Internet Explorer users may need to widen their browser windows to span all three columns. Or download Firefox.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

What a country.

I've been a fan of Leah Peterson's blogger interview series for as long as I've been a blogger (blog blog bloggity blog!). When she retired the series, she retired a fond daydream of mine with it. No way would I would never be in that number.

Enter Neil Kramer and the Great Interview Experiment, like a fairy godmother with a magic wand. Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo (I think that's yiddish for abracadabra). Put 'em together and what have you got?

Me, being interviewed by Leah:

When and why did you start blogging?

In the summer of 2005, I went home to Newfoundland for a month. I set up a Yahoo 360 blog as a travel diary to share with friends back in Arkansas. I thought it would just be a little travelogue, with vacation photographs. I sat down to write about some moose that we saw,and wound up writing about my expatriate experience; how it feels to live so far from home, and what it means to not really belong to one culture or the other.

It took me totally by surprise. I had never thought of myself as a prose writer. I had been a poet before I had children, and I hadn't yet figured out how to be that with small kids, because I had neither the time, nor the emotional space for poetry. But blogging can tolerate interruptions. I can (and do) blog with a child in my lap. I can get up and pour juice or apply a band-aid, and come back to it. And there is feedback. I'm very extroverted, and that makes it hard to be alone with my writing for long stretches. Creating a blog post feels more conversational. There's a receiving end.

Do you have any tips for people wanting to get their writing published in magazines etc.?

Write well.

The magazine stuff has been so surreal. An editor at Good Housekeeping found Notes last spring, and two posts have now been adapted for print, with more coming. I read somewhere that putting your best work out on your blog and hoping to get published in print is like putting your resume on your doorstep and hoping to get a job. Isn't that pithy? I almost believed it. Like I almost believed the advice to not put essay-length posts on the blog, but keep it light and short. I went to a Blogher workshop last summer where it was said that being a generalist will guarantee that your blog will never go anywhere. So much for conventional wisdom.

I write what I have to write, and I try to stay in forward motion. I tell myself the outcome is not my business—the work will get where it needs to go. I obey little nudges, and once in a blue moon, they actually work out. I had two guest columns in the Globe & Mail (Canada's equivalent of the Washington Post) because it popped into my head that they might fit well there. The editor agreed.

It's so easy to query and submit now. Learn the rules of querying, follow them, and then just keep writing, even though you never hear back, or a mailbot writes to say you suck. Rejection doesn't get any easier, but the acceptances make it all worthwhile. At the very least, you've still got your blog. Somebody, somewhere, gives a damn.

What were you like as a child?

A daydreamer and dawdler. Also precocious, sensitive and bossy. I haven't changed much.

Are your children like you?

I really work hard at seeing my kids for who they are themselves, because I think too many parents project their own stuff onto their children. But yes, there are a few undeniable traits we share. It's easy to see little me in my nine-year-old when he is carrying the weight of the world around or being a know-it-all. And the way my middle son can tune into his interior world for long stretches is very much like me. I think by the time the youngest arrived on the scene, all the available projections were used up, and he was free to be completely himself.

What's your favorite music?

Whatever I am listening to. I have wildly eclectic (some might say indiscriminate) taste. I try to keep up with the trendy stuff—indie rock, emo and even commercial pop. But there are a few staples I keep coming back to, mainly folk and alt-country. Tom Petty is the musical version of my very favorite pair of jeans. It sounds trite to say music is really important to me, because I can't imagine that it isn't for everybody, but music is REALLY important to me. My three children are a direct result of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville album. You'd think she'd come over and babysit once in a while.

You recently wrote about some very personal financial issues. Do you regret it? What kind of feedback did you get? Would you do it again?

Opening up about our financial struggles last year was as naked as I have ever gotten on the blog. It got to the point where I couldn't not write about it. My husband's freelance design business had flat-lined for months. We were facing foreclosure warnings, utility shut-offs. It was all that was going on with me. It was starting to feel artificial to keep writing around it.

I did worry that people might judge, tell us to suck it up, get a couple of real jobs. I got the opposite response. My readers were incredibly supportive. They wrote to tell me what my writing was worth to them, they shared their own struggles, they even told me to put up advertising! It was the most amazing vote of confidence, and it kept me going.

Not only would I do it again, I am doing it again. I recently signed on as a blogger for AOL's money blog, WalletPop, and I will be sharing more as we wobble our way toward something like financial security.

Your writing seems to be so often inspired. Where do you find inspiration?

One of the great things about blogging is that you become an observer as well as an actor in your own life. The cliche is that bloggers are self-absorbed (like other writers aren't), but the absorption is really with life. Even the most everyday, mundane happening can be rich with story. It's an exercise in mindfulness.

I think one of the reasons people respond to personal blogs is the way it makes them think about the vividness of their own everyday experience.

Would you share one of your favorite poems that you've written?

This one was written for my middle son, on the eve of his fifth birthday.

Jars of Clay

All my poetry is broken.
Though it held up
to years and years
of life decanted.
Amphorae for two marriages.
An urn for my father’s ashes.
A corked bottle
with a scroll in it
for exile.

A vessel for every memory
regret, and desire
and not one of them
not all of them
could hold one drop of you,
four years old and crouched
in the garden, your hands
cupped around small life,
a rapt and tender god.

(Kyran Pittman, All Rights Reserved)

I'd love to hear about how you became a mail-order bride.

Ha! You'll have to wait until I get a book deal (or we get drunk together at Blogher). But you get an advance copy. xo

Any words of wisdom to share with the masses?

Drop everything and run toward the person you are.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Kate The Great said...

I've enjoyed this post. You are a frequent read for me, and I often get teared up at the beauty of your words.

This reminds me of an interview a newspaper writer did of me during high school. For some inexplicable reason, the school sent me to be featured, out of all the seniors of the school. After the photo shoot, the interviewer started with a sheet of rather blase questions to get us warmed up in talking about ourselves. She told me the interview would only last ten or fifteen minutes, and instead, we sat for almost an hour.

She ended up using quite a bit of what I'd written as answers to the blase questions in her article. I find that to be a good sign. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

That was cool. I love learning a little bit more about you. But I hate the concept of your posts being "inspired." That makes you seem other-worldly. I like the fact that you come off so completely down to earth, despite your poetically fertile and sexy mind.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the poem. Keep writing. I give a damn.

10:02 PM  
Blogger jennifer h said...

Your blog is one of my favorites. Your writer's soul comes through.

I'm glad you've ignored the advice to only put shorter pieces on your blog.

The rest of us would have missed a lot.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

I'm also a fan of your blog, and though I usually lurk I'm turning up to say I enjoyed the interview very much. Glad you ignored the bland blogging advice and followed your heart.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Katherine Gray said...

Love this:
"Even the most everyday, mundane happening can be rich with story. It's an exercise in mindfulness.

I think one of the reasons people respond to personal blogs is the way it makes them think about the vividness of their own everyday experience."

This is going on my little book of quotes. I need to remember this when I think no one cares. <3

1:04 AM  
Blogger michelle said...

First, I really wish I could express to my children how much they fill me with emotion the way you are able to do with yours. Your posts about your kids always make me veclempt!
Second, I began to realize as I was reading your interview how much sharing personal issues is a gray area for me as a teacher like it is for a blogger. Students really respond when you open up to them about yourself...but there is a time to share and not a time to share. There is some 'magic' line of good-personal info and too-personal info! Didn't you just love it when you found out 'something about the teacher' when you were young?! The item that circulates randomly thru the school about me is how I allowed my kids to pick out their own middle names and how cool that is. I like being the cool teacher every once-in-awhile!

1:05 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

you are divine and soooo beautiful and brilliant to boot. i love this interview. and to think, i thought i knew you!

2:28 PM  
Blogger lindseykbell said...

okay i have to comment. i told john on friday night after you left that you make the mundane fascinating...that is a direct quote...and now to read "Even the most everyday, mundane happening can be rich with story"...i just had to laugh. guess you heard us talking about you. between that and the reference to liz phair, i'm hooked. keep blogging...can't wait to get together with you again soon.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Misbehaving said...

I've said it before and I'll say it are in a class by yourself when it comes to the blogging world. It's nice to get a peek at the person behind the words.

7:54 AM  
Blogger super jive said...

Hey there--saw you got one of the skrt positions. I applied, too. Congrats!!!

1:47 PM  
Blogger Maddie said...

Great interview--I especially love the last line about running toward the person you are!

Also, thanks for looking at Maddie's poetry blog, Kyran. The comment meant a lot to her. She's written lots of new stuff, but i haven't put it all on the blog.


5:11 PM  
Blogger Heather B. said...

You are really fantastic and if Leah Peterson interviewed me, I think I'd implode from the excitement of it all.

(Also, yes, you are most definitely one of the 20 I would have brought with me this weekend)

11:19 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

"Drop everything and run toward the person you are."

I think that may be my new favorite quote. Everything you write turns into poetry, mundane and magical both.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I love the honesty of your answers. So many blogs are so intent on being funny or pithy that they seem not to reflect reality...I know reality isn't that entertaining....but this interview was a breath of fresh air.


12:21 AM  
Blogger said...

"Drop everything and run toward the person you are."

YES. I love that so much.

12:19 AM  

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

<< Home