Book Blog UNCON 2013?

BEA is fast approaching, and I’ve been asked a couple of times if there will be a Book Blogger Uncon again this year.

After thinking about it for awhile, here is my answer:

Maybe, but I won’t be running it.

There are a few reasons for this.

First a foremost, I don’t have the time and energy to do it well. (Second kid coming, teaching, Book Riot, etc).

Second, I’m not (and haven’t been for awhile I suppose) deeply embedded in the book blogger community, and while I read blogs regularly, I don’t think I have quite the pulse of the current state of things to shape a good Uncon.

Third, as I unfortunately predicted last year (and which led directly to the development of the 2012 Uncon), the official Book Blogger Convention didn’t seem to be particularly well-received. However, the organizers appear to understand that things need to change if they want the event to be attractive to bloggers. This by no means guarantees that this year’s version will be better, but it does decrease my interest in providing an alternative.

This, however, does not at all mean that I don’t think a Book Blogger Uncon is a bad idea this year; all it means is that I myself don’t have the motivation to put it together. Someone who has the time and excitement to spearhead a 2013 (or thereafter) convention will do marvelously.

If you are that person and I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch (Twitter is best: @readingape). Be warned; there is no official torch to pass, so you (or you and small group of organizers) will have to build it, though I’d be happy to send an email to the people that expressed interest in last year’s Uncon once you’ve got a tentative time and place.


So, the UNCON happened…

Hi, guys! This is Cassandra. I was not there, in New York, for the UNCON.  Unfortunately, lots of things have been going on that got in the way of that.  I watched from the sidelines (via Twitter), as many others did, and I was very interested to see what came of the whole thing.  Jenn (The Picky Girl) took over the Twitter feed for the day, posting the occasional comment and some pictures, and we’ve heard from some of the other 25 or so attendees.  Here’s a glimpse:

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Thanks to Jenn and Teresa from Shelf Love for the pictures.  If anyone else has any pics from the day, I’d love to include them in the gallery. Let me know!

I was going to attempt to describe what happened that day based on the reports, but I think I will leave that to those who were there.  I’ll link to those below.  First, though, a few highlights from the Twitter feed.

“[Twitter] is a matter of curating.” -Rachel, @homebtwnpages, during the social media session

It’s ok to not blog for a couple of days. As Keri says,”my life doesn’t stop because you didn’t blog!” @keripayton

“Change your tactics.” Lori from @TNBCC instructs authors what spam is instead of getting upset.

“Recognizing the validity of other people’s opinions is very important to book blogging.” @teresareads

“Reading last page first is like having a baby and buying its coffin. @readingape

I agree with everything these awesome bloggers had to say – accept Jeff’s thought on reading the last page first.  That may be a bit extreme.  But, then, I’m the one who read the epilogue of HP7 before I read the rest of the book. 🙂

Here’s are the reactions of some of the attendees.  If I miss anyone, please let me know.  Leave a link in the comments or mention BookBlogUNCON on Twitter.

Libereading: Book Blogger UnCon

Shelf Love:  The Sunday Salon:  Reflections on the Book Blog Unconference

Armchair BEA: The UNCON Experience (A guest post from Teresa at Shelf Love)

Dead White Guys:  Book Blogger UNCON Recap

Stains on the Page:  Monday in NYC

The Picky Girl:  Book Blogger UNCON:  A Review

So, I Read This Book….:  My Day at the Book Blog UNCON and the BEA Blogger Conference

List Updated: 6/11/2012

The UNCON Approaches

Can you believe that the Book Blogger Unconference and BEA are just a little over a week away?

I went up to visit our site for the Book Blogger Uncon, The Center for Fiction, and it is going to work out beautifully. There are plenty of spaces for us to use both for the full group planning session at the beginning and then for the breakout sessions throughout the day. Heck they even have their own bookstore on the first floor!

Anyway, here are a few things to know about the location:

There is a Starbucks right across the street and plenty of other coffee places just a few steps away, so I don’t think we need to have coffee brought it. We’ll schedule enough time between sessions for caffeine runs.

There are also a bunch of places to grab a quick bite, so finding someplace for lunch won’t be a problem. I’ll come to the day with a few ideas if a big group wants to go somewhere.

One of the breakout session rooms has a great projector and screen we can plug computers into. If you think you might want to show something on your computer, be sure you bring a cable that can connect your machine to a standard VGA input. I have a couple I will bring, but if you want to be sure you have a way of showing something on the screen, bring your own.

We won’t have wireless connectivity. I will bring my LTE hotspot that five or so people can connect to at a time. If you have a hotspot or something that can serve as one, it would be super great if you could bring it along.

We’ll get the day started at around 10 (more on this in a minute). One thing I would like to know is how many people are trying to get to the BEA Buzz panel at Javits that begins at 415. The E train is just a couple of blocks away from The Center for Fiction and it goes to Penn Station, which is the closest subway stop to the Javits. There are also bus options. Also, a shared cab with 3-4 people is an inexpensive option as well. I’m thinking we try to end the main sessions by 315 to give folks who want to go to the Buzz panel a chance to get over there. If a group wants to stick around for another session at The Center for Fiction, we can do that (I don’t think I will go to the Buzz panel myself, so maybe the late day Uncon session could just be an open discussion or something).

We will develop the schedule at the Uncon, first thing. This will include number of simultaneous sessions, session length, schedule, and locations. The only schedule thing will be the planning session, which will start at 10am and go until we are done with the schedule. The Center for Fiction is just a few blocks away from the main branch of the New York Public Library and the fantastic park right behind it. I would propose a 9am bring-your-bagel meet and mingle in the park before official proceedings begin.

I will bring nametags and Sharpies. Can anyone think of any other absolute essentials? There is a chalkboard we can use to map out the schedule (I love chalkboards).

Book bloggers are a tidy bunch, but a few of us will need to stay after to clean up, move chairs and tables back to their original positions and just in general make sure we left things as we found them. I’ll be staying for sure, but be ready to volunteer.


I think that’s about it for the logistics. Let me know if you think there are unanswered questions or things people might like to know.

We have 35+ folks signed up now. I would like to do one more awareness push next week, just to make sure that anyone who might be interested at least knows that it is happening and what it is. Post about it on your blog, tweet/Facebook about it. I think we have plenty of great people already, so it’s not about wanting more numbers, but just wanting to include anyone who is interested.

The Center for Fiction is also holding a great event the night of June 6th: Richard Ford and Joyce Carol Oates! If you have a chance to mention that in your posts about the Uncon and/or BEA, that would be a great way for us all to thank The Center for donating their space and energy.

See you all really, really soon,


FAQ and Other Miscellany

My name is Cassandra, and I blog at Indie Reader Houston.  I am the one in charge of this blog and the @BookBlogUNCON Twitter (which I really need to spend more time on).  I chose to become involved in the UNCON because I have been experiencing traditional convention burn-out.  Even though I’m really nervous (see FAQ below) about the lack of a set schedule, I am also excited about the opportunity to abandon that schedule and to be a part of an event that is all about the blogging.  I was involved in conversations with other BBC attendees just after the conference last year, and we expressed a desire for something smaller, less formal, and more manageable. That is what I hope the UNCON will be.

Q:  Isn’t the UNCON just your way of rebelling against the BEA organizers and their vision for what the BBC should be?

A: When the idea of the UNCON first got put out there following the announcement that the BBC had been purchased by Reed, I was on board.  Nothing really happened, though, until the day that they asked for conference attendees to supply stats.  That is true.  While that was what got the conversation started again, it was not the deciding factor, especially since Reed responded to those concerns quickly and thoroughly.  When another problem arose regarding press credentials for BBC attendees, Reed stepped up and quickly fixed the problem for all those affected.  They are doing a pretty good job in getting all this together and handling attendee concerns, especially since they had such a short window of time to work with.  Planning an event that large is hard.  As I’ve said here before, it is an event worth attending.  It’s just not my cup of tea anymore.

Q:  Why does the UNCON have to be on the same day as BBC? Why are you making people choose?

A: Many of the people who want to attend the UNCON had already made their travel plans and were already going to be in New York that day. It’s as simple as that.  It was the day that worked best for the majority of people because it didn’t interfere with BEA plans, and it didn’t require new travel arrangements.  Since we got such a late start, this was the only way to make it work.  If it works out nicely, and it is something that we want to do again (see below), then perhaps we can schedule it on a day that is still convenient but that doesn’t directly conflict with BBC.  For now, this is what works the best for the most people.

Q: Are there going to be other UNCONS? Will they be in New York?

A: We hope so. We don’t know.  I know that, after I’ve had the experience of this first one, that I would like to put one together here in Houston. There are a lot of book bloggers in Texas, and I would love to have an event that we didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for in terms of travel. I hope that other people are inspired to take it home with them, too.  I’ll keep the site up and running after New York, and if anyone wants to organize their own event, then I will be happy to help them publicize it.

Q:  Why are there no sponsors?  And aren’t freebies a good thing?

Freebies are a good thing.  But most everyone coming to the UNCON will be attending BEA, and there will be plenty of freebies.  Swag can be distracting.  If people want to bring snacks to share or blog-related stuff, like business cards or bookmarks, we can trade stuff. That’s cool.  Since we’re not giving things away, though, there does not seem to be a real reason for sponsors. Some of the bloggers involved are donating time, snacks, and materials, and we thought we’d just stick to that.  If you’re planning on coming and want to help out in some way, visit the Volunteer page.

Q: I know what to expect from BBC, and this whole no schedule thing is scary. How do I know which event is more worth my time?

It’s scary for me, too. I’ve planned more traditional conferences, and I’m usually the one that makes the schedule. I find them comforting.  I want to push my self out of the box, though, so I am taking a chance.  We’re not going into things completely blind, as we’ve asked people to propose topics they’d like to see covered.  We’re keeping a list of links, and you can take a look anytime.  Closer to the day, I’ll do a breakdown post.  I’ll also post a rough schedule of times – we just won’t know what will be happening during those times until we decide in the morning.  We’ve got one of the attendees from Book Camp joining us on the blog with a post describing her experience there, too. You’ll see.  It’s not scary. (I’m telling myself that, too).

Q:  So could I got to the BBC, and if it’s not my thing, could I make my way over to the UNCON and join you guys?

We do have limited space at the UNCON, so if you think you might like to hit both events, we’re going to ask that you register with us as if you were attending the whole day.  There’s no money involved, so don’t worry.  And logistically, it’s feasible.  There is a shuttle running to the Javits Center from a hotel down the street.  If you think you might try to do both, consider sending me an email (bookbloguncon@gmail.c0m) and letting me know ahead of time.

I think that’s it for now.  If you have other questions, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll answer them as quickly as I can.

Unconference Structure and Prospective Sessions

Alrighty then. 

Now that we know that we are are doing this, time now to talk about how exactly our unconference will work and what we all can do in the run-up to June 4th.

First, some details about how an unconference works.

The day is structured by “the grid”: Basically a blank board/way with the rooms and timeslots marked off. Something kinda like this.

Then, participants who want to hold a session place their session card/post-it in an available spot. This goes on for awhile and there is some negotiation: sessions that might be usefully combined might merge, sessions that need A/V get placed in the right spot, and new sessions might be added as people talk about the day. 

It is organic, kinetic, messy, and fun. 

Participants at an unconference are expected to take part in running at least one session. No one is going to come around and make sure you did, but this is a give and take experience. 

Sessions can take a variety of forms, and it’s up to the session runner(s) to decide which session fits their topic best. Here are some templates (via):

  • The longer formal presentation
  • This is tricky, because it’s difficult to make a formal presentation interactive. But if you have a big, well-developed idea you can pull it off.
  • A short presentation to get things started
    5-15 minutes of prepared material/comments by the session leader followed by an interactive discussion
  • Group discussion
    Someone identifies a topic they are interested in, others come to join the conversation and an interesting discussion happens
  • My Big (or Little) Question
    You have a question you want to know the answer to, and you think others in the group could help you answer it. This format could also just be the seed of a conversation.
  • Show and tell
    You have a cool project, a demo, or just something to show and let people play with that is the springboard for all the conversation in the session. Alternatively, you can invite others to bring their own items to show and tell (perhaps with a theme), and everyone takes a turn sharing.
  • Learn how to do X
    If you’re inclined to teach, this can be simple and effective. Bring the equipment that you need, and have a plan that will let you teach five, ten, or 15 people how to do something all at the same time.

Next steps:

1.It’s a good idea for participants to get thinking about what session(s) they might like to lead ahead of time. 

2. We need to get the word out to make sure that anyone who might be interested in attending a)hears about the event and b)understands what it is and feels welcome.

I think we can kill two birds with one blog post here. If you are willing, post on your blog about a session you might like to lead with a link back to this site so people can find out more. (Do let us know if you do a post. We’ll collect them and link them up for all to browse and be inspired by).

I’ll go first. Here are a couple of sessions I would be interested in and willing to lead

As always, thanks for your help. I look forward to seeing what you all come up with. 


Announcing the Book Blog UNCON

WHO?   Book Bloggers

WHAT?  An unconference dedicated to book blogging

WHY? Book Bloggers asked for an event that focused on entirely on book blogging.

WHEN?  Monday, June 4, 2012

WHERE?  The Center for Fiction, Midtown Manhattan


Jeff, aka The Reading Ape,  proposed the idea of an unconference on March 21, after it became clear to him that the alternative, BEA Blogger Con, was not going to be the kind of event he had hoped for.  It turns out that there are a lot of people who share that sentiment. It is not that BEA Blogger Con will not be a valuable experience for those who choose to go. If they have not attended the Book Bloggers Cons of the past, then attending this new event will definitely be a worthwhile experience.  For many of us, though, the event will not focus enough on the actual book blogging.  We want a forum where we can share our experiences, trade ideas, and have a whole room of other bloggers with whom we can discuss new ideas.  One commenter envisioned it as a giant twitter chat, but with everyone in the same room.  With snacks.

The beauty of an unconference lies in its flexibility.  The event is what it needs to be on that day. We will decide, as a group, what we talk about and who leads those discussions on the day of the UNCON.  We will all have some idea going in what we want those topics to be and (likely) who will be leading those sessions, but we are not going to set a strict schedule that must be followed.  For some of us, that is going to be a new concept, so Jeff is going to come back and talk more about that in the near future. In order for this model to work (at least the first time around), we are going to limit the number of participants to 100 book bloggers – and it will be a book bloggers only event.

The Center for Fiction has been generous enough to donate their space for the day. We will be asking for volunteers to help with some things on the day of the event, like set-up and clean-up.  We will also need to round up some of the materials that we might need that day (easels, large paper pads, sharpies, nametags, etc).  All informational materials will be made available digitally after the UNCON through this blog, so there is no need for copies.  We are not giving away swag. There will be plenty of that over the course of the week. We are not seeking or accepting sponsors.  And all of us on the planning end are volunteering our time, too.  The UNCON is free.  Period. And if you think you’d like to attend, just fill out the simple registration form.

We just want you to bring yourself, your ideas, and some lunch money.  Oh, and if there is a local who wants to work on figuring out the best options for lunch that day, let us know.  In fact, anyone who wants to volunteer their time that day should send us an e-mail – BookBlogUNCON [at] gmail [dot] com.  We also hope that you will help spread the word.  Talk about it on your blog.  Mention us [@BookBlogUNCON] on Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you.