Sunday, September 16, 2007

learning to blog

I invented the e-mail newsletter as a format in 1998 -- at least nobody told me there was such a thing until I thought it up myself. What I did was just start sending out a mass e-mail to myself with everybody else in BCC. It was clumsy then because I had to send them out in packets of 100 or less. That would take an hour or so, if it went well. But it cost nothing -- that was the beauty of it, and I actually made money because I sold subscriptions for $25, and took in as much as $2,000 per annum -- writing 25 issues per year. I made it clear that people could stay on the list whether they paid or not -- but I still got the checks.

I wrote on a variety of topics, about half of them political. The length was 1,200 words. I put in a zinger in the last paragraph to see how many people made it to the end. The letter was widely forwarded, so I figured I had about 500+ readers.

My politics were all over the place. I often wished I could be like Molly Ivins -- She made a good living with a well-known and established target -- fat cat Republicans -- never ran short of material, and her faithful lib readers knew she would never turn her critical gaze on them. Molly was safe and warm -- I often wished I could be like her, because Frog Hospital would be more marketable.

But my habit was to fire in all directions and no one was safe -- there are so many idiots out there across the political spectrum.

This was a great hindrance to growth, and I did not know how to fix it.

In an effort to be part of the team, I journeyed to Columbus Ohio in 2004 and spent two months working on the staff for John Kerry. I stayed on message the whole time -- a test of self-discipline, and something I will never do again. The motherfuckers lost. I was working for idiots. I could have won Ohio -- or at least they might have just once asked me what I thought. The campaign was run by lawyers from Mass and wannabe trendoids from California. Actual Ohio people served as drones. No wonder they lost.

A year later I went to South Texas and worked as a reporter for a large and very excellent weekly newspaper near San Antonio. My boss was a very conservative woman who had the guts to hire me. She paid me all right. She even solicited my opinion from time to time. I could not agree with her politics and yet I was well-treated -- got used to teenagers calling me Sir. I specialized in writing the farm and ranch news -- it was fun visiting cowboys and farmers and they loved my stories.

But it was a bit isolating in that small Texas town -- more than a bit isolating -- so I came back here.

I still like politics, but I have no home. Meanwhile Frog Hospital is languishing in the e-mail newsletter format. Revenue is down. Everybody has moved to the blogs. I am trying to get the hang of blogs, but I remain a bit bewildered by the format.

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