Write This Way: Writing and Editing Links for January 12, 2009

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Photo courtesy SXC.

It’s a new year, and time for our first 2009 installment of the writing-related hyperlink-love-fest we feature at least once a month on this blog.

1. Everyone still seems to be taking stock of the old year and setting goals for 2009. One inventive way to sum up 2008 if you’re a blogger, is to create a parataxis entry, which fuses a number of disparate, seeming unrelated fragments to create meaning. Michael Eddy, over at Orange Crate Art blog, used this technique on Jan. 1 by including the first sentence of the first post of the month for every month of 2008 on his blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“Small calendars for the new year, well designed and free. Alas, it’s a parking area that’s reserved. Victoria’s Secret likes to ask in its marketing, ‘What is sexy?’ Whoso would be a G-Man must be a pencil user, as Emerson might have put it.”

And so on. Musician and blogger Elaine Fine also jumped on the parataxis bandwagon, with somewhat different results:

“Daniel Wolf has put together a nifty Winter Album of twelve (and maybe more) piano pieces that incorporate a great range of compositional techniques. Scott Spiegelberg found this wonderful clip that is sure to make you smile. My grandmother kept magazines like this April 30, 1945 Life magazine on her coffee table. Thanks to Anne for this! And music criticism of unusual quality.”

I think parataxis is an interesting technique to experiment with—it can be fun to see if you find a thread of narrative in your varied posts if you blog, or it could be interesting to use the first-sentence/first-entry-of-the-month theme with a writer’s notebook, a poetry journal, or other analog writing tools.

2. Will Web 2.0 tools make us better memoirists or storytellers? That is the intriguing proposition of Kathy Hansen at A Storied Career blog, who asserts that 2008 was the year of the personal narrative, and that “lifestreaming” is the key to understanding why social networking tools will facilitate personal narrative nonfiction.

Lifestreaming, she explains, is the aggregation of personal content (status updates, blog or news item postings, photos, videos, etc.) across a number of services. FriendFeed and Plaxo Pulse are two examples of services that help users follow all their friends’ activities, from their status updates on Twitter or Facebook to their bookmarks on del.icio.us.

As Hansen tells it,

“Lifestreaming is unquestionably a form of personal narrative. It doesn’t provide a complete picture of one’s personal narrative; often the beholder is left to try to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, and assemble puzzle pieces. But in many ways, this lack of comprehensiveness is part of the charm. The little bits of information and media serve almost as story prompts that enable the reader to construct his or her own story about the lifestreaming person. And you can always ask the lifestreamer to fill in details or explain cryptic status postings.”

This assertion is one I’ve pondered privately for a few months now, and I tend to agree. As I determine what to post on my Facebook page, blogs and other places, I definitely think through my audience, how vulnerable I’m willing to be on the page (or screen) and how the items will reflect my experiences when I (or someone else) review them later. I believe that this tension between social media users’ desire to connect and share, and very real privacy and security concerns, will influence personal narrative development (or maybe it should be called “personal broadcasting”?) in the years to come.

3. If you are a mom with a book idea, take a minute to read an interview on Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s Quips and Tips for Freelance Writers blog with Iris Waichler, MSW, a member of the Wyatt-MacKenzie Writer’s Co-operative. This innovative publishing group is comprised of 24 stay-at-home moms who had dreams of becoming published authors. Led by Nancy Cleary, the company has a special focus on publishing titles that relate to motherhood.

While Waichler acknowledges that being a member of a publishing co-operative has its drawbacks, the experience has mostly been positive:

“The team helped my book become a reality…My wonderful colleagues helped answer questions I had about a multitude of issues like book marketing, putting together a press release and sell sheet.

“We cheer each other on when something good happens like great publicity or a book award or successful author events.  We cheer each other up if things don’t go well and offer valuable advice about how to tackle writing, marketing, and book challenges.”

4. Finally, business communications expert Bert Decker recently posted his list of the Top 10 Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2008. For those who are interested in the public performance side of communication, Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen (who made Decker’s “good” list) added a few names of his own in a separate posting.

Whether or not you agree with (or like) the people on Decker’s lists, they have definitely all made their marks in the media world, and the list of “good” communicators (which includes Barack Obama, the late Tim Russert, Colin Powell, Mike Huckabee, Tina Fey and businessman John Chambers) provides ample material for discussing what it takes to reach your audience in this media-clogged world.

(P.S. Decker put GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on both the “best” and “worst” communicator lists, which perhaps emphasizes the truism that very few people can communicate in every situation with equal effectiveness.)

Bonus Links

Line Number Your Writing
An incredibly practical tip for those who receive feedback on their works-in-progress from Marsha at Writing Companion blog.

The Six People You Meet in Freelance Internet Writing Hell
Adam Brown details the types of people you don’t want to spend eternity with online in this hilarious post on the Freelance Switch blog.

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