Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finding a public voice - An introduction to my writing and this blog

I've built this site for three reasons:

1. Publish pieces that I can't publish somewhere else (particularly when needing to get a piece out before an event or news cycle).
2. Publish half-baked ideas that aren't ready yet (and may never be ready), brainstorm on issues, organize and store data, and otherwise chat about interesting non-essay-ready issues.
3. Stash all my essays (well, links) in one place (like that handy tab at the top of the page).

I started writing essays six years ago when a number of public figures started linking medieval interfaith conflicts to modern interfaith conflicts. I wanted to make one point in particular: Winners may write the histories, but losers hold the grudges. My close friend, Bruce Schneier, helped me take my inchoate ideas and hammer them into an 800-word or so essay, then gave me the contact information at the Star Tribune. They published it on the front page of the opinion section on a Sunday along with a picture of a knight/re-enactor and a title that I didn't like. It's not the essay I would write today, but it was a start.

I discovered two things: 1) Editors control titles (and layout, pictures, etc.), not writers, so I have to get over it. 2) More people perhaps read that piece then will likely read my scholarly writing (Sunday distribution was about 600,000. Let's say 1% looked at the article on the front of the opinion section - I'd have to be pretty lucky to have 6000 people read my book or my essays, as I write for specialized audiences).

I wrote a few more essays over the following years, including one in reaction to the discourse of Down syndrome after Palin was nominated, a teaching essay for the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and what I think is my most important essay to date: On disability and language - "The Angel/Retard Dialectic." Suddenly, this spring, two things happened: I shipped my book monograph to my press (currently under review) and the Pope resigned. After publishing three essays on the pope, a teaching piece on using Facebook in the classroom, and more pieces to come in the next few weeks, I've realized that writing for the public can be part of my professional life.

I plan to try and publish at least one essay a month, concentrating on issues relating to Down syndrome, religion in American life, and the ways that history helps us understand contemporary issues better - and better often means with more complexity.

I will be doing a certain amount of self-promotion as I try to become more established as a voice on key topics and I hope it never becomes too annoying. Please share this blog, my Facebook page, my twitter handle, and my essays, if you are so inclined.

Most of all, thanks for reading. I always want to hear your comments and criticisms.

2 comments:

Bananly said...

Though there may only be 13 posts on your blog so far, they've already helped renew my energy for what I love. As a high school student surrounded with peers who don't always enjoy historical input and not enough history/social studies classes available, it can be difficult to keep myself on the right track.

It's reading blogs like these that remind me to try hard and aim for a better tomorrow and not let myself be limited by the face value of things. Though that may sound cheesy, it's still very true. With the vague idea of what I want to do there's not many people to help me and it leaves me to relying on amazing people who reach out online.

I'm excited to watch for more posts from here on out!

David Perry said...

Thank you! Lots more to come.