So my big news this week is that I’ve been asked for permission to allow some of my writing here to be published in a book that is intended to gather ‘the best of writing on the web,’ to be released this summer by a publishing house in New York.
Back in 2001, I started writing this weblog for a few different reasons, and over the years, those reasons haven’t really changed, although I have discovered some new ones that keep me going. My life was going through one of its periodic upheavals, the transplantations I seem to need periodically to help me thrive, when I uproot and fling myself (and this time my wife) and my meager collection of possessions halfway around the planet again, and I thought it would be fun to write about it in a journal that I wouldn’t end up losing in the shuffle, like I have so many others.
My memory is spotty at the best of times, and (I’m not sure if it was Cory Doctorow or someone else who coined the phrase, but to them I offer thanks) I really liked the idea of having an outboard brain, a kind of inverse memory hole that I could dip into to help me recall who I was and what I was thinking in bygone days, when I looked back from some far-future vantage point.
I also love to write, plain and simple, and though I’ve never studied writing in any other way than the tattered-and-wine-spattered-paperback-in-a-hovel romantic way of youth, people kept telling me that I was some kinda kick-ass…. word putting down guy. Me write pretty someday. So I thought that if I wrote in public (although my ‘public’ was pretty thin on the ground for the first while), it might be a way to keep me honest, keep me writing every day, and through sheer practice, that I might become better at it. I think I am a better writer after almost 3 years of this stuff, when I make an effort, so mission accomplished there. Although one of my great failings as a writer and a man is that I don’t often make much of an effort. Ah well.
As many who read my stuff regularly know, I’ve been travelling around the planet for about 15 years now, and writing about it, when the mood struck me. My semi-secret dream has always always been to make a living from doing so — travelling, writing, meeting people and drinking their odd, skull-cracking native beverages, writing about that, and moving on, weaving a bit — but, as has been my habit since I was a kid, I never really did much about the dream, hoping that somehow I’d just be discovered. Bad habit, and one I’ve tried to break many times. Comes down to ‘an external locus of control as a result of childhood bereavement,’ the literature told me, back 20 years ago when I was trying to figure out why I was such a lunatic, but that’s neither here nor there, perhaps.
It seems now that I have been discovered, and in a way that might, if I’m both lucky and determined, help me to realize the dreams I’ve always had about writing — not fame, or much fortune, or even the cocaine and hookers so much, but just a dream of being free to wander and write about that, to read and think and drink and write about that, and to make enough money from it to live, and continue. Or it might not. Either way, I’m thrilled.
Others have ‘discovered’ me too, over the past few years, and helped me and encouraged me, or pointed to me and praised my work (or called me an idiot in a comment thread and roused me to rages as eloquent as I could muster), and I don’t think this book offer would have come about if it hadn’t been for those people. You know who you are, and there are many of you, and I thank you all. You are one of those ‘other reasons’ that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, reasons that I love this and will keep doing it.
So the book will be published in a couple of months, and I hope that everyone will buy at least five copies for themselves, and a few more besides for their grannies and orthodontists and paperboys and so on. It will, I think, be a book well worth the buying and the reading, and should occupy a place of pride on the toilet tank of the best homes in America. I say this not because I’m going to have some stuff in it, but because of the superb work of the terrifyingly talented other writers alongside which my paltry scribblings will stand. The list is impressive, and I will share, when it is finalized. It stands now at 26 writers, I believe.
Have I finally become an A-lister? Hell, I don’t know. Not even sure what that means anymore. Am I starry-eyed, dazzled by the glare of the spotlight from Old Media that has swung my way? Sure as sh-t, I am. Am I overly enthused because I’m actually going to be included in a book that includes the word ‘Best’ in the title? Yeah, probably. But I am aware that many of the people I consider my virtual friends in the weblogging community have several (or many!) books already out there, without sharing author credit with 25 other writers.
Still, this is a big moment for me. I’m having a Sally Field moment, and I am still uncynical enough to hope that it might be one of those Big Moments in my life, like the one almost 3 years ago that started me doing this in the first place.
This is where you come in, friends and neighbours. Although an editorial board (including the publisher himself, an editor from the New York Times, a Yale professor and New Yorker contributing editor, a Time Magazine columnist and a best-selling fiction author) have already read and thumbs-upped a few pieces from each of the authors selected for the book, and a group of three readers will apparently be going through my archives (and those of the others who will be contributing) mining for gold, I’ve been asked to submit a list of 5 or 10 pieces that I consider to be my best. A number of pieces out of the union of the resultant lists will then be selected for inclusion in the book.
I hoiked out some of my faves a while back, and whacked them into a new ‘Uncrappy‘ archive list, which includes some of my personal favorites, but I find that what I think of as my ‘best’ is frequently different from what you folks think. I thought that Typepad bit a couple of days ago was Comedy Gold, for example, but it garnered little more than a collective ‘huh’ from you, the Readers. Go figure.
So, I ask you a favour, friends. If you have a favorite or favorites amongst the bits I’ve written over the past couple of years, then I’d be forever in your debt if you’d consider whacking a link (or just a description, if you can’t be bothered searching) in the comments thread attached to this post. Whether from my ‘Uncrappy’ best-of list, or not, could you tell me what your favorite bits of wonderchickensian blather are?
Then, when you give a copy of the book to your garbageman, you can point to one of my pieces and say with pride (or shame, your call) “I picked that one!”
Many thanks.
Update : Here’s the lineup for the book. In fine company, am I. Hoping I don’t look like a rube by comparison, am I. Stop talking like Yoda, must I.


Join the conversation! 28 Comments

  1. I just noticed as I was bloglining around, that another book has recently been released which features some of the ‘best weblog writing’.
    This is a great and good thing, and like Greg says, ‘if you want to support blogs as an artistic medium, you need it,’ but you gotta know it can’t really be the best if it doesn’t include any miraculous poultry.

  2. here’s one.
    there’s lot more I’m sure, but thats when I started reading your writings.

  3. The book simply won’t live up to the “best of” in its title unless it includes your elegy for Rick. Teaching in Korea was good too, and you definitely should pick a handful of your crazier rants (I’m too lazy to find any more links right now).

  4. You *do* know that there’s a little golden box on the top shelf of a solid jade pagoda behind a crenelated wall in the magic garden in the courtyard our headquarters that holds the ISBN we’ve reserved for you.

  5. Congratulations! Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, Mr. A-List.
    And you didn’t even have to go to any conferences 🙂

  6. But I like the Box Better

    When I started this weblog three years ago, it was a continuation of my web site that I’ve had since 1995. As such, it focused primarily on technology, with an occasional aside into science or art or literature. I started with a free Manila-based weblo…

  7. Stavros the wonder chicken hits the big time

    One of my favorite writers on the web, who I once lauded as the literary decendant of Hunter S. Thompson, just announced that he has been approached to have some of his essays published in a book! Every writer’s dream comes true for him. It is a well d…

  8. I would have to say that the whole series of writings on Rick’s death would be simultaneously one of the high and the low points of your writing. I don’t know how much space has been allocated for your little corner of immortality, but that collection of postings tell a complete story, which is unusual on the intarweb, with new shiny things turning up and distracting people every moment. If there is space, the whole story (including excerpts from the MeFi threads that showed that particular community at its very best and, to a much lesser extent, its very worst) would make a compelling read. I just re-read the whole thing again and it still brings a tear to my eye.
    I also second the “teaching in Korea” post, which is not only humorous but also manages to convey real, useful information in a readable manner.

  9. Oh, by the way, you are still not an A-Lister, as you are way too down-to-earth for that. A true member of the A-List has to display a certain attitude that I think you are incapable of displaying. Plus, you need to attend at least 3 pointless webbie-type talkfests per calendar year to maintain membership.

  10. Thanks, folks. Any more suggestions would be welcome (although I know that it’s egotism to assume that anyone actually remembers much that I’ve written, if anything!)
    I’m thinking seriously about turning that Teaching In Korea essay into a full length book, senn, a idea that I hope might be easier to make a reality once this anthology hits the shelves…

  11. I’m thinking you probably shouldn’t do the Bush-Cheney porn thing. But you make the call!
    Congrats, senor wonderpollo!

  12. Yeah, I was kinda thinking the same thing, Tiz…and thanks!

  13. I second the nomination for at least part of the writings about Rick. I too cried.
    My favourite, which I come back to now and then, is the one on sentimentality, cheong(?) and love. I know it’s a lot of linkage rather than pure poultry, but it helped crystallise some understanding for me about my love for a friend of Chinese background.
    Oh yeah, and the one on your relationship with alcohol.
    And finally, any of the rants referring to Bush and Co as “turdfellaters”, cos that has to be one of the best insults I’ve ever seen.

  14. Wonderful news, Stav! As always, I’m humbled by your work.

  15. I’ve liked a lot of your writing about Korean life — being a white guy in Korea, your reactions to the medical system, and the neighborhoods, and the way business is done.
    I also liked your secret ruminations from possible book. Heh. Out of bag.
    And your funny weblog ones, but I’m not sure they would transcend the medium as well.
    Any of the bombastic political ones.
    And then, of course, Rick.
    Sorry I don’t have specific links!

  16. Like your blog & am looking forward to your book, but could you move the central text of the page to the right a little? The stuff down the left-hand side makes it hard to read. (Maybe this has been addressed in an earlier comment; I usually don’t read them.)

  17. Congratulations, Stav, richly deserved. The posts that stick in my mind have already been suggested… that, and there’s just so many wonderchicken posts here and at Mefi to choose from!

  18. Wtg!
    I’ll have to third or forth Rick’s (the whole section) It was invaluable in keeping us all up to date on what was happening. Hope this doesn’t sound like a theme happening but the Eulogy to Rob was one of my faves, and pretty much anything on Korea. 🙂

  19. Congratulations! What an excellent validation of your writing! I like the “never mind the bollocks” piece, too, even if I did make an ass of myself in the comments, argh. I have to thank you, too, for pointing to me in your last post — coming from a soon-to-be anthologised blogger, it has an added cachet! Plus, I liked finding (through you) Satan’s Laundromat. That’s an amazing photoblog…

  20. YOU SUCK.
    much love from the fish.

  21. So, what a minute…
    This means you’re coming to New York. You are so getting the jonmc gastrointestinal tour.’
    Set aside a date and pack Maalox.

  22. I guess the only let-down is that you don’t get the whole book. Well done mate…

  23. Oh yeah…I always loved this tale of Mexican times…

  24. Very well deserved. I would nominate your piece on the end of blogging as we knew it, before it got to be cross-over business. Keep carneval alive!

  25. Thanks for the pointers and kind words, folks.
    And Jon, I wish this were a ‘gettin’ a free flight to do readings play drunken author in NYC’ type of deal, but I don’t think that’s the way it’s gonna go. Unless the book sells a metric assload of copies. In which case, hell, I’m there!

  26. Famous Chicken for Charity

    Posted by The Happy Tutor Stavros , soon to be a famous author, writes on Metafilter: Gift hub – Connecting Funders, Active Citizens, and Advisors.

  27. Congratulations!!! You really deserve it!!!

  28. Weblogs rammer forlagsbranchen It was the best of wonderchicken, it was the worst of wonderchicken Empty Bottle er godt. Meget godt. SÃ¥ godt at nogen vil putte udvalgte entries ned i antologien Best Web Writing anthology, sammen med en masse andre, hvoraf jeg kun ha…

Comments are closed.