Josna Rege

Write to Me

In Notes on January 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm

gravity-poster

Since February 2010, when I posted the first story on Tell Me Another, my method has been more-or-less haphazard and associative. Each successive story is usually the next one that has come to mind. Sometimes an event, an occasion, or the season demands it, and I must drop everything and start writing at once, while at other times the idea just lodges itself in my brain and I find myself working it out over the course of several days. It has happened once or twice that a reader has requested a particular story, and I have been delighted to oblige, for example when, in the very first month of TMA’s existence, my friend Ann asked for one about the tree house.

I’ve been happy enough to carry on in this way, with no particular place to go. But as TMA’s next anniversary nears, it occurs to me that after four years of writing more than a story a week on average, perhaps it’s time to ask you, O Beloved Readers, for guidance. The conversations with you, both publicly, on the blog itself, and privately, over email and the phone and in person, have been so rich and satisfying that perhaps they themselves are the point. But anyway, here goes:

1. About. I wrote the narrative for About on the spur of the moment when my son just set the laptop in front of me and asked me to write a few short sentences about this blog, which he had just set up for me. At the time I barely knew what a blog was, and had never heard of WordPress. (Incidentally, I came up with the name at the same time and in the same unpremeditated way.) Hesitant to put personal information on a public website, I must have instinctively kept it vague, avoiding personal biographical details and instead pointing (only afterwards did I realize this) with my opening “So many stories to tell” to Salman Rushdie’s  Midnight’s Children:

And there are so many stories to tell, too many, such an excess of intertwined lives events miracles places rumours, so dense a commingling of the improbable and the mundane!

My question: does the current “About” work or should there be more in it? And if more, then more of what?

2. Site Organization. Currently, all the site’s content is on one page. I suppose, like Doris Lessing, I have resisted compartmentalization. There are Stories, and then there are Notes (like this one), and that’s it. My question: If you are a regular reader of TMA, do you mind just taking or leaving whatever happens to come along next or would you like a more systematically organized site in which you can go directly to the stories in a certain category? You can already do this by scrolling down to the bottom of the Homepage and selecting a particular category or month but I could make it easier for the visitor by creating different pages for each of the major categories.

3. Content: What would you like to read more about? Are the stories too backward-looking? Would you like more reflections on themes, more extended essays, forays into fiction? In general, my question is: would you like the stories to be more focused on fewer categories—and if so, which ones—or do you prefer their current desultory meandering?

4. Connection. Floating out here in the blogosphere: write to me.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

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  1. dear josna, MY five cent: leave everythingas it is, and keep coming at us. i precisely like that it is NOt organized, thatwe are being surprised, thatwe are notw anted all the time,. thatwe can stroll or serach, but don’t have to follow someopne’s else’s guiodance except for chronology of appearance. to me, that#s the unique charm. don’t streamline it. keep on keeping on. bine

    Prof. Dr. Sabine Broeck Universitt Bremen Pf. 33 04 40 28334 Bremen bremen black studies: https://uni-bremen.academia.edu/BremenBlackStudies http://www.bbs.uni-bremen.de director, INPUTS: http://www.fb10.uni-bremen.de/inputs/ president, CAAR: http://www.caar-web.org/

    • Thank you, bine. Your very welcome feedback came minutes after I had posted, but I held off to allow a few days to elapse and few more people to respond. Three days later, I think I’ve received a clear message, in your words: to “keep on keeping on”! I particularly like your point that there are no demands made on the visitors as to how they ought to proceed, and the content is not pre-packaged, just there, for readers to take or leave, to dip into at random or read more systematically as they wish.
      Knowing that you are there makes me want to keep writing, (And not-knowing where I am going makes me keep writing in hopes of finding out!) x J

  2. Josna,

    I wouldn’t mind seeing some occasional fiction or poetry, even though I know the purpose of the blog is non-fiction. Love your writing and the style of the blog!

    Love,

    Michelle

    • Thank you, Michelle, for setting me a challenge and giving me license to depart from my own script from time to time and try something in a new voice. And thank you, too, for being such an appreciative reader. Love, J

  3. Josna, I’ve enjoyed the way you put it all together. I’m not sure if this sounds selfish, but I’d prefer you keeping it as it is. I’ve so enjoyed your blog – thank you.

    • Thank you, Don, for your kind words and your generosity of spirit. When I first started Tell Me Another, all its followers and everyone who posted comments were old friends and family members. One of the great delights of this experience has been meeting other bloggers and reading each other’s posts regularly, so that now I have as many regular commenters whom I have met through blogging. I’m particularly inspired by Candid Presence because you post your beautiful drawings and photographs as well as your writing and because you give yourself the freedom to range widely in subject matter, reflecting on whatever the encounters and experiences of your daily life bring to mind. And being long-winded, I love the fact that your observations and insights are short–but no less thought-provoking. And I very much enjoy having a regular reader from South Africa, and the Southern Hemisphere in general. Cheers, J

  4. I want to see, read, you to write, as it comes. Out. From you- to us.

    There are ways to find a subject, as you say, and I see no need to organize the stories differently. And, as one who has organized much information, exhaustively extracted data, created data extraction systems, learned everything there was to learn on a subject- before the internet,-and then taught it to multiple people so they could be experts on the subject, and … I like that your stories are not organized like that. Thats for hundreds and thousands of sources, for statistical or clinical use, for testifying, for work.

    These are glimpses into your life, experiences, ideas, thoughts. Your stories, Told as you want to tell them. When you want to. And we get to be a part of that.

    This is personal. totally manageable and- personal.

    Leave it as it is. (unless you want to organize or prespent these in a different manner- then- go for it.)

    • Thank you so much, Robin, for this thoughtful comment—and your first! You’re not only advising me to leave it as it is, but you’re also telling me why. I’m particularly heartened by your point that it is precisely because these stories aren’t scholarly or systematically organized that you enjoy them. I suspect that they’re liberating to me for the same reasons. Also, as you say, the current approach is manageable, and manageable is good in itself. Love you, J

  5. Doan change nuttin’!! About: Trust your instincts. That’s probably where you’re most comfortable; least calculating. That’s what got you here. Site organization: As you pointed out, we already have the capability to select categories/months. Keep it simple. Content: Again, trust your instincts. What I appreciate is your memories; your take on things, your unique viewpoint – let your stream of consciousness roll and flow right on – Doan change nuttin’!! Love you, ~Steven

    • Thank you, dear Steven, for “Doan change nuttin'”! And for reminding me to trust my instincts–which I often have a hard time doing, amidst all the other noise I create in my head. Love, J

  6. I love you just the way you are.

    • One hundred percent affirmation—thank you, Kristin! I’m so glad to have met you and found Finding Eliza through last year’s April Challenge. Your writing and your energy are inspiring to me and I’m always grateful for the gift of your perceptive comments that always seem to cut to the chase. All the best with your own new writing projects this year. x J

  7. I like it how it is !!!!! keep coming…..

    • Yes Ma’am! Thank you, Valerie, for your amazing example and your generosity of spirit. I’m grateful to have found your blog through Bottleworder’s post last year (http://bottledworder.com/2013/07/11/two-blogs-i-like/), and love its—your—bounteous, natural fluency. I am literally nourished by your blog, in so many ways. And your energy not only in writing and living but also in publishing is an inspiration to me to try to extend myself further. Love, J

  8. I think I’m happy with the About section. It lends an air of mystery. But if you were to reveal more about yourself, that would be nice too. I think though that a little categorization of your posts based on themes rather than simply decades would help me find posts I might be interested in. I realize that that might take away from the randomness of access and the fun behind being able to take what one gets but the practicality of time constraints and the limitedness of access from various media ( phones, tablets and laptops and desktops) would make a theme/topic based categorization a necessity if you wanted to lend some of your most interesting posts a longer shelf-life. Also, one has to click twice before one is able to comment on your posts while most themes show the comment box right away. This might discourage some readers from interacting more.

    As I have said before, I love your blog and I love your style. I meant to give constructive feedback, not criticize because in the end a blog is a very personal thing and so to each according to her own. Just wanted to let you know that. 🙂

    • And now, after having read what the others had to say about preferring random access, I am even more convinced that the blog as a genre caters to a personal writing and reading habit and is about a person to person interaction for many. It isn’t a magazine or a scholarly database. So go with your gut.

      • Sure, the blog “caters to a personal writing and reading habit,” and the interaction with family, friends, and regular readers is deeply satisfying, and yes, it’s personal, not primarily informational and certainly not scholarly. Still, if I had simply wanted to develop a regular writing habit I could have kept a completely private blog; I asked readers for suggestions on how I might reach out more effectively because I felt that Tell Me Another could benefit from a little better presentation. For example, one technical problem I have is that in the current format, readers can come to the archive on my home page and read dozens of stories, and the site stats will only register the one home page visit. (I know that they have been reading more stories only by noticing how many images and hyperlinks have been clicked on.) I’ve noticed that with some themes only the opening paragraph of the story is displayed, and the reader has to click to read the whole piece; so that might provide me with a more accurate record of the number of visitors. The suggestions in your previous comment were very helpful, and I will experiment with implementing them. I have no idea how to do this, but will try to find some themes which allow the reader to comment with just one click. And I will take a look at the categories used by other bloggers, like you, whose work I admire. Thanks again, J

        • The technical problem you’ve talked about can be solved easily. On top of the “Add New” box that you write on or copy into when you’re writing a new post, you’ll see a “more” tab if you have the “visual” view on rather than the text view (also shown as tabs on top). You place the “more” tab whereever you want the text of the post to be cut off on the home page. It will say “Continue Reading” or “Read more” depending on the theme at that spot. You can move this around whenever you want by editing the post. This isn’t a feature of the theme used but a feature of the text box. Some themes also have the ability to provide an abstract on the home page but I haven’t come across this feature in any of the free themes I’ve come across so far.

        • Thank you! That’s really helpful. I will experiment with this to see whether it affects my site-visit stats. x J

    • Thank you so much for taking the trouble to send me your thoughtful response, Bottledworder. I really appreciate it, especially because I know that you have made a study of these things and obviously have succeeded in reaching and getting lots of feedback from a wide as well as a discerning audience. In fact I was prompted to write this appeal in large part by your own recent New Year’s resolutions and efforts to reach out to your readership more.
      I think you’re right that I could say a little more in “About” without filling it with personal details, and that I could both tag and categorize my posts more effectively for searching. And yes, I have had a number of friends send me their comments by email because they were unable to post comments on the blog itself, so there does seem to be a problem with that. I just assumed that it was a feature of WordPress and didn’t realize that it varied by theme.
      Sure, a blog is a personal thing, but I wouldn’t have asked for feedback if I didn’t want it. I felt that after all this time I’d hit a kind of plateau, and rather than risking stagnation, was seeking some ideas about what I might try doing a little differently to reach out to potential readers. I read your blog with interest (although I can’t always keep up!) and your advice is very welcome. Now I just have to figure out how to implement it; the prospect of changing themes terrifies me! Cheers, J

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