Writers Who Blog: Virtual Letters to the World

by Kelli Russell Agodon                                                     Class of 2007


Number of years I have blogged: 8.

Date of first blog & where: December 31, 2002 on LiveJournal.

Why I Began: Because I don’t write well in a paper journal.

Biggest Regret: Feeling shy & overwhelmed that I couldn’t control who read my blog and deleting the whole thing one day without saving anything, thereby losing 2 years of posts, poems, info, and thoughts.

What I’ve learned: If you ever decide that you no longer want to blog, do not delete it, just change the name and make it private.

Biggest Pet Peeve: People who are anti-blog before they try it themselves.

Strangest occurrence/coincidence: Connecting with a soldier in Iraq who has the same name as my father. He found my blog when he Googled his own name and saw a post to my dad (who passed away in 1992) on Memorial Day as my father was a World War II vet.

Number of unique blog “hits” I get monthly: About 1500 – 2000 (though there’s a whole group of those that are just looking for the Apple Brown Betty recipe I posted!)

People who subscribe and have my blog sent to their email: About 500.

What I blog about: Writing, poetry, Tuesday confessions (from what I’ve heard, this is a favorite of folks), Thankful Thursdays (a gratitude list), creativity, other writers/poets/artists, book reviews, what I’m reading, publishing talk, editing talk, literary stuff, simple living, the occasional poem, and creative life.

Tagline: Notes about writing and living creatively. . .

Currently blogging at: Book of Kells (www.ofkells.blogspot.com) hosted by Blogger.

I started blogging eight years ago because I realized that I write better when I thought someone else would be reading my words.  My own paper journal was many boring pages of me complaining about something or someone, stating what I was eating, what the weather was, what the dog was doing, and, occasionally, how much I weighed.

If a stranger read my journal they would have no idea that I was a writer and would in fact think I had the dullest life ever and wasn’t happy with anything or anyone.  Yes, my journal had basically become a “Bitch Book” (though even that sounds more interesting than it was).  Rereading my journal was painful, both in my writing style and what I was journaling about.  I knew I wanted to keep a journal, yet the private, paper kind I kept on my bedside was not doing anyone (mostly me) any good.

I started blogging as it was a way to create new writing in a stronger voice and in a much more interesting way.  I could document what I was feeling, writing about, or considering in a way that was appealing to others (myself included).  I have an ego when it comes to my writing when I know others are reading, as I want to both inform and entertain.  The public world of blogging made me have to drop my wah-wah-wah style of writing for something of substance, even though when I began I really didn’t believe anyone was reading my blog or would ever read my blog.

As I started blogging, I began writing less about my personal life (andI was pretty private about that) and more on the writing life.  I did this because as a younger writer, I remember reading Kim Addonizio’s blog and learning that she too was rejected and even with X number of books, she also felt self-doubt.  As I began realizing other people were reading my blog, I promised myself that I wouldn’t just report on the good things, the acceptances and publication, but I would blog about the rejections, the days when I couldn’t write or wasn’t writing, the dark times when I was down or feeling disconnected from the writing world, the insecurities I felt and still feel living my life as a writer.

Little by little, more people started reading my blog.  When my book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room won the White Pine Press Prize, I blogged about that and about the process of having my manuscript become a book.  When my book came out last month, many of the orders were from people who read my blog. I now realize that many people feel connected with my book because they watched it move from a concept to an acceptance to a real papery thing they can hold and read.

If you were to ask you why I blog, I would say my shallow answers are that it is a way to get feedback or validation immediately (or course, many of us writers try to write clever Facebook status updates for the same reason) and it is also a way to indulge a need to write about what’s on my mind.  But if I look deeper, I’d have to say my main reason is to connect, be part of the conversation, and to let other writers know they are not alone.  It’s the same reason I write poetry, but blogging allows me to do it a little more quickly with a lot less revision.

I keep in mind who is reading my blog and always remember my goal is to offer something positive to the world and of course, to do no harm.  I love that I am able to highlight my favorite poets and writers and my favorite books.  I love that I can just blog a photo or a book when I’m busy.  I love that many times my posts become something more—an essay or a poem. I also love it when people comment on something I’ve written, when they tell me it either moved them or helped them somehow.

One of the main reasons I continue blogging is that it allows me to feel connected to writers and readers who are not in my area.  I can help them promote their work and they help me promote mine.  Blogging is another way to send out letters to the world, though with the surprise of never knowing who will write back or where they will land.  And like the poets who lived before me and wrote letter after letter, and whose private documents were published later for all to read, I have given the okay for everything that appears on my blog. I like that others can get a glimpse behind the poetic curtain without me feeling as if I’m sacrificing my privacy.  I like that I can send my letters out across the Internet and if you want to read them, you can and if not, that’s okay too.  They are there without any way to get papercuts, without having to be opened too carefully.

Kelli Russell Agodon is a blogger at Book of Kells (www.ofkells.blogspot.com). She is the author of the just-published collection of poetry “Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room”. Kelli is a Rainier Writing Workshop Alum (Class of ’07) and has years of paper journals she can’t stand to read stored on the top shelf of her office closet. www.agodon.com