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Two squeeeees and an erp

First, whilst I was in Orlando amusing some of my favorite MMLs (Muckety-Muck Librarians) with my 12-megabyte PowerPoint slideshow, I received news that my essay The Outlaw Bride was accepted for publication! In my typical ultra-superstitious manner I’m not going to tell you where until I at least see a contract, but it’s a well-respected literary publication, and that certainly earns a moue of delight.

To get it published took a good 13 submissions and a decision to rewrite the beginning. Make that 12 submissions, a disciplined revision, and finally and suddenly, a home.

Second, guess what: even if your primary is over, or your state doesn’t have one, you can still vote through February 9… in Florida’s Ask a Librarian YouTube contest! High school students made these videos, and the only downer is that they can’t all win, because I love, love, love every one of these videos, which are surprising in their takes on the value of virtual reference as well as laugh-out-loud funny.

Then my little balloon lost some of its bounce when over on ACRLblog I read this post by Brett Bonfield:

Here’s the second point I’m trying to make: good, thoughtful prose generally takes more than a few minutes a day to write and more than a couple of hundred words to express. I don’t think it’s a bad thing when people dismiss longer pieces with tl;dr (too long, didn’t read). Certainly, when we’re writing for undergraduates or Pierre Bayard, we need to take that wholly defensible sensibility into account. But if you’re writing for me, and for many other academic librarians, please understand that we’re likely to dismiss light, quick, frequent posts with ts;db: “Too short, didn’t bother.”

In theory I should be on the first part of this paragraph like white on rice. My blog could easily be named The Windily Prolix Librarian, or even (to borrow from a favorite joke) On and On, Anon. I do tend to gab, and some of my posts take months or even a year or longer to percolate through my brain and into a shape I want to make public. ’tis what it is.

But I tripped over the comment, “But if you’re writing for me, and for many other academic librarians…”

So the world is divided between the brainy top crust of LibraryLand, able to master long, dense posts at a single bound, and those dim bulbs incapable of what M*ch**l G*rm*n called the “sustained reading of complex texts”?

For that matter, I happen to think some of the best writing on the Web comes in the form of “light, quick, frequent posts.” Stylistically, it’s not my typical approach to writing (I, with my microscope and my tweezers), but I respect it and could frankly learn a lot from it — as could those who have had their wit dulled and their senses muffled by academic librarianship, which can be a castle of intellectual endeavor but can also be a grim, grey dungeon.

In any event, I’m home safe, because “academic librarians” aren’t my audience. You are, gentle reader, whoever you might be.

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  1. Marianne wrote:

    1. Congratulations on getting published!
    2. Done
    3. Short and on point is OK by me.

    Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  2. Jessica wrote:


    Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  3. I don’t know. I’m hopelessly unqualified to talk about this, because I’m a good blogger and a lousy writer. But the forms are different, dang it, and they’re each good for different purposes!

    That’s not revelation, so let me be concrete. I couldn’t have done Roach Motel as a series of blog posts, though it certainly drew from things I’d blogged about (though as I reread my blog archives, I realize that if I ever do this again, I need to read and plunder old entries!). It was researched, it followed a thread of reasoning all the way ad nauseam, and it’s aimed squarely at academic library administrators — who don’t read blogs.

    But my IR persona series would work equally badly as an article. It’s disconnected, and it’s meant to be the groundwork for discussion, not a discussion in and of itself. Moreover, it’s aimed at techies, and (pace code4lib and D-Lib) techies don’t read library journals.

    As for Bonfield, he’s a snob, and I don’t write for snobs, neither on my blog nor in the literature.

    Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Do you ‘express’ ‘prose’?

    Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Permalink
  5. Lorcan, ‘express’ like coaxing lemon oil from rind, or ‘express’ like a verb I done never heard of? :-) (Who are you asking — me or Dorothea?)

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:36 am | Permalink
  6. Dorothea, I think you’re a good writer and I don’t think that is in contradiction to your blogging. You have some naturally effective genres, and the blog is one of them. But don’t put down Roach Motel. It was a nice piece of work, particularly in a field that doesn’t celebrate lively writing. You snuck some good prose into the manor.

    I agree with you about letting the thesis fit the form and audience. Once it gets past a couple thou words, it generally works better on paper.

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:40 am | Permalink
  7. I was looking at the first sentence of the BB quote: “Here’s the second point I’m trying to make: good, thoughtful prose generally takes more than a few minutes a day to write and more than a couple of hundred words to express.”

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  8. Ah, then perhaps BB does mean ‘express’ like orange juice. ;-) I suppose you’re really just making a little quibble with language choice.

    The building block of “good, thoughtful prose” is the sentence. The sin of much bad writing is to assume that bad and unclear sentences, conjoined in long rivers of prose, produce art and meaning.

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 9:10 am | Permalink
  9. Andy Havens wrote:

    Good is good and bad is bad. If I value your insights, I don’t care if you take 8 words or 1,800 to express them.

    Some thoughts require detailed, nuanced blueprints of complex, constructed prose to move from an initial foundation, through various supporting structures, to a final, glorious peak of revelation.

    Others don’t.

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  10. Joan wrote:

    One of the best assignments I ever had was in a British Novel grad class. The prof gave us a paper assignment with a few topic choices. As we mulled it over, he told us we had to write the whole thing in one page, single spaced, no tiny fonts. It was the hardest paper I’ve ever written as it’s always easy to say more than less. It was also the best writing exercise I’ve ever done.

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  11. Caryn wrote:

    Congrats on the publication of The Outlaw Bride. I love the story you shared in conjunction with it. Rather inspiring.

    As for the snobbery of those who think that only wusses read and write short posts, well, there’s something to be said for the ability to be concise–an ability I readily admit I lack. I have several blogger buds who can write a fully developed post in just a paragraph or two. It’s funny, it’s sufficiently detailed, it tells a story, and it has a point, all in such a short space. My comments on their posts are usually longer than the posts themselves. Every e-mail I write starts off with, “I only have a little time, so I’ll make this short”, followed by 1,200 words of rambling text. I’ve tried to write short blog posts. The shortest I can go is maybe four lengthy paragraphs, if I’m really trying. Does that mean that I’m writing for the academic elite? Yippee. I must be smarter than I thought. Those who read my blog should be very proud of themselves, too.

    Friday, February 1, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Permalink
  12. Jen Hinderer wrote:

    Surely he jests! If it’s too short, it isn’t worth reading? Every short written piece was written quickly and sloppily? Or is it only library literature that one must spend a long time on writing.
    Oh, and include extra words in order to reach a length impressive enough to grab the attention of our academic colleagues.

    Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  13. A somewhat late congratulations on being published, but heartfelt nonetheless. I agree with Dorothea – quick and short works for some information and long and intense works for others. I like your blog (and others, like Meredith Farkas’s) because you write lengthy essays with well-thought out arguments and discussions. I like blogs like Peter Scott’s and others because the information they’re putting out is more “notification + gut reaction” type stuff. I tend toward the latter, myself, but would like to move toward more long posts as that is what my readers keep telling me they want. It’s a fine balance…

    Monday, February 4, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  14. Cool. Not only have I gotten lambasted, but I’ve gotten lambasted by some of my favorite writers. Once the glow wears off, I’m sure I’ll wish that you’d read a better piece, or at least one that wasn’t so deflating, snobbish, and error-prone. But right now I’m elated that you’ve read something I’ve written.

    FWIW, I don’t believe academic librarians are better (or worse or smarter or dumber or shorter or taller) than other librarians (or non-librarians). It’s just that at ACRLog I’ve been asked to share my (first-year academic librarian) perspective with other academic librarians. That’s why I was writing to and about academic librarians, especially academic librarians who blog.

    Personally, because LISNews and LibraryStuff and other great blogs make it easy for me to catch up on library news and opinion quickly, I tend to really enjoy it when colleagues write longer, more complex posts. Also, as I wrote in the comments on the post itself, I also appreciate the fact that Jessamyn West maintains a personal blog and a professional blog. I read both, but I read each post as it hits my inbox, and catch up on when I have a bit more time to spare.

    I did a pretty lousy job of making all that clear, especially in the paragraph Karen quotes in her post. Sorry everyone, and thanks for objecting publicly and not just cursing me privately.

    Monday, February 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  15. Brett, thanks for writing… you respond with great humor and aplomb.

    As an escapee from the ARL world, my suggestion is you not take your modifier (academic) too seriously. Y’all really do put your pants on like the rest of us (me, I stand on a chair and jump into them, but your mileage may vary). You’re under peer pressure to think otherwise, but we’re all in the same profession.

    Note also that academic writing is generally loathsome in part because it is filled with the work of good people who somewhere got the message that generating rivers of ghastly unreadable text (with the conclusion painfully plunked at the end) makes them look “academic.”

    Jessamyn does a great job of figuring out which part of her life fits where. I’ve never been good at that. To me it all runs together. The closest I’ve come is to have a separate RSS feed for topics related to writing, though the feed has so few subscribers that this feels like a mere gesture.

    Monday, February 4, 2008 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  16. Miriam B wrote:

    Oh, Karen, the excerpt is just beautiful. Congratulations. I can’t wait to read the whole essay. Be sure to let us know when it actually can be found on paper, in the hand.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  17. Oooh, you’re so mysterious. Glad your tenacity paid off, Karen. Looking forward to reading The Outlaw Bride when it appears in the soon-to-be-revealed publication.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  18. geld lenen wrote:

    The Youtube vids are really amazing good. Where these special journalism students or?

    About the Outlaw Bride… Impressive publication!

    Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 9:08 am | Permalink
  19. Geld, those videos were made by high school students — amazing how smart those teens were! I can’t wait to see who takes first, but they are all winners to me. We should run all of them on local cable!

    Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  20. geld lenen wrote:

    Well… impressive after all :) good promotion done by and fore theirself!

    Saturday, February 16, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

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