Sunday, 22 March 2009

In which I celebrate the surprising nature of the blogosphere. Or, in which I am a little serious and long-winded and must beg your kind indulgence.

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Until very recently, I did not really know what the blogosphere was. I knew it was out there, but it had a large Here Be Dragons sign hanging over it. I did not read blogs, except for the Huffington Post, which is so big and grand that it doesn’t feel like a blog at all. I did write for a while for the Guardian books blog, but I could not quite get the tone - was it journalism, opinion, something quite else? - and when my editor went on maternity leave, I let it lapse.

I used to be an early adopter. I had email when it was such a baby that I only had my cousin in New York to correspond with. I spoke to a nice man at BT about getting a Blackberry when they were still reserved for corporate clients.
‘Are you a company?’ he said.
‘No,’ I said. ‘I write books.’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I’ve never spoken to a book writer before.’
(We had a lovely conversation about literature after that. I wish I could remember his name.)

But now, the big new world of technocrazy scares me witless. It’s too unknowable and unnavigable. Like all those in fear, I retreated into prejudice. Every columnist with a deadline to meet and a mind blank of ideas has a failsafe: let’s bitchslap the blogosphere this week. I nodded my head as they told me that bloggers were sad geeks with no lives, or preening exhibitionists, or deranged narcissists, begging for attention. I quite saw all the arguments about privacy and even dignity. I agreed that it was an exercise in solipsistic self-indulgence (who the hells cares what you think?).

Then I had a book out. I cared about this book possibly more than any other I have ever written (reasons to come later). I was going to do everything I could to make it a success. I could blog the book, and it would go viral, and I would dance off into the sunset.
I stifled my doubts about throwing my paltry thoughts out in public (as a child, I was often told my grown-ups to stop showing off). But then an entire new set of terrors raced into view. There are around 200 million blogs in the world. Who would want to read mine? Who would even find mine? I would be like one of those discarded bits of spaceship, floating around in a blind universe. I would be yelling into the wind. And even if someone did find me, what if I was doing it wrong? What if the real pros stumbled onto my very basic site, gave a collective sneer, and turned away in disdain?

But here is the absolutely lovely, astonishing, miraculous thing. Through a stumbling serendipity of different internet tools and sheer damn luck, I found myself in the most charming corner of the blogosphere. It’s like one of those tiny streets that only natives of a city know about, lined with painted houses and heavenly shops that sell botanical prints and calligraphy pens and old maps of the world and out of print copies of Michael Arlen.

The other bloggers who follow me turn out to be funny, fascinating, ironic, irreverent, self-deprecating and unbelievably generous. They leave supportive comments and whimsical jokes at the bottom of my posts. They are nothing like the stereotypes that the newspapers adore to deride. Entering the blogosphere is like going to a huge new school where you have no friends and do not know the rules. For me, being found by these particular bloggers is like having the really cool girls inviting you to join their gang on the very first day.

The most lovely twist to this is that the book is all about sending out a big collective ‘bloody well done’ to the women. The zeitgeist likes to tell women that most of the decisions they make are wrong; plus, their bottoms are too big. Sarah and I wanted to talk about all the wonderful unsung ways that women navigate the convolutions of the new century. We practically wrote poems about the joy and profundity of female friendship (my slightly controversial view is that it is more important than romantic love). Well, the people who have come to my blog are all women, and they are shining examples of everything that we talk about in Backwards in High Heels.

So, Recessionista, Néné, Mrs Trefusis, Lucy Fishwife, Lucy and Cassandra – thank you for such an unexpected welcome. You have turned the vast, dark expanses of the interwebs into an enchanted garden. Even if my evil plan to conquer the blogosphere does not come to fruition, and Backwards in High Heels never goes viral, you have made it all worth it. You are the very women that we wrote the book for.


  1. That is so lovely, thank you. And it's a total pleasure to welcome new bloggers. As a fulltime (but over educated) mother, blogs are a lifeline to me. That probably sounds tragic, but it's true. It isn't easy to meet like-minded, bookish (but not in a wanky way) people day to day, especially when you've got small people TALKING IN VERY LOUD VOICES in both ears. You can find your niche in the blogosphere easily in comparison. I wrote a post about how I got into blogging on my first, defunct blog - the post was called "Is blogging the new dogging?". It addresses some of your issues: why do we blog? I miss office banter enormously and blogging fills the gap to some extent. I was very lucky when I started out - my friend Liberty London Girl ( was already a very successful blogger and she plugged me a bit. I was then very useless for a long time for personal reasons and didn't do enough to help other new bloggers but am doing all I can do rectify that now. Ultimately, it's a community for me. Perhaps that's sad but until I return to work, that's the truth. I think it's a GREAT idea to extend a print book into a blog - often it happens the other way around but the Backwards blog is a really interesting development in new media terms. In my opinion - I am very interested in all this as you'll have gathered! Cx

  2. Can I just add - one of the main reasons I bought Backwards and in High Heels was because I read India Knight's review in The Sunday Times. I really love her writing and her influence shouldn't be underestimated. (I don't know her by the way but I do follow her on Twitter!) Cx

  3. Cassandra - so agree about community aspect. That is the thing that has most surprised and delighted me about this whole exercise. I really did think I might be quite alone and undiscovered for years. There is also that sense on Twitter - my mea culpa post on that is about to arrive.

    As for India Knight - I do not know her either, but bless her daily. It was the nicest review I have had in my entire writing career. I actually CRIED tears of joy. (Dogs looked most surprised.) So interesting that she was the reason you bought the book. It is at number seven on the Sunday Times today, which seems implausible in the extreme. We have done hardly any publicity and no one knows our names. So I think we really do have India to thank.

    So lovely to get yr comments. Here's to the miracle of the blogosphere.

  4. Agree with Cassandra - that is a lovely post and beautifully written by you (I can't agree with Cassandra on being over-educated though, because I am not, I only get to hang out with the middle class kids whilst blogging!).

    My blog was born from a change in personal circumstances, where I had to try and save money so the kids wouldn't notice the huge drop in household income. I am all about keeping up appearances, a sort of new age Hyacinth Bouquet! If I can help anyone save a few pounds on a purchase I am happy!

    I read all sorts of blogs from fashion, beauty, mummy etc and orginally found the hysterically funny Cassandra (previously Red Rum) via LibertyLondonGirl, so you see you soon make new Blogging Friends.

    I must and will buy the book, there is something very calming about the way you write, we all have different opinions and are interested in different things, but there is something in the Blogshere for everyone.

  5. Oh Recessionista - feel a bit teary now. You are all so kind.

    Love that you find my writing calming; that is a high compliment. Also am quite charmed by the idea of a new-age Hyacinth Bouquet. That is a picture I shall carry in my head for the rest of the day. Sometimes appearances must be kept up, especially in These Troubled Times.

    If you do want to buy the book, Amazon is currently cheapest, I think. £7.49 for a whole hardback book, you can't say fairer than that. Very credit crunchy.

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  7. Hello there!
    Darling Cassandra has just Tweeted me to alert me to this post. And I am so very glad that I found it. I adore your description of the little corner of the blogosphere that we all inhabit.

    I started blogging in March 2007, merely as a way of avoiding writing twenty emails a week to my friends & family when I moved to Manhattan from London. I just pottered away enjoying the daily discipline of blogging and after a few months other like minded people started to come across me, and by the end of the year I was part of a vibrant constituency that supported me, occasionally shouted at me (nicely) and enriched my life in ways I had never expected.

    I became on-line friends with a middle aged teacher in Arizona, with some fellow fashion editors in London, with a writer in California... even Mary Beard & I read & blogged about each other. For a person who has always rather sneered at chatrooms and been bored by the idea of pen pals, this was extraordinary.

    I took a hiatus for ten months when I started working for a newspaper over here, and was astonished at the hundreds of comments & emails left for me when I stopped. It's difficult for non-bloggers to understand the emotional attachment to blogs, I think.

    I came back in Jan this year. And goodness it's even better second time round! This time I fell in with not just lovely people but true kindred spirits. We spend far too much time talking about pygmy animals, dinosaurs and, today, our bras on Twitter, but it's just the most fun. (At our ages there isn't much chance to be properly silly.) And I think we are all as far from the stereotype of internet lurkers as one could imagine.

    The support thing is most important. Cassandra, bless her bonkers soul, always thanks me for initially writing her up, and sending my constituency her way, but it's no more than she deserved and anyway it's what one does in the blog world. And I was rewarded a thousand times because she sent me to Emma at Belgian Waffling and so to Mrs Trefusis. And then the next thing I know myself and the above mentioned ended up on The Sunday Times Best Blogs list. And the very, very best part of that? Being on there with my especial blog friends.

    Blogging has been the single most rewarding thing I've done in the past two years, and I do hope you enjoy it half as much.

    I shall look forward very much to reading your blog.


    ps I realised I had made a huge mistake so reposting this comment!
    pps Your book is arriving tomorrow from London via a friend

  8. LLG - what an incredibly lovely, encouraging, and fascinating message. I had no idea what a rich world this whole thing would reveal. I love the international nature of it - from Scotland to Manhattan in a heartbeat. It is a sort of miracle when one stops to think about it.

    I am now inspired to write more and better. I have some serious high standards to live up to.

    So thrilled you are getting the book. Do let me know what you think.

    So many thanks x

  9. BTW (God I'm disorganised today - I blame my insomnia) , I still have my copy of Johnny Thunders in storage with all my books in London. I loved that book! LLGxx

  10. LLg - can't BELIEVE you have Thunders. Those were the days when I was running around in the All Saint's Road falling in love with hysterically unsuitable boys and drinking during daylight hours. Still oddly fond of it. So strange to think that fifteen years later we meet in cyberspace. The internet is a MIRACLE. xx

  11. great post. lets link?

  12. Hi

    I just wanted to say that having discovered you blog today (following a tortuous but fascinating list of links upon links upon links) and found a source of beautiful writing and brilliant people. I read through this post without my eyes leaving the page - and I will definately be back. It is interesting to read about this little world that we all inhabit - and having witnessed the addictive and briliant world of blogging spread to my freinds and family, I agreed with all you said.

    I will definately look up your book!

  13. Mysterycreature - thank you for your incredibly kind message. I keep reading terrifying articles about how no one on the internet has an attention span longer than that of a goldfish and thinking that my posts are far too long. So you are a wonderful source of reassurance.


    Would love to know what you think of the book if you do get it. (Amazon is cheapest.)

  14. Just bought it - now how is that for effective blogging?! I will be back and let you know, definately!

  15. Oh yes, it is a very magical place, the blogosphere. I FANTASISE about getting to meet Mrs Trefusis and LLG and Cassandra and a handful of others as they are very precious to me and consistently make me laugh until I fall over or snort tea through my nose. (word of warning: my relationship is crumbling around my ears because I have so much more fun talking to them than paying the bills or doing my real job, or you know, cleaning the floor and so on. Gah. I have not resolved this yet. But then I am an idiot.)

    As soon as bank balance clears €-83 I will be buying the book as the extracts have also made me giggle a lot.

  16. Hurrah! Eveerything everybody else has said. When I started blogging I had friends who did that "recoiling with horror and disdain" face who were convinced I'd end up with a stalker or two pages of verbal abuse or worse. But the blogosphere IS exactly like a school playground (or a party where you don't initially know anybody) - if you're a nice normal person you end up meeting people who make you laugh and think and alert you to things you find interesting and fun. I know, I HATE the word "nice" but you know what I mean. Welcome to the party! Mine's a Gibson if you're passing the bar...

  17. Lucy Fishwife - the Gibson is surely the most sophisticated and recherche of cocktails (sorry, comment box does not seem to allow for acute accents). Can't quite believe that this blog has such a high class of reader.

    Funnily enough, I don't mind 'nice' so much, and do use it. ('Pleasant' is a whole other ball game and makes me come out in hives.) I also like it in its less famous usage, as in 'a nice distinction'.

    Quite agree about the alerting aspect. I have found riveting and funny things on the internet which I would never have seen had it not been for the bloggers.



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