Subscription Drive – #AtoZChallenge

Subscription Drive – #AtoZChallenge

Do you ever catch yourself skimming your inbox, thinking, “You again? Whatever. Yeah. So what?” and then not even having the mental or physical energy to unsubscribe from the mailing list? So now, you are careful not to subscribe to anything at all. I get it. But I hope you’ll make an exception and subscribe to my blog and newsletter.

Surely I get a few points for this:

  • They’re FREEEEEEE!
  • I don’t post every hour of every day. In fact, I often go a whole month without posting anything at all! If you prefer complete silence in your inbox, just come back at the end of April to subscribe.
  • I don’t grind one subject to death. As “Queen of the No-Niche Niche,” I like to surprise my readers. But usually, I’m the first one to be surprised – I rarely know what I’m going to write about until I apply butt to chair and start typing.
  • Fiction? Check. Poetry? Check. Random digressions? Sure. Writing tips? Isn’t that what writers write about when they have nothing else to write about? Yes, absolutely! Check!

There’s a newsletter, too. I try not to duplicate content between the two, and rarely send out newsletters unless it’s to say, “Woo hoo, not dead yet!” or I actually have news. Sometimes it contains links to things I’ve written and published places other than this blog. (My blog and I have an open relationship. Medium keeps it in hosting fees and skittles.)

Click for instructions on how to subscribe to my blog (https://jahangiri.us/2020) or my newsletter, or both. Pay close attention to the confirmation step – I mean, it’s a pain, but you wouldn’t want anyone just signing you up for every mailing list on the web, and that is what that extra step is there to prevent. I’ll let you in on a silly little secret, too. You see where it says, over in the right sidebar, “Join 6,405 other subscribers”? The truth is, you’ll be joining the elite “First 50” if you hurry and act now. The rest are Twitter followers! (You see this on any WordPress blog, and either they’re legitimately more popular than Bill Gates, or Jetpack is letting them pretend they are, by lumping in Twitter followers as “subscribers.”)

Oh, for all that “junk” you thought looked interesting, but now skim right past – that stuff that’s not exactly “spam,” but clutters up your inbox? Search all your email for the word “unsubscribe.” Click the link. Follow the instructions. All legitimate bloggers and businesses will honor your request, and it is far kinder than reporting them as “spam.” Save those reports for the ones who don’t respect your privacy. You can always sign up again, but if you haven’t opened the email in a year and probably won’t in the next 12 months, no one’s going to have hard feelings if you stop delivery with “unsubscribe.” That goes for me, too. I might cry, but I won’t have hard feelings.

Happy Monday!

 

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

Who Doesn't Love a Good Game of Tag?

Nostalgia, indeed.

It has been years since I played a good game of blog tag! Thank you, Ming Qian, for bringing back a bit of fun and for nominating me, in your post, “What Inspires You to Write? #BloggingNostalgiaTag

Now, I hasten to add that I know of few bloggers who didn’t swear off accepting “awards” sometime in the early 2010s – so I’m not sure who I can nominate for this without getting my back plastered with “Kick me!” notes.

I hope I can think of some good sports before I finish this post, and luckily for me, most aren’t local – so they can’t really kick me.

Click the + icon to the right of each section to expand and read.

 

Intro + 3 Fun Facts

Here’s the copy-pasta blurb:

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young at heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

Three fun facts? 

I started college at age 12. But then I went back to 7th grade. I didn’t actually earn my B.A. till I was 18. Despite a prodigious start, I have not cured cancer or done anything Nobel- or Pulitzer-prizeworthy. Yet.

I was a “wanted woman” in Missouri for about 18 years. It was the principle of the thing. I wasn’t speeding and everyone who knows me knows I wasn’t about to lie and admit to something I didn’t do. They probably still have my check for $62.50; I’ll bet they framed that thing.

I have gone parasailing upside-down, and been dunked head-first into the Atlantic from a 2000-foot cable. I’d do that again in a heartbeat. 

First Blog Platform + Name

Apparently, I have been lying about this for years – looking back through the Wayback Machine, it seems I completely forgot about nPorta logs. Fine, you go search Google for it. I’ll wait.

And then there was Xanga. I mean, I guess? I always thought of Xanga and Live Journal and Windows Live as journals…

That’s a pretty stupid distinction. I see that, now that I’ve typed it out. So my first blogging platform, technically, was not Blogger. But read on – there’s more info about this under “A Fun Blogging Memory.”

 

Why I Started Blogging

Two reasons: I like to try new things, and I’m a little lazy. Before I integrated a blog into my website, I had to wait until I was on my own desktop PC, at home, in the evening, to update it with anything I thought would make a great addition.

When I heard of weblogs, logs, blogs – whatever you want to call them, and learned that I could update them fairly easily through either a browser interface or email, I was hooked. It was fast, easy, and much more interesting than an infrequently updated, static website.

Looking back, this “rush to publish,” this impatience so many of us share, has not always served me well. Sometimes it pays to let things simmer, to hold off and sleep on it before hitting Publish.

 

My Favorite Part About Blogging

I think that my favorite part of blogging is the interaction of writer and reader. Blogging and commenting are a conversation. In a way, a blog is like a well-moderated forum. The blogger starts off with a topic, and readers are invited to comment. 

It’s unfortunate that social media, and I include blogging, here, is so fraught with “landmines.” There are too many spammy, contentious, hostile, trollish comments out there, and too few genuine conversations happening on blogs, these days. For every real comment I get, here, my spam filter discards ten. If this blog were at all popular, that would probably be 100 – even 1000. 

 

What I Blog About, by the Queen of the No-Niche Niche

So, the original question is, “What do you blog about, and why did you choose those topics? Is your blog related to your field of study? Why or why not?”

I blog about anything I feel like writing on a given day, which is one of the happy trade-offs to not blogging for money. (Next question: “What do blogging and sex have in common?”)

Back in 2009, I took a free online course from ProBlogger (Darren Rowse): “31 Days to a Better Blog.” And there was one assignment related to discovering or choosing your niche. All I could think was, “I want it all! I don’t want to be pigeonholed!” I announced to Darren that it was my intention to “dominate the no-niche niche!” And my online writing, back then, was “me time.” It was supposed to be fun.  

That explains why I have no regular “posting schedule.” I’ll go months between blog posts rather than let it turn into a chore.

Is my blog related to my field of study? This question is going to out me as “old enough to be Ming Qian’s mother.” It’s been a long time since I thought of it in terms of a “field of study.” But I guess you could say that it is related, since my undergraduate degree is in “Rhetoric & Writing.” And you might dredge up a post or two on copyright law, so I guess I’ve dragged the Law degree into it on occasion. 

It’s convenient to be a lifelong learner; in that sense, I suppose anything I write about is related to some field of study – even if it’s not a “major.” 

If Fame and Fortune Were No Object, What Niche Would I pick?

Well, they are no object – so I’ll stick with the no-niche niche. If fame and fortune were an object, and given I’ve already confessed to being both curious and lazy, I’d have found an easier and more reliable way to attain both fame and fortune – blogging isn’t it.

A Fun Blogging Memory

I was blogging when Blogger, co-founded by Medium’s founder, Ev Williams, was still a baby. You might say that I’ve come full circle. You’ll see, in a moment, how little has changed in the past two decades.

There Are Adults Who Haven’t Been Alive as Long as I’ve Been Blogging

One of my first blog posts was me trying to define what the heck “blogging” was — I didn’t imagine anyone else would read it, and no one knew back then that “the Internet is forever.”

At some point, before the term “vanity surfing” was coined, I searched for my own name and found a mention in The Hindustan Times, where my definition of blogging was quoted and I was referred to as a “veteran blogger.” Once I stopped laughing and realized what a venerable publication that really was, and not some little fly-by-night website like my own, I was stunned. I wrote to their tech columnist, Deepak Mankar, and confessed to him that I was anything but a veteran blogger, but thanked him for the compliment of quoting me in the newspaper and calling me one.

Neither of us can find that clip, now — but at least I made a friend!

Before There Was Blogging

Mark Zuckerberg did not invent “social media.”

My first online chat happened on CompuServe in 1981, and by 1989, I was working as an unpaid moderator (SysOp) on GEnie. The Writers’ Ink RoundTable — the first to “hire” me — had a forum, a chat room, and a place to store files. I’d say it was at least as much of a “social network” as any overcrowded, contentious platform we think of as such, today. And somewhere in between, there were independent little user-run “bulletin boards” (BBSes) that had chats, online games, and more. Your parents weren’t running around with the dinosaurs, kids.

I See Dead Trees

In the early days of the commercial Internet (around 1994–2002), there were printed directories of websites, categorized like the Yellow Pages, and sold in brick and mortar bookstores. I had no idea, until tonight, that I was featured in one of them!

My first website, Scraps & Scribbles, or The Writer’s Corner, was a writing site. It was, as the book above says, “a list of links.” I only started it because I wanted to learn HTML, and all the websites back in 1994 or so consisted of rudimentary lists of programmers’ CD collections. That seemed awfully boring, so I focused on what I knew and started a writing site. There weren’t many, back then. But let me tell you in my own words —from nearly 20 years ago:

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

 

A Short History of Scraps & Scribbles

 

When I first started Scraps & Scribbles (originally called The Writers Corner), several years ago*, my main goal was to learn HTML. That didn’t seem like reason enough to add clutter to the Internet, and I couldn’t see me doing another one of those “Hello world, this is me, isn’t my CD collection just the kewlest?” personal home pages.

 

I was determined, from the start, to provide links to some of the best writing resources on the Internet — not just to collections of other people’s favorite links, but to sites containing primary content of interest to writers and readers.

 

Turned out to be a fairly time-consuming endeavor. And there weren’t 50 gazillion writers’ sites on the Internet then, as there are now. Just finding some of them proved to be a daunting task.

 

Always, tucked into a deep corner in the back of my mind, was this nagging feeling that some of that “primary content” really ought to be written by me. The other nagging feeling, not quite relegated to that dark corner of the mental basement, was that I was already spending too much time online! (Anyone here remember the movie, “The Beast in the Cellar”?) Anyway…

 

Flash forward to January 2001. I discovered two “new” things to play around with, and threw myself into them with zeal. The first was the “pay-per-click” writing sites, like Epinions and Themestream. I wouldn’t have found Themestream, if not for the fact that Epinions temporarily shut down while their site was being redesigned.

 

Don’t ask me what’s addictive about writing for a site that pays a measly $.02 or less each time someone reads your work. Even though technically it’s worth less than a token payment, like contributor’s copies of a print anthology, it’s money. Legal tender. In four months and 40+ articles, I earned a whole hour’s wages. (I do write for a living.) I’ll never see a penny of it, either. Themestream sent out an announcement last week, saying that the company would cease operations on Friday the 13th (how appropriate) and that it would be highly unlikely that they would be able to pay all their creditors — or their contributors.

 

But you know what? Thanks in part to Themestream, I finally put my money where my mouth was, got off my duff, and started writing something besides user’s guides — and now I’m able to move most of those articles to my own Web site. I finally have some of that primary content, not just great links, and it’s mine!

 

The second thing I discovered to play with on the Internet was Weblogs (like this one!). nPorta’s Logs (www.nporta.com) are probably the easiest and fastest to set up and maintain. And they’re easy to change or delete, as well.

 

Two others are more robust, but these are sites dedicated to “blogging” and don’t offer the same useful, customizable news features, or the handheld/wireless-friendly design offered by nPorta.

 

Blogger (www.blogger.com) and Xanga (www.xanga.com) are definitely worth a look. I would recommend Blogger to anyone who wants to integrate their log into their own personal Web site (and has FTP access to upload and download their own files). I would suggest Xanga for anyone who might want to set up a free Web site or log but who doesn’t necessarily want to become an HTML guru in the process. Here are some samples, if you’re curious: my Blogger page, integrated into Scraps & Scribbles (http://users.ev1.net/~hjahangiri/blog/dayjournal.html) and my Xanga page (not integrated into the Scraps & Scribbles site, but linking to it; http://www.xanga.com/HollyJahangiri)

 

I Am NOT a Publisher!

 

So don’t ask me to publish your writing on my site. I’d be delighted to do it, but I can live without all the potential legal complications.

 

I will, however, add links to other people’s writing sites. If you send me an email with the subject:

 

LINK for Scraps and Scribbles

 

I will add a link to your site, provided:

 

(a) You include your name, email address, URL, and a brief description (no more than 3–5 lines) of your work; and

 

(b) Your content is not inappropriate (pornographic, hate-mongering, racist, scatological, etc.) Mild erotica, strong opinions (clearly stated as your own and not argued with specious logic), diverse political/religious views, and such are, of course, fine.

 

* Scraps & Scribbles has been around, in one form or another, since 1994. Debbie Ridpath Ohi (whom I met in GEnie’s Writer’s Ink RoundTable a couple of years before that) was just beginning to build Inkspot into the deservedly popular writers’ site it was soon to become; and her site was one of the very first links added to mine.

Not much has changed, has it?

I may even have found that definition of a weblog that earned me a mention in The Hindustan Times:

What, you ask, is a Weblog? A Weblog might be a virtual journal, a daily news update, a group’s bulletin board, or a feature of a Web site. You’re reading a Weblog right now; I use it to post update notices and other tidbits to Scraps & Scribbles, and I can do it from any PC that’s connected to the Internet, any time. This Weblog was created using Blogger (www.blogger.com). Blogger lets me create and use my own template, so that my Weblog can be seamlessly integrated into my own Web site. I’m not forced to use someone else’s idea of a cool layout; every element is under my control. I can archive messages, too.

I was lazy; I just wanted a way to update the contents of my website without having to log in, download and edit pages, save and re-upload them — there had to be a better way. And that was what I found appealing about Blogger. I could integrate it into my own website, with a little effort, and then update things on the fly, from anywhere.

And while I was working, full-time, as a technical writer, designing Windows Help for PCs, and teaching others how to code HTML, other writers moved in and dominated this writing “niche.” Now in 2020, the whole topic of “writing” is so broad that it’s no longer a niche at all, and doesn’t even count as a topic on some websites and indices. We’re all writers, now; writing about writing is so “meta.” But I digress.

Back in the Olden Days

Once upon a time, we had “web rings.” These were little bits of code people set up that would act as Previous and Next buttons, but instead of taking you to the next post or page in the blog, Next would take you to the next site in the ring. This is how we turned blogging “social.”

What Ever Happened To Webrings?

Once upon a time, we had “web rings.” These were little bits of code people set up that would act as Previous and Next buttons, but instead of taking you to the next post or page in the blog, Next would take you to the next site in the ring. This is how we turned blogging “social.”

The closest thing we seem to have, now, is Linky Tools and InLinkz. Not a bad substitute – if people will use them.

And then there were “blogrolls.” I kept asking developers to make mine cinnamon with extra vanilla icing, but they just rolled their eyes and tried to explain that’s not what a “blogroll” meant.

Sometimes, it’s fun to play dumb. Till someone believes you are.

Rules, Rules — We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Rules!

Sharon Hurley Hall writes, “We were excited about this new way of sharing our writing and we blogged regularly. There were no rules about how long posts should be or what should be included. There were no images, for the most part. It was just you, your words, and your fellow bloggers.”

Except that’s not how I remember it. Some of us were excited about this new frontier and its lack of rules, but others were equally excited to invent and pontificate at length about what the rules of blogging were, or ought to be. It was almost as if they had nothing else to write about, so they had to tell everyone else how not to write. I have criticized and satirized these early “listicles” to death, and I urge you to hold fast to the notion that there ought not to be any rules but good writing.

By “good writing,” I simply mean “that which does not bore the reader to tears and make them beg for death.”

Money for Nothin’

The Internet is full of some of the laziest people I’ve ever run across. They seem to honestly believe that they can earn money doing absolutely nothing — or by “blogging,” but their definition of it is not Sharon’s or mine, and doesn’t involve writing original material. It means using cheap software and tricks to scrape and spin other people’s content, sell ad space, and earn revenues by getting all their friends to click on the ads.

It means shoveling half that cash back into someone else’s $497 web training program on how to do it faster and better.

Or, maybe, they actually did believe they could get rich quick by blogging, and this is why there are 15,973,456,002,009 abandoned blogs and disillusioned former bloggers working in retail and claiming that “blogging is dead.”

Blogging makes great business sense if you have a product to sell and plenty to say about that product. If the product is paper, maybe you write about sustainable forestry or less stinky methods of producing paper products. If you’re selling antivirus software, you’ll never run out of cybersecurity topics to write about. But you do need to be an expert, or hire an excellent freelance writer like Sharon Hurley Hall who understands enough about the topic to write credibly about it, or you’ll just end up looking foolish.

We all know by now, surely, that only a small percentage of writers get filthy rich, and none of them do it in their sleep. But those folks who keep on churning out crap like, “I Made $34,982 on My Last Medium Story, and You Can, Too!” are just getting rich off P.T. Barnum’s “suckers.”

They tend to ruin it for the rest of us.

How? By running off the audience.

In the end, though, those of us who started out blogging for the fun of it, or just to enjoy honing our writing skills on topics of our own choosing, will still be around. Medium feels like that “old school blogging.” There is a community, here, comprised of writers who support and care about one another as people.

And slowly, bit by bit, our audience will return.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien!

“If you could start over, what would you do differently?”

Not one darned thing. 

I take that back. I would strive to develop a more consistent habit of writing for my own pleasure. Not just blogging, but short stories and poetry – imaginative play. 

Blogger Who Inspires Me

 

Mitch Mitchell is the first person to pop into my head, for a number of reasons. First, he has established the kind of regular habit of writing, reading, conversing with other bloggers, and recording video blogs on YouTube that I wish I had the dedication and discipline to emulate. And he has been commenting on my blogs, cajoling me into writing more often, pointing out my typos, and encouraging me to try new things – like letting him interview me when I felt so awkward about speaking on camera that I shooed my entire family out of the house to do it!

Writing, Writing & Writing with Holly Jahangiri  

Blogging Nostalgia Tag Instructions
  1. Insert the blogging nostalgia tag banner anywhere in your blog post.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and include the link to their responses.
  3. Answer the 9 questions in the blogging tag. You do not have to come up with new questions in this blogging tag.
  4. Nominate up to ten bloggers, do not stress if you cannot come up with ten names!
  5. Notify the nominees via any channel that is convenient for you (e.g. email, Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, etc.).
  6. List the rules on your blog post, preferably before you attempt the blogging tag.
  7. You are not required to include the words ‘blogging nostalgia tag’ in your blog post title or URL slug. We understand that some bloggers will want to optimize this blogging tag for SEO. Therefore, a brief mention in the body text will be sufficient!
Blogging Nostalgia Tag Questions
  1. Introduce yourself and share three fun facts about you.
  2. What was your first blog platform, and do you still remember your blog name?
  3. Why did you start blogging?
  4. What is your favorite part about blogging?
  5. What do you blog about, and why did you choose those topics? Is your blog related to your field of study? Why or why not?
  6. If you could pick any blog niche without considering web traffic or monetization potential, what would it be?
  7. Share a fun blogging memory with us.
  8. If you could start over, what would you do differently?
  9. Finally, is there a blogger who inspires you? Name the first blogger you think of and your favorite three blog posts from him or her. Do not overthink this question, we are not playing favorites here!
Tag, You're It! And the Nominees Are...

Corinne Rodrigues, whose guiding word for 2021 is “Yes,” so I’m hoping she’ll join me for this fun!

Mitchell Allen, who shares my down-the-rabbit-hole curiosity, silly sense of adventure, and never fails to join in my online reindeer games.

Marian Allen, who is the creator of my alter ego (a character who shares my name, my love of purple, and my feather boa – but who serves as Head Librarian of a Living Library on Llannonn), and whose writing has entertained me and distracted me from my woes for a decade or more.

Mitch Mitchell (never to be confused with the other Mitch(ell)), nominated here because I think maybe he’ll forgive me since I called him “inspirational” or something earlier in this post. Not to mention he’s got plenty of “blogging nostalgia” stored up, I’m sure. (It’s not a “blog award,” Mitch – it’s a game of TAG! C’mon, come out and PLAY!)

Jyothi Nair, a (relatively) new friend of mine in blogging, but a “veteran blogger” in her own right.

Parul Thakur, who recently celebrated:

8 years
931 posts
1700 followers
25,000 comments
200,000 views
AND A WHOLE LOT OF LOVE.

Vinitha Dileep, a fine writer and poet, as well as an intrepid online adventurer and fellow “veteran blogger.”

Shinjini Mehrotra, a talented artist and writer, avid reader, and “seeker of soul” who has been blogging almost as long as I have!

Esha M Dutta, a self-described “late entrant” into the world of blogging (2014!)

Shilpa Gupte, who will probably manage to weave all answers into a work of wit and brevity, as she is a master of flash fiction!

Roshan Radhakrishnan, because his posts have consistently lifted me out of the doldrums for the past couple of years – he always manages to find the gems that restore my faith in humanity.
If I did not name you, and you’d like to play, consider yourself TAGGED! 

 

 

 

 

Here Come The Spyders

Here Come The Spyders

I know why you’re here.

You have questions, right? Too many loose ends, too many incomplete stories. You tried connecting the dots, but you need more info. You want some answers, and you want them now. Fair enough.

You’ve come to the right place. It’s my job to tell you what you want to know – if you have the required security clearance, since most of what I’m about to tell you is highly classified.

How do you get the clearance?

Not to be rude or anything, but if you need to ask, maybe you shouldn’t be here.

Fine!

In the interests of full disclosure, and since my therapist wants me to try to be less obstructive about… well… everything, I will guide you to the ISRO liaison office in Mumbai.

Go the file-room in the basement. There will be a guy wearing a grey safari suit. That’s your guy.

How does ISRO come into the picture?

It doesn’t.

Mr Safari Suit is just running a nice little side business, in addition to whatever he does for ISRO.

He borrows their premises, unofficially, of course. He’ll arrange for you to get the required clearance, provided you ask for the right form.

See, R&AW is not about to just give away such precious information. You have to earn it.

So, if you don’t even know which form to ask for, you’re on your own.

Maybe, and I’m not judging here, but maybe, you don’t deserve the clearance for such sensitive and top-secret information.

Hey now, don’t be sad. Show a little gumption! Stand up to Mr Safari Suit.

He’s just another civil servant, trying to bind you in red-tape. Tell him that you want to view the files on The Spyders, and be very firm.

Got your clearance? Excellent! Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. This story will take some time.

First of all, let me introduce myself.

My name is Samira Joshi. I’m seventeen years old and I’m a spy. I’m part of a secret organisation called The Spyders.

I know Apeksha was supposed to introduce us, but eh! Isn’t this more fun?

So, say hello to my fellow Spyders!

Let’s start with Debbie.

A genius with a heart of gold

Oh yeah! When Debbie’s on a diet, meal times have to be navigated like land mines, because that girl has been known to chuck plates at people.

But, if you ever need someone to hack into your government’s secure servers and get you some info, Debbie’s your girl.

Don’t be fooled by her baby face. She could give Einstein a run for his money.

Moving on to Tina.

The first Spyder
Tina and I were enemies, to start with. Now, we’re friends. To be honest, I still don’t fully trust her not to kill me in my sleep. Shh! Don’t tell her that!

She was the first Spyder. She’s disciplined, hard working, reliable, and like a volcano waiting to erupt. Trust me, you don’t want to get on her bad side.

The next Spyder you must meet is Sweety.

Fiercely loyal, Sweety

Sweety’s real fun! If you’ve enjoyed Money Heist, she’s like Nairobi… the PG-13 version of her, that is.

She is absolutely fearless. Well, almost. She’s scared to bits of her grandmother.

And now, the one Spyder that’s most likely to get you killed, because she goes around with her head in a cloud of C-4 and circuit breakers, completely oblivious to the world around her – Milli.

Milli - the explosives expert

As for me, here goes.

The girl who wanted to be a spy
Of all the Spyders, I am the one who was born to be a spy. My parents have trained me for this job since I was a little girl. But now, they say they want me to be a doctor.

As if.

The story of my journey into espionage is encrypted into a secret file called, Along Came A Spyder.

If you want to access that file, do check out Apeksha’s page. She’ll keep you updated.

Uh-oh!

Sorry, guys. I’ll have to end this unauthorised tête-à-tête now, because our boss, Col. Singh, is slightly over-protective.

If he finds out that we’ve been hopping from blog to blog, he will totally cut off our Internet access for the rest of the year, because we’re supposed to be a secret sisterhood.

So, take care. Stay safe and healthy, and what’s more important, stay home!

 

The Inconstant Blogger

The Inconstant Blogger

It is a poorly-kept secret that I have been writing “elsewhere” and not on this blog, the last couple of weeks.  My friend Rasheed Hooda, who once declared me Queen of the No-Niche Bloggers, likes to do to me what I so blithely do to others. Like the Pied Piper, but instead of a flute he balloon-twists his way through the Internet, leaving breadcrumbs and nudging and cajoling until it’s hard not to follow his wanderings. This time, he lured me back to Medium, where I had an account, circa 2015, but only as a reader.

An Accidental Writing Portfolio?

I had stumbled onto the site long ago – The Atlantic has a presence there – and that may be where I first read work by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Is it any wonder, then, that I had never ventured to write, there? I had not seen Medium as it is widely regarded – as a blogging platform. And as a writer who viewed Medium as a platform for more serious, professionally vetted and edited writing, can you imagine my horror at returning there to learn that every comment is treated as a Story? That people had actually “clapped” for some of the passing comments I’d left behind? I had…followers. A lot of followers. 1,277 of them, as of this moment. I’d already built an audience there, without even trying.

Who were these people and why were they following me? Mostly, I think, they were writers, hoping that I would follow them back. But of course, I hadn’t. I hadn’t returned to Medium at all in about three years. I followed everyone back, indiscriminately. And then I deleted all my Stories – my comments. I tested the waters by re-posting an old blog post. A few readers, there, liked it.

And then Rasheed started nudging. Join the Medium Partner Program, he nudged. Maybe it’ll be another income stream, he suggested. I’m all for getting paid to write, but I had no intention of publishing listicles and formulaic blog posts like “8 Things You’re Doing Wrong with Your Life – Pay Special Attention to Number 6,” just to earn a few pennies. Been there, done that: Themestream, Redpaper, Vines… The idea of micropayments, tiny amounts of cash in return for the time spent reading an article – the challenge of holding a reader’s attention long enough to earn a payment for the work – has its appeal. But I was still determined to be worthy of rubbing elbows with writers published in The Atlantic.

I’m Not a Hack, I’m a Busker!

pink and white concrete building

By January, that first “dip-a-toe-in-the-water” story that I’d posted had earned a whole penny. Dreadful.

Then came The Great Pause. Celebrities showed up on TikTok and Instagram and competed for attention with ordinary, but extraordinarily creative, people. They came without make-up or camera crews, and they came with bad lighting and laundry baskets in view. The originality was breathtaking. “We’re all in this together!” we all proclaimed, but almost as soon as we shouted the hurrah, it was clear that we were not, in fact, “all in this together.” The real celebrities still had more expensive homes, even if they tried filming from their walk-in closets. Pandemic brought into sharp relief the differences that separated us: wealth, “essentialness,” ideology, sense of duty, sense of humor, maturity. Who had the capacity to find the silver linings among the scraps of rust; who could turn rust into useful things? And, if nothing else, who had the capacity to entertain themselves and not be bored under #StaySafeStayHome orders?

Normally, I’d have relished the quiet, the solitude, the ability to sleep in late without guilt. I had plans, too. Vague, but serious, plans. I was going to write a novel, finally. But now, it wasn’t a choice, and I felt less inspired, less creative, less imaginative than I’d envisioned my April self. I felt like a small boat, anchored, motor running, with no one at the helm. Rudderless. There were no waves, just little circular ripples.

So. Why not try Medium as a writer, for a change? Why not. 

Busking is performance art. So is impromptu collaboration, as you can see here:

View at Medium.com

two biplane on flightThat was fun.

So Where Am I Going with This?

I still don’t see Medium as a “blogging platform,” even if that’s what it is. Jahangiri.us is my website, and Medium never will be. It’s more like a warm-up area before the performance. As is this, in a way – but I control it. My original plan was to use Medium to increase readership on my own blog. I know that Amy Marley gets that; I think she’s the only reader from Medium who ever followed me from there to here – and that’s probably because I’m one of the few who went straight from her bio on Medium to her own blog.

I think that I have widened my reach and found a new audience for my writing, but there is little cross-pollination. “Build it, and they will come,” is utter bullshit. Marketing and PR are exhausting.

It’s not my intention to drag you, Constant Reader, over there. Although I have done exactly that, to at least two of you – and I don’t think you were disappointed. You will find some of Medium’s best articles tucked behind their paywall, including most of the ones I publish there. But even a few of those are free each month whether you choose to pay the $5/month membership fee, or not. Much of that is distributed to the writers whose work you spent time reading (so no skimming, okay?) My plan is to use whatever pennies I earn busking over there to support my own $5/month Medium membership and maybe help pay for the domain and hosting fees (about $250/year) here.

I’m Not a “Joiner,” but It’s Nice to Find a Writing Community

I’m not big on writing groups, but that’s probably just because it’s hard to find the right one. To build a sense of community isn’t easy, and why would you trade reads and edits with people you don’t feel a sense of kinship with?

Shortly after dragging me over to Medium, Rasheed coaxed me, like a wild bird, over to a Publication called, “ILLUMINATION.” Its founder, Dr. Mehmet Yildiz, has the sort of boundless energy for promoting himself and others that you might attribute to a whole team of PR people. He, himself, swears it has something to do with the strength of his mitochondria, and I can’t quibble – whatever it is, no amount of vitamin supplements is giving it to me. I became a contributor there, and to two other publications: Writers Blokke and The Bad Influence. In the process, I’ve made writer-friends. I’ve connected more with my Facebook friend, Bob Jasper, who is spreading his wings over on Medium as a writer – I’m not the only one Rasheed plays Pied Piper to!

I’ve also learned how to use and administer Slack workspaces, and started building my own little community of writers – independent of Medium or WordPress or YouTube or any other platform, just a small community of friends who don’t talk about the horrors of the day. We write about them, if we must, but for the most part, we’re pretty determined to write about the worlds that live in imagination or the silver linings we’ve found and want to share. We don’t just trade links and outrage and mutual despair. We trade links to say, “Hey, I made this thing. Come lookit!” like excited nine year olds. Because we’re starting to feel energized and creative, and having fun with that, again.

 

Sunny Sundays

Sunny Sundays

Cooler temperatures, blue skies, and sunshine mean one thing: long walks in the park. Kickerillo-Mischer is still top of my list of favorites. The alligators haven’t been spotted in the lake since Hurricane Harvey; I’ve asked a few times. But that’s good news for the raptors, apparently; the fish are more plentiful and a large osprey was circling the lake, diving for his dinner, skimming the surface of the water. Graceful, snow-white herons watched from the shore. Even a gaggle of geese strutted about in the woods.

Chinese geese are so called because they descend from the wild swan geese of Asia. According to Ashton Waterfowl, “there are two kinds of Chinese geese: those that hate the world and everything that moves within it, and those which have to be picked up and carried to their shed. They are so tame that they prefer to stand around your feet and won’t be driven.”

My experience with geese up until this weekend has been limited to wild Canada geese, and they’ve invariably been of the first type. While camping with my son at Lake Somerville, many years ago, I encountered a small flock of Canada geese. I gave the giant birds a wide berth, as three teenaged girls approached, presumably to pet the cute beasts. “Stop. No. Don’t,” I thought, silently, not even bothering to channel my inner Willy Wonka. Those girls ran through five campsites without stopping to ask permission to enter. The birds grew bored by the fourth. 

This flock of Chinese geese waddled right by me, their feathers unflapped. 

Listen While Reading!

A walk in the park is a great way to burn calories! Homemade traditional Scottish Shortbread is a great way to replace them:

Cream together two softened sticks of butter and a half cup of sugar. Mix in 9 ozs. of all-purpose flour. Bake at 300º F for 35 minutes. Cut and let cool, or scoop out of the pan with a spoon and eat warm!

Almost too easy…