Sometimes, I find myself in rare air.
No, not downwind of a barbecue joint, although that qualifies too. Among my extended blog tribe lives a group of women who get after it – like, New York Times Best Sellers List after it. (Also, this book on the list.)
Meet Stacey Gill.
You probably know her already. She deserves her blog URL more than seems humanly possible – OneFunnyMotha.com – and you’ve seen her work in obscure places such as the Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Good Housekeeping.
I’m proud to feature her today in the #GirlsRock series, designed to highlight women who do cool things. Stacey meets that criteria, and then some. I’m trying to follow in her footsteps, in fact.
My essay on Lessons Learned on the Soccer Pitch will appear in an anthology series that Stacey’s work has been in twice. (It’s called But Did You Die? and will publish in June! More on that later.)
Please give Stacey a warm CD welcome. Girl’s got knowledge, y’all. Recognize.
Eli: When you were a kid, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
Stacey: When I was younger I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. My plan was to grow up and right all the wrongs in the world like a one-woman justice machine. But my parents knew better. They knew justice is not always just and that when a criminal went free or a punishment was inadequate as would inevitably happen, I would not be able to simply gather up my papers, stuff them into my attache and move on to the next case. The inequity, bias, and loopholes in the law would eat away at me.
My parents guided me toward writing instead, and eventually, I went to college as an English major. But the plan then was not to be a writer. I never wanted to be a writer. I got forced into that.
Eli: My entry into writing also wasn’t by choice. What’s your story?
Stacey: I remember in high school I was sitting in my blue and yellow bedroom after my father read one of my papers. He told me I had a talent. I ignored him because he was my father. What did he know? In college when I eventually switched from political science to English my goal was to be a successful book editor at one of the big publishing houses. I’d always been a word enthusiast, but my love was for reading them and shaping them. I liked the security of working with someone else’s finished product. It was a lot less terrifying. Editing I could do. I could improve upon a work without being the sole party responsible for its success or failure.
As someone filled with doubt and uncertainty, that responsibility was too great. I didn’t trust I could fulfill it. After all, I had nothing but my wiles to rely on, and that wasn’t very reassuring. But shepherding little, baby books into the world was a dream. What could be better reading all day and getting paid for it? I did manage to land a job with a publishing company after college just not on the editorial side. After a couple of moves I wound up working as a copywriter, but after the company sold off my division shortly after the birth of my first child I found myself out of a job and at home with a baby.
That lasted for many years, but the whole time I was desperate to get back to my career. I just couldn’t figure out how. I started writing some children’s books (they remain in my filing cabinet), which lead me to a few local writers groups which lead to me to a posting in one of the group’s emails for a position at a hyper-local blog when hyper-local was all the rage.
It was a small unpaid position, but that lead to a paid work writing for the site, which lead to paid work writing for other sites, which ultimately lead me to doing what I thought I could never do – launching my own blog.
Eli: Did anyone influence the way you started your blog? A blogger you read?
Stacey: Now, of course, you can hardly call yourself a writer without having a blog, which was probably true when I launched my blog a few years ago, but I didn’t know it. I only started a blog at the urging of a couple of wise and knowledgeable friends who thought it would be a good way to get my work and name out there for the memoir I was writing. My response at the time was something like, “Oh, alright.” Although I was hesitant to do it, I gave myself a pseudonym, and I launched the site anonymously.
I knew no one and I told no one except maybe my husband who didn’t read me anyway. I didn’t tell my parents or my friends or my in-laws or my neighbors, which isn’t the best way to go about gaining followers, but writing is intensely intimate and scary, and I wanted to give myself the freedom to write honestly. It’s the only good writing there is. Somehow people found me. Other bloggers I mean. I don’t know how, but they did. And eventually, my vision broadened to include both the big time bloggers and the smaller ones, too.
I raced out and bought Jenny Lawson‘s first book (then her second) when it hit the shelves. I met Jill Smokler when she was on a book tour with her first Scary Mommy book, and I saw Jen Mann speak at a conference, which led to an opportunity to submit an essay to her book. So while no one influenced me when I first started, I’ve learned a lot about blogging through the process and through meeting an array of other bloggers.
Eli: What’s one lesson you’ve learned?
Stacey: I’ve learned plenty of lessons. I just can’t remember what any of them are.
If you’re just starting out, stay focused on your goals. It’s so easy to get distracted and sidetracked and pulled every which way. Blogging has a lot of moving parts. You think you should be on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and Snap Chat and YouTube and whatever other social media platform they come up with next. And you should have a million followers on each, all highly engaged of course. And you should be making memes and vemes and vines and videos (are there still vines anymore?).
And you should be commenting on everyone else’s memes and vemes and vines and videos and posts. And you should have a gorgeous site with beautiful images accompanying alternately hilarious and profound posts, and all of it, of course, should be written seamlessly with keywords and otherwise outfitted for SEO. Well, guess what? That’s impossible. At least it is without a staff, and I don’t know too many bloggers who employ staff. So come back to your goals.
Why’d you start a blog in the first place? Was it to write a book or to partner with brands or to create a portfolio or to launch a career as a radio or TV personality or to seek connection with other like minded folks? All of those are legit reasons so when you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the moving parts, center yourself with why you started and focus on the aspect of blogging that will move that goal forward.
I also think it’s useful to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, and although some bloggers go viral overnight most don’t. It’s a slow and forward motion.
Eli: You’ve mentioned Jill Smokler, Jenn Mann and The Bloggess. What influence have they had on you? What impact do you see them having on the blogging world overall?
Stacey: Jen Mann, Jill Smokler and The Bloggess proved blogging was a viable and legitimate vehicle for a writer or for anyone seeking a way for their voice to be heard. Blogging leveled the playing field and created an avenue to a publication that didn’t exist before, and these women took that opportunity to find their people, develop a readership and build mini-empires. That’s not to say maintaining a blog and cultivating an audience and running social media doesn’t require work, but here were three women who broke out their laptops one day and started blogging at their kitchen tables just like all the rest of us, and through what I’m sure were tireless efforts created successful careers as authors and editors. That gave me inspiration that I might be able to do the same.
Overall these women have influenced the blogging world and the world at large by showing blogging is serious business. They’ve impacted the way the publishing marketplace works as well as how online magazines are launched and how marketers advertise. They’ve tapped into an audience online that’s valuable to plenty of outside interests. They’ve also impacted the blogging world by providing opportunities to numerous other bloggers to be heard or supported either by showcasing their work or through the communities they’ve created.
Eli: I feel I closer identify with women bloggers than men. Women seem to be more supportive of the entire community than are men. Can you give us an example of a time someone helped you personally, or that you were able to give back to a blogger?
Stacey: Writing can be very daunting at times, and I feel the blogging community, as a whole, cheers each other on precisely because of that. We’ve all experienced the same challenges and know how it feels to flounder or struggle or doubt or despair. I’d say the way I’ve been helped by others is through invitations to sharing groups where we help promote each other’s work. I’ve always honored that someone thinks enough of me to invite me into their group.
Those groups have provided a nice community of support and are great places to go to troubleshoot or hash out problems or seek advice. One person who helped give me a nice boost was Sarah Maizes who featured me on her TODAYParents funniest Facebook round-ups. I’ve tried to return the favor by encouraging friends and newer bloggers to submit their work and suggesting sites where I think their essays would be a good fit. I’ve also read and recommended other bloggers’ books on my Facebook page.
I’ve always shared other bloggers’ writings or videos or memes, and I’ve nominated certain humor bloggers to be considered for inclusion in the series of anthologies of which I’m a part. I try to do what I can because this writing life can be hard, and we can all use all the help we can get.
Eli: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Stacey. What advice would you give girls or young women who think about starting a blog?
Stacey: My advice for those interested in starting a blog would be to find a topic you’re passionate about, something you’re not going to tire of in a month’s time. Blogging is a labor of love so you really have to love what you’re writing about for it to be successful and sustainable. Then I would say to start a Facebook fan page when they launch their blog. After that seek out other like-minded bloggers or other people whose writing they enjoy and start following them and commenting on their pages or blogs.
Since people don’t comment on blogs as much anymore, Facebook is a good way to connect and interact with other bloggers. I’d also suggest looking for blogging groups on Facebook or perhaps creating one of their own if they know a few other bloggers who might want to join. Private Facebook groups are a nice way to connect with others and discuss issues or ask advice or share each other’s work. They may also want to submit to various online sites to broaden their exposure.
Before submitting away, though, they should first read those sites to get a feel for the type of articles the site publishes. Often those sites have private Facebook groups where their writers can congregate so once they’ve been published they’ll have access to the group of writers, which is a nice way to network. A good resource for sites accepting freelance work is Susan Maccarelli’s Beyond Your Blog. Another great resource for technical help is Beyond Blog Design by Jen Kehl. Both have helped me tremendously.