The Elephant in the Room

Celebrity Blog? Not this one.

C-List Blogger

According to Are You an A-List Bloglebrity?, “To be an A-List Celebrity in Hollywood, it’s all about the amount of Vanity Fair, GQ, and People Magazine covers you can score. To be an A-List Bloglebrity on the Internet, it’s all about the amount of link love you can score.” Since my model for this blog is more The New Yorker than People Magazine I’m fine with my C-List status. And thrilled as I am whenever someone links here, I am not going to make shout-outs and other blog mentions a priority with the hope that by doing so I’ll move to the B-List.

You see, that all feels way too much like the issues of exclusion and inclusion that I deal with daily in my fourth grade classroom. My kids are hyper aware of who is popular and who is not. And hyper aware of what the popular kids do and whether or not they are part of it. Is Poetry Friday that different (no offense folks —after all, I’ve joined in a few times) from a group deciding to wear blue tee-shirts on Fridays and some kids don’t because they haven’t any or weren’t informed to do so? Are shout-outs so different from my popular students mentioning their friends in their stories? Are those all important links so different than my kids dropping mentions of events outside of school? (“Oh, I forgot that everyone wasn’t invited to that birthday party.”) Or taking charge of a particular recess activity? (“But they can start their own game. No one is stopping them. Ours is too big for more to play with us.”) Or starting a club for endangered animals which turns out to have only the popular kids in it (“but anyone can ask to join”)? These are just some of the ways the “popular” kids make themselves celebrities in the school world, the equivalent, if you will, of magazine covers. Helping these highly confident kids become aware of the fine line between what it is to be a good friend, to be an intense part of one group while also part of the larger classroom community, and to otherwise see how their actions may make others feel left out is a huge part of my work as a teacher.

And it doesn’t end in fourth grade, but keeps going on all our lives. I’ve written about this before and here I do again. Over and over in my school, in the blogging world, in the children’s literature world, and elsewhere I see adults doing the same including and excluding that my fourth graders do. We write, read, and promote books that are suppose to help kids to think and not do this, yet we do it ourselves all the time. And what I see in the highly-valued community of blogging is another form of this. I don’t have a problem with it at all. What I do have a problem with is that no one seems to see it. That it is the elephant in the room. Can’t those of us so concerned about this in our writing, in our work at least acknowledge that we are doing this too? Do we think much about how those not in this world feel? Or those on the edge of it?

Can we talk about the elephant?

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “The Elephant in the Room

  1. Hey, Monica. I think I get what you’re saying. Do you mean there’s too much of blogs writing about other blogs? Too much navel gazing?

    One of my goals is to write for a general audience. I’m sure I fail at that sometimes.

    Keep talking and tell me more about what you mean. I’m all (elephant) ears.

  2. I’ve thought about this a fair bit–as someone with a new blog that I’d like people to read (for my own ego-driven purposes and for the more laudable purpose of being part of a community and a conversation), and an older blog that might have been on the edge of being B-list if I had continued caring as much as I did for a time. The blogosphere is full of cliques, just like the workplace, the neighborhood, the playground (I’m thinking of the parents at the playground even more than the kids), the staff room, the elementary school parking lot at pickup time.

    In all these settings, seeming not to notice feels like part of the game most of the time, and calling attention to it feels forbidden: if you’re on the “unpopular” end, it feels (to the attention caller and often to others) like whining or sour grapes; if you are (as I have sometimes briefly been) in the popular group, it can seem like bragging and/or tempting fate to mention that fact.

    One issue with clubs at school is that kids *have* to be at school, whereas participation in the blogosphere is strictly optional. The other real-life adult settings are a gray area: most of us grownups need to work somewhere and/or to pick our kids up at school, and it really hurts to be left out of the main group’s conversation. But we have a bit more autonomy about it than kids who may have to go back day after day to a place where they are snubbed.

  3. What bothers me is that we are teaching, writing, and talking about this in one way yet don’t acknowledge our own behavior. Writers for children and YA are constantly addressing this issue of popularity in their books yet don’t necessarily see how they may be playing it out themselves as adults. And when it becomes presented as the right thing to do — link more to others, for example — I get skittish.

    bookbk, I think you described some very apt situations with adults similar to ones I’ve seen and been told about.

    Again, the issue for me is that we are working with and writing for children about this issue and need to be more honest about how we are involved in it ourselves.

  4. I think of linking as a way to spread good news about blogs or sites that I like or that have something interesting to say. It’s the equivalent, of, “hey, have you read this book?” Or, “Did you read that slam of the Poetry Foundation in the NYer?” In terms of the latter, for some reason, I find literary feuds fascinating, and I’m guessing that a few others might think the same. So, I link blog posts or articles on the subject. I think of that as part of a conversation. Maybe that’s not what you mean by cliquey, though.

  5. Susan,

    I do that too (and used to more often on child_lit). But that A-List site indicated more of a quid pro quo sort of thing. Or at least that was the impression I got.

    Having often been on the sidelines in my life and, more rarely, in the center I’m very conscious of this when I see it in my classroom and elsewhere.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this post and the comments off and on all day. My conclusions have gotten a lot hazier since I first worked them out a few hours ago, but here are the main ones:

    1) The world of school isn’t an exact microcosm of the adult world. We make lots of rules for kids that we don’t follow, ourselves. I’m not endorsing hypocrisy (though I’m far from free of it), but I think the compulsory aspect of school affects–and should affect–the rules we make for the kids. We expect kids–and should expect ourselves–to act politely and kindly to everyone we spend time with, even if we don’t like them. But adults have a lot more power to minimize that unwanted contact than kids do. (I can eat lunch in my library if I feel unpopular or snubbed or just want to be alone. The kids? Not so much.)

    2) About the links, blogrolls, shout-outs–yeah, it can be as cliquish as anything you’ll see at fourth grade recess. But in the blogosphere there’s also often a financial aspect. More page views=more ad revenue, for blogs that have ads (including mine), and maybe eventually a leg up into a paid writing and/or blogging gig. As soon as money comes into it, things can get cutthroat. I saw this happen with parenting blogs over the last couple of years. Of course the best way to get noticed (as MotherReader noted a few days ago in her “How to be a B-List Blogger” article) is to consistently write excellent content. But all those cliquey things you mention come into it, too. Who hasn’t been advised to network for their career? Blogging isn’t any different. It’s a social community, but it’s not only that. (And I’m sure all of this holds for authors, too, especially in a publishing culture that demands and rewards author self-promotion as much as this one does.)

    I’m afraid this is all coming off as some kind of blanket apologia for nasty cliquishness and insincere “friendships” and exclusiveness. And I don’t mean it to. Like you, I’ve been on the sidelines more often than not in my life and online, and I’m a terrible networker (at least when I think of it as “networking” and not just making friends with people I like). And also like you, I want my students (and my own kid) to be kind to others, to be inclusive, to welcome the stranger, to stand up for the outcast. And I want and try to model that.

    I guess I just don’t necessarily agree that adults don’t acknowledge that they do the same thing kids do (I’ve seen the blogosphere described as “high school” more than once, and not in a good way).

    I do think that it’s important to notice the people on the sidelines, though, whether you’re a kid or an adult, in person or online. The people I admire the most in all those categories either don’t care about popularity at all, or deliberately use their status to bring in the ousiders anxiously smiling from the edges.

  7. There is this sense that it is something children do and need to be helped to cope with (in or out of school, by the way — birthday parties, anyone, sports teams?) , but the adults doing the writing/teaching aren’t saying that they do it too. They might say, I did this or that as a teen or child, but do they say I still do it?

  8. kinderny

    I guess I just don’t have a problem with people making choices with whom they associate in the adult world. Kindness and civility are a must, but lack of inclusion either because of limited interest, time, resources, is kind of a given in this big old world. I think we all have to practice discrimination in our lives- that’s what we do when we make choices. There is never enough time, energy, money, did I mention time?, to do everything we want to do, let alone what we have to do. Bloggers can cite to others if it gives them pleasure or recognition or more money or because it happens to be Tuesday. I don’t look for a rhyme or reason, but then again I am not a blogger trying to be seen or cited to by others. I like the aphorism, the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. I do think that money or potential advancement as a writer or related professional might come into it too, as mentioned by another commenter.

    A classroom is a community that should have different rules than the larger world for a number of reasons. The kids need to learn civility and kindness, their judgements are not yet completely formed as to what they like and don’t like so exposure to different ideas and people can be a positive thing, and there is no escape at least for the school year during school days- so extra effort should be made for inclusion and being a friend to all.

    I guess it comes down to: I read the kid lit bloggers that I enjoy, and the others go by the wayside no matter how A- list they are or they are not.

  9. kinderny

    Not sure why here I am logged on as kinderny and appear elsewhere as Chris….

  10. Monica,

    I have to strongly disagree with you about Poetry Friday being a “popularity” thing. It is truly egalitarian in nature. Anyone can participate. No invitation is needed.

    When I became a regular contributor to the Blue Rose Girl blog last October, I chose to post on Fridays because I love children’s poetry. It’s as simple as that. No one in the kidlitosphere, except for the other Blue Rose Girls, had a clue who I was at the time. No A or B list blogger said, “Hey, old lady, you got some terse verse or scintillating sonnets you’d like to share with us at the end of each week?” I don’t take part in Poetry Friday in attempt to fit in with the “cool” bloggers–I do it because I finally found a place where I could share my love of poetry with other individuals who also have an appreciation of the genre. Hallelujah!

  11. One of the reasons I wrote an article on being a B-list blogger was to show other blogs how to break into the dialogue. The thing is, like everything, it involves effort. If you want to be part of the group, you have to comment, you have to link to other blogs – that’s how B-list blogs “find” you. It’s not a quid pro quo. It’s closer to the “Marco Polo” game you played in the pool. I’m already following thirty blogs. I can’t start trolling the Internet for blogs I’ve missed.

    I think sometimes new bloggers give up too quickly. They comment twice and disappear. So how do I know they’re even out there? That’s why Poetry Friday works or the Carnival or The Edge of the Forest or memes or discussion questions. These are all equal opportunities for blogs to get their names out there.

    I don’t think that the B-list blogs are excluding other blogs, but we’re not their blog moms either.

  12. I had to check out where you got the idea of a quid pro quo thing from Kineda, and I didn’t see it. What I did see was this definition of the B-list.

    “it seems evident that many of these bloggers were previously in category two [C-list] and have grown in authority organically over time. In other words, sheer dedication pays off over time.

    Italics mine to make the point. This isn’t like 4th grade girls deliberately leaving some people out at the lunch table. It’s probably closer to the difference between 4th grade travel soccer teams and regular soccer teams. It’s less about arbitrary coolness than talent, dedication, and effort. In the end, though, everyone gets to play soccer.

  13. hope

    In the adult world, I think the idea that cream rises is important to me. It’s not as important to me as civility or kindness, but it is more important to me than the obligation to be inclusive. If there are wannabees on the sidelines–authors, bloggers, newspaper reviewers, whatver– then I’d like to see someone already on the inside spare them some attention and give them a hand up. And if it turns out that they’re really not very good, I’d like to see them dropped. Which isn’t nice. It hurts. I think the cliquishness we see today actually works against quality. I put you on my blogroll-will you put me on yours? The answer is yes too often, because people are too kind to say no. I am concerned that the people who love children’s books tend to be more nice than honest. I am with Roger Sutton. He blogged recently to say that people should write negative reviews when the opportunity presents itself. If we want their to be really good books for children, we have to tell the people writing bad books that they failed. I don’t want you to be on the Newbery Committee because you are a nice person, Ms. Edinger. I want you on the Newbery Comitte so that you can be smart and insightful and pick a really good book. And if the librarian across the table suggests a loser, I really hope you will tell her it’s a loser even if it hurts her feelings.

    I don’t think the clique is the opposite of inclusion. The clique, by my definition, is a grouping made for the wrong reasons. That’s why we try to stamp it out in the fourth grade. So that the ability to judge gets a chance to develop. So that children don’t get sucked into little Donna’s wake because she’s the popular girl– you force them to suspend their judgement until they learn to see the people around them more clearly and make sounder judgements about who they want to associate with.

    That said–and said at length for which I apologize–I know that if I was a blogger, and someone else on the library staff, or the school staff said, “will you put me on your blogroll?” I’d say yes. because I am more nice than honest, too. That’s one reason I don’t blog. The other is that by-and-large that is not the contribution to the field that I want to make. I hope that those who do want to make that contribution will be driven by merit in their judgements and not by inclusiveness, and I hope that they will be especially civil at the moments when they feel they cannot be kind.

  14. Whew — thank you all so much for commenting! Guess the elephant is now visible.

    As I said above I’m delighted when someone mentions one of my posts always! And my intention wasn’t to suggest that anyone was doing this in a mean or spiteful way — just that we grownups DO it. Of which I’m one doing it too.

    And while school may seem different, it doesn’t stop at the school door at dismissal. It happens when kids are IMing at home, during sleep-overs, deciding on guests for birthday parties, phone calls, play dates, etc. Seems to me that we all are all trying to help the kids navigate this in the best possible way, And I always think we do a better job when we look at our own practices and behaviors, the same ones we are asking the children to consider.

    I brought it up in this community since it is such a major topic in the books we read, write, edit, review, and promote for children. I hoped that as we educators do, that this community (of which I’m a part) might also want to consider how these are things we do too. Seems to me we can only be the better for it.

    Thanks again so much for opening up this difficult conversation

  15. In many ways this would be an easier conversation to have in person, with a big fat glass of chardonnay sitting in front of me.

    Take the Child_lit dinners in NYC. I read that y’all are going, it sounds fun, and yet I wonder if since all of you know each other, do you want others joining in? (I live within commuting distance of the city.) Then I read a blog, say, that everyone talked about Susan Cooper, and I worry that I would had nothing to say about Susan Cooper .I mean, I intended to read that one novel, but… But that’s my own insecurity, not the fault of the other blogger.

    Because we’re adults, at some point we just have to decide to join in or to read about it from afar. Or neither. All options are fine.

  16. hope

    Thank you for starting the discussion. It’s made reflect on how my behavior might have an effect on the world, even if it is in a small way. bookbk’s comment that people might rise in status as a result of garnering more hits on their site. . . that was a heads up I needed. I’ve been surfing the blogs of the children’s books community pretty much as it pleased me. One site I go to because it’s a good jumping off place to other blogs. I don’t actually think highly of the blogger. Quite the opposite. bookbk’s comment makes me realize that my hits and the visits of other people like me, may have made this person a B list blogger instead of a C list blogger. And maybe they will make this person an A list blogger, and maybe some day this person will have their blog prominently displayed on the NYT website and she will be the voice of the community, and if I don’t want that to happen, then the only influence I have, I should use. I should stop visiting the site.

    Your discussion reminds me that I don’t want success in this field to be the result of a popularity contest unless one grows in popularity for reasons I feel I can support.

  17. I don’t think there are any complete solutions to this at any age. Just suggestions, mine being that we grown-ups just need to be aware that we do this too. (Just as I was convinced that I was, as the Avenue Q song goes, “a little bit racist” during my Peace Corps training long ago.)

    Susan, do come to a child_lit dinner! I’m eager to meet you. In fact, I was so disappointed to hear you were at that Fear and Fiction conference at Bank Street and not to have finally met you. (Everyone: these are posted on the child_lit list serve and usually come about because someone is visiting from out of town. I can understand feeling a bit shy about coming — I’d totally be that way if I didn’t know most of the folks that come.)

    But just to note I never blog about those dinners or any similar social event because I feel some may indeed (just as Susan did) feel left out. I enjoy reading what others write about them and know that many enjoy reading them too as a way to experience them vicariously, but it does make me feel uncomfortable to do myself.

    Anyway, hope that we can keep talking about this. It clearly struck a nerve!

  18. WOW – great conversations and great comments!

    As someone working in an elementary/middle school, I think I can see where Monica got this post started, this topic is SO prevalant in our schools today, I must have at least one or two teachers/administrators a week coming in and asking me for a book about bullying, teasing, cliques etc.. It is a problem in our schools that just seems to be getting worse. I think that the advent of im’ing and MySpace has sometimes made things worse, now kids can be bullied at school AND at home.

    I do love when people blog about all these great get togethers, I feel like I can live vicariously though them, not much happens here in Atlanta!

  19. I think it is all about intentions. Why do you blog in the first place? It is fun, first of all. But secondly, you blog because you want to share what you know and what you think with someone else. Whether you’re intended audience is another blogger, a librarian, a teacher, a parent, a kid, a teen…you want to know that someone is reading and appreciating your work. It’s a great feeling to know that someone is bothering to take time out of their day to read your latest post. It is a compliment to you, the writer. It’s an affirmation of sorts. The best way to show your appreciation if you are enjoying what you see is to leave a comment or link to that blog or mention that blog in your own or email them. When someone leaves a comment on one of my posts I am happy. It makes my day. Imagine a happy dance of sorts. Why? Because I like to know that someone is reading and enjoying what I write. Because it’s good to be noticed. Am I doing it for the attention??? Not really. I would keep blogging even if my audience remained very few in number. I blog because I want to. But it’s icing on the cake if my reading audience increases. I write reviews of books for two reasons a) I hope that it encourages someone to pick up a book and read b) it’s fun for me and it helps me keep track of my own reading. I will always have opinions on books. This is just a way to voice those opinions. I love it when people write comments. I love to get emails from people. (I don’t get that many of either. I’m relatively new to the scene of blogging. I have no fame or popularity to speak of. Nothing to boast about. But I’m not particularly trying to play this rank and rate game.

    Why link? It’s convenient and easy to do. I have a list of links on my site because for the most part those sites are the ones I want to have handy. I want to be able to find them and use them on a regular basis. It’s convenient for me to have them all bundled together. It’s a reference tool for me. And as far as having links in the posts themselves…it’s a matter of what is relevant to that post.

    Why comment? I like to go to other blogs and read them. If I get *inspired* by a post I will comment on it. I like to share my opinions with others. I like having conversations with others. That’s all it is really. These are people who love books who love reading who love many of the same things I do. Why wouldn’t I want to have conversations with them and perhaps strike up a friendship over time???

    It’s not about being popular or unpopular…it’s a matter of being sociable and friendly. You can stay ‘silent’ and in your own little corner of the world. Or you could say “Hi”. It’s your choice. In school–perhaps in person, it’s easy to feel snubbed or rejected. There is teasing. There is bullying. There is name-calling. You can become invisible. You can be ignored most of your school life. Barred from sitting at the cool table. But in the blogging world, it’s not really like that. It would be something you bring to it.

  20. Well I’m a C-Lister too – but I don’t much care. I started my Blog to rave about books and other “literary” types things that I’m passionate about. I got invited into the community by people like Kelly, Camille and Susan – and they’ve made me feel welcome. But I don’t fuss if I don’t get regular mentions in other people’s Blogs. I could spend more time than I do “networking”, but I choose not to because that’s not what I want to do with my time – I only have so much of it to spare for all the things in my writing/reading life – and whilst the Blog is important to me, it’s not the chief priority.

    I do participate in Poetry Friday because I love poetry – one of my earliest Blog posts included two or three poems that I love, so when Poetry Friday got started, I jumped in. I also usually participate in the Carnivals because it’s part of being in the kidslit Blog community (and being an independent scholar, the Blogging community is the only equivalent to a community of peers that I have available to me). Sometimes I pick up on someone else’s Blog posts and discuss it myself on my Blog, because it’s provoked thoughts that I want to share, but I don’t go touting for links, nor do I feel hurt that no one wants to interview me (I consider myself way too dull !)…

    Sorry if that’s all a bit random – it’s been a jolly long day here in the UK and my brain’s feeling rather fuzzy now.

  21. I really don’t understand Poetry Friday’s place in all this. Truly, good discussion, but I’m baffled. Anyone who wants to — I mean, anyone — can contribute. My mom could write a dirty limerick and post it, and it’d probably get rounded up as long as she notified the person rounding up for that day. It couldn’t be more egalitarian or fair. And I learn about all kinds of new blogs when I read the round-ups.

    Why does it seem as if Michele is apologizing for those three things she mentions? She is simply being involved. And, Michele, if you’re referring to our interview series at 7-Imp (where we interview bloggers), how do you know that we don’t want to ask you for an interview? We’re interviewing a blogger-a-week and just started, in the grand scheme of things; in fact, I feel like we could let the series go on forever, especially as a way to feature new folks out there, which I would love to do (and probably Eisha, too, though I’m speaking for her without her being here at the moment). In fact, I hope you would want to be interviewed, Michele, as we think you’re far from dull.

    And who does go “touting for links”? If you link to what you think is a well-written post or do the responsible thing by linking to your source, is that considered “touting”?

    My tone here is not accusatory in the slightest; I’m just trying to understand. Making sure I say that, since it’s hard to read tone in cyberspace.

    Ah well, good discussion.

  22. I have to second a bunch of comments here, particularly the note that clique-y and inclusive are not opposites. I find the kidlitosphere very inclusive… but also, and this might be where the “exclusive” problems start, absurdly vast. I personally know 10 wonderful writers who’ve started blogging in the last two months. I do not have time to read 10 new blogs. I don’t have time to read all the blogs on my blogroll on a daily basis, nor even, many days, my bloglines headines. I have missed wonderful posts and conversations because of that… but that is not an exclusivity issue. If I find a post of interest, I wouldn’t for a second think about the size/popularity of the blog it was on, nor do I know any fellow bloggers who would think about that. But finding those posts among the multiple thousands of blogs on my favorite subject — particularly when, unlike school, there is no unnatural, forced into the same building thang going on — is quite a challenge.

    I would also strongly argue that this is NOT an unspoken-of elephant. Certainly Mother Reader, for one, has written on this topic. I’ve spoken on blogging with a big part of my talks being about being an active, supportive part of whatever online community you’re part of. I owe a tremendous debt to many fellow kidlit bloggers, and I pay that off by paying it forward. Most who blog do the same. And this topic comes up on listservs I’m on and is a major topic on blogs that talk about blogs and blogging, even if not kidlitosphere-centric. This issue is out there even if it’s escaped you… which again points to the challenge of keeping up with the huge array of worthwhile conversations going on.

    Finally, viewing the kidlitosphere as a parallel to a school setting, while having some interesting parallels, denies the very different fabric of an online, 24/7, transcontinental, multi-lingual community of adults. In this “school,” it is impossible to know all your “classmates” or to acknowledge them all. But that is not the same as excluding, or at least not in my book.

    And obviously, by the way, very interesting post!

  23. Jules, I wasn’t particularly, or only, referring to your 7-Imp interviews – I’ve seen interviews with Bloggers in other places too… And now I feel churlish for even mentioning it – like I was begging to be interviewed when I really wasn’t… I’m always embarrassed when people pay me a lot of attention, being both shy and the self-sufficient sort who just gets on with things (and never worried about being popular at school or since).

    If I sounded apologetic, I apologise – I was very tired when I wrote that comment. I was just trying to pick up on at least a couple of things (Poetry Friday and the Carnival of Children’s Literature) that could possibly be considered as “touting” for links – since being included in the Carnival or a PF round-up automatically brings your Blog to others’ attention – and as I just said, I get very embarrassed when people pay me a lot of attention ! Which I realise begs the question of why I Blog in the first place – and the answer is, as I said last night, to have a place to rave about books and book-related matters. I started my Blog after my best friend died because I missed our daily chats about books and writing, and I was wary of boring my mostly non-reading co-workers with my enthusiasms… I seriously didn’t expect to keep up the Blog for long as I thought I’d find it too time-consuming and stop. I’m very glad that it’s allowed me to become part of a huge virtual community in which I try to play a small but useful part, whilst also being aware of the fact that I’m not very good at networking and that I am very self-sufficient…

    That’s another meandering post – that’s what comes of writing before caffeine, I suspect ! Sorry, Monica, I didn’t mean to blather on!

  24. I wrote this over at Fuse where I figure more will see it, but will stick it here too:

    Even though I’m standing here all by my lonely on this (and I again apologize for any and all hurt-feelings resulting from my evidently clumsy post on this topic), based on conversations and observations over many years I would argue that the issue does exist among adults in the real and virtual worlds, including this area of children’s lit bloggers. That there are no comments from those who feel excluded is unsurprising to me. The strong voices here may well make it difficult for someone who does feel excluded, especially a shy newbie, to comment in this very public forum. The only reason I am comfortable standing out alone like this is that I feel that I’m among friends (even if many are in profound disagreement with me right now), people I know and have met either in the virtual world or the real one. There is no way I’d have written that post or this comment if I didn’t feel fairly safe and secure that people knew me enough to not drum me out of this world for doing so or hate me forever:)

    And so now, lonely as it may be, in response to the many posts on this topic, I have to disagree with most of you. To my mind this is not something particular to children, to schooling, or to blogging— it is true for all of these situations and others — it is the human condition. To my mind, we human beings are constantly trying to find our place in the world, trying to find a balance between the greater community and the smaller affinity groups, always teetering one way or another. What may seem totally inclusive to one of us may seem dauntingly exclusive to another. And so, the way I see it, no matter how well-intentioned, sincere, and open something may be, there is always the possibility that there are folks who feel left out.

    Since I foolishly used the truly lovely tradition of Poetry Friday as an example, let me take you through a possible exclusionary scenario with it. Perhaps someone who has recently started a blog happens across the idea and decides to post a poem. Yet, feeling completely unknown by the better-known participants this individual does not feel confident enough to even write about the post in the comments of whoever is doing the weekly roundups. And so only his/her friends and family perhaps know about it and the individual feels lousy about that and doesn’t do it again. This may sound absurd to someone with a more outgoing personality, but others, especially shy folks (of which I’m one) could very well have this response. So yes, the Poetry Friday tradition is indeed truly and completely open to all, but to someone a bit unsure, new to the children’s lit world, to blogging, and such it could still appear to be something done by a bunch of folks who appear to all know each other (whether they do or not).

    And about those dinners and parties. I went to the NCTE convention for decades on my own without being invited to a single publisher’s party or dinner. And even though I knew many people at the convention, they all stuck to their groups and it did not occur to them to invite me to join them for anything. Now things are very different for me, but I remember that situation vividly. And so when I was having drinks last fall with some child_lit folks at last fall’s NCTE convention I cringed in sympathy when someone said she’d see us all later at a publisher event and a couple of others said they hadn’t been invited. Knowing that everyone isn’t going makes me uncomfortable posting about these parties although I totally enjoy reading others’ posts on them. And I have and will again write a comment about an event (as I did about the Snicket thing last year).

    Thanks a lot for all the passionate posts and comments on this topic.

  25. Thanks for opening up this discussion. I think it’s important to think about, and to be aware of how outsiders and newcomers perceive us. I agree that there is sometimes a clique-ish feel to the Kidlitosphere, and it definitely has its “cool kids,” but overall I find it very inclusive, rather than exclusive.

    I’m a classic outsider, and generally pretty shy, but I’ve never felt outside here. Tasha was very nice when I wrote to her, and she encouraged me to start blogging. Michele and Kelly both started reading and commenting on my blog almost from the beginning, no matter how lame those early posts were, and others followed soon after. And in spite of the fact that she claims not to be anyone’s blog mom, MotherReader actually emailed me out of the blue to invite me to participate in the 48 hour challenge; it’s true that her blog hadn’t been around long then, but she’s definitely one of the cool kids and it made me feel included.

    I think that, as others have mentioned, there are some people being excluded just because of the sheer number of bloggers, and the increasing number of new bloggers starting every day. It’s impossible to keep up. In spite of that, I think the established bloggers are making a valiant effort to include as many as possible. Liz is running a “blog a day” feature, and Kelly shouts out and links to many many new blogs. While we were organizing the Cybils, Kelly and Anne made inclusiveness almost a mantra; they were determined to include as many bloggers as possible.

    Are there people who feel excluded or get their feelings hurt? Undoubtedly. I know of a couple of recent examples. But it’s not through lack of effort on the part of the more established members of the community. We need to be aware that there may be bloggers out there feeling that way, and we need to continue to do what we can to include as many as possible, but there only so much that one can do.

    As a side note, I actually feel much more intimidated by the child_lit listserv. There’s so many smart and knowledgeable people on that listserv, that I’m afraid to post. I don’t have an MLS or a degree in literature, I’m just an ordinary person who happens to love children’s books, and I’m afraid that my posts will sound stupid. Also, there are a couple of strong personalities on that list with strong opinions that I sometimes disagree with, but I’m afraid to post my disagreement for fear that I’ll be flamed. So I mostly lurk, and feel excluded.

    Oh, and I wanted to add a note to Michele that I don’t find you dull at all and would love to read an interview with you!

  26. “And so, the way I see it, no matter how well-intentioned, sincere, and open something may be, there is always the possibility that there are folks who feel left out.”

    “So yes, the Poetry Friday tradition is indeed truly and completely open to all, but to someone a bit unsure, new to the children’s lit world, to blogging, and such it could still appear to be something done by a bunch of folks who appear to all know each other (whether they do or not).” Italics mine

    The kidlitosphere cannot take responsiblity for how an individual feels or how things appear to him or her. There has to be some individual accoutability for ones own feelings or perceptions.

    Blogging is great place to get over some level of shyness, but in the end it’s up to the individual to be part of the community – if she even wants to. Our community gives so many chances for people to jump in the pool- Poetry Friday, Children’s Literature Carnivals, The Edge of the Forest Articles, discussion questions, memes – but we can’t help it if some people are afraid of water. The individual needs to take ownership of that problem and face that fear or take swimming lessons. (Though in this analogy we all know how to swim, i.e. write.)

  27. Again, Monica, I have to agree with Mother Reader. Your example of how Poetry Friday could be exclusionary is not, in fact, anything other than an example of one (made up but very real type) person who does not make an effort to participate, and you indicting the community at large based on no specific actions on the community’s part. In the example you gave, you are creating a situation where an individual is not accepting responsibility for his or her own actions (or inactions). Is that what you would teach fourth graders about community?

    Now, if there was a pattern of that or any made up person leaving a comment saying “hey, include me. here’s my Poetry Friday entry” and then the kidlitosphere NOT including said poster, that would be different. Or if there were barriers put up to make contributing harder… again, different. You did not find any example of that, so I don’t see how your example supports your argument. What am I missing?

    I agree with you that any community, virtual or real, that is full of humans will be flawed. I don’t think anyone can deny that. But then to hear you speak of an “elephant in the room” as if the issue you mention hasn’t been broached before…. With all due respect, these issues are at the very heart of every blogging community… of every social network… of every online interaction. I’ve had this conversation in every community, including the children’s literature one, I’ve been involved with online, and I’ve been online regularly since 1983. So part of the reaction you’re seeing here is akin, I suspect, to you being at a convention of teachers and having someone stand up and say “Why does no one speak of the fact that a class full of second graders read at different levels?”

    I cannot imagine, by the way, you’ve hurt any feelings, nor would I think anyone would suddenly up and leave you or your blog. That’d be rather silly, seems to me. But if they did, wouldn’t that be their choice? Should you not have posted your opinion? And since you did post, do you feel you have to take responsibility for others reactions and actions?

  28. Gregory K.,

    Myself, I will continue to empathize with those feeling marginalized and insecure in many environments including this one. Or child_lit, a community that I’m very much at home in, but that others here mentioned as being intimidating.

    It so happens that someone did write me saying I’d hurt his/her feelings and someone else made mention of hurt feelings in a comment somewhere, can’t remember where, there have been so many. And I felt badly for having done so. So I guess I do feel responsible.

    I don’t think of humans as being “flawed,” just working their way to figure out the complexities of human relationships. Just being human.

  29. Interesting conversation. I do think that blogs in general can lead to a feeling of “outside” and “inside” just by the nature that you can track your stats and see how many folks are reading you (or not!). Being a c-list blogger (although my niche is homeschooling, not kidlit) I think that it can be easy to get caught up in the readership stats game. But you don’t have to.

    That said, I have found the kidlit bloggers as a whole to be *very* welcoming (much more then other communities). I think that this is because there is a common interest that binds them together. I know that when I linked to several kid lit blogs (in a post that was talking about how much kidlit blogs enrich my homeschooling), I immediately got links back and comments from many kidlit folks like Mother Reader and Big A Little a. Of course this happened at a time when I had to cut back on blogging so I was not able to take advantage of it LOL! But the thing is that it is a welcoming community (I was NOT expecting links back, I was merely trying to share some awesome resources).

    If you really want to see how cliquish feelings can affect blogging, google “blogher 2006″ and see the bad feelings betw many of the bloggers and the mommy blogs. Jealousy reigned as some groups got more “attention”. I watched from the sidelines this summer and this is what convinced me that I did not care how popular my blog was. That I was blogging for me and if others enjoy it too, that is gravy.

    I am not sure how you can create a totally open community where everyone feels accepted from the get go. A community by definition does not include everyone. And, human nature being what it is, many folks are going to feel intimidated about making that first step to join. So while I agree with your points Monica about how it can be perceived as intimidating (and we need to be aware of that), I also agree with the other points about how a community can only do so much to include people…it is also up to those people to make the first steps to being included.

    Just my two cents, from someone outside the kidlits sphere who greatly enjoys and appreciates the knowledge and wit shared by it.

  30. Oh, Monica, I empathize, too! You’re dealing with a guy here who did the Rubik’s Cube (from any starting point in under 20 seconds, thank you) in high school, so I know a little bit about being marginalized :-). Still, I think that’s a very different conversation than the one you started… which obviously proved fertile ground.

    Looking forward to the next conversation about… whatever it might be!

  31. Gregory K.

    Believe it or not, I intended this conversation to be about empathy from the start. (My original post ends: “Can’t those of us so concerned about this in our writing, in our work at least acknowledge that we are doing this too? Do we think much about how those not in this world feel? Or those on the edge of it?”). I deliberately didn’t use the word empathy itself because I feared it might offend (that some might feel I was implying they were lacking in it), little knowing that was the least of what would offend!

    This was my first experience having a major conversation going on on my blog and it really taught me how different blogging is from list serve participation. While I could have started and then decided to drip out of such a discussion on child_lit, it wasn’t possible for me to do that here. I mean I could have, but it would have been like playing a game in my backyard and then going off in a huff when I felt misunderstood leaving the rest to go on without me until my mom told them their parents were calling for them to go home for dinner. A fascinating experience both for the illuminating comments and for learning more about the whole way blogs work.

  32. The in- or exclusivity doesn’t bother me. I am getting a bit tired, though, of book blogs that write about everything but. Or everything else. I just try to get a book or two a day up. My students enjoy it, and I doubt I’ll be famous anyway!!

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