Week 5: Blogging as Storytelling

For this assignment, you have two options:

1) Respond to the Week 5 Prompt, written below. [100 words]

or

2) Respond to at least two of your peers’ responses to the Week 5 Prompt. [60 words each]

No matter which option you choose, make sure to tie your responses to our course readings (from Week 5 and/or previous weeks).

Prompt: For your post this week, read through the last week of 3 of the blogs you are following, and consider how recent posts relate to posts you have seen previously. Do you see narratives unfolding in these blogs? Do you see techniques for creating/maintaining narrative that you’d like to try (or avoid) in your own blog?  Pick the blog with the most interesting narrative and share your thoughts on it here. (Building on our theme from last week, you may also want to consider how visuals such as photos interact with that narrative.)

Published by

swbeal

I am a lecturer for the Sweetland Center for Writing and the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan.

22 thoughts on “Week 5: Blogging as Storytelling”

  1. The blog with the most interesting narrative is Fit Mitten Kitchen (https://www.fitmittenkitchen.com/). I’ve been following this blog for probably a year, so I know the overarching theme for more than the past week. One of the reasons I like the blog so much is that Ashley, the creator, suffers from psoriasis, which I also have. It’s an autoimmune disease that comes out as little red dots on your skin. On her instagram, she shares pictures of her psoriasis and gives and asks for tips on combatting it, which I obviously have a personal interest in. Moreover, Ashley takes to explain how she has come to find balance with food, trying to be healthy but not letting it dictate her life. While she is primarily a food blogger, I have still come to know her as a person – much like Jason Kottke’s blog that Rettberg mentions. Even though both blogs are not personal blogs, it is easy to find their personality between the lines. This is further experienced in Ashley’s blog because she has an instagram that is less “professional” and allows you to develop a more personable relationship with her. It is on here that she shares numerous videos and pictures about her illness and her struggle to finding balance with being “healthy.” In my own blog, because it is a lifestyle blog, I hope to create a narrative that people can connect with by sharing struggles in my life, much like what I have been able to do with Fit Mitten Kitchen.

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    1. I think this is a really cool analysis of the blog you are looking at because you examine the full scope of the blogging experience. The main part of the site where the blogger posts about food is interesting but their personality through social media accounts is where you get to know them on a more personal level. I look forward to seeing how to are able to sprinkle your personality in your main posts to other elements on your blogging experience.

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    2. I can relate to your feeling of being connected to the blogger and knowing their story. I’m the same way for a blog called Cath in College (I believe I’ve mentioned it in one of my past weekly reflections). Cath is different from Kottke in that she does post confessions and more diary-like entries, however, the content that she is revealing is almost always not the main point. The main point of her posts is to share some sort of life advice and perspective (not the cheesy and repetitive kind — she actually has great and refreshing insight). In a way, she’s kind of like Penelope Trunk — using her own, oftentimes very personal, experiences as a channel for advice.

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  2. This week, I chose to focus on the blog called The Blonde Abroad (https://theblondeabroad.com/). It’s about a woman who quit her finance job to travel full-time. As Retterberg mentions in his chapter “Blogs as Narratives”, I really like how this blog can be read either as individual posts when you’re looking for travel or fashion advice, but then if you follow it weekly, it really develops as a story and you can see the episodic nature of it. Every week while I’ve been reading her blog, I’ve noticed that not only is she pursuing a specific goal in each post (share her experience with her readers, give advice about places to visit or how to be fashionable while traveling on a tight budget, etc.), she is always working toward a larger goal of expanding her knowledge of the world and sharing it with her readers. Nearly every post is about a different trip (or different aspects of a trip), but she holds the same tone in all of them to achieve her overall blogging goal. Her photographs help to do so, and once you read a few of her posts, you start to recognize who she is, some of her friends and when given this visual representation of what she’s writing about in her blog, it’s easier to relate to her and understand. I think I have tried to do something similar in my blog by adding photos of my own so that people can start to get a feel for who I am. I also try to build this similar style of narrative by mentioning some personal aspects of my life throughout the blogs, so if you read weekly, you would be able to get to know me a little better!

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    1. I will say from reading your blog in class that I definitely see your personality through the text and the photos (especially the nature you’ve got going on, it’s just stellar). I think another narrative you’ll start to see perhaps is your particular interest in specifics food pallets such as loving spicy or just pretty food in general. This is kind of like Rebecca Blood who did Rebecca’s Pocket and realized that she liked archeology and social justice mentioned in Blogs as Narratives by Rettberg.

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    2. I took a brief look at The Blonde Abroad — I’m super impressed! No wonder why it’s been recognized by so many outside sources. Kiersten’s content is so rich that it really does give great insight into her personality and personal life. From the (little) content that I’ve seen so far, I didn’t seem to notice moments where she wrote about some of the darker/non-so-fabulous parts of her travel life. Judging from the style of her blog and its cheeriness, I’m assuming this is intentional. This reminds me of Viviane Serfaty’s claim that blogs are often like mirrors and veils in that we shape our blogs to reflect certain parts of us, while also using our blogs to veil other parts. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing — I think for any type of situation where you have to regularly present yourself to an audience, you end up developing a personality for that particular situation. My question for you — do you think you’ll end up creating an online personality (consciously or subconsciously) especially for your blog?

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    3. If I were to label this blog I would call it Carmen San Diego meets 21st century meets less mystery and more California Cool Girl Fun! I would say that this is the narrative or theme that The Blonde Abroad conveys to me and it keeps drawing me in week after week. True I want to know the individual different tips and tidbits she has to say. But, I guess I am more curious as about her journey in all of this. The Blonde Abroad Blogger seems to have the intent of a more goal-oriented blog. But, I suppose as the reader I am left more with another message of the blog which could belie the intention of the blogger and that is that of a more self-expression blog. After all, this is a person who left her career in corporate finance and is now on a more freelance journey– so I am curious to see the next step or steps in that journey.

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  3. One of the blogs that I follow that I think does a great job of creating a narrative for readers is The Pin the Map Project. This blog follows one travel journalist on her adventures throughout the world while also relating her travels back to her life and social issues in the world. More than that she gives readers advice and travel tips for their travel. She always has to be building off of her past posts and linking back to them. Plus by being a travel blog in general this gives her somewhat of a narrative to follow. In regards to the reading, I am not sure I would consider this blog to be goal oriented because there is no foreseeable ending, at least until she decides to stop traveling.
    One theme I see in her blog is she has recently begun taking up women’s issues and fighting against sexism. She discusses this change in her blog and I find that somewhat intriguing. She wants to be open with her readers and not hide her persona feelings from them. I think that is something I want to do with my blog. Not outwardly discuss political issues, but to just be honest about why I am writing about what I am writing about.

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    1. This blog has really rich contents in terms of travelling. Beyond that, it also contains many other aspects discovered during every travel, such as food&drink, lifestyle and world issues. In that sense, this blog is kind of between goal-oriented and ongoing narration, since she already treats travelling as a part of her life and is willing to share those memorable experiences with readers. And I agree with you that she is very open and real to the readers, which makes us appreciate reading her blogs.

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  4. The blog that I have chosen to focus on in several of my posts is Elizabeth Ullero’s Accismus (https://elizabeth.blog/). As I’ve mentioned, she is an adult woman who posts interesting observations about the world around her. I found this prompt to be particularly interesting because one of her most recent posts actually (coincidentally!) addresses her current narrative. She said, “These days, I tend to write about 1/3 each feminist rants, book reviews, and pointless essays about minor things in my life. And then about twice a year I write something about travel.” And she’s right- her past several posts have been book reviews, a review of Wonder Woman (https://elizabeth.blog/2017/08/22/wonder-woman-and-boogeymen/), and one review about Whistler, Canada (https://elizabeth.blog/2017/10/31/whistler-canada/). She’s pretty on brand, and the narrative she built explains how she’s a working woman who has a diverse range of interests and hobbies. What I loved about the Whistler piece is that she was there for a work retreat. As a result, I learned what she loved about Whistler (the gondola rides) and what her company is up to (she attended workshops taught by colleagues). And she included beautiful photos of herself and her peers enjoying the incredible views.

    Rettberg, in the chapter “Blogs as Narratives”, writes that “blogs are likely to be pieced together from fragments” (119). Accismus accurately reflects this statement. Elizabeth writes about her personal life, but she tends to stick to certain fragments–feminist rants, book reviews, travel, and pointless essays, as she words it. Through her posts, I don’t feel that I have a full picture of her life. But I have an idea of it through her fragments of random observations. I feel that her thoughts are entertaining, and I don’t necessarily need more from her. Her “narrative” is sufficient for me in that I can go to her site and predict what types of fragments I’ll see and, as always, enjoy.

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    1. Related to Rettberg’s reading we have this week about Narratives, Elizabeth Ullero’s Accismus should be categorized as “ongoing and episodic narration”. Each post on her blog is self-contained, and have an end or conclusion separately. However, sometimes she also arranges her blogs as a TV series and multiple posts to keep track and update a continuous activity. For example, her blogs about tasting Soylent here and she also includes every day’s diary independently (Day-One). I enjoy reading her blog as well because I feel very connected.

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  5. The Minimalists Next Door
    https://minimalistnextdoor.com/ The most recent post from this blog does a very good job of tying itself in with the ongoing narrative of the blog as a whole. While, unlike most of the other posts on the site, it does not contain a list of headings and how-to tips, it does provide useful information that is very relevant to the ongoing goal of reducing food waste. In this post, the writer mentions several things that would be familiar to long-time readers of the blog: the supermarket dumpster, the construction site that the dumpster currently resides in (the store is undergoing renovations), and the fact that the bloggers had previously acquired three hams that would otherwise have gone to waste. The post made use of one relevant photo, that of one of the hams, but the featured photo does not seem to be as relevant to the subject. One thing that works well in tying the posts together is the section at the bottom of each post in which the bloggers provide a tally of their food waste efforts so far and for that week. This feature works well for a goal-oriented blog like this one, but I do not think that it would work well for a lifestyle blog like mine, but I may incorporate some short follow up statistics to goals that I express in the future.

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  6. For this week, as per usual, I looked at one of my favorite blogs called Longreads. Longreads is not technically a “narrative,” yet it contains an array of different narratives from all different people. However, there is a tab called “topics,” making at least some of the posts, as Rettberg states, “a self contained unit.” One of the coolest topics is called “Unapologetic Women,” in which it features, as it should, all female writers documented differing stories on the trials, tales, and experiences of women. One of the posts I looked at is called “Who Does She Think She Is,” by Laurie Penny. Penny writes about the struggles of being a writer within the 21st century, and how online commenting can sometimes be dangerous and damaging to the writers self esteem and she documents her own experience with this phenomenon and how it caused her to even contemplate suicide. I then decided in order to answer this prompt effectively, I had to continue to research this writer. So I typed in Laurie Penny into the search bar and thankfully saw a plethora of other posts by her. After reading through her posts I decided that perhaps I would classify her mini blog, as Rettberg states, as a “goal-oriented blog.” I would do this for one reason being the topics that she writes about usually revolve around injustice toward women. Thus, I believe she is attempting to inform the readers, and the audience, of these examples of oppression and mistreatment in order to hopefully end its reign. She writes on how people use the term “bitchy,” to describe female anger, but whereas male anger is described as “strong.” She has many more interesting posts, jam-packed with research and honest, and thoughtful ideas on how to reach gender equality. I think to truly find a good narrative blog, I would need to follow a blog about a single individuals life; however, I can see the strategy of the narrativization of a blog within Longreads, as the good vs. evil aspect that Rettberg talks about is there, its just might be a bit less obvious.

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  7. https://www.ycljewels.com/blogs/ycl/yclwomencampaignseries-jenni

    YCL Jewels for the first time ever has created a women campaign series where they celebrate the diversity of individual women who wear their jewelry. The narrative of their recent blog post unfolds with the tagline “YCL Women. Embracing our diversity” at the top center of the page. Jenni, the women selected for this feature post, is pictured bareskin, smiling, and wearing beautiful gold earrings. Below the photo is a small blurb introducing the campaign. The first few sentences of the post set the tone of the narrative and follows with a Q&A. Rettberg would define this post as a goal-oriented narrative (116). The title of the blog is named “YCL Women Campaign Series // Jenni” which refers to one “episode”or part of the overarching story that contributes to goal of the narrative (their women’s campaign). The blog post clearly demonstrates a beginning and ending to Jenni’s story – their Q&A includes opening questions that break the ice as well as closure. It also includes many enticing visuals to persuade readers to buy the jewelry Jenni is wearing. But, in essence, YCL is selling a story, not their jewelry. That is the narrative.

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  8. A dynamic subject change has made drastic changes to a couple blogs that I follow, and that dynamic subject change refers to Michigan’s national title pursuits in both basketball and hockey. While Deadspin (www.deadspin.com) approached the various stories at a national perspective, MGoBlog (www.mgoblog.com) and Maize n Brew (www.maizenbrew.com) attack the issue as Michigan fans would (often ending in disappointment). In the world of sports blogging, I’ve noticed two main factors: speed and reactions. It’s almost more important to react at the right time than to develop a particular narrative or crafting ability with posts and storytelling. Articles do often refer to earlier articles, but with so many events taking place at once, there’s a lot of pieces that need to come into place. Maize n Brew does a good job of keeping a narrative, however, as the narrow focus on Michigan athletics is matched with a more refined writing style as we see a natural story unfold; Michigan with an upset potential, the actual result of the game, and detailing the sad post game reaction. Items such as videos, tweets, and pictures help to relate more with the fan, something crucial for sports blogs. Following a big game from numerous angles is a good approach to squeeze the most quality content from a story, and is a model to consider for future big events.

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  9. In the blog “Horror Movie a Day,” the author makes use of clips of the movie in order to familiarize the readers with the movie that he’s talking about. I think this is his way of exploring the idea of using visuals to support your blog. By adding pictures and clips from the movies, it’s easier for him to describe crucial scenes to his readers. His narrative unfolds each week, because you can see his critiques becoming more intricate and well thought out. With practice, and by watching some of the best horror movies, he’s now more capable of recognizing bad ones and acknowledging the great ones. Although this blog does not necessarily have a “success story” as Rettberg implies, it could be considered a personal success or self-revelation that this blogger has developed a deeper opinion for the horror film industry, and that he is deciding what he likes and dislikes about it.

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  10. One of the blogs that I have been following is The Confused Millenial, which is written by a Rachel who is a self-taught blog consultant and life coach. The goal of the blog is to help millennials adult while also doing millennial things (think Netflix). Rettberg would describe this blog as a episodic narrative because Rachel often writes about events in her life and how it relates back to the blog. Most of her posts reference previous posts and Rachel does a good job of putting her reflections on her journey front and center of the blog by putting her “evolution” posts at the top of the home page.
    Her most recent posts focus on answering some questions that she has been asking for a while or what she has learned in the past month. I these posts tie really well into the narrative of the blog because they are all different posts about different things, but it is clear how Rachel relates it back to the personality of the blog. This is something I definitely want to follow in my blog.

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    1. I truly enjoyed engaging with the blog The Confused Millenial. The blog discusses different lifestyle elements which the blogger feels could help improve their audience’s/readers’ lives- whether that be how to cut down debt or where to stay in Maui. So with a goal in mind about how to add some dimension and assistance to others’ lives I would say that this type of blog is a goal-oriented blog. The other thing about this blog is that it is also a tool of self-exploration. The blogger used to work in an office setting after achieving her Masters of Counselling degree. But, thanks to finding a hard to achieve work-life balance she was not able to pursue that life. She seems to find it more empowering, reflecting on her own experience and then finding insight from that to share with others. But, by reflecting/exploring on her own experience and then sharing it with others, her blog seems to constitute that of a self-exploration blog.

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  11. The blog I chose to talk about for this week’s prompt is once again, Tish Farrell’s blog “Writer on the Edge” because I think her blog and writing style has a unique way of sharing her narrative. Her posts include a lot of pictures of her travels, which sometimes have only one sentence underneath them, depicting a mere “fragment of her life” as Rettberg would say. Other posts include a picture as well as a few paragraphs with snippets about her life such as in her most recent post, “Spring” (https://tishfarrell.com/2018/04/06/spring/), but each narrative includes only a peek into her life at that very moment. While her blog is not ‘goal-oriented’, (I would classify as ongoing), her narrative is interesting because like the episodes of ‘Black Mirror’, each blog is an episode of it’s own and you don’t have to read it in chronological order to understand the message that she is trying to get across in her blog posts.

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  12. Migrants at Sea (https://migrantsatsea.org/) is a blog I currently follow run by a law professor at the University of Southern California, Prof. Niels Frenzen. The website serves more or less as a filter blog, focusing specifically on political developments regarding Africa to Europe migration. There actually is no personal narrative of Frenzen’s life nor explicit expressions of his personal opinions or views. He breaks down recent EU legislation or policies into key points for readers to digest and how they will affect maritime migration. As discussed in “Blogs as Narratives,” the story of his blogs and personal life can only be understood by taking the blog cohesively together. His focus on issues affecting the healthcare of migrants as well as arbitrary terrorism screenings suggests that he has a liberal, humanitarian approach to refugee law. He is keen to highlight policies he deems detrimental to the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers from African states.

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  13. Longreads is a platform for the best longform stories on the web. The post I read, A Clarifying Dose of Reality(TV) by Valentina Valentini (https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/22973954/posts/1818528587) what about her experience auditioning for American Idol. Longreads is a blog with a collection of stories.
    According to Rettberg Blogs As Narrative, this style of a blog is an episodic narrative. Like a tv show series, it has an episodic narrative where it has a beginning and ending to the story. Each story posted has a clear beginning and finish, but each talks about something different. I would compare this blog to the tv show Black Mirror since each episode does not relate to each other. In this blog post, she talks through the whole process of auditioning for American Idol as if you were there with her the whole time. She includes a timeline of the events that occurred.

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  14. As I am looking back at Cup of Jo, it seems like there is an overall theme of self improvement and self enlightenment through small daily fixes. The blogger, Joanna, seems to post multiple posts that vary in the subject matter ranging from style to design and even motherhood. Personally, I found that having this many blog posts harder to find a united narrative on the home page, but I was able to find a more unified narrative in the subpages of the blog. I think that this lack of unity is also due to the fact that there are multiple authors contributing to the blog, so there are many different voices and tones that are being used. But there does appear to have an overall goal of the site, which as Rettberg argues is one of the most important aspects of narrative piece.

    One of my favorite sections of the website is the food section because it features many similar posts about trader joes food, but also has some fun/special recipe posts. In these posts, I was able to really see the personality of the joanna in her descriptions of the food especially when she was talking about the tips and tricks of how to make the most for one’s money. I think that for my personal blog, I want to try to be a little bit more descriptive with some funny anecdotes since my blog is not as professional as this one. Also, I think that moving forward I want to make sure that my blogroll is not as overwhelming as this one so that readers don’t feel like I did when I saw the home page.

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