About this Blog

In order to fulfill my journalism major at the University of Pittsburgh, I was required to take a Topics in Nonfiction course.  I put off the course until Fall 2009, my final semester at Pitt.  The class I eventually settled on was, according to the description, a magazine course.  The students would learn all the aspects of putting a magazine together.  I had worked on magazines before, so I thought that the class would be a breeze.

When I walked into that first class, however, I realized that the class description and what our instructor, a metrosexually-dressed editor from a New York-based magazine, was telling us our goals for the class would be were not at all what I had expected when I signed up for the course.  Instead of learning how to put together a magazine, as had been announced in the course description, we would be learning about various aspects of multimedia.  The main goal: to write and regularly update a blog.

The very words struck fear and annoyance into the very fiber of my being.  Write a blog?! Me?!  How could I do such a thing?  I mentally rewound my brain to my last semester of high school, where an ill-conceived MySpace blog post created enemies for me overnight in my AP English class. Most of my blog posts filled with the typical teenage angst that I thought no one would read.  I was wrong, and in the narrow environment in which I interacted with people, I had to apologize or be ostracized by my peers.  I shut down the MySpace page shortly after that, vowing to never blog again.

Then Joel, our instructor, carefully explained the purpose of the blog.  It was not to be like my MySpace blog, where angsty posts about how I was feeling would dominate the subject matter, or even a real journal of my life.  It was to be a subject blog.  He told us to write a blog on a specific subject- not so specific that you couldn't write about it several times a week, and not so general that you couldn't focus your thoughts- such as "U.S. Healthcare Reform" or "Post-Modernism Film."  We had one week to think of a blog topic that met these requirements.

After our first class I was less inclined to drop out of it than I had been when I had discovered that it was a blogging class.  A topic-based blog seemed like the perfect thing to focus a blog on.  But what could I write about three times a week that would fit Joel's requirements on subject matter?  Bushy Run Battlefield?  Too specific.  Emilie Autumn? Too specific.  Fear of being a broke college student?  Too personal and not really academic enough, at least I thought, for the class.  Heavy metal music? Too general.

One week later I was still in the class, and still without a blogging topic.  Just minutes before I was to announce to Joel what I was going to write about the idea sprung into my head- write about modern takes on the Victorians.  Now it seems like a brilliant idea, as it combined my love of history and the Victorian era with my love of industrial-styled music and neo-Victorian fashion.  At this point I was vaguely aware of steampunk as a genre and had no knowledge of any "Victorian" music except Emilie Autumn.  My plan was to write about corsets, Emilie Autumn, and some Victorian literature in modern culture (such as Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes.)  In other words, I had no idea what the hell I was getting myself into.

I presented the blog idea to Joel in false confidence.  After some initial consternation from him that there wouldn't be a lot to write about and a good deal of BSing on my part, he gave me the okay to go ahead with it.

The result? Unlacing the Victorians, a blog that I never expected to update more than the required three days a week and that I expected to drop like a strip of brightly burning magnesium after finals week 2009.  As far as I can tell it's the only blog from Joel's class that has survived this long.  It is partially due to the new discoveries I made online about steampunk and neo-Victorian culture at the beginning which gave me plenty of writing fuel, as well as the contributions of friends and family who found my blogging to be eccentric in a way that they could relate to- instead of me talking about obscure historical tales and battles, I could point out a modern connection that they found more engaging.

It is also mainly due to Joel for encouraging my writing.  I think I taught him and a lot of my classmates about subcultures we had never even been aware of, but he taught me a great deal about the pros and cons of online presences, the etiquette of informal writing, and the ability to delve further into researching topics to write about to make a well-rounded blog post that did not sound like the journalese often used in newspapers and, sometimes, even in magazines.  He gave great advice and suggestions along the way.  But most of all, he cured me of my fear of putting my writing self out there on the internet.  It is due to this fact alone that I continue this blog, so long after I was graded for it.

(And, by the way, I earned an "A" and Joel's confirmation that, despite his conviction that this blog was not going to last beyond a few initial posts, it ended up being one of the strongest blogs produced by the class.) :)