Friday, August 06, 2010

Digital Ruminations

It's been a long, long time since I've made any entries here. But I am going a little more digital this summer. I'm preparing to debut my very own writing website and thought it was time to reconnect with my blog. Blog I must for a better platform!

I'm at the Willamette Writers Conference this week, filling my head with the business stuff of writing. The world is abuzz with discussion of e-readers and other digital media, also a topic of discussion at the Pacific Northwest Children's Book Conference two weeks ago. Sam and I met last night with folks who run the Digital Media program at Washington University in Vancouver. I find myself challenged in a very healthy way by this brave new world. I've always been a little nervous about change, but the older I get the more I am taught, time and again, that change is the constant. And perhaps change is healthy.

There was a time when humanity communicated its written literature through cave paintings. We don't anymore, but we still tell stories. The story remains, no matter what the medium or technology might be. In that there is hope.

I recently visited my parents in Delaware. We were talking about our early memories as readers. My Mom mentioned a book she always loved and remembered, a book she searched for when we were kids, searched for over the years, and could never find. She called it RAFFY, CHAMPION OF THE VELDT. It occurred to me that, in the digital age, I might actually be able to use online searches to find the childhood book my 70 year old mother loved so much. And so, sitting in their guest room, I pulled out my laptop, went online via their wifi, and googled "Raffy, Champion of the Veldt." First, I had the wrong spelling of Raffy. Then, I had the wrong title. Finally, I found a quote, that seemed to be from the book, a quote about something called a "honkebeest." So, I entered "Raffy" and "Honkebeest", and, like "open sesame", it threw wide the doors to the many rare and collectible, and not-so-collectible, copies of RAFFY AND THE HONKEBEEST, by Rita Kissen. I ordered it online, to be shipped to Mom's house. A few days later, it arrived. By then I was back in Portland, Oregon. But Mom emailed me a beautiful description of the experience of rediscovering this favorite childhood book, six and a half decades after her father first read it to her. None of this experience could have happened in quite this way without digital technology.

My point? The digital world and the nostalgic, old-school world sometimes coexist not only successfully, but elegantly, beautifully, poetically. I am hopeful.

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