If you are joining us for the first time, you might have some questions about how to get started. The FAQ is a great resource, but this post is the tl;dr version, the things MsWas and I want you to know and the answers to questions we get asked a lot. Feel free to ask other questions (or answer them) in the comments below.
The Most Important Point We Want Every Cannonballer to Know
MsWas: Don’t be put off by other Cannonballers’ totals, every review is valuable. Despite our Battle Royale/Cannonball Run origins, Cannonball Read isn’t really a race, it’s a challenge; a challenge to yourself to meet the reading goal you set, and a challenge to us all to raise money to fight cancer. (I’ll cheat and add another one: please also remember that you do not have to post a review of every book you read during the year. See: review amnesty FAQ.)
Emmalita: Read what you like and review in your style. Don’t be embarrassed by what you like to read, and don’t get too hung up on trying to be being witty and insightful.
Our Tips on Starting a Review
One of the most frequent comments we get about why Cannonballers haven’t written a review is that the empty screen won’t fill itself. Here are our suggestions:
MsWas: Start the process early on–before writing a word of your review, take a few notes as you are reading. Don’t make it detailed, just jot down feelings, questions, or confusing sections. (Emmalita: or have a conversation in your head with yourself!) By the time you get to the end, you’ll have a lot of things to expand on in a review, and if you have to get back to writing at a later date, you’ll still have those on-the-spot impressions.
Emmalita: Here’s my formula for writing reviews. Adapt or discard as you choose:
- Tell us why you chose the book–gift, author you love, good blurb, interesting cover, for school, found at bus stop?
- Did you like the book?
- What’s it about? If you are at a loss for how to describe it, what does the back of the book description say? You can quote or paraphrase.
- Say more about what you did or didn’t like, anything that has stuck with you. Is there a quote you really liked?
- Wrap it up with final thoughts, and you have yourself a review that’s easily 250 words long.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (or the Medium Stuff)
We never want Cannonballers to sweat over anything; none of this should be horribly stressful or agonizing. There’s no crying in CBR! Still, there are always a few things that, while minor, we both try to mention to newbies.
MsWas: Please italicize your book titles…and movie titles…and TV shows, too! (FYI: If I’m not sure on a point, I refer to the Chicago Manual of Style.) Italicizing titles is good form, and it really helps visually to parse out the titles of works to which you are making comparisons.
Emmalita: There are no dumb questions, and we try to make it easy for you to contact us. The contact form will connect you with MsWas and now also with me. The Facebook Book Chat group has so many people who can answer questions. You can also DM us on any of our social media accounts. We send out a newsletter every month that has lots of info, and we do several Zooms a year. We have one this Saturday evening at 7 pm Eastern – Office Hours with MsWas.
MsWas: That’s right, I’ll be holding a Zoom session! If you’re registered for this year, check your email for the details and link. If you’re not registered for this year, get going and fill out the step 1 registration!
And another bit of wisdom Emmalita would like to share: Commenting on reviews is an important part of our community. However, there are a lot of reasons why a review may not get comments, and pandemic stress can factor into that. I promise your reviews are being read, even when it may not seem like it.
Now About You
Speaking of comments, now it’s time to get to it: please take a moment to ask questions or share what’s worked for you in past Cannonballs in the comments. And if you know the answer to a question, please feel free to respond.
(If you have a question or comment that you prefer not to post publicly, please reach out via our contact form.)