Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Internet Resources for Writers Panel at the National Latino Writers Conference

Michael Sedano

As promised to the panel and audience, here are the fleshed out remarks and internet links relating to my presentation. Lydia Gil kindly provides links to her internet resources. Be sure to visit http://nmviewpoint.typepad.com/ to view Dr. Richard Griego’s elegant site.

On behalf of my La Bloga colleagues, it’s an honor to be here with you this week. The National Hispanic Cultural Center takes my breath away with its superb facility and potential. Similarly, the National Latino Writers Conference is one of those knock-your-socks-off experiences.

Thanking our hosts is an impossible task without being able to name everyone who plays a role in making it possible. I must acknowledge Carlos Vasquez, Greta Pullen, and Katie Trujillo, and am saddened that I cannot thank individually all the unnamed gente, from the food service staff to the administrative staff, whose work--when it’s done well--goes unnoticed and that’s as it should be. I’m sure all of us appreciate their well-earned invisibilility.

The central motive for attending the National Latino Writers Conference is finding ways to improve one’s own work by working with a team of outstanding authors. The outcome lies in your future, based on what you make of what you take home with you. More immediately, we experience the second most important outcome of the conference in the pleasant discussions, intense conversations, and comradeship that infuses our lunches, van rides, and after hours teamwork.

Clearly, what is happening here is effective. We hear a consistency among the presentations. Don Rudolfo Anaya opened the conference, keynoting trusting your characters, exercising discipline, and appreciating the privilege of writing. Helen Viramontes echoes these ideas in her workshop, adding her own insight, as does Kathleen Azevedo in her workshop. We hear these ideas again in Rolando Hinojosa-Smith’s seminar. Such consistency suggests the National Latino Writers Conference is doing something right, especially their emphasis that what we do is fun.

La Bloga is happy to share in that set of messages and hopefully stand as a kind of model. Thank you for your words of appreciation for La Bloga’s work; I am overwhelmed at your warmth here in Alburquerque, and the reception we receive on the internet. We get between 400 and 500 hits per day, thousands of visitors each week.

Rudy Garcia, Manuel Ramos and I are the original three members of La Bloga. I am the titular “blogmeister” but we all share access to the content. Rudy, Manuel and I met on the CHICLE listserve, originated by Teresa Marquez, who is quite ill, thus not attending today. I would love to have been able to thank her personally, and wish her the best of health.

Actually, most of us La Bloga blogueras blogueros have never met. I’ve not yet met Rudy, and met Manuel once at a reading of his highly recommended novel, Moony’s Road to Hell. Rudy posts intermittently, usually sharing wonderful experiences with his elementary school English-learners.

We’re always happy to invite guest columnists, especially as guests have a way of sticking with it. After CHICLE, the rest of La Bloga comes from guest columnist spots. Dan Olivas, whose anthology, Latinos in Lotusland, is capturing lots of attention, started as a guest after RudyG reviewed Dan’s collection of eerie tales, Devil Talk. Then Lisa Alvarado came aboard after a number of guest episodes. I’d reviewed Lisa’s Sister Chicas long before Lisa’s first guest shot. René Colato came aboard as a guest and now takes the Wednesday column with children’s literature and picture books. Ann Cardinal posts on Sundays. She’s one of Lisa’s co-author of Sister Chicas, and did three guest posts before joining us as a regular.

La Bloga welcomes you as our guest. We would love to expand the roster of regulars. Normally, guests take the Saturday slot, but it would be wonderful to have enough blogueras and blogueros to be able to go every other week. As Dr. Griego notes, there are hundreds of thousands of former bloggers; likely owing to the relentless stress of daily one-person blogging. Leave a comment or send an email when you’re ready to seek an invitation to a guest column.

One of the features that gente report enjoying is La Bloga’s hyperlink list of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writers. It was created and is maintained by Manuel Ramos. This is a list of published writers. The “Otras” list features literary/cultural arts-related sites. For example, my Read! Raza site, which is an example of one way the internet functions as a writer’s resource, as a means of expression and community-building.

La Bloga represents New Media as contrasted to Old Media. The Gutenberg Revolution of movable type made printed work widely available and invented an instant cliché, “power of the press belongs to the woman who owns one.” This reflects an inherent and severe restriction of old media that the internet renders moot. Anyone who can type and burns with a need to express themselves—and that’s every writer—can become their own press.

This new media doesn’t supplant the old media as much as it democratizes it. The new media of the internet reduces the power of ownership in old media, remaking the key issues accessibility and competence. It’s a critical time to take on this new / old media perspective. The imperative goes beyond the writer’s need to express and share. Our nation has entered what Fritz Machlup and other futurists termed the “post-industrial age,” or “the information society.” Years ago, the United States economy made almost everything we used. Ball point pens, typewriters, washing machines, television sets. Today, these items all bear a legend like “Made in China.” The U.S. manufactures customized products but almost nothing else. So where are all the jobs? Industry and commerce work by moving information, words.

You remember the arguments that in order to be a fully literate or competent Chicana Chicano one should read a canonical list of books and poetry. I suggest there’s a canonical list of technologies Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writers need to develop to remain competitive in the information society. I call it “vertical integration” of new media technologies. A competent writer starts at the most basic level and advances her his skills to become fully capable of managing and controlling messages from creation to internet publishing, the edge of the new media and the passageway to publishing, still the sine qua non of old media.

Typing, keyboarding is number one. Beyond this, professional writers need to operate at the highest levels of literacy. Thus, one should develop Operating System control—don’t be controlled by your tools, learn instead to control the tools to enhance your productivity. Another reason is ergonomics; your PC, your mouse, will injure you.

Learning keyboard shortcuts helps limit repetitive motion injury while enhancing productivity. Think how many times you do repetitive motions using mousestrokes. When printing, instead of navigating to file, dragging down to Print, and then clicking, press Control P Enter, or Open Apple P Enter on your Mac. To shut down your windows PC, instead of navigating to file, dragging down then left clicking on Quit, ALT F4 Enter. Watch the menus when you mouse around. Keyboard shortcuts appear to the right of the mouse command. Google “keyboard shortcuts” for numerous pages of OS and program-specific shortcuts.

On my Read! Raza website I’ve posted a document I call PC Basics for Writers. It covers keyboard shortcuts and some fundamental computing concepts that I’ve always found useful when training knowledge workers in private industry, something I did for the past 24 years.

Photography, image control, is the next technology to integrate into your repertoire of competencies. While there are numerous photography and shutterbug sites you can Google, the best resource is the software itself. When you acquired your digital camera, the manufacturer packaged it with imaging software, maybe Photoshop Lite. Read the manual. In fact the best way to learn any technology is reading the manuals. An effective method is reading a manual all the way through once without stopping or being whelmed. Then read it again--this is a version of learning the unknown in terms of the known, i.e., that first all-the-way-through reading—this time asking questions and trying a few techniques. The best way to acquire suitable skill is now jump in and do a project. Learn to edit, size, print photos. (By the way, to print images I recommend saving as TIF at 300 dpi to extract the full quality of the file and the printer).

HTML is the next level of competency. This need not be a big hassle. Use Microsoft Word and Save As Web Page. In Word, learn to use Tables to layout text and images. Tables are a wonder tool whose power extends beyond the internet, producing orderly layout of any text. Don’t use spaces and tabs to align text in columns, use tables and make your work editable. Learn to set paper color and place images, save as web page, and you can populate your own website with the results, and not have written a single line of HTML code.

Once your competency grows beyond the level of Lite and Word tricks, evaluate the full-power suites. Adobe’s website encourages you to download full-featured software and use it for a month. You’ll find professional-level tools mouth-watering. Photoshop and Fireworks for images; Dreamweaver for HTML; Flash for video, animation and fancy bells and whistles on your webpages. Mac users have iTunes to create mp3 files to lend aural thrills to webpages.

Writers should maintain a personal website. As Lydia Gil observes, writers need exposure and to partner in publicizing their work. If you absolutely lack the resources to create your own web presence, Read! Raza offers free webspace to any writer or artist. For free webspace, consider Geocities. For blogging, refer to Dr. Richard Griego’s recommendations (see his handout distributed at the NLWC). La Bloga runs on blogspot.com. It’s an excellent free tool that allows you to mount several blogs. Maintain one as your public site, create a practice site to try out new pages and ideas. Blogging, like writing, relies upon rough drafts and editing to get it presentable.

Dr. Lydia Gil’s presentation emphasized the research resources available to writers on the internet. Lydia has emailed her links to me, which I’ve appended below. Consider the enormous research resources of the internet, and that “research” refers to three activities, Observation/Conversation/Reading.

For Observation, visit other writer’s sites, for example, the hyperlinked list at La Bloga. Observe not only what they write but how they present themselves. You’ll benefit from observing the publishing industry as well. There’s a useful gossip site, Galleycat, that delves into New York’s trade but also sweeping across the continent through Chicago to El Lay.

For Conversation, remember Anaya’s comment that writers should concern themselves less with finding a publisher than with finding an editor. Investigate Zoetrope.com. This is a website for any writer, whether poet, playwrite, novelist, essayist or short storicist. The site imposes a rule: before you can post an original work of your own you first must critique four other contributions. This 4:1 ratio will keep you engaged in one of the most important elements of developing your own expression, critiquing and being critiqued. The Marcela Landrés site that Dr. Gil recommends is indeed useful. La Bloga’s Lisa Alvarado notes that Sister Chicas originated as a Latinidad-aided project.

For Reading-centered resources, see Dr. Gil’s list. I second her suggestion to get a library card at a research library to access the full text resources ordinarily unavailable. I would personally love to have a subscription to Alexanderstreet.com’s full text collection of Chicana Chicano literature. A free full-text resource is the Gutenberg Project. It’s highly useful, despite its focus on classical texts. A free reference site I’ve found incredibly entertaining and useful comes out of BYU, a comprehensive listing of rhetorical schemes and tropes called Silva Rhetoricae. It’s a wonderful resource that I plan one day to replicate but using models from Chicano and Latino literature, so when a kid wants to explore the nature of, say, metaphor, they’ll have a definition and set of illustrations drawn from a Latina Latino writer. Dictionaries I recommend are the RAE, the dictionary of the Spanish academy, in other words, “the official word” on Spanish language definitions. Then there are Merriam Webster's free and fee-based services, and other dictionaries.

My final consideration in recommending vertical integration of a writer’s technological skills points to the world of work. Few writers will be able fully to earn a living from their publishing. Fortuitously, the ability to use the tools of new media is part and parcel of employment in the post-industrial, information society that rages around us. Google some of those sites on resumé and cover letters. Use their advice and your literary skill to put your best foot forward. Effective writers are rare and you will be well rewarded for bringing in your skills to any organization where you can get your foot in.

I’ve long believed that writers develop three competencies that industry absolutely needs: literacy, numeracy, and oracy. Literacy is writing and reading. Numeracy is crunching numbers but also controlling computers. Oracy is listening and speaking. For a writer, this also means giving serious thought to how you conduct your readings. Make them entertaining. The worst experience for an audience is to sit through a dull and boring presentation. Get away from behind that lectern! Put your entire body before the audience. Hide that water bottle and display your book in its place. This way when you’re standing next to the lectern, photos will include the cover, and the book stands there as your “silent salesperson” throughout the reading. (Plus it's so painful for a photog to shoot only chin-up reading fotos, peor if the reader is short and the lectern tall!)

As great and entertaining as Martín Espada and Jovie Fast read for us this week, their level of performance is entirely within everyone’s capacity. You’ve already written an excellent piece, so think about how the words mean, then practice, practice, practice making the reading match your meaning. If I have to sit through five poorly performed minutes, when I’m on my deathbed I’d give anything to have back those five wasted minutes. Don’t do that to your audience.

Internet Resources for Writers From Lydia Gil. Please note, Dr. Gil encourages NLWC writers to notify her of current-year publications. She will consider reviewing these for her EFE column, EFE-Libros.

books.google.com - full-text resource
http://lanic.utexas.edu/ - (directory of academic databases, links to periodicals from
Latin America, searchable by keyword, country)
*Ask your library (public or university) about access to such full-text
databases as http://www.jstor.org/ & Project Muse - http://muse.jhu.edu/
*Latinidad: http://marcelalandres.com/home.html (subscribe to Latinidad through her site)
Intro to podcasting: http://www.the-content-writers.com/blog/category/podcasts/feed

Observation Resources.
http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/lali/lali.browse.authors.aspx?byLetter=all - fee-based full-text collection of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writers. Get that research library access.
http://labloga.blogspot.com - scroll down the left side to access our ongoing enlarged list of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino published writers. Scroll below that for related arts and culture sites like Read! Raza. Please notify Manuel Ramos when you’ve published your first novel or collection and he'll add your site to the list. To recommend an arts & culture site for the "Otras" listing, notify the blogmeister at msedano@readraza.com.
http://www.poetry.com/ - Free access to great poetry by known and less-known poets.

Conversation Resources.
http://www.zoetrope.com/ - a collegial writing site for observation and critiquing.
http://yahoo.com/groups - variety of writer and artist online communities, such as
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NetworkAztlan_arte/ - graphic artists, painters, sculptors

Reading Resources.
http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page - Full text resource books, other material.
http://www.mediabistro.com/ - Publishing industry chisme: Galleycat, news, snarks, freelance.
http://www.authorlink.com/ - Publishing industry, recommended by Anne Hawkins.
http://www.adobe.com/ - Learn high-end software: Buy, free downloads, free technical help.
http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm - Silva Rhetoricae, comprehensive list of schemes and tropes in Greek and Latin.
http://readraza.com/pcbasics/pcbasicscourse.htm - Keyboard shortcuts, ergonomics.
http://www.rae.es/rae.html - RAE , Real Academia (de la lengua) Española. Horse’s mouth Spanish Dictionary.
http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/ - Webster’s fee-based quasi-official English language dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, French, Spanish lexicon. Worthwhile considering an expenditure.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/ - free Webster’s dictionary, word games.
http://www.askoxford.com/ - Oxford dictionary, free version, word games.
http://melvyl.cdlib.org/ - Books in Print is a fee-based service. The University of California Library’s MELVYL system is an excellent alternative to identify ISBN, author, other vital reference information.
http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html - A word about copyrighted material.

Free webspace for writers, artists.
http://geocities.yahoo.com/home/ - DIY, ground up webpages, templates.
http://www.myspace.com/ - Webspace with fancy tools and features, bells & whistles.
http://readraza.com/ - Limited space to post your original writing, see “Community Pages” link.
https://www.blogger.com/start - Start your own Blog here. Templates.

Sell your stuff in the writer’s market:

Individual career development:
http://www.latinola.com/story.php?story=2221 - Resumes, calling for the interview.
http://labloga.blogspot.com/2004/12/2004s-penultimate-friday-views.html - Knowledge workers.

Personal health & do-gooder miscellany
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=2 - Help buy free mammograms for poor women. (Men also get breast cancer).
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=6&link=ctg_lit_home_from_chs_thankyou_sitenav - Help give free books to kids.
http://freerice.com/ - Vocabulary game earns 6 grains of rice per word.

Every speech or public performance is actually three presentations. There's the speech you intended to give. There's the speech you actually presented. Then there are all those great things you thought of after you sat down. The above is my "third speech", and then some. Next week, I'll have more photos and my overall impressions of the 6th Annual National Latino Writers Conference. If you'd like a tif copy of a foto where you see yourself, email me the foto's url (see the PC Basics article at Read! Raza for instructions on that).

Until then, hay les wachamos.


La Bloga welcomes your comments on this and any column. Please add sites you've found useful in your writing or research. Click on the Comments count below this column. Also, La Bloga welcomes guests who have a review of an interesting book, story, or arts event, or an idea to share. Email a La Bloga bloguera bloguero, or click here to inquire about your invitation.


Manuel Ramos said...

Your talk/article is loaded with info and resources. It should be saved and archived for future reference. Thanks.

norma landa flores said...

Yes, I agree with Manuel Ramos. Your article contained lots of practical information about the editing process.
Lydia Gil's advice will be very useful for my editor.
So, please do save it and archive it for La Bloga readers. Muchas Gracias.

Norma Landa Flores