Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Neils great interview experiment

Neil Kramer from Citizen of the Month Blog does this Great Interview experiment which I jokingly agreed to participate in. As usual, the writing took a long time and then the editing of course took time too. In fact I edited my answers without knowing Cissa had already posted!

I thank Cissa Fireheart for thinking up such creative questions and for posting on her blog.

My interview of Alicia D. Beth follows here.

1. Your blog has a great deal of personal writings and photography. Do you primarily share on your blog?

My blog is definitely meant eventually to be a record for my children, both of their mother and of their lives growing up. My father died when I was 11, and I have this sort of nagging worry, always, that they may not know me as adults. I wish I had access to this kind of record about my dad and my childhood.

It’s a constant tension, though. I do want to write things that will interest other people, but I know this isn’t usually the case with the mundane details of life. I read a lot of mothers who are able to strike this balance – always engaging, including when writing about their children – but I don’t feel like I know how to do it yet. I’m not sure I ever will, but I’ll keep trying.

As far as the photography goes... Uf. This is a point of contention right now. We bought a *fantastic* camera when I was pregnant with my first son, and it lasted about seven years. When I went to buy a replacement, I thought an expensive point-and-shoot seven years newer would surely surpass in quality the SLR we were replacing. Not true. I definitely learned my lesson. I hate the piece of shit I’m using right now. I have a long-held interest in amateur photography – I took classes in college and thought about majoring in it – so it’s just not something I’m content to do poorly. I do have my eye on a couple DSLRs, though.

2. You’ve been blogging for 4 years. Has it changed since you began?

My first exposure to blogging was actually in 2000, during my pregnancy with my first son. My husband, Bradley, started what amounted to a “blog,” although I’m not sure we called it that then, at (now defunct), to keep our families updated about the pregnancy and baby. A lot of bloggers start this way, I think, although it was definitely uncommon back then. Brad was a programmer, and he did all the code himself, so the site itself was pretty slick for 2000. :) We kept that site updated for two years or so, less and less frequently, before we let it lapse in 2002 or 2003.

Then, I started reading Allie Scott’s story ( in July 2004, shortly after my daughter was born. I read all the archives and kept reading beyond Allie’s death, Maggie’s birth, and Jenny’s startup of Heroes for Children ( I was so transformed by reading that blog, but it didn’t occur to me to start writing again myself until two years or so after we shut down.

By then, February 2005, everything was a lot easier. I started a blog on blogspot (, now defunct but all content has been integrated into Bethsix at, and I began hearing the word “blog,” both as a noun and verb, more and more frequently. There still wasn’t the sense of community, though. Many of the blogs I read now started around that same time, but I didn’t know about them. I wish I had; I probably would’ve been more consistent and stuck with it if I’d felt less isolated. The one blog I read religiously back then was Dooce ( I thought she was brilliant, but I had no idea that such a community or such a multitude of voices would emerge from blogging the way it has.

I kept up the blogspot blog for a couple years before I fell off the wagon again. I started Bethsix ( shortly after another transformative experience, this time with Matt Logelin’s blog (, in December 2008. It was obvious to me then that I needed not only to engage with writing and stories like that, but that I needed just as much to express my own stories and engage with this community that had formed when I’d looked away.

3. I noted that sometimes you’ll blog as much as a dozen time a month and other times only a couple of times a month. Is there a reason for this, or is it simply a matter of when you have time?

It’s a function of time. I have four small children, a full-time job for which I travel quite a bit, and another part-time job. Writing frequently gets pushed to the bottom of the stack.

It’s also a function of my attempt to aggregate everything I’d written at different sites in one place. Bethsix ( now includes everything I wrote on blogspot, myspace, facebook, and (before I switched to a self-hosted format). The only thing not included is that first site we had in 2000. There was a non-trivial amount of time that I did not have a “blog,” per se, but I did post sporadically on my personal myspace and facebook accounts. Those months show up in my archives as very lean.

4. What is your motivation for your posts? Does the motivation change, or do you try to keep the blog on a theme of sorts?

I don’t try to keep up with any kind of theme, although I sometimes think my writing would be better if I did. I go through cycles. There are times when I’m so turned inward that all I’m doing is thinking, and those times lend themselves to writing. There are other times when I feel so taxed that all I feel I can do is stay afloat. Writing doesn’t seem to happen then, which may be a good thing, as I’m sure it would be poor and scattered.

That said, parenting is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on a daily basis. I tend to write about my children and my parenting because they challenge me, always.

5. Does parenting inspire you or were you always creative and therefore your blog is a reflection of creative parenting?

Parenting is extremely difficult for me. I assume it’s this way for everyone, but it’s so damn isolating that it’s hard to even know. Conflict and struggle inspire me to think deeply and to reexamine assumptions, so, in this way, parenting inspires me. It forces me to consider difficult questions and to see my world in constant shades of gray. This kind of reflection lends itself to writing, I think.

6. Do you feel your blog will provide a history for your children and family that you can refer back to later?

Absolutely. This is one of my primary aims with my blog. I hope that my children will be able to look back and know me more fully through my words and the feelings I choose to express publicly.

7. What encourages you to continue blogging?

More than anything, it’s the other blogs I read. I have always appreciated excellent writing (this is not to say I’m able to pull it off myself!), and there are some writers in this new medium that have deeply complex stories to tell and profound words and ways to express them. I’m constantly finding blogs that are written by master storytellers, often people who have “real” jobs and lives well beyond their keyboards. Reading these keeps me engaged with the craft. Beyond that, it’s my own need to express. I’ve only recently realized that everyone has stories worth telling, including me.

8. Is your blogging and parenting intertwined?

Not intertwined, exactly, but parenting my children definitely provides fodder for my posts a lot of the time.

9. Has your blog lead to a lot of interaction with other bloggers doing similar things or different or both?

I only became re-engaged with blogging at the beginning of this year. Before Bethsix (, the last time I really wrote in earnest, the community surrounding blogging hadn’t really formed, at least not as cohesively as it has now. I’m trying to engage with other bloggers and the surrounding community, but it seems like it developed just as I turned my head. There are already all these alliances and friendships, and it’s just like real life, in that it’s difficult to insert yourself in already established relationships. These interactions will happen, I’m sure, but I’m kinda a new kid on the block right now.

In general, I tend to read other mothers, simply because that’s a huge area of experience to have in common with someone else, even if you see it and do it vastly differently. There are women I respect immensely, more so than most of the people I know in “real life,” women who *live* the principle of blogging as a radical act (Alice Bradley,, and those are the women from which I most want to learn.

10. What is the most important thing about blogging to you?

Writing, reading, expression, and community. These are the things that come to mind immediately. I’m not sure I can separate or prioritize them. There’s definitely the craft of it, the writing and the reading. But there’s the creative, expressive part, that’s just putting yourself and your thoughts out there, into a public forum to which you remain accountable. And then there’s the community.

In the end, I guess all these things are about relationships: writers and readers interacting via texts, writers and readers negotiating themselves via texts, and communities of individuals developing both online and in meatspace, all throwing stakes into the ground and committing themselves to ideas and dialogue and relationships.