Do I hear the distant (very distant) roar of the crowd as Barbara Bensoussan takes her first wobbly, hesitant baby steps into the blogosphere? In my family, this is cause for hilarity, since I’ve long since earned the label of technology-challenged. I’m the lonely little petunia in an onion patch of technophiles: a husband who’s a crack programmer and kids who seem to have been born with digital cameras and cell phones in their hands. My rare, feeble attempts to send text messages simply send them into gales of laughter (after which they roll their eyes, grab the phone from my hand, and say with adolescent condescension, “Let me do it for you, Mommy”).
It’s not just that I’m a klutz around electronics, or am pitifully uninterested in gadgets. Instead of greeting new developments with excitement and interest like my kids, I find myself feeling like an old fogy, suspicious and resistant to change. It pains me to contemplate the prospect of e-books and Kindles colonizing the literary world, as print books dwindle in numbers like Indians forced into reservations and cut down by disease. Why, just this week Border’s bookstores declared bankruptcy — Border’s! (Permit me a moment of nostalgia here, because in another life, when I was a graduate student in Ann Arbor, I used to regularly browse the original Border’s store. I can still see the artfully arranged stacks of new offerings and the smell of book bindings and paper ...)
But a girl can only stand with her head in the sand so long before she starts choking on clods of earth. It’s time to get with the program, to join the twenty-first century! Print media (with the exception of Jewish magazines, of course J!) may be on the way out, but there’s a brave new world awaiting us, and it’s all about interactive writing.
In the olden days (like, five years ago), we writers would send our articles and books out into the world, cross our fingers and hope for the best, like a parent sending a child off to summer camp praying the other kids will like him. But now we can have immediate feedback — your feedback — and that opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for dialogue. We can go beyond the old letter-to-the-editor or occasional, cherished fan letter and have a real back-and-forth.
So blogging is starting to sound like a technological innovation I could actually cozy up to. After all, why did I become a writer in the first place? I became a writer not out of any aspirations to live in a garret, or pretensions of producing the Great American Novel, but because I was itching to contribute my own point of view to the world of frum dialogue. I’d become religious and gotten married in my twenties, spending many years reeling from the shock of so many new and different cultures (frum culture, New York culture, Moroccan and Israeli and French cultures). I also rather quickly became the mother of a largish family, baruch Hashem. The combination of all these diverse and richly flavored elements resulted in a veritable cholent of ideas and impressions simmering away in my brain, begging to let off steam before the whole pot exploded.
During those sometimes-overwhelming years I used to feel immensely grateful whenever I came across an article or story that managed to put into words whatever I was experiencing. Somebody else had shared my feelings, validated my impressions, made me feel less alone! The lift I got from other people’s writing motivated me to try and pay it forward, to package my own thoughts and impressions in a way that might produce the same chesed for somebody else.
So I guess from the beginning, writing has been, for me, a way of reaching out, a search for kindred souls across the printed (or electronic) page. Now it’s a much shorter step between reaching out and getting a response. In the end — surprise, surprise — blogging might be just the thing for this newly reformed Queen of the Luddites.
And since Mishpacha readers are some of the most enthusiastic, thoughtful, deeply engaged people I know, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to “meet” and “talk” with all of you!