NBWC: The Impact of the Internet: Blogging, Publishing and Writing

Moderator: Esther Armah
Panel: Grace Ai, Troy Johnson, April Silver, Nick Charles
National Black Writers’ Conference
Saturday, March 27th, second panel session

Unfortunately, coming off the high of the last panel, this one naturally felt less dynamic at the start.  That said, this is a great conversation.

(I actually interacted with panelist Nick Charles at the start of the discussion.  He wanted to know who knew what was the most popular blog that had been turned into a book.  I knew it but figured everyone else did, too, so I said nothing.  Then there was silence.  Then someone called out the LOL Cats blog.  Nope.  So I said it halfway loudly and Charles heard me and asked me repeat … yeah, you know, it’s “Stuff White People Like.”  So I can go back to being quiet for the rest of the conference now.)

I like the things April Silver is talking about around internet/email marketing.  She’s pointing out the ways people can and need to take control of their own message, their own ability to make and maintain contact with our audiences.  She has said a couple of times now that we have to start with our own email lists.  Those are people we know, those are people we can and do contact on some kind of regular basis.  I’m hearing this especially, perhaps, because of my recent appeal for WE LEARN.  I sent out an email appeal letter to the people I know and the people I work with in the field.  (And can I just say an in-public thank you to the wonderful readers here who were kind and generous enough to donate?  You ladies so totally rock!)

Nick Charles has a love-hate thing with blogging.  He’s not against it exactly, but he’s got a lot of (justified) reservations.  He’s talked about the proliferation of incredibly badly written personal blogs where people don’t bother to edit themselves but just throw up whatever’s in their head onto their blogs without a second’s thought.  He made an excellent point about the fact that writers in the pre-social-media world would workshop a piece before looking for a publisher but that now people just publish immediately.  He talked about the anonymity of the Internet and how easy that makes it to be cruel and hateful to people.  At the same time, social media makes possible the kind of outpouring of emotion that showed up in comment feeds in the wake of James Brown’s death, in the wake of Gerald Levert’s death.

(I’m fairly obnoxious about this editor-less blogging.  Obviously I don’t have an editor — if I did, there wouldn’t be so many memes and filler posts up in here — but I also feel confident that my writing holds up technically.  I’m a strong writer, have a solid command of the rules and tools of English.  I see a lot of blogs that make me cringe, however.  I want to hire myself out to edit people, to help resuscitate English in the blogosphere.  I’m all for people writing what’s in their hearts, but there also needs to be thought, needs to be a consciousness of the fact that you’re engaging in a very public dialogue even if you’re only ‘writing for yourself’ … a claim that’s just a little suspect because if you were really only wanting to write for yourself, you wouldn’t be publishing it online!)

Esther Armah made some excellent points about helping young people see the power of social media to connect with larger issues, with other points of view, connecting with older people to learn more about the history of the subjects we’re following in the news.

I want to be having these conversations all the time.

And I need to remember that not everyone knows what I know, just as I don’t know all the stuff that other people know.  Some of the questions that have been asked have had me shaking my head, but then I have to check myself.  I’m so backward when it comes to all this social media stuff, I figure that if I know something, it’s just a commonly known thing, but I need to remember how very much not true that is.  Troy Johnson made some excellent points about how to keep your page current by being very careful about what tools you use, what applications you choose.  Keep things very basic to begin and remember that companies go out of business or stop updating applications and that you don’t want to lose content or functionality on your page because some company changed its platform.  (Please don’t go out of business any time soon, WordPress!  I don’t know enough yet to set up my own page!)

Uh-oh!  Nick Charles says no blog post should be longer that 500 words because no one will read anything longer than that.  Hmm … need for an editor over here on “if you want kin …”?


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