Last week I was one of ten bloggers asked to interview Heather Armstrong as part of a promotional blog tour celebrating her recent association with HGTV. I was the only male. So if anyone was going to get Heather’s perspective on the rapidly growing dad blog community, it had to be me.
However, I’m unqualified to take on such a task by myself. So in addition to reaching out to my regular readers via a post, I also reached out to dozens of dad bloggers via email to see what questions they would want to ask her. Thanks to all who responded. I used many of your questions, and you’ll note that I’ve given attribution where appropriate.
If you’ve ever read Heather, you know she’s a very clever, strong-willed woman who has quite an edge to her. But through our exchange, I learned that Heather is also sensitive, sweet, and, like most of us, vulnerable.
But before we get to the interview, just a quick reminder: to qualify to win this Danby 8 bottle wine cooler from HGTV all you have to do is leave a comment. Other, smaller prizes will be given away too.
Now, without further ado, on the week before Mother’s Day, I give you my exchange with the mother of all bloggers, Heather B. Armstrong.
Dooce is Mild
JCO: Aside from fame and financial gain, what byproduct of Dooce has had the biggest impact on your life? (CaptainDumbass)
This is a really interesting question because there are so many possible answers. Some of my best friends are ones I met because of my blog, and my relationships with them have changed my life in ways I probably can’t quantify.
Also…this whole thing has changed a fundamental part of me because of what I’ve been exposed to, because of the judgment and hate and deliberate misinterpretation of what I do and who I am. I used to be so quick to judge other people, and now I find that I stop myself before I get there and first give the benefit of the doubt. Ironically, this sarcastic blog has freed me from the weight of a lot of the cynicism I used to carry around.
I don’t feel any different now about how and what I write than I did when I was only writing for twelve people, so there isn’t much to miss there. I guess what I didn’t realize I was getting myself into was the fact that every day now I can pull up a handful of different websites where people have written their opinion of me. That’s a strange reality to live with. It’s taken some time to get used to it.
That’s the thing I’ve learned about “fame,” as small as my experience is… I live knowing that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who really don’t like me, whereas before all of this, I could tell you the names of the two people who have stopped talking to me. People are always saying that fame changes you, and I don’t think they understand that this is a HUGE part of that change. Learning to deal with that. Living with that.
JCO: In your recent post, Locking up the Cabinets , you describe how hard it is to simultaneously keep tabs on two kids. While your duo may have you locking up the cabinets, our four kids (including two-year-old triplets) have us battening down the hatches! What would your reaction have been if you had found out you were expecting triplets instead of just Marlo? Do you have any personal experience with triplets? If not, would you like to gain some by babysitting ours sometime? (TrippinMama Well, not the babysitting part.)
We were actually worried that Marlo was a set of twins, and not just because I was gaining weight with her way more rapidly than I did with the first. Twins run in both of our families, and you know… I’m sure if Marlo had turned out to be triplets we would have handled it, but I’m not so sure I’d be sane in the process. My sister has twins, and she’s great with them. She’s the type of person who could handle twelve kids all at once. I’m not that type. Juggling these two kids is totally kicking my butt, and I really admire people who can handle more. I envy you, actually.
I know the number of some really great babysitters, is what I’m saying.
JCO: What should the rules be when it comes to airing a beef with a private company? Did Kevin Smith take it too far with Southwest Airlines? Has that changed the way you think about your run-in with Maytag? (Nathan Thornburgh of DadWagon)
What Kevin Smith did with the whole Southwest Airlines thing was WAY more intense and epic than what I did with Maytag. He spewed venom for days, where my rant lasted for six or seven tweets. That’s not to say that I disagree with what he did. I wish more people would use social media when they are not satisfied with service. This is our tool. This is our voice, and it’s a beast that cannot be controlled or reigned in by PR. Even people who only have a hundred followers on Twitter… those one hundred people know a hundred other people who know a hundred other people. Messages travel far and fast. I say rant away when you’ve been wronged.
I do read several dad blogs. The term dad blogger means the same thing to me as mommy blogger, which is Writing About Life. Some people see these as derogatory labels, and I can understand that, but I feel like someone’s writing sort of speaks for itself. It’s like, I don’t say to myself, “I’m going to go read this dad blogger.” I think, “I’m going to go catch up with Jim and his family and see what museum they’ve been to lately.” I guess I just don’t see in labels of Dad and Mom. I think dad bloggers are different than mom bloggers only in their anatomy.
JCO: Some, including my pal @theJackB, have speculated that 2010 will be the year of the daddy blogger. With the advent of the M3 Summit, the first ever conference dedicated solely to blogging men, do you think those people could be right? Will dads ever gain the commercial appeal that moms have? What single bit of advice would you give dads who are looking to blog professionally as entrepreneurs? (Ron Mattocks)
Hmmm… I don’t have any hard data to prove what I’m about to say, so you could totally discard it as a piece of crap… but I think a lot of moms blog because they are staying at home with the kids and they are reaching out to connect and feel less alone. I don’t think there are as many men staying at home doing the same thing, and this is where women have the advantage. There are just more of us. That’s the commercial appeal.
As far as advice for dads looking to blog professionally, I would say one, getting to a point where you’re making any kind of reasonable money could be a very steep, exhausting climb. I blogged for over four and a half years before I ever made a penny. And even then my story itself is a bit of an anomaly that is not easily replicable.
Two, get involved in communities of people you want reading your website. Leave thoughtful, on-topic comments. Get to know the others who are participating, and your name will get out there. That is the best advertising there is in this business.
JCO: I wrote a book, and then began blogging this past November to help promote it. At first my blog floundered. But then I stopped treating it like a book, and started treating it like a blog, and it really started to grow. So I ask you: is there a difference between blogging and writing? Did you approach It Sucked and Then I Cried the same way you approach your writing for Dooce?
You mean a difference between blogging and writing a book? Oh yes, indeed. Blogging is sprinting, the book is a marathon. They require a completely different range of muscles. I like to think blogging is its own little art form, and little is key here. There are days when I will write longer posts, but only when the story requires it. People sit down to read a blog because it’s a quick hit. There should be a present in every paragraph of a blog to make one really good.
JCO: What word or phrase comes to mind with regard to the following?
Kate Gosselin? Hair extensions.
Mommy Blogger? Makes Kathie Lee uncomfortable.
Glee? High school was painful.
JCO: Which one?
Flip flops or Crocs? (Even if the Crocs rep won’t hook you up with a freebie.) Flip flops all the way.
Ben Roethlisberger or Tiger Woods? Bill Clinton.
Dooce or Heather? Wondrous Being of Light and Splendor.
JCO: How did your association with HGTV come about? What will we see moving forward? Will you continue to crossover from the blog world to the TV world?
A consultant for HGTV sent me an email last fall asking if I had any interest in working with the network, and at first I thought it was a joke because I had been watching nothing else for the previous six months. I jumped at the opportunity because it had become my favorite channel. Right now I’m participating in mostly social media projects, but the on-air possibilities are brewing! Stay tuned!
So there you have it, the one and only Heather B. Armstrong. I hope y’all enjoyed our exchange as much as I did. Thanks, Heather!