In November of 2006 I visited Matt Haughey at his home. He was kind enough to do a video interview with me that I planned on putting up as the first segment on the new and improved Leahpeah Interview site. Well, it never got edited and the site never got done. Two years later, I’m admitting that I’m never going to get it done. The photos should be seen, though, so I’m putting them on Flickr for your enjoyment.
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.?
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 businessthe 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 stuffindie 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
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.
Neil from Citizen of the Month started The Great Interview Experiment which is almost 300 people strong at this point. I understand it’s still not too late to sign up so if you’ve ever had a hankering to interview or be interviewed, go leave a comment. My interviewer was Cog of Driving the Flies who came up with some great questions for me to answer.
Why do you blog?
I started blogging as a way to keep in touch with my kids. When I discovered about a year later that they didn’t actually read it, I had to reevaluate why I blogged and decide if I wanted to continue. I decided that I wanted to keep blogging and just write about whatever was going on as a way to keep a journal. Sometimes it’s hard to write when it feels like nothing is happening or only really hard things are happening, but I keep trying. I always appreciate being able to go back and see when things happened.
How many unfinished posts do you have stashed away?
I cleaned out my unfinished posts about a month ago and it’s now at 2 from about 16. I finally admitted to myself that I had no idea what most of them were supposed to be about anyway.
Do you have a guilty pleasure blog, one that you read just for fun?
I skim about 30 blogs every other day and they are all just for fun. : )
You have interviewed a wide range of people, and been interviewed as well. What is the question you’ve always wanted to ask someone but haven’t, or a question you wish someone would ask you?
I think I’ve always asked what it is I wanted an answer to. At least, I can’t think of any burning questions that I’ve been saving up. As far as someone asking me – I suppose it’s what is your favorite number. The answer, of course, is 7.
If you could have a single day in your life to live over, which one would it be?
Wow. I have no idea. It would be hard to choose from awesomely fun days and the hard days where I actually learned the most. Two that come to mind are the day I had my first baby and the day I went into the mental hospital for the first time. Both of those days were exceedingly hard and also so rewarding. The day I got married to Joe went so fast and we were feeling stressed and it might be fun to go back and relive that day minus stress and hurry.
I’m a potato girl. Baked, french fried, mashed – add a little salt and I’m in heaven. At least until I remember how many calories I just ate.
For what do you wish to be remembered?
A lot of what I do is centered on removing the stigma from mental illness. I suppose I’d like to be remembered as someone who helped that cause a bit.
What about someone’s blog dances on your last nerve?
I try to blog and let blog. Everyone has their own idea of how they want their online home arranged so there isn’t really anything that gets on my nerves. And if something does, I just don’t go back there anymore.
Your issues with mental health are well-chronicled. Given that they are a big part of you, including the many noteable accomplishments, would you trade off the cycles if you knew it meant you wouldn’t have accomplished what you have?
I wouldn’t change anything except when it comes to my kids. And I think every parent has a whole library of things they wish they could go back and change. It haunts you when you know that you did anything that hurts your kids. But even though I sometimes stay up late at night wishing I could change something, just realizing that wallowing in that pain doesn’t bring any positive results helps me to move on. Usually. : )
What piece of music/album/playlist have you carried with you across media, that you had on cassette or vinyl, to CD and now to mp3 or other digital format?
This is so sad but the only 8-track I owned that made it to a cassette and then somehow made it to a digital file is Anne Murray singing Danny’s Song. Oh, and there was a Chicago 16 which made it pretty far, too. Today I’m in love with Regina Spektor, Feist, Kate Nash, Amy Winehouse and Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Are there too many bloggers?
Never. Always more room in the pool. You never know who might pick up blogging next and say things that really touch your heart.
If someone came to you and told you they wanted to start a blog, what is the most important advice would you give this person?
Write what you feel. Don’t start a blog as a way to earn money unless you’ve been around a few years and know how to do it and even then it’s going to be really hard. Be kind when leaving comments on other’s blogs – don’t ever say anything you wouldn’t want your mother to know came from you.
Of which my blog is one.
I love how I was so insane that I couldn’t even add the S on the end of ‘seconds’ to this post title. What a tool I am.
This is one of my favorite moments from the weekend:
I haven’t gone through the reunion photos yet.
So many video interviews posted while I was away!
You should go watch them because they represent a large chunk of time from last year’s Blogher and also because these women are great!!
And now I have to go shower because I hear tell that cleanliness is something that the people around you appreciate. Whatever.
Big Reunion! Parent’s 50th! 12 Hour Drive! Getting Up at 6am! Hot, Hot, Dry, Dry Utah! Not Really Packed Yet!
See you next week. In the meantime, if you get bored, here’s some of my favorite entries.
Also, because I love MochaMomma, here I am in 10 seconds, since that is really all the time I have. And, if you think it sounds like something I would have written for a bio or book jacket, it’s because I have. (recycle, reuse!)
Leah Peterson is a freelance writer, photographer, artist and crafter. Leah is lactose intolerant, allergic to soymilk, afraid of non-dairy creamers and hoping to find something to add to her coffee besides rice milk, which she finds too sweet.
Leah Peterson is a freelance and sometimes professional writer, photographer, artist and crafter. She is a compulsive starter-upper and now hosts two reading series, a craft-trading site and a blogger network. Leah also believes in sustainability, conserving resources and is herself made from 100% recycled material.
Read about Me in 10 Seconds! here.
Last year at Blogher I did a number of video interviews for Alpha Mom TV. Prior to now, the one with Arianna Huffington was the only one available. But now that the new and improved Alpha Mom website has launched (complete with product ratings and baby names and Isabel’s own column!) they are being launched one per day until Blogher ’07 in Chicago.
Your interviews rock!
I love your interviews!
Are you still doing interviews?
Why aren’t you still doing interviews?
Will you interview me?
Why won’t you interview me?
I know someone that would be a great interviewee!
If you don’t interview me, I’m going to tell everyone you wet the bed.
Sincerely/Best Wishes/Warm Regards/Love/Later,
Thank you for your email! Thank you for liking the interviews! I’m sorry, I won’t interview you, even though you are AWESOME and INTERESTING!! This is not because I don’t like you or think you are pretty. Because I do. And I like your brooch.
It’s because I’m not doing the blogger interview series any longer. There may be a few straggler interviews that could possibly come in from last year, but at this point it seems highly unlikely. However, I would certainly post them if they did show up in my inbox because everyone that I asked and emailed questions to, I love and would love to include in the series.
I’m working (and when I say ‘working’ I mean the term very loosely) on the group painting and some video interviews. I’m also working on interviews and articles for print magazines like the ones I recently did for LAB and CRAFT. Also, Alphamom will be posting all the video interviews I did last year on their new website once it launches. Additionally, new projects get posted to my website homepage as they get launched.
Thank you for reading and liking the interviews! I hope you like the next stuff I do, too. If you are an interview-reading craziak, could I suggest two places you could go get your fix? Ransom Note Typography is starting a series and of course, Matthew from In The Air who interviews an awesome variety of people.
The latest version of LAB Magazine is up! You can view/download it here. Also, for a beautiful hard copy, order from Lulu here. Joseph Robertson is the bomb and does a really nice job putting it together. Also, my interview with Natalie Zee Drieu is in there!
We have a mostly permanent home for LA Angst and LA Bloggers Live! (crowd cheering) I know, I know. It is great because they will be held at the Tangier Lounge, which really rocks and has the perfect ambiance for reading to an audience. So join us for our first Live! on Thursday, June 28th, 6:30pm and the next Angst on Wednesday, July 11th at 6:30pm, won’t you?
I am mostly a lurker on MetaFilter. I love reading the entries. I think I don’t comment much, in fact I’ve only ever left one comment, because I never feel smarter than the other people already commenting and I’m not sure that what I would add would really be improving things. Thank goodness lots of other people don’t feel the same way as I do.
Recently, there have been two threads of really excellent reading. The first is the sad story regarding a baby that died. The title of the article by Nina Planck is Death by Veganism. Sadly, the death was really by stupid-ism or misinformation-ism. But the conversation that ensues in the comments of the MetaFilter thread are really quite wonderful on many levels, some beyond just entertainment. For example, according to Vegan.org, “A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products.” Which might include a mother’s breast milk if you interpret it that way.
In this particular thread, you go through entire lifetimes of social relationships in a matter of minutes. People get on a soapbox. People reply. People get testy. People get nasty. People get sarcastic. People apologize. People make up. Some people move on. Others come back and won’t let it go. It’s a fascinating commentary regarding online relationships. But, this particular comment, replying to an earlier comment, wins the prize for humor.
And I’d like to know how far Veganism goes myself. Antibiotics? Beer?
The second fascinating thread is this one entitled What it Feels Like For a Girl about an image of Allison Stokke that has been around the world and back again. What I find interesting is that the entry is written quite neutrally. This is the actual verbiage from aerotive:
This photo has launched high school pole vaulter Allison Stokke into Internet memedom. Her reaction: “I worked so hard for pole vaulting and all this other stuff, and it’s almost like that doesn’t matter. Nobody sees that. Nobody really sees me.”
But it only takes until comment two (?) or three for it to get into sexual innuendo. And from that point, it’s anyone’s game. People angry about the way men think about women. People angry that other people are making them out to be sexual assholes. The thread even encompasses what constitutes acceptability regarding ‘asking for it’ when it comes to internet fame. I personally don’t find anything wrong with her father’s watchful eye or their worrying about weirdos. As a mom, I totally get that. As a female I understand getting unwanted ogling and how aggressive men can be scary at times. And as someone who has a tiny understanding of human nature I think that all of their worry won’t matter much in the long scheme of things. She’s a top athlete. She’s trying to be an Olympian. Her photos are going to be on the internet and you can’t stop people from linking to them or thinking she’s sexy. But discounting her feelings of vulnerability seems pretty hardhearted if you believe that everyone has a right to their feelings.
But the Made Me Laugh Outloud award goes to this comment. And, thank you. Thank you. [LOL]
Here’s a little known fun fact – I home schooled my two oldest kids while we lived in Germany and it was one of the best times we all had together. The kids still talk about all the fun projects we did and the stuff they learned.
I don’t get interviewed very often, since I’m usually the interviewer. But I couldn’t refuse Matthew, who’s putting together a book of interviews for a school project. He’s a pretty cool kid with a pretty cool mom, who home schools him. Thanks for interviewing me, Matthew.
Dude. Where is the flip side, people? I could use some good news.
First of all, Schmutzie has long been one of my web favorites. When I was scouring the internet looking for people to interview, I found her and then hung on because wow, she’s original and compelling and real and funny. And a little wacky. And super smart. Put all together, you get the inimitable Schmutzie, whom I love with abandon that would probably scare the cat. I don’t want her to have cancer but just so you know, what I want means nothing. If it would help I might even consider becoming Mormon again. That is how much I love her.
Then you have Susan’s mom, Ginny, whom I never met in person but got to know so well through Susan’s Flickr. Susan showed the good, bad, ugly and the beautiful through her images and captions. Sometimes, all you could do was read and cry, which would turn into laughter at some point because Ginny was such a wild card. Taking care of an aging parent who has lost their ability to be a part of their own care-giving is an enormous drain and continuing learning experience for the people around them. But, besides all that, it’s also just what we do for those we love when the Universe presents us with that opportunity. I hope someday Susan writes a book about the experience. I’m sure many people would benefit and would love to read it. I got to meet Susan’s brother and sister and friend last weekend for lunch. It was right after Ginny had died and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only way to summarize the experience is to quote my son as we walked out of Seaport Village – “I was worried it might be awkward, but mom, they were great. I hope when I get to be their age I’m fun and vibrant even when things about your life are hard.’
I got sick towards the end of Mother’s Day, barely sitting through dinner before beginning the puke-fest, and unfortunately couldn’t make it to Ginny’s Funeral Party on Monday in San Diego. From what I hear, it was really awesome.
That brings us to Suebob. I read her blog but don’t comment often. Pretty much what I do everywhere on the internet. Suebob’s sister had pneumonia and then just kept declining. Every day I’d go and hope to read how she might be getting better and pulling out of it. But that wasn’t what happened. Having a few sisters of my own, I can only imagine how awful it is to lose one, leaving behind children and a husband. I can’t think about it for too long.
And now for JPGMag. I LOVE JPG. Love. Love the idea of it. Love the creators of it. Loved working with them, editing for them, interviewing for them and even submitting photos, none of said photos were ever selected, but it didn’t matter. There was always next time. There was always the thought in the back of my mind that if I just kept shooting, learning, taking the opportunity to find interesting things to photograph, my photo might get selected next time. It wasn’t impossible because look at all the evidence! Other amateurs were getting their photos published every issue. The community was a living breathing thing and it was fun to be a part of it.
As a person that comes up with ideas myself, a cultivator, if you will, I’m always interested to get to know others of my species. The people that think it is a good idea to throw the next few years of their life into something because it makes them happy and probably not much money at first. The people that get excited about doing something right, even if it takes longer. The people that bring the people they know along with them because they like to feel like a family. That surround themselves with other passionate people because it feels good. That care about the end product or experience being solid and quality. That want to involve the community in new, interactive ways and explore how things can grow. These are my people.
All the time I was a part of any part of JPG magazine thus far, I have very much appreciated. I will no longer be submitting any images to JPG. I will no longer be interviewing or submitting stories. Because if it was such an easy thing to erase two of the core founders and their contributions, how can my little contributions have any chance of longevity at all? If I can’t trust that my submissions and contributions will be treated with respect, I don’t want to play anymore. To pretend that the first 6 issues of JPG don’t exist is to say that all the people in the community that participated had no value. What a shame. I kept my account open because I wanted my small voice to be heard there. Heather’s words. Derek’s words.
What I wrote over at the JPG site:
I almost deleted my account last Sunday when I got an email from Derek explaining what had happened. I’m still so shocked that someone’s labor of love can be ripped away from them in this way. Instead of deleting, however, I decided to publicly say how wrong I feel it is. I will no longer be contributing to JPG.
The roots of something should never be forgotten, changed, erased or buried. The end result, which is then basically a lie, will never be as strong, genuine or connected to.
End of story.
For Mother’s Day I got a new Feist CD, some beautiful picture frames, a balloon, a dinner out and a baby boy cockatiel, who currently has no name.
But mostly, I got to spend lots of time with the people that I love and that love me. At one point, after dinner on the drive home, I realized I wasn’t really feeling any of it. I wasn’t feeling. I could have cried if I’d only had the feelings to do so. Instead, I just looked out the window at the lights.
Update: And now Eden’s dad?? Are you kidding me, Universe? XO, Eden. Lots of them.