Jennifer Hubbard as our newest Featured Sweetheart! Aside from being an amazing author (THE SECRET YEAR), Jennifer is also the brains behind the Library Loving Blog Challenge!
Jennifer R. Hubbard lives and writes near Philadelphia. She is a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through, a chocolate lover, and a hiker. She has written short fiction as well as the contemporary young-adult novel The Secret Year.
@JennRHubbard on Twitter
TXS: The Library Loving Blog Challenge was a massive undertaking, and you organized it so well and garnished such support. Can you please tell us a little bit about what the Library Loving Blog Challenge is and what your goal for it is?
JH: For the challenge, a blogger pledges money to a local library for each commenter on a designated blog post. The more bloggers who get involved, the more libraries we help. The more comments people leave on each blog, the more money each blogger donates to the libraries.
The challenge has a couple of purposes: helping libraries, and raising awareness about how much libraries give to our communities and how much support they need. I also find it to be a lot of fun; it’s wonderful to visit the participating blogs and share this positive energy.
TXS: What inspired you to start the Library Loving Blog Challenge, and how has your vision changed since its inception?
JH: I started the challenge in the spring of 2009. Here’s how I got the idea: Sarah Cross was giving away a copy of Sarah MacLean's THE SEASON, using blog comments as entries. If she got at least 50 entries in the contest, she would start reading Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE for the first time (and if she got 100 entries, she would promise to finish it). There was the first part of my idea: a blog-comment challenge in which the number of comments directed the blogger to take action.
The second part of the idea—donating to libraries—came because I was concerned about the impact the economic downturn was having on libraries. There have been drastic funding cuts across the country. I thought: Why not open up a blog post in which I promise to donate money per comment to my local libraries? It seemed like fun—just think, you get to help buy books with other people's money! just by leaving a blog comment! I knew that if someone else did this, I would happily comment. I figured I would open up a blog post and raise maybe $20 or $50 for my local libraries.
Then I thought: Maybe there are other bloggers out there who would like to host the same challenge. If not, I was still planning to do my own challenge, no matter how big or small it turned out to be. But I did have about 20 other people join in, and we raised more than $1600. Several of them suggested we repeat the challenge this year, so I did, and we had about 50 bloggers who raised more than $5000. (I’m compiling the final numbers as we speak!)
TXS: What is the biggest surprise you've had since you started the Library Loving Blog Challenge?
JH: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people I’ve never met were willing to jump in and do this.
My agent, Nathan Bransford, hosted a blog challenge for Heifer International in December 2009, and I joined in on that as a participant. I found out that it was much easier to host one individual challenge than it is to organize the whole event! I definitely try to make that true for the library challenge as well: I do the emailing, I write templates for the blog posts, I write press-release-type messages for people who are willing to spread the word. And I hope the challengers who participate find it a fun experience and relatively simple. But I’m still very, very grateful that they are willing to jump in and do the posts and count up the totals and donate their own money. I’m grateful to the people who make the rounds and comment on all the blogs; that’s the energy that drives the bus. It makes the donors feel like we’re supporting something that’s essential to our quality of life.
It’s especially nice when commenters include their own stories of why they love libraries. I posted several of these special stories on my blog!
TXS: How do you think reading for kids has changed over the years. People talk so much about kids needing to share their attention with texting, TV, and video games. Is the challenge greater now for getting kids to read?
JH: I don’t know. When I was growing up, TV, video games, and outdoor activities competed for our attention, but I still fell in love with reading and pursued it passionately. I think that the experience of building a world in your head from reading text is something that many people just love. Some of us like to do our own casting and set design; we like to decide for ourselves how the characters sound. There’s something about the reading experience that you don’t get from any other medium.
TXS: If you could make a wish for kids and reading in the future, what would it be?
JH: I hope that the experience I described in my last answer is something that people continue to value. I hope that story-telling through written text survives, no matter what other bells and whistles become available. Human beings have always told stories and we probably always will, although the vehicles for those stories change. I think the best society would be one in which a variety of media are available: not video instead of text, not movies instead of books, not online games instead of sports, (or vice versa), but all of those choices coexisting.
TXS: Thank you, Jennifer! We are thrilled to feature you!
Please email us your nominations for featured sweethearts.