Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why Blog? Because it's not all about (Me)me

I'm thinking about the blogging life, since Dani Greer, who writes about new authors and new books, and about the land, and Janet Riehl, storyteller and wise woman, tagged me for "It's all about (Me)me." So here are my answers to this meme on the blogging life:

1. How long have you been blogging? I'm a late-bloomer. I didn't figure out that I loved telling the stories in the data better than I loved collecting the data until I had spent ten years as a field biologist studying wildfires, sagebrush communities, and grizzly bear habitat. My first book wasn't published until I was 34 - which, oddly enough, was the same age my botanist great-grandfather was when he found his professional niche studying deserts around the world. So it should be no surprise that I didn't discover blogging until earlier this year.

2. What inspired you to start blogging and who are your mentors? I wanted a place to write in a less formal way than my published writing, a place to muse and try out ideas and report on what I read. My mentors are other bloggers, especially those who highlight - and illustrate - the places we live in and love, and the stories we tell about what makes us so beautifully and imperfectly human, bloggers like Sherrie York at Brush and Baren, Susan Albert at Lifescapes, Donna Druchunas at Sheep to Shawl, and Deb Robson at Independent Stitch. I learn something from every blog I read - the blogosphere is like having a whole world of storytellers at my fingertips!

3. Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun? Money? Fun? Hah hah hah hah! I'm a writer. I make my living from my articles for national magazines and newspapers, from teaching and speaking, and from the books I write (ten published, the two-book set I'm whaling away at now will make 11&12 or double-eleven, however you count it). I'm blogging as another way to write about what I believe in: the importance of restoring our relationship with the community of the land. To give voice to those whose voices we cannot hear, to find new ways to tell the stories of my head and heart.

4. What 5 things do you struggle with online? 1) Finding time to blog. 2) Remembering to shoot photos to illustrate my blog. 3) Remembering that I don't have to be perfect. 4) Brevity. 5) Finding the words when I find time to blog.

5. What 5 things do you love about being online? 1) The blogosphere is like radio in a way: you send your words out into the ether and often have no idea who they reach because you can't see your audience. But listeners and readers find you, often in unexpected ways. 2) The immediacy of it. 3) The informal and random nature of the connections; the huge web of relationships that grow organically. 4) Other bloggers & 5) Readers, bless you all!

I'm tagging Sherrie York, Donna Druchunas, and Deb Robson. Your turn now. . . .

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Storytelling and the winter garden

Next week I'm visiting Janet Riehl's blog, Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century, which is just what it says: a compendium of every-day insight from across cultures and generations. Janet is writing about the practical stuff we learn from life, and what the arts have to teach us about what it means to be fully human (as in "humane"). One of her threads is about why stories matter, and that's my topic. So catch me on Riehl Life on Monday!

I've also just been invited to join Audubon magazine's new blog, The Perch, as a writer about gardening and western environmental issues. So look for me on my winter garden sometime in the next week or so. I've got spinach, arugula, and stir-fry greens growing slowly under insulating row covers despite night-time lows of ten degrees! When I throw off the white row cover fabric at mid-morning after the frost has burned off and see those crinkly green leaves underneath, I am reminded of how sometimes just the smallest gesture - like remembering to cover my garden each night - makes a huge difference. My attentiveness to those hardy greens means the difference between life and death for them and it gives us a bit of fresh food from our own soil through the winter.

Last night when friends from Boulder stopped by, I clipped some stalks from the rosemary - also under a row cover - to give them for their dinner. Smelling the rich perfume of fresh rosemary leaves on my hands, I was grateful for the gifts that plants give us. As winter closes in here in the mountains, the nights grow longer and life slows down, the touches of green in my garden remind me that all of life's cycles come around again - and again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What Wildness is This (again)

What Wildness is This, the new Story Circle Network anthology from University of Texas Press showcasing women's voices on the landscapes of the Southwest, is garnering some great reviews. I've got an essay in the book - it's the thirteenth anthology to include my work - so naturally, I think it's a great book. But I'd love it anyway for the range and depth of the writers it includes, from ones I know and am inspired by like Joy Harjo, Denise Chavez and Barbara Kingsolver to writers I didn't know before and am delighted to meet in print, like Cindy Bellinger, quoted in the second review below.

Here are some recent comments. The Texas Observer writes:
The women who have contributed to What Wildness is this have been given a channel for sharing their clear, and often startling, visions. In doing so, they have carved out a domain of their own.
New Mexico magazine adds:
This is a book where none can escape the truth of the land. These women, more than most, appreciate the experience of a life that is untamed. They show us how to balance duties and dreams until we walk with confidence, knowing how "each step deliberate on the skin of the earth, we pick our way across a plateau strewn with wildflowers and bones."
It's a pleasure to be part of such a fine book. Thanks to the editors, Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Hanson, Jan Epton Seale, and Paula Stallings Yost, and Theresa May and the staff of UT Press for putting together a book that's giving a bunch of feisty and inspiring women's voices the notice they deserve!

The power of words

If you've ever wondered why you write, or whether words really makes a difference, read Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" blog entry in today's New York Times, Rewriting Rap to Empower Teens. I don't care what you think about rap or other forms of popular poetry set to music - this is a vivid example of the power of words. A group of Atlanta teens who are part of HOTGIRLS, (Helping Our Teen Girls in Real Life Situations), got tired of being hassled by guys on the streets. So they wrote their own rap as part of an exercise in learning what's appropriate, testing their power to speak out and change the way things are:
Imma give you yo number back
Cause I don’t like you and yo game is whack
You see these boys just don’t know how to act
I try to walk away but they talk smack
Take it to the streets
Parker-Pope writes:
Rewriting song lyrics helps girls “critically analyze the messages they encounter in the media and in their daily lives,’’ said HOTGIRLS founder Carla E. Stokes. “Girls are using hip hop as a vehicle to reach their peers and raise awareness about issues that affect their lives.’’
The program also takes the teens into a recording studio to create their own versions of popular songs, putting their words onto CDs, telling their version of how the world is, what it feels like to be a teen girl in the city, a girl pressured to be sexy too young, seen as a ho if she does it and a bitch if she doesn't.

You may not like their language, or their rap. But you've got to cheer the fact that these teen girls are finding their voices and using them to turn a genre of popular music into a way to speak out and change the way their world sees them.

Sending our words out
Telling our stories
Telling the world
our world
we matter
That's why we write.