Behind the blog

Recently I got an e-mail asking how I “choose the events and shows to feature” in my blog. In a word, I suppose, it’s whimsy. It’s an act of writing, not reporting, driven as much by inspiration as information. 

I started my “Stage Mom” gig as a way to share my love of theater and the arts with others, and to support a Raising Arizona Kids magazine mission that I have long supported: helping families find local resources to assist them in making the many choices we all face as parents.

I’m the mother of three children, ages 17 to 21, who have grown up with the arts at the center of family life — visiting museums, making art at home, studying music and dance, performing in community theater, attending exhibits and performances by Valley arts organizations.

Often it starts with the hunt. Thursday I lugged a huge pink three-ring binder along as I treated my son to lunch. He likes to linger over his meals so we’re both more relaxed when I can mix conversation with other creative tasks.

The binder holds information I’ve gathered on various arts organizations and their schedules for the upcoming season — and is a convenient way for me to track what’s coming up and how various things might be related.

I got the feeling younger technology-types felt they’d just eyed a digital dinosaur — but there’s no money for fancy toys with three sets of college tuition on the horizon. And my staff consists of a single grey long-haired cat named “Pinky.”

I sometimes eye these materials in search of common threads, like animals in art, because those posts allow me to feature several events and organizations at once — giving the reader more bang for the blog.

It’s a careful balance between hunting and pecking. Time spent seeking out events is time I can’t spend writing and spreading the word. So I rely more and more these days on organizations and venues getting in touch with me to alert me to upcoming exhibits, performances and other arts-related offerings.

I have a clear preference for the underdog in just about every aspect of my life — so some of own favorite posts are those that spotlight groups or events, like community college theater productions, that you might not hear much about otherwise. 

I’m also keen on social justice issues after years of undergraduate and graduate study in psychology, religion and philosophy. In both my blog and my features for the magazine, I tend to write about topics related to individual and collective struggles. Diversity and equality are favorite themes.

Readers easily surmise that there’s a “voice” behind the work — my unique view of the world shaped by my own experiences growing up and raising my own family with my husband James. But I always seek to honor the diverse voices of our readers.

Editorial and advertising are two very distinct arenas for the magazine — which is why it attracts so many top-notch journalists and writers. I never feel the pressure to write about something because there’s an ad buy at stake, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is, however, a certain marketing quality to my writing style given my many years in non-profit management, where I often wrote grant proposals, press releases and the like. And what is writing, after all, if not selling ideas?

For those eager to get media coverage in any forum, remember that bees prefer honey over vinegar. I can’t write about all the wonderful things in the Valley at once, but do my best to be comprehensive in my choices. Friendly reminders are lovely and always welcome.

I often treat topics not directly related to children or teens, largely because I’m at the stage in life where children leave the nest and adults begin to appreciate anew the value of having one’s own experiences in the community. I love a good puppet show, but sometimes an alternative theater production with friends sounds more inviting. You can enjoy grown up things and still be a perfectly wonderful parent.

Often I write about my own direct experiences with the arts — a museum I stumble on one day while one of my kids is running late at “teen taxi” time, a performance being presented by one of the schools my children attend. The joy of discovery infuses my posts with more than the mere reading of press releases.

I do regret not being able to get to more exhibits and performances in more parts of the Valley. As a real-live stage mom, I spend a good deal of time driving my youngest daughter, Lizabeth, to her own auditions, rehearsals and performances (as well as theater-related community service) — so the shows I get to enjoy seeing and reviewing are often those that just happen to fall on a night when I’m not in my car or crashed on the couch.

I love the blogging medium because it offers such immediacy. I can write about something soon after learning of it (unless I already have other topics slotted). And I can alert readers to events taking place in the very near future in ways that are more challenging for tradition print media.

Venues and organizations that send me event alerts also should send them to the magazine’s calendar editor, whose deadlines fall far earlier than mine. I work from home so we don’t have the luxury of swapping info that crosses our respective desks.

It’s also a matter of timing. Folks who just happens to e-mail me when I am looking for a guest blogger, for example, might hear back from me right away with an inquiry about whether they know a youth who can tackle the topic I’d like to see covered.

Sending good photos never hurts. All things being equal, most bloggers will go for topics they can easily enhance with photos or graphics to grab and sustain reader interest. We like to know who or what is pictured, and who took the photos.

I welcome reader suggestions about topics to consider — and am always especially delighted to learn of new or uncommon offerings. And since everything I post has a comment section at the bottom, feedback is always just a few keystrokes away.

Part of the joy of daily blogging is never quite knowing for sure what might be around the next corner. Systems are lovely, but I’m fonder still of spontaneity. My husband wondered, when I started nearly a year ago, how long I might last finding new and interesting topics to write about.

I’m certain of at least one thing — that although I’ll never explore the many riches of Arizona arts and culture, I’ll have one heck of a good time trying.