Who says blogging doesn’t lead to more formal work?

5.28.09 | | 30 comments

Tyler beat me to the punch, but I’d like to note that the Summer 2009 issue of Dialogue features fiction by AMVers S.P. Bailey and Theric Jepson and a review by Tyler Chadwick. This comes on the heels of the Spring 2009 issue, which features a review by P.G. Karamesines, and will be followed by a little something by me in the Fall 2009 issue.

Add in work by Tyler and me in the Fall 2007/Spring 2008 Irreantum and a fantastic essay by Eric Thompson in the Spring 2007 Irreantum, and the past year has been fairly fruitful for AMV’s bloggers. And there may be more that I have forgotten (pipe up in the comments). Oh, yeah, Theric presented at Sunstone — a paper that was jumpstarted by Tyler and Laura’s Reading Until Dawn project.

This is not to mention that three current or former Times & Seasons bloggers are represented in the Summer 2009 issue of Dialogue, plus Dallas Robbins and Juvenile Instructor’s Heidi Harris. I think it’s becoming more and more clear that for many of the new(ish) voices in Mormon Studies blogging is not the end itself, but rather a way to develop ideas, connections and communities. And today’s best Mormon Studies scholars may just need to be fluent in a wide variety of genres/platforms of expressing their thinking.

30 comments: “Who says blogging doesn’t lead to more formal work?

  1. Tyler

    “Tyler beat me to the punch”

    Darn me.

    “I think it’s becoming more and more clear that for many of the new(ish) voices in Mormon Studies blogging is not the end itself, but rather a way to develop ideas, connections and communities. And today’s best Mormon Studies scholars may just need to be fluent in a wide variety of genres/platforms of expressing their thinking.”

    I will say that blogging has opened opportunities and relationships for me, in the world of Mormon letters and beyond, that I wouldn’t otherwise have. At first, I was a bit wary, especially after Theric’s “Sin of Saint Onan” post, but I’m glad I took the plunge and became a blogger. It’s helped me develop as a poet and as a scholar and provides the perfect platform from which to get near instant feedback and to, like you say, develop ideas, connections, and communities. And that’s another reason I enjoy blogging, here and elsewhere: I like being part of this community and feel like it means being part of something that’s leading me somewhere beyond myself.

    I definitely see such platforms as the future of scholarship—at least part of my scholarship, anyway.

  2. Th.

    .

    Forgetting scholarship for a moment, I haven’t really found any of the benefits of blogging to help in fiction, other than just writing practice in general. I’ve yet to see a really functional fiction blog.

    That said, I’m working on some things for Sunstone that never would have happened without AMV and I’ve made some connections that will prevent me from looking like an idiot when I make up stories about, say, filmmakers.

  3. William Morris Post author

    All the readers of my work and almost all of the critiquing of others work that I have done have come either through AMV or the AML-List.

    In addition, there’s no doubt that which projects I choose to focus on are influenced by what we talk about at AMV and/or by the works that come up here.

    On the other hand, as I’ve mentioned several times before, I’m probably not the best poster body because my productivity is so low when it comes to fiction.

  4. S.P. Bailey

    Blogging has helped me make friends with good editing chops. (Not enough of them of course. I am always on the prowl for skilled friends who want to exchange critiquing services.)

  5. Patricia

    From time to time, folks express interest in other pieces I’ve written for AMV or solicit work centered around something I’ve done for this blog.

    AMV has provided an excellent environment wherein to experiment with writing shorter pieces. Also, I’ve learned a great deal about working with a “live” audience.

    I think that blogging has a kind of billboard quality to it in that it puts your name out there and makes it easy for people to notice and then find you. They get something of preview to see if what you do “fits.”

    The community here has been top-notch and constructive/productive—very good for a semi-housebound sort like myself. Deeply appreciate that. Community inspires artistic and/or critical endeavor. At least, for me it does.

  6. Th.

    .

    I was surprised how many people knew me when I went to Sunstone, and mostly through AMV.

  7. Laura Craner

    Thanks for remembering me, William! I’m younger and, um, not quite as educated as the rest of you but I do try.

    Blogging has definitely given me a community and a place to try out ideas. I’ve had a couple people solicit reviews based on posts and that’s nice.

    I still have a lot of growing to do and I feel like blogging gives me enough light to start pushing up through the dirt.

    Thanks friends!

  8. Jonathan Langford

    I’m guessing that my review of On the Road to Heaven in a recent Sunstone doesn’t count, since technically it first came out over AML-List and not AMV…

  9. MoJo

    Honestly I dread blogging, which is why I haven’t it done it since I discovered Twitter. I was running out of things to say and I’m not usually one to say something for the sake of a schedule.

    Also, I find blogging to be a way I work out logic problems I’m having, but I’d really rather not do that in public.

  10. Wm Morris

    Jonathan:

    I don’t really monitor Sunstone so I simply missed it. Of course, you have some even better “formal” work coming out.

    —–

    MoJo:

    If your major thing is writing fiction then I can see not blogging or not blogging very much (although Neil Gaiman seems to be able to do it). But for the moment AMV is really the only place I exercise my literary criticism skills.

  11. MoJo

    Wm., I think if I didn’t have an actual job I have to do to get some money into the house, blogging wouldn’t seem like such a thankless chore. Twitter’s given me far more exposure in a much shorter time than my blog has.

  12. Wm Morris

    I think Twitter works for a certain kind of exposure and certain communities. Blogging is better for others. Facebook or LinkedIn or Ning for others. Even web forums or listservs for others. And sometimes several platforms can work in concert effectively.

    I know you aren’t generalizing, here, but I think some readers my instinctively roll their eyes over the over-hyped Twitter, but my advice for anyone is to ignore the hype and do some lurking and some testing and see what works best for you.

    And to tie that back to the original point of the post: I seem to recall a bit of tut-tutting about the younger generation and blogs a couple of years ago. Well, based on the evidence so far it would seem as if the bloggers are getting work published in (or even running) the journals. The journals, however, have not done quite so well in moving in the other direction. I mention this not out of some sense of triumphalism, but only because I think that what the internet has done is open up a variety of ways to create conversation and in my experience, the most interesting people to associate with are those who have accommodated to this fact and work and converse across platforms.

  13. Jonathan Langford

    Blogging, for me, is a difficult medium. It lacks the convenience of an email list that automatically delivers messages without me needing to go out in search of them. At the same time, the time-sensitive nature of a blog makes it hard to find and comment on past comments of interest, as would be the case with a bulletin-board type format.

    That said, for me the key characteristic is the quality of the conversation, not the medium. The conversation here at AMV is great, which is why I try to keep popping in and contributing (and reading) from time to time.

    I’ve always been more an essayist than anything else, even back on AML-List. If anything, my challenge is keeping both my original posts and my responses down to the socially acceptable length on blogs. (See, for example, my response to today’s blog on the Mormon mystery market, which is nearly as long as Kent’s original blog.) Basically, I’m wordy, in a conversational sort of way. It seems odd to me, though, that blogging has become the medium of choice for so many people, when it seems to me that there are so many purposes for which it’s ill-suited.

  14. MoJo

    It seems odd to me, though, that blogging has become the medium of choice for so many people, when it seems to me that there are so many purposes for which it’s ill-suited.

    Oh, I so agree with this.

  15. Wm Morris

    “It lacks the convenience of an email list that automatically delivers messages without me needing to go out in search of them.”

    That’s because you haven’t yet embraced RSS, Jonathan. Listservs are much more clunky than blogs — with listservs you don’t have metadata (tags), you don’t have info about the authors, list of links, etc. In addition, you get too much cross conversation because of the lag in when messages get sent out.

    “wordy in a conversational way” — that’s exactly the type of medium that’s best suited to blogging (or web forums).

    ——
    “It seems odd to me, though, that blogging has become the medium of choice for so many people”

    Actually, a lot of people think that the era of blogging is over and it’s all about micro-blogging now (Twitter, Tumblr, FriendFeed).

  16. Kent Larsen

    I wish I could say that my blogging efforts here have led to opportunities in the same way the rest of you cite. But I suspect that has more to do with the kind of things I write about than anything else (either that, or I’m really not as good as I think I am).

    As for the rest of this, I tend to agree with William. Different media fits different kinds of writing and different readers. Blogs aren’t for all writers or for all readers, just like not everyone likes newspapers or magazines (and don’t even get started on the whole email list versus online forum disagreement, which is all about personal preferences, instead of what is best).

    I don’t know that I can explain why blogging has become the “medium of choice” for so many, but it fits my style well enough, and I enjoy it, so I’ll continue regardless.

    But I think that William’s overall point is important. I’d expand it to say that getting your writing out where your audience can read it is an important way to build an audience. Blogging is one way to do that, and a rather inexpensive way to do it.

  17. Tyler

    “It seems odd to me, though, that blogging has become the medium of choice for so many people, when it seems to me that there are so many purposes for which it’s ill-suited.”

    You mention the convenience and the greater potential for commentary of the list-serv (a platform I haven’t invested much time in because some conversations move too fast for my liking and my interest gets lost in the flood of messages—also a reason I don’t spend much time lurking in larger blog forums), both things (you suggest) that most blogs aren’t well-suited for, but what other things are blogs not suitable for? A few people have mentioned fiction, quick-updates (which Twitter has monopolized lately), and extended essays (though I find that serialized essays can work well), but I’m curious what other things you think the blogging platform might not work well with.

  18. MoJo

    Well, for one, content management. I use WordPress as a content manager, and while it’s useful for that, using a BLOG to manage ancillary content is something people do that drives me up a wall. It divides the focus and makes it difficult to understand the blog’s purpose.

  19. Wm Morris

    On the other hand, I’ve seen some very well put together author’s sites that mainly use the Pages function of WordPress to have a bunch of static pages and has a news pages that uses the blog format.

    I think, though, that the next step is more robust content management systems (perhaps built on social media platforms) that provide entry points and some organization for the various conversation streams.

  20. MoJo

    On the other hand, I’ve seen some very well put together author’s sites that mainly use the Pages function of WordPress to have a bunch of static pages and has a news pages that uses the blog format.

    I do that, except I don’t actually use the blog function.

    What I mean is that the blogger doesn’t use the pages function and does content management via the post function.

  21. Jonathan Langford

    Responses, responses…
    William: It’s certainly true that I haven’t yet embraced RSS. I’m a generally slow adopter who prefers not to jump to something new until it’s integral to something I’m trying to do.

    Tyler: Admittedly, a lot depends on the specific listserv. AML-List was rather unusual in that respect, in that it favored a more thoughtful exchange than most. There were also other features that made the list work better than most, such as what used to be a policy of having the moderator rename threads as needed to reflect the shifting conversation (back when the moderator had the time and the system supported the capability, which I don’t think it does anymore.) That’s become less true in recent years, for a variety of reasons, though I still sometimes find it easier to participate in AML-List conversations than blog conversations.

    As for things that a blogging platform doesn’t work well for: book reviews are (in my view) a prime example, without some kind of indexing system that allows one to access past reviews easily by title, author of the work, and review author. Theoretically, a bulletin board ought to work better for this, but that turns out not to be the case (for example) at the AML bulletin board site, which lists reviews solely by date of last post. That gets very unwieldy once you get past 12 reviews or so.

    Blogs aren’t necessarily a good format for announcements. That’s because a fast-moving blog like this one can quickly bury the announcement under new stuff. Miss a couple of days, and you miss the announcement. (Which, by the way, is one of the advantages of a listserv format: you may have to download a heck of a lot of stuff when you get back from vacation or whatever, but at least it’s still there in a format that’s easy to see, one line per entry. Though perhaps the RSS stuff William mentions would take care of that too.)

  22. Th.

    .

    …using a BLOG to manage ancillary content is something people do that drives me up a wall. It divides the focus and makes it difficult to understand the blog’s purpose. (MoJo)

    I’m sorry.

  23. MoJo

    I screwed up a blog once and had to contact my webhost to completely reset it. He said, “I see you’re using WordPress for content management.” Yeah. “You shouldn’t do that. It’s not meant for that. Use Drupal or Joomla.”

    Um. Hm. Well. I WOULD if I had time to learn it, but I know WordPress and so that’s what I’m doing for now.

    Anyway, that was apropos of nothing, except I think it’s when people use POSTS to index their content instead of PAGES that you run into problems.

    The other thing, about announcements, is that you can get plugins that will sticky announcements so they stay at the top however long you want them. The bad part is that if your visitors aren’t subscribing to your feed, they may miss new posts because they don’t see them.

    But right now I should just shut up because I’ve got my own issues going on and I’m certainly no expert.

  24. William Morris Post author

    The problem with Drupal and Joomla is that they are overkill for most people and have a much steeper learning curve than WordPress.

    Edit to add: although I should say that a robust yet simple open source cms with a large community of plugin/module developers will most likely happen. It’s sort of already there for Drupal and Joomla and WordPress is heading in that direction.

    ——

    Jonathan:

    The blog format is actually perfect for indexing reviews when done correctly. By applying metadata (whether tags or categories) to each review you can easily create the types of indexes that the AML review site has (but with less work). Such indexing can be displayed in a number of ways, as well. In addition, you can easily add other tags to the reviews that would provide other ways of viewing the archives, links to other resources on the author or work (or where to buy it), insert images, etc.

    What’s more, by using a blog platform, you can push out the reviews via RSS, e-mail (just like you can subscribe to AMV via e-mail), Twitter, etc.

    And you can choose to either let people comment on the reviews or not. For example, as valuable as the AML-List reviews archive is, what’s missing is any discussion generated by the review.

  25. MoJo

    I know April Hamilton uses Drupal for Publetariat and though I’m one of the charter members, I’ve yet to get in there and really participate, I do think it’s a good example of decent (if not perfect) content management (with indexing, of a LOT of content) that still manages to support a blog.

    What I find limiting in using a blog is often the template used. In fact, I’m thinking about changing my blog template because it’s just not meeting my needs anymore. I don’t want to break up with my template, but we’ve grown apart. I might just start using a different variation of my book’s site for my blog.

    /end thread hijack and return you to your regularly scheduled discussion about blog post WRITING and not blog management.

  26. William Morris Post author

    I actually looked at launching AMV on Drupal using a somewhat similar model to Publetariat (which you are right — looks to me like a very good implementation), but I decided it just wasn’t worth the hassle for what I wanted to do with AMV.

    Regarding templates: the ability to significantly hack a template (or even create one from scratch) is very useful. It’s one of the skills that I think writers should work to acquire (along with basic image editing and layout).

  27. Patricia

    Wm, I was thinking about this post while I was canyon-tromping this a.m. and thought, “This can work the other way around, too. Writing more formal work can lead to blogging.”

    Not your topic, of course. For me, it’s been a two-way street.

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