A Conversation with Sarah Taviani of Commas and Ampersands

Sarah Taviani, Commas and Ampersands, Bookstagram, Instagram, book reviewer, book rep, writer, author, interview, books

Today on the blog, I’ve got an interview with Sarah Taviani! Sarah is the woman behind the blog and bookstagram account Commas and Ampersands. If you don’t already know her, go check out her out! I love her stunning pictures and her book reviews – plus, she’s got some of the best book-related outfits. Everyone dressed up in Hogwarts robes to celebrate the launch of The Cursed Child, but Sarah came dressed as a Golden Snitch! That was a totally awesome move, IMO. Plus, if you go to her Instagram account, you can check out the beautiful GOT dragon’s eggs she makes. I’m blown away by her creativity!

When Sarah isn’t creating dragon’s eggs that the Mother of Dragons would covet or posting gorgeous bookstagram pics, she works at Styles Magazine and also writes in her spare time. Read on to find out more about her!  

Hi, Sarah, and welcome to The Salonniere’s Apartments! I thought we’d start by getting you to tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you for having me! I’m a 24 years old and I live in Brisbane, Australia. My father works for a multinational bank so until I was nine years old I lived abroad in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands. TV options were pretty limited so reading became a big part of my life and it has stayed that way ever since!

I adore the Commas and Ampersands Instagram account and blog! How did you first get involved with the Bookstagram community?

My sister raved about Instagram for ages before I joined—at first I thought it was just a place for people to post selfies, which wasn’t something I was interested in. After I eventually caved to peer pressure and signed up, I started finding all of these beautiful Bookstagram accounts that I wanted to connect with. I ended up making a public Instagram exclusively for my books right before my trip to America in 2014 and loved it so much I never really went back to using my personal account.

In your day job, you’re a sub-editor and journalist with Style Magazines. It sounds like a terrific job! How did you get the job and what’s it like?

I kind of fell into my job at Style! I was working part-time as a stenographer for the courts in Australia when a friend contacted me and asked if I wanted to become a sub-editor for their company. I jumped at the chance—I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing, and a Master of Arts in Writing, Editing and Publishing so a job as an editor was perfect for me.

I won’t lie—working at Style can be difficult and hectic because there’s so much going on. I edit documents for the entire company, which includes the monthly magazine, the daily digital platform, seasonal magazines that are distributed to shopping centres, and various client papers. I also work closely with the head of our digital department, maintaining the website and uploading content.

Does your day job have an influence on how you style your blog and Instagram account?

I’m in a bit of a sluggish blogging stage at the moment (I’m far too addicted to Instagram, really) but as far as Instagram goes, not at all! Style is a lifestyle magazine with an emphasis on fashion and my Instagram account is far nerdier than that. They’re definitely two very different worlds.

What are your top three social media tips?

Post regularly, interact with your followers (and the people you follow), and always have a goal to work towards. For me, social media is all about making friends around the world so there has to be some give and take. I’m not a celebrity so I can’t expect to receive new followers, comments and likes if I don’t engage enthusiastically with the people who are providing those things.

What do you look for when you’re writing a review for a book? Does knowing you’re going to review the book later on change the way you tackle reading it?

I feel like I’ve been subconsciously reviewing books since high school English class so the way I read something doesn’t really change. There are, however, times when I make the conscious choice not to review a book because I either don’t feel like I can comment on the material or because I really didn’t like it.

You’re a fan of YA novels. What is it about this genre that draws you to it?

This is such a tough question! I honestly don’t know what draws me to the genre. I just know that the stories speak to me on a level that adult fiction hasn’t yet managed. It might also be because in YA novels it seems like anything is possible. There’s no ‘Oh, I have to turn up to work tomorrow’ or ‘Wait, I need a babysitter.’ The characters are free to embark on an adventure without worrying too much about how it will impact them in the real world.

You’ve spoken a little on your blog about writing and you also did Nanowrimo in 2014! Are you currently working on anything, fiction-wise?

I am! Very, very slowly. I’ve been working on a piece of YA fiction set in Brisbane (where I live) for a while now. I love visiting literary places whenever I go travelling and standing where my favourite characters have stood but Brisbane doesn’t really have that—at least not for the books that I love. And rather than waiting for it to happen, I decided to create it for myself.

What are your three favourites reads so far of 2016?

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas; Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff; and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

What’s a regular day like for you?

On weekdays, I wake at about 6am and post my first Instagram photo of the day, scroll through my feed a bit to catch up on what I’ve missed and reply to comments that have come in overnight. I then get ready and leave the house by 7.30am to catch my bus and train to work (yay for uninterrupted reading time!). I work from 8.30am to 5pm (usually a little later, though, since we’re always busy) and then head home to relax, read some more and prepare my Instagram posts for the next day.

Weekends are usually spent taking photos for the next week while there’s still good light and running all the errands I never got a chance for during the week.

Finally, what are you currently working on?

I’m working on the YA fiction piece I mentioned earlier, and I’m about to head off on a month-long holiday to England, France and Italy! I’ve spent the last few weekends madly taking photos to make sure I have enough content for Instagram while I’m away. I much prefer organisation and forward-planning rather than getting things done on the fly.

Thanks so much, Sarah, for coming on The Salonniere’s Apartments and sharing your story with us! I’m loving your pictures of your trip abroad on Instagram right now, with amazing shots of literary spots like Winchester Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral. Dear readers, if you want to check them out too (plus pics of dragon’s eggs and books!), do hop onto Sarah’s Instagram account and give her a follow. Or take a peek at her blog, Commas and Ampersands.

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