Form a Blog CirclePosted: May 16, 2013
I gave the Discovery 2013 interns some “Summer Homework.”
Many of these students were in my Literary Citizenship class this spring, but some were not, and so we’ve decided to spend the 10 weeks leading up to the conference doing some training via “homework.”
Every Friday by 3 PM, they’ll engage in something I call “Charming Notes.” It’s a version of what Carolyn See prescribes in her book Making a Literary Life. They’ll be required to friend or follow or engage with five people, writers, magazines, agents, or publishers in order to expand their literary horizons. (We did this in my class during Spring 2013, and it worked wonders.) One of those five must be an “active” note–meaning they have to say something to the person, comment on a blog, send an email or message, not just passively follow someone.
Every other Friday by 3 PM, they’ll post to their blog. I’ve told them that these posts can be:
- journal entries
- book reviews/what they’re reading
- commentary about articles they read while preparing for MWW
- interviews with writers
- a roundup of links to helpful articles or information
- fearful questions and anxieties
- a response to someone else’s blog post
- I’ve recommended that they use my blog Literary Citizenship for inspiration, esp. the links in the right-hand column.
I’ve warned them: “You can blog about or share your own writing, but primarily, the goal is to be interested in what other people are doing, not what you’re doing.”
They must read ALL of each week’s posts (5 or 6) and comment on them. In a sense, they will “workshop” each other’s posts, but in a supportive, helpful way. Such as, if they think the post could be formatted more attractively or they catch a typo, they should tell the person in our private FB group (only we see that). But if they want to engage in a conversation with the post, they’ll do that in the comments section.
Basically, I’ve created a blog circle.
Ultimately, I want each intern to find the community they need and blog about whatever they need to blog about, but I also want them to form a community among themselves.
The internet is about circles and communities and connections. Our job is to find the right ones to plug into.
A metaphor: going online at first is like being a boat drifting in the middle of the ocean. You write into a void. No one can find you. You’re a needle in a haystack. You’re not even a ping on anybody’s radar.
What you have to do is find some other boats and tie yourselves together. Not just any boats. The right boats. Boats like you.
Hang out with them. Talk. Learn. Eat. Plus, you’re more visible to search parties.
Who’s in your blog circle? If you don’t have one, think about how to find one.
An example: I just proposed a panel for AWP 2014 in Seattle on teaching novel writing. The first people who came to my mind were people I’ve met via social media who share my interest. John Vanderslice comments on my blog “The Big Thing” quite often because he teaches a similar class. Then there’s Roxane Gay and Jon Billman, with whom I talk about the subject on Twitter from time to time.
They sent me Charming Notes, or I sent Charming Notes to them.
That’s the benefit of being online, I think: that when particular opportunities arise, names come to mind.