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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blowing My Own Trumpet for a Change(!)

Elephants trumpeting,
courtesy Mr Thinktank
April showers and flowers are here. Robotayaki, the new kid on the East 9th St restaurant block, is holding an ohanami (cherry blossom viewing party), with a special koto performance, this week.

Meanwhile, I have a few green shoots of my own to report:

1) I have started up a collaborative blog with a couple of writers I met through Seen the Elephant. It's called The Displaced Nation. The tagline reads: "Welcome to the curious, unreal world occupied by the international traveler." We launched it on April 1 (no fooling!), and the response has been encouraging.

Detail from
The Displaced Nation banner
Among other items, The Displaced Nation features:
  • A serialized fictional diary of a housewife-mother in London who becomes a trailing spouse in Boston: "Libby's Life."
  • Expat interviews, highlighting favorite objects, foods, and words picked up on one's travels
. Our very first subject was Anita McKay, who has been a loyal follower of the lumbering elephant (she blogs at Finally Woken).
  • Food articles, exploring everything from acquired tastes (eg, Marmite, nattō) to movable feasts (foods you discover on your travels that you like so much, you carry on eating them).
  • Excerpts from classic expat writing.
I invite you to go in and take a look and, if you like what you see, subscribe to our posts, which are short and come out with frequency.

2) I'm building a new home for the elephant on Wordpress, which has more features. In other words, I don't intend to put my poor elephant, who has been burdened with my blogging ambitions for almost a year, out to pasture even though I'm spending time elsewhere. From now, he'll also be given a different sort of baggage to carry, more personal to me. If all goes well, the next time you see him he'll be ensconced in his new dwelling. Stay tuned for his "change of address" notice!

3) I had an interview about my nascent blogging efforts with a cool Web site, WWWORD bills itself as a "home for readers, writers, illiterates, browsers, time-wasters, mavens and bores — and all those who use, abuse, love and hate the English language."

One of the site's lead editors, Lucy Sisman, asked me why I'd started up Seen the Elephant and what I get out of blogging as an activity. The resulting profile strikes me as being more than anyone needed to know about me or this blog.

Still, I had a blast talking to Lucy and, in the process, became a fan of her writing. In the same week as my profile was published, Lucy contributed an "On Design" piece urging designers to leave certain products alone because their packaging is already perfect and has stood the test of time. She illustrated her point by taking objects at random from her kitchen cupboard — including a Marmite jar, a tin of Davis Baking Powder, and a can of Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes. Brilliant!

One of the main insights I offer on blogging is how difficult it is for writers to find their "sweet spot" in terms of length and frequency of posts. Seen the Elephant will be a year old next month, but I still don't post often enough and my posts are too long. Will that change in the coming year? Gaman shite iru (I will do my best).

Speaking of posts, my next post for Seen the Elephant will be on international marriage, a topic on which I fancy myself, a veteran of two such unions, something of an expert.

Question: Can you suggest any topics you'd like to see the "elephant" cover once it reaches its new home? Kindly let me know in the comments.