I’ve always been fascinated (and frustrated) by poetry’s “delicate snowflake” status, and how such a diverse variety of forms, styles, and voices often gets lumped into such a generic, cavernous category, like literary fiction and graphic novels. One of the things I’ve always loved about good anthologies and open mics is the inherent (or the potential for) diversity in those formats, something that’s not clearly communicated on bookstore shelves nor the Dewey Decimal system.
When Google acquired Blogger in 2003, it was a smart move that tied directly to their core ad business, with the visionary bonus of foreseeing the value of user-generated content when it was still scoffed at. Yahoo acquiring Tumblr 10 years later (after badly fumbling GeoCities, del.icio.us, and Flickr, among others) is like the drunk uncle showing up late to a baby shower with a stripper and a trained monkey. Even the “announcement” via GIF feels forced and desperate.
I’ve noted often in the past that most of what I preach and practice when it comes to marketing and community-building, I learned during those four years of Mondays, and by the end of the night last Monday, I realized how big a hole I’d created when I walked away from that part of my life. So, I’m back.
Yesterday’s announcement that O’Reilly is retiring TOC came as a bit of a surprise at first, but in retrospect, it makes sense. Its focus on tools was a strength in the early days of the digital transition, but as the new shiny wore off, self-proclaimed “disruptors” faded away quietly, and viable business models came to light, it became clear that the tools of change that counted most were the people in the trenches, not the provocative pundits with plenty of ideas and little or no skin in the game.
Perhaps it’s just the drama this week offered — from the tragic and inspiring events in Boston, to some big things starting to shake loose at the day job — combining with the unexpected introduction to some good poems, but I’m getting that feeling again, a tentative spark that danced unusually bright in my brain throughout my run this morning. It wasn’t a full-fledged poem, just the beginnings of one, words and ideas tap-dancing to a vaguely familiar rhythm, a lucid dream that lasted for a couple of miles before threatening to fade if I didn’t write them down. So I did, cheating my cooldown and stretching to get to the computer as fast as I could.
The feeling of running across the finish line, whether it’s a one-mile walk for charity or a local 10k, an Olympic sprint or the Boston Marathon, is supposed to be a special one. It’s personal accomplishment mixed with exuberant community connection; an emotional high laced with varying degrees of physical exhaustion. It’s not ever supposed to be a moment where death might lash out randomly. Where cowards make political statements. Where fear and suspicion take root.
“Wow…” That was my whispered, slack-jawed reaction to the final 30 minutes of BioShock Infinite, arguably the most compelling video game experience I’ve ever had. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the definition, and since completing the game, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the more measured reviews that haven’t been afraid to point out its flaws, but to borrow a phrase from Grace Jones, it might not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me.
Never mind the folly of dismissing Goodreads, a social network dedicated to books with 13m+ members and is steadily growing, or even Pinterest, where Random House has inexplicably attracted 1.5m followers, but the very idea that “something is really, chronically missing in online retail discovery” is arguably contradicted by Amazon’s 2012 results, suggesting that “online retail discovery” isn’t really a problem for readers. It’s a problem for publishers.
In the beginning, when I was trying to sell my first novel, I had a weird experience of editors really wanting me to write, sort of magic realism set in the Caribbean, or about recent immigrants with a magical ability (I’ve had two editors actually give me that logline and ask if I’d be interested in writing that story, but it’s just not there for me, I’ve got other stories still to tell). There was a strong sense that, hey, this is how you can be marketed as a Caribbean novelist.
For the third consecutive year, I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on social media for my friend Peter Costanzo’s M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media class at NYU last night, and while preparing for it, I was surprised by how much has changed since the first time, and how much hasn’t. Pinterest and Tumblr are bigger deals now (or at least perceived as such), while Twitter is steadily maturing (from a business perspective), Facebook changes its approach every six months, and email is still the underrated king of the hill.