Friday, May 30, 2008

Collaborative blogging

I'm still new to blogging and am excited by every new feature I unearth. My latest finding is that Blogger allows multiple authors. This starts my mind churning...

What if you added on 50, even 100 authors (not sure if there is a limit), then gave them all a topic to write about and post about in one day. It would be like those "Day in the Life of..." books where photographers have been sent out on the same day to photograph what they've seen. If posted all on one day, all postings would have equal weight, accessible by the labels given them. They could appear hour-by-hour, one on top of one another, filed by time zone.

It also brings to mind the spontaneous writing group I used to belong to. We met every week and wrote about whatever topic came up, suggested by books or participants. It could be an electronic/universal spontaneous writing get-together.

I'm thinking this is where I should go with the Places I have lived blog I have tried to start.(So far, every writer I've invited to contribute is too busy to post something because of their busyness at the end of the academic year). Maybe it wouldn't be always limited to places we have lived--one project could be about our present neighborhoods, right now, whatever particular hour the writer sits down to write about it; another day/project could be memories of a place and time... It could be an annual event. (Maybe more frequent if not so many contributors for people to read through).

I wonder if there is a way that I can do this where I'm not out spending all the time I should be writing (and marketing my own writing) on rounding up writers, editing and promoting another project that isn't all mine. I'll need to find collaborators who can help steer it along.

Has anyone already done a blogging project like this? I'll look around and report back.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Electronic archiving or messages in a bottle?

I was inspired to start a blog last month when I read an article suggesting that writers could electronically archive their work by creating an extra email account just for that purpose. Once an article was completed/published, the writer is supposed to email a copy of it to the email address. That way, if the writer's house burns down or her computer is destroyed, a copy of the original work will live on and be ever-available.

What if I went one step further, I thought, and put my nonfiction writing on the Internet while it's still in-process or--more specific to my purposes--while it flounders around looking for a designated audience. Thus, this blog was born.

However, the seductive fallacy of posting something to a blog is that if feels like it's getting published already, right this minute, and, therefore, I'm done. I don't have to find (or try to write for) a target audience. I don't have to edit and combine and polish.

But, except for a lucky few, posting to a blog is not really like getting published; only luck or friendship of family ties brings readers to most blogs. All these blog postings--mine and thousands more--are like many trees falling in infinite forests with no one there to witness them.

On the page where you view someone's blog in Blogger (which is where this blog resides), there's a tab at the top that says "Next blog". Click on it and you get someone else's blog, randomly chosen. They may look different--different languages, templates, colors--but there's something the same about all of them. They all seem like messages in a bottle, thrown out to an Internet sea, describing thoughts and movements and routines and family events--with an urgency to find someone to bear witness, to acknowledge their existence.

I find clicking through the random blogs both hopeful--that people believe their lives and thoughts are important enough to share, but sad--that few, if any, are bearing witness. Maybe most blogs are only us writing "Kilroy was here" on an electronic wall.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How this blog is evolving

I've decide to divvy postings already made to this blog, as well as all my new postings, into three categories/blogs. I'm not sure how long I can keep three blogs going, but this is all  experimental/experiential for me, so I'll learn along the way. Blogging is still relatively new, so I'm not sure there are any exact rules about blogging or the number of blogs one is supposed to write anyway. And it's all free, so why not? (Will Blogger get sick of me at some point?)

  • Postings about home or places I have lived is migrating to an experimental collaborative blog called "Places I Have Lived." I'll link to it in a sidebar when I actually have more than 2-3 postings there.

  • Postings about blogging and writing will stay here and the blog will be continued to be called "Writing Home"--its focus will be on blogging/writing and, especially, finding a home for writing. I may invite participation from other writers about their experiences with getting published, writing blogs, etc. It depends on how much energy and time I have to read and solicit submissions from other people. 

  • Everything else that has no exact market/focus/audience in mind, but is just whatever I feel like writing about,  will now go into a blog called The Electronic Closet (...of Beth Blevins' Overactive Mind). This is a blog that is closed to search engines, so it's just for whoever stumbles upon it or wants to seek it out. There is no intended audience with this one, so it will offer me more freedom to write about what I want and maybe write more about my personal life and the right-now. I will basically use it to store essays in-process and vents.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm doing this all wrong

I went to a blogging workshop at the Writers Center in Bethesda on Saturday and discovered that I have been doing this blog all wrong. For one thing, my paragraphs have been too long. I haven't used a lot of color or images. But, worst of all, I haven't had a strong focus for the blog--I can't describe it in five words or less.

Apparently, writing what's on my mind is not going to work as a blog.

So, I am going to rethink the format of this blog in the next few days. Probably what will happen is that I will keep it as an electronic closet for my thoughts (from which I can build larger essays) but shut it down to search engines and any outside links, and people will only be able to find it by invitation.

In addition, I may start a new blog focused on blogging/writing for blogs and writing for publication, which will be more publicly accessible.

I'm also toying with the idea of a collaborative blog on places people have lived, which will compile short pieces on places all over the country, and in other countries. I did something like this a long time ago with "a very small magazine"--we ran an issue on places people lived, with the nitty-gritty on cost of rent, food, etc. I may go for both the poetic and the everyday with the new blog. I would use some of the pieces I've already written for this blog on "places I have lived" to start it. Of course, once I start researching this, I'll probably find that someone else has already done it.

I'll be visiting other blogs and Internet spaces in the next few day and may post something on what I'm finding. Until then, I'm lost in cyberspace...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dinnertime conversations in an eccentric household:
James Joyce’s Ulysses as a Seinfeld episode

We are a silly family (see post on Urban legends and bad poetry). Some of our silliness takes place at dinnertime. My son often acts out colorful characters and zoned-out teenage conversations from his day, and sometimes the topics among the rest of us verge toward the absurd.

Take last night’s dinner conversation. After my son made a reference to “Khan!" from the Star Trek "Wrath of Khan" movie, I told him that he shouldn’t make a cultural reference to a movie he’d never seen. My husband said, “That’s ridiculous, people who have never read Ulysses make references to it all the time.” (He looked pointedly at me).

“Hey, what if we had the Seinfeld cast could act out highlights from James Joyce’s Ulysses?” I said, suddenly inspired. “You could have George be the guy in the book who talks about the shrinkage-inducing sea.” And then we were off—Elaine as Molly Bloom, Jerry as Leopold Bloom.

Some background: I’ve never managed to get all the way through Ulysses—its mostly male-centric world has always seemed alien and alienating to me: men getting drunk together, masturbating, peeing outside, etc. As a freshman in college, the first time I tried to read the book, I got stuck on the phrase in the first chapter of the book: “the scrotum-tightening sea.” It just stopped me right there. I was naïve and didn’t exactly know where a scrotum was and I had no idea how the sea could tighten it up.

Years later, when George on Seinfeld came in from a swim and said, “I’ve got shrinkage!” it was a Eureka moment for me. “Scrotum-tightening sea!” some part of my brain acknowledged. And, immediately, the dejected realization — "Is that all it was?"

Maybe someday I’ll actually read Ulysses and write this whole thing up as a lost screenplay. But here’s what we’ve got so far:


Chapter 1

Stately, plump George Costanza came inside from the backyard where he had tried to take a swim. He peered into the kitchen and called out coarsely, “The water in that pool is cold and I’ve got shrinkage!” (Laughter; pause.) “It reminds me of my mother.”

Chapter 13

Jerry comes in and slaps some cash on the counter. “Let’s just say,” he confides to Kramer. “This afternoon, on the beach, I wasn’t the master of my domain.”

Chapter 18

Elaine explains her latest date. “I put my arms around him and his heart was beating like mad and then--Yada, yada, yada...”


I wish I knew where to put “Serenity now!” and “No soup for you!” (Bloom—I think it’s Bloom—talks a lot about soup in the chapter where he goes to a pub for lunch, but no one denies him food), and “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”—and all the other Seinfeld expressions I was able to Google tonight, but I don’t know the book well enough to place them. If you, dear readers, have suggestions for more Seinfeld/Ulysses scenes, please send them on.