Word Child’s Triin Vihur On Parenthood And The Books That Changed Her Life

This article first appeared on https://thegracetales.co.uk/ on May 26, 2019.

If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open in the evening long enough to read a few pages of a novel, then you need to follow Word Child on Instagram.

Triin Vihur’s bookstagram account pairs beautifully shot images of books with reviews and literary quotes. Mum to two-year-old Sigrid, she’s a huge advocate of snuggling up with your little ones and making reading fun. It’s enough to make you keep the bedside light on for a few more minutes and finish the chapter…

Words: Katherine Chatfield

You grew up in Estonia. Why did you move to the UK?

I always wanted to go to London or New York. I grew up reading British Vogue. The girls looked similar to me, with brown hair and eyes. In Estonia I felt different – I wasn’t blonde and blue-eyed like the other girls. I always felt the Brits were my people! In 2005 I got a job in a casino in Mayfair, and moved here with no other plans than to enjoy living in a big city. I met Sigrid’s dad David who is from Lewes in Sussex and when she was born in early 2017, we moved here. We’d viewed an old house that hadn’t had any work done on it for 50 years. I fell in love with the light, which is perfect for taking photos. Two years and a total refurbishment later, here we are.

Have you always been a voracious reader?

I’ve loved reading since I was four years old. I loved Master Detective: A Kalle Blomkvist Mysteryby Astrid Lindgren. At about aged 10 I loved the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I read my mum’s Agatha Christie collection and her collection of artist’s biographies. I always had top marks in literature at school but I never studied it even though I loved books. I always thought I’d be a lawyer.

How did Word Child begin?

I studied digital media arts at university in London and graduated in 2011. I loved photography and was always uploading shots on Flickr. I only uploaded shots on Instagram because I thought nobody on Flickr would like them. I noticed another account, an Australian @swellvalleybloodpulse, talking about books was very popular – but she was an academic not a photographer. I thought, ‘I can put up nice photos about the books I’ve read.’ So I started one day in 2014 and never stopped…

Did you expect it to become such a success?

In the beginning I just did it because I enjoyed it. I just posted about the classics that I’d read and the books that had influenced me. But in August last year, I started taking it more seriously. Now I treat it as a job and post every day which means it’s changed a lot. I’ve got more followers and I’m getting some advertising too. It’s very time consuming but I’m really enjoying it.

Is it possible for you to choose a favourite book?

I love the classics. When I first started Word Child I talked a lot about reading The Idiot by Dostoevsky. It helped me grow up – I think my character changed because of reading it. It made me more open and sensitive to the world, more sincere. People initially followed me because I talked about the classics, but as I got more followers it changed; publishers started sending me books and now I hardly read much more contemporary stuff. There’s so much information out there now, and I can see what other people are reading too which is very tempting – I can’t say no to a new, interesting book!

How has motherhood changed your reading habits?

I read much less now! I read four or five books a month – it used to be eight. When Sigrid was a baby I could read while she was feeding, but now it’s only when she naps that I get to sit down. I try and read 20 pages of a book as soon as she has her sleep, but also I have to fit in taking photos in that time too, so it’s a constant juggle.

What has motherhood taught you?

To trust my instincts. We are older parents – I was 40 and David was 53 when Sigrid was born, so I felt really ready to devote our time to her. I’ve had so much advice from other people but I’ve learnt to do things my way; I never wanted to let her cry in her own room; if she cries I go to her. She’s always been a really smiley baby. Leaving her at nursery has been a big question for me. I did a lot of research about it and enjoyed reading How Not to F*** Them Up by Oliver James, and Raising Babies; Should Under 3s Go To Nursery by Steve Biddulph. I tried taking her when she was eight months old but she cried so much I couldn’t leave her. When she was 15 months I tried again and she enjoyed it then. It was the right time; it made me feel happier too as I wasn’t just living for her – I had some parts of me back too – which does everyone good.

How do you find raising a child away from your family in Estonia?

It’s hard. But I Skype my mum and share videos online every day, and visit three times a year. I’ve made a conscious effort to speak and read to Sigrid in Estonian, but most of her words are in English. Things are a bit easier now we have some childcare but it’s still very busy trying to keep on top of Word Child and stay organised. To help me get by I don’t cook or clean and do the bare minimum of washing!

What books do you read to Sigrid?

At the moment I’m reading her Postman Bearby Julia Donaldson, A Little Radical by Danica and Jason Russell, and Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst. They’re definitely feminist books, but she likes most things I read to her. I read to her in her when she eats or in the morning. She likes to take the books from me and read them to herself!

How important is to read to children and start their love of reading from a young age?

My parents never read to me but seeing them and my sister enjoy reading made me a voracious reader. The availability of books is really important too.

Which books have helped you through your first years of parenthood?

When Sigrid was born I only read Google! I had so many questions and no time to read lengthy books. When I was ready to start reading again I became interested in ‘mother books’ but I’ve been disappointed that so many are negative accounts of motherhood. I do recommend every mother reads The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, which has a very powerful poem about children in it. Before Sigrid was born I read The Outsider by Albert Camus and Therese by François Mauriac, where a woman poisons her husband then leaves her daughter with her husband to go and live and die alone. I know suffering sells but I’d really like to read something positive – or even just normal – about being a parent. Recommendations, please!

What are your favourite bookshops to visit?

Wherever we go I seek out the bookshops and libraries. I recently visited The New York Public Library which was as beautiful as I’d imagined. When we were there I also discovered Housing Works Bookstore in Soho which sells second hand books for charity. In London, John Sandoe books is brilliant and of course, my local bookshop Bow Windows in Lewes, where I bought my first edition of A Word Child by Iris Murdoch.

What the three books should every woman should read?

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Woolf. This book changed me. It made me realise that dieting – which I did a lot as a teenager – is designed to keep control of women and make us weak. Suddenly, I totally understood that we have to create our own energy. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. This is about seven generations of a family and their destinies. It made me look at life in a different way and brought magic into my life. Sinuhe the Egyptian by Mika Waltari. This is a beautifully written historical novel that’s a bit like poetry. Reading it is almost like a meditation – I’d recommend it to anyone feeling a bit down or tired of life.

Desert Island Books: Triin from Word Child

This article first appeared on https://thelitedit.com/ on July 19, 2018.

If you like your pictures bright and breezy and your book piles stacked high, then you must check out Triin from Word Child’s beautiful Bookstagram account. Featuring a stunning selection of flat lays, shelfies, and bookshops, it’s easily one of the prettiest accounts on Instagram, and so I was thrilled when Triin agreed to share with me her Desert Island Books. She said of her choices – The books I have chosen are from different countries, Russia, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, England and America. The writers are huge literary figures a number of whom have won Nobel prices for their achievements. Most of the 8 books are philosophical and existential. I read all of these book when I was in high school or just after and would like to reread them. They all helped me to find deeper meaning in my life – and they’ve certainly encouraged me to explore other countries when it comes to choosing my next book. From a favourite that Triin often re-reads, to an English family saga, read on for some serious literary inspiration…

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I would take all of Dostoevky’s books with me to a desert island apart from Crime and Punishment.I studied The Idiot in my final year in high school and was lucky to get it in my examination. It must have been the only time I impressed my teacher and I still remember the proud look she gave to the headmaster. Reading The Idiot helped me grow up. It changed me, it made me more fragile, less superficial but more sincere. I don’t remember many characters as well as the intelligent Prince Myshkin playing an Idiot. Prince Myshkin, is probably my favourite literary character of all time.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

I loved this magical realistic historical book about 7 generations of the Buendía family. It was fascinating to follow the destinies of the family members. The book presents different national myths through the story of a family. The real and supernatural are intertwined. Reading this book made me look at life in a different way, notice new things and brought magic into my life too. The magic disappeared but the memories of the book remained. It reminds me when I was a child listening to stories being told by adults. Nothing made sense.

Thérèse Desqueyroux, The End of the Night by François Mauriac

When asked about my favourite book I always think of Thérèse Desqueyroux and The End of the Night. I often re-read it and like it more and more. The French study it at school but it is not well known. I like Thérèse, a character in the book, because she likes reading. What drives a woman to poison her husband, leave her daughter with her husband and then go to live and eventually die alone in Paris? I have heard that your life is written in your favourite book and I thought this can not be true but now I have a daughter. I might have to read the book again to compare with my life because I do not want this book to reflect my life story.

Narziss and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse

I was fascinated by Hesse’s existential mysticism when I read a few of his books just after finishing high school. It was the best time to read him because most of his books are about an individual’s spiritual search. Published in 1930, Narziss and Goldmund is a story of two friends in medieval Germany. Largely metaphorical, it has the feel of a fairy tale with a story full of hope and deep beauty. I would like to revisit Hesse’s books. His books are about the turmoil and duality of the human soul. After reading Hesse life feels more meaningful.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

This is a very engaging historical murder mystery and conspiracy story. I have read it twice but it is not enough to grasp everything in the book. It is a pleasure to read but it demands a lot from the reader. Detective William uncovers the abbey’s darkest secrets, often by making prohibited trips to the abbey’s labyrinth of a library. Eco has a vast knowledge of medieval studies and is a professor of semiotics which plays a critical role in the novel. If you are interested in semiotics you should read this book.

Sinuhe the Egyptian by Mika Waltari

Sinuhe is a historical novel about the life of Egyptian doctor Sinuhe who leaves Egypt without a purpose or a destination. It is a very long book but is always interesting being beautifully written from the first sentence. Reading it is very calming like meditation and I would recommend it to anyone who is feeling down or tired of life. I have a copy in original Finnish on my shelves waiting to be reread. It is not just another historical novel but more akin to a book of poetry.

Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy

I love family sagas. This English classic about love and property feels very real. It is a multi-generational story of an English family that spans the Victorian, Edwardian, and World War I eras. It is rich in irony about the lengths that men strive to acquire property and then find their acquisitions meaningless. It is long but compelling and captivating read. I prefer it to all the more popular English classics that are more commonly referenced on Internet. I reread it a month before I moved to London and started walking the streets in the book.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

This is another book I would like to revisit soon. I bought it because it was reduced in price thinking it was about beauty only later learning it is an important feminist work. The concept that through dieting the government tries to control women so they have no energy to stand up for themselves still shocks me. Dieting is a political sedative. The book did not stop me dieting but it did increase my understanding.

10 Point Algorithm Checklist to Grow Your Bookstagrammer Account

This article first appeared on https://frolic.media on November 3, 2018.

The Instagram algorithm is invisible and hard to understand so I have drawn a number of rules from my personal experience. Following the rules gives you peace of mind but there are differing experiences and the algorithm often changes. There are Bookstagrammers who can tell when it changes but I cannot. What works for one account does not work for another

.

The Instagram algorithm is especially upsetting for Bookstgrammers because we are not social media professionals, nor photo artists. We are not bloggers. We are not part of the comment pods like fashion and lifestyle bloggers. We are on Instagram because we love books and have found a community to share our love with. I would not be posting on Instagram if it was not for books. Most of us want our book reviews to reach people with whom we can discuss books and our ability to so is being reduced. If a photo does not get enough likes in certain timeframe no one knows about the post. It is therefore important to attempt to understand the algorithm to maximize the chances of posts reaching your audience.

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✌️🕊️ 3 x War and Peace. INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY. (Europe&US) #longdayslongbooks. To celebrate summer’s long days I've teamed up with #OxfordUniversityPress to offer 3 winners a copy of #LeoTolstoy’s #WarandPeace, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. To win, leave a comment that you are interested, like this post and follow me @wordchild. Based on Maudes’ translation this edition is lightly updated to be more readable, to restore passages in French, and to use the original Russian spelling of names. An introduction by Amy Mandelker considers the novel's literary and historical context, the nature of the work, and Tolstoy's artistic and philosophical aims. Helpful notes provide historical background and identifications, as well as insight into Russian life and society. The book includes lists of historical characters and their fictional families, a chronology of Tolstoy and of historical events in the novel, five maps, and Tolstoy's essay 'Some Words about War and Peace' in the Appendix. I am a big fan of #oxfordworldsclassics and so far I own 5 colourful editions. If you would like to learn more about these beautiful classics I have added a link to the website in my stories. T&C’s: This giveaway is running in partnership with Oxford University Press, their Privacy Policy sets out how OUP handles personal information, and your rights to object to personal information being used for marketing to you or being processed as part of their business activities. Personal information of the winner(s) will be shared with OUP for the purpose of prize fulfilment only. #wordchild #bookstack #goodread #bestbooks #bookstagrammer #bookstagramuk

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I have noticed  that some of the older popular Bookstagram accounts are no longer increasing their follower numbers. The accounts which are growing are less than 2 years old starting after the new algorithm began. These new account owners have no idea what a different world previously existed. Before the changes you could hold a giveaway and gain many new followers in the following week. It was that easy. For us old Bookstagrammers stuck in the old happy days we find it difficult to change. The older your account, the more of your follower accounts get deleted. Many people have stopped using old accounts which Instagram then deletes. 

Here is an algorithm checklist for Bookstagrammers:

1    Avoid editing the caption as long as likes are being received. What should you do when you have made a spelling mistake? I recommend not to edit but leave it for a day or two.

2    Make sure all the hashtags you use are relevant to the photo. Instagram looks at the photo content and if the hashtags are not relevant it will reflect negatively. Use as many hashtags as possible. The more you use the more exposure you get. Instagram does not punish you for using too many. The maximum number allowed is 30.

3    Work on big trending topics. One of my most liked photos was about Virginia Woolf posted on her birthday. Seasons, Christmas, Easter, Halloween themes attract a lot of interaction. Any important events in your life are worth mentioning.

4    Who you contact via direct mail does not affect the algorithm. Instagram understands where the traffic is coming from. Telegram and WhatsApp comment groups are not working anymore. 

5    The Algorithm loves consistency. Using the same filter is not enough. Be consistent in what you post. If you think posting just book photos is being consistent, it is not. You need to post only a certain type of book photo. Be creative but not too creative.

6    You might cheat the algorithm with buying likes and followers but it is not a good idea. People notice the fast change in numbers and that your likes are coming from fake accounts. If you live in Saudi Arabia and all your likes are from fake Russian accounts people notice. If you get 500 likes from accounts who do not follow you in the first 5 minutes after uploading, people notice. 

7    Post stories before and after posting a photo. The algorithm takes into account all actions of engagement. The more engagement, the more likely your posts will show up in your follower’s feed. Make people watch your stories longer. The Algorithm likes any action in your stories. Use hashtags and location tags as it makes a difference. If people want to follow you they can find you that way.

8    Be careful when you repost a photo. The algorithm understands when it is a repost especially when the repost is your own photo. It probably will not get as many likes as the original post

9    Call to action. If people react to your photo the algorithm takes it as a sign of interest. Encourage people to take action. The Instagram algorithm calculates the amount of time spent viewing your photo to determine its worthiness. 

10    Last but not least, post good content. For example ask artistic people how you can improve your photography. Take a photography class or watch YouTube.

These are a few things you can keep in mind when posting photos on Instagram. There are many more and many you will learn from your own experiences. 

How To Create The Perfect Bookstagram With These 7 iPhone Apps

This article first appeared on https://frolic.media on August 30, 2018.

I believe reading changes the way we see the world. 

I’m Triin, and I’ve have been taking photos for Bookstagram for the last five years. I’ve learned so much since I started, and I wanted to share some easy-to-do technical tips on how to make your photos of books stand out.

I have a degree in digital arts, but funny enough I’ve learned all the best iPhone editing tips on Youtube. It takes me about 10 minutes to edit my photos using a few iPhone applications.

That said, I have used many different applications throughout the years. Today, I don’t think twice about paying three dollars to try out a promising, new app. But here is my process, along with my seven favorite apps:


TAKING PHOTOS

1. First, I always wipe my phone’s lenses before I start taking photos and make sure the phone screens brightness is high. Sometimes you don’t find a finger smudge until it’s too late.

2. Taking photos in the daylight makes editing a lot easier and sometimes I use extra lights. I bought a cheap manicurist LED lamp from Amazon, which has different colored lights, which is amazing for Bookstagram.

3. Using the iPhone camera timer when you shoot gives you extra 3 or 10 seconds to concentrate and find the best angle.

4. Never use the iPhone flash.

5. Turn on the photo grid on your phone, so you can use the rule of thirds.

6. Listen to music while taking the photo. It helps me with the mood of my photos.

7. Leave negative space in the photos. Unless crowded photos are your style some empty space makes your feed look a lot better.


EDITING PHOTOS
1. iPhone original Pictures application. 

I complete the initial editing in the iPhone Pictures application. I crop portrait format photos to optimal Instagram size 4:5. I take the warmth and saturation down and also change the shadows and highlights. I look back at the temperature slide a few times during my editing process and again before uploading.


2. Snapseed

This app has many good tools, and the ones I use regularly are:

Brush tool. This is one of my most used tools. I overexpose my backgrounds, but I want book covers to be clear and visible. I mainly use the exposure brush and less frequently the saturation brush.

Details tool. I change structure sometimes to enhance details.

​Lens blur tool. You can blur the edges of the photo, so it looks like it has​ been taken with a camera.

Vignette tool. This tool makes the edges of the photo lighter or darker.


3. Facetune 

Azure and Lighter filter. I use them because they have Wipe and Apply buttons. When I only want to use the filter on background, I leave the book cover clear and wipe the background. If I want to do the opposite, I clear the photo but apply the filter on the book. For example, Azure makes my cappuccinos look horrible, so I have to swipe cappuccinos.

Whitening tool. Swipe the white areas to make them whiter and you can use whitening tool twice to get perfect white.

Details tool. This is another irreplaceable tool. Sometimes book covers are blurry and this tool is a great way to change that. You do have to be careful as it is easy to overdo it.

Smooth tool. Some of the corners of my library are very dark, and the darkness leaves photos fuzzy. I swipe this off with the smooth tool and often use it to improve my skin.


4. Afterlight 

Dusty tool. I recently have played with Afterlight to add dust to my photos. The tool has 13 different dusts, and you can change the intensity of them. 


5. Lightroom CC 

Color–mix tool. Attractive Instagram feeds often have just three or four colours. With this tool, you can desaturate specific colors you do not want in your feed. 

Light tool. You can make the blacks and whites denser. 


6. PS Express 

Great for reducing noise in your pictures. I used this noise tool constantly before I started using Facetune’s smooth tool.


7. SKRWT  

I occasionally use SKRWT to fix perspective problems and straighten lines to make them look more natural and symmetrical. Sometimes book flatlays need a little adjustment.


UPLOADING TO INSTAGRAM

​​Preview app. Before uploading to Instagram I always upload to Preview ​app to check how it looks in my feed. Usually, my photos are too warm, and I ​have to upload about five times before I am happy. I used to have a private​ Instagram account instead of Preview app, but I am now afraid of the Instagram ​algorithm which might register the photo has been uploaded before. I ​have tried  a few Instagram scheduling applications and Preview app is my ​favourite because it is easy to use, fast and has no monthly limits. 

If you have any questions about editing photos for Instagram, I recommend searching for the theme you want on Youtube. 

 It has been great to share my thinking about the technical details of what goes into a good Bookstagram photo, but the best thing for me about Bookstagram is the community and the people. I love chatting, so drop by @wordchild and share your favorite editing app with me, or just to say hello! Please come and show me your photos and any tips which have made a difference for you.