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,


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.