I confess that I have not yet even nearly finished the enormous copy editing job of cleaning all of my 2012 posts to publish as a book. I find myself revisiting my previous conclusion that I would allow the blog posts to stand on their own and not even go through the process of contacting each commentator and asking them for permission to publish their comments in a book. But on some of the posts, some of the comments were frankly better than anything I’ve written and it feels as though any book would be incomplete without those reactions. I was so pleased that two people whom I thought had drifted away in the past year, posted comments replying to my last post. It really was like finding out I still had a couple of friends I’d though I had lost. Life seems really complicated sometimes.
The ways that online social life is and isn’t just like offline social life is one of the things I had meant to talk about rather more than I did. I also notice that l did a bit of building up and fore-shadowing early in the year that I quite failed to follow up on. In retrospect I can only give myself about half-credit for my decision a bit less than half way through the year to implement Just Three Words. The first posts, especially were clever. Over the course of the year I was somewhat hit or miss– some of my three word posts were quite well done, but other times I clearly struggled with the formula, and at the very least was guilty of lazy writing sometimes. I was not, however, guilty of leaving out the gay stuff. While I didn’t and don’t want to emphasize my sexuality on this blog, I can’t help but notice that two different pieces that do talk about gay issues were two of the most commented upon pieces I have published. I find myself agreeing with something Laura commented on a post last March. It’s 2012 and I just can’t be bothered with the same old anti-gay shit. Yet I am trying very hard to move beyond shouting ‘we’re here, we’re queer’ to actually talking to people about things that are important to me. That is not a denial of any of the wrongs that lots of queer folks continue to suffer. It’s just a decision about how I want to live my life today.
I should end this post with a short, bold faced paragraph that gives some brief biography. If I were manic and promotional as I was last March I would precede that final bio blurb with some bit about stay tuned, if there are things you don’t understand as all will be revealed. I don’t feel hucksterish enough to pull that off, so will simply close by saying once again that I am deeply grateful to everyone who visits and reads these posts. And hope that it’s a good weekend in your world.
Tempus fugit. Part of me is kind of shocked to realize it’s been fully a year since I threw a birthday party for my dear friend Holly right here on this blog. When I stop and reflect I realize how very much has changed since I faked my way through Holly’s Scavenger Hunt and got over a hundred people to wish her a Happy Birthday. I can’t say that I regret writing and publishing Why I Don’t Wear A Button Anymore. But it is clear to me that that post and the discussions that followed it cost me a number of friends.
I’ve given it a lot of thought but have never really reached a firm conclusion. It does seem to me that friends who fight with each other in your comments section don’t remain friends. Sometimes it seems to me as though we are so often talking from so far into our own biases that real communication just isn’t possible. Sometimes I think it just isn’t possible for dykes to get along with conservative old men. And yet I also think that this is base stereotyping that belittles the real and complicated people who no longer visit my comments section. People are strange.
I am preparing to start promoting my book in earnest on Monday. My goal is to sell three hundred copies to newbies, and I’m sure going to try my damnedest to reach this goal. My pen name had a very busy night last night and I am pretty much just taking it easy for the weekend. I am anxious to learn just what is in the box that was delivered to Holly’s house– even though she’s resolved not to open it and tell us until tomorrow. I’d greatly appreciate it if you left a comment to wish Holly a happy birthday. Here’s hoping you are having a peaceful, relaxing weekend as well.
Feh. So the Seattle Times, which had topped my previous list of newspapers without paywalls, has announced that they will be implementing a paywall in mid-March. It appears to me they are directly emulating the strategy the Los Angeles Times used. I admit that I miss reading the LA Times, but I really have mostly broken my habit of visiting that site since they began charging $3.99/week for digital access. The Seattle Times would give me a Sunday-only home delivered dead tree paper and throw in digital access for only $3.15/week. Which suggests to me that like their counterparts in EL Lay, the owners of the Seattle Times just don’t understand how to create a viable business model in the Internet era. If they offered digital access (with no dead tree paper delivery) for twenty bucks a year, I would sign right up and consider it money well spent. But $13.55/month with dead trees on Sundays (which is to say $163/year) or $17.16/$206 per month/year if I don’t want any dead tress delivered to my door is simply more than I can or will pay for news and information.
While I miss the El Lay Times a bit, I find I don’t miss the New York Times at all. I follow a couple of their handles on Twitter, and occasionally I do read NY Times pieces that they have tweeted. Accessing stories from Twitter seems to completely bypass their paywall. And an occasional story via Twitter seems to be enough for me. I suspect when the Seattle Times goes away next month I will find myself checking out the local television news web sites (KING, KOMO, KIRO and Q-13-FOX) as well as the PI and Crosscut. The Tacoma News Tribune has recently put up a paywall that limits you to 15 free views per month. I rarely bother to take them. The News Tribune seems to be priced a bit lower than the Times, but it is still far more money than I can or will spend to read the news. Here then is an updated list of free news paper web sites:
The Seattle PI
The Washington Post
The Christian Science Monitor
The Houston Chronicle
The Chicago Tribune
The Times Picayune
The Plain Dealer
The Boston Herald
The Knoxville Sentinel
The Fresno Bee
The Austin Statesman
The Miami Herald
The Las Vegas Sun
The Guardian (UK)
Fun has long been my primary motivation for publishing this blog and participating in all sorts of social media. And when it really stopped being fun I had to just take a break. I am genuinely more grateful than I can ever express to each and every visitor who has left a comment for me on this site. I really, really value the comments I receive and the real joy for me is all of the conversations I’ve had in the comments on different posts. I admit that sometimes I try very hard to make my posts comment-worthy, ending them with a provocative question to the reader, that often times does get a number of different people to share their reply. And I really have been amazed at the many wonderful discussions that have taken place.
I am re-visiting the use of Empire Avenue missions to draw comments to these posts. I had saved up my daily income for four days to be able to offer a 25K comment mission. Only to have eight people take the eaves and not leave a comment. And then one of them sent me a flame on Facebook. I really don’t like feeling ripped off and getting into flames and acrimony with people I don’t even know. That just is not how I want to spend my time and energy online. I would so much rather talk about cooking mirlitons. In many parts of the world this hard, delicate squash is known as a chayote, but in Louisiana they are called mirlitons. They are a bit of a chore to fix. You start by boiling them (whole and unpeeled) for an hour or two, until they can be easily sliced in half. Let them cool and then remove the seeds at the center of each. Make sure you get out all of the seed which may have a thick outer layer that tries to get left behind. Dice the mirlitons and set aside. Meanwhile, chop two onions, one bell pepper and one bunch scallions or green onions. Also chop up about a cup of diced ham.
Saute the onions in a bit of butter and oil, then add the mirlitons and the ham. Saute on medium heat for 1–2 hours, until the mirliton is very soft. Season with salt and peppper and add a cup or so of panko breadcrumbs. Turn into a casserole dish and bake covered for 90–120 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional fifteen minutes. Allow the casserole to cool a bit before serving. The mirlitons have such a light, delicate flavor it is always a treat to make this. I apologize that I have done nothing whatsoever to incorporate apples or dinosaurs or a woman named Mercedes into this post. I am trying real hard today to keep my focus on having fun with my blog and meeting people and making friends. I resolve not to worry even a tiny little bit about who does or does not comment on this post. And to seriously consider if perhaps my friend was right when she suggested I was maybe taking the whole Empire Avenue thing Way too seriously.
Vivid. A word that suggests bright bold colors and sharp, well-defined flavors. As my friend Wayne Hurlbert no doubt understands, a vivid painting can be truly re-vivifying. I am contemplating ‘v’ words today on a suggestion from my friend Ruth. I don’t own a Volkswagen and have never committed any acts of vivisection. Frankly, winter is the wrong time to see verdant green fields and forests. Although they are no doubt visible in the other hemisphere right now, and perhaps in more temperate parts of this hemisphere. Soon enough it will be spring and verdant patches will break out all over.
The word vivacious has me thinking of a woman named Vivienne. For a time she published a blog called The Eavesdrop Writer. She had a real talent for over-hearing conversations and using them in short stories. I remember a contest she ran, asking her readers to complete a story she started. I also remember sharing giggles with her over my review of a children’s science book about poop. And then one day, it seems she just stopped updating her blog and I never heard from her again. Sadly, that is what happens with most blogs. However much attention and however many acquaintances a blogger may have made, most times most blogs just stop getting updated. They hang on as not very vivacious ghosts, kept alive by the powers that be at Google and WordPress. To me there is something deeply depressing about an abandoned blog.
Amazingly, I made it through the level I had been stuck on in Angry Birds only a couple of days after getting my new tablet. I am so genuinely pleased with my little tabby, and have resolved never to take it to bed with me. When it is not in my hands being used, I keep it on the little tablet stand on the end table, where it is ever ready to provide me with another round of shooting birds to smash wood and ice and kill little green slugs, or to allow me to read from what seems an almost endless selection of wonderful new books. Here is hoping that this finds a fantastic new week off to a good start in your world. I for one am happy to be alive today.
This time it was the shoes that saved me. As once before when the pictures from my image search were quite unusable until I came across a bat flower plant on a Goth blog that gave me an image, this time the classic stylings of Cordwainer brand shoes provided an image that is dressy and distinctive. And certainly more appealing than a plaster replica of a shoulder blade or a variety of the charcuterie that the word pate would be if you put an accent on the ‘e’. I however chose to read the word as pate, like the top of a bald man’s head, rather than a very rich and filling cocktail food that I never make and have only rarely eaten. (When I worked at a bookstore, I hosted an autograph party for the ladies who wrote the Kosher Cajun Cookbook and the Kosher Creole Cookbook. They brought a platter with pate and crackers, and after the signing party was over, they left the remains of the food with me. I took it up to an office and had it for my lunch. It was really delicious. However by the time my shift ended at 5 or 6 in the evening my stomach positively ached from having eaten so much of that very rich food.
I put on my clerical hat and pasted most of last year’s 294 blog posts into a text document. I still am very much up in the air about a title, and definitely plan to edit out some of those 294 entries. Though I believe that when I’ve edited out what I want to be rid of and added an introduction and an afterword it will be right around 100,000 words, which I believe is a reasonable length for a book. I am thinking that I will not attempt to include any of the comments on any of those posts (I’ve had over 4,900 hundred comments since I first started this blog.) I am thinking that the point of the book is to get my writing before new readers. And the eBook will be well-linked to the blog and readers will be able to connect to the blog and see and participate in the discussions. To be perfectly honest, I decided that I really did not want to go through the process of attempting to contact each commentator and secure permission to use their comments in a book.
I am deeply and genuinely embarrassed over the fact that although I talked about writing a new missions guide for Empire Avenue or a new missions section for my existing book Walking Down The Avenue, literally all year long. And never did publish an updated edition nor a new stand alone guide. My knack for procrastination has been fully on display on this blog over the course of the past year. There were in fact a fairly large number of posts that I am not whole heartedly proud of. And yet, it seems to me that it has throughout this year been that it was the combination of so many different themes, from suffering bi-polar disorder to navigating the health care system to blogging, social networking and a number of other peculiar personal interests that has made this blog work. Pasting from WordPress to word processor leaves very messy copy that will have to be gone over with a fine tooth comb prior to publication. (Plenty of time to make a decision about title and what supplementary materials to add to the actual blog posts.)
And finally today, many thanks to my friend Laura Sykes for suggesting today’s words.
293/366 which comes out to 80%. That is my final score on the blog every day in 2012 challenge I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Trying to write and publish a new post every day actually proved to be far more challenging than I ever imagined when I set out to do it. While I am a bit appalled at the huge number of times I really didn’t say anything but that I was having a bad bi-polar day, I am genuinely proud of many of the 293 posts that I published over the course of the 366 days in 2012. I don’t yet know whether I will attempt to gather these posts into a book. I am resolving not to brashly resolve and announce anything about that. Though I do think it may be a possibility.
These blog posts are definitely a peculiar blend of personal diary, advice and commentary about blogging, writing and social media, and the popular Just Three Words feature, which I implemented in May, following a great chance suggestion from my friend Lindy. But what to call the book? Since the three word gimmick doesn’t even come into play until almost half way through I don’t think it would work well to call the book Just Three Words. Offhand I am unable today to think of other titles. Looking back over some of the posts, I am just amazed at all of the great comments I received, and all of the people I got to meet and chat with. It really has been an amazing year on the blog. Here’s wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
It seems to me serendipitous that my decision to focus more on promoting and curating other peoples’ content was made at more or less the same time that several of my friends have started focusing effort on their own WordPress.com sites. My friend Harold Gardner has a particularly effective effort and I have been most pleased at a number of his posts. I particularly like the way he uses provocative key words, like adultery, in pieces that do not actually deal with the risque subject matter. It reminded me rather fondly of my own piece How To Explode Your Twitter Following, which did not actually include instructions for doing what the title suggested. Among bloggers this is known as creatively exploiting keywords Do take a look at Harold’s blog. And leave a comment about your most outrageous key word usage.
Once upon a time, when newspaper copy was drafted on type writers and laptops and tablets were not yet a dream in Steve Jobs’ mind, newspaper reporters sometimes called the copy desk from out in the field and dictated their stories over the telephone, to be typed and edited by other journalists back in the newsroom. I’m not entirely certain how ‘phoning it in’ became an expression referring to a half-hearted effort which someone simply did not bring their A-game to. I came to realize that it was not Just Three Words that Holly was trying to discourage me from, but rather ‘phoning it in’, using a gimmick and making half an effort on a day I just can’t be bothered. While I suspect I will have to get some distance from these blog posts before I can re-read them with a more critical eye and possibly judge if, when or how much I have been phoning it in over this very challenging blog year.
I’ve sometimes written that the biggest trait of the true professional writer is that they unfailingly meet deadlines. The ability to crank out copy, get the grammar and spelling correct and have it come out readable and fulfill all of the contract requirements is what professional writers most often do. And yet, like my friend Holly, I learned this year that sometimes I can’t even phone it in. The words simply will not flow. To be perfectly honest, I stopped seeking out and trying to land freelance article work quite some time ago. It seemed as though there was always someone somewhere who was happy to work for a lower price than I was willing to take. If my writing is only going to earn me peanuts, I’d frankly just as soon write for myself and devote my efforts to getting people to read it, and never mind the intermediate step of getting someone to pay me for my work.
In one sense, I could categorize this post as a rather long winded introductory example of my new curated content project. The very striking image is from a Tumblr blog, where a blogger tagged this image with the phrase ‘phoning it in’. There was a sub-title that may (or may not) make it clear to readers what this image has to do with the title phrase. Do click through and see if you “get it”. And leave me a comment and let me know.
For some reason I am thinking today about Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) doing a Homeric take off on Kermit the frog’s song ‘It’s Not Easy Being Orange’. It’s not easy to write post after post after post about just three words either. I really was so excited when I happened upon the idea, and I have in fact had a lot of fun with it at times. But honestly it’s come to feel a bit old to me and I have just about decided that I will soon no longer do every post as Just Three Words. Part of me is a little bit frightened of giving up a gimmick that has mostly worked well for me. And yet I fear I really am becoming a bit stale with the the three word gimmicks and I frankly feel as though I am reaching if not the end of my Just Three Words posts at the very least time for an extended vacation.
I actually really do try to be mindful of the people who read my posts and to provide at least some value in each post that I write. I’ve honestly never really though of myself as writing for any particular audience, though I do try hard to get to know people who read and comment on my posts. So much of what blog promotion really is ultimately boils down to reciprocity. If you visit other blogs and leave good comments and back links to your blog, you will very likely get visitors who will leave comments and back links to their blogs. The more you give, generally, the more you get.
I have been thinking about possibly going forward, probably after January 1st and the end of my blog every day challenge, beginning to feature a fairly steady stream of high quality curated content, probably for the most part from other blogs, presented in a way that is respectful and is not spammish. I know that I have at times been fairly critical of folks who re-purpose content rather than creating original content. I do think that alternating my original posts with publishing images, brief summaries and links to other people’s content might provide a richer experience for my readers while being more compliant with the simple fact that I have found that I truly am not up to writing an original post every single day. Part of me is embarrassed to admit how very much I have failed at the write and publish every day in 2012 meme I pledged this year. And I’m honestly not even sure that I will wait until January to begin experimenting with trickle down curated content.
And finally today, my sincerest thanks to my friend Craig Daniels who suggested today’s three words.