my office hours: 3pm to 3:04pm


Last week, I had the pleasure of guest-lecturing with my buddy Josh Shenk, now a teacher at Washington College (and director of the Rose O’Neil Literary House) for a class he’s doing this semester on blogs and the act of blogging. While I would have loved to venture down to Maryland to show up in person, I did it via iChat, thus dispensing my charming bon mots while weathering a snowstorm in upstate NY:


The class seems awesome, passionate, in sharp contrast to… well, what I would have been. I should stop being amazed at 19 and 20-year-olds who actually care about things, since it’s really just a reflection of my own past, riddled with entitlement, ADD, girl-obsession, and a deep-seated belief that neither me nor my friends were able to change anything about the world. Thank god that passed, eh? HEE HEE!

Ahem. Anyway, we all had a good discussion about why people write these things, what inspires them, and how much any of us depend on feedback to keep going. My advice usually skirts a few major areas. You keep a blog because:

1) No matter what, it’s writing. Even if you’re in a cover band, you’re still playing the guitar.

2) They say that the cure for writer’s block is research. I say the effortlessness of the internet (and Wikipedia) has made research a distraction – now the only REAL cure is forcing yourself to have a blog.

3) There is a sense in accomplishment. If you keep your blog going longer than three months, you’re doing better than 93% of all others who tried.

4) You may accidentally write something that gets forwarded 3.7 million times around the world and wind up with a book deal. Hell, that’s almost happened twice right here, my compatriots!

Smartly, Josh had his own students keep blogs for the semester, and they offer daily breadth; some are personal, some are topical, and they’re all wonderfully different. Here are seven you should check out:

– Alexander Sobotka writes Sydlexia, the journal of a dyslexic student who gave up his medication – also features one of the saddest cartoons I’ve ever seen.

Stalking With the Stars is AJ Star’s daily heart-racing jaunt through television and movies – think Thighs Wide Shut without, you know, the boobs and corn.

– Meghan’s Not Even Past is one to get lost in. I especially like the list of players at right, allowing access into the dreamscapes and languid descriptions of her childhood.

– I dig Emma’s tagline: “Remember when publishing was complicated?” From there, we get to do one of my favorite things: dork out over something very specific. For her, it’s archaic typeface and bookbinding, which, of course, leads to all kinds of other thoughts in The Composing Stick.

– I told Olivia there was a book to be written for her blog idea: recipes that could be made in the dorm. Taking food down to its simplest level and making it yumbly, that’s the word in Anything But Spaghetti.

– Fitting the same space in our brain as Found Art and Overheard in New York, spend a few moments with Aubrey at Hartford 3C and you might even learn what a zeugma is.

– And if you want to right some wrongs, check out Rory’s PowerTrip blog, where Hugo Chavez gets it in the kneecaps.

In all, it was great to meet the class, and I hope I didn’t come off as too bizarre – after all, I was talking to a pair of drapes and imagining being in Chestertown, MD. Ain’t that what technology’s for?

0 thoughts on “my office hours: 3pm to 3:04pm

  1. LFMD

    Josh Shenk! I read his Lincoln book! Great author! I had no idea he was at Washington College!
    And. . . Washington College! What a great school. Heard a lot about it over the years, living here in Maryland. Read about the Sophie Kerr Award — it will restore your faith in art/literary appreciation in academia.
    If you ever plan a trip to Maryland, PLEASE CALL ME. I would love to see you and introduce you to my family.
    This post makes me want to drive over the bridge to Chestertown, wander around the campus, and pretend I am a student again.

  2. LFMD

    Been reading the links to your post, and I WANT TO LIVE IN THE ROSE O’NEIL LITERARY HOUSE. Do you think anyone would consider it odd if I suddenly showed up on one of the overstuffed chairs for some coffee and some intellectual chit chat? Ha! If they are ever looking to hire the equivalent of a “dorm mother”, I am SO THERE!
    Well, gotta shovel some snow so I can make my daily drive to the Insurance Job. Thanks for giving me some interesting blog links to read today at work. . . .

  3. AJ Star

    WOO WOOOOO!!!!! I will venture to say this is your best…post…EVER. Because I am in it. Just kidding, but thank you for giving all of us shout outs. That was really awesome of you.
    To fellow commenters: no one would think it odd at all if people rolled up in the Lit House! It’s a pretty awesome place to go and be surrounded by books and the fun smells that come along with that. It’s less awkward than hanging around a Borders for 3 hours while the security guards follow you around. What is this, Sephora?!
    Thanks again, Ian! *doing the cabbage patch…because today it is 1992*

  4. LFMD

    AJ Star — just checking Stalking with the Stars, and it is my kind of blog! I will be checking in daily.
    So, tell me, what are your thoughts re: Spencer Pratt? “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila”?


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