As Stacey Harwood is the managing editor of the Best American Poetry (BAP) Blog, married to series editor David Lehman and is a poet herself, she is living the poetic life every day. Recently, she came in for an Ideasmyth Booked Breakfast to share her advice on how to cultivate one of those beloved blogs with avid readership and great buzz. We ourselves were among the skeptical–are blogs bottomless burdens? thankless time-sucks? unwieldy outlets for anonymous hatefulness?—but as Harwood and the BAP Blog show, when carefully curated, it can be so much better–and so much lower-maintenance–than we ever dared to hope! Below are some of our favorite take-aways:
Make the blog invitations last a week
The Best American Poetry Blog has featured hundreds of guest bloggers over the years, from Ken Tucker (Editor-at-Large, Entertainment Weekly) to David Yezzi (Executive Editor, The New Criterion) to Jennifer Michael Hecht (author, The Next Ancient World). Bringing a new notable to your blog each week will keep your readers excited to see what you will dish up next. As an added mutual-benefit bonus, the columnists’ fans will then become aware of your blog, bringing both parties new audiences.
Time posts with the release of other major work
Whether it’s a book, a performance, a major article, a gallery show, etc. having your guest bloggers’ posting week coincide with the new piece is great for everyone. Not only will you be doing some free promotion for them, but any time someone is Googling them, strangers are more likely to stumble upon their posts on your blog.
Great Contributors + Creative Freedom = Exciting Posts
Harwood has found that allowing her contributors carte blanche has brought about some truly fascinating posts. Everything from cater-waitering to suicide among poets has been discussed on the Best American Poetry Blog. Some of the most high-quality posts have generated sufficient interest to become books.
Police for Positivity
Freedom of speech is important, but Harwood stressed that she and the other moderators are always monitoring the blog to make sure nothing unnecessarily negative or hateful makes it onto the blog or its comments section. When people feel safe to be self-expressed without being ganged up on, a closer knit community develops. “One of the most rewarding benefits that I didn’t anticipate is the community that’s grown out of it,” Harwood said. “These writers who would never know each other now do–and read at each other’s events, blurb each other’s books and help each other’s careers.”
By the end of our Breakfast, Stacey had won everyone over: when designed well to be flexible and dynamic, a blog can be a great forum to showcase people at their finest, and to bring out the best of what the internet can provide a community. Click over to our Ideablog and see what Stacey Harwood inspired us to launch ourselves!
~~~Alex Ritter is graduating from NYU in May and seeking a social media job at a company doing cool things for the world. She is hoping you will see her name soon enough in your local bookstore on a collection of short stories.