Novel Novice’s Fantastic Fives Q&A + Contest

5 Year Anniversary_Banner
Earlier this year, we celebrated our 5-year blog anniversary (actually, we’ll be SIX in January!!!) … but we’re not the only blog celebrating five years in 2015. In fact, we’ve teamed up with several other blogs — thanks to the organizing wizardry of Amber at Me, Myshelf & I and Jaime at Two Chicks on Books — to celebrate the FANTASTIC FIVES.

Fantastic Fives - Novel Novice
Below, find out a little bit more about Novel Novice, enter to win our Fantastic Fives contest, and check out the other blogs celebrating five years with us!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

sara book profile photoI’m Sara. I live in the Portland, Oregon area with my husband, Derek. I’ve lived here since 2001 — almost half my life now, though I grew up in Northern California and moved to Oregon with my family after graduating high school. I live about 15 minutes away from my parents, as well as my brother, sister-in-law, and their daughter — my adorable niece!

My “day job” is selling printing and promotional products with my dad at our family business. It’s pretty cool when my day job crosses over with blogging, and I’m able to produce swag for authors or publishers. (And even cooler when I receive publicity mailings featuring stuff I helped make!) Before working for my dad, I was actually a writer and a producer for local TV news.

I’m also a huge advocate for literacy, and am on the Associate Board for SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) — a statewide nonprofit here in Oregon that pairs volunteer readers with children in PreK-3rd grade classes.

How did you get started blogging?

I started blogging on a sister website (now retired), called Novel Novice Twilight, which was started by YA author and teacher Tiffany Truitt, as a way to chronicle how she was using the Twilight series to engage her students in the classroom. I LOVED what she was doing, and so when she put out a call for help running the website, I jumped at the opportunity. (It didn’t hurt that, at the time, I worked a graveyard shift, so I had lots of free time during the day to help out.)

That's me at the Official Twilight Convention in Portland, OR in 2009 -- just a few months before would be born.
That’s me presenting at the Official Twilight Convention in Portland, OR in 2009 — just a few months before would be born.

Novel Novice Twilight went strong for quite a few years, before the Twilight series started to wind down. Novel Novice, in its current form, was born out of a desire to feature other books — and show, like Tiffany did with Twilight, how popular YA books could be used to tie into education.

I actually brainstormed the ideas for Novel Novice with my dad during a road trip almost six years ago to the day. (Thanks Facebook, for those reminders!) I drove, and he scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad. I purchased the domain name and started building the site offline as soon as we got home, and we went live a couple months later, in January 2010.

With my dad during our road trip in November 2009, during which we brainstormed Novel Novice.
With my dad during our road trip in November 2009, during which we brainstormed Novel Novice.

How did you pick the name for your blog?

I took our blog name directly from our sister site, Novel Novice Twilight — since I planned to leverage our massive following there to promote the new site. (Something I did with the blessing of NNT founder Tiffany, for the record.)

If you could go back in time and tell your newbie blogger self 1 thing what would it be?

Photo by Candace Robinson
Photo by Candace Robinson

I would tell her that book blogging is a thing! When I started Novel Novice, I had no idea about the book blogging world. I thought I was creating “a website” — my exact words — to showcase YA literature, and how it could be used to tie into education and required reading in the classroom. It wasn’t until I was all-in that I discovered book blogging was “a thing” and embraced the term.

What have you learned in your 5 years of blogging?

That some of my best friends are miles away — but books can still connect us! Seriously, I’ve met some of the most amazing people through blogging — and my only regret is that we don’t live closer together and/or that a fast, Star Trek-style “beam me up” mode of transportation doesn’t exist (yet).

Blogger & author buddies!
Blogger & author buddies!

I’ve also learned my limits. When I first started blogging, I did a LOT. I mean, a LOT. Seriously. But I was also single, and working a graveyard shift that left me a ton of free time during the day, when my other friends were working. (And let’s be honest, I also did a lot of blogging — and my social media connections — when I was at work, because I could produce that morning newscast in my sleep.) But when I met my now-husband and started working for my dad, a lot of that free time disappeared. Then life happened: we got married, we bought a house, we became an aunt and uncle. As my life has progressed and changed, I’ve had to learn to adapt to my new world and my new limitations. I’m still learning, frankly. I do too much, and I’m often “behind on my blogging” … it’s a work in progress for me, to learn what is a reasonable amount of work for me to take on, and balance what I want to do with what I can do.

I learned you can't maintain your normal level of blogging AND plan a wedding at the same time!
I learned you can’t maintain your normal level of blogging AND plan a wedding at the same time!

What was the first ARC or book you ever received from a publisher?

Oh, gosh. I think the first advanced copy of a book I ever received was actually Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber. I was in college, and had just interviewed Diana (a professor at Portland State) for the school paper, the Vanguard. She had her publisher send me an early copy of the book, and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever. That was pre-blogging, of course.

Once I started blogging, I think the first mailing I ever received from a publisher was a box of ARCs from Sourcebooks Fire — which I don’t even think was called Sourcebooks Fire at the time!

I often post pictures of my #bookmail on my Instagram account, @sgundell
I often post pictures of my #bookmail on my Instagram account, @sgundell

When you’re not reading or blogging, what can we find you doing?

Sleeping. Ha! No, when I’m not eating, sleeping, working, reading, or blogging … you’ll often find me spending time with my husband and our families. We like to have movie nights at home, or check out local seasonal activities, and squeeze in a date night whenever we can. (This weekend we’re going to Swashbuckler’s Ball, which is known casually as “the pirate prom of Portland.”) I also love getting to see my niece — she’s about three-and-a-half months old now — and squish her chubby cheeks.

My squishy niece in the Novel Novice onesie I made her.
My squishy niece in the Novel Novice onesie I made her.

And as if blogging and reading weren’t enough hobbies, I’m also super crafty. I love sewing, making jewelry, and working on other DIY projects. I like baking (and eating said baked goods). My husband and I bought a new house this summer, and I’ve also really enjoyed decorating it and making it our home.

The new bookshelves my husband helped me build when we moved into our new house this summer.
The new bookshelves my husband helped me build when we moved into our new house this summer.

The Fives: (and yes, you can ONLY have 5! *muwhahahah*)

Five Favorite Books

  1. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  5. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Five Favorite Book Boyfriends

  1. Cassel from Holly Black’s Curse Workers series
  2. Paul Markov from A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (The Firebird Trilogy)
  3. Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare
  4. Will Parry from His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  5. Edward Cullen from the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer (YEAH, I KNOW. Whatever. These are all fictional dudes, and none of them would be perfect, it’s called fantasy & escapism for a reason, come on.)

Five Favorite Book Quotes

amber spyglass* FUN FACT! This quote was used as a reading at our wedding. The photo in the background of the above image was taken by Lauren Zurchin Photography.

clockwork** FUN FACT #2: I used part of this quote in my wedding vows. We had a very literary wedding ceremony, it seems.

hp dh
Five Blogging Tips For New Bloggers

  1. Don’t start blogging for free books or other free stuff. If that’s why you’re blogging, you’re in it for the WRONG reason.
  2. Be willing to put in the work, time, and effort to earn your following. Pay your dues, put together a good blog with good content and a good following, and the rewards will follow.
  3. Blog about what you love. Don’t force it. Blogging should be FUN!
  4. Be open to the book blogging community. I have made some of the BESTEST friends through book blogging. It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve gotten out of blogging, and also the most unexpected. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
  5. Find the tools that work best for you. Personally, I’ve been really happy using, Google docs, and Rafflecopter — but to each his own.

Five Blogs You Want The World To Know About

1. Candace’s Book Blog
Candace is one of the kindest, hardest-working people I know. She’s a local blogger for me, which means we get to actually hang out in person with some regularity. I’m so grateful we’ve become friends over the years.

2. Emily’s Reading Room
Emily is one of the first bloggers I met when I attended my first BEA (Book Expo America), and she really helped show me the ropes at the conference. We’ve stayed in touch virtually ever since, and I hope we cross paths in person again someday.

3. Book Chic Club
James is one of the nicest, smartest fellows around — and his blog is always filled with genuine reviews and his signature kindness. I first met James at BEA, and anytime I’m able to chat with him about books and life on Twitter or Facebook is a real treat.

4. Vy’s Book Blog
I met Vy several years ago at a book event here in Portland. At the time, she was a shy 8th grader with a passion for reading — and when she introduced herself to me, and asked for a photo together, she told me she was such a huge fan of Novel Novice that she was inspired to start her own blog! Though activity on her blog is sparse right now, it’s for a good reason: Vy just started college, and I feel like a proud mama bear!

5. Dads Who Diaper
I know, this one is not a book blog — but it’s a pretty fantastic parenting blog that’s geared towards dad, and was co-founded by my friend and former co-worker Chad. We’ve had some fun chances to partner up, and they are strong advocates for reading!

This was probably the hardest “5” question you’ve asked of me — there are SO MANY amazing blogs and bloggers out there. I ask forgiveness, friends, to those of you I haven’t mentioned here. I really do love you all.

Novel Novice’s Fantastic Fives Contest

To celebrate our five-year anniversary, and our participation in the Fantastic Fives, we’re offering up a sweet prize pack to one lucky winner!

The prize pack will include: copies of Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray, Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick, and Endure by Sara B. Larson, as well as a Novel Novice “Book Nerd” tote bag, a “Keep Calm & Read a Book” print, a complete set of Novel Novice buttons, plus bookmarks and assorted swag.

fantastic fives nn prize pack

To enter, tell us in the comments below what you LOVE about Novel Novice. Be specific. We love your kind words. 😉

(And also, yeah, we’re looking to reward genuine followers of Novel Novice, not just random people entering to win a prize. Prove to us that you KNOW Novel Novice.)

Once you’ve commented, fill out the Rafflecopter form here to complete your entry!

Contest is open to the U.S. only. Contest runs through midnight (PT) on Friday, November 20th.



18 thoughts on “Novel Novice’s Fantastic Fives Q&A + Contest

Add yours

  1. I love Novel Novice! Y’all were one of the first blogs I started to follow when I was really getting into the YA scene years ago. You have always had great posts, and I have gotten lots of my TBR books from your posts. You have great unique giveaways that are always fun. And I love the desktop calendars you put out every year!

  2. I have been following your blog for about a year now! Your blog is one of the blogs that got me really interested in blogging! 🙂 I’m a huge fan of your Book Of The Month feature! I love all the spotlights you have on the BOTM and it’s really exciting when it’s a book I’m really looking forward to!

  3. I love how you have contests that aren’t just Rafflecopter giveaways. I’ve participated in a couple of your writing contests and I’ve actually surprised myself with what I’ve written. Thanks for making us step outside the box! 🙂

  4. I love how you have contests that aren’t just Rafflecopter giveaways. I’ve participated in a couple of your writing contests and I’ve actually surprised myself with what I’ve written. Thanks for making us step outside the box! 🙂

  5. I have been follow you guys for a year now and love the chance for writing contest and the Q&A. My favorite so far has to be Black Widow and that I get more info about an author. Plus the desktop wallpaper for Eleanor and Park, Miss Peregrine’s Home for PC, and Black Widow. P.S I really this year Holiday Shopping Guide is to us look for the best book to buy someone.

  6. The reviews and spotlights are just two of the things I love about Novel Novice, especially in the Middle Grade and YA sections. As someone who’s very picky when it comes to books, I’ve come to trust Novel Novice recommendations!

  7. This is the first book blog I followed and it got me into all the many others I follow today as well. 🙂 I love your roundups of recently published books and how closely you seem to work with the industry/fans. You’re just so friendly and personable.

  8. I love that you are not ashamed to say that you still love Edward Cullen! I do as well, always will, no matter what anyone says about the books. I loved them, and like you said, it’s fiction!

  9. This was one of the first book blogs I started following when I found out that book blogging was a thing. I really enjoy the book of the month feature and it has been a constant inspiration when updating my wish lists for book shopping. I also enjoy the writing contests. I haven’t really noticed any other blogs hosting them. You have always been at the top of my blog roll and I am happy that I found you! Thanks for everything you do!

  10. I just love finding new books to read on your blog posts and seeing what is out there. I like reading the reviews. Thank you for this amazing chance! 🙂

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