It’s a testament to Dewey’s impact and legacy that so many of you, the hundreds of readers from all over the world who are getting ready to read for 24 hours this coming Saturday and Sunday, never got the chance to meet her. Dewey was better at bringing people together than anyone I’ve come across before or since — which is why we’re all here today, nearly six years after her passing.
Let me start with some introductions: my name is Ana, I’ve been blogging at things mean a lot for a little over seven years, and I had the enormous pleasure of being Dewey’s friend. I co-hosted the Read-a-thon with her in its early days, and I was also one of the bloggers involved in making sure it kept going after we lost her — which gave me a deep appreciation of just how much work Dewey (and now Andi and Heather) put into making sure everything runs smoothly and everyone has fun on the day.
And now comes the hard bit, in which I attempt to introduce Dewey to those of you who didn’t get to meet her: she blogged at the hidden side of a leaf (and also at Snippets, where you can find some of her entries from the October 2008 read-a-thon), she started the read-a-thon in 2007, and she turned it into a huge success before her passing in November 2008. Her blog is no longer online, but between Snippets and the Wayback Machine link I provided above, you can get a feel for the kind person she was: a passionate reader, an incredibly smart and funny writer, and someone who truly wanted to bring people together so they could have the nerdiest, most fun virtual slumber party imaginable. Dewey was one of the most inclusive people I’ve ever known. She was kind in a no-nonsense sort of way, full of empathy, and genuinely interested in creating the kind of online community where you’re reminded of other people’s humanity at every turn. I feel lucky that I started blogging at around the same time as she did, because she did so much that made me feel part of the bookish community. That’s a huge part of why I’m still here all these years later. She knew that exchanging exhaustion- and enthusiasm-fuelled caps locks read-a-thon comments at two in the morning was a great way to bond and make friends. She knew the value of reaching out to others, and she helped me become so much braver when it comes to putting myself out there. Thanks to Dewey and to those early read-a-thons, I met or strengthened my ties with people I still count among my dearest friends today.
Whether you’re a reader, a cheerleader, or both, I hope you’ll have a wonderful time on Saturday. Even if you spend most of your time reading (as I probably will this year), the shared experience of the read-a-thon matters: it’s a first step, a point of entry into a whole community of passionate readers, and who knows where that first step might lead. Who knows if the person you spot reading your favourite book and exchange a quick tweet with in the exhausted brain fog of hour 22 might eventually become your new bookish BFF? And even if all you get out of the social side of the read-a-thon is the warm fuzzy feeling of being part of the aforementioned nerdy virtual slumber party with a bunch of enthusiastic strangers, well, that’s far from nothing. It’s a meaningful shared experience in a world where they’re not always easy to come by.
Enjoy the read-a-thon, everyone. I know Dewey would be thrilled if she could see us today.