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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

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I am Somebody and So Can You: The Great Interview Experiment

On Monday, I began a five-day guest spot at Design Mom at the pleasure of the warm and wonderful Gabrielle Blair. I hope you'll join me over there daily.

A few weeks ago, the Great Interview Experiment was launched by writer, blogger, and all-around sensitive guy Neil Kramer. As Neil explains it, he thought every blogger should have an opportunity to feel like they are "somebody."

Obviously, he struck a chord, because the list of people who signed up to participate is over 200 names long. I've been interviewed offline several times over the past year, and I have to say, it's very gratifying to be on the "A" side of the "Q."

But Neil's experiment is more than an installation of mirrors. I love reading these interviews. Leah Peterson, the Terry Gross of the blogosphere, did a whole series of them from 2004-2007. They were my first introduction to many of the bloggers I follow faithfully today. Not because Leah deemed them "important" or "interesting" enough to interview (although certainly, I came to trust her recommendations), but because an interview could establish context and backstory that would otherwise have taken months to glean. It provided a ramp to a narrative that was already in midstream. It made me sympathetic to bloggers whose style might have been offputting to me at first pass. It taught me to be always mindful of the fact that the blog serves up a slice of someone's life. Not the totality.

I am so glad to be able to participate in this experiment and contribute to this culture's archives. My assigned interviewee was Ree, of Hotfessional. It was good to be on the "A" side of her "Q!"

Ree, reading your blog was like entering another world for me. You have children who can drive themselves places, and you work somewhere where they probably require you to wear shoes!

I forget sometimes that not all women blogging are stay-at-home Moms of young kids. Do you identify with the mom-blogger title at all? How much of your subject matter is derived from parenting, and how much draws on other aspects of your life?

Actually, I do identify with the mom-blogger title (a pre-menopausal, spayed Mom, but a mom nonetheless). My son is 16 - and it’s challenging to figure out the proper balance between “making him” do things and “letting him” suffer the consequences. Homework is my latest minor victory. I’ve finally come to terms with letting him determine when he should do his homework versus playing World of Warcraft. If he doesn’t finish it, then he has to stay up late or get up early, or fail.

I guess I blog about parenting and family as much as I blog about other aspects of my life. It just depends on my mood that day and what’s taking up precious brain cell space and needs to be purged.

You’re a stepmother to two young adults. I have a nineteen year-old stepson who lived with us for about four years. I found it incredibly tough. Tell me about your relationship with your stepkids today. And do they read your blog?

The first two years Mr. Hot and I were together were horribly tough. Although 20 and 24 never lived with us full time, we were their “daycare” after school (we were both students, their Mom is a teacher) and they spent many weekends with us. I was a new wife and then a new mother, and these children did NOT like me. In fact, when 20 was just 4, she told me, “Mah mama said I don’t have to listen to you, ‘cuz you’re just white trash.” I didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically (because you had to hear that coming out of a 4 year old’s mouth with a West-by-Gawd-Virginia accent) or cry.

We had to move to Michigan to find jobs and our visits were limited to Spring Breaks. They grew up. Mr. Hot’s relationship with them suffered - and the guilt he felt caused us to have our own problems. I think, though, it was during these years, that they came to understand that I did love them and cared about what was going on in their lives.

It hasn’t been until the last 3 years that we all can get together and simply enjoy each others company. We got terrific news recently that 24 is going to come live with us in the spring. He’s trying to decide whether to go to grad school or keep working; whether to join the Peace Corps or become a flight attendant to see the world.

I’m thankful that years of separation have been bridged recently. And that Shortman (the 16 year old) will have his older brother around, finally.

As for if they read it? Ack. I doubt that they even know it exists. Mr. Hot is the only one in my family who knows the URL - Shortman knows I write, but not where.

I notice you post very few headshots of yourself. How anonymous or public an identity do you maintain on your blog, and why?
If someone who knew me well came across this blog, they would know it was me. (My ex-husband found me this way, and I had a very anxious few weeks.) But I don’t use my real name or my employer’s name - mainly because of the horror stories I’ve read where people have lost jobs. I don’t want any accidental googling of the company I work for to make my family starve!

The headshots? I just don’t like pictures of me. Maybe if I come across one or have one taken that I really, really like, I’ll post it. Until then, imagine I’m tall, gorgeous and thin.

You travelled to India! That’s tops on my list of places to go before I die. Please tell me all about it. Will you go back?

I’d love to go back. I hope that I’ll have the opportunity some day. It’s a complete sensory overload. Sights and smells unlike anything else in the world. Think of our highways. Four or five lanes in each direction. In India, the main roads have two lanes each way with 7 lanes worth of traffic. Cars, motorcycles, jitneys. Bikes, busses, trucks. Camels and elephants. People walking. Somehow, amazingly enough, it all works.

The poverty is overwhelmingly sad, but the people are all so friendly and giving. And they’re doing what they can to ensure education for their children.

It looks like you link out a lot. Do you read a lot of other blogs, and are you into social networking? Tell me about your online life beyond the blog. Do you feel like you are part of a community?

I read far too many blogs. (snort) It seems like I add more and more to my Bloglines every week. The problem is that I also feel compelled to comment on them all, which, of course, only causes my “blog time” to increase exponentially!

I’m just getting into the whole social networking scene. I am on LinkedIn because of work and my contacts there. I just opened a Facebook account this week (and ack! damn there’s a bunch of stuff out there). When I was doing NaBloPoMo, I was on Ning fairly often, but don’t get a chance to visit as much with Blog365.

What has really amazed me since I’ve started blogging is how much I enjoy my “online friends”. It’s hard for me to explain, but I feel like I know so many of these people and that there’s always someone else who is going through what I’m going through, or has been through it before. There is a sense of community - I’ve seen them rally around Susan during her breast cancer struggles and Bossy when her daughter was bitten by a dog - that is unlike anything I ever expected when I started this little journey.

Is Hotfessional your first and only blog/website? When did you start it, and why? How has it surprised you?

Yep. First and only. I started writing it in May 2007 on a Blogger site. I moved it to Wordpress a few months later. Sometime in March or so, I started exploring gardening blogs to get ready for spring. It was then that I ran across Susie Sunshine’s mommy-blog and was hooked.

Talking to Mr. Hot one day, I said something about how my life would make some interesting blog material. I was the only female executive in my group. I was working myself out of a job by selling my client organization. He started encouraging me (fool that he is!) and the rest, as they say, is history.

The part that has surprised me the most is how much I really enjoy it all. And how I feel as though something is missing if I don’t write or check in with my friends at least daily.

Does your husband read your blog, and if so, how does he feel about it? Does he blog?

He doesn’t read it. He said he doesn’t want to me to censor myself, he wants me to be able to write honestly about my life.

He doesn’t blog, (that I know of, snirk) but I wish he would. He’s an insanely intelligent man, a news junkie, and truly interested in making the world a better place. Besides, if he would get it all out of his head before I came home from work, I wouldn’t have to feel so stupid about not knowing current events when he uses me as his sounding board all evening. (See, that’s why he doesn’t need to read this!)

Last question: would your teenage son volunteer three words to describe you?

Well, since he’s laying right here on the couch next to me playing Guitar Hero, this will be the easiest question yet.

“Shortman, give me three words that you think describe me.”

“Describe you? Alright.

Humorous and, um,

Hey, I can’t ask for more than that.

Thanks, Ree!



Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

a great interview , i love the guest pieces on Design Mom.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Thanks for doing this. I knew you were reluctant at first. But I had no doubt you would be one of the best interviewers. Checking out Design Mom...

12:24 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

neil, never reluctant -- perpetually overextended. It was my pleasure :-)

3:44 PM  

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