Living Out Loud: : Blowing Our Own Horn

L-O-L starts its third year

This column starts its third year this week and I'm a little amazed by that. I always thought maybe we would run a year or so, readers would lose interest and it would fade away. Boy, was I wrong. The audience has really grown over the past year and I thank all of you for it.

We're now in the print edition once a month, because of this growth, and that's a good thing, but I think L-O-L is mostly read on the Web. I get e-mail from all over the world — mostly from young people who came here to go to the University of Cincinnati and, after moving on, wanting to stay in touch with the happenings here in Porkopolis. They, of course, turn to CityBeat for that and in turn find our words in this column.

Whenever I mention the Proud Rooster, the diner on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton, I get mail from Boston, Chicago, even London, England. That reader wanted to know if the diner still served those slightly burnt onion rings. Yes they do, Karen, and they're still delicious.

Back in the summer I wrote a piece called "This Place," a story about my lunch hour over at a bar and restaurant on Seventh and Vine. I didn't mention its name and that prompted 35 e-mails from readers wanting to know where this strange essay took place. If you're thinking Madonna's, you're probably right.

Last fall, I wrote an essay called "They Closed," about all the restaurant closings downtown. I think this is the story that let me know the column has arrived and is being read by the locals here. Try to imagine how much hate mail I got on this one, from the local politicians and business people. At one point, I felt like opening my window and screaming, "Goddamn it, its satire!"

When I wrote about my 27-year-old cat passing away, that produced a lot of mail. When I wrote about living with a roommate who was an alcoholic, I got a huge response. But the one story that's been the most read over the past year leaves me scratching my head.

In May, I wrote "Real People," a story about my visit to novelist Richard Ford and his wife Kristina's home in East Boothbay Harbor, Maine. If you read this piece — and many of you have — I'll let you in on the secret that this was not the story I wanted to write. Because of blurry notes from my notebook, I couldn't read quotes given to me from Richard and Kristina about their 37 years of being man and wife and their relationship. Out of frustration, I just wrote about my road trip getting there, some of the college students I met and some of my interactions with the Fords.

Frankly, after I wrote the column, I was disappointed in it, didn't think it was very good. Hell, it even had some punctuation errors in it that the Web editor didn't get around to correcting.

"Real People" got the most Web hits of any column I've written, and I'm still getting mail on it. It was discussed at a writer's conference in Columbus this past summer. Writer friends still tell me how much they enjoyed it. I'm still scratching my head. When I told Kristina Ford about the success of this story, she simply said, "I think you should ask for a raise." I want you to know, Kristina, my paycheck's still the same.

I think one of the reasons why we've kind of caught on is because of the other voices that contribute here when I'm writing other pieces outside the column. Steven Paul Lansky's "Citizen" stories always get a lot of attention, and I want readers to relax — I still have a couple more to run. Susan Burke Steege hasn't written anything for us for awhile, but we're still getting mail on her "John's Back" essay. Heather Y. Miller is really starting to find her style as a writer, and Heather Siladi is just flat-out wonderful. When you get a chance, go to the L-O-L archives and check out their stories one more time. I want to thank them and the others who have contributed. God knows you're not doing it for the money we pay here.

I get asked a lot, "How do I contribute to the column?" It's quite simple: Just send me a story in an e-mail attachment. I read everything that comes in, but you need to know I don't bullshit people — I'm gonna be straight up with you. It it's good, I'll tell you so. If it needs work, you'll hear that, too. If you need to go out and buy a dictionary, I'm not too shy to tell you. If it's junk, I'll thank you for submitting but "no thanks."

Again, thanks to all of you for reading us over the past two years. Life is what you make it, and writing about it out loud has become a lot of fun.

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