For those who never had the chance to know her, Dewey was the person behind the blog the hidden side of a leaf. The hidden side of a leaf has been down for some time, but you can still read Dewey’s personal blog, Snippets. Dewey started her main blog in March 2007 and remained very prolific until she passed away on the 25th of November 2008. This year and a half was more than enough for her to have a spectacular and lasting impact on our community: she started Weekly Geeks, the 24-Hour Read-a-thon, and the Bookworms Carnival, events that are still around today. She hosted reading challenges devoted to graphic novels, Printz Award winners, and Booker Prize winners. She had a talent for bringing people together, and she would successfully encourage even the most shy of us to come out of our shells. She was approachable, generous, and of course, very passionate about books. As four of the several bloggers she befriended, we wanted to take some time to remember not only Dewey the superblogger, but also Dewey the person and Dewey the friend.
This is Chris! Personally, I didn’t know Dewey as long as everyone else seems to, but she made a lasting impact on me right away. She was one of those bloggers that you just connect with and you know you have a good friend from the first time you laid eyes upon her blog. She was so warm and welcoming and she had a sense of humor that was just refreshing. I first met Dewey about three months before the first 24 hour read-a-thon, so I only had the privilege of knowing her for about a year and a half. I remember the first time she left a comment on my blog, I was so excited. And she was so sweet. I really got to know her better during and after the first read-a-thon. I remember her encouraging me to participate even though I hadn’t officially joined and she stopped by my blog all day to see how I was doing! I loved Dewey’s sense of humor, her passion for worthwhile causes, her love of literature and all things related to books. So many, many things. She was just an all around wonderful person. She inspires me still and I suspect she always will. She showed me the Printz Award, and for that I’ll always be grateful! I had never even heard of the Printz before I met her and I’ve read some amazing books that have been the recipient of that one…and they all make me think of her now. I think she inspires me most in letting me know that life is a precious thing that should be lived every day. She certainly made the most of her too few years here on Earth with us. She also reinforced the idea that the best thing to do when blogging is just to be yourself. She was so honest and sincere in all of her posts. I felt like I was having coffee with a friend when I was at her blog, and I try to do the same thing with my blog now. Another thing I’ll remember about Dewey was her wonderfully eclectic taste in books! She singlehandedly added SO many books to my TBR pile and it still makes me smile whenever I pick something up that was suggested by her. They’re never bad books! I think the first book I read that she recommended to me was Bonk by Mary Roach and oddly enough, I’ll always think of Dewey when I think of that book :p I think Dewey would like that in an odd sort of way. Miss you Dewey! You’re always loved and always with us!
(It’s Renay! Writing long paragraphs! tl;dr time! That’s okay, Dewey liked my tl;dr time!)
I met Dewey in April of 2007 when I started my first book blog on LiveJournal, then moved to self-hosting. I closed both down because I had Too Many Journals, but she stuck with me. My attachment to Dewey was less I-became-her-friend, and more Hi-it’s-me-again-remember-me-it’s-Dewey! She was the first book blogger to make an effort to come to Livejournal. I’m not kidding when I say LiveJournal is a PARIAH, but she crossed the streams for me over and over and over again: she learned how to comment, she installed confusing things, she would not give up. When she passed, I was really missing interacting with her out in BookLand, so I was thinking of restarting a review blog on my domain; I kept waiting for her to get online and give her the news and badger her for ideas.
Therefore, in a lot of ways, YA Fabulous! as a review blog exists because of Dewey; she would have said YES, DO IT and WHO CARES WHAT THE NAME IS JUST START.
She anchored me in the book community when I felt fabulously unwelcome by the nature of my publishing tool and the amount of expletives I used when I posted. More than anything, Dewey didn’t care about barriers, unless it was to stomp them down and bring people together, regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or number of cock jokes per entry. That’s more than inspiration to me. It’s something I can’t name, or explain. She always trusted my voice and wanted me to shine; she always told me I would fit in if I reached out and people would like me even though I’m blunt and swear like a pirate and have the sense of humor of a twelve year old. She was right. I feel like sticking around with all her friends, making them my friends, helps me keep the promise I made to her to at least try: to be outgoing, to be friendly, to be honest. She was all of these qualities, and I want to live up to the standards she set. Blogging about books isn’t simply blogging about books anymore—it stopped being just that for me last December. It’s also about a good friend who loved YA literature with me, who wanted more awesome stories, and who I keep with me by talking about them with other people. It’s about the friend who told me I had a gift for writing, and to not let it go to waste, and encouraged me and offered me money to stay home and start my novel. Everything I do here, with books, with reading, will forever be touched by her. If there was something Dewey was great at, it was Encouragement, complete with pom-poms.
True facts: she shook a mean virtual pom-pom!
Debi here. You know, I must have met Dewey at about the same time as you did, Chris. It was a couple months before the very first read-a-thon. Truth? At first I was so intimidated by her! But you know, the same can be said of all of you…hmmm…revelation time…those who intimidated me most have become my closest friends in the world. Seems as if there’s a lesson there, huh? And a lesson Dewey would be very proud of me for learning, I’m sure.
But why did she intimidate me? Aside from the fact that I’m a wimp (to use Ana’s word). She was so damn intelligent. And she cared about the same stuff I cared about…only she wasn’t afraid to talk about it. But she never did so in a way that would turn anyone off. I admit that at first I didn’t comment a lot on her blog because I would get so tongue-tied and not know what to say. I figured she’d think I was really creepy if I just kept saying, “Yes! You’re absolutely brilliant! Why can’t I put things into words like you can?” And she not only read a mind-boggling amount of books, she read such a wonderful, rich variety of books. Someday I should seriously count the number of books on my shelves thanks to her.
Anyway, luckily I finally wised up. I began commenting more and more. The more I talked with her, the more I realized what an idiot I was. (How many times do I have to relearn this same lesson anyway?!!) It turned out we had a lot in common. (Of course, she was still smarter and more well-spoken and way cooler than me.) And really it didn’t take long to see that Dewey wasn’t just intelligent and together and cool. No, she was probably the kindest, most giving, most caring, most beautiful-to-the-very-core person on the planet. She was generosity personified. On every level. I think we all were the recipients of her selfless acts on a personal level. And as priceless as that is to me, and I’m sure to each of you as well, there was so much more to her giving. You know, it’s bittersweet to think of the impact she still has on the book blogging world today. In ways, she’s a part of people’s lives who never even knew her! And, of course, to all the many who did know and love her, too. Even watching her in action, actually seeing the things she managed to accomplish, it’s still hard to believe that any one person could be such a dynamo! But what made everything she did so incredible was the spirit of openness and inclusion and welcome for all. Renay, I just love so much what you said about her smashing down barriers…seriously, you just said it perfectly! And I swear I can picture her in my head in superhero costume doing just that. 😀 (I did offer to sew her a superhero costume once, because honestly that’s how I saw her.)
I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve her incredible gift of friendship, but I do know that I will forever treasure it. Just as I treasure my friendships will all of you, friendships that Dewey helped to grow. And I know that we’re not alone…Dewey’s friendship helped brighten a lot of lives in this big old blogging world.
Nymeth: Dewey probably inspired me more than any other blogger. Very often, the things she wrote or the way she acted would make me go, Yes! This is how I want to be when I grow up. Except, of course, that I have already grown up. Only I’ve always had a bit of a tendency to let my fears get in the way of being the person I want to be. Dewey was not afraid though – or rather, that’s not the point. The point is that even if she was, she didn’t let it get in the way of being herself. She reached out, she was welcoming and friendly (I love what Renay said about how she was all about stomping on barriers), and she spoke her mind about the things she cared about. And people liked her anyway. They liked her all the more because she was so completely herself.
So I decided to try too. During my first few months as a blogger I was pretty reluctant, but Dewey was one of the people whose example encouraged me to force myself out of my shell. She made me stop worrying that I might be rejected because of my views or opinions; because of being me, really. I think I became, even if in a small way, a better person and a better blogger because I met her. I never really told her she’d had such a big impact on me, but you know what, I think that’s okay. For Dewey, doing things was its own reward. Still, I have to wonder if she knew just how good she was at making others feel encouraged, welcomed, and at ease. I have never met anyone quite like her in that regard.
And I haven’t even started telling you about the impact she had on my reading life. Like Chris, I think she was the one to introduce me to the Printz Award. I know for a fact that it was through her that I discovered John Green and Meg Rosoff, two authors I now love with all my heart. Also, she got so many people to read comics and graphic novels for the first time! She’d be my hero for that alone. We might not have had the exact same taste (unlike me, she wasn’t too crazy about fantasy), but I always knew that any book with the Dewey Stamp of Approval was a book worth my time. Even today, whenever I finish a book she recommended, I do a search on my google reader so I can reader her thoughts on it again – this happened twice recently, with Alias Grace and Copper Sun. I so wish I could tell her I read those books, and thank her for what is almost always a great discovery. I just miss talking to her, and I often wonder what she’d think of the books the blogging world has been discussing this year. Tender Morsels, for example: I’d love to have had the chance to talk about it with her.
She will always be missed, but I’m so grateful I had the chance to know her, even if for a short period of time. You were the best, Dewey.
I think what we’ve seen here is that we all have our own unique memories of Dewey, but there’s one uniting thread…that she was a warm person, a caring person, an open and accepting person. She made everyone feel welcomed and comfortable right away and she made each of us feel special. I can’t help but see Dewey as this wonderful community builder who started so many friendships and traditions without even meaning to. It was just part of who she was. So we extend an invitation to everyone who was lucky enough to have known her…what are your memories of Dewey? Feel free to share them with us in the comments! There’s bound to be tons of great stories For those who never knew Dewey, you can visit the Weekly Geeks site and read some of the wonderful tributes that were written in the weeks after she passed.