Featured Blogger: Bee Lavender of Hip Mama | Blogads

Featured Blogger: Bee Lavender of Hip Mama

by susie
Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Bee Lavender heads up the staff at HipMama, a popular and respected parenting magazine. The distinguished writer, publisher, and activist keeps fans updated at her personal site, Foment.net. Her books include Lessons in Taxidermy, Breeder, and Mamaphonic. Although originally from the Pacific Northwest, she currently lives in England with her family.  HipMama enjoys a loyal following of like-minded moms on both Twitter and Facebook.


Bee Lavender, Publisher of HipMama.com

Q: When did you start blogging, and what inspired you to start?

A: I was a first-generation web designer, and I’ve kept an online journal since about 1995. I was surprised when the word “blog” emerged from the ether. Hipmama.com has been around since 1997. Since 2002 I have also kept a personal blog at www.foment.net, in which I talk about emigrating and starting a life in a new country.

Q: What platform did you use in 1995?  How does the interface from 15 years ago compare with all of the platforms (Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, etc) that exist now?
A: I designed my own site, and I still script Foment.net in html, though I also use perl scripts of my own design to automate updates, rotate images, etc. Hipmama.com was also designed by hand for years, with periodic and somewhat random use of open source community tools. Now we use drupal. In all situations, I have chosen free and collaboratively created software rather than proprietary software. I don’t even accept donations of commercial products. Our ideals go beyond the masthead: I am very serious about the DIY ethos of independent publishing.

Q: What makes your blog unique compared to other blogs with similar content?

A: Hipmama.com is the oldest and most iconoclastic web site catering to parents. We started as a reader-written site for marginalised women and grew to include progressive families of all varieties. Our political perspective and success has earned us the tag “conservative America’s worst nightmare.”

Q: Does your family read your blog? What are their reactions?

A: Yes, but we don’t talk about it. My family is accustomed to my compulsive life reportage as I have been writing for publication for decades. Over the years it has been friends and colleagues who object most to appearing in the work. I feel obligated to make routine announcements that nothing in my life is off the record.

Q: What joys did you not expect when you started blogging? What pains?

A: The thing I love the most about blogging is the ability to instantly publish work, disseminate information, create direct action. The elements I dislike the most are identical.

Q: How much time daily do you spend blogging?

A: I’m a journalist and writer by trade so the blog and my other projects tend to merge in unpredictable and unwieldy ways. I work on my own stuff for two hours or so a day, and deal with technical web site issues for an unspecified though far longer amount of time.

Q: How often do you correspond one-on-one with readers?

A: Whenever possible, though Hipmama.com has grown too large over the years to cultivate and sustain the sort of online relationships we had back in the early days.

Q: Do you use Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking tools to encourage relationships with your readers?  Do you miss the more intimate relationships with your readers that you had back when Hipmama was a smaller site?

A: I use whichever corporate social networking sites are trending at a given moment to promote my sites. But I don’t like or approve of them: my work exists to create and extend communities. Those projects may have been designed for similar reasons, but they have been developed to make money. Other concerns – like privacy, accountability, sustainability – do not matter to investors. This is repugnant to me but more importantly, misguided. Corporate sites come and go. Fortunes are made and squandered. I never earn more than I need to keep the sites open, but those sites remain open – and committed to our fundamental ideals.

Q: Has your approach to blogging changed over time, or are you pretty much on course from where you started?

A: My approach to my own work is the same as it ever was. I have modified the structure of the commercial site to give participants better tools.

Q: How many times have you redesigned your blog since it started?

A: Foment.net has never been changed. Hipmama.com has been through seven epochal designs, with attendant trauma!

Q: What is something your readers do not know about you?

A: I love steam trains.

Q: What is your personal favorite blog post?

A: I can’t choose a favourite from all the amazing elements of Hipmama.com. From my own work, I am still startled to go back and read the brief and unexpected announcement that I was permanently leaving the United States. It was exactly as weird and fast as described – and I am hugely thankful the blog exists to remind me of the facts.

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