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  • Today is the first anniversary of my wedding to a cow and a bird (either my spouse is a freak or I'm a bigamist), and this is my anniversary card. Whatever we are together, I love you dearly.

    This is my 179th story. Sorry for you, dear reader, but that's one story uploaded nearly every other day all year. Except in freshman composition, I have never written at such a steady pace. BC (before cowbird), I posted ruminations, parodies and rants about current events to a blog I still maintain, but don't update anymore. It was an odd thing to do, because I hardly told anyone about the blog and tried to keep search engines out. I mostly used it to take exception to what m*f*r elites were doing to people and planet. The blog represented a place where my rage could outlive me. It didn't matter if anyone read it. Isn't that weird?

    So when I learned about Cowbird early last year I thought, "Wow, a publishing platform for storytelling!" not quite understanding what was meant by storytelling. In my mind's eye, I imagined a group of traditional storytellers bootstrapping their oral tradition to the Web, complete with long hair, beards, tunics and broad-brimmed hats.

    So I put in my application, in which I said I had learned of Cowbird by listening to Dave Lauer explain on the Marketplace show why he quit his high-tech job in financial services to become a Web guru for a bunch of writers. His decision really touched me, I said, and Cowbird seemed like a community I should be part of. Then I anxiously waited several weeks until Annie Correal got around to inviting me in. That email alone made me feel I was part of something special.

    The next day I posted my first story. As I was under the impression that stories written by serious or at least aspiring writers are mostly fictional, I decided to debut with a short short story I had composed several months earlier and hadn't found had any place to put it.

    It wasn't an auspicious start. First, my story was about geeks, international intrigue and Internet hacking, not exactly common Cowbird currency. Second, it was a yarn with made-up characters, in a word fiction. It turned out that hardly any Cowbird writers I came to know were publishing made-up stories there, although I have since found a few really good pieces of fiction. But most of the thousands of stories I've read here are first-person accounts of the writers' private lives.

    So I sucked it in and wrote about my life too, and I appreciate that I have a space to do that in. Though I am happiest when I am spinning tales out of whole cloth, I find those are the hardest to imagine and get right. It's much easier to type up vignettes of events I remember than to invent new stories, but it isn't as creatively satisfying for me. And oddly, I find writing memoirs much less cathartic than I expected.

    This is strange. I don't really enjoy reading novels. Most of the books and online material I read are non-fiction. I'm mostly drawn to real-world events. I want to understand how politics, economics, and technology shape our lives and channel us toward the future. And so I write a lot about that. It isn't the sort of stories that Cowbird was made for, and not a lot of people here appreciate opinions about current events, I've learned. That first story was an attempt to cast technological reality into human terms. Several months later I wrote a 20-part story (fiction again) to connect economics, politics, technology, environment and human interactions in a melodramatic counter-cultural context. That saga sort of dribbled off after I sensed that readers were getting bored with the yarn.

    When my muse pays attention again, I'll go at some more fiction. Meanwhile, I hope you'll forgive me when I weaken and start ranting about things in the real and virtual worlds that must change or we will all be doomed.

    But please know that I am so happy to be with you, and I want you to know how much I appreciate what you have to say. Here's to another good year, my friends.


    @image: Colonial Photography—Viewfinder on the Past: Henry M. Wheeler's Eye for History
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