Commonplace Book Blog is a digital archive of personal essays, a collection of book reviews of creative nonfiction, and a resource for writers. I created it with you in mind.
Like you, I am a reader. I began buying books in elementary school, using my allowance on Scholastic book orders. I’m also a writer. I began writing stories on my grandma’s old electric typewriter before school, the hum of the machine and the punctuated bang! of the keys no doubt waking the entire house.
I never stopped reading, writing, and loving books.
I went on to study both English literature and creative writing in graduate school. I’ve also worked at an antiquarian bookstore, for a publishing house, and as a writing instructor. But at the heart of it, I’m still that kid saving my pennies for books and banging out letters on a machine.
Why I Created this Blog
One of the most helpful things I learned while doing my MFA in creative writing was the importance of community. In this instance, it was a writing community among other grad students. We had writing workshops, study carrels to bounce ideas off each other, and an online forum. Not all of us are going to do an MFA. But we can all still benefit from a community of readers and writers.
And so, I created this site as a digital space to talk about books, reading, and writing. I want to encourage active reading and responding. For me, this means writing personal essays, and reading and reviewing books. For you, this may include engaging with what you find on this blog.
To help facilitate reflection and discussion, I ask a question at the end of each blog post. I invite you to contribute to this online community by commenting.
Who It’s For
It’s partly for me: I was looking for a public space to think about what I was reading (keep my reading accountable by writing about books). I also was looking for a space to continue writing with a community (keep my writing accountable by publishing it often). Basically, I wanted to be a part of an online community of readers and writers.
But it’s also for you: I wanted to give you the same opportunity to be an active part of a reading and writing community. Even if you consider yourself to be a reader only, readers are also writers. Think of this site as an opportunity to stretch yourself to comment, to engage more fully with what you read by also writing about it.
And so, this site is for you and for me; for readers and writers; for lovers of all-things-bookish; and for those curious about creative nonfiction, and the personal essay in particular.
I write blog posts in three main categories:
- personal essays about reading, writing, and books;
- book reviews of creative nonfiction that I think you’ll also find pleasurable to read; and
- resources for writers that include writing tips and recommended reading.
At the end of each blog post, I’ll ask a question to encourage you to reflect on what you’ve read, review how it applies to your own life, and then respond to it by writing a comment.
Personal essays are often about commonplace things. But the everyday can be interesting when you’re willing to follow where your curiosity leads you. My original, personal essays that you’ll find on this site are generally about reading, writing, and all-things-bookish. I use my thoughts about these commonplace things as a jumping-off point to dive into deeper issues, research, and reflections surrounding books, print culture, book culture, digital reading culture, and the pleasures of reading in general. Sometimes the posts will be serious, often they’ll be humorous, and always, they’ll have the personal touch, with you the reader in mind. I’m never sure where my essays will end up when I begin them. But that’s the beauty of the journey, and I hope you’ll hop on with me.
I’m predominantly reading creative nonfiction these days, particularly the personal essay and memoir, which is what I’ll be reviewing. I buy my books like I buy my road bikes and my dance shoes: primarily second-hand. Someone else has already ridden on and danced in them. So you’ll find that the books I review are not necessarily hot-off-the-press, best-selling reads (some exceptions may apply). But I will review books in creative nonfiction that I’ve recently read (or re-read), find interesting, and think that you will enjoy considering as well. Some of them will be well-known; others will be obscure. My intent is for these book reviews to be new and enjoyable experiences for me and for you, whether you’re revisiting an old favourite or encountering a new (or old) title for the first time. My book reviews will also tend to be essayistic in and of themselves. While I’ll try to give an overall synopsis of what I think of the book, I will use the book and my experience of reading of it as a jumping-off point for reflection and personal discovery of whatever else may follow.
Resources for Writers
In this section, I write tips about writing and the writing life in general, along with lists of some of my favourite literature and where to find it. While I’ve written this section for writers of any genre, it’s also for those curious about creative nonfiction and the personal essay in particular. Many people have asked me about the personal essay. What it is, where to find it, how to write one. And so, with this in mind, I created the “resource for writers” section on this site. When I first became interested in creative nonfiction and the personal essay, I didn’t know where to go to learn about the genre, and so did my searching solo. (This was before I did my MFA in creative nonfiction.) I would have loved a resource to go to online. Previously, I had done a lot of my writing and researching in seclusion. This is an open resource to share what I’ve learned along the way, and a way for you to contribute to the writer conversation as well.
You are a big part of why I created this site in the first place. I could have burrowed my thoughts about reading and writing in a private notebook. But I wanted to share a space with you to engage with reading and and writing as part of a community.
You’ll find there’s a focus on creative nonfiction and the personal essay, which is what I studied in my MFA and what I’m currently interested in, writing, and reading about.
When you read one of my blog posts or book reviews, I invite you to share your thoughts about it in the comments section. The same is true when you read tips about writing. Basically, I want to encourage active reading. Whether it’s a paperback, an ebook, or this site, we can read in a way that we’re not just consuming media (which includes print media as well). Instead, we can reflect thoughtfully about it, and then participate in a digital conversation. This is the community of readers and writers I hope to foster on this site.