Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From Blog to Book?

Several months ago, I blogged about the Writing Nomads of Celebration, aka the Celebration Writers Group. I'm happy to report that we've found a permanent meeting place at 851 Celebration Avenue, where we can be found at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, sharing tips, critiques, and general banter. If you are in the area and have a propensity for writing, you are welcome to join us; the "Celebration" in our name refers to where we meet, not a residency requirement.

The group is made up of writers at every ability level and in a variety of genres. We all have different goals, from pleasure writing to professional publication. Personally, I joined the group to kickstart my dormant writing career, which I put on ice back in the early 1990s.

Once upon a time, way back in the late 1980s, I was an active magazine writer. Most of my articles were focused on horse training, as you can see from the following samples (warning: slow-loading PDFs):



I also did some general animal-related articles and worked for the Daily Southtown Economist, a Chicago-area newspaper, as a "stringer." Basically, that means I covered the really, really boring stuff, like school board meetings and city council sessions. It was tedious but worth its weight in gold as a training ground for honing my writing skills. I learned to write fast and to value brevity. Granted, many of my blog entries are anything but brief, but this blog is my therapy so I turn off my inner critic when I write here. I always apply the journalistic lessons to my professional work.

Over time I racked up an impressive array of tearsheets, but in 1989 I got a full-time job in corporate communications that leeched away my time and desire for freelance work. It's hard to churn out creative magazine articles when you've already spent eight hours racking your brain on how to fill the company newsletter and how to make yet another 10th anniversary celebration or sales award sound exciting.

Three years later I got married, and three years after that I returned to college, earning my BA, MA, and eventually PsyD in psychology. All of the research papers required for school, coupled with my ever expanding job duties, sapped the pleasure out of writing and turned it into a mundane task. Thus, my magazine work went on hiatus, and I barely noticed that it had slipped out of my life.

After we built our home in Celebration, I was anxious to make the move; logically, I knew it was still a year or two away, but my heart was already in Florida. I needed a therapeutic and constructive way to contain my restless energy...what better outlet than a blog? Slowly but surely, I reclaimed the joy of writing, albeit in a very information way.

Once we got settled in town, the itch to write professionally returned. It's almost like an addiction; you can push your muse aside, but you can never truly banish it from your brain. It waits for an opportunity to pop out, and when WHAM! You need that writing fix! If you're not near a keyboard or pencil and paper, you'll imagine the words marching across a blank wall.

This spring I renewed some of my old horse magazine contacts and made my first sale in nearly two decades. Woo hoo! It felt sooooo good to return to that long-neglected aspect of my life. In the meantime, I'm busily developing other markets as I expand my range of topics.

But as I applied myself to magazine work, I slowly realized that I was hiking through the forest and not seeing the giant redwood tree standing smack in front of my face: My blog! Over the years, various people have suggested and even requested that I turn it into a book. I laughed off the idea; after all, who would want to buy a book of my skewed rantings about life as Mickey Mouse's neighbor?

Now, the idea seems more and more feasible. After all, there have been other books published about our fair town, and I don't think my writing is any worse than theirs. I devoured them myself when we were in the moving process, and it annoyed me that the viewpoint was from people who had moved to Celebration solely to write about it...they moved away not long after their journalistic ventures were complete. You can try all you want to be neutral, but your view is going to be different when you don't have anything invested beyond a work project. I was sad that there was no book written from the perspective of a person or family invested in Celebration for the long-haul.

Later, a Disney-sanctioned book was published, but of course it was pretty much the party line; a pretty piece for the coffee table, but with no real substance.

So maybe there is a literary place for the viewpoint of a permanent Celebration resident who loves this town but who tempers that love with a sense of reality. I've started on the project by making a complete backup of my blog; that's probably a good idea anyway, since I would have lost it for good if Blogger ever had a catastrophic failure. Even if it's never formally published, it's still a part of me...an important slice of time in my life preserved forever in my uncensored words.

Now I need to winnow it down, since not every entry is book-worthy. I plan to select my favorite entries and organize them by topic, e.g. "Moving to Celebration," "Life in Tourist Land," "Holiday Celebrations," etc. That will basically give me a completed manuscript.

I'm not sure if I'm going to go the self-publishing route via Lulu.com or whether I will seek out an agent. I'm leaning towards the agent route, since I can always flip-flop back to Lulu if I don't get any nibbles.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, or even if you've just blundered by for the first time ever, I'd love your feedback on which entries should be included. Some, such as the stories of the Cypress Cove nudist colony, are no-brainers for inclusion. But for the others, I'd love some options, so if you'd like to cast you vote, please email me at the address below:

I'll update the results here. And in the meantime, I promise not to neglect my new entries. Whether or not it ever makes the leap to paper publication, my Celebration, Florida blog will continue to be my therapy and a way to document my skewed view of life in the best place I can imagine.

Visit my Celebration, FL website: http://www.celebrationinfo.com/

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Denise in PA said...

Barb, great news! I'd love an autographed copy when it's done! My two cents - include the Duloc Manor Holiday House tour (with photos!) and the Mickey Mommas' Davey Jones..ummm... stalkings???? - LOL. Looking forward to publication.

Anonymous said...

I think your blog as a book would be a great endeavor. I'm a pubbed author of fiction and nonfiction and have plans to turn our blog living outside WDW for a year into a book now that we've returned home. People are curious what it's like to live in Celebration and/or near the Mouse. I wish you much success. You might try Lulu.com for publishing.

Kelly said...

I just wanted to say that I recently found your blog and I LOVE IT!

I work in Celebration Place and I often drive around during my lunchbreak around the Aquila Loop area finding wild turkeys!

Keep it up, it has made me smile. :)

Nancy said...

I found your blog while researching Celebration, and all I can say is "thank you so much"! Your wealth of info has been invaluable to me as I prepare my family to move to your fantabulous town in August. At the risk of sounding "stalkerish", I have read nearly every one of your entries. I think you should include your Christmas home tour entry, as well as any and all of the "Bunny Brigade" escapades. Incidently, how do I become a member of the Bunny Brigade- and a Mickey Mama? Keep up the great work and definitely pursue the book idea. ;)