide them behind a “Read More” cut.

2)      The Dashboard: The dashboard, often called just “the dash,” is one of Tumblr’s main features. It functions a lot like a Facebook newsfeed, and allows you to endlessly scroll through posts – text, pictures, links, and so on – from the tumblrs you follow. This is another reason why you should keep your tumblr posts relatively short.  Imagine if every status update on Facebook was a page long; it would really clog the newsfeed. Ideally, the dashboard allows a user to sort through a lot of material quickly, pausing to click links of interest if they want more in-depth information.

This is a dashboard. On it, you can see all your followers' posts. Notice the search box in the upper right-hand corner. The reblog button appears as the third icon on the upper right of each post as two arrows in a loop (right next to the heart icon.)

This is a dashboard. On it, you can see all your followers’ posts. Notice the search box in the upper right-hand corner. The reblog button appears as the third icon on the upper right (right next to the heart icon.)

3)      Choosing Followers: In order to have an interesting dashboard, it’s important to only follow users who post material of interest to you. Before following any tumblogs, browse its first few pages of posts. Even if their most recent post fascinated you, it’s a good idea to check and make sure that most of their posts are on topics you care about. If you’re creating a blog on a certain topic, only follow blogs that are dedicated to similar ones. This cuts down the time you have to spend sorting through posts for material your followers would be interested in.

Searching the blogs and tags is probably the best way to get started finding blogs to follow. The search box appears in the upper right corner of your dashboard. Type a topic, and you can look through the results for tumblogs with the same interests. Once you’ve found some good tumblogs that way, start looking at where those tumblogs reblog material from. Once you start posting and reblogging, you’ll probably start gaining some followers; sometimes those followers run similar blogs and are worth following back.

4)      Creating Posts: As mentioned earlier, Tumblr offers users a chance to create several different kinds of posts, such as text, links, pictures, and quotes. My first piece of advice is to always try to include a source for information, images, video, etc. that aren’t yours. This is especially important if you’re planning on using your tumblr as a professional or semi-professional resource. It helps establish your tumblog as a more trustworthy source. I think it’s also important to give credit where credit is due.

Secondly, tag your posts. Remember back in step four when I suggested looking through tags for people to follow? Other users also use tags as a means of finding interesting posts and tumbloggers. I usually add five or six tags to each of my posts. For instance, for a post about a book I’d just read, I’d probably tag it with the author’s name and the genre, as well as “reading,” “books,” and “book reviews.” This would help my post be found by people who might be looking for book blogs like mine. I know tagging has been a major way I’ve gained followers. As a devout Melina Marchetta fan, for example, many people have found my tumblog through posts I’ve made in the Melina Marchetta tag.

This shows what happens when you click the "reblog" icon. It allows you to add or remove text at the bottom of the post and add your own tags. If you want to reblog a post without changing or adding anything, you can just hold down Alt when you press the reblog button in order to reblog more quickly.

This shows what happens when you click the “reblog” icon. It allows you to add or remove text at the bottom of the post and add your own tags. If you want to reblog a post without changing or adding anything, you can just hold down Alt when you press the reblog button in order to reblog more quickly.

5)      Reblogging: By now you’ve probably heard me use the phrase “reblogging” a few times. Reblogging is basically the equivalent of sharing someone else’s post on Facebook. All the posts you see on your dashboard, you can easily “reblog” to your own page and spread them to your followers’ dashboards. Aside from just sharing as is, you can also add your own thoughts to the post. This feature makes Tumblr a great channel for discussion between bloggers, allowing that back-and-forth discourse I mentioned earlier. Just make sure that you are not only reblogging others’ posts, but creating your own as well. It is by bringing in outside resources and adding your own perspective that you distinguish your blog from similar ones.

Hopefully this post helped those trying to “get” what Tumblr’s all about. It might not be directly book-related, but it’s a tool I often use to stay involved and up-to-date with the YA lit community. I thought perhaps this tutorial might be useful to readers who haven’t yet joined the lovely Tumblr bandwagon. If there’s interest, in the future I might write a post highlighting some of my favorite book and library tumblr blogs. If you want to elaborate on or disagree with my suggestions for new Tumblr users, feel free to do so in comments! The more perspectives, the merrier!

Here are a few resources with some of the how-to’s of Tumblr, such as using the “Read More” cut and customizing themes:

General Tips For Using Tumblr
6 Tips to Start Creating Content on Tumblr

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“A Corner of White,” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Last post I mentioned my intention to tackle Jaclyn Moriarty’s recently released (well, recently released in the U.S.) novel, A Corner of White. I actually finished it up the day after writing that. While I wish I could make my books last, I usually gulp them down in one or two sittings. I’d categorize myself as member of species Biblio devourus rather than Biblio savorus. Can you tell I just finished a term paper on evolution and biological classification?

Australian cover for A Corner of White

Back to A Corner of White. The story utilizes two braided strands. One takes place in modern day Cambridge, England. It mainly follows Madeleine Tully, a fourteen-year-old girl who has trouble adjusting to life after she and her mother run away from their luxurious life with Madeleine’s father. Madeleine’s mother took only a sewing machine with her when she left, leaving her struggling to make ends meet through mending clothes. As the novel is narrated in omniscient third-person, this strand of the narrative also includes some scenes between the two other students with whom Madeleine is homeschooled, Jack and Belle. Through Jack’s perspective, Madeleine is initially characterized as mysterious and ethereal, causing readers to wonder if she might be connected to the magical world of the other narrative.

This magical world of the second narrative strand is called “the Kingdom of Cello.” It does have many similarities to our world – televisions and trains and high school physics. However, it also has some notable differences. While Cello does have much of the same technology, they still rely heavily on fax machines. The organized sport of choice, deftball, revolves around some sort of supercharged, skyrocketing root vegetable. The biggest difference, however, is the Colors in their world. Rather than simply a visual phenomenon, they’re natural disasters:  Violent Purples, fatal Yellows, waves of Red that send everything haywire. The protagonist of this strand of the novel is fifteen-year-old Elliot Baranski. He’s nearly single-minded in his determination to rescue his father, Abel. Elliot believes his dad has been abducted by Purples (although most of the town believes  Mischa, the fetching high school science teacher who disappeared simultaneously, to be a far more likely cause of Abel’s disappearance).

U.S. Cover for A Corner of White

It wasn’t until probably a third of the way through this 400-page novel that I felt myself becoming fully engaged. I always have trouble switching between narrative strands. As soon as I found myself beginning to understand Madeleine, I was yanked back to Elliot, and vice versa. The story really took off for me once Madeleine and Elliot started communicating – writing letters to each other via a Crack between Cello and the World. In Madeleine’s world, the Crack is located in a parking meter. This leads her to believe that her penpal is some fantasy-enthusiast who takes role-playing a little too seriously. Through Elliot’s letters to Madeleine, Moriarty is able to explain some of the idiosyncrasies of Cello to readers. I also greatly enjoyed Madeleine’s letters to Elliot. In them, she critiques Elliot’s description of his life and kingdom as though it’s entirely made-up, the humor being that of course it is completely made up, but to the readers, not the characters. Through events in both worlds, Madeleine and Elliot come to rely upon each other.

I would give this book a solid four stars. I thought it did a great job setting up the worlds, plot, and characters for the next book in the trilogy. I also thought it did a great job showing character growth. Both Madeleine and Elliot start the novel as somewhat unsympathetic characters, but gradually become more aware of themselves and others. Although A Corner of White got off to a slow start due to two very disparate narrative strands, it eventually picked up the pace and became a compelling read in a world I can’t wait to revisit.

Which book cover do you like best, the U.S. or the Australian? Let me know in comments!

Jaclyn Moriarty’s Website
A Corner of White on GoodReads

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