Meet the Bookstagrammers: Sarah from @newleafwriter

Pic: @newleafwriter

Today, I caught up with fellow bookstagrammer, Sarah from @newleafwriter, to talk bookish pics, Insta tips and fave reads.

Bookshelf Headshot
Meet Sarah!

I can always recognise Sarah’s pics without looking at her name, thanks to their signature cool blue look and fun selection of colourful props. She’s always got an intriguing book or two on the go and I’m loving the Instagram tips she’s been offering in her captions lately as part of her Bookstagram for Beginners blog series. Also, she’s queen of the shelfie! Here’s a smapling of her gorgeoys pics:

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Sarah, thanks so much for joining me! Can you start by sharing a little about yourself: Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not on Insta? How did you get into bookstagramming? 

I was born in California, but moved to Portland, Oregon, when I was 10. Although I’ve lived in other places while attending school, my heart has always been here. I’m now lucky enough to live in a cozy little neighborhood in Southwest Portland with my husband, children and dogs. I’m a freelance journalist and copywriter for a living. I’m lucky enough to work from home, which means I consider bathrobes clothing and have lots of time for reading, crafting, exercising, cooking and of course … Instagram!

Can you tell us a bit about your Insta account: What inspires your posts? Do you have a particular aesthetic or theme? Has your account changed/developed over time?

My feed started as a way to augment my writing business, but after only a few weeks on Instagram I stumbled onto bookstagram … and it was love at first sight. I immediately switched my account to a pure bookstagram feed, which was easy since I already owned more than a thousand books. At first I just took random pictures of what I thought looked prettiest, but over time I developed a trademark cluttered and colourful look. A few months in, I went to Home Depot and got a 4’x4’ piece of plywood to use as a backdrop and spray-painted it blue-grey. I’ve never looked back.

Nowadays I’m inspired by what I’m reading and by whatever collaboration I have going at any given time. I love working with different shops, reviewing the latest books and trolling through my own bookshelves for long-lost friends. Most of all, I’m inspired by the beautiful pictures I get to see every day by being a part of this community.

What camera(s) and editing software (if any) do you use for your pics?

Once in a blue moon I break out my DSLR, but for the most part I shoot with my iPhone. I take my pictures directly in the Camera+ app, where I also edit them with a set style: saturation up, exposure up, temperature down. Then I save them and use Phonto to put my watermark on them.

How often do you post and do you plan posts in advance or are they more spontaneous?  

I definitely plan in advance. I keep a list going of what I need to take pictures of – I call it my “Instaplan” – and it’s some combination of notes from my phone, in my Google Calendar and in paper planners, of which I have several. Within these many lists, I keep track of the galleys I need to review, books I’ve just finished reading, products from shops, shoutouts for people, etc. Once or twice a week, I combine all the notes and start shooting pictures.

Because I take several days’ worth of pictures at one time, I like to organize them with an app called PhotoGrid. It allows me to plot out my posts according to date (generally three posts per day) and to coordinate my feed color-wise. I find my account looks much prettier as a whole when I do this then when I just choose from the pile of pictures day by day.

What do you think makes a good post?

This will vary for everyone, of course, but for me the perfect post is a nice picture where the lighting was kind to me (it often is not) combined with an interesting subject (like a new release or an antique book) and a funny caption. Of course, humor is not always possible, but I certainly shoot for it.

As far as other people’s posts, I really like to see vibrant colors, beautiful white layouts (can’t pull them off to save my life) and moody darker photos.

What do you love most about being part of the bookstagram community?

I love the true friendships I have made, the beauty I now get to see and be a part of in my daily life, and the pure love of books that we all share. Too much of the world is difficult, confusing or painful, but bookstsagram never is. We are here because we love and appreciate the written world, and we want to make that appreciation as lushly visual as possible. Isn’t that something we can all get behind?

Is there anything you’d like to see change/improve in the community?

I mean, the occasional hater’s gonna hate, I guess. I’m happy to say I’ve had almost no unpleasant experiences here on the ‘gram, however. If there’s any way I want it to change, it’s to get bigger! Every single day I see new accounts, people who have just started and wonder if they really belong. The answer is: You do, my friends. We all deserve to be part of a loving community that adores literature.

Who are some of the bookstagrammers who inspire you?

Oh man. Questions like this always make me nervous because I feel like I’m going to forget someone or step on toes, but I’ll do my best not to. From the day I started to this moment, the two most beautiful accounts in the world to me have always been @_halfbl00dprincess and @youngadultbookaddict. In many ways these two have set the gold standard for bookstagram loveliness, and I feel the community has them to thank for its beauty and heart. Other accounts I love include:

@haibooklovers

@bunteschwarzweisswelt

@quoteandquill

@thedarkestpartsofsnow

@outofthebex

@eversaysthis

@therusticwindow

@dropandgivemenerdy

@thebookishcrypt

@bookishgirl89

@booksthetics

@theloonytuney

@lisa_lostinlit

@the.literary.omnivore

What kinds of books do you like to read?

I read mostly young adult science fiction and fantasy. I also like science fiction for older age groups (even though the YA age group spans like 50 years, ha!). Sometimes I love a good classic fantasy, such as The Lord of the Rings or The Sword of Shannara.

What are three key things you look for in a good story?

Excellent storytelling, great mythology, killer romance.

What do you love most about reading, and why do you believe reading is important?

I believe that reading teaches us all sorts of skills, applicable in both academia and the wider world. If you’re a parent or teacher, you know that nothing prepares a child to succeed better than having lots of exposure to language, and reading books is the best way to do that. From books we learn new words (even if, like me as a kid, we’re always mispronouncing them), we learn new ways of thinking about the world and relating to other people, and we learn to be strong. When I read about tough situations the characters are going through, I’m in some sense practicing to go through those scenarios myself. How would I face the Dark Lord? How would I escape from zombies? When would I sacrifice myself for something bigger? The stories we read about others allow us to ask bigger questions about life, love, happiness, success and spirituality. In that sense, books are both an escape from and preparation for real life, which is especially valuable when we’re young.

What’s been your favourite read so far this year?

Oh man, hard to say. I read both The Martian and The Song of Achilles last December, and nothing has compared to either since then. Those stories are both timelessly beautiful and I’m still a little hungover from each. This year, though, Dreamology left a pretty excellent impression on me. I am also just loving The Raven Cycle, because it’s the tits. Sorry, is that appropriate for bookstagram?

What five books should everyone who’s reading this add to their TBR pile?

The Martian

Ender’s Game

The Song of Achilles

The Grisha Trilogy (cheating, I know)

The Blind Watchmaker

What advice would you give to new bookstagrammers?

Stick it out. Starting any social media account is hard. No one likes to talk about it, because it seems kind of counter to the whole “community” thing, but we all crave attention, likes, follows and mastery … and at first it will seem like you’re getting none of them, which can feel discouraging. These things take time. BUT I would be hard pressed to point to an account that worked hard over a period of months to find their style and didn’t achieve all of these things surprisingly quickly. If you really love books, there is absolutely a place for you in this community. Stick around, and before you know it, you’ll be rocking the feed of your dreams.

And finally, where else can we find you talking books? (eg: WordPress, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, mailing list, etc.

Blog: http://www.newleafbooknook.com

Goodreads: newleafwriter

Twitter: newleafwriter

Pinterest: newleafwriter

Pop over to @newleafwriter, say hi to Sarah and see what she’s reading on Instagram.

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