May 1, 2009

Additional progress on the Quaker blog reader

Hello, Friendly readers.

Just about a week ago, I wrote about all the activities I was pursuing. Item #4 of my "maxxed out" list focused on the progress of the Quaker blog reader I've begun pulling together.

A few folks have been asking how it's been going, so here's a more thorough update about where that particular project stands.

1. Use of the word "convergent" in the title. In my "maxxed out" post, I mention that I'm inclined to steer away from using the word "convergent" in the title of the book. (Maybe it will appear in a "tag line" or subtitle, though.)

As I'm nearing the end of looking at dozens and dozens of individual blog posts, the inclination to avoid having "convergent" front and center has grown. Convergent is much too narrow a word to capture all the topics and each of the bloggers whose work will be included. Even I myself don't identify as a Convergent Friend or a convergent blogger, though I certainly have been a part of the conversation over the years.

That said, if in the end readers find themselves with a new understanding about the nature of the Religious Society of Friends as a whole, or if readers come away with a sense of having been exposed to a depth of Quakerism that they hadn't known before, I think the publication will have served its purpose, convergent or not.

2. Phrases and words that have cropped up. I've been struck by the ideas and concepts that bloggers and readers have shared about how to describe what the online conversation is bringing about. They've described it in the online survey*, during phone conversations, in emails, and through my own quiet and busy times. *I'm no longer collecting survey responses, fyi.

Some examples of what I've come across:

  • Contemporary conversations across the Quaker branches

  • Fresh writing opening vistas of thought

  • Blowing on the embers

  • A rigorous, vibrant Quakerism

  • A group of people yearning for Quaker renewal

  • Emerging renewal movement that gathers us together despite previously divergent traditions

  • Negotiating identities and having a place at the table

3. Major topics that emerged from the online survey. The online survey tool Survey Monkey automatically compiles and analyzes data when people have to rank a series of items, such as in degrees of importance. Based on the dozens of responses I received, the major "important" topics of interest that the survey identified are these:
  • Personal story and experience

  • Worship and vocal ministry

  • Centrality of a Divine Principle

  • Practices and traditions

4. Major sections that seem to be taking shape. As I began identifying which of the recommended blog posts are likely to be included, I simultaneously began placing them in very broad categories or sections--what may amount to chapters in the book. Thus far the sections, which thankfully have some overlap with what I've listed above, are:
  • Worship and ministry

  • That of God

  • Love is the first motion

  • Convergent Quakerism

  • Reclaiming and re-examining our practices

  • A Friendly look at Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible

  • Openings and personal experiences

The thing I am currently taking mental note of is that three of these sections are particularly large, and that will either require a number of blog posts to be cut (not my preferred choice) or the large sections will have to be divided again, along related sub-themes. Not a bad problem to have, though.

5. Upcoming work and challenges. It's not clear to me what, if anything, will have to happen to reconcile #3 and #4 above.

But one thing is particularly clear to me: Even though Scripture and the place of Jesus in Quakerism were not identified as high in importance as some of the other topics within the survey, some of the significant exchanges that occurred online, at interest groups, and during meet-ups indeed revolved around this topic. As I'm working on this project, I feel like I have a responsibility to strike a balance between offering what the reader seeks or wants and offering what the reader--and the wider Religious Society of Friends--might wrestle with and grow from.

Gosh, that sounds presumptuous as I re-read that last sentence. What I mean is, if what we read affirms what we already believe or know, that has its own merits, but so many times it seems we are brought closer to God and to God's kin(g)dom when we are given new Light, thanks to reaching beyond ourselves and connecting with others who also hold some Truth for us to consider.

I doubt I'll get the balance right, between what readers want and what we as a faith community need to hear as Friends--how can I, with so many blog posts to consider and so many potential readers across the branches of Friends?--but it feels good for me to be wrestling with the material in both fresh and familiar ways.

6. The next big steps. I have plans to send out a "Friendly Agreement" very soon, laying out expectations like who holds the copyright of the included blog posts (the individual blogger who wrote them) and how a request for reprints might come about (if the first print run is bought up in a hurry, or if a journal wants to print a particular blog-essay from the book).

And I've begun looking into online tools for self-publishing. That's the scariest, most overwhelming part of all, I think.

One Friend who works in publishing had suggested I look into Xlibris--and I just found out that they require 90-120 days from receipt of the manuscript (i.e. pdf file) to carrying out the print run. Given the timeframe I've been working under, to have this book available at the 2009 FGC Gathering, that is not going to fly at all.

I've been looking at and at They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with either of these. Or maybe there's another online tool that can be recommended. If that's the case, I hope you'll recommend it soooon.

I love the fact that Blurb seems particularly geared for Mac users and can turn a blog into a book (!), but I've read reviews that say their print quality, especially for text, doesn't live up to Lulu's. But Lulu doesn't seem to be as Mac friendly and seems to have more "legalese" to deal with...

I'm running out of time and will have to make a decision soon. I'll also have to decide on details like typeface, cover, sales price... I don't expect to make money on this project, not at all. But if ever there is more money made by book sales that I myself put into the project, I'd like to put the "excess" towards a Quaker blogging meet-up of some sort. Who knows where the Living Spirit might lead us...

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement you've given me in recent months. Your participation with the survey was so helpful, but it's been the four or five years of conversation online that truly have helped grow me into the Friend I am today.



Mark Wutka said...

Hi Liz,
I used lulu to reprint Joseph Hoag's journal and it was pretty easy. I just produced a PDF with the right dimensions (6"x9") and uploaded it. I set it up where I didn't get any money - I just offered it for whatever lulu charges, so I don't know how that works. I have quite a few paperbacks now, since I have been using to reprint old Quaker texts from Google books. The quality is okay, but the covers seem a little worse than for a typical paperback. They seem a little more prone to scuffing on the edges, and are less tolerant of drops of water.
Lulu does have a very fast turnaround - usually just a few days for them to print, then a few more for shipping.

It's really great that you are doing this, I can't wait to see the result! (Except that I won't be at the FGC Gathering so I'll have to wait)
With love,

Robin M. said...

A friend of mine used Lulu to publish a book of her writing group's best work and it's beautiful. I know they're working on a second book, so it must have worked well enough for them.

Best wishes with the whole project!

Liz Opp said...

Thanks for your comments, Mark and Robin. I've been feeling more confident about going with, even though I haven't a clue what I'm getting myself into.

I'm intending to create one VERY large Word document on the Mac and save it as a pdf file, as Mark suggests. I'll also be backing it up as I go, both on the Mac's hard drive and also on an external drive, possibly a jump drive.

Got any other tips or suggestions for me? I worry that there's something I should know, but I don't even know what to ask!


Mark Wutka said...

Hi Liz,
I used a typesetting program called LaTeX to format Joseph Hoag's Journal, and it was very easy to split the book into multiple files. In the past when I wrote technical books, the chapters were all in separate Word documents and the publisher put everything together. I think you might be able to do this yourself. Word is supposed to have a "Master Document" feature where you can have individual sub-documents that you can edit individually. When you generate your PDF, you would generate a PDF of the master document, but when you want to edit a chapter, you can edit the chapter document directly. I haven't actually done this with Word, and it seems to be based on using the outline mode, but maybe you could play around with it.

OpenOffice / NeoOffice (Mac port of OO) also have a Master Document concept where you just create a master document and then insert subdocuments.
With love,

Liz Opp said...

Thanks, Mark! I'm playing with the Master Document feature (for Word on Macs), based on your suggestion.