Josna Rege

Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Reflections on my third A-to-Z Challenge: A Printer’s Alphabet

In Notes on May 3, 2015 at 9:05 am

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Well, I just managed to get all the way through to ‘Z’ in time, although I fell behind along the way and seemed to be scrambling to catch up all month.  I’m glad I participated for a third year, and that the idea of A Printer’s Alphabet came to me, since it allowed me to write about things I love, not only letterpress printing and typography, books and independent publishers, but the inexhaustible subject of language itself.

Here’s a hyperlinked list of the whole month’s entries:

Back in the Challenge Again: A Printer’s Alphabet

304. Against the Grain (G)

305. Bed (G)

306. Composition

307. Deadline

308. Ems, Ens, and Endpapers

309. Folding, Flying, Bleeding, Pieing. . .

310. Godine

311. The Hogarth Press

312. Impression/Imposition (Kiss or Bite?)

313. Job Printers

314. Kern(ing)

315. Ligatures

316. Of Matrices, Magazines, and Melting Pots

317. The Nick

318. Out of Sorts

319. (Mind your) p’s and q’s

320. Quoin that Phrase

321. Recto

322. Stereotyping

323. Tympan and Times Roman

324. Upper Case (and lower case)

325. Verso

326. Whetstone Press

327. x-Height

328. Yellow Journalism

329. Zapf, Zubaan, Zinc-etching, Zzzzz . . .

I’m afraid that I didn’t discover as many new blogs this year as I did in my first two years in the A-to-Z Challenge, mostly because I was perennially behind on my own posts. I did take the advice of the co-hosts and visit blogs near mine on the dauntingly long list. Otherwise I scrolled down, clicking on names that intrigued me or somehow struck a chord. Some of them didn’t seem to have A-to-Z posts on them and a few were clearly commercial. Perhaps more of these blogs could have been eliminated, along with those who never got past the first couple of letters of the alphabet. As the Challenge gets bigger, besides being stricter about eliminating inappropriate or non-participating blogs, it might be helpful to come up with a new system of organization that makes it easier to find like-minded blogs. This is by no means a criticism of the organizers, who were more diligent than ever this year. Three times over the month, when I was flagging and becoming discouraged, I had a visit from a co-host cheering me on with a few words of appreciation. Thank you for your hard work—your visits certainly helped me get through to Z, as did those of a few supportive fellow-bloggers.

Although I discovered only a few new blogs, I’m happy to have found them. These were: modhukori, The View from the Top of the Ladder, Wanna Buy a Duck, Islam On My Mind, Jenn Lost in Chaos, and Kiwi with an orange flavour. The blogs I visited and commented on the most regularly were ones I first discovered through my first or second A-to-Z Challenge and who participated again this year, Finding Eliza, Wangiwriter’s Blog, and aliceinbloggingland, all of which I follow year-round.

Then there were the visits from bloggers whom I met through the last Challenge but who didn’t participate in it this year: calmgrove, galeriaredelius, and undercovermole. I missed their participation but appreciated and enjoyed their “likes” and comments. I’m sorry that I didn’t always have time to write back to people who were kind enough to post a comment. I hope to get back to at least some of them belatedly, now that I have a bit more time. Finally, thanks to TMA’s regular readers, who cheered me on through the alphabet and suggested topics for the letters that had me stumped.

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Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

Reflections on Traveling Light

In Notes on May 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm

A-to-Z_Reflection_[2014]

My heart sank when I remembered that the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge was coming around again. Not because I dreaded it: on the contrary, I had loved every minute of it the first time around; but because this Spring I was on sabbatical and would be on a research trip out of the country for the entire month of April. There would be work to do, continual movement, and uncertain availability of wifi. But simultaneously, my heart fluttered and rose up: what a lark it had been last year, dashing off new posts between drafts of students’ term papers and dreaming them up during tedious end-of-year meetings. I would do it!

For better or worse, I did. Choosing “Traveling Light” as a theme to match both my movement and my subject matter, I promised myself that I would neither let blogging interfere with my work nor with my interactions with real people. I’d rather not reveal whether or not I kept that promise, but suffice it to say that I completed the Challenge, if a few late posts and one hasty space-filler at the end of an exhausting day can be overlooked.

The month, my travels, and the Challenge came to an end all at once, casting me ashore safe, but strangely bereft. This past week, no longer traveling light but alternately drifting and drowning in a state of sleep-deprivation and a stack of unpaid bills, I have tried to reflect on it all, but I don’t have enough distance on it yet. Here’s what I have, such as it is:

First, no matter how often I told myself that I could and would simply give it up if it interfered with my work or my interactions with family and friends, it took on an imperative of its own. Many was the night I found myself staying up writing into the wee hours so as to be able to post the day’s story while keeping my promise to myself to focus my days on the task at hand. My family and friends were caught up in it too. Realizing that if they couldn’t beat it, they needed to join it, they came to me with suggestions for topics that could dispatch the thing as speedily as possible. My cousin Jacky, for example, came up with “Quiet” for Day Q, so that I would be able to dispense with words and simply post peaceful pictures. If she hoped that I would take the hint and simply quit blogging, she was too polite to say so.

Second, I found Tell Me Another and the blogs of other participants with similar themes and shared life experiences gravitating toward each other: a storey of stories, written by an expatriate whose daily posts expatiated on the different places he had visited or lived in; galeriaredelius, the blog of a jewelry-maker who circumnavigated the world through the Internet, visiting a different online art exhibit each day; the cross- and trans-cultural reflections of people of Indian and/or British origin in blogs like Drifting Traveller; in calmgrove, the shared childhood love of books, read in places far from the “home” of the writer; Smidgens, Snippets, and Bits, a loving, painfully honest blog by the full-time caregiver of an husband with a chronic disease; aliceinbloggingland, who chose Memory and memories as her theme; and, to my delight, saltyspring, a wide-ranging blog I responded to without realizing that the author was none other than my sister!

Third, the Challenge gave me the joy of random discovery of excellent, innovative writers I might never have encountered if not here. As a young mother, the author of abundance in the boondocks is in a different stage of life from mine, but one that I read and remembered with a pang of recognition. As a flamboyantly imaginative persona whose writing is not afraid of walking on the wild side, the author-narrator of The Essence of a Thing set off sparks in my dull, academic brain.

Fourth, at a time when I felt that my blog had reached a plateau, A-to-Z brought me new readers and followers. Tell Me Another had just under 200 followers when I first announced my intent to take up the Challenge, and now, barely a month later, it has 250 followers. The daily visits spiked, a welcome development; though they started to drop again even before the month was out (perhaps others were getting as overwhelmed as I was) and I will have to see whether there will be any long-term effects on the blog’s traffic. Still, I will be grateful if I emerge from this experience with a reciprocal relationship with even one new blog. Last year, that blog was Finding Eliza, still one of my very favorites.

Finally, it was the hard traveling of the Challenge’s co-hosts and helpers that allowed me to travel light. Thanks to Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs (also doing the A-to-Z Challenge on Daily Writes), who first suggested it to me back in 2012, to Arlee Bird, who dreamed it up in the first place, and to all the others who worked eight days a week to make this global initiative, 2000 bloggers strong, run like clockwork all month long.

Here’s an annotated list of my A-to-Z posts:

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Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme
in which I introduce my theme

Air Travel The start of a month-long journey and also the A-to-Z April challenge

Baggage About excess baggage, both literal and figurative (Written in transit)

Culture After 24 short hours in a new country, some observations about the culture as I see it as well as on Culture in general.

Deutschland (or Germany?) On stamp collecting and nationalism, by no means just the German version.

In the Eurozone Decentering Europe (is it really a continent?) and reflections on the EU

Food, Bremen-style lavishly illustrated post on the German—or at least the Bremer—diet, as I have been experiencing it

(On not knowing) German The embarrassment and unevenness of this for an English-speaker, when so many Germans speak English so well

Holidays, religious and otherwise, and the cycle of life and death

Interior Design The joys of beautiful, functional, and human-friendly design

(Leaving on a) Jet Plane On this song, others like it, and the two different senses of “jet”

Kuchen a German institution: no explanation needed

London without Lily contemplating returning to a London without this dear person in it and realizing the magnitude of her influence on me

Monuments The problem with monuments and why I prefer markets

Nostalgia When is it harmless and when toxic?

Oh, to be in England For the English colonials, “Home” was always England; the beloved (and clichéd) original and the hilarious send-up

Pardon the Liberty (but I plead pure exhaustion) Unable to write a new post, I beg pardon and list previous ‘P’ stories

Quiet The rush and tear of travel is graced with moments of peace

Railways, Real and Imagined Chasing trains, in reality, and in my mind’s eye

Swagmen While I hit the road by choice, I have a home to return to; these people, past and present, do not.

Tea While I’ve been known to be a bit of a tea snob, in the end it’s all about the company

U and Non-U Images of nature and reflections on class, occasioned by a visit to the royal estate of Sandringham

Variations, Variety, Vocab As Doris Lessing once wrote, we’re all made of the same stuff

Walls Do they really keep the peace? For whom, and at what cost?

The Challenge of X The beauty of x is that a) it’s unknown and b) it can be what you want it to be.

Yellowcake and other Euphemisms The nuclear power industry is both global and local, as are the production of yellowcake and the (ab)use of language to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Zindagi Here’s to life! Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

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Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme

In Notes on March 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775c-1 Last year I dragooned Tell Me Another readers into the A-to-Z April Challenge and wrote a blog post every day of the month, following the alphabet. But last year I signed up literally at the eleventh hour and chose my daily topics on the spur of the moment as well. This year I’m in a different predicament. I’ve signed up ten days earlier than I did in 2013, but expect to be traveling abroad throughout the month of April. The time I will have on the computer ought to be spent either on my sabbatical writing or video-chatting with my dear parents, whom I will be leaving at home with trepidation. I’m told that it’s a good idea to decide on a theme in advance rather than just blogging randomly as I did last year; but will I have the time to do this at all? A-to-Z-Challenge-theme-reveal After some thought I’ve decided that since I plan to visit a postcolonial and transcultural studies institute in Germany, a country I hardly know at all, and then to travel in England, the country of my birth, I’ll name my theme “Traveling Light,” reflections on culture and place from a non-national perspective. That should give me a lot of latitude either to discuss a particular postcolonial or transcultural topic or simply to make observations about anything that catches my eye (accompanied by photographs where possible). Let’s see how I get on! I’m determined not to let blogging interfere with my sabbatical or spoil my enjoyment of people and places in the moment, so if I find that it is doing so, I’ll simply stop posting. Still, it’s bound to be fun, and if I do manage to finish the challenge it’ll be an added bonus. Click here if you want to sign up for the A-to-Z challenge or browse the entries to date and here if you want to check out the other themes people have chosen so far. Come travel light with me! Tell Me Another (Contents to Date) Chronological Table of Contents

A New Kind of TMA Story?

In Notes on May 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Looking back on more than three years of Tell Me Another, I see that the stories I tell are all over the place (rather like me in that respect). There are, of course, stories based in particular places, stories about people, family, childhood, parenting, stories about food, books and music, words and language, about immigrants, migration, and cross-cultural communication, about the people I love and the principles I hold dear.

I’ve noticed that there seems to be a growing genre of TMA pieces that reflect on a theme or a concept and that are perhaps a bit more didactic. I say “perhaps” because I tend to hold strong opinions, so there is the danger, when a piece is only tenuously linked to a specific story from my life, that it will become overly didactic. Nevertheless, prompted by friends’ suggestions, I’m wondering whether some of these pieces might be the starting point for a new kind of Tell Me Another—one that employs storytelling to explore some of my scholarly interests in a more engaging and accessible language and style than a lot of academic writing.

Below, in reverse chronological order, are some of the already-written TMA stories that may point in this new direction. Some are more closely linked to personal stories than others, some strongly express my own opinions, but all of them include an element of reflection on a particular topic or theme.

206. Xenophobia

199. Quest

192. Jam Today

185. Common Sense

178. Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

163. Servants, or Cleaning My Own D*** House!

160. Dogfight (G)

159. Ordinary People

145. Just a little is enough

143. Waste Not, Want Not

138. Learning How (Not) to See

134. Darshan, or You Never Can Tell

136. The Shame of Self-Censorship

124. A Meditation on Money

123. That Funny Accent

122. The Land of the Free—Really?

118. Racist Bracist

115. An Immigrant’s Reflections on Independence Day

102. No Nuclear News

101. The Japan Syndrome

99. Paharganj, January 1984

88. Sisters, Pick Up Your Sisters

84. Feasting or Fasting?

58. Southbound

35. The Nation

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

Reflections on Three Years of TMA

In Notes on February 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm

It was on such a grey February day back in 2010 that Nikhil first got me started on Tell Me Another, and ever since, I’ve been on an adventure that has connected the disparate, widely scattered people and places in my life, past and present, re-connected me with long-lost family and friends, sparked unexpected global conversations, and been a source of deep pleasure and solace. Now that it’s coming up on the three-year anniversary of this blog, I’m wondering whether I ought to continue in more-or-less the same vein or whether, after 175 stories, it’s time for a change. But if so, to what? Publishing a selection of the best of Tell Me Another, beginning a novel, working more concertedly on my research and scholarly writing, taking up the study of Russian or the Cape Breton fiddle, or simply trying to get my messy life in order? Is TMA a net loss or a net gain of energy, a means to an end or an end in itself?

Looking back at the last few months of entries, I’m wondering whether they’re shifting from stories to reflections, from sharply observed, lightly humorous sketches to nostalgia-tinged, sentimental, even rather maudlin pieces. Perhaps they are no longer evocations of a particular time and place or affirmations of a particular sensibility, but more frequently, escapes into a past that is simply over and done with. What about Ram Dass’ maxim, Be Here Now? Something tells me it’s not yet time to withdraw from the world of action and write my memoirs; there’s still too much work to be done. Am I becoming one of the innumerable victims of that emergent pathology, Internet Use Disorder?

from The New Yorker Cartoons

from The New Yorker Cartoons

Just thinking out loud. For those of you who are my small group of loyal readers,  I’d welcome your honest thoughts, and I’m not fishing for compliments.  For those who have just started reading and following TMA, I’d be curious as to which types of stories you are most enjoying. This has been a very personal project, with the only common thread in the widely varying stories being my life; and yet I find that I do want—and have even come to crave—feedback. Is this, too, a pathology, or simply a natural human impulse?

Spring is not quite here, although the sap buckets are out on the old maples around town. Sitting here in limbo at the dining-room table with a snowstorm of unknown intensity about to begin, simultaneously feeling the stirrings of the future, the persistence of the past, and the demands of the present. Shall I sit here a little longer and write another story for Tell Me Another, or shall I turn my attention to something new that is waiting to be born?

172. Balancing My Three Halves

In Britain, Immigration, India, Inter/Transnational, Stories, United States, writing on January 30, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Tree Pose (tree by C.S. Adams, from okiemama.com)

Tree Pose (tree by C.S. Adams, from okiemama.com)

I have always felt checking one’s “stats” to be a guilty secret, a worthless, time-wasting pursuit that is vain in both senses of the word. But I’m not ashamed to admit that I love checking Clustrmaps  on Tell Me Another’s homepage. Its world map has little red dots marking the locations of one’s site visitors, with yellow dots locating the most recent visits in real time. Sensitive as I am to geopolitics, I take note of the balance of visitors across the continents, delighting in the fact that I have as many visitors from Asia as from Europe, and fretting over how many countries in Africa or Oceania are as yet unrepresented. Now that my country count is up to 143 out of approximately 190 sovereign states (with an additional 16 whose sovereignty is disputed), it’s increasingly rare for me to get a visitor from a new country, but whenever I do I announce the happy event on Facebook, along with a map indicating the location of the country in question. I like looking at the state-by-state breakdown of my U.S. visitors, those from Greece, a country where my family lived for a time when I was a girl, and those from countries where dear friends of mine live. But my keenest attention is tuned to the relative numbers of visitors from Britain and India, the respective countries where my mother and father were born, and where I was born and grew up.

I don’t suppose it’s surprising that, after the United States, where (hard as it still is to believe) I have now spent nearly three-quarters of my life, India and Britain occupy second and third place in the breakdown of visitors to Tell Me Another. What continues to amaze me, though, is how close they have remained in their respective number of visitors over the period of nearly-three years that I have kept this blog. They have run neck and neck, with first one, then the other overtaking, then falling behind by an ear, then gaining the lead again for a time, but never very much of a lead or for very long.

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At first Britain had a slight advantage, with India lagging. When this was the case I cheered India on, wondering why, with its large population of English speakers, it wasn’t overwhelming tiny Britain; taking umbrage at Britain’s unfair advantage, I found myself adding Pakistan to India’s count to offset against Britain, arguing that this was only fair since it was Britain who had partitioned them into two countries in the first place. Then slowly, inexorably, India’s numbers began to grow, until it was outpacing Britain, at first by no more than a few dozen visits, then a few score. Still more recently I have joined Indiblogger, an Indian blog directory and bloggers’ network. Perhaps this is giving India an unfair advantage, since I haven’t yet discovered a similar British network; in any case, India is pulling steadily ahead of Britain. Now that the tables have turned, I find myself rooting for the new underdog. Somehow it continues to be important to me to maintain a balance between the two, as if to demonstrate (to whom? Surely to myself alone) that both of them will always have an equal measure of my loyalty and love.

This wasn’t always the case. Growing up in early post-Independence India, it didn’t behoove me to wear my Englishness on my sleeve. To my shame, I remember taking part in teasing an Indian sister and brother, newcomers to our school, who had lived in England for a time and had just returned. Whenever they reminisced about their time in England, we chanted back to them in mocking tones, “In England. . .” Meanwhile I kept my own memories of my time in that country to myself. This is not something I was conscious of at the time, but have only realized in retrospect (see Xenophobia).

Years later, when I was already middle-aged, my sister accused me (as sisters and only sisters can do) of  suppressing the English part of myself. “How can that be?” I asked incredulously? “You use your name without including your middle initial,” she pointed out. She was quite right, I often did; could I be subconsciously denying half of my heritage? (Again, only a sibling can sow such self-doubt with a single statement.) Henceforth, whenever I published anything, I restored my middle initial to its rightful place, proudly upholding the name (I always hastened to add, if queried), not of the current Queen of England, nor of the Queen Mother, but of my own maternal grandmother (see My Grandmother and My Uncrowned Queens).

Back to the stats-checking. I joined a British Asian blog directory, although I haven’t lived for long enough in that country as an adult to qualify for that identity. I’m not exactly a British expat, either, so I don’t belong in that category of bloggers. Indiblogger turned me down for membership at first, on the grounds that I didn’t live in India. But prickly as I am about the politics of location, I appealed the decision and they were obliged to accept me, given that their membership requirements did not specify that a member blogger had to reside in the country. As always, I remain a slightly uneasy insider-outsider in most categories, preferring to speak in Doris Lessing’s  “small personal voice” to whoever just happens to come upon one of my stories, no matter who they may be or where they may be located.

But why “three halves” in the title above? Because although TMA gets more site visitors from the United States than from India and Britain combined, I realize that I haven’t weighed it in the balance at all. Given that it took me nearly forty years to decide to take U.S. citizenship, it may take a little longer for me to find a new equilibrium in a tripartite identity. Perhaps I take for granted that the United States will dominate my blog stats, and therefore I discount it to restore the global balance. Perhaps, like many immigrants, I’ve been reluctant to admit how much my current identity has been shaped by my life in a country to which I didn’t choose to come, but in which I did choose to stay.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

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