Friday, February 28, 2014

Writers Blogs: Questions and Observations Post Panel at AWP (Associated Writing Programs) Conference in Seattle

Apart from getting my picture taken in the book fair holding a loft a giant stuffed fish, late yesterday afternoon I was on the panel chaired by poet Zack Rogow with novelist Charles Johnson (standing in for E. Ethelbert Miller) and another extraordinary poet, Mark Doty.

Doty gave the lie to my rather cavalier assertion that blogging about oneself was narcissistic. I still have zero interest in blogging about my personal life (so far, no tweeting about my food, either!!), but Mark read from his blog a piece about his personal life, a painful story about how his house "bit him," pure poetry, and all I can say is, I salaam.  Do read more over at Doty's blog.

Charles Johnson paid homage to dear Ethelbert, who has long been an angel of both Washington DC and national literary culture.

Zack Rogow's talk, about his go-to blog, Advice for Writers, started out with practical tips for bloggers and ended with a reading from his blog of his new translation of Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo," the poem that ends with one of the most jarringly perfect last lines.

My talk was "Eight Conclusions After 8 Years of Blogging."

To get a sense of the level of things, I first asked the audience, maybe 150 writers, how many had blogs? Up went the overwhelming majority of hands. How many had been blogging for more than 2 years? A sparse scattering. Five years? I counted two hands. Oh my goodness, I felt like Methuselah.

As for the questions, what struck me about many of them (both during and after the event) was their anxious flavor, the concern about the variety of problems a blog could bring a writer. There are valid concerns, of course, and it's good to get one's mind around the genre, or at least take its temperature and a sounding before doing a cannonball into the deep end. But it seems to me that what we basically have here is the very same fear around any writing, any publishing. It's all just "monsters under the bed" stuff, after all. Or, as Rose Rosetree calls it, STUFF, that is, astral clutter, including frozen blocks, in one's personal energy field.

Speaking of clutter, one of the many appealing things to me about blogging is that it doesn't require physical space except for, say, a place to plunk one's laptop while typing. All of my book projects, on the other hand, have each produced a mountain of research files and then contracts and then marketing materials and such, plus a little (well, not so little) library of related books. Finding space is a challenge.

More anon.