What Course to Chart Now?
Above: Lake St. Clair, the sixth Great Lake, the heart-shaped body between Lake Huron and Lake Erie
Here is a poem I wrote last summer, just after launching the year-long weekly blog project:
Earlier today, I delivered a fresh
manuscript, to a poet friend, in a bag
emblazoned with a green mermaid, crowned, stamped
quirkily off-center onto the kraft paper.
Then I drove fifty miles in a rushing sea
of traffic to discuss, wheels within wheels,
the greening patterns labyrinths make on the
antique depths of our rushed, modern psyches.
Now, here I am, parked inside a Starbuck’s,
adrift in a lagoon of round tables,
trendy glasses in place (how I need them),
with my purple laptop up, my fingers
poised above the keys, ready to harpoon
a whole pod of insights from the deck
of my shining new vessel: the Blog Post.
This has been a year of adventure. During this time, I have been able to keep my commitment of one post each Wednesday–Post #52 was published last week. In addition, (with technical support from Tim and Karla) I was able to add digital postcards on Mondays and holidays, as well as the occasional special post.
I launched into this year-long project in May because I knew Do Life Right, Inc. would be publishing And Sometimes Y during the summer. New convention says that it helps to have web presence, a “platform” (something I’ve associated with political parties only, until recently.) In the past year, though I don’t think it has helped my publisher or me reach the readers of my books, I’ve gained much from my blogging practice. Musing over the past twelve months, I’ve learned the following, and more.
1) A Blog is a New Art Form
Part scroll, part illuminated manuscript, part essay, part scrapbook and diary–the blog post is a new literary animal uniquely suited to matching a writer’s voice and images with readers in a way that offers the opportunity for near-instant feedback.
2) Blogs are Extremely Flexible
The blog is easily adaptable to each writer’s preoccupations, and format and length can be various. In my own experience, the blog post can handle anything from one line of text on a postcard and brief news alerts to lengthy interviews and scholarly essays, and anything in between. Posts can handle poetry, prose, and photographs with equal ease.
3) Blogs Can Create — and Enhance — Community
Through blog posts on a variety of topics of interest to me, I have connected online with people I have never actually met, reconnected with people I haven’t seen in a long time, and forged deeper connections with friends and family –we now know a bit more about what each other is interested in. A big “Thank You!” to everyone who responded to these posts and let me know of your enjoyment through emails and/or comments. That is what kept me going this year!
4) My Blog Helps Me Celebrate the Work of Others
Variety is the spice of life. Even I get a bit tired of my own work and my own point of view. I think my very favorite aspect of the blog post is the ability to shine a spot light on the work that other people are doing, work I admire and work in which I take great joy. For example, I have been able to:
*Showcase the extraordinary photographs of flora and fauna by my sister, Karla Schultz;
*Share interviews with labyrinth maker Marilyn Larson, editors Jan Rider Newman and Jessica Roach Fergusson, teacher Julia Denne, book seller Jerry Bilek, authors J.J.M. Braulick and Liana Cole, and dancer Atia Cole;
*Publish the poetry of Ronald Wallace and Tim Braulick, as well as some classic poets; an essay of Beth Dyer Clary; and the thoughts of many on their favorite book stores across the nation and the world;
*Highlight the good news in my orbit, including Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry, Poem in Your Pocket Day, the Maria W. Faust Sonnet contest, Big Woods CSA Farm, and NASA’s poetry-to-Mars project, the world of Little Free Libraries, the Doors of San Diego, and the artist-enhanced utility boxes of Minneapolis, among other topics.
In addition, I have been able to share the lives of people who have made my own life richer: those of my four great-grandmothers and that of my friend E. Ryan Edmonds. Each of these women now has her own post, her own always-lighted shrine I can visit any time.
In many ways, the blog posts I have published this year reinforce my sense of how my life is interconnected with the kindness, generosity, wisdom, talent, and individuality of so many other people. This is, of course, true for each one of us, but sometimes that reality is eclipsed for a time. It is good to be reminded of how enriched I am every day by the intentions and actions and insights of others. The passions and accomplishments of those around me fuel my own sense of possibility.
5) Blogs Can Be Creative Stimulants
This year of blogging has coincided with a banner year of both new work and publishing. On the publishing side, I published more poems in more journals and pieces of pavement that I have ever done before, in addition to publishing my second novel for young people, a short story, and a long scholarly review of poet Ava Leavell Haymon’s new book, Eldest Daughter. I’ve also read my poetry publicly, was invited to speak to sixth-graders on my life as a poet (slipping in a workshop on rhythm and meter), and was featured in Dancing Sun Media documentary on Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry Project. I find I have unprecedented energy for new poems, and I finished a long poem that I began in 1993, the primary poem, “Lady Tashat’s Mystery”, in a new book-length manuscript called Reading the Bones, refined with the help of poet friends Sally Nacker and D.E. Green. Last summer, I decided to finish two works-in-progress (adult fiction–novels), making some headway on each, and I also re-committed to a languishing quilt project (begun 10 years ago) that is now in the home stretch. Currently I am sending out poems to journals on a regular basis as well as sending out the book manuscript to potential publishers.
Coincidence? I think not.
In addition to the above, I have written several poems specifically for featured blog post topics. The ability to publish my own work — and the internal pressure to do so — has been very stimulating, indeed.
(Lady Tashat, Minneapolis Institute of Arts)
6) My Blog Helps Me Share My Other Work
In addition to sharing my work as an “artist” (poems, fiction, essays, and photographs), my blog has helped me to share my skills as an interviewer, a quilter, a cook, an arts advocate for my beloved home town of Northfield, a passionate reader, and (most especially) as a homeschooling mother.
7) A Blog Demands Patience
In this age of instant gratification, I have learned to wait for the right time to develop or publish some posts, while I have had ideas that look a long time to piece together after I had the initial idea (sometimes a title, sometimes a photo, sometimes a mere topic). The “PUBLISH” button gives the illusion that one has more control that one really does, because it is really off-limits until the post has a certain level of polish and completeness.(So far, thank goodness, I have not pushed it by mistake!) I have several ambitious draft posts now in various stages of readiness–hope to be able to sail those off to you when the leaves begin to turn.
8) A Blog Demands New Skills and Flexibility
This is especially true for someone like me who is not tech-savvy. I have learned how to cope with vast quantities of spam (heartfelt thanks to the developers of Akismet), new versions of WordPress, mysterious glitches, and weird freeze-ups and deletions. I have learned more than patience, though: I have learned how to combine images with text (art direction 101?), how to record and incorporate audio clips of poetry, how to create digital postcards with jpgs and Powerpoint, and how to approach strangers to ask for help on content or technical matters. None of this would be possible without the encouragement of visionary publisher Lisa Cottrell Bentley of DoLifeRight (www.doliferight.com), the step-by-step materials I purchased from blog guru Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia (www.wegrowmedia.com), and the reliable technical assistance and moral support and general cheer-leading from blogger and consultant Myrna Mibus and my very tech-savvy husband, Tim Braulick. Thank you, thank you!
9) Blogs Require Regular Time and Commitment
I knew that. I thought I did. Now I really do! The care and feeding of a blog is a part-time job. It is a blast, but (at least for me) it requires putting other projects on hold. This leads me to my final insight, the same insight I had at the start of this experiment, though now with a little different skew:
10) Change Can Be Good!
This year has been a watershed for me, and now I sense it is time for another change.
Truthfully, I am not certain how I will structure things to come! That is probably also a good thing. I know I need a change of pace for the summer, so I am going to limit posts for June, July, and August to weekly and holiday postcards, news flashes (should any be warranted), and (perhaps) an occasional spontaneous essay. Come September, I plan to resume more in-depth posts, but the frequency and form remains to be seen.
Last October, I accepted the invitation of publisher Lisa Cottrell Bentley to submit a short video to the second annual Do Life Right Teleconference. My topic was my initial thoughts on blogging. (I include the link address here, for anyone who would like to check it out: http://www.doliferightinc.com/2013/10/23/leslie-schultz-on-doing-blogging-right)
This summer I plan to do that hardest thing for me: be unscheduled! If the spirit moves, I will spend more time on fiction, on adding homeschooling resources to Winona Media, and on shaping another book of poems. I plan to spend lots more time outside and lots more time reading (can’t have enough of that!).
Next week, before the hiatus, I have a special treat to offer: the work of a very perceptive poet and scholar, Sally Nacker, sharing her thoughts addressed to poet Amy Lowell in her moving and scholarly work, “Wings and Windows”, complete with vintage lantern slides of Lowell and her home and garden at Sevenels. And then, this first year of blogging will be full and complete, like a bulging scrapbook documenting a wonderful, various, momentous year of my life.
Finally, as I head off into the future, I would like to thank everyone who took time to read the blog, cheer me on with comments and emails, and assist with sharing of passion and ideas. If you have requests for “Posts of the Future”, let me know. This summer I shall be reevaluating what I have done and drawing up new plans. I would love to incorporate ideas from readers. Thanks, again, for sharing the ride.