When I started this new blog, I thought I knew what I wanted to do: Provide readers and writers of fine fiction a place to periodically consider the craft. Simple enough, right? I mean, all I have to do is occasionally post up a story review, make a few comments on the structure or plot or characters, and I’m meeting that mandate. It really should be easy, because I’m constantly reading. I average two books and a dozen or more stories a week.
Of course, I’ve not been very consistent with the blogging end of this deal, and it is good to occasionally use this space for other things (discussing how a move or other major life event acts as fodder for the writer’s creative mind, or posting a new story of my own for feedback), but sometimes you do one thing in order to, unknowingly accomplish another…
Like any webbie/blogger worth half his weight in peanut butter, I check on the statistics of my blog on a regular basis. The blogger wants his or her words to be read, so there is a fine line between following the trends of what readers want and remaining true to the purpose of the blog. Statistical analysis of what brings in traffic is a valuable thing when done right. What draws people to read my words, what things have tweaked a response, what has been a “successful” post? (I even, in my cunning savvy, use that process of looking at statistics as a blog subject! How smart I am!!!)
But, on occasion, there is something else that comes up, something unexpected. As I wrote before, my most popular page has been my reading and light critique of Dorothy Parker’s well-read and oft-anthologized story, You Were Perfectly Fine. It’s a fine story. It really is. And I’m glad SOMETHING draws random readers to my blog. But I’m certainly not a Dorothy Parker expert, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to put my other literary pursuits on hold while I become one, just to gain some “page views.”
Last week, I deviated from the literary focus and commented on the death of my cousin, Bill Becknell. It was a simple post. I wanted to pay homage to a man who I admired on many levels and who left us much too soon. I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. My brief tribute has become the most viewed page of the last week on this blog, and it has already overcome my post on Flannery O’Conner’s story, Everything That Rises Must Converge, in the “all-time” views category to land at number three. (I should have Casey Kasem narrate this entry…)
It seems that Bill’s death left a lot of people looking for more information, and wanting to share their own stories about my cousin and his impact on their lives. They visited, passed on the link, left comments. That post became the most read post on my blog, not because it was such a moving tribute or because I’d finally found a formula to draw in new readers. It became a popular post because it filled a need (people wanted more information) and allowed for community (people wanted to share their thoughts and feelings with others).
Ultimately, when the internet works well, this is what happens: people connect, share, inform, and learn. But it isn’t about the medium. It is about the subject. In this case, it is about my cousin, Bill, who, even in death, is drawing people together and leaving us with a smile on our face. It is a wistful smile, because we are still grieving this sudden loss, but it is a smile nonetheless.
The obituary for Bill tells some of his story. And what a story it was…