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Recently, Professor Adam Robinson passed along an excerpt from The Digital Divide, edited by Mark Bauerlein.  It was entitled “means” and composed by Clay Shirky.  The article begins with Gutenberg and ends with these words:

New tools get used only if they help people do things they want to do; what is motivating The People Formerly Known as the Audience to start participating?

The fundamental changes that have taken place in the evolution of this concept we call “the media” (which, in fact, goes beyond concept and into the realms of production, output and delivery systems . . .) have led to an environment in which anyone with access to the few necessary tools–a computer and an internet connection–can put forth their ideas to the public with no interference or censorship of any kind.

The professor asked us to respond to the article using said few tools, to put forth our feelings on the subject of what has come to be known as “Self-Publishing”, so here we go:

As y’all may or may not know, I possess a certain fondness for the analogue: I write on a typewriter (several different typewriters in fact); I shoot film; I still have a working VCR & cassette player, and too many tapes to justify . . . hell, I’m still spinning vinyl, 78s even!
I have slowly but surely been wading into this cultural stew that is the internets, and yes, I add an “s” to the end of that word every time I employ it, mostly because it still seems implausible to me that it could exist as a single entity.
Clearly, I have begun to warm to this idea of self-publishing, because you are reading this right now; however, to be perfectly honest, this blog would not exist if it weren’t required to pass this class.  But so it goes, and so, here we are.

In spite of the many valid points raised in favor of this movement by Mr. Shirky, as well as pretty much EVERYONE I KNOW, I still feel much the same as I always have about self-publishing one’s book.
I think it makes real sense for writers to “create an internet presence”, to put yourself out there in order to build an audience and to create an awareness in others of what you’re up to, so that when your book does hit the shelves, more than just your best friend and your grandma will be psyched to hand over the clams!  I think it’s possible to do this and still avoid the “milk for free” scenario.  I mean, if all your stuff is available on your blog, why would anyone pay to buy the hardcopy?  I think, too, that as both readers and writers, we are all curious about each other on some basic human-relations kind of level.  I know that I’m always curious when I read something, if it’s great or even not so great, about the person behind the words.  In this respect, I have tried–with this blog–to give people an idea of myself as a person as well as a writer, I mean, c’mon, I do lots of things well! 🙂

Still, I can’t help but reserve a pedestal in my heart for the conventionally published novel or volume of poetry . . . to me it says, “Yes, you and your work are every bit worth the risk–however large–we are willing to assume in sharing what you have to say with the rest of the world.”  I think outlets such as facebook and blogs are a great way to keep governments and large organizations in check; to share ideas and thoughts, pictures of your vacation, kids, cats, but they remain completely separate in my mind from the hallowed ground of the book itself.  Sure, I climbed out from under my rock soon enough to learn of the e-book “revolution”, but I can barely stand to stare at this glowing screen long enough to get this out!  The idea of reading on the computer, or smartphone, or e-reader ranks right up there, for me, with propping my eyeballs open with toothpicks and watching The Notebook on an endless loop!

I can’t seem to shake the feeling that self-published books, most often, ARE acts of self-indulgence, of vanity, or even worse, the results of prior failed attempts at the conventional route.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one left who feels this way, but if indeed I am, well, that’s oK too.

On the other hand, I know some GREAT writers who, for whatever reason, have chosen to self-publish and are enjoying the success of their labors.  Justin Sirois, for one, is quite inspiring.

I don’t know.  I. Just. Don’t. Know.

Personally, I have no intention of self-publishing my poems, other than my MFA thesis which, again, is a requirement in order to earn my degree.  (As it stands today, I’m leaning toward having the inside matter printed, and then creating covers and binding them myself.)  And I do intend to continue plodding along with this blog, and drinking my morning coffee while perusing status updates.  But, as silly as it may sound to some, I often wake from dreams in which I’m sitting down with an agent and discussing where to shop my next volume around, or composing my short quote for the latest Copper Canyon catalogue.  I want to feel like someone other than me has faith in my words, what about you?

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Think on it:

“A word is also a picture of a word.”

– from LIBRA, by Don DeLillo

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The Hold Steady!

I LOVE THIS BAND
so much,
not only do they rock harder than Quartz,
their lyrics are a witty and insightful commentary on the ruggedness of existence
delivered with a gusto P.T. Barnum would shy away from!
We saw them perform at the Ottobar here in Baltimore last night . . . I’m still abuzz!
Photos Here!

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Here’s a great article about it being oK to straddle the analogue / digital line.
{This one’s still walking the wire . . . }

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Writer’s Bloq

Today I joined an online community.
This still feels strange, the saying of it, the words themselves . . .  I am very uncomfortable being with being so accessible, but it seems time to surmount these not entirely unreasonable concerns and “Create an internet presence”, of which this venture here is also a key component.

Writer’s Bloq is actually a great place to “meet” (and by meet, of course I mean, compile as much background information possible on without ever speaking in person to) some of your contemporaries if you’re writing today.
It’s also a great place to check out the emerging and established talent that may or may not be your competition.

You can read some of my poems here.

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A New Project . . .

I have begun to pay closer (not more, because I always pay pretty close attention to every detail of everything . . .) attention to the process by which I attune with my thoughts, and thus the processes by which I formulate ideas; and not just in writing, but also on a more philosophical level.  I’ve just honed my eye, I guess you could say, to take in what’s obviously there, sure, but also to try and observe what’s just beneath, or what’s whispered as opposed to shouted out.

And so, I began and abandoned, began and abandoned numerous project ideas, some of which included: the etymology of stars, the genealogy of punctuation/#s/characters of the alphabet, myths/fables of how each different species of bird came to be/look like it does (*which then evolved into a focus on the shorebirds of MD and then back to a much larger scope), various “tree-of-life” diagrams, Venn diagrams, flow charts, some mathematical theory came into play . . .

And then I turned to the images, first at the museum and then to the ones lying in wait in my own creative subconscious.  I spent hours (that, although I at first felt “I should be writing” during this time, I realized pretty quickly that it was fine, that what I was involved in was informing and inspiring the writing that would come, which was an encouraging feeling indeed) collaging little vignettes together, then chose the few that spoke the loudest and got down to “writing”.

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