Yes, it's time to think back on the merry month of April and reflect on another A-Z Challenge. This was my fourth year taking part, and this challenge felt different to me for a variety of reasons. I'll get more into those below, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The main thing that comes to mind when I think about this Challenge is "quality over quantity". Not that there weren't vast swathes of quality participants in previous years, but it seemed pretty definite that there were less signups this year - the old linky list was hitting over 2000 but there only seemed to be around 300 daily comments on each Challenge blog post. Now of course, we have to account for the fact that many of those 2000 would drop off throughout the month, and that more than 300 might have been participating but just not leaving their daily comment (in which case, it would be that much harder to find them). Even so, this year felt more cosy. Manageable. Petite, perhaps. I felt like I had time to really take in what each person was saying and leave a considered response, rather than skim reading in a frantic effort to get to as many posts as possible. And this isn't to say I was short of people to meet during the Challenge. On the contrary, I met some wonderful writers who broadened my mind with amazing facts, made me laugh with some whacked-out stories, moved me with stunning poetry or inspired me with some uplifting quotes. I hope to nurture these connections by getting to know these people even better over the coming months and years, and in the end that's worth much more than just hitting high numbers of posts with one-off comments. I'll give a shout out to some of my favourite themes below.
Other thoughts: While I am very happy with how the Challenge went, I'm not entirely sold on the daily linkup list yet. I think it made it harder to meet more people as I kept running up against the same ones every day. With the old list, you could just keep working your way down, and although there would be many that had stopped taking part, you just closed that blog and moved on to the next. I definitely didn't manage to meet five new people every day, but as outlined above, that didn't take too much away from the experience. At the moment, I'm not sure what the best way forward is, but I realise that maintaining the giant list places too great a burden on the Challenge hosts.
Another thing is that perhaps if you comment too late on the daily post, less people are likely to see your link. Each post seemed to go up the day before that for the letter concerned, and I noticed a lot of participants doing this too; was this to post their link as early as possible? I tried to stick to posting at 5am GMT on each day, but I was often later than this; that was entirely my fault though, as I didn't have all the posts prewritten ahead of time. In fact, for the final week they were done on the fly. Definitely an area of improvement for next year!
In terms of commenting issues, I didn't notice anything too bad. Captcha seems to pretty much have been stamped out. The only thing I noticed were some comment systems were linked to Facebook and required you to respond to an email for the address you sign in to Facebook with. Unfortunately for me, that's my old address, which I don't check any more. Again, that's a failing on my part for not updating things, but I still think having to go and check your emails before being able to leave a comment is unreasonable.
Okay, I think that's my main thoughts dealt with. I didn't mean for this to get so long! Now it's time to give some props to some of my favourite bloggers and themes. Some were new to me, others I'd met before. Inevitably I'm going to forget some people, for which I apologise in advance. Some I might not even have got to that many posts - I suffered some issues towards the end of the month that affected my participation slightly, but I'm getting back on track now - but I enjoyed what I read all the same.
Megan Morgan - 26 Things to Hate about Writing. A brilliantly funny theme, lambasting all the pitfalls of being a writer in a deliciously sarcastic manner.
Debbie D, the Doglady's Den - Musical Memories. Just what it says, some of the author's enduring memories and the musical moments that soundtracked those times. Funny and sometimes poignant.
Shalini, Kohl-Eyed Me - Travel experiences in Thailand. Stories and advice about visiting this wonderful country. I've only spent five days in Bangkok and now I want to experience much more.
Nilanjana Bose, Madly-in-Verse - Brilliantly informative posts about Arabic culture, soundtracked by some excellent music. I felt educated by every post I read.
Pamela and Ken's Days of Fun - A tour around the Highlands of Scotland from a couple who moved there last year. They've packed a lot in already and collated some great posts about the quirky sights and experiences to be found in this beautiful region.
Debbie, My Random Musings - Motivational quotes for each day of April.
John Davis Frain - One of the most brilliant themes out there, the author got killed by an outlandish method corresponding to each letter before being resurrected for another unfortunate demise the next day. Just sorry I didn't get to more posts.
A Tarkabarka Holgy, The Multicolored Diary - Weird Things in Folktales. Bizarre and often grisly tales from around the world.
Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles - Dragon Diaries. A dragon for each letter of the alphabet. Some great flash fiction and characters.
Carrie-Anne, Onomastics Outside the Box - A walk through some of the weird and wonderful characters from (mostly) Greek mythology.
Anna Tan, Deeply Shallow - Cute and whimsical stories about the misadventures of various princesses.
True North Bricks - Of course I was going to follow a theme about Lego. Pure fun.
Rae Squiggle, The Quiet Writer - Very educational theme about Britain's abbeys and cathedrals.
C.D. Gallant-King, Stories I Found in the Closet - The surprisingly weird history of Canada.
Anmol Rawat - Delightfully creepy flash fiction. Again, I'm sorry I didn't get to more of these.
Click's Clan - Touching and often funny letters to the author's frozen embryos.
Darla M. Sands - Excellent musical selections.
Patricia Lynne - Flash fiction based on unusual words.
Keith's Ramblings - An entertaining introduction to the eccentric residents of the village of Amble Bay.
All in all, I really enjoyed taking part this year, and I'm already getting ready for 2018. How about you? Did you take part and, if not, would you consider doing so next year?
More Reflections posts can be found here.