Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Making friends in the "neighborhood"

First I want to send a big congratulations to Jessica Burkhart on her recent sale!! I was just casually perusing PM the other day when this sale popped up:
Jessica Burkhart's HIGH JUMPS AT COLLINS ACADEMY series, pitched as Saddle Club meets Mean Girls, about a small-town girl who attends a boarding school and must learn to compete with the equestrian elite, to Molly McGuire at Aladdin, in a four-book deal, in a very nice deal, by Alyssa Eisner Henkin at Trident Media Group (NA).
I squealed in my office! And then I thought - wait, maybe this isn't the Jessica I know from the blogosphere, she's been so calm recently on her blog - how could she be so calm with this going on? And so I immediately went to her blog to congratulate her but there was no announcement there yet... so I went to email and then I realized it:

Jessica probably doesn't know me from Eve.

That's what is so weird about the blogosphere. I feel like I "met" Jessica through Diana - we're both regular commenters on Diana's blog and I "run into" Jessica at other blogs too. I also read her blog, though I'm usually just far enough behind on the entries that I miss my chance to add my 2 cents in.

So I feel like I know Jessica, that at least we have mutual friends. Which was why I was just so excited about her sale. From her blog I know how she's worked for it and it's so cool to watch someone succeed.

A few weeks ago, Patrick asked what the point of a blog was (not in a "why would you ever have one" sort of way*). For me, having a blog is being part of a community. I feel like I've met friends through my blog. Even if we don't email or talk on the phone, I generally know what's up in their lives - or at least I know what's going on in their writing lives. And I've met friends through blogs that I do email and talk to. Honestly, I don't think I would be nearly as far along as I am with my writing if it weren't for blogs, for the discussions on craft and just "talking" to other people out there going through (or having been through) the same things.

But every now and then I pull up short and wonder if I'm just some sort of weird internet stalker. And yesterday was one of those days when I so wanted to send an email to Jessica congratulating her, but wasn't really sure what to say: "You don't know me but I sure know a lot about you because I read your blog?" Yeah, way to sound like an internet stalker.

Plus, I'm never quite sure what to say in the real world about my blogosphere friends. I get excited seeing a book in the store by Rachel Vincent whose blog I've read since the beginning (but I'm a lurker there pretty much too) and what do I say: "read this cause my friend wrote it?" I probably would say that, but then I feel a little weird because Rachel probably doesn't know me. Or when I talk to my family about my blogosphere friends and what's going on with other writers and the industry - ah, the blogosphere gossip - and I feel like they're thinking "don't you have any offline friends?"**

Perhaps one problem is lurking - getting to know someone without letting them get the chance to know you. Perhaps de-lurking is one way of solving what I think is often a weird imbalance of the blogosphere (of you knowing someone who does not know you). Perhaps another solution is to take the blogosphere for what it's worth and don't expect to make "real" friends (though I don't like that solution).

For me, the blogosphere is a tie into the writing community. It keeps me focused, engaged, excited about writing. And I really do feel like part of that community, even if I lurk in part of it. What do y'all think about the blogosphere? Of knowing people who may not know you? Do you make "real" friends? Am I just a crazy weird internet stalker girl? :)

** That's not exactly what he asked, but I'm saying it anyway. I can at least say it was that post that led, eventually, to this post...

* for the record, I do.


Unknown said...

You raise some interesting points. We do tend to feel that we "know" these people, and normally, to know this much about someone else indicates a reciprocal relationship. But that's often not the case.

And how do you define a blogfriend? Is it someone who comments back? Someone who watches your blog? Or do they not become friends until you advance to the exchanging of e-mails? I don't know the answer to that.

It's also hard to join a blog community of someone who's been around for a while. I often wonder, as I'm commenting, if they read the comment and think "who is this person?"

Now you've made me all self-conscious. But I don't think you are a crazy stalker girl. Um, and I'm not one either!

Diana Peterfreund said...

usually, I don't say "friend" until I've met them in person. It tends to be "blog acquaintance" until then, no matter how many emails we've exchanged.

Also, delurking is an activity I wholly approve. Sometimes it amazes me how many hits i get compared to how many comments. There are hundreds and hundreds of readers on my blog a day, and I have no idea who any of them are. If I think about that too hard, I may want to shut my blog down. You can fall into the trap of thinking that the only people reading are the ones you are having a conversation with in the comments section. Nothing is further from the truth.

Patrick Alan said...

I sort of think of them(You guys) as friends. I'd like to meet all of you. I get stuck on the what to say when describing them, though. Espcially to a couple of my non-internet friends.

I mean, I've exchanged addresses with Diana, had a few email conversations with her and I've met her agent(Love her, she ROCKS!) but, are we friends-friends? I'd love to meet her(As I would anyone's blog I comment on), but going WAY out of my way to meet her(Like I'm flying to Robin's book signing) would be creepy in a way. Especially, 'cause I'm a guy. (I am friends with Robin. We've met.)

I don't think it's hard to join a large community and frankly, you shouldn't worry about it. I've jumped in on Scalzi's blog and that is a community of 25K according to him.

I do think delurking is a key thing. In some ways I think I started a blog so I wasn't a creepy internet stalker. So if you see me out there, there is a way to go find out more about me. So when I say something goofy, that could be taken as creepy, if you don't 'know' me, it's not as bad. You can read my blog to find out I'm just a little odd.

Patrick Alan said...

I should add, while I feel a little creepy if I go out of my way to meet people I know from the internet, I think it would be cool if someone made the effort to meet me. That's why I post conferences that I am going to.

I almost didn't introduce myself to Diana's agent 'cause I thought it was a little weird. It was really cool, she bought me a drink and introduced me to her husband and several men who were not her husband.

Heather said...

I completely agree with everything you wrote in your post. I'm a long-time lurker on a ton of blogs (yours included), and never had the guts to delurk until I got a blog of my own.

I was at a book store recently with a friend, and I bought three books by authors of blogs I read (Diana P.'s included - loved it!). I tried to explain to my friend about my "relationship" with these authors. "Um, it's a completely one-sided sort of watching thing. I read their blogs but they don't know it. So I feel like I know them. Sort of. But I don't." I creeped out MYSELF when I tried to explain it!

So here I am, delurking. Joining the party. (Trying to lessen my creep factor.) I feel better already.

Carrie Ryan said...

Yay Heather on de-lurking! I read your blog and it's totally on my TBR every day list :)

I think that in the end, the internet is changing the way that we form communities. I agree with Heather that sometimes I creep myself out when I try to explain how I know people. I also agree with Patrick and Diana that delurking is a good thing. That way it starts to become more of a sharing of ideas rather than just a slew of people reading about someone else's life.

In the end, I think I'll err on the inclusive and just call all y'all my friends :)

Robin Brande said...

Carrie, I read this post because Patrick linked to it off of my blog . . . and that's how it gets done here in the blogosphere.

I was a shy lurker in the beginning, too. I didn't feel worthy of interacting with anyone--thought they were all so much more experienced and definitely cooler.

But now I've had the same experience as Patrick. Having my own blog makes me feel more comfortable talking to other people on theirs.

And I also agree with Patrick (oh, Patrick, Patrick, Patrick--is that all you can say?) that I would travel to meet people I've met on the blogosphere. Is that creepy? I don't think so. I view it as modern. Technology has expanded our social base, and I think it's natural to want to meet people face to face after talking to them on line for so long.

Jessica Burkhart said...

I've been SO bad about reading my blog list, Carrie! Thank you so, so much for the congrats and I'm happy to be a friend instead of just a blogfriend. :)