Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Workshop--The Art of Blogging

As posted at

Writing Workshop: The Art of Blogging with Kerry Clare 
Author Kerry Clare draws on her 15+ years of experience blogging to show how to build a blog that works for you. A great workshop for both beginners and people who blog at work. 

Such was my introduction to Kerry Clare, blogger at Pickle Me This--for over 15 years-- and a lecturer at the University of Toronto* where she conducts a class in blogging.  No longer the stuff of church basements or library conference-rooms, institutes of higher learning offer what I hope is a more comprehensive approach to blogging than what was on offer Saturday afternoon.  

My goal was to receive sufficient wisdom and motivation to reinvigorate the 2013 travelogue and provide closure on this little chapter of my life. Is the universe not crying out for it?

Now I know for a lot of people, blogging is still a serious pursuit; it is their livelihood; it is a life-line; it is how they sustain themselves. I write to stretch the grey cells and have always refrained from writer’s workshops for obvious reasons.  As much as I would have loved to have participated in last year’s Michael Winter session, I leave those for the professionals.

I workshopped at griLIT back in 2015 with James Raffan--journal writing that, while not quite meeting expectations, at least made an effort to keep its audience awake with a very hands-on approach. Workshop by definition suggests creation and building and throwing ideas around. With Raffan, we went once around the room with introductions, then once each around with two subsequent hands-on exercises then a fourth with everyone breaking eggs and making paint.  By the time it was done, it had turned more into a therapy session. You'd never make that kind of progress in an hour with a psychiatrist.

Instead of the dynamic presentation I was expecting from a blogger of 17 years, I endured an hour-long lecture from prepared notes. What was everyone feverishly scribbling in their notepads, I wondered. Grocery lists? Honey-do lists? The group was made up of about fifteen person ages 20-60. Some blog for work, some for recreation, some are hoping to have a book published--one day.  I tease about my memoir and posthumous publication, but I am under no illusions about my reach. 

With Clare, we ran through the history of blogging, Arab spring, the evolution of her blog which has morphed from personal to mommy-blogging to books. We started off by writing for five-minutes on whatever subject came to mind. Clare regarded this as a mind-opening exercise but at no point did we refer back to it.  It might have been better used as an entry point and to expand on the notes to essay how we might get this into a blog post, or look at it for structure, or anything really.  It served no purpose as we never moved on to a next phase.

After a lengthy history of the blog, it finally distilled down to write and write often. No consensus reached on length--some of our number won't read long posts or whether you should keep it strictly positive. Surely your fans are reading regardless of what you have to say. And frequency and time of day is obviously specific to each writer. Oh, and make sure to publish drafts. This goes without saying. Apparently spelling and grammar don't count in Clare's world, either.

NB  Please consider The Art of Presentation, next time.

Kerry Clare on The Next Chapter

*As an aside, here's a sampling of what's presently on offer at U of T's Institute of Communication and Culture. If the U of T would like to extend a contract, I would be happy to accept. 

Writing in Social Media: The Impact of Web 2.0

Examines theory and offers practice in writing in Social Media. The course explores the growth of the Web 1.0 model to the Web 2.0 model, from information gathering to interactive and cooperative information/opinion dissemination. Students will critically examine the rhetorical practices of Social Media users and how these practices currently shape communications network. Students will create and maintain blogs. The course draws on a range of theorists and social media experts including Marshall McLuhan, Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo, Ken Wilber, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Expressive Writing

Examines theory and offers practice in expressive narrative, the most basic prose mode and the foundation for other prose modes. Students explore ideas about product and process, form and meaning. Students will experiment with syntactic structures to explore how the form of language serves, or fails to serve, intention and the expression of meaning that may be understood and interpreted by others. The course draws on theorists including Aristotle, Chomsky, Elbow, Kinneavy, Britton, Bakhtin.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Monday, 16 January 2017

Sausages. Just sausages.

The full Monty will have to wait.  After much anticipation, Brunch was postponed yet again.  Scratchy throat and sneezing have become the norm. After a night of zero sleep, I am even more curmudgeonly than usual.  We are two weeks into the New Year and already looking ahead to the next statutory holiday.  Thankfully, forces conspired to declare Family Day available to all.

But the world has bigger problems.  Sunday was a day of action to counter the coming inauguration--marches on Washington, pink hats, Writers and Readers Resist. Very pleased to hear that Mr. Anka has withdrawn his services.  No one needs to listen to a version of My Way that has been specifically tailored for the event. Stellar performance from Baldwin—and SNL writers—Saturday night. And not to mention a call for Hinckley to give sober though to an encore.  A marathon session of House of Cards II suggests impeachment shouldn’t be all that difficult. We don’t need an assassination attempt.

Streep’s acceptance speech carried me and a lot of people through the week.  Not even the threat of 10 cm of snow could dampen the mood. Some felt she was just as bad as Trump in calling out Kovaleski’s history to get her point across. I have no issues with celebrities using their platform to express their opinion.  

As a counter measure to January 20 and a bleak day for last Sunday’s news—bombings, death by bus—I read Healey’s The Drawer Boy, again.

You carried me—and all that—around all this time?

The snow turned out to be a non-starter and we have endured rain and cloud ever since.  Come back sun, all is forgiven.  Need a sun lamp and brass band to get me up in the morning.  I am better to suited to an equatorial climate.  The rain forecast did not stop the property manager from dumping a truckload of salt on the driveway.  This is why there’s salt shortage; it has nothing to do with snow and ice.

Things do still happen north of the border.  Pleased to see Dion shuffled out as he lacks the social graces and spine for the position of Foreign Minister.  Will the Woman in Red tame the Orange Man? Like her colleagues, Ms. Freeland is equally adept at avoiding answering a direct question.

Not you! Not you! By Wednesday, we were back to the US—the post press-conference blues. More backbone, Press.  Reading that all unsubstantiated claims against Rob Ford’s indiscretions turned out to true.

Three things on the to-do-list:

One, find a way to finally shirk the flushed cheeks, congestion, aches, and sneezing. I took in five minutes of chill, afternoon air to clear the lungs. There is a suggestion of green left in the garden—a robust aquilegia and a spike holding on for dear life. (Also, to convince those around me to wash their hands on a regular basis and encourage them to sneeze not into the hand or the air, but, the armpit.  Germs are no joke.)  

Two, to find the right balance in being engaged with news and avoiding it outright due to rising blood pressure from seeing Trump splashed across the newspaper and screen. But we shouldn’t silo or bubble-wrap ourselves, either.

Three, to find a tastier option than lifeless WASA crisp bread to sustain me through January’s fast. This is critical.

Closed out the week with The Trip—Italy, for respite care. It is pure torture watching beautiful food being hoovered up without any appreciation for the preparation, plating, or mindful eating. Note to self, it is time to return to more adventurous menu planning.  Beautiful pieces of music from Strauss and Mahler (“Wouldn’t you simply die without Mahler?”) throughout the film. Very medicinal movie all round.

Odd to start the Sunday wind-down without a Vinyl CafĂ© story; last year’s weekly double bill made for a good jumping off point; we wish Mr. McLean well.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have several pounds of sausage, black pudding, and ham to dispense with.