Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blogs That Work: "Writing in the Margins," by Maria Clara Paulino

Welcome to the first installment of Blogs That Work! As I mentioned in an earlier post, this monthly segment is meant to highlight blogs from unpublished authors who focus on bringing their readers compelling, focused content, consistently. What's compelling content? Writing that's crisp, thoughtful, and delivers to the reader an interesting perspective.

So let's dig in!

Clara Paulino and I met last summer through She Writes. I became familiar with her creative work and was immediately drawn to a few stories in her blog, Writing in the Margins. I was intrigued by her "musings on a home in-between places, languages, ways of seeing" because it alluded to me that Clara picked up those delicious details from everyday life most people leave behind corners and under the rug. I was not disappointed.

The first blog I read, I think, was "Atmospheric adventures and the fate of the cucumber," where Clara introduced me to her seaside home in Porto, Portugal, where she is from and is a visiting professor at the university (she's spent years in the US and throughout Europe). She also introduced me to Ms. Maria, a local 80-something vegetable peddler who has worn nothing but all black from head to foot for the past thirty years and blames what's going on up in space (due to the USA space program) for the change in her cucumbers. Through rich imagery, expert photography and near perfect use of dialog, Clara captures the essence of a life in-between in Porto.

I've considered breaking up the dialog Paulino uses in her post to illustrate what I mean, but it's impossible for me to find a good place to break in - the scene is seamless, which is the mark of a blog that works.

I fell in love with Ms. Maria and Clara's seaside city, but Clara was unsure of what else to write, how else to direct her blog. Sometimes she liked to post poetry and other times thoughts on the creative life. I advised her to keep bringing us stories just like Ms. Maria because she clearly had a brilliant way of capturing her city and its people.

Since I began reading this blog, I've learned a lot about Portugal's not-so-distant fascist history and how passports and an education could get you in trouble; why the Portuguese don't take the word LOVE lightly and how a daughter could learn more about her mother through how she is remembered and presented by others.

Why does this blog work? As I said, some of the best dialog economically written; rich material; and though Clara is the author and it's through her perspective that we're able to experience the story, it's not "ME" driven. She is a generous, brilliant storyteller who considers her audience.

Success! Clara's nonfiction piece, Twice The River Flows is featured in the March issue of LOST Magazine (another must-read online creative writing source). Her piece, Blue Sunday was an editor's pick on Open Salon and A British Melody in Portugal was featured on Krista Tippet's On Being blog.

In the words of one of my friends who follows the blog as well, "I feel my life is richer for having read it." I couldn't agree more!

I hope you love it, too! Dig in and enjoy.



  1. Erin - what can I say? I love to read what you say and you say it so well. Thank you!

  2. As a loyal reader of Clara's blog I happily concur!

  3. I'm glad you also follow, Cathy!

    And Clara, it's my pleasure.

  4. Thank you for this excellent topic. Being an innocent, I recently stumbled into a blogging activity where bloggers do silly little get-to-know you activities to promote their blog. It has been very informative to see all the different blogs that are out there, but it has definitely been hard to wrap my brain around the whole experience. I have been on sensory overload all week. Your article helps put things in perspective.

  5. Scheherazade, I'm totally fascinated by what I'm seeing online in terms of how writers gather and form communities...and how they get their work seen - it's very exciting. BUT, it's important for writers to take a breather from the online world every day to get a bit of clarity with their approach to the craft and of course, their development as writers. Connecting with other bloggers is great - you should - but as with all things, quality of connection is key. It shows in the work.

    Thanks for your comment!

  6. Thanks for sharing... Gives me something to aspire to.

  7. What a fascinating and beautifully written blog! Thank you, Maria, for sharing your words with such grace, and thank you, Erin, for sharing Maria.
    ~ Lisa

  8. Loved both the author's blog and the "she writes" site. The flurry of activity "She writes" is a nice contrast to the calm stillness of the personal blog, where her voice is really compelling, and (rightly so) the focus. Thank you for this blog and the topic. Looking forward to more!

  9. Laura and Lisa - I'm glad you like Clara's blog. Thanks for your comments.

    Juice - You get extra credit for checking out Clara's She Writes page. In keeping her blog story driven, she's reaching beyond the quick and easy 'thoughts on this and that' posting style and really flexing her storytelling muscle. That's the kind of blog that grabs an agent or editor's attention because it's a clear example of her voice. And more importantly, she packs a literary punch in such a small amount of space! Now that's good writing!


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