I always thought one of the brighter developments in the late ’80s and early ’90s as far as writing goes was the rise of the poetry slam, competitive poetry readings. When I was in grad school we’d periodically head over to Deep Ellum in Dallas to watch—more or less figuratively speaking—knockdown drag outs between different poets. That’s what creative writing types—you know, those self-absorbed solitary souls sprawled out on their floors consumed by angst-ridden existential despair over the enormity of the universe in comparison to the feebleness of mere words to describe its uncaring grandeur—tend to really need: a good round of writing deathsport to put things in perspective.
And, as I used to tell my first-semester comp students, I didn’t just want them to be the best writers in their classes when they moved on to the next semester, I wanted them to so thoroughly shame their future classmates that they (and their entire families) would be forced by the sheer humiliation of it all into a butt-kicked relocation program. In the end, however, this probably says a lot more about me—and certainly nothing particularly flattering . . . much as the first essay we read each semester by Richard Ford called “In the Face” that discussed the internal and external ramifications he’d encountered by punching people he felt deserved it at the drop of a hat—as opposed to my students or my ability to teach them to write.
Anyway, metaphorical and literal punching aside, it is good to see that courtesy of the Writer’s Resource Center there is a similar competition going on this month with blogs about writing and/or the business of writing.
An overview of the competition can be found here while the four brackets and their seedings—a la the NCAA basketball tournament—can be found here. I think what I like is the systematic way John Hewitt has formatted his six-part breakdown of the blogs in their head-to-head competitions:
- Archives: This is the heart of a site. Substance is the key to a good blog. What are the best articles and how good are they?
- Design: Substance is great, but flash does count for something. A site that is pleasant to look at makes a difference.
- Usability and Navigation: This is the second half of the design puzzle. How easy is it to move around the site and get to the best stuff? Can find the best articles?
- Purpose: What is the blog supposed to be about and what is the blog really about?
- Personality: Some sites thrive on the writer’s personality and others stick to the information without giving any hints about the writer.
- Five Most Recent Posts: This category is all about what the blogger has done lately. How good are the most recent articles and how often do they appear?
In addition, as opposed to a dry recitation of his analysis of these sites, his writing has a good stylistic flair with basketball terminology—“Copyblogger scores a slam dunk. It’s a spectacular looking shot, but still only worth two points”—as he keeps a running total until the end of the matchup. Plus, he provides “post game” analysis of what he thinks these sites can do to be even more effective. Often funny, clearly incisive, and never mean-spirited, this still-ongoing series of posts provides excellent overviews of writing blogs as well as key points about what makes blogs more (and less) effective.
Finally, in the interest of complete disclosure, I have to say that I’m pulling for Lori Cates Hand and her Publishing Careers blog. She’s a #8 seed going up against the #1 seed, Writers Write, in the Chabon bracket as early as this weekend so we’ll see if she can’t pull off the upset!