Wildlife Encounters by Guest Author Sarah Wendell

jacket-art-beyond-heaving-bosomsWe’re very pleased to have one of the Smart Bitches’, Sarah Wendell, as our guest today on the ball. She’s the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels a tongue-very-much-in-cheek guide for anyone who is curious as to why romance novels are so popular, and for anyone who adores the genre and is tired of taking crap for it. From the deeper meanings of heroine archetype and heroic flaws, to the deeper meanings of deeper meanings, Beyond Heaving Bosoms looks at the best and the most bizarre elements of the romance novel genre with affectionate, honest style.

In a literal sense, the wildlife I encounter vary from my zoo of rescue animals (four cats, an elderly dog, and a tank full of fish) to the squirrels that move into my roof no matter what we do to stop them. Every now and again I’ll see a turkey or some deer while driving north into Connecticut, but aside from the neighbor’s cat and the 50 lb. groundhog that lives in the garden (seriously, he’s huge), I don’t encounter a lot of wildlife.

In the internet sense, there’s plenty of wildlife. Online, I think we’re all “wildlife,” especially because of the ways in which we watch one another and sometimes interact. Most of what goes on for an individual using the computer is observation – reading, viewing videos, looking for something, looking for someone, or receiving some weird-ass piece of wtf-ery on Facebook from someone you went to first grade with.

One of the reasons scientists study wildlife is to observe over long periods of time how different animals adapt to their environments, or force their environments to adapt to them. Certainly that’s true of the internet, and I personally love to look at all the ways in which women – an underrepresented demographic despite the fact that we buy more electronics than men – use technology, particularly the internet, to adapt to their needs. Whatever the topic, from parenting to cooking to caring for aging parents to sharing favorite tv shows, women use the internet to connect with other people and information on their time schedules when its convenient for them, using whichever method is best for their lives, whether it’s RSS readers, email, or social networking sites. That’s a whole lot of adaptation and empowerment wrapped up in a motherboard and an internet connection.

sarahphotoAs Candy and I pointed out in one of the first interviews we did, you can never underestimate the power of the internet to unite individuals with similar interests, no matter how bizarre or unique those interests may seem to anyone else. For example: romance novels. On our site and on many other blogs and bulletin boards devoted to romance, readers from around the world – literally – connect to talk about specific books, larger themes, and why on earth mullets are still on the covers as a feature of the masculine ideal.

As we study one another’s opinions and evaluate one another based on similar likes and dislikes, values and judgments, we are also evaluated. We are the wildlife investigators, looking for defining characteristics in the folks around us, and we are at the same moment the wildlife itself, observed by others. Some people rarely comment or participate, but visit and read every day, watching and observing through reading. But even if they don’t say anything, even if they lurk (and I’m a lurker just about everywhere else I go), their presence makes them part of the wildlife.

That presence, with or without participation, is self-defining. As E.M. Forster said, “How can I know what I think till I see what I say?” Maybe a person types out their own opinion. Maybe someone recognizes herself in another person’s idea. Regardless of the method, through and within the communities we choose, we learn to define ourselves. Online interaction gives varied individuals with diverse opinions (i.e. us) a place to figure out in context what and how we are. So in effect, interacting with the international wildlife of the internet not only makes the other folks a little less “wild” and a lot more familiar, but it also allows us to identify ourselves. Hi. I’m Sarah. I really like romance novels. Nice to meet you.

10 Replies to “Wildlife Encounters by Guest Author Sarah Wendell”

  1. Thanks for being our guest today! The internet does have the power to create community. I know people bemoan the lack of human interaction (and I’m sure they did the same with the telephone years ago)–but I love how people can connect for free across oceans and share ideas. It’s very empowering.

  2. I’ve seen your book around the blogosphere, and I think it sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to read it.

    From the day I discovered that there were messageboards for wedding planning, I became an internet “connection” junkie. Many of the women I met 9 years ago are still good friends (one of them is my beta reader!). I agree with you–it’s fascinating to see how women find each other and create communities online. Just being part of the Debs has been an amazing experience, having my “sister Debs” to share with, celebrate with, sympathize with, laugh with…

    Thank you so much for being our guest today!

  3. Hey stranger! Great post–it is so true, the stalking, the observing, it’s all this enormous petri dish, isn’t it? And I do love how women have often commandeered novelties on the internet–in its early days quilters were making very innovative use of the internet. And moms, early on, figured out how to network to keep from going crazy at home with little ones. Moms were some of the early users for Twitter, in fact. The internet can be a huge time suck but I’ve also made all sorts of fascinating and fun friends there as well–hey–you included!

  4. As a non-romance-reader, I just want to say that I love Smart Bitches, Trashy Books — your savvy, insightful, often hilariously bitchy posts translate VERY well to those of us who do not speak Heaving Bosom. Book looks fab too — best of luck with it!

  5. Nice to “meet” you too! I love this: “women use the internet to connect with other people and information on their time schedules when its convenient for them”

    That’s my favorite thing about the Internet. I used to work in a newsroom — about the most social office format you can have, designed for interaction and maximum noise — and when I left that environment to work at home and take care of my kid…I would have lost my marbles without online communication.

    I love to stay in touch, but I can’t spend hours on the phone with all my friends, near and distant, when I’ve got my hands full with kids. However, their messages are waiting for me when I *DO* get the time, at last…

    And taking off on what Meredith said…through the Internet, now the “little people” can network, too. No more do you need to live in a certain zip code or on one of the coasts, or jet all over the country, to meet people in the know. It’s democratic, in that sense…

  6. Howdy folks! I didn’t even think as to how appropriate it is that my guest post went live on Mothers Day weekend but without question one of the most powerful and empowering networks online. Yet another way women use technology in ways that work for them.

    Another thing I like about Internet wildlife is that I meet people up I might not have encountered otherwise. The débutante community is so cool and unique. Thank you for having me and it is nice to meet you.

Comments are closed.