When we finally opened up our Open Salon beta to the public last August, even I was blown away by the quality of the writing we attracted, almost immediately. Among all the great posts in the early months, though, Gwen Cooper's "Night of the Hunter" was a standout, and quickly went viral. The story of how Homer, her sightless cat, drove away a stranger who'd broken into her apartment was gripping and poignant and our first real breakthrough post -- it got a record number of ratings and comments on Open. Then it spread to other social sites like Digg and Reddit. Then Gwen got a contract with Random House, and today, Aug. 25, her book, "Homer's Odyssey," debuts amid a great deal of good buzz, and excellent blurbs.
Gwen's publishing success comes the same month as the release of "Julie & Julia," a great film based in part on Julie Powell's book by the same name, which of course began as one of the Salon Blogs, an early 2002 program that become a sort of prototype for Open Salon. The Salon Blogs program was worthy and innovative, but it didn't get the attention it deserved -- most notably, from Salon. Back then no one here thought to mix blog content with Salon content; they were two parallel worlds, even though Julie Powell and Dave Cullen and Real Live Preacher, to name just a few, were creating writing certainly good enough to appear in the "real" Salon.
I'm proud to say the real Salon is finally a salon in the best sense of the word, a place where folks who were formerly known as our audience, using Jay Rosen's great phrase, now help us create Salon every day. We'll be rolling out new ways for you to participate in Salon in the weeks and months to come -- and if you have ideas, leave them in the comments, below. But meanwhile, congratulations to Gwen Cooper -- and to Julie Powell, while we're at it. It's hard to turn your vision into a book or movie, and we're proud of providing the platform for two great writers to reach the world with their talent.