As with many of the blogs we admire, there is much to dig about Anne and her site, Book Buds. First and foremost, we’re not sure if we’ve ever admitted this before, but we much prefer those sites that lean towards aesthetically-pleasing. (Images, please! O give us images!) . . . Anne’s got that goin’ on. Nice look at her site, particularly that header. Give us a well-designed header, and we’re happy. When accessing Book Buds, you are not overwhelmed with text text text (we still read those sites, but o they hurt the eyes!). She seems to have really put thought into the look of the site. Cyber-high five to Anne for that.
Anne is also one of your best picture book go-to gals. In fact, she focuses solely on picture book reviews at her blog and has a handy-dandy rating system: “I give from zero to four buds, which I draw like so *\ and it used to be much harder to get a lot of buds from me. But there are too many great books coming in and no time to waste on ones I hate, so it seems to me like I’m strewing buds all over the place.” We likey the book buds, especially when in a hurry (as most librarians are) and wanting to know the low-down on a book: Is it worth our time or not?
She also has a great listing of categories on her site. “I . . . am one of the few to categorize my reviews to death, by age and topic, and I’m always thinking up more topics.” Very nice. We want all mothers of young children to see her site, particularly the ones who read only their favorite picture books from their own childhood to their children. You know . . . they’re well-meaning but reading only titles like The Giving Tree and The Cat in the Hat and picking up only the books that they see at, say, their Wal-Mart trips, simply because they don’t keep up with children’s lit, are overwhelmed with all the new (and even not-so-new) books, and don’t know where to begin to find some good, new titles for their children (a perfectly understandable scenario if you’re not a children’s lit nerd like we all are). Don’t you just want them to know about Anne’s site, especially with the convenient categories? Do we sound like we want to evangelize her blog? Yes, can we hear an “amen!”?
Anne is also Co-Founder (with Kelly Herold of Big A little a) of the Cybils Award (the Children’s and YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards), and she is on the Editorial Board for The Edge of the Forest. She was also asked to contribute essays once or twice a month to Reading Moms (”‘Reading Moms’ is a place to catch up on the latest discussions about the books we’re reading for fun, the books we’re reading to our children, at work, in bed at night. Whenever, wherever we read, whatever is on our nightstands, in our bags, or on our shelves — whether it’s a parenting book, a mystery, a memoir, chick lit, or anything else — we’ll write about it,” their site states).
And, on that note, the fact that Anne is a truly wiz-smart Mama Who Thinks is probably our very favorite thing about her. And she is funny and honest in her reviews — and always reveals much about her personality (in other words, she’s not a bore. Her reviews are like no other’s). “My reviews also include a lot of personal info about me, it’s rarely just about the book. This is purely selfish on my part; I used to keep a personal blog and never got over the need to blab about myself,” Anne told us. Here’s our all-time favorite post of Anne’s that just says it all. Take a few moments to experience this.
She’s also very obviously crazy in love with her family, which is nice to read (and we even love her husband’s blog — you can see a reference and link to it below in one of her interview responses. Honestly, we don’t read it daily, but having looked at it, we love the sub-title of his blog: “Dedicated to the Most Important People in the World,” and, yes, it’s a blog pretty much about Anne and their kids).
Anne added, “I’ve also made several attempts to get others to blog with me, and one of these years I’ll reach the review-a-day goal I set for the blog.” Well, we say, no matter. We love reading her own reviews, and we ain’t just talkin’ outta our mouths yo. Stopping by to visit her site and to read her thoughts is always well worth your time.
When asked how she came up with the title “Book Buds,” Anne said: “I didn’t know what to call the darn thing. Something-book-or-other. I submitted a huge list to my husband and this is the one he picked as the least stupid.” (We don’t think it’s stupid at all; it has a nice ring to it, indeed).
Oh, and Anne has a Master’s in Journalism (which we read on her site). So, to continue with the junior high school analogy, Anne is like the yearbook editor or editor of the school paper. She’s the smart, cool, nice, funny, and little-bit-naughty-in-just-the-right-amount-and-likes-to-party editor of the gazette of our imaginary junior high school of bloggers. We like how she knows the in’s and the out’s of writing, due to her journalism background, and knows how to get to the point while also keeping things interesting.
Speaking of getting to the point . . . . drumroll, please. Here’s Anne:
7-Imp: What do you do for a living?
Anne: I’m a full-time Mommy to Seth, 4, and Lael, 19 months, though I freelance the occasional book review for The Los Angeles Times. I’m blowing off a deadline to answer these questions, in fact. Before this I was a newspaper reporter, though it’s been many years since I was forced to sit through zoning hearings and the like. I’m also going to be writing product reviews for a new site called Viewpoints Network. I get the family-stuff niche, plus they’re re-posting my picture book reviews. I’m hoping it takes off; I never intend to set foot in a cube farm again.
7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?
Anne: I started a personal blog (called Inland Empress, now defunct) in April 2004 and Book Buds in October 2004.
7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?
Anne: The personal blog helped me manage a low-grade, chronic depression. Starting a book blog came in an instant of inspiration. The hubby had befriended the book review staff at The L.A. Times, where he worked, and they let him rummage through the slush pile for kids’ books before the whole lot was shipped off to the LA Public Library. That’s nice for the library, of course, but it’s not why the publishers send out all those review copies. At the time, we were paying for three blogs at TypePad and only using two, so one day I thought aloud, “Gee, I should blog about these books.” Bells went off for both of us. It also seemed a great way to teach myself a new skill, book reviewing, and put a line on my resume to account for all those years of joblessness. I had early support from L.A. Observed, a major, major blog, and from the editors at The L.A. Times, who eventually started sending a few grown-up books my way to review. I keep Book Buds going despite giving birth, moving cross country and sleepless nights, and even though it steals time from my own creative writing, because I feel so strongly that these books deserve a chance to be seen before they’re remaindered. And, as a shy person, it’s important for me to connect to others, even virtually. If it weren’t for blogs such as Big A little a or Chicken Spaghetti, I’d feel terribly isolated. Those two are my daily must-reads, but when I have time I like to peek in on Wordswimmer, GottaBook, MotherReader, A Fuse #8 Production, and A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. That’s about all I can manage on any sort of regular basis until the kids can amuse themselves without fear of injury.
7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?
Anne: I’d take that sexy guy over at DadTalk and spend the evening slow dancing with him, then get him alone in the back of the limo and tear his clothes off with my teeth. Purrrrr.
7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?
Anne: Once upon a time, I had the occasional free moment for making jewelry; I have two huge boxes full of beads and my toolbox all gathering dust. I also like to crochet, but nothing compares to the three unfinished, unpublished novels and dozen or so short stories I’ve written. I once hired a writing coach, who told me to completely scrap two of the novels and totally rewrite the third. It’s waiting until the kids are older, as are my huge lists of story ideas. Ah well. They’re only little for a short while, right?
7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Anne: I have a notoriously short fuse. You don’t want to get on my bad side, especially if I’m tired or hungry or in a rush. I become feral. My husband insists if I ever wanted to start a snarky blog, I’d be huge, but I couldn’t sustain that kind of writing and feel good about myself. And who would want those kinds of readers?
7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?
Anne: I don’t think I’ve listened to grown-up music in four years, so my car stereo has Justin Roberts, Ralph’s World, Trout Fishing in America, Laurie Berkner, Tom Chapin, John Lithgow — a very eclectic mix, if I do say so. For sanity’s sake, we’ve temporarily banned The Wiggles. Raffi’s taking a much-needed rest too.
7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?
Anne: I always feel so ashamed that I don’t read more deeply into any single author’s oeuvre, so there’s no one writer who has influenced me more than others. I supposed I’d rush to the library and read everything I could grab to prepare for a date with Jane Yolen, but I’d probably open by stammering something stupid about having gone to her alma mater, Smith College, before begging her for a summary of everything she ever taught in her children’s literature course there. Then I’d be completely mortified that I’d forgotten to express condolences for her husband’s recent death and get all tongue-tied, trying to apologize. I’m like that, disjointed and all over the place in my thinking, so I’d be serving a lot of red wine so Jane would eventually stop noticing or caring. Jon J. Muth I’d invite over for green tea so I could tell him how much I love his watercolors and then just bask in his aura for a while. I’d probably also want to ask Nina Jaffe over, after explaining to her that I grew up next door to a Nina Jaffe who was a terribly troubled girl, and I discovered the writer Nina Jaffe by googling my childhood nemesis to see what might’ve become of her. I doubt they’re the same person; the Nina I knew wouldn’t be much for re-telling Jewish folk tales. Though miracles do happen. After she stopped staring at me like the freak that I am, I’d ask about her sources of inspiration while serving her a non-sucky kosher wine, if I can find one I could afford.
7-Imp: What is your favorite word?
Anne: I’ve always loved the word “eldritch” even though I don’t read much horror. It has a creepy-but-cool sound to it.
7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?
Anne: Two words: “Christ killer.” Not to be too much of a downer, but an awful lot of people have died because of those words and their equivalent in other languages. I’m not too crazy about “kike” either.
7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Anne: I was heavily influenced in college by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and have always longed for my very own, deeply personal space, a sense of quietude, and the financial freedom to pursue a life of writing. My husband swears it’ll happen someday, so I’m hanging in there. I have my teas (loose, not bagged, please) and that helps create a comforting environment, no matter where I find myself.
7-Imp: What turns you off?
Anne: What Anne Lamott so amusingly described in Bird by Bird as Radio Station KFKD, which plays non-stop self-abuse. All I have to do is tune in the voices of my personal trolls and I’m FKD for the day. Best hits: “You’ll Never be Published” and its flip side, “You’ll Die in Obscurity,” recorded for posterity by The Unstroked Ego, and the ever-popular “You Could’ve Been a Lawyer and Made Something of Yourself” as sung by My Inner Jewish Mother.
7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word?
Anne: My father used to cuss in Yiddish and then banned us kids from mimicking him, so naturally those are the words I love best. It’s even better when people mistake the meanings: a shmuck is a dick, not a jerk as most people think; same thing with putz. To shtupp is to screw; a meshuggenah is a crazy person; we all know what kvetch means, and tukhus cuppaiyah is literally a butt-head. I use that one in traffic a lot. And I can’t set foot in Target without muttering about shlock or drek. It’s the yenta in me.
7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?
Anne: Call me crazy, but I love the sound of my daughter snoring. She’s snored since she was born; I snuck her into bed with me when the nurses were out of the room and haven’t managed to kick her out of my bed yet. I never had to fret that she’d stopped breathing; I’d just pick up my head and listen for those soft zzzzz’s.
7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?
Anne: Babies screaming. Any baby. I’m still lactating so it causes all kinds of unpleasant and messy reactions.
7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Anne: I’ve always thought it’d be fun to be a plastic surgeon and make so many people, especially women, feel better about themselves. I was briefly addicted to “Extreme Makeover” but the gore made me queasy. I loved the way they beamed so ecstatically when they revealed their new selves to their families. As Oscar Wilde put it: “It is only the very shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”
7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?
Anne: There are chassidic Jews who bathe the newly dead and wrap them in linen shrouds for burial. No embalming allowed, so I imagine it gets pretty messy. I don’t know if it’s a volunteer service or if they get paid, and I’m not curious to find out.
7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Anne: “The all-you-can eat chocolate buffet’s ahead to your left, and on your right is the orgy.”