Book review: Adventures in Blogville by Margaret Andrews

Have a child or teen who wants to start blogging? Want to teach your class how to write by starting their own blog? Then Adventures in Blogville, by Margaret Andrews, might just be the book to help you get started.

Margaret is a bit of a sassypants.

“Dear parent/teacher, this is the last time I’m going to talk to you,” begins Margaret Andrews on page 1 of her new book, Adventures in Blogville.

What she means is: this here book is for kids and teens.

Margaret Andrews' book about blogging for teensAdventures in Blogville, as you might guess, is an intro to blogging. I should mention that we are talking here about personal and niche blogs, not the product-promoting or platform-building kind. Here’s an article that helps you tell the difference among types of blogs, if you’re interested.

After the obligatory notes about blogging applications, privacy options, and organizing your blog with categories (nothing too technical), each chapter takes readers through a more-fun version of the basic writing lessons they’re already learning in junior high and high school English class.

I really wanted to say “funner” up there instead of “more-fun” but chose not to, because I’m being mindful of my audience. My readers know that “funner” is no kind of word for a professional editor to use! And this, dear readers, gets at the heart of a Big Overarching Theme in Margaret’s book: know your audience.

Blogging Lesson One: Know Thy Audience

If you’re writing about two kids talking to each other, by all means use words like “funner” if it fits in with the conversation you’re trying to capture in dialogue.

But be aware that if you blog about a recurring character or real person (let’s call him Adam), and you don’t provide a quick reminder of who Adam is each time, new readers won’t know who the heck you mean. They won’t know him from Adam!

That new reader, having just discovered your blog, doesn’t know the back story of you and Adam. That reader doesn’t know, unless you tell/remind her, that Adam is your twin brother, who always yells his tagline when entering a room. The newbie reader doesn’t know the backstory of Adam’s tagline either.

With examples like the above and easy-to-dive-into writing prompts, Adventures in Blogville is a great tool for getting kids and teens writing. The line drawing cartoon illustrations are good too. They strike the right chord of smart + silly, just like Margaret’s writing. 

Just Write: Don’t Fear the Share!

Many of the writing prompts are ones seasoned students and teachers have seen before. The value Margaret adds to them is her acute awareness of what I like to call the hump. The hump is that awful stage all beginning writers go through: the one where they’re afraid to share their work.

Adventures in Blogville helps writers face down that sweaty, heaving, hairy hump of too-scared-to-share with this question: What’s the worst that could happen? Huh?

Are you afraid a troll will leave nasty comments on your blog? Or that you’ll get in trouble for writing about a subject or a person you’re not supposed to write about? Scared to whip out your camera to take a photo for your blog because you won’t know what to say if someone asks you what you’re doing? What if *gasp* you sit down to write and have no idea where to start? There’s ample guidance in the book for heading off all of those troubles before they even happen.

Is your writing boring? Maybe, but it can be fixed!

There are also a lot of good tips to help writers analyze the interesting vs. boring parts of their work. For example, did you know that with some simple sentence and paragraphing choices you can actually write so that readers’ eyes fly from line to line? Or slow to a more languid pace, if desired?

My favorite part of the book comes at the end, where there’s a decision point. Readers are put on the spot to answer some questions, to wit: Now that you’ve written some stuff, what do you want to do with it? How will you present your words to the world? How will readers find your work? Once people start reading, how will you keep their interest without irritating them?

The book does include social media ideas, for kids who share online and want to be savvy, safe, social sharers. These resources include:

  • Twitter hashtags for discovering student-written blogs
  • Headline-writing do’s and don’ts
  • Lessons on how to write a good hook in the first few lines. Not only will a good hook help readers who stumbled across your blog continue reading, but it will be the bit people see on Facebook (etc.) that causes them to click or not click over to the full story.

Be the boss of your own content

Adventures in Blogville is self-published. It’s a re-work of Margaret’s earlier book, Sticky Readers. I recognized several of the examples and lessons from Sticky Readers in this new iteration but I like the kid-friendly makeover. Self-publishing is a good vehicle for exercising your creative freedom to re-package ideas, refine them and test the market. Plus, it’s a publishing model that suits a book about blogging—which is still, for most of us, a DIY enterprise.

The book’s production quality is generally good. A few typos and style choices distracted me, such as the use of double hyphens instead of em dashes, and punctuation outside of quotation marks instead of inside. But maybe only a cranky editor like me would notice these things. The bottom line is, I passed this book along to my ten-year-old daughter, who is a budding writer. I hope to use it to open some conversations with her about how she might like to share her stories.

Margaret Andrews is on the board of a nonprofit called Boldly Me. I got to know her as our local chapter of Editorial Freelancers Association was taking shape, and we’ve said hi in various venues of Sacramento’s literary salon. I recommend Margaret’s humor blog, Nanny Goats in Panties, and her tutorials for tips on blinging out your site.

Margaret Andrews' book on blogging next to a beautiful coffee

Margaret and I met at Insight Coffee in Sacramento one hot September afternoon to talk about the book.

One thought on “Book review: Adventures in Blogville by Margaret Andrews

  1. nannygoats
    December 4, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Susan – Thank you for such a thoughtful and honest review. I really appreciate the time it took to read it and write about it.