Spotlight Iowa City: Student, enchanted by literature, creates blog

BY EMILY BUSSE | MARCH 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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Ash Bruxvoort discovered a zest for reading as a curious preschooler who perched herself every morning in the kitchen, a children’s book (or newspaper) at hand, reading aloud while waiting for breakfast.

“My whole life, my passion was reading and writing,” said Bruxvoort, a 20-year-old with wavy hair and a contagious laugh. “I’ve wanted to be an English major ever since I knew what a major was.”

Now, the University of Iowa sophomore, who reads at least two books a week, shares her fervor for literature with the world. She’s spearheading her own blog, English Major’s Junk Food, which is chock-full of literary reviews, book suggestions, and commentary on life as an English major for 78 followers.

With such weekly features as “Sunday Salon,” “Ash’s bookshelf,” and videos of her reading children’s books, her blog discusses reading in all forms.

Bruxvoort explained that she launched her blog “to encourage people not to get caught up and just reading the books that are assigned in classes or already deemed worthy of you to read. … Read what you want to read, not because this is what someone says you should be reading.”

Although she originally started the blog to encourage herself to read more, she said, it could be useful as part of a résumé for a future career. Her former roommate, sophomore MacKenzie Elmer, said she has always been astounded by Bruxvoort’s work ethic.

“She’s going places,” said Elmer, 20, noting Bruxvoort works two jobs and several volunteer positions.

Bruxvoort’s nonfiction professor, Kisha Schlegel, agrees, lauding Bruxvoort for being a talented writer as well as “wickedly funny.” The blog is a way to discuss literature in a less-structured forum, Schlegel said.

“Blogs can also allow writers the freedom to play with language and interpretation in ways they might not do in a more formal essay,” Schlegel wrote in an e-mail.

According to Forbes.com, independent literary blogs such as Bruxvoort’s have changed how books are discussed and sold.

Throughout school, the Altoona, Iowa, native said she has moved from creative writing to journalism to nonfiction, but found English to be her passion. Her boyfriend of two years, sophomore Jason Scholbrock, an engineering major, said though he feels “pretty stupid when it comes to all these books,” he’s happy to tag along to literary readings with her.

Bruxvoort can boast about her global audience.

Followers hail from New York, California, Sweden, the Philippines, Wales, and as far as Japan. The sense of community among readers is an aspect she especially enjoys.

“It makes the world feel smaller to me,” Bruxvoort said.

She has received a lot of feedback from other bloggers as well. Some promote her on their own sites, and she has received around eight online awards.

But perhaps the best perk? Free books.

Publishers and authors send her unreleased books to review on her blog. Some are good, and others not so much, she said, pulling one from her backpack with a morose-looking dog on the cover.

Although she receives a small percentage of books sold on Amazon through a link on her blog, she has only garnered $2 from the feature.

It’s not really about the money anyway.

“I just want to celebrate the books that I like,” Bruxvoort said.

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