Ten years ago today I published my first blog post.
I never set out to write a blog. I had been looking at a blogspot blog and noticed a prompt at the top of the screen that asked “Do you want to start a blog?” I was bored, I needed a creative outlet, so I followed the link and the rest, as they say, is history.
Longtime readers of Hogglestock will know that my blog was called My Porch for about 9 years before I made the switch. The original title was taken from the opening of James Agee’s A Death in the Family–a book I have yet to read ten years later. I knew this bit of Agee’s work from the musical setting of it by the American composer Samuel Barber in Knoxville, Summer of 1915. To me it evokes a lazy summer evening just sitting on a front porch and chatting.
It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds’ hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by…
Although the early days of my blog found me taking on all sorts of topics (and sounding rather portentous in the process) I did write about books and reading with some frequency. In fact, my second post was a paean to librarian Nancy Pearl and her fantastic Book Lust which led to many wonderful books and authors including Barbara Pym and Ward Just. Just to show you how much things have changed in ten years and how much they have stayed the same, I give you the following photo:
It is kind of interesting to dissect this now historical photo. If you have been following my Shelf by shelf feature on Hogglestock you will recognize the Drabble and Findley and others, but other things may surprise you. There have been some notable deletions. I decided I did not need four copies of Oryx and Crake and got rid of all but one of them. After finishing the USA Trilogy by John dos Passos, I decided I never need to read him again and got rid of them. After not finishing any of Oprah’s Faulkner set I got rid of them and hope to never read him again. I also got rid of all my D.H. Lawrence. In my mid-30s I thought I had time for stuff like that. Not so. Another difference is that I’ve jettisoned my paperback Anita Brookners for the hardcover U.S. first editions that I have found cheap here and there. Looking at this I also realize that my Drabble collection has expanded greatly yet one of them in the photo remains unread a decade later. That’s kind of crazy.
The Evolution of MyPorch/Hogglestock
I ambled along for about three years writing about books now and then. I had a very small following. Mostly people who knew me. The more I started to write about books the more I began to bore my core audience. Around that time I also stumbled across the world of book bloggers. I don’t remember which Simon I found first but one led to the other. I remember Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book blogging about Persephone Books and the Bloomsbury reissues of Miss Hargreaves and Henrietta’s War. And I remember Simon Savidge at Savidge Reads blogging about sensation novels and Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White specifically. I had come across one or two book blogs prior to that, but discovering the two Simons was a real eye opener. These were kindred spirits and they opened up a whole world of UK book bloggers to me. I found myself swept up in all kinds of book blogging challenges, reading weeks, memes, and all kinds of other reading mayhem, not to mention lots of Transatlantic book orders.
I also ended up finding bloggers in North America. There was BookishNYC who used to blog about books she saw on her commute and the people reading them. JoAnn at Lakeside Musing was always good for reading inspiration. I followed, and eventually became friends in real life with, local bloggers Teresa (Shelf Love) and Frances (Nonsuch Book).
And there was Darlene in Ontario and her fantastic border collie Deacon. She used to blog at Roses Over a Cottage Door and has a blog roll there that reads like a who’s who of my early blog reading life. Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm. And raise your hand if you remember Verity’s Virago Venture? And so many, many, more too numerous to list. One of the sad things about moving to Hogglestock was no longer having a blog roll.
Sometime in 2009 my bookish comments on other blogs started to drive traffic to my own and I began to wonder if they were my real audience rather than the faithful 12 friends and family who occasionally came by to have a look. Eventually I decided to take the leap and focus more on books and haven’t regretted it for a moment. I continue to meet so many interesting bookish people thanks to Hogglestock.
I’ve done a lot of other fun things on, and because of, the blog over the years. I’ve met probably 30 different book bloggers in the US, UK, Netherlands, and Thailand. It has been wonderful and a great way to chat about books. I think most of us realize how great social media has been in bringing together bookish people–especially for those of us who don’t have many bookish friends in real life.
A HUGE thanks to all of you who read Hogglestock and especially those who comment. I love hearing other people’s perspective and getting a discussion going. It is by far the best part of blogging.
P.S. Earlier Notoriety
In the early days of my blog I wrote about a women’s folk music group from the 1960s that I had fallen in love with in college. After a almost 20-year, largely fruitless search for information, I finally managed to track down three of the surviving four members of Womenfolk. This led to this post, I met Babs Cooper in NYC, the reunion of the women after almost 40 years, and this article about my quest in the Washington CityPaper.