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Entries in interviews (38)

Tuesday
Mar222011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Vanessa van de Nes Of A Military Wife's Mayhem

Vanessa van de Nes authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner A Military Wife's Mayhem, which placed 1st in Military.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I blog because no one listens to me at home!

I started blogging because my husband was always away for trainings and courses with the military, I didn't want him to miss what was going on with myself and the kids. Once we moved to our first posting, I didn't have any friends or family nearby to talk to, so I started using my blog to network with other military wives and girlfriends who were going through the same things I was. And, let's face it, there is only so much conversation a six year old can have!



You have diplomas in Broadcast Journalism and Radio Announcing. Has this education helped or hindered you when it comes to blogging?

It has helped, because I originally lost my writing mojo. I was knocked down so many times for my writing when I was in high school by this teacher who was just terrible to me. It turned me off! So my first intention when I decided to go into Radio and Television Arts was to major in Television Production, specifically working behind the scenes and with cameras. But after my first year I loved being on the radio and telling stories, so I switched majors. It brought back the desire to write again.

Does your husband read your weblog while he is on deployment? Does it help to keep him connected to family life at home?

While he was in Afghanistan he tried to read as often as he could, but he couldn't always access it. It helped him to see the kids and how big they were getting, but it also helped for him to see that we were ok, which eased his mind while he was there. He loved the messages and notes the kids made and the stories of all the trouble the kids were getting into!

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

Most of my content is everyday life. While my husband was overseas, I would write about what was going on at home but post it a couple of weeks later, things the kids do and my thoughts. I also like to talk about things in the news and entertainment.



Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I'm open about being a blogger. It's something I like to do, and it's nice that I have so many friends who I have reconnected with through my blog after not hearing from them in years.

Some people are concerned about having our life online, but I don't put my kids' or my husband's names on my blog. They are known as Cpl. Mayhem, Ducky (my 6 year old son), and Chicky (my three year old daughter), and I don't announce on my blog which base we live on.

Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

One weblog I visit often is Canadian Blogger Girl. She is also a military wife, and she is anonymous, and I envy that! I wish I had blogged anonymously!

Another weblog I love reading is called Ben and Katie about a married couple who were in a terrible car accident, and Katie is blogging about Ben's rehabilitation. It starts out with the announcement of the accident, and once Katie is home she takes over the narrative of their recovery. It's amazing, inspirational, and a true testament of love and overcoming hardships.

What advice do you have for new bloggers?

Write what you know! Write what you love!

Rule of thumb — if you wouldn't say it in front of your mom and a large crowd of people, you may not want to post it on the internet...



CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
Facebook:
2010 CWA Winner:
Vanessa van de Nes
a CFB base in Canada
A Military Wife's Mayhem
@mwmayhem
A Military Wife's Mayhem
1st in Military
Monday
Mar142011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Julie Harrison Of Coffee With Julie


Julie Harrison authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Coffee With Julie, which placed 2nd in Family & Parenting and 3rd in Life.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

After my daughter was born, it just didn't feel like enough to simply send photos to her grandparents overseas. I wanted so badly for them to know her, and really feel a connection to her life. So, for instance, if I was emailing a Halloween photo, I'd write up a little story to go with it so that they could experience the event a bit more... how the costume was picked, any funny little anecdotes... that kind of thing.

It snowballed out from there to include friends, and then those friends would sometimes ask if they could share the story with their friends. That kind of reception to my writing made me feel great. And it was fun, too! So that is what continues to drive me — I enjoy sharing stories and I find writing to be very fulfilling and relaxing.

Some people golf, some people quilt — but me? I like to blog.



Your archives at Coffee With Julie only go back to July 2009, but your weblog has the flavour of one that has been around much longer. Do you have a history with blogging prior to Coffee With Julie, or does your established-seeming style come from your background in communications?

No, Coffee With Julie is my first blog. I don't feel like I have an established style since I'm a little all-over-the-map when it comes to topics! But, yes, I do write corporate communications for a living, so maybe that helps? Also, I love great design and made a choice early-on to invest in a professional blog design.

You and your family love to travel, and you are both a travel writer and blogger. Do you write and blog during your trips, or do you wait until the trip is over? Do you find that it detracts or enhances your travel experience?

I love to blog while I'm travelling on holidays with my family. Writing relaxes me and makes me feel happy, and that's what holidays are all about, right? I think that blogging enhances my travel experiences because it heightens my senses to what's around me. Another important element in any travel experience is the memories that you bring back with you and blogging definitely helps with that too.

However, if I am travelling on a press trip or for work, I don't usually blog. The days are very full and by the time I return to my hotel room, I am just too tired. Instead, I collect notes from each day in a journal and use them for inspiration later.


photo credit: Andrea Tomkins of Ottawa Family Photography

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

Unfortunately, I have far more ideas than time for blogging. This makes me feel frustrated sometimes. But c'est la vie as a working mom with a young family. I don't look for inspiration, I look for time! And the less time I have, the less inspired I feel.



Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I don't hide the fact that I'm a blogger, but I also don't actually bring it up in conversations at work or in social settings. The funny thing about blogging is that only other bloggers seem to "get" it. That's why my trip last year to a first blogging conference (BlogHer '10 in New York City) was so joyful for me — I felt like I'd found my tribe!

With the exception of some family members and close friends, most people that I know offline don't actually read my online writing. My husband doesn't even read my blog regularly! So, I rarely get any offline reaction.


photo credit: Andrea Tomkins of Ottawa Family Photography
Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

I really enjoy alot of local weblogs. Here, in Ottawa, Canada, there seems to be a particularly vibrant and active blogging community. Two local blogs that I've followed for a long time are Postcards from the Mothership and A Peek Inside the Fishbowl, but as time goes on, my list of local blog reading gets longer and longer — Coffees and Commutes, Stay-at-Home-Mayhem, Turtlehead, Finola, XUP... and the list goes on and on!

I also tend to seek out weblogs that are of a completely different style than my own. For instance, I adore The Bloggess, but I simply will never have her zanny sense of humour or ability for shock-and-awe. And I appreciate deeply personal blog writing, but I self-censor too much to be able to pull that off.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

I think the most important thing is to decide at the outset what personal boundaries you and your family are happy with. For instance, does your spouse mind if you detail an argument you had with him, or how do your children feel about having their photos online, or what would your mother think if you recounted childhood memories that don't mesh with hers... those kinds of things.

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
2010 CWA Winner:

Julie Harrison
Ottawa, Ontario
Coffee With Julie
@coffeewithjulie
2nd in Family & Parenting
3rd in Life
Friday
Mar112011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Andrea Tomkins Of A Peek Inside The Fishbowl


photo credit: Kym Shumsky of Le Mien

Andrea Tomkins authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner A Peek Inside the Fishbowl, which placed 2nd in Lifetime Achievement.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I was at the right place at the right time. Looking back, I realize that a number of things intersected, notably, that I was a new mom with a journalism degree and web skills who needed a creative outlet. I could make my own website! I was really happy to discover this interesting and cool way to share information.

I actually started the blog because many of my friends were far from having children of their own and I didn't want to foist my baby photos on unsuspecting (and perhaps even unappreciative!) singles. Writing was a total catharsis, and when I installed comments I realized how many people out there could relate to what I was going through and offer support and advice. It was amazing.

The word "weblog" was pretty new and I felt like it referred to something different than I had going on at the time, although in hindsight I realize now it's always been a blog. A weblog in 1999 was an aggregator of online news, not really a journal. The site I created was a hand-coded chronological diary of my life as a new mom. And surprisingly, it grew. My friends started sharing the link with their friends, and soon I had total strangers reading about my ups and downs and our adventures as a family. (Which I found odd at first, but I got over it soon enough.)

I love the little corner I've carved out for myself. I wouldn't have been able to keep it up this long if I wasn't truly passionate about it. I've met so many fantastic people, and had so many interesting job opportunities as a result of the blog... I couldn't put the brakes on now, even if I tried.


photo credit: Kym Shumsky of Le Mien

You've been keeping a weblog since 1999, which means that you've been blogging since the last century, which makes you an internet dinosaur. What are some of the most notable changes that you've seen take place within blogging culture over the last 12 years?

Ha! No kidding!

Blogging — and social media in general — has not only changed the way people communicate with each other, but it's also had a huge impact on how people get information about the world around them. I've had someone tell me that my blog was the only way they get their news. (I found this kind of scary because I don't actually write a lot about politics or current events.) But I do write a lot about what's going on in my neighbourhood, and big media outlets aren't able to get the same kind of coverage like hyper-local blogs like mine do. People want to know what's happening in their own backyards, and they often can't get that kind of information from traditional news media.


photo credit: Kym Shumsky of Le Mien

On your life list, you crossed off "ski down an Olympic run and not kill myself". Tell me how and why. (And thank you for surviving, by the way.)

The Olympic run in question was at Axamer Lizum near Innsbruck in Austria. I was a teenager on a weeklong trip with my high school German class. I was a newbie skier who somehow found herself on the side of a mountain, surrounded by moguls, without really having paid attention to how she got there. Suffice it to say that it took me a long time to get down. I'm happy I didn't kill myself either.

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

My blog is very much a reflection of what I'm thinking about at any given time, which is why my content is so varied. I write about social media one day, development in my neighbourhood another day, and post a recipe for granola bars the next. Much of what I write about is specific to family life in Ottawa, and it gives me great joy to help families discover those hidden gems... those fun things to do that they may not have heard about otherwise. I'm almost always mulling over a post in my head. I often post 6 or 7 (or more!) times a week.

When I am uninspired I just stay away from the blog. Some bloggers post things like Well, I don't have anything interesting to say! What's new with you? just to fill the space. I just wait for the inspiration to hit. I know it will. I don't really believe in writer's block as it pertains to the blog. I think of myself as an empty vessel. If the vessel is dry, I have to find a way to fill it up again. It could be as simple as going to the museum, grabbing the camera and going outside, or tuning out and going for a long walk.


photo credit: Kym Shumsky of Le Mien

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I'm very open about it, but it can be awkward bringing it up at a dinner party or in the schoolyard. It always comes up when someone asks me what I do. The blog has become a part-time job for me, not just in terms of the amount time I spend on it, but also in terms of the revenue I earn from ad sales... and other job opportunities that have found me through the blog, too. People's responses really depend upon whether they read blogs or not. Some people aren't familiar with any blogs, so they are less likely to understand the appeal of reading or writing. (I would argue that they haven't found the "right" blog to read.) For those people, I like to use the metaphor of the newspaper column. I ask them if there's a columnist they like. Yes? Well, imagine they're on the web and writing every day, and you have the chance to interact with them. That's a blog.

A lot of people in my neighbourhood know about the blog because there's been a quiet a bit of coverage about it in our local paper. Interestingly, offline people sometimes don't like to admit they read the blog, which I find pretty interesting. Apparently they feel voyeuristic, like they're reading a personal diary, I don't know, but I find it kind of funny. I wish they'd just admit they read along instead of pretending they don't!

Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

I wish I had more time to spend read and commenting on all the blogs I like. My reader is overflowing. A few of the blogs that inspired me in those early days are still around today: Dooce, for one. I really liked the way she wrote about her personal life and made it interesting and funny. And from a crafty and creative perspective, I liked Loobylu. I am a huge fan of Mom-101 and Design Mom. There are a lot of great Ottawa-area blogs too, and I try to keep up with as many as I can. Two of my faves are Capital Mom and Diary of a Turtlehead. Brie and Lynn write so thoughtfully about parenthood. I admire them both very much.


photo credit: Kym Shumsky of Le Mien

What advice do you have for new bloggers?

New bloggers need to try on blogging like a new pair of shoes and walk around in them for awhile so they can see if it's a good fit. If it's not a good fit, dump it. Don't just let it languish. But most importantly, I think a successful blogger writes for themselves first, about a topic they are passionate about. If they can do that, their passion will shine through in their writing and the rest will follow. That being said, it is hard to get noticed. People blog for different reasons, and I know that getting noticed is important for some people. New bloggers really need to get out there — online and offline — and tell people about their blogs. And keep writing!

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Other Notables:

Twitter:
2010 CWA Winner:
Andrea Tomkins
Ottawa
A Peek Inside the Fishbowl
Flickr
Facebook
@missfish
2nd in Lifetime Achievement
Tuesday
Mar012011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Connie Of Sogni e Sorrisi

Connie authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Sogni e Sorrisi, which placed 1st in Fashion & Style.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

To be honest, I started blogging on a whim. I hadn't read very many blogs and didn't know much at all about the blogging world when I first started. I saw blogging both as a creative outlet and as a way to stretch my writing muscles. Once I got started, I realized that blogging could also help me to jumpstart the freelance writing career I’d always thought about but never pursued.



What are some of your favourite things? Tell me about your favourites in television, fashion, and whatnot.

I love fashion and interior design, beautiful items, and things that make me smile. Some of my favourite Fall 2011 shows at New York Fashion Week, which is going on as I write, were Jason Wu, Tory Burch, and Rodarte. I’m looking forward to seeing what the shows still to come have in store!

I have to admit that I may not have the most highbrow taste when it comes to television, but the shows I do watch I love. I regularly post about two of my favourite TV shows — Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars — on my blog, including the fashion featured in each. I'm still mourning the loss of LOST, and I do watch reality TV like Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives, and sometimes The Bachelor.

Some of the other things I love/am loving: Books. Travel. Chartreuse. Wide-legged pants. Sparkle. Bright lips. Trays. Rustic elements for interiors mixed with Baroque glamour.

You obviously have a strong sense of style. Do you believe that a sense of style must be inborn and intuitive, or can one be cultivated through cultural immersion and education?

Thank you, I like to think that over the years I've gained enough confidence to have a sense of style that is my own, as well as the courage to express it. I think personal style is largely intuitive; we each like what we like for a variety of reasons. I think the best kind of style is when you are doing you and not trying to be a copy of someone else.

That said, we can all learn, and gaining inspiration from others is one of the reasons I love blogging. I am constantly being educated and enlightened by dozens of talented tastemakers daily. It's awesome. But at the same time I try to take whatever inspiration is gleaned and use it so it fits my own personal aesthetic.

Fashion is much more trend-friendly than interior design, I find, because a lot of fashion pieces can be more affordable and, therefore, more disposable. You can buy into a trend for the short-term, say trying out a new red lipstick, and if it doesn't work out you haven't lost much. When it comes to interior design on the other hand, a lot of what we buy is much more long-term and expensive, so really loving the pieces — as opposed to trying to emulate a style or trend — is really important, I think, for ensuring you'll love what is in your home for some time to come.

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

Street style photographs never fail to inspire. These days I find myself much more drawn to looking at how real people style themselves on the street rather than editorials, although there are obviously always great photo spreads in magazines as well.

Looking at street style photographs from sites like Jak+Jil, Stockholm Street Style, and The Sartorialist also allows me to zero in on looks and trends I love and expand from there. Interior design magazines and their beautiful rooms are also great jumping off points, inspiration-wise, as are online magazines like Lonny, Rue, and High Gloss.

One of my goals as a blogger is to start increasing the original content on my site. While I still don't have the nerve for outfit posts (I think I'll leave that to the bloggers who do it seamlessly for now), we are moving into a new home soon, which I'm hoping will provide a lot of innovative content and even some DIY ideas for people like me who have never really attempted stuff like that before. Hopefully I won’t be in need of too much inspiration in the months to come, although there will surely be lack of sleep!

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I would never hide it, but not many people in my "real" life know I'm a blogger, and those that do don't read my blog (I don't think!). I think in a lot of ways blogging is new to many, especially in Canada, so those I have been talked to about it with a lot of questions about what it is and how it works.

I've had the good fortune of meeting other bloggers and I think it's wonderful how many amazing people I've met through my blog and how many opportunities it has afforded me so far.

Which blogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

It is so hard to narrow it down, because I literally read a ton of blogs. It wouldn't seem fair to me to only single out a few. Lately, I haven't had as much time to comment as I would like, but I'm always keeping up with other bloggers. One of the first blogs that I started reading was Elements of Style, which is still so well done by Erin Gates.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

Blog what you love and don't limit yourself. The quest for daily content can be difficult if a) you're not passionate about the subject or b) you've given yourself too narrow a focus.

Do you. I think that when someone is writing about things they love and/or are knowledgeable about that comes across. People are drawn to that kind of content and a genuine voice. You don't have to be like Successful Blogger X, but rather be yourself and you'll find your niche.

Interact with others. I've learned so much from the people I've met, both online and in real life, and it has enriched my blogging experience incredibly. I don't think people should focus on gaining followers or page views, but I also can't imagine blogging would be as fulfilling for me personally if I didn't have that interaction with my readers and other bloggers.

Embrace other forms of social media. I'll admit that I only recently got myself a blog-related Facebook account, and I'm not on there much, but I find Twitter to be a great resource to use in conjunction with blogging. Not only does it really help you meet people and get word about your blog and posts out there, but it's also an immediate way to communicate with others in the blogsphere and beyond.

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
2010 CWA Winner:
Connie
Just outside Toronto
Sogni e Sorrisi
@SogniESorrisi
1st in Fashion & Style
Monday
Feb212011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Jodi DeLong Of Bloomingwriter

Jodi DeLong authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Bloomingwriter, which placed 2nd in Gardening.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I started blogging as a way to 'give back' to the gardening community around me, because gardening is one of those avocations where we learn so much from one another. Gardeners are a generous lot, who share their thoughts, tips, successes and failures as readily as they share their seeds and transplants and plant divisions.

I've been writing Bloomingwriter for just over five years, and it's always fun to engage with readers (whether they comment on the blog or in private messages). Plus, the garden blogging community worldwide is like a gigantic, far-flung family: I've made some tremendous friends over the past few years, although I haven't met many face to face because of the distances involved. So the same things that kick-started me five years ago continue to inspire me today.

Has gardening been a life-long passion for you, or is it something you picked up along the way?

Gardening has been a lifelong passion! One of my earliest memories is of 'helping' my grandfather plant blue potatoes (honestly, they were blue-skinned and blue-fleshed) at his family farm, but I also remember fondly picking lupins and Johnny-jump-ups from my other grandparents' garden as a child. I went to Agricultural College and studied plant science, botany and crop growing, and generally had more than a hundred houseplants in my residence rooms. Somewhere along the way I also developed a passion for writing, and went back to university to collect a couple of arts degrees. There have always been gardens, whether indoors or out, wherever I've lived for as long as I can remember. Life is just better with plants in it.

What are your favourite kinds of gardens? Do you have one garden in particular that you love to visit?

My favourite kinds of gardens are the ones that are beloved by the gardener. It doesn't matter to me if that's a pot with three crimson geraniums in it, or a mega-expensive landscaped property — if it gives the gardener joy, then it's a good thing in my books. My personal choice of garden is sort of a hodgepodge; we live on a rural acreage and have plenty of room, so I have a great collection of trees, shrubs, perennials, lots of native plants, lots of pollinator-friendly plants, plenty of bird-friendly shrubs and trees and seed-producing perennials. I don't vegetable garden much because of my locale, which is by the Bay of Fundy and quite cool, foggy, and wet.

My favourite garden to visit is the Rock Garden at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. It's a public garden, built in the past ten years or so by a dedicated group of volunteers, and contains a fine selection of alpine plants, conifers, woodland plants, and more. I get there at least half-a-dozen times in the run of a year, and there's always something different to see, except in winters like this when the garden is pretty much buried in snow.

I hear you have a book coming out soon! I want to know all about it.

My book is Plants for Atlantic Gardens, published by Nimbus Publishing Ltd in Halifax. I just picked up my copies on Monday, and it will be out in stores next week, with a launch on 26 February. I wrote it as an encouraging reference book for gardeners of all levels, because we here in Atlantic Canada face a variety of particular challenges. Over 100 genera of trees, shrubs, and perennials are profiled in the book, with as many species and cultivars as I can jam into each plant profile. The profiles note what is special about each plant — whether it's a good plant for bees and butterflies, or is deer resistant, or grows well in shade, traits like that.

Are you open about being a blogger at Bloomingwriter? How do people offline react to your online writing?

Absolutely! I include my blog URL on my business cards, in my email signatures, at the end of some of my regular articles like my columns for a couple of clients, on presentations I make to garden clubs, and on my 'other' website, which is my professional online resume (and in the process of being updated right now…)

How do people offline react to my online writing? Well, I've had a few who have actually gotten online so they could read it, which is kind of neat. As I say, gardeners are a pretty awesome bunch, and I find the gardening community hugely supportive — whether they live in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Knoxville, Tennessee, or Krakow, Poland.

Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

Oh, I follow a lot of weblogs, though I don't read every post — it's not possible because great new ones just keep sprouting. I love blogs about plants, so I'm very fond of Teza's Hortus Magnificum and Nancy Ondra's Hayefield. Nancy calls herself a plant geek, which is how I describe myself; we get excited over plants of all types, as well as over gardens. I like these blogs because they are informative, and I'm focusing more on bringing good reliable information to my readers, not only rattling on about pretty plants all the time. Kylee at Our Little Acre is one of the first bloggers I began reading regularly after I started Bloomingwriter, and we've become friends over the miles, while Joey Randall of The Village Voice inspires me to be more creative with my photography as well as prompting me to be more of a cook. Just down the road from me (well, in the next county) Nancy Bond of Leaping Greenly always refreshes my soul with her brilliant photography and writing.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

Advice for new bloggers: recognize that it takes commitment, time and a fair bit of work to develop and maintain a good weblog, and it takes time to develop a readership. You can reduce that latter time by participating on other people's weblogs: popping by, reading their posts, commenting (bloggers love comments) and perhaps 'following' them or linking to them. We have so many options now. When I have time, I highlight a new-to-me blogger on my blog to introduce them to a maybe wider audience than they have been experiencing, and others do the same thing.

Set achievable goals for how often you blog. You might think you can blog every day, but if you're pressed for time and have a lot of other commitments, you may find yourself overwhelmed and resentful and even suffering from writers' block. It's better to start slowly, and maybe increase your posting frequency, than to burn out in a month or two of nearly-daily posts. And if you're going to stop or take a hiatus, let your readers know. We worry when someone we have followed suddenly stops posting.

CHEAT SHEET

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Name:
Location:

Weblog:
Other Notables:
Twitter:
Facebook:
2010 CWA Winner:
Jodi DeLong
Scotts Bay, on the North Mountain of
Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
Bloomingwriter
Jodi DeLong — Bloomingwriter
@bloomingwriter
Jodi DeLong/bloomingwriter
2nd in Gardening
Thursday
Feb172011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Jarrah Hodge Of Gender Focus

Jarrah Hodge authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Gender Focus, which placed 2nd in Feminist and 2nd in LGBTQ.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I started blogging in 2009 when I was in a career planning class. There were a lot of lessons that bothered me as a feminist and I realized I had all these tools from taking Women's Studies to analyze these things that were bothering me.

There's a Gillian Welch song that has a lyric that goes "If there's something you wanna hear, you can sing it yourself." I had all this stuff to say, and I knew no one else was going to say it for me.

At first I blogged very specifically about the class I was taking, but eventually it finished. Now I'm driven to keep blogging by the issues I see in the news and in pop culture every day. Sexist advertising, homophobic bullying, discrimination against trans people, the feminization of poverty: these are all issues that we need to keep talking about.



What led you to feminist blogging in particular?

I decided to turn my blog into a feminist-themed blog because I was reading a lot of American feminist blogs like Feministing, Jezebel, and Salon's Broadsheet, and there just didn't seem to be a Canadian equivalent: a blog about feminist/gender issues that covered a range of issues from politics to pop culture from contributors from different backgrounds.

How has blogging affected or changed your feminism and vice versa?

I wouldn't say blogging has changed my overall feminist philosophy but reading other feminist blogs and getting feedback from commenters helps keep me aware that there are many different feminisms and feminist issues. I try not to assume that my pet issues are the ones that are the most interesting or most important to other people interested in feminism.

It's also made me look at everyday things from a different perspective. Blogging — because I'm always looking for inspiration — makes me keep feminist and gender analysis at the top of my mind when I'm at the mall, reading the newspaper, and interacting with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than motivated, where do you look for inspiration?

I get inspiration for posts from everywhere - books I'm reading, other feminist blogs (there are 25 I follow daily), ads on the Skytrain, suggestions from friends. Some of the best articles I read when I was getting interested in feminism were about putting a gender lens on everyday activities that we take for granted. The other place that's great is the Women's Media Center's weekly Twitter #sheparty, where feminist Twitter users get together and discuss issues going on in the feminist blogosphere that week.

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I'm open about being a blogger and most people I know are pretty supportive, even if they don't read my blog or consider themselves feminists. My friends are always suggesting great topics for me to write about and my family is especially supportive. My dad emails links to my blog around to his friends and he recently contributed a book review to the blog. And my mom is a very enthusiastic Facebook fan.



Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

The blogs that most influenced my blogging were Feministing, Bitch Blogs, Girl w/ Pen, and Fair and Feminist.

My current favourite weblogs are Sociological Images, Racialicious, the Ms. Magazine blog, and Feminist Fatale.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

My advice for new bloggers is to just have fun by writing as much as possible and see what works. I changed my blog title and design three times before I settled on the Gender Focus name and look. I'm also still surprised by what topics attract the most feedback. Of course you want to be writing things that are valuable to your readers, but when you're just starting out you might not know what that is. Use a stats program like Google Analytics or PostRank to figure out what's attracting readers and how you can keep them coming back.

The other really important piece of advice is to make sure you're reading other related blogs that already have an established reputation. This will help you develop an accessible blog writing style, give you ideas for posts, and let you know if the topic you were planning on writing about has already been covered to death by other bloggers.

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:
Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
2010 CWA Winner:

Jarrah Hodge
New Westminster, British Columbia
Gender Focus
@jarrahpenguin
2nd in Feminist and
2nd in LGBTQ
Monday
Feb142011

An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Martine Gingras Of Banlieusardises

Martine Gingras authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Banlieusardises, which placed 1st in French Language.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I created a personal website in 1995, which revolved around the very urban life I led then, from the ivory tower (where I studied) to the concrete tower (where I lived)…

But when I moved to the suburbs in 2001, surrounded by flowers, groundhogs and birds, I couldn't find a way to fit my new bungalow life in the old metaphor!

Suburbs are often perceived with a negative bias: we think about excess, spoilage, competitive neighbors, clean-cut grass, SUV-lovers and freaks who spoil water by washing their driveway… As you can guess, I didn't plan on living my life in such a cliché.

So very early on, les Banlieusardises were about showing another point of view on the suburbs, from the suburbs. A point of view that, as I soon discovered, appealed to a lot of people!

I started by sharing my recipes, and as I experimented with many new projects around the house, new categories appeared on the site: homemade cosmetics, gardening, home improvement and eventually… parenting!

What still drives me after all these years? The satisfaction of doing things by myself instead of buying. The pleasure of sharing those creations and receiving feedback about what I do. And knowing that it inspires others to do so, too!



According to your About page, you have had a presence on the internet since 1995. Things have changed a lot during the last 16 years, and it's not often that I get to talk to someone who's been around from so early on. What are some of the changes you have seen with regard to personal websites over the years?

I love your question in so many ways: as a blogger, but also as an ex- researcher who got interested very early in understanding what "being online" meant! I studied how we build our virtual self in text-based virtual realities (that was my Masters' thesis in 1994), and even started studying personal homepages in a PhD.

My main interest was to comprehend how numerous "agencies" were at play to build a virtual presence: we're "presenting" ourselves, but other agents contribute to "represent" us, and act as an intermediary with others.

To publish a blog efficiently and get visitors (or "friends" in the social medias), we have to learn to talk not only to humans, but also to non-humans: search engines, publishing tools... Just think of how Google interprets your site and will bring you visitors… or not!

In the early days of the Web, you had to become a technological expert first to manage the tools, and then you could share your passion. You had to manage the server, code HTML from scratch, understand the basics of search engine optimization…

What strikes me is the easiness of "being" online these days: with the new social networks and blogging tools, one can develop a meaningful presence without being a technical expert. For example, SEO is integrated to Wordpress and ease things for newcomers.

But at the same time, when everyone gets a shot at "being there", which is fantastic, you still need to understand and master the technical environment to get a hold on your online self. Let's just think about privacy issues on Facebook. Or blogging under a domain that isn't yours: it's the easy thing to do, but you'll lose your referrals if you switch platform. You might even lose all your data if that platform puts an end to its activities.

So even if being online is easier than ever, managing the tools still has its uses!

You turned a collection of recipes from your blog into a book. Congratulations! Has publishing a successful book changed the way you blog?

Let me just correct: only three recipes are from the blog — my reader's favorites. Everything else on paper is new!

At first, I was so impressed to be approached by Trécarré (also the editor of many authors I admired, such as Anne Desjardins, Stefano Faita, Philippe & Ethné De Vienne…) that I had the blank page syndrome: what could I cook that would be so good it deserved to be published?

And then, I thought about why my readers came day after day to read my Banlieusardises and I realized no one asked me to become a chef: I'm the cool neighbor who experiments a lot and shares her recipes. The girl who cooks with flowers, grows green zebra tomatoes and entertains her kid with giant bubbles! I had to stick to what I was, not try to be a chef.

So has the book changed the way I blog? I'd say it's been the other way around: it's blogging that influenced the way I wrote the book.

My best recipes are always very daily ones: I get creative when I'm confronted to the daily rush, the stress of hungry kids or simply improvising when there are missing ingredients. I came back to that: instead of thinking of a recipe that would look good in a cookbook, I just kept on cooking like I used to, and introduced each recipe with a daily life story… just like it is on my blog.

Also, after blogging for so long (it'll be 10 years in October), I anticipate the reader's questions and I take that into account when writing. I brought that into the book, and many readers tell me it makes my recipes very easy to understand. In fact, the book just received the "best easy recipes cookbook" award for French Canada at the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards. :-)



Do you you have any plans to publish more books in the future?

I don't know… All I can say is I'm proud of what I've done and it's exactly what I hoped for. It's a fantastic family heritage.

Because let's be frank about the future of my blog: if I stop updating, applying security patches, or paying for my hosting, it won't be there anymore. In 30 years, the Internet may have evolved in such a way that this kind of data isn't available at all.

But the book will be there for my daughters will to read in many, many years, without any compatibility or accessibility issues.

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than motivated, where do you look for inspiration?

Food! One always have to eat, right? So that's the easy path for me. I simply cook something new, try to get a good picture out of it, and there's matter for the blog the next day.

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

Absolutely! After all those years, that's part of me. A lot of people know the blog, and recognize me, asking if I am "Martine la banlieusarde". Well yes, I'm me and I must say I'm quite proud of what I've done.

Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

You have to put yourself in context: it's 2001, there are no tools to discover other bloggers… I had friends who used blogs to maintain a diary, others who shared ideas and information about technology, cyberculture and so on. That was about it! I never saw a foodblog, I don't even know if anyone else had started one at the time.

But before blogs even existed, in 1998, I had fun sharing stories-and-recipes under a pseudonym (at Les Quartiers gourmands de Jeanike, still available on Multimania, but beware, it's now full of blinking ads). So I think that's what I had in mind when I decided to use a blog platform to share my food stories.

As for the favourites, with two young girls, work and life at large, I don't have much time to read blogs nowadays. But I never wait too long before stopping by...

... my fellow suburban moms, Madame Unetelle and Chroniques du patio.
... my zesty urban friend, Peccadilles.
... my country counterpart, Vieux Bandit.
... and my favourite foodblog, Obsessions gourmandes.

I'm also very active on Facebook and often get interested by what my friends write or are referring to.



What advice do you have for new bloggers?

Try to find balance! With all the "micro-blogging" sites today, it is sometimes hard to convince ourselves to take time to write a longer blog post. I know people who completely lost interest in their blog, and are now only using Twitter or Facebook.

But social networks (or virtual communities, as we used to call them) come and go. A few years back, everyone used to log into ICQ daily; who does that anymore?

Over the years, I've invested myself in various communities, built numerous profiles, took time to communicate in all those environments. What's left of all that? The friends are still there. Because that's what these social networks are good at it: building ties between people.

But you can't build a meaningful online presence only communicating with tools that come and go.

So yes, do find balance: take time for your blog, which will let you build a meaningful and lasting online presence, and take time for social networks, which will let you build relations.

CHEAT SHEET

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Name:

Location:
Weblog:
Twitter:
2010 CWA Winner:
Martine Gingras (also known as "la banlieusarde")
Rosemère, Québec
Banlieusardises
@banlieusardises
1st in French Language