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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I’m Singing In the Rain

Dear Betsy,
Honestly, how important (or not) is it for a writer to have a blog? I started one over a year ago to try and promote my work, but I decided to stop for a number of reasons, at the top of the list that I wasn’t updating it every day. I write longer pieces, and I felt that my audience (barring 37 friends) wanted shorter. I also began to feel like a hack; I don’t read blogs (except yours and those of a few foodies), I read books. I write books, and I hope they will be published. Have I squelched my chances by removing myself from the cybersphere?
Your Fan,

P.S. I also hate Facebook.

Dear To Blog or Not to Blog:

You shouldn’t blog. You tried it, like you might try sweet and sour soup, or snowboarding, or tinting your eyelashes and you determined that it wasn’t for you. It’s not a crime not to blog. It’s tempting in this rapidly changing world to think you have to cover all the bases: website, blog, facebook, tweet, and god only knows what’s coming down the pike. Some people are not temperamentally cut out for it. I think Robert Lowell would have blogged, not so Elizabeth Bishop. Walt Whitman and Alan Ginsberg would have blogged; Emily Dickinson might have tweeted. Sylvia Plath would have blogged. Anne Sexton would have been all over Facebook.

Some writers have made tremendous use of the web to promote their work. I think the best example is Chuck Palahnuik. Not that he needs my plug. His site, aka The Cult, is pretty amazing with forums, writers workshop, galleries, chat rooms and a store! If anyone wants to know what to get me for any occasion, I really like the t-shirts.

Look, it’s certainly an advantage if you have a huge presence on the web, especially if you are starting out and want to show a publisher that you have a following, a platform to use their word. Of course it is. But you can’t make yourself someone you’re not. As far as I can tell, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lorrie Moore don’t blog.

What do you think out there? How important is it to B-L-O-G?

34 Responses

  1. It has to be personal preference. I’d rather see a mainpage with a bio, events calendar and a list of published works rather than a blog with stale material.

    I started blogging first and have a small, but nicely loyal set of readers. Now that I’m writing “full time” (unemployment opened up all kinds of time), I have to work really hard to maintain balance between blogging and working on manuscripts.

    The other thing about blogging, unless you’re a recognized name, there’s a certain amount of expected reciprocity. If you don’t have time to go out and read and make thoughtful comments on other blogs, it’s hard to build a reader base to begin with (without a hook like a published work).

  2. I choose to write a blog because it’s a nice creative diversion from my real focus of writing novels. I doubt it creates a huge readership for most bloggers, and generally doesn’t lead to book deals (with the exception of folks like Jen Lancaster and Julie Powell). Sometimes it’s blogging; sometimes it’s only blah-ging. I wouldn’t sweat it.

  3. When I first landed a contract, the best blog advice I ever received was from a fellow writer who told me that if I didn’t have anything to blog about, I should interview authors on a blog instead. It would make for interesting content, but more importantly, I would be building contacts for future blurbs. Best advice ever. All of my blurbs came from interviewees (big names in my genre), and I’m still friends with them years later. We’ve done panels together, we speak together, they send publicity my way and I send publicity their way… and all because I sent a few questions their way.

  4. It’s important to me to blog because I love to blog (I also like the word blog). I only just started actually blogging about my work and making it (somewhat) accessible there. However, I would assume I’d start an additional one once published.

    Blog.

  5. i started blogging in 2008 to get in the habit of writing every day. i made a commitment to blog once a day for 365 consecutive days. Per my original About Me page, my end goal was “…to find my voice so that soon I will get compensated handsomely for writing what I want when I want.”

    from january 15 2008 to january 15 2009, i never missed a day (even though some days i just wrote: i’m way too tired to write tonight).

    during that year, i was given a weekly gig as an op-ed columnist for my local paper and started a novel that i am now in the final stages of completing (revisions, revisions, revisions). it’s the third novel i’ve started, but the first that i will actually finish. i’ve yet to meet my goal of handsome compensation, but my voice is getting stronger–i attribute this to making myself write every day.

    i still keep the blog, but don’t post daily. i also use it to archive my columns and my writing samples.

  6. You read my mind. I often wonder what writers from other eras might have done. Would Jane Austen or the Brontes or George Eliot have enjoyed headlining writer’s festivals? I try to imagine them coming up with jokes and witty openers as they wait backstage, and I’m kind of glad they didn’t have to.

    Tolstoy would have blogged. On multiple platforms. Probably in several languages. And Dickens. Woolf would have blogged her heart out but probably regretted it. Gertrude Stein would have tweeted. Obliquely.

    For some reason, after posting on your blog this week, I finally decided I might *almost* be ready to blog myself. I’m more your Emily Dickinson type but an idea for a blog came to me the same way lines from poems arrive, or ideas for stories or novels so I’m going to let it percolate. I’m a tortoise not a hare. If the web comes up with something better in the meantime, I’ll keep an open mind.

  7. Blogs are hard work, fun but hard work and I’m not sure that they encourage you to work at your writing. They might attract a readership of sorts but it may not be all it’s cooked up to be.

    I’m with Betsy here. If you enjoy it, if blogging gives you pleasure, then go for it. But if not stop.

  8. I think the internet social media can be great tools to use… IF we use them consistently and well. If you’re only going to blog 3x a year because you hate it, or if you’re going to spend more time blogging than writing your books, then it won’t serve you well, and you should dump it.

    I love it when my favorite writers blog, and it keeps their names fresh in my mind when they have new releases, but I’m never going to NOT buy a book because the author doesn’t blog.

  9. I’m with Amy. I started blogging about 7 or 8 years ago just so I’d be in practice, even when I didn’t have any assignments on my plate.

    From an editor’s perspective…When someone pitches me, or applies for a job at the web magazine where I work, I’m surprised if they don’t have a blog or a Twitter feed. It makes me wonder if they’re really cut out for publishing if they’re so behind the times. Though a nice, professional website will go a long way toward appeasing me.

    Then again, as I said, I work primarily with web content. While I think it’s important to build a platform no matter what type of writer you are, certain mediums work better for certain writers.

  10. I would just like to point out that if you like to post once every six months and write very long posts, that’s okay too.

    You don’t have to have a highly ranked blog with a following. You can just have a “presence” that has information about each of your works, and a self-interview, or whatever It’s there just so that if anybody reads something of yours and comes looking for you, they find you.

  11. I’d like to have a blog to publicize my books and move into the twenty-first century, but my life is so dull; people who stumbled across it would roll their eyes so huge that they’d pop out of their heads and skitter across the room. I don’t even have enough in a whole year to write one of those dreaded holiday letters. I doubt anybody cares that I recently switched from Crest to Colgate.

  12. Completely agree. Not all writers can or should blog, just as not all novelists can write poetry. If you want to try, do, but if you don’t like or excel at the form, don’t worry about it.

    Bad blogs actually put me off books I might otherwise read.

    • Okay, I’m a happy woman. I’m sure you already know MaudNewton.com but just in case you are in for a major treat.

      • I agree. Maude Newton’s in the house! Just getting caught up w\ my Betsy blog… Very busy of late.

  13. Way back in the dark ages, I kept a handwritten journal. I started that at age ten, a little red diary with all my secrets locked away. Progressed to bigger journals, then started typing entries. Along came the internet, and I transferred the typing over to an online journal, then eventually a blog.

    I’ve never promoted my work much at my blog; it’s still about my life, random news events, inner reflection. It’s always been like a diary/journal, but I don’t update every day or every week. However, I did place three tweets at the top, and do update those every day at least once.

  14. I started blogging in 2003, before blog applications even existed. I blogged to promote a short film that I produced, and acted in and I made the blog in the voice of my main character, Stella. Writing in a pseudonym, freed me up as a writer. I could be vulnerable or silly. It also helped that I didn’t take it that seriously. I never participated in blog communities, nor did I promote it. I think the fact that I never took it that seriously helped my writing tremendously, which is why so many of my blogs are the genesis of the material for the memoir I just completed. I have since decided to view it as a public note-book, my own open mike, and if anyone appreciates it that’s just a plus. I think, to be perfectly, honest, I was embarrassed about it. It was my own secret. On the web. However, seven years later there is no doubt that my voice developed from writing consistently in this blog. However, I don’t know if I want to use it as a way of self-promotion as that could affect my writing. Overall, I can’t imagine what my writing would be like without it. (www.searchforsanity.com)

  15. I started my blog just to vent about my son’s Bar Mitzvah and, when that was over, I let it go dormant until I heard somewhere that writers are expected to have some type of Internet presence. You can’t really be Salinger anymore. So I brought it active again.

    My blog’s done a lot for me. Through it I got used to having my work read publicly, as opposed to only by my writing workshop participants. I also learned how to write a nice little essay quickly and painlessly which led to some other writing assignments and an editor job. I think without the blog as a “writing sample” I may not have gotten these.

    Altogether, the blog has given me some kind of “platform” which I hear is necessary in order to sell a book, at least a memoir, which is what I write. So, even though it’s time consuming, I think it’s been important. And after nearly two years now, I’d miss it if I stopped.

  16. Blogging is another word for ‘writing for free.’ That’s great, if you enjoying giving it away. I’m a man–I find nothing more attractive than people who give it away. The problem is when editors start expecting this shit, to promote novels. You want me to write promotional materials? Pay me. That’s what professional *means*.

    There’s this new crop of editors, composed of three parts enthusiasm and one part ignorance and one part offensively radiant youth. They’re usually slender, too. They don’t understand the granite truth of being a writer: you’re going to fail. Your book will not sell. If someone accidentally starts your shitty paperback, they’re not gonna finish it. By the time your book hits the shelves, nobody cares, not even you. With that cover, the whole thing is an embarrassment. You’re not gonna build a fucking empire with the 137 friends and 79 followers you whored your way into collecting. Those are all just other assholes trying to build their own empire on by pretending that 200 sloppy seconds are ‘a platform.’

    Unless you’re getting your personal rocks off, it’s all a waste of time. Blogging and twitting and facebooking. Blog tours, book signings, book trailers, T-shirts. If Chuck Palahnuik and Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow were all on fire, which one would you piss on?

    Also, I didn’t know people tinted their eyelashes. However, I am aware that they sometimes bleach their assholes. Because if your sphincter isn’t fetching, can you really expect more from your life?

    • Can you get your asshole bleached and run a chipmunk up there at the same time?

    • While you’re a little more negative about all this (though funny!) then I am, I do feel like editors and agents don’t always understand the whole internet world. For example, one agent thinks that all writer’s should have websites just listing who they are and their information so they’re easily googlable- but it’s actually really hard to get your website to be the first or 5th thing to pop up on google! If you search my full name, you can’t find me for like 8 pages because a famous politician has the same name as me- and the only way to search for me is to tie my name in with jobs i’ve had. I currently have my own portfolio online (I’m a graphic designer), but you can’t actually find it unless i give you the address because it’s never had enough web traffic to make it into google. And I’m really successful at my job. So it’s not like you can’t find my website because I’m small time.

      I’m not sure where I’m going with this aside from feeling really frustrated now. lol.

    • While you’re a little more negative about all this (though funny!) then I am, I do feel like editors and agents don’t always understand the whole internet world. For example, one agent thinks that all writer’s should have websites just listing who they are and their information so they’re easily googlable- but it’s actually really hard to get your website to be the first or 5th thing to pop up on google! If you search my full name, you can’t find me for like 8 pages because a famous politician has the same name as me- and the only way to search for me is to tie my name in with jobs i’ve had. I currently have my own portfolio online (I’m a graphic designer), but you can’t actually find it unless i give you the address because it’s never had enough web traffic to make it into google. And I’m really successful at my job. So it’s not like you can’t find my website because I’m small time.

      I’m not sure where I’m going with this aside from feeling really frustrated now. lol.

      I myself had an art/photography/music/writing blog which I really loved and gained like 70 people over the summer that I wrote it, but than I got a full-time job and have been working on my second novel and I just don’t have the time to write regularly in it! Plus, while I liked it, I’m just not an “article” writer, and after about 3 months of updating regularly I wasn’t inspired to come up with things to write anymore! So I think that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have a blog.

    • God I love this comment. Could not agree more.

      • Betsy, what the hell’s going on with this blog? My comment above was meant for August’s 1st comment. This cannot be my fault.

  17. I should mention that, of course, *commenting* on blogs is an elevated art.

    And maybe I should’ve stopped after one glass.

  18. I don’t know if this is related in any way to bleached assholes, but when I started my blog, I didn’t care for the word. I decided to call myself a Diaryer. Of course, this has its own problems.

  19. In my day job I am a journalist writing news about finance -so blogging is a great outlet for being to write in a much more free-wheeling style without having to worry about whether I am editorialising. Also, I figure if I have to apply for a new job I will be expected to demonstrate that I can blog, tweet etc. as that is what is expected from a 21st century journalist.

  20. I started to blog because I read somewhere on the internet that by blogging you could improve your writing.

    Mine is Writing Practice Open-To-Audience.
    I post every day that I have access to a computer with the internet, which is usually M-F.

    It actually has become something I like to do; I’m not worried about — Oooh, do I have enough readers, do I have any readers, followers, blah blah blah — I’m just practicing, and it gives me a place to put some of my enthusiasm so I don’t annoy people at work.

    Some days I ping-pong back adn forth between two fears: What if no one is reading my blog??! OMG, what if people ARE reading my blog??!

    When I post, I write a little differently from how I would in my manuscript, in my writing practice in my notebook, or in my Project Journal, or in my Diary.

    It’s weird, but using different venues, on a regular basis, causes me to think / analyze / write differently, and to develop.
    Which was original goal.

    Thanks for your excellent Blog; so many interesting and inspiring Comments from sophisticated audience; I really enjoy.

  21. […] Writer Betsy Lerner says if you don’t like blogging, don’t blog, and many people in her comments agree. But I’m wondering about this. Because even traditional publishing houses don’t do the same amount of publicity that they once did, and blogging is free publicity for your book. I guess what I’d say, is that if you truly don’t want to blog, at least become active on Facebook and Twitter. […]

  22. […] probably not. As agent Betsy Lerner says Alice Munro isn’t blogging… but then again, my own Google research reveals that […]

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