Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Looking Around The Blogosphere

Every day, it becomes more and more apparent that blogs are the future of publication. The middle man—the magazine, newspaper, or book publisher—is virtually eliminated. Blogs are people speaking to people. Yes, that brings with it some problems like editing and relevance, but I find that reading blogs is like sifting through sand for diamonds. I drop in, read for a while, and if the writing stays fresh and interesting, I hang around. If not, there is always the delete button.

I have written in this space about William Michaelian, his poetry books, his Author’s Press Series, and his expansive website. His blog, Recently Banned Literature, offers daily doses of his poetry, ruminations, dreams, recent book acquisitions from local thrift shops, and other “marginalia.” William has amassed quite a following on the internet through blogging and Facebook, giving him a plethora of readers who often interact with his work within their own creations. He posts drawings, art work, and photographs, his own and those of his readers, making for some interesting symbiotic creativity. I found his post this week on a particular dream he had with his son to be interesting; Jungians should take note.

The late David Mills, a television writer whose credits include NYPD Blue, ER, The Corner, and the new HBO series, Treme, wrote a blog called Undercover Black Man. Mills died of a brain aneurysm on March 30th on the set of the New Orleans-based production. His blogging focused on racial issues, a subject Mills explored in his television writing. He also had a passionate love of music, especially funk and R&B. Read back through the years and you will discover a gifted writer and former journalist who was taken from us much too soon.

The final blog is one that is near and dear to me. Vatche Yousefian is my student, graduating this year from high school, and destined for the writing program at UC Irvine next fall. Vatche has been in my classes for four years, and has grown immensely as a writer.

He began this school year writing for my blog of student work, Saroyan’s Ghost. Shortly thereafter, he started his own blog, The Student Writer’s Mind. He posts several times a week in an eclectic series of genres, including nonfiction, fiction, and something he calls, “A Mental Snack,” usually a short quotation or snippet of writing meant to inspire comments and discussion.

When you visit Vatche’s site, make sure to read his hilarious story about meeting David Sedaris at UCLA.

Although newspapers and magazines have seen a decline in subscriptions and readership, there is a vigorous online catalogue of writing and art about every subject and nuance under the sun. Blogs are, without a doubt, a rich and democratic source of creative work.

9 comments:

Vatche said...

Thank you, Mr. Martin, for...everything, I guess. Like I said before, it is a pleasure to write on my blog because I need the practice.

It's also a reminder to me, sort of like a journal, of my experiences as I grow older. I know that in the future, I'll be glad that I wrote it.

Though I'm going to UCI, I will always remember AGBU, whether it be in my mind or in the "blogosphere."

Thanks again for the years filled with education, experiences, and stories.

Paul L. Martin said...

You are most welcome, Vatche,

Elisabeth said...

I couldn't agree with you more Paul. Blogging is a wonderful way of sharing work with a broader audience than we might otherwise encounter, for all its rough edges.

It puts us in touch with life and death, the daily ups and downs pf ordinary people and also allows us to shake hands with greatness as you suggest in William Michaelian's blog, which I know well.

I'm now off to visit Vachte's blog.

Another thing I value about blogging is the cross fertilization that occurs between generations. Young and old, men and women, speak to one another in ways we might not otherwise communicate.

It's enriching in ways I do not find elsewhere.

Paul L. Martin said...

I find that the medium is more immediate. The writer and the reader engage in dialogue that otherwise is limited by time and distance with a physical publication. How long does it take to send a "letter to the editor?" Comments on a blog offer immediate feedback. My students have found this to be helpful when writing for our school blogs. Of course, the process can be misused as well, but so far, that has been a limited problem.

I think blogs might bring back reading and discussion again. Or maybe they already have. In any case, as one of the bloggers I mentioned wrote, sending out good vibes in any form has to result in the return of same. All part of the big discussion.

Thanks, Elisabeth.

William Michaelian said...

Paul,

I’ve been thinking about your blog post all day. In fact, I was thinking about your observations even before you made them, and trying to grasp the import of this entire online adventure we’re on. And it is an adventure, because we really don’t know for sure where it will lead. I certainly didn’t when I first went online with my main website in 2001, and then again in 2008 when blogging became part of my daily life.

I appreciate all of the kind things you said about what I’m doing. But I must say that I feel the medium has more control over me than I have over it. And I prefer it that way. That’s what appeals to me. Control is a deadening force, and not something I want. What I want, and what I need most of all beyond the opportunity to do my work, is the two-way communication that the blog format makes possible. The exchange feeds my spirit. And the speed of the exchange suits my temperament. I thrive on it.

Another thing that appeals to me is the absence of, as you put it, “the middle man.” And yet the middle man, in the form of the editor and publisher, has played a key role in my progress along the way — not so much financially, but in having faith in what I do, and expressing that faith in the time and resources necessary to share it with a larger audience. When a man and his wife who make magazines on their kitchen table choose to publish something I’ve written, that is a source of encouragement and pride. And yet, as you point out, the likelihood of feedback in that scenario is small. Occasionally a response leaks through — and when it does, it is almost always in the form of an email from someone who has looked me up online.

I want what all writers, artists, and human beings want, whether they publicly admit it or not: I want to be understood; I want to be appreciated; I want to be known and recognized in my lifetime; I want to earn a livelihood by doing the work I love. And because I love that work, I do it seven days a week, 365 days a year. I think people understand this and respond. I think we are all in it together.

Your blog, Paul, is a source of nourishment. And I think that’s the key. When we hold back, or are superficial, people move on. If we are honest and not too proud or ashamed to share our triumphs and pain, those who pass our way will recognize in us the possibility of a true friend. It’s obvious to me, Paul, and it should be obvious to anyone who stops and listens to you, that you would do anything for a friend.

Elisabeth said...

I can't resist another response here to William's comment, Paul.

William describes it so well, this new dimension of communication through blogging and the degree to which it has helped him. This wonderful speedy two way communication through the ether, across the globe.

It comes with the odd hassle but to me blogging is life enhancing and it's good to have that acknowledged again.

Paul L. Martin said...

William, I agree that when an editor contacts me after I have submitted something to tell me he or she wants to publish my work, it is indeed a wonderful moment where I feel my work has been validated. But I also have discovered through this blogging medium, that the opportunities for interaction with readers are multiplied in a way paper publication has not consistently offered.

For instance, I might send out a hundred submissions in six months. Ninety-eight of those submissions are either never returned, or sent back with a form letter. Sometimes, they are sent back so quickly, I think they simply removed the piece from the envelope, took the SASE, and dropped it back into the mail slot without reading. Maybe 2 submissions out of the hundred come back with a terse handwritten comment: No thanks. Try us again sometime. I am overjoyed when I see real pen marks on the form letter.

Now, being a writer is to live in, and with, rejection. I knew that coming in, but blogging changes the whole equation.

When I started publishing my own work on the blog, over the first year I began to pick up readers like you. The audience has steadily grown. Now I have a small group of readers and responders who connect with and relate to what I write.

The blog has taught me that people will read my writing, and that my work does connect with people, and they feel moved enough to write me a comment and respond. That is a gratifying and humbling experience. And it sure beats form letter rejections and sending my work off to that great vacuum of the US postal service only to be returned days later. I would like to dust my submissions for fingerprints to see if anyone even touched the paper.

So I like blogging for that reason, and it gives me hope that the internet will make our work more accessible to people. I know a lot of journalists and writers have been thrown out of work due to the move away from paper, but ultimately, when this all shakes out, I think it will be a good thing.

I think you are recognized for your work. I also believe your writing and drawing will continue to reach a growing audience. Hopefully, some lackey in a major publishing firm is taking note. But in the end, if we connect with one reader, that serves the purpose of why we create. If we put our work out there on the internet, the audience will be there.

Our job as participants in this great conversation is to not mire ourselves in superficiality or stupidity, as we often see on Facebook, blogs, and You Tube, but reach for something greater, and more pure: artistic expression and creativity that addresses the human condition. We write with the same standards that are applied to print publication and settle for nothing less. Quality will resonate, of that I am sure.

Thank you for your kind words about my work. I do not want this to turn into a mutual admiration society, but we encourage each other, offer constructive criticism, and most of all, we read. In that way, you have been a friend and advocate for my work, as I hope to be for yours. And you have led so many people to my blog. I am very grateful to you and all the people who read us and engage in the discussion.

Paul L. Martin said...

Elisabeth, thanks for your comment, and I could not agree more. Through William, you read my blog, and I now dialogue with you in Australia. That would not have happened without the blog. I also dialogue with Annie in Canada, and many others across the United States and the globe. William has people commenting for whom English is a second language. Still, they read and comment. That is a wonder to me. Yes, major magazines are published around the world, but the blog reaches them faster and more consistently. I am amazed at the power of the medium.

But the most amazing thing in reading people on blogs is the quality of the work. To me, that is what keeps me reading.

Take care.

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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