Sunday, April 13, 2008

It takes me awhile, but eventually I get it...

I saw the girl who stopped swimming in the window at Park Road Books and thought to myself, Hey, look! I didn't know Joshilyn had written another book. And then I felt a pang of guilt because I had never actually read Joshilyn's book that I did know about -- gods in Alabama. So I went to the library that afternoon, read it in as much as one sitting as I can manage in these small-child-infested days, and then saw the girl who stopped swimming yesterday at Costco, and just finished it about 10 minutes ago, acknowledgements and all.

I'm making it sound like I know Joshilyn personally, which I don't, but I'm closer to knowing her than any other proper author on the planet, and that's what makes the blogosphere so darned cool. I've always been intrigued by the structure of the network that joins one blogger to the next, so you'll have to bear with my while I play Six Degrees of Separation...

When I started up Mean Teacher, I managed to somehow catch the eye of Jay Allen, then author of The Zero Boss. Jay was a card-carrying blogosphere D-lister, and his periodic links to me brought Mean Teacher whatever tiny little fame it ever enjoyed. Through him I found a host of other friendly and interesting bloggers: Goldie, MIM, Robin, possibly Mande (I can't remember if I got to Mande through Jay)... the list continues. Anyway, Jay was a great one for keeping the sphere alive, spotlighting lesser-knowns, sparking wild conversations, and creating opportunities for all us repressed David Foster Wallaces to get our gab on.

One of his best notions was Blogging for Books, a competition in which he and a guest judge, who was a published author, would put out a topic and invite anyone and everyone to submit blog entries on that topic. The guest judge would determine winners and the prize would be one of their books.

Early on I earned an honorable mention with a musing about my ignorant mistreatment of one of my students. After that, I caught the bug good and participated in "B4B" as often as inspiration would allow. Ultimately real life caught up with Jay and he ran out of whatever steam was necessary for keeping B4B alive. Some point after that, though, Mir at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Joshilyn Jackson took up the torch. I entered one last time -- resulting in a brief, not-particularly personal correspondence with Joshilyn, who hosted the contest at her site -- and actually got third prize. I made another friend on that foray with Deb Richardson, who did not frequent Jay's site but tried out B4B for the first time through Joshilyn.

All this is to say that it was really cool to read two wonderful novels and know that, in a vague and meandering way, I kind of have met the author and she's a very real person. And it was even cooler to think, when learning that the main character in the girl who stopped swimming made art quilts, Hey, I wonder if Joshilyn got that idea from Deb Richardson, who makes stunning art quilts. And it was even cooler to read the acknowledgements at the end of the novel and see Deb's name there, big as day.

I can't recommend both novels enough. I sucked them down like strawberry milkshakes, got very attached to the characters, and was very bummed when they ended. I will be on the hunt for Joshilyn's third novel, Between, Georgia (and full marks to her for capitalization on that title) probably tomorrow.

I'll also probably get around to reading the novel I won, Confessions of a Super Mom, by Melanie Lynne Hauser and to purchasing and reading Trina's books, because she's been a very nice blog buddy with whom I've had actual lovely conversations, and clearly I'm on a roll here.

Many, many of the blogs that were going strong when I joined the sphere are dead or atrophied now, mine included, but I do hope this wonderful, egalitarian world of the brain doesn't implode (as I tongue-in-cheekly predicted it would in my winning B4B essay) as these kinds of connections are the best of what the internet really has to offer.

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