Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Interview with Amanda from The Zen Leaf

1) Welcome, Amanda! You have an intriguing blog and I'm honored to have been paired with you for interviews during BBAW. The Zen Leaf has a striking design, and it's a pleasure to interview you. Please tell us a bit about your background, and why you decided to blog.

Amanda: First off, thank you for the welcome. I'm glad to get to know you better! As for my background, I'm a stay at home mom of three little boys. I've been blogging for about three years now in various places. I started on my MySpace profile, and moved to Blogger in February of 2008. The blog I created, The Ramblings of a Hopeful Artist, was more of a personal and writing blog. Periodically, I'd do a book review. When the book reviews grew too many, I started a group review blog called 5-Squared. Over the next year, 5-Squared grew much bigger than I ever expected. By then, I'd discovered the book blogging community and gotten much more active in it. In May of this year, I decided to move my reviews off 5-Squared to my own book blog, and thus The Zen Leaf was born. I like blogging because it gives me an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people. As a stay at home mom, that opportunity is greatly appreciated.

2) This blog is named after your short story, The Zen Leaf. Tell us a bit about that story. How can we read your work?

Amanda: Ooh, hard to describe...Hmm. My short story, The Zen Leaf, is a surreal, dream-like romance involving a teashop with no customers except a cat, a baby, and four characters at a single table. It juxtaposes a past event with the present, and goes over the idea that two people can dance around each other all their lives without ever realizing the other person is dancing. As of right now, The Zen Leaf is unpublished. I'm very young in my publishing career. I've published two short stories and one poem, the latest of which went into a national literary journal called Whiskey Island. I'm currently shopping for an agent for my dystopian novel, MatchMakers Incorporated, and hope one day everyone will have to chance to read that. :)

3) Among other genres, you like to read and review YA fiction--which I also find enjoyable. In fact, I think a lot of adults today are reading YA fiction. Who are some of your favorite authors of YA? Do you aspire to write YA fiction?

Amanda: I just started reading YA fiction this year. Back when I was a teen, YA just wasn't very good, but in the last decade or so, it's gotten so much better. So far, my favorite authors are Scott Westerfeld, Deb Caletti, and Maureen Johnson. I've read several of each of their books and they've been consistently good. So far, I have not written any YA, but I imagine I might at some point in the future.

4) You seem to love reading challenges and have taken on quite a few! What have you enjoyed most about these challenges? I recently joined my first two challenges, so I'm very interested in hearing about your experiences.

Amanda: Really, my challenge obsession marks me as a complete dork. My favorite part about challenges is making the lists. I love lists. I love finding the most efficient way to complete my challenges. Most of the time, I don't even stick with my original list because I love remaking them...yeah. Total dork. Seriously, though, I really joined too many challenges this year. It was my first year for challenges and I just got overexcited. I haven't failed any, but I've taken them way too seriously. Instead of spreading them out for their entire time period, I finish them as fast as possible. With smaller challenges, that's okay, but I joined some pretty large ones, and that put me into a bit of a reading slump for awhile. I'm determined to be more moderate with challenges in the future!

(You've inspired me to sign up for some challenges--thank you!)

5) What have been some of the highlights of your blogging career?

Amanda: I really love when an author contacts me to tell me they loved my review of their work. I've gotten several of those emails, and they always brighten my day. It's also been nice to connect to so many new friends. Recently, I even got to meet one of them in person - Eva from A Striped Armchair. I hope I get to meet more of my fellow bloggers in the future.

6) Your posts get a lot of comments! What advice would you give to someone just starting a blog who wants to get comments? Do you have any blogging secrets to share?

Amanda: Thank you! Honestly, I'm pretty surprised at how many comments I get sometimes! I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing to get them. It probably helps that I love going out to other peoples' blogs and leaving comments. I love having conversations with people, either on their blogs or on mine. I'm not into blogging for any sort of popularity, but for friendship and connection, so it's important to me to get to know the bloggers who visit me, and to keep talking to the ones whose blogs I love. That's probably the advice I would give a beginning blogger, too - just go out and participate in the community. Go figure out which blogs you love and make sure their owners know you love them. Friendship breeds comments? ;)

7) I was astonished by the number of books you read, Amanda. Obviously, you love reading! Were you always an avid reader, or did this passion develop later in life?

Amanda: I was an avid reader as a child, but stopped reading early in my teenage years because I was disappointed with all the books I found. When I got married and had my first son, I spent a year reading the classics in my husband's library, and that rekindled my love for reading. Once I started book-blogging, my reading numbers went way up. I wouldn't read anywhere near this much if it weren't for blogging, but I'm okay with that. I love doing this.

8) Do you have specific goals for this blog, just "go with the flow", or a combination of both?

Amanda: It's very go with the flow. My only desires are to socialize, talk about what I read, and finish my challenges. More recently, I became a little more serious and goal-oriented in starting the GLBT Challenge. I couldn't believe there was nothing out there like that, and had to do something about the gap. I hope to continue to host that annually.

9) If you were "stranded on a desert island", and could bring only three books with you, what would they be?

Amanda: Ah! I don't think I can answer this question! I don't know how I could possibly narrow it down to three. Sorry!!

I couldn't choose only three books, either. Thank you so much, Amanda. I enjoyed interviewing you for BBAW. Your blog is thought-provoking and I've already learned a lot from you in a short time!

You can read Amanda's interview with me at The Zen Leaf. Comments are welcomed!


  1. Great interview Suko. I am familiar with this blog. Like yours, it is very good. Thanks so much

  2. Susan, you can tell just how much of a dork I am for finding the grammar errors I made in answering these questions, haha! :D Thanks for interviewing me. It's been great to get to know you. I'm going to add a link to this interview on my interview of you, and you can certainly link back to your interview as well!

  3. Thanks, Diane. It was fun to interview Amanda and she has a wonderful blog.

    Amanda, great idea--I added a link!

  4. Great interview! Amanda sounds a lot like me and she has a beautiful blog!

  5. Thanks, Bermudaonion. For some reason, I had a hard time posting a comment on your great interview with Meredith, but it eventually got through (yay!).

  6. A fabulous interview. It is so nice to know more about Amanda. I love her blog. I can't wait to see her name on a book one day.

  7. Suko,
    Thank you for this introduction to a blog I am completely unfamiliar with. Amanda sounds like a very interesting person (not to mention blogger), and your questions were excellent. I am so glad I found your blog; now I'm off to find hers! Good day to you!

  8. Great Interview. Let me just say that Amanda is so fantastic at always leaving comments on the blogs that she follows. I'll be curious to see if she can really scale back her challenges and lists for 2009. LOL.

  9. Vivienne, Amanda is a wonderful writer and I hope to have a copy of her book, too, someday. An autographed copy, of course!

    ds, you are so kind. I think you'll really enjoy Amanda's blog. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Kerri, thanks! You are so right about Amanda. I was very lucky to be paired with her for these interviews. : )

  10. Great interview. I only recently discovered Amanda's blog, and I'm glad I did.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. Loved this interview Suko,
    Amanda...{{ my challenge obsession marks me as a complete dork}} right there with you. I love making the lists. I like what you said about comments. It is true. Commenting really does help add to the community feeling.

  12. Aw, you guys are all so great. Kerri - I guess we'll see. I have no idea how well I'll do! :D

  13. Amanda is such a faithful commenter that I got interested in her and follow your blog--and now have found yours!

  14. I'm going to have to look into more challenges in the future.

  15. Hi Suko--I'm coming over from Amanda's and I'm glad to have found your blog. I enjoyed reading yours and Amanda's answers and questions and to get to know you both better (although I could have guessed at some of Amanda's answers!) :) I saw that you're about to gear up for some Japanese Literature--any book in particular? I'm looking forward to reading some Banana Yoshimoto soon.

  16. Great interview! She does have a beautiful blog :O) I agree, making the lists for reading challenges is fun.

  17. Anna, many thanks~I've been to your blog and will visit again very soon!

    ibeeeg, thank you! Are you doing these interviews?

    Jeanne, thanks for stopping by. : )

    CherryBlossomMJ, challenges are a great way to connect with others and read books outside of your usual genre or comfort zone. I hope you'll join some (I have some posted on my sidebar which link to the main sites).

    Trish, I read and posted on Banana Yoshimoto's Goodbye Tsugumi and a darling picture book called Crow Boy for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge-3 (and am currently reading Banana Yoshimoto's popular Kitchen). Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Hi, Naida. You're great to stop by and comment. You're always so positive--thank you!

  18. Ohh wow that was a great interview! I honestly had no clue about this blogger! ohh My ! I am overwhelmed by the people I get to know thru BBAW :):)

    let me go to her blog :) :)

    Thanks Suko, that was a great interview... I should have copied your questions ;) :)

  19. Wonderful interview! I discovered Amanda's blog when she signed up for my Take A Chance Challenge ... and I do relate to her love of making lists. I'd never done challenges myself before starting blogging but now I'm hooked. I'm not nearly as ambitious as her though.

    And I second her advice for new bloggers -- the way to build your blog is to be a part of the community. It cannot be a one-way street.

  20. Veens, you are funny and kind! :)

    Jenners, thanks for your comments. You are right--joining the blogging community is important. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  21. Such a great interview! I enjoy Amanda's blog a lot, and it's good to hear more about her. Great questions, too!

  22. I've definitely heard of The Zen Leaf but I'd not visited her blog before - it was great to learn a bit about her. :)

  23. Such an enjoyable interview, Suko! Amanda has also inspired and encouraged me to sign up for reading challenges. I've really appreciated that. I'm glad to have read your interview on Amanda's blog and be introduced to you and your fantastic blog.

  24. Kay, thanks! Your cartoon looks so cute in miniature!

    Heather J., isn't it fun to visit new blogs? And The Zen Leaf is a great one!

    Julie, you are too kind! And I went from zero reading challenges to four in a flash--thanks to Amanda (and some great challenges)!


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