Hosting the carnival

I asked the previous hosts of the > Language > Place blog carnival about their experiences: why did they choose to host, and how would they summarize the hosting experience?

Jean Morris (tasting rhubarb), edition #4 host

I knew as soon as Dorothee launched the proposal for the >Language >Place blog carnival that this would be something I’d want to be part of. My only hesitation was that the theme might be too wide. After all, everything is expressed through language, be it verbal, visual or physical language; everything happens somewhere – what is NOT potentially relevant to the topic of language and/or place? It’s clear, though, that the contributors share a tacit understanding of what it is we want to share here: we’re threading together our experiences of self and other, of change and shock and sometimes lostness – the daily weird, wild, fascinating side of cultural, linguistic and geographic globalisation that we’re all living, in endless contradiction with the blending and homogenisation and the spread of placelessness.

It was a delight to watch the contributions for edition #4 come in and to spot and chase a few from friends and strangers who hadn’t thought of joining. And it was nerve-wracking: will I get enough? too many? what’s a good number?

It was also a lot of work! I had noted that the veteran organisers of the Festival of the Trees thought a blog carnival host could expect to spend at least ten to twelve hours putting it together. This seemed a lot, but turned out to be a pretty accurate estimate. Blogging is essentially a platform for individual expression, and bringing links and samples from many blogs together on one page can be clunky and time-consuming. I gathered all the text first in WordPad, which was fine. Some intermediate software with greater functionality to include and transfer links and images would have been a help, but wasn’t necessary.

My final worry was how I would feel if I received contributions I didn’t like. Nobody sent me anything I didn’t like. Maybe this was just good luck, or maybe sympathetic magic.

Michael J. Solender (Not From Here, Are You?), edition #3 host

I was intrigued by the concept. I’d never heard of a blog carnival and when I saw the first one hosted by Dorothee I knew I wanted to be part of it. The whole concept of language/place and travel is also very appealing to me on a number of different levels.

It struck me as all about belonging and connections. I like very much that I feel such a kindred spirit with people I’ll likely never personally meet yet feel somehow I know. Hosting was fun for me as I got such surprising responses to my subtheme. It seemed to resonate with people and “where they felt they belonged” was so different for each of them.

Nicolette Wong (Meditations in an Emergency), edition #2 host

I volunteered to be the host of edition #2 when Dorothee had just started to get submissions for edition #1. In my mind it was about connections: connecting with writers known and unknown to me, connecting them with one another and potential readers around the world.

As Dorothee hosted a stellar debut edition, I made my effort in soliciting writers and artists for edition #2: previous contributors, writers I had read and admired for a while but never talked to before, artist friends who I knew would contribute beautiful artworks. Along the way I made many new connections, and other writers chimed in as well. Putting the edition together took some time and thought: to let the entries fall into their places, to find photographic images that would accentuate the writers’ sentiments. The use of visuals was for me what decided the flow of edition #2 – I wanted it to be an unfolding of glimpses and thoughts.

Now that the blog carnival keeps floating – this is how I see it – I am glad that I contributed in the early days.

Dorothee Lang (Virtual Notes), carnival coordinator and edition #1 host

It was in October 2010 that the idea to initiate a blog carnival sparked – I still remember the exact day and place. I was visiting Frankfurt Book Fair, with all the different regional halls full of books in different languages. Just some days before, I had received an invite to join a blog carnival about trees. I hadn’t known about blog carnivals before that, and instantly was amazed by the concept: a publication that keeps changing its place and its host with each edition. And at the same time, there is a specific continuity to a carnival, a base theme, a mood. I especially liked the idea that it has elements of an online-magazine, but works de-central: instead of gathering the contributions in one spot, a carnival branches out into the web.

Back home from the book fair, I put up an invite page, and sent out mails to previous contributors of BluePrintReview, to fellow writers, to friends. The invite page is still up, here: “Invite to join a new blog carnival, theme: > Language > Place“

I think the BluePrintReview connection helped a lot to get the carnival started – after some days, the first mails arrived, and what was a mere idea started to take a real shape. After two weeks, there were contributions from Alaska, Senegal, Montana, Greece, Mexico, Finland – some from writers I knew, but the carnival also led to new connections.

At that stage, the biggest task was to explain the concept of the carnival while there wasn’t an edition online yet, as in: “That’s right, you just send a link to a blog entry, not the text itself. And yes, it’s okay to send links to older blog posts…” But of course, the carnival idea is almost contrary to the usual proceeding in magazines, with guidelines that ask for exclusive, unpublished, new content.

The other task was: finding a good shape for the first edition, one that shows the potential range of themes and diversity of formats. In the end, there were more than 20 participating blogs for the first edition, and it really worked out in beautiful ways: contributions connected by theme, focus points crystallized, images arrived… while editing it, I had no detailed expectations in mind, it was a rather open and experimental approach, and I was curious already for the editions that would follow.

What I really like about the carnival concept is the personal aspect of it, the blog-based writing, and the way every host approaches his or her edition in an own, individual way.

Now, with the fifth edition going online, it feels that the concept of the language/place carnival really does work, and keeps developing. Which is great. One thing that keeps surprising me: even though the hosts and the constellation of contributors keeps changing from one edition to the next, the size of the carnival is always around 20 blogs so far – some lucky stroke, maybe, as it’s a rather good and manageable size both for the host, and also for the readers.

Another fascinating number: with edition #5 going online, there will be more than 100 language/place contributions altogether, from around the world: 100 shared personal experiences of dealing with language in a specific place – and of encountering a place in a specific language. Thinking of it that way, this has turned into quite a cyber journey already, reaching out to places where other languages are spoken, and the streets have another tune.

If you are interested in hosting a future edition, send a mail to Dorothee at the following address: langplace AT gmail DOT com.