We’re alarmed by chaos. It forces us to become more alert to danger. It won’t allow us to remain at rest.
Whatever we perceive order to be, our efforts to restore it never end. Some of those relentless exertions are physical, and many are mental. As we scramble to make predictions that we hope will keep our lives orderly and safe, one elegant pattern appears: cause and effect.
How often we ignore one of these two inseparable companions.
While focusing on our disease, we refuse to address the habits that caused it. If we notice the habits, we overlook the inability to cope that led us to find solace in unhealthy routines. When we confess that we’ve underestimated our capacity for stress, we simultaneously deny that our most unbearable tension resulted from unrealistic expectations and wrongheaded beliefs.
When we praise excellence, we reinforce efforts at artistic and intellectual mastery.
Cause and effect. The two reasons nothing is random.
All blogs are not created equal, which is good, because it gives little dogs some role models.
These three celebrities were tempered in the traditional media: radio, television, and newspapers. They share a trait that all serious bloggers can cultivate, which is an acute awareness of the audience. All three are as much at ease on camera as with the written word. Of course, editors make a difference, if they’re involved. Only one of these blogs is self-published.
Who doesn’t like Garrison Keillor? You may not think of him as the avant-garde of new media, but he’s got all the right stuff. It just so happens that his well-established brand of audience interaction is a prototype for bloggers.
A Prairie Home Companion’s website is delivered in a magazine format displaying a prominent blog, Posts to the Host, in which Keillor answers letters from listeners and readers. You can also download a podcast of The News from Lake Wobegon, read short stories and poems submitted by fans, and follow several regular columns. The site is meticulously managed. In addition to requiring that anyone commenting be at least 13 years old, American Public Media applies these rules:
Your submission may be edited for length, clarity, or content, and may be posted on this or other APM Web sites or read on the air. APM reserves the right to reuse or republish your submission, or to withhold it from publication.
Okay, part of the reason I enjoy Dick Cavett’s blog is nostalgia. As a teenager, I watched his talk show on ABC. Apparently so did everyone else, as this recent comment on his blog indicates:
Mr Cavett – I was a fan of yours, as a youngster, when you were on TV, but now that I am older and wiser, I have become a devotee. Please can you come back to television for the benefit of those who love to think. Surely there must be enough of us left to make it worthwhile. If that is not possible, please re-issue your shows as DVD’s. There is almost nothing else left to do with my television set.
After all, Bill Moyers came back and made television worth watching for at least one hour a week, but he’s not as funny.
Jeff Jarvis is the only A-lister whose blog I read faithfully. Among other things, Jarvis is a columnist for the Guardian, a faculty member at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and consultant to a long list of media corporations.
A large portion of what I understand about new media I’ve learned from BuzzMachine.com and its links to original sources. Jarvis posts frequently, offers strong opinions, and never seems to worry about whether anyone agrees. It’s an amazingly effective approach, as long as you’re reliable. Overlooking the typos is a small price to pay for the sound advice this media critic dispenses freely.
These pros demonstrate that anyone who speaks of bloggers as an undifferentiated horde of content producers has only one excuse: ignorance.
Who knows just how much children are influenced by the cadence of language in the books we read to them? I believe little ones are instinctively attracted to patterns and rhythm, syllogism and resolution. Affection for lyrical language remains with us in adulthood, as does the desire for a tidy ending. The absence of apparent conclusion elevates some literature to a status that endures, as it forces adult readers to wrangle with potential interpretations.
You may not find all four of these, my favorite children’s books, still in print:
Guess How Much I Love You
written by Sam McBratney
and illustrated by Anita Jeram
I own the board book edition of this story, which was first published in the mid-‘90s and has been translated into at least 27 languages. Its charming ink and watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter’s, but the book’s affectionate tone is entirely contemporary. All traces of stern authoritarianism are missing. It expresses an indulgent postmodern society’s perspective of childhood.
We Help Mommy
written by Jean Burger Cushman and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin
We Help Daddy is the counterpart to this Little Golden Book, which is so old-fashioned that some of today’s parents might actually consider it inappropriate. I can’t stop loving this 99-cent book, because I remember the day my own little girl acted it out by trying to bake a pie unassisted. She placed a pizza pan on the kitchen floor, sprinkled a box of Jell-O mix over it, and plopped maraschino cherries on top.
Roll, pat. Roll, pat.
I’m making a treat for Daddy.
It’s a funny man, with two cherries for eyes,
and one cherry for a mouth.
“Daddy will be very pleased,” says Mommy.
And she puts it in the oven.
We Help Mommy is a story about the author’s own children, Martha and Bobby Cushman. Holly Reed and Larry O’Loane posed for Eloise Wilkin’s classic illustrations. The book was published in 1959.
Le Petit Prince
avec dessins par l’auteur,
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
I almost never write in the margins of books. My copy of Le Petit Prince is an exception, although I can no longer recall sitting in class as my animated high school French teacher, Christiane Edmondson, explicated. My favorite chapter is when the prince meets the fox:
—Viens jouer avec moi, lui proposa le petit prince. Je suis tellement triste . . .
—Je ne puis pas jouer avec toi, dit le renard. Je ne suis pas apprivoisé.
Please read this lovely story in the language in which it was first published in 1943.
written by Robert Frost and illustrated by Ted Rand
The jacket flap copy for this book, published 17 years ago, says, “In 1916, when Christmas trees cost a dollar, Robert Frost wrote a poem that he described as a Christmas circular letter.” Children love the poetry of the plainspoken. The child in each of us hopes for the ending of this book.
Had I thought through this countdown, I should have chosen a simpler syntax for the titles of the final six posts of NaBloPoMo. Four weeks ago, I started with a meme, so it’s fitting to conclude this week with the seemingly innocuous question:
What are your four favorite children’s books?
If, as a blogger, you sometimes feel a mite downtrodden… If you reach up just to touch the bottom… If you wonder where your dogged persistence will get you in the end… If your friends, family, and colleagues consider it hideous beyond words—lower than Akon’s sag—to post a comment that will appear in pixels instead of print… If you’ve seriously thought your time might be better spent on a lucrative copywriting gig… I say, (in my best imitation of Joe Bob’s Southern drawl) FRIENDS, here are five bloggers’ success stories that will put smiles on your faces—and give you a sense of what caliber of blogging is noticed by major publishers. And all this time, I thought the person you cared about was me, the reader.
Colin Beavan, No Impact Man
New York City
The author of two books of historical nonfiction launched a blog in February 2007 as a form of journalism and to generate advance interest in his third book. No Impact Man, says Beavan, “is my experiment with researching, developing and adopting a way of life for me and my little family—one wife, one toddler, one dog—to live in the heart of New York City while causing no net environmental impact.” The blog is part of a concept that helped him win a book contract with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an affiliate of Macmillan (formerly known as Holtzbrinck), which in 2009 will publish Beavan’s account of his experiences.
Clotilde Dusoulier, Chocolate & Zucchini
Success wasn’t achieved overnight by this young blogger, who enjoys encountering an author’s resonant voice in the cookbooks she reads. Dusolier says, “I believe that this is what most readers love about food blogs…” She started her cooking blog in 2003 and, with the encouragement of friends and a literary agent, eventually accepted the best offer of a book deal from Broadway Books, a Random House imprint. Her first book, bearing the title of her blog, was published in 2007, and the second, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, is due from the same publisher in 2008.
Gregory K. Pincus, GottaBook
Pincus, a working (or striking) screenwriter, told blog marketing expert Denise Wakeman that he became involved in the “children’s literature community online as an experiment with harnessing the connective power of blogs.” In 2006, he announced on his own blog that he’d signed a two-book deal with Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books. Considering Pincus drew attention to his blog by calling for submissions of poetry based on the Fibonacci sequence, its success, by all accounts, is miraculous.
Ana Marie Cox, formerly of Wonkette
Penguin’s Riverhead Books division published Cox’s novel, Dog Days, about a presidential campaign worker who writes a fictitious blog exposé of life in the nation’s capital. The brief bio on Cox’s current blog outlines her career detour into the blogosphere. She’s now the Washington editor of Time.com and has an HBO talk show and a second book in the works.
Penelope Trunk, Brazen Careerist
This former software marketing executive is a columnist for the Boston Globe and Yahoo! Finance. Her first book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, published by Hachette’s Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing), offers survival strategies for today’s business world. In the summer of 2007, after negotiating a second book contract, Trunk posted “How to get a six-figure book deal from your blog,” which answers many of the questions now starting to percolate in your mind.
For a little additional insight, you can read an old but still interesting discussion of bloggers-turned-book-authors on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever.
Hang in there. Write well. Get connected.
Larry Smith, the founder and editor of SMITH, is nudging you to tell him your story. If you’re still working on the 800-page version, then you might want to take time out to pen a Six-Word Memoir or submit a 100-word answer for SMITH’s popuLIST. Or don’t write anything, just read what other contributors have written. “Storytelling,” says Smith, “has never been easier, more democratic—and, on the good days, interesting.”
From all over the world, Elizabeth Armstrong Moore gathers intimate stories that illustrate humanity’s common themes. She publishes them online as Quickies (300 words or less), Stories (750 to 1,500 words), or answers to 20 Questions. Some of the submissions to Common Ties are recorded for podcasts, and some are eventually selected to appear in printed anthologies.
A new adventure of stalwart DC Comics, Zuda is holding a monthly competition that allows readers to choose which among 10 selected entries will become a new series. Any comic creator can upload a concept consisting of eight screens for consideration by Zuda editors.
This endeavor calls itself “a literary magazine for people with short attention spans and over-abundant curiosity.” Katherine Sharpe collects personal nonfiction on assigned topics for 400 Words and publishes it on the Web and in print.
You say you’re not a writer? Then keep your eyes peeled for a bizarre scrap of flotsam, bring it home, scan it, and submit it to FOUND with a brief caption. “We collect it all,” says Jason Bitner, “—love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, poetry on napkins, doodles—anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life.” Caution: For voyeurs only!
This weekend, in lieu of shopping (shudder), I sampled a few Web services I hadn’t previously tried. One in particular stands out as the supreme timesaver: an RSS feed reader.
The first feed reader I tested, months ago, was bothersome. I couldn’t tell which feeds I’d added, I wasn’t sure it was private, and the thing was as slow as molasses. Instead of trying another service, I gave up. My mistake. When I think of all the time I’ve wasted surfing around to my favorite blogs one by one, I could kick myself.
If you haven’t tried a feed reader (also referred to as an aggregator or an RSS feed reader), you’ll discover it’s the equivalent of having the latest posts on all of the blogs you follow delivered to you, in a format that resembles an email inbox, while you’re not looking. All you need is a Web browser and a browser-based news reader or downloadable reader software.
Once you’ve set it up, you can check your RSS feed reader once or twice a day to see all of the activity on your favorite blogs at a glance. Each item is linked to its source, if you want to read the post in its original context. There’s no longer any need to check a long list of blogs individually, only to discover that most contain no new information.
News on Feeds provides a list of aggregators from which you can choose a feed reader to suit your needs.
The Open Directory Project also publishes a nicely organized list of feed readers.
I selected Google Reader, which recently shed its beta status. I already had a Google account for things like Gmail, which meant I didn’t need to register again. There might be a better feed reader out there, but Google Reader suits me perfectly. It’s currently handling two dozen news (that is, blog) feeds for me, and I’m thinking of adding a few more RSS feeds from traditional media such as BBC News.
Unbelievably, I was in my thirties before I learned how easy it is to cook rice—another crazy example of not knowing what you’re missing.
Don’t waste another minute of your precious time. Get thee a feed reader. You’ll be thankful.
Thanks to Jill Elizabeth Nelson for the helpful instructions for making a video and to Second Attention for the free MP3 download “Peace of Mind.” Clearly video production is not where my talent lies.