Monday, March 11, 2013

On Browsing Wisely

Due to time spent in front of a computer that’s over the years led to a vast knowledge of things that matter very little – Taylor Swift is 5’11,” everyone! – I’m known among family as President and CEO of the Internet. I’ve also developed a bit of a reputation in the MFA program for excessive Googling (my classmates’ names, mainly). So I really felt I’d earned it, felt I’d finally arrived, when I received an email from our friendly graduate advisor soliciting a blog entry on blogs. She’d apparently heard from our creative writing director that I “had a good understanding of which blogs are reading-worthy.” My status as blog stalker in residence preceded me, and I was gleeful triumphant proud.

Until I realized she’d heard wrong.

I do follow twenty-three blogs (TWENTY-THREE), and sure, I can point the way if you’re looking for commentary on celebrity children from the perspective of a celebrity child (Suri’s Burn Book). If you’re interested in nonstop hilarity that involves taxidermy more often than not, hit up The Bloggess. Fav resource for all things pop culture? Vulture. Looking for somewhere to revel in feminism and femininity (along with Zooey Deschanel)? HelloGiggles. In need of DIY inspiration? Young House Love. Have a friend/acquaintance/frenemy whose wedding website you can’t seem to find? You just let me know. Have a meme to show me I that I haven’t seen yet? It’s adorable that you think that. I have Googled “Google,” people. I kept webcam vigil over a pregnant giraffe in the days leading up to the birth. I have seen the whole internet.

Oh. Except for all the literary sites, that is. Of which there are many. Of which many are good. And it’s shameful (not as shameful as the giraffe thing, but shameful) that I – that many of us, I’d guess – have not been taking advantage. It’s not that I’m suddenly down on downtime (, I don’t even want to know how to quit you), it’s that I’ve realized that we as writers should be spending a little more of it on literary pursuits.

The beauty of blogs is that they’re a direct line to the lives, thoughts, insights of others. To news, to opinions, to questions that might get us thinking, that could get us writing. There’s nothing wrong with doodling around in less-than-intellectual corners of the internet, but easy access to the wisdom and musings of other writers and readers is something we should not be passing up.

So I made it my mission over the past month to squeeze some blogs of a literary nature into my busy browsing schedule. Here’s the deal:

         -     Many of us are probably aware of Writer’s Digest, but check out the editor blogs for thoughts on everything from craft to publishing.

         -     Another publication you may know of that has a blog you should know of: Brevity. Visit for the self-described “creative nonfiction miscellany,” which is, as promised, miscellaneous, and also helpful or thought provoking or humorous or all of the above.

         -     If you haven’t yet experienced The Rumpus, you, my friend, are in for a TA-REAT. You can peruse blog posts here, but the whole site is like a playground for fans of pop culture and the arts, only with essays, reviews, poems, comics, interviews, etc. instead of slides and swings and stuff.

         -     Bookslut is, first of all, called Bookslut. If that’s not reason enough to visit, in this monthly online magazine/daily blog “dedicated to those who love to read,” you’ll find, as the site says, “a constant supply of news, reviews, commentary, insight, and more than occasional opinions.”

         -     At Writer Unboxed, you’ll find posts on writing and the writing life from countless contributors (I mean, I guess I could have counted them), which means multiple voices, multiple perspectives. Really, no one person has all the answers when it comes to writing, so here you have a shot at finding a voice, or voices, that might speak to you.

         -     OK, so, The Second Pass, brainchild of the New York Times’ John Williams, has been on hiatus for more than a year, but hear me out: it’s really worth clicking around. The content might be ‘old,’ but it’s good. Some of the last blog posts from before the break feature correspondence between writers, and the letters are really neat to read.

         -     In addition to her writing blog, new media guru and editor Jane Friedman (former Writer’s Digest publisher) offers on her site a “Writing Advice Archive” where you can find (wait for it…) writing advice in one easily accessible, user-friendly spot.

         -     Maud Newton, widely published and praised (check out her About page), writes a great blog that offers, as she puts it, “occasional literary links, amusements, culture, politics, and rants.”

         -     I’m not exactly sure who’s behind Moody Writing, but I know I liked the first entry I saw, in which the writer mourns not being able to snoop at what others are reading on public transit because of coverless e-readers… while pulling out a Kindle. The blog is full of lengthy entries on various elements of craft. It’s worth perusing and deciding for yourself which ideas/advice hold merit/resonate.

         -      I stumbled upon Kim’s Craft Blog in doing research for Teaching Creative Writing and find author Kimberly Davis’ craft lessons to be quite accessible and often illuminating.

         -     And clearly I’m not the first person to attempt such a compilation, so here are some “best” lists:


          -      Also, Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing*. This is obviously a very brief and kind of random selection, but most publications and a great many authors tweet. Following their feeds is a fantastic way to ingest writing-world goings on in small and timely bites.
@judyblume (Her tagline is “Are You There, Twitter? It’s Me, Judy” – !!!!!)

*I am. @RisaAriel if you’ve a tolerance for nonsense.

Risa Polansky Shiman, who lives on the internet and also in Delray Beach, is in her third year of FAU’s MFA program. You can find her latest published work, a piece on comedy as feminist rhetoric, in Harlot.

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