Sunday, March 18, 2012

Small world, isn't it?

The Internet is a funny place.

People fall in love, bare their souls, play word games, post pictures of new babies, mourn passings, ask for help, demand attention, steal, pray, bank, buy groceries, buy shoes, sell old books, give advice and on and on and on.

You know, all the things we do in real life. Sometimes with significant and important differences.

Take, for example, those of us who are, in the real world, shy.

The other week I was able to attend a writing workshop with an author whose work I really, really admire. Steve Almond.

Not only do I find his fiction work incredibly funny and heartbreakingly smart...not only do I have a sick, sad, unspeakable amount of admiration for a fantastic memoir/non-fiction book that he wrote about the joys and delights of the vanishing world of mom-and-pop candy manufacturers...but he's also a writer who is been exploring in clever and engaging ways the possibilities of self-publishing.

I good number of my friends would have seized this opportunity like a free drink at a funeral. They would have sought Almond out during the breaks, spoken intelligently to him about his work and their own and worked to make that human connection to a writer they admire.

I, on the other hand, froze. My writing exercises were a total struggle and, when the chance was offered to read, I slumped down into my incredibly uncomfortable chair and into the background.

The workshop was incredibly useful, don't get me wrong on that count. I learned a lot and have taken it back to Dickinson's Attic. But, taking that next step, in the real world...well I'm just not built that way.

All that to say, the Internet provides a chance for those of us who are not verbose and gregarious in the real world a chance to see and learn and admire, without the struggle presented by becoming hopelessly and ridiculously tongue-tied and awkward when given the opportunity to meet a hero - literary, creative, artistic or otherwise.

The Internet is how I came to know the writing of Michael McAllister, whose blog, DogPoet, is listed right over there in my blog roll. I've never met Michael in the real world and, were I to actually do so, I would inevitably stammer something about how great a writer I think he is and then stare down at my shoes until one of us came up with a reason to step away. An imaginary mobile phone call perhaps.

This past week, on his blog, Michael wrote that his husband's barbershop, Joe's Barbershop in San Francisco, burned down. The fire was set intentionally, as you can read here, which makes it not simply awful and sad, but senseless and infuriating.

In addition to giving a plug to the numerous ways that people can lend a hand to the barbers -- either through a donation to a site that was set up to help them get through or by visiting them at one of the locations they've moved to while Joe's Barbershop is rebuilt -- I'm giving a shout out on this blog that is ostensibly about writing and literature and the like because the shop was also the site of a reading series that Michael organized. It's a fantastic idea and one that's been an inspiration to me...particularly as I set off on another attempt to kick my creative ass into gear (1).

And so, that's the Internet for you. A place where you can read a blog post where someone asks you to help someone they've never met help people at a place he's never been where an event he's never attended takes place. Dot com.

1. With thanks to Leopold for one of his patented pep rallies. They aren't so heavy on the rah-rahs...but they get you where you need to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment