Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another one bites the dust

An alternative title for this post might be “And then there was one” because I am shutting down my other, remaining blog, Quotes About Creative Women—at least for the summer.

I started QACW because I wanted a place to hold all the quirky and moving quotes I’d read over the years, from Barbara Kingsolver talking about leaving Kentucky because she was flat-chested to Joni Mitchell talking about her grandmothers. I thought that the blog would be another way to connect with friends, whom I surely thought would want to add quotes of their own, or share their favorite women’s quotes; to sweeten the deal, I promised to link to the web pages of contributors—but, alas, I only got one submission.

I also wanted to experiment with using a blog as a database—most of the women (and the few men) I quoted are listed alphabetically using a subject term that maybe I created myself: “writers—Doe-Jane,” which Blogger indexes alphabetically (if you use commas, as in most standard cataloging, Blogger separates each word as a distinct subject term). Hey, I have an MLS, so I might as well put it to use. I found that I didn’t want to index just by last name when I posted quotes by both Alice Walker and her daughter.

But the main reason I started that other blog (along with what was once my cooking/food blog) was to make money. Yes, ha-ha, I’ve discovered that blogs don’t make money. You’re supposed to get a penny every time someone clicks on a Google ad link in your blog, and then you get a check when you reach your first $10. As you can guess, I never reached it. I also added Amazon-links to the books I quoted (not just to make money, but to promote the wonderful books I was discovering), but I made no sales. [Just for the record, I’ve never tried to make money on Writing Home, so I still have some integrity left.] 

It was fun, at least at first, to go out and find new quotes after my initial batch of quotes was posted. I used Google Books and searched for “women and creativity” and any similar terms I could think of. This led me to authors and books I never would have discovered otherwise, which I purchased or borrowed through interlibrary loan at my local library. Through this effort I first read Yvonne Vera, Susan Minot, and Judith Ortez Cofer, among others.

So, I have no regrets that I started QACW, and I hope someday (maybe in the near future) to start adding new quotes to it again, though it will probably not be on a regular basis since I don’t have easy access to a big library, nor time enough to graze lazily through it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How are people chosen for Writing Home interviews?

If you’re looking for a theme or commonality among the people I’ve interviewed for this blog so far, it’s pretty simple—they are all people I know or have met at some point in my life. I have been happy to reconnect with writers I’ve known for brief periods in my life, as well as to provide a forum for some of my more creative and prolific friends.

For instance, I was so glad to reconnect with Barry Yeoman again, who was a colleague for a short time when I was a reporter in North Carolina in the mid-1980s. And I’ve known Kim Kupperman nearly continuously since we were the “womyn’s” co-editors at the school newspaper at UC-Santa Cruz.

The other thing about the interviews is that each has provided me with insight into how creative people produce and publish their work. A common thread I’ve noticed among them is that many say that they feel grumpy or blue unless they produce something—that they need to write or paint every day or, at least, on a regular schedule. I feel the same way, which may explain why I’m so crabby during weeks when I’m too busy with paid work or household errands to sit down and write for any significant amount of time.

I have a few more interviewees lined up for the near future. However, it is inevitable that I am going to run out of people I am personally acquainted with who could serve as interview subjects. Of course, I’d like to meet other writers, to widen my circle of writer/artist friends, and hope I will at local writers’ conferences and workshops in the next year or so. But until then, if you’re a writer who reads this blog, or if you’re someone I may have met or corresponded with at some point in the past and you’re up for an interview, free to email me at thebethblevins AT gmail DOT com (do the usual substitutions there).

The other possibility, of course, is that I will simply run out of acquaintances to interview and I’ll just let the interviews fade away—which might be OK, too, since it would be one less thing to keep me from buckling down and writing fiction and non-blog essays (no matter how bad they turn out to be.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dear Garrison Keillor

Dear Garrison Keillor,

Please hire new writers for Prairie Home Companion and let them breathe new life into it.

PHC is starting to feel like the wheezy old relative you dread to see coming up the walkway because he rattles on with the same spittle-infested stories every week or makes even new events sound moldy.

I never found Guy Noir charming, but I tolerated it for the first couple of seasons, figuring you’d run the gamut with it and be done. But it was introduced in 1995 and it's still on most weeks. Assuming that Guy Noir is at least partially your alter-ego, it’s depressing and awkward to hear him try to hook up with women in his role as a mediocre detective. I know it's a parody of old radio-hour detective shows, nevertheless, it feels a little—I hate to say it—Woody Allen-ish.

As for Life of the Cowboys—I continue to think the whole premise of early American cowboys juxtaposed into modern times is clever, and I wouldn’t mind hearing it occasionally as something you could revive for special occasions. But not every week, please.

There are a thousand other stories and characters that you all could be presenting instead of Guy Noir or the cowboys. Why not have a contest and let young playwrights submit their short radio plays for your ensemble to perform—do a new one every week and have listeners vote on their favorite at the end of the year. Present the winning playwright with an award during the last show of the year and/or give them a one-year writing gig or internship at PHC. Or, at least, solicit ideas for new characters or new skits from your listeners.

Also consider letting writers from a publication like The Onion contribute something once a month or even weekly—something weird and new, presented in under three minutes. Let people submit tall tales or real life stories on tape and fly in the best people to sit there and perform them—once a year or once a month.

While you’re at it, stop relying so much on sound effects to fill the time. Your sound effects people are very talented at what they do. It’s just that they shouldn’t be doing it so much of the time, or they should be doing it in the background, to add depth to the performances.

Even if you did nothing else but your brilliant,  suddenly inspired "News from Lake Wobegon" in each show, it would be enough of a contribution to any PHC. The problem is that I have usually turned the radio off these days before you get there. I miss it.

Your past and future fan, Beth Blevins