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Monday, December 31, 2012

Authentic voice: Is there enough you in your blog?

Catherine Connors rocked MBlog 2012. Her Bad Mother, Connors' much-fĂȘted mom blog, was one of TIME magazine's 25 best. Here she is on break during Winnipeg's first dedicated blogging conference at the University of Winnipeg.
Ok, it's New Year's Eve day and the big question on my mind is "what does authentic voice really mean?" Yeah, seriously. I had the chance to mull this over in relation to this blog on the last Saturday of November, and I've been thinking of it ever since.

See, the good folks at New Media Manitoba scoured the 'Peg for bloggers who knew their stuff plus brought in some special guests for MBlog 2012: Blogging in the Big Time. Chief among those guests was Catherine Connors, editor of Babble (Disney Interactive) and author of - one of TIME’s Top 25 Blogs of 2012.

Catherine was a delight. And there were a few ideas she clearly unpacked during her preso and the subsequent Q&A. 

1) You're not going to get rich from your precious blog. Live with that.
2) If you don't occasionally feel fear after you post, you're not doing it right.
3) Use your authentic voice or your blog won't be sustainable.

Motivation is the key on that third point, she said. You simply won't want to blog if there's not enough you in your posts. And that's what I've been wrestling with.

How much of me does come through in these posts? Is the writing process here a catalyst for generating and floating ideas or simply reviewing ed-related apps and the thoughts of others? Add to that the time crunch nearly every blogger feels and other questions surface. Is this space the best vehicle for my own self-expression? Would a short form blog like a Tumblr or Posterous be easier to update? Does every post need to gift wrapped with a bow?
What about the possibility of embedding quick and more frequent Social Cam videos to bypass a sometimes tedious writing process?

My friend Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa) uses Social Cam vids brilliantly as a way to float his thoughts about his teaching practice. Check out his While Walking series. It looks like Ontario educator Rodd Lucier @thecleversheep is starting down the same road - sharing short thoughts and impressions more frequently.

So, where does that leave me?

Well, I'm grateful to New Media Manitoba for the excellent event this past November. It was great professional development in a sweet venue with some great networking opportunities - plus I got to meet Winnipeg's bona fide social media guru Erica Glasier (@ericaglasier).

While I haven't found any easy answers to the questions of voice and posting convenience yet, the questions themselves are good ones and deserve attention in the new year.

And that's where my head is right now. What questions will you be be asking yourself this year?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shyness and Self-expression

Been thinking a lot about the need for self-expression lately. What makes people want to create and share?

When in college learning to write for a living, we sometimes talked about why people write in the first place. Having been an introvert for much of my life to that point, my own pet theory went like this.

Shy people are keen observers of human nature. They may not appear to crave attention, but they learn a lot from the sidelines. They also file away plenty of honest detail. Through years of life off the mainstage, their need to create, express and share - kept in abeyance for so long - can become very strong. And if they find a medium that allows them some facility of expression, they have a pretty incredible stockpile of feelings to surface and stories to tell. They begin to risk and share - often with the flair and precision that take even their extroverted peers by surprise.

My son Ryan and I with Kina Grannis in Minneapolis
One of my favourite examples of this is Kina Grannis - one of the most prolific and creative artists on YouTube. Earlier this year, she completed an comprehensive tour of Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan and North America.

Her concerts are filled with more good vibes than you can imagine, and her "In Your Arms" jelly bean stop motion video is one of the most killer creative vids you've ever seen. The behind-the-scenes video tells the fascinating story of the year-long shoot.

Most importantly, watch the video above as Kina talks about a moment of epiphany when she knew she had to share.

Q: When did you know your need to share was bigger than your fear - or are you just realizing that now?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gordon's desk - a thoughtful touch of warmth at Selkirk boy's funeral

Seven-year-old Gordon Anderson was killed in a car accident while driving with his mom last week. I went to his funeral yesterday.

He came from a good Mormon family. One that believes that families can be together forever. Hope and faith in Jesus Christ anchor them through tough times. This is their biggest test.

His grandpa gave a moving eulogy of a boy who lighted up a room and filled his world with hugs, questions and energy - tons of energy. His grandma sang "Goin' Home." His four siblings, mom, dad, and 20 other members of his extended family sang "We Can Be Together" and "Love One Another" through their tears. And one of his uncles put together a video tribute that left 450 people wiping their eyes and scrambling for tissues.

While Gordon's death near Lockport, Manitoba, was tragic, his funeral was anything but bleak.

Love filled the chapel. Admiration and anecdotes of the little guy filled the post-service air in the foyer. And gratitude toward Gordon's principal filled our hearts.

Yes, his principal.

He had arranged something none of us had seen before. A moving tribute to the boy, Gordon's desk, signed by his teacher and classmates, was placed discreetly along one of the walls of the foyer. Underneath it, his family had tucked his gym bag and a pair of his runners.

The desk had a powerful effect on the many knots of people who gathered around it. It provoked pictures and questions and somehow made the boy more real - even to those who had never met him.

It was a loving gesture on the part of his school administrator, teacher and classmates - and it left a huge impression on everyone. What a thoughtful touch of warmth it added to the celebration of Gordon's remarkable short life.