Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The ultimate challenge for book lovers: 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Do you like reading? I bet you do. So how about a 24 Hour Read-a-thon? Few days ago I learned about this great initiative, which was created by Dewey of the blog The Hidden Side of a Leaf and will take place this Saturday (October 18). Basically the 24 Hour Read-a-thon is an open invitation to readers to read for 24 hours and interact with each other during that time.

The person whom I learned it from is Andi Miller of the excellent blog Tripping Toward Lucidity: Estella's Revenge. This is the second year she is participating in the 24 Hour Read-a-thon and I asked her to share with us her experience and tips for those who would like to do it for the first time. As you will see she is getting us into the event as well!

Can you tell us what is exactly the Read-a-Thon? can anyone participate in it?

I might not be the right person to ask about this one, as the lovely and stunningly talented Dewey from The Hidden Side of a Leaf blog is responsible for dreaming up and organizing the Read-a-Thon. (
http://deweymonster.com/?page_id=722) In a nutshell, it's an invitation for readers to set aside 24 hours of reading time and raise some money for a worthy (bookish) cause if they see fit. It's a great premise at that, but Dewey has taken the Read-a-Thon to an even greater level with the addition of cheerleaders who go around and comment at the participants' blogs and keep morale high, there are hourly "mini-challenges" for readers to take part in and build community, and there are contests and prizes for participants.

For me personally, the Read-a-Thon is a great way to step back from the hustle and bustle of my everyday life—take a few moments away from the college English students I teach online and in-person, the paper grading, the homework for my own graduate courses in Library Science, and indulge in my favorite pastime. Sadly, I find that sometimes I need an excuse, an event like the Read-a-Thon, to give myself permission to indulge for that period of time.

How was your Read-a-Thon experience last year? how many hours did you dedicate for it and how many books you read during that time?

The Read-a-Thon has actually become a twice-yearly event with the last one having taken place in June 2008. It was my first time around, and it was quite an event! Unfortunately, I didn't have as much time as I would've liked to devote to my reading: I had a new puppy in the house that definitely didn't understand the concept of my not paying attention to her, had some family obligations, and whatnot. This year I hope to devote a solid 24 hours, with breaks, of course. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit in my previous experience with the Read-a-Thon I was only able to complete two whole books, although I dabbled in four more. I think I wrapped up with a total of approximately 600 pages or so in 12 hours of reading spread over the course of the day.

What books you preapre on your shelf for this year's Read-a-Thon?

I discovered from that first attempt that it's really important to read short books to keep the pace moving along and also to keep morale up with an ongoing sense of accomplishment and to stave off boredom and reading overload! So far I have a slew of young adult fiction and some shorter adult fiction offerings on my stack:

Tideland, by Mitch Cullen
Suicide Notes, by Michael Thomas Ford
Wondrous Strange, by Lesley Livingston
After the Train, by Gloria Whelan
Dope Sick, by Walter Dean Myers
The Running Man, by Michael Gerard Bauer
The Man Who Turned Into Himself, by David Ambrose
Heroes and Villains, by Angela Carter

What tips you have for book lovers who want to participate in it for the first time (warm clothes? short books? :-) ?

Definitely short or fast-moving books and a good variety of books. Although I have mostly young adult fiction on my list so far, I will also add some graphic novels, short story collections, and non-fiction—maybe a food memoir or two. Aside from the length of the books and the content, I would suggest having a stash of yummy snacks in the house. For me that means chocolate, chips, some healthy snacks so as not to go into a carbohydrate lull, and definitely caffeinated drinks! The urge to fall asleep gets really bad in the early morning hours. Also, have something fun to do during the breaks: I keep my laptop close by to check in with the other participants and play some music when I need to dance around to stay awake and get my eyes off the pages.

Do you just read for yourself or also interact with other readers participating in the event?
Interacting with the other participants in the Read-a-Thon really brings the experience to life. Personally, I like to post hourly blog updates, or maybe every couple of hours, just to let the other participants know what's going on and to get some comments going. I also check in on other participants and see what kind of mini-challenge is going on every hour at Dewey's blog, otherwise known as Read-a-Thon headquarters.

Some readers might say that it's not that fun to read for so many hours with little or no breaks at all. How do you keep it fun?

I can really only read for about 45 minutes straight without a break. My eyes start blurring and my body falls asleep from the waist down, so I make every effort to take about a 15 minute break every hour to update my blog, take a walk, play with my dog, or whatever I can do to stay excited. I also move to different parts of the house. My favorite place to read is on my bed, but it gets uncomfortable after a while, so I plan to head out to my sunroom for a view of the outdoors.

You asked the readers of your blog (Tripping Toward Lucidity) to sponsor your participation and one of the options you offered is to do it via Eco-Libris. We're very honored with your choice - can you further explain your request from your readers?

Issues of environmentalism have long been of importance to me, but increasingly so in the last few years. My first inclination when I become interested in any topic is to read about it! While I would never give up my reading, my increased awareness about environmental issues has forced me to think about how my favorite things in the world—reading and books—affect the environment. Deforestation is one of the leading causes of global warming, so it's increasingly important to me to save paper and balance out my reading habit whether it be buying and selling used books, trading them through sites like BookMooch, or having Eco-Libris balance out my reading for me. I've suggested a few options to my readers if they think they might want to "sponsor" my reading in the Read-a-Thon:

- Donate a set amount for every book I read during the 24 hours of the Read-a-Thon
- Donate a set amount of money per page I read during the Read-A-Thon.
- Donate a set amount of money per hour I participate in the Read-A-Thon.
- Give a "flat fee" donation of whatever you can manage
- Post short pieces about Eco-Libris on your blog to spread the word

Whatever money I raise during the event will go to Eco-Libris, and any BookMooch points I receive as a result will go directly to a BookMooch charity library to build their own collection.

Thank you Andi for the interview and good luck to all the participants in the 24 Hour Read-a-thon, and of course have fun!

* The photo is one of the buttons of the 24 Hour Read-a-thon, which were all made by past read-a-thon participants (from The Hidden Side of a Leaf)