Saturday, December 29, 2007

Amoxicillin and Blogging

My daughter says it's stress-related (she should know). My friend James Walker used to call it "a punctuation mark." You know what I mean. I'll bet you've been there: getting sick as soon as you can let down your guard or stop all the movement or, for me, finish up the many months of tour/travel/schools/conferences/company/holidays.

I did fine until the night after Christmas, when I knew I was coming down with... something. We drove through the night from Charleston, S.C. to Atlanta, and I felt punier with every mile. I woke up the next morning to a fever and sore throat and finally got myself to the doctor when swallowing became impossible. Upper respiratory infection. Strep. Pass the antibiotics and other assorted meds. I've been down for the count for two days. Better this morning. Fiddling with One Pomegranate, getting ready for launch.

You know... keeping a blog was Harcourt's idea for the launch of THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS. I was reluctant -- so reluctant -- to join the hordes of bloggers in the nusphere. What did I have to offer? And why should anyone (including me!) bother to read what I wrote? I knew little about blogs or blogging, but since I'd done the tour journal for EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS and it had been so warmly received, I committed to this blogging thing, "but only for the tour!" I said. Folks at Harcourt replied, "... you won't know how you went without one for so long!" No way, I told them. I was such a curmudgeon. And they were right. Way. (Thank you, SteveH and Roseleigh. You may forevermore say "I told you so.") But how to make a blog useful and meaningful? That has been the experiment.

I've been feverishly (ha) reading blogs for months now, trying to get my head around what makes them work -- or not work. I love the sense of community I find in blogs that work well. I rarely read comments on these blogs (and I know from personal experience that most comments come to me in email and not directly on the blog). But after reading hundreds and hundreds of blogs over the past several months, I can feel when there is a community gathered around a certain blog -- can't you? I can feel when there is a give and take, a sharing of ideas, a meaningful conversation. I'm now convinced that blogging can be and is an essential communication tool.

The blogs I've enjoyed most are very focused. I've already mentioned Orangette. Here's her blog description: "a blog-style collection of stories, often autobiographical and always gastronomical." She posts once a week. I know I'm going to get a story and a recipe -- a doable recipe for me -- each Thursday.

I love Angry Chicken, too, Amy Karol's blog. Always something to make with your hands -- I like reading about cupcakes in 1/2 pint jars or vintage aprons. I printed out her gift tags this year and affixed them to Christmas presents. My favorite: "I totally want to get one of these for myself, so let me know if you don't want it." I bought Amy's book for Christmas this year and affixed this tag to it when I gave it to my daughter.

Then there's Keri Smith's blog. Friends and I have had so much fun at Keri's site this season, becoming guerilla artists. My friend Jo Stanbridge has been making tuckboxes. I've made the little magic books. Mostly I love Keri's voice and sense of simplicity. Her openness and honesty feeds my soul. Here's her take on blogging. It's the Nov. 15 entry.

There are more blogs than I will ever find or read. I see that I gravitate toward cooking, gardening, hand crafts, home, and steer clear of politics and other writers' blogs. Why is that? Maybe I want comfort reading from blogs, or how-to, or inspiration. And maybe, just maybe, I have a bone to pick with writers' blogs. I've read dozens of them, and I want to know: What are we doing with our blogging, writers?

With few exceptions, we don't talk about our process or what we're writing... it's as if it's a big secret and we're protecting it from... what? Exposure? Being stolen? Watching the story leach out of our minds and never be captured on paper? Diluting the story? I don't know... certainly there's nothing wrong with not talking about process -- heck, I might not be able to do it, when it comes right down to it, but I want to try. Because... I'm a writer. It's what I do. So I'll write about what I do and how I do it.

What a departure! I've been as secretive about my work as the next writer. So let's see what happens. I'm rethinking everything,including blogging, here at the end of 2007, a fabulous, challenging year.

So. A blog that chronicles the writing experience -- creating a writing life. That's what I want to do at One Pomegranate. I'll talk about writing from life experience and I'll chronicle the work in progress, as well as my teaching, gardening, cooking and, well... my life. It feeds the writing. And vice-versa.

So much of writing isn't actually pen on paper. It's Moments plus Memory plus Meaning. I talk about this a lot when I speak. We take moments from our lives and, using the memories we have (and those memories change over the years) of those moments in time, we assign them meaning (which also changes) -- we create stories from those moments. A post from One Pomegranate that illustrates this well is the Caroling Post from Dec. 22.

Perhaps I am naive and will discover I'm a fool, as I try to chronicle this process, but I hope not. Just as Keri Smith writes about being an artist and Orangette offers up recipes, I want to chronicle the wonder of how a life turns itself into stories. Not for self-aggrandizement; for sharing. For hearing your stories in return. For connection and community and kinship.

Blogging is how we are finding one another in this ever-bigger world, how we are discovering like voices and minds and hearts. I want to be a part of that discovery. So I'll write about what matters to me, and I'll keep looking for you, your voice, your mind, your heart. It's a symphony true, this searching, in whatever form it takes, as Walt Whitman wrote, as Norwood Boyd and Elizabeth Jackson said, as House Jackson learned. A symphony true:

After the dazzle of day is done
Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the stars
After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus, or perfect band,
Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.

Time to take the amoxicillin. I can swallow today. My fever has broken. I am out of bed and out of the woods. Life is good.