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Academic Bloggers: Influence Beyond the Classroom

by Nick Faber
Monday, April 18th, 2011

The New York Times has finally uncovered a category of “celebrity professor” that we’ve known about for years: The Academic Blogger. Congratulations to the blogging profs of Blogads U. Here’s hoping you make it into your school’s recruiting materials.

Ann Althouse, Althouse, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Law School

Her Internet life and her academic life, however, occupy largely separate silos. “I’m more vigorous, mocking and deliberately humorous online,” she says. “But I would never make fun of a student or tear one down.”

Juan Cole, Informed Comment, University of Michigan

Academics are uniquely positioned as bloggers, Dr. Cole believes. “People value the information and analysis more than my stray opinions,” he says. “I present information that I can dig out because of my academic expertise, language knowledge and cultural knowledge that’s not present in other news reporting.”

Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy, University of California, Los Angeles

Focused on free speech, gun rights and constitutional law — with the occasional personal digression, favorite recipe or discourse on a popular song thrown in — the Volokh Conspiracy is fairly consistent in its libertarian point of view.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, University of Tennessee College of Law (Blogads University Professor Emeritus)

Founded in 2001, Instapundit is the apotheosis of academic blogs, the inspiration for many that have followed. Professor Reynolds is still surprised: “I get e-mails from people who I think of as much bigger deals than me, and they’re trying to get attention by having me link to something on my blog.” He describes his readers as “people on Capitol Hill,” “technogeeks” and “a truck driver who e-mails me regularly from the road.”

Looking to advertise on leading academic blogs? We’ve got a full range of academic bloggers, covering everything from economics to law to the Kinsey Institute.

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.

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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. (more…)

Aaron Schatz: Keeping score for football fanatics

by susie
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Football Outsiders has provided stats and analysis to football junkies since July 2003. Creator Aaron Schatz has appeared on CNN and NPR, and he currently writes for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Aaron has also been written The New York Times, Slate, and The Boston Globe. Aaron’s football commentary continues on Twitter @FO_ASchatz, where his followers range from fellow sports writers and other sports bloggers (including Senior Sports Illustrated NFL Writer to Peter King and redskinsblog) Fantasy Football analysts (including CBSSports.com writer Dave Richard) and plenty of NFL fans. The New England Patriots fan currently lives in Framingham, Massachusetts with his wife and daughter.

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bio_aaron football outsiders

Q: When and how was Football Outsiders conceived?

A: I started goofing around with football stats in December of 2002. I was always a fan of Bill James, the baseball statistician, from way back, and I had read Hidden Game of Football by Carroll, Thorn, and Palmer. I didn’t know why I couldn’t find anyone who did this kind of analysis for the NFL on a regular basis. I had questions, and they needed answering. I started playing around with the stats, and within a few months I had some articles. I shared them with some people I knew at larger websites, and they all agreed that the articles were interesting but were for a small niche audience. I got together with some of my frat brothers from Brown, a programmer and two fantasy football columnists, and we launched the site in July 2003. It turned out to be perfect timing because around that time, Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball was starting to become a big deal, and everyone went onto the Web looking for “the Moneyball of (blank).” And there we were.

Q: How many people write for Football Outsiders? Are they all located in a similar geographic location?

A: No, people are spread all over the country. I’ve never even met some of my writers. There are only two full-time workers, me and Bill Barnwell, and we both live in the Boston area, but none of the other writers are here. We’ve got a couple in Seattle, a couple in Chicago. Mike Tanier is in South Jersey, Ben Muth out in Arizona. The college guys live in good college hotbeds: South Bend, Columbia, MO, Gainesville, and Atlanta. There are about a dozen guys who write for FO in one way or another, plus a couple guys who help out with programming.

One of the best parts of this has been the people coming out of the woodwork to write. I reached out to a couple of guys who had good blogs– that’s how I got the two college statisticians, Brian Fremeau and Bill Connelly– but also people reached out to me. Mike Tanier is the best pure writer on the staff; he approached me after working for a newspaper syndication service that didn’t even put his name on the articles. Ben Muth came to us last year, which now gives us an ex-player on staff; he was an all-Pac-10 left tackle at Stanford. And then people have become successful enough to make this into a career. Doug Farrar now makes a living writing, split between four websites (FO is one of them). Michael David Smith was the first outside writer I hired who wasn’t one of my Brown frat brothers, and he outgrew us and now writes full time for AOL. It’s great to have the opportunity to write about sports for a living, and it’s also great to be able to help other people get that opportunity.

Q: With a staff that large, there must surely be different biases for/against teams among your writers. Do the various team loyalties ever create conflict between your writers? Do you strive to keep your allegiances out of your posts?

A: No, I do think I’m part of the “Bill Simmons Generation” of Internet writers who decided that there was nothing wrong with being honest about fan loyalties. I mean, I did start this *because* I am a fan. I don’t want to ever get so jaded that I’m not actually enjoying sports, which sometimes seems to be the case with some of the local Boston columnists. But the FO writers respect each other. None of us have ever had a fight because our teams were facing each other in a big game. We actually keep a list on our FAQ so that if people are accusing us of bias, at least they can properly accuse the right people. When Ned Macey gets accused of Patriots bias, that’s a little silly since Ned lives in Indianapolis.

Q: What sets Football Outsiders apart from other football blogs?

A: Football is a game that can be enjoyed on a lot of different levels. You can be totally devoted to just one team. You can watch it because you like to watch fat guys beat each other up. You can watch it just to see cheerleaders, or to see a couple amazing athletic feats each week. Or you can enjoy it as a chess game where each team has 11 moving pieces at all times. Until FO came around, that last group was underserved by the media. Thanks to FO and the other sites that have popped up in our wake– plus the smartest NFL analyst, Ron Jaworski, being put on high-profile Monday Night Football– that is no longer the case.

I often say that Football Outsiders features intelligent conversation about football from people who don’t write “MY TEAM RULEZZZZZ!” with five “Z’s” at the end.

I also should point out that FO isn’t really a blog, per se. I agree with Nick Denton of Gawker Media about the development of websites, where blogs and websites that considered themselves “magazine-style” websites are gradually combining to be the same thing. We have a blog, sort of, in that we have a section called Extra Points with small commentaries and links to the biggest news of the day. But the main section of FO is more along the lines of Slate or Salon, with regular articles that hit on a weekly basis during the season. What’s important is that we are independent, and that meant that we needed a way to sell advertising through a central broker, and Blogads fit our needs perfectly. It didn’t matter if we called ourselves a blog or not.

Q: Have you found that your demographic of readers has changed since 2003?

A: As far as I can tell, we’ve got basically the same types of readers as we did back in the beginning, only more of them. One thing I can note about our blog is that we seem to have a higher percentage of international readers than the actual percent of sports fans interested in NFL football overseas. That makes sense– if you live in Peru or Israel, and you want to follow the NFL, you have to go online. And if you are that interested in football, you are likely very passionate about it and would want to visit a website where the writers and other users shared that passion.

Q: Are there any specific game highlights that you have encountered during the tenure of FO that stick out most in your mind?

A: Game highlights? I mean, we’ve been lucky to be doing this during some of the most memorable seasons in NFL history. In particular, we’re lucky we’re not doing Super Bowl previews back in the 80s when Super Bowls all ended up 45-10 or whatever. As a Pats fan, the David Tyree catch in the Super Bowl was a miserable moment for me, but of course it is the greatest Super Bowl play of all time for everyone else. Well, unless you think the Santonio Holmes catch the following year was the greatest Super Bowl play of all time. Fourth-and-2, fourth-and-26, the bomb that set TD records for Tom Brady and Randy Moss, the phantom holding call on Sean Locklear, the Antwaan Randle El trick pass in that same Super Bowl, the Saints’ onside kick in last year’s Super Bowl, the “we want the ball and we’re going to score” pick by Matt Hasselbeck… We’ve had a lot of memorable moments to write about.

(I assume everyone knows fourth-and-2 was the play from last year’s Pats-Colts game. For those who don’t remember, the Eagles had to convert fourth-and-26 to beat Green Bay during the 2003 playoffs, the week after Green Bay picked off Matt Hasselbeck in overtime after he followed the coin toss by saying, “We want the ball and we’re going to score”)

Q: What is something that your readers might not know about you or your staff?

A: Some people know that I was a radio disc jockey earlier in life, but most people don’t know my other claim to fame, which is that I’m one of the people responsible for Creed. I was doing middays and serving as music director for 93.1 WKRO in Daytona Beach, Florida (incidentally, number one on a countdown of “cities where I really do not fit in with anyone”). The morning guys brought me this CD of an unsigned band from Tallahassee, which had been their market before they came to Daytona. I listened to it and thought, “This is horrible, but man our listeners love this crap.” There was this “Florida sound” going on at the time, with heavy rock bands that were kind of “grunge lite”– Creed, Seven Mary Three, Mighty Joe Plum, and Matchbox 20, although they went in a softer direction long-term. Anyway, you program a station for the listeners, not for yourself. I convinced our program director to play them even though it was just a demo, and within a week it was in heavy rotation as the number one most requested song on the station. We were the second station in America to play them, after the Tallahassee station, and that popularity in Daytona helped them get their label deal. As I explain to people, everything I’ve done since has been an attempt to make up for my small part in unleashing the horror that is Scott Stapp upon the world.

Q: FO has some big-name followers on Twitter. What does Tweeting add to your blogging experience?

A: I don’t really think it “adds to our blogging experience.” It’s a good way to share small thoughts with readers. Sometimes I’ll come across an interesting stat, but one that’s not big enough to deserve its own post on FO. During games, I’ll have little thoughts about whatever is happening, or a joke. Blowouts for some reason make me go crazy with jokes. Check out my Twitter feed from Monday night December 6 sometime. Also, I use Twitter to keep up with reporters around the league. When news happens, you find out about it immediately. Twitter just blows up with big news, like when the Vikings cut Randy Moss a few weeks ago.

Q: Do you personally have a go-to blogger either for inspiration or provocation?

A: Not really. My biggest goal is to find really good team-related blogs that I can read on a regular basis, so that I can link to them and give them more attention when they write something good. Among the best: Niners Nation, 18 to 88, Texans Chick, and Brian Bassett’s The Jets Blog.

In celebration of this Super Bowl season, use discount code “neckbeard” to receive 50% off your ad purchase on Football Outsiders for the next week.

C. Max Magee: Appealing to the millions of book enthusiasts since 2003

by susie
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

A favorite site of avid book lovers, The Millions has been offering an “omnivoracious look at books and culture” since 2003. During its 7 years of existence, The Millions has attracted a large staff of regular and guest writers from the US and Canada. Founder, Editor, and New Jerseyan, C. Max Magee has appeared on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and is co-editor of the upcoming book The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books. Once a Twitter skeptic, Max now has over 6,500 Twitter followers including The New York Review of Books, CSPAN2′s Book TV, and NPR Books. In addition to having a Facebook page, The Millions also has a Kindle edition that updates throughout the day.

Max Magee, Editor of The Millions

Max Magee, Founder and Editor of The Millions

Q: Who decided on the name “The Millions”? Were there other names that you considered?

A: I picked that name back in 2003 when I didn’t even know what The Millions would be about, and certainly before I had any idea that it would grow into something that would last for years. The name is a play on my own name — Maximilian — and because I thought the site should be about all the millions of uncountable interesting things out there.

Q: You have some big name followers on Twitter. What does Tweeting add to your blogging experience?

A: I was a Twitter skeptic for a while, but I found it to be a great tool to help our pieces reach a wider audience. Running a basic magazine-site with very little in the way of bells and whistles can feel a little staid at times, but @The_Millions lets us have a presence in a faster-paced, off-the-cuff, conversational environment.

Q: You’ve been on NPR’s Weekend Edition, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. In the early years, did you expect this success?

A: I never had any particular expectations when it came to getting publicity, but now that the site has matured into something that I think is pretty unique, I’ve often thought that the site is deserving of more publicity. In a lot of ways, The Millions and other sites like it refute the dominant narrative of dying media, dying literature, and dying culture. The site is also, in my opinion, a great example of how it’s possible to build something quite valuable and lasting online with little more than time and perseverance.

Q: The Millions has been around since 2003. What changes have you experienced in the blogosphere in the past 7 years?

A: The blogosphere is the same in some ways but different in many others. There is a much more professionalized element now that wasn’t at all as present in 2003. At the same time, there are still plenty of hobbyists and diarists blogging for their own reasons and without much care for attracting a big audience, let alone making money. It’s also true that in 2003 there was something special and iconoclastic about blogging, and many pundits rushed to try to figure out what this crazy new phenomenon meant. These days, though, I think it’s a fully assimilated part of the fabric of human communication, and it’s gone from cutting edge to boring compared to Twitter, social networking, and most other hot new things.

Q: The Millions has a large staff of bloggers from all over the US and even Canada. Do you keep in touch with one another? Do you ever have meet-ups?

A: We communicate via an email list, but for the most part the effort is quite decentralized. We haven’t had meet-ups, though that would be fun to do one day. A few of us have congregated in one place or another from time to time, though.

Q: Do you or do any of your writers attend blogger conferences regularly?

A: I don’t think any of us has ever attended a blogger conference. In fact, I’m only dimly aware that there are such things as blogger conferences.

Q: What do you think makes The Millions different compared to other book blogs?

A: We’ve been lucky to have attracted many dozens of interesting writers over the years, so we are able to keep the site very fresh in terms of the many different voices represented on the site. I also think we do a good job of keeping the subject matter diverse and fairly organic. I suppose that compared to other sites that pick their niches and cover them very well, The Millions offers a more omnivoracious look at books and culture that might perhaps be difficult for a smaller or more narrowly oriented site.

Q: Do you personally have a favorite blog post? Does The Millions staff have a collective favorite?

A: I have many favorites and I suspect our staff does too. You can’t really go wrong browsing through our Notable Articles. These are pieces that have been big favorites of our writers and readers alike.

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

A: I sometimes correspond with readers, but more often the interactions happen on Twitter or in the comment sections of our pieces. Most frequently, if I’m corresponding with someone who reads the site, it’s because he or she is interested in writing for the site.

Q: How much time do you personally spend blogging each day?

A: I don’t have as much time for writing as I did when the site was smaller, but I do spend a number of hours a week editing pieces and planning the coverage on The Millions.

Q: Do you screen writers for The Millions?

A: There’s not really a formal screening process (though that’s probably a good idea). Writers regularly pitch us their ideas or even send completed pieces, and we decide whether or not they’ll be a good fit based on subject matter, tone, and of course whether we think it’s good or not. In the early days, I was lucky enough to have a number of friends who were interested in writing for the site before I was ever even really looking for writers. Since we adopted more of a magazine format, writers have generally approached us on their own without us doing any soliciting of pieces.

Josh Fruhlinger: the Comics Curmudgeon makes fun of the funnies

by susie
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

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Josh Fruhlinger has been reading the daily funnies for as long as he can remember. In 2004, he launched his blog, The Comics Curmudgeon, as a way to capture a wide audience for his critiques of comicstrips ranging from Archie to Ziggy. In 2007, he appeared as a contestant on Jeopardy where he ended up in third place with a final total of $1 after incorrectly answering “Who is Dubcek” (the correct answer was Golda Meir). In addition to updating his site daily, Josh also tweets frequently, having built up a loyal following ranging from his local newspaper, @baltimoresun to fellow comics enthusiasts like @comicsaddict. Josh has lived in Buffalo, San Francisco, and Germany, but currently resides in Baltimore with his wife Amber and cat Hoagie.

Josh Fruhlinger, Owner of The Comics Curmudgeon

Josh Fruhlinger, Owner of The Comics Curmudgeon

Q: In your “About Me” section, you say that you have been reading the daily comics every day for as long as you can remember. What made you decide to start blogging about the daily funnies?

A: I’ve been making the sorts of jokes I make on my blog kind of forever. When I was in graduate school, my roommate and I would send emails back and forth about the day’s Curtis strip or whatever. When I moved to Baltimore in 2002, the paper had all these bizarre soap opera strips (Mary Worth, Rex Morgan, etc.) that I had never seen before but which I instantly fell in love with. The immediate impetus came from my wife. I used to read the comics over breakfast with her and crack wise about them and then say “I should have a blog where I put this stuff up.” Eventually she got sick of me saying it and made me actually do it.

I also had made a couple of abortive attempts to start blogging in the early ’00s, but these were unfocused, hey-this-is-me-and-these-are-my-Important-Thoughts blogs. They flopped because they lacked direction. I do think the more laser-beam focused your blog is, the easier it is to get into the mindset necessary to write it. So, doing a comics blog was a way for me to motivate myself to do the writing that I wanted to do.

Q: How did you decide on the name “Comics Curmudgeon”? Were there any other names you considered for your blog?

When I first launched the blog in July of 2004, it was called “I Read The Comics So You Don’t Have To.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, there had been an intermittent but longrunning feature in the local Baltimore alt weekly called “Funny Paper” written by Tom Scocca (who now blogs for Slate) and Joe MacLeod that covered much of the same ground, and appeared online as well as in print; it had stopped running mere months before I started my blog. Their tagline was “We read the comics so you don’t have to,” and lots of my early readers thought that I was them, starting up in a different place.

Four or five months into my blogging career Tom Scocca wrote to me asking me to change the name, which I did, and the Comics Curmudgeon was all I could come up with on relatively short notice. At first I sort of resented it, but ultimately I’m glad I did. I sort of like having a noun as my blog title — “Josh Fruhlinger *IS* the Comics Curmudgeon!” — rather than having to me the “IRTCSYDHT guy”.

Q: Are there ever days when you have a difficult time picking something from the daily comics to blog about?

A: Sometimes, yes! I really try to do at least two a day, and sometimes it’s hard to find something funny to say other than “Boy, Funky Winkerbean sure is depressing!” Other times there’s an embarrassment of riches, of course.

One thing doing to blog every day has done for me is given me respect and sympathy for the comics artists I make fun of. It’s hard coming up with something funny to say every day. I have even less control than they do, though, since I depend on other people’s stuff to bounce off of.

Q: Do you always to stick to commenting on comics on the day they come out? In other words, are there ever days when there is such a wealth of great comics that you spread them out over two or more days?

A: The thing about the comics is that they happen every day! I don’t want to spread them out too much because who knows what the next day’s comics will bring. And actually, I like the fact that my site follows the natural rhythm of the comics section.

Q: How much time do you spend on blogging each day?

A: Depends, but it’s generally about an hour or two. The whole week’s comics actually go up all at once over the weekend, if you know where to look, so sometimes I try to spend an evening doing several days’ worth of comics in advance, so I don’t have to worry about it later. And then there’s the time spent keeping up with the commentors during the day, which happens in brief chunks.

Q: How does blogging fit in with your family life?

A: Oh, pretty well. I work at home in front of the computer so it just reads as more “work” at this point (though it’s definitely fun work!).

Q: When did you decide to run ads on your site? Did the inclusion of ads make running the site more like a second job and any less like a fun hobby?

I started running ads on the site really early in its existence — I think I put Amazon referral link ads almost as soon as I started running it, and I had BlogAds on the site by Spring of 2005, less than a year into its existence. But the first couple of years it was only a few hundred dollars a year. In 2007 the income started going up (and some of my other freelance income started going down) and I decided I had to treat it more like a job, which primarily meant that I tried to post comics every day. Before, I sometimes went days between posts; now I could afford to make time for the blog every day. I think posting daily boosted readership, which boosted income, which got me to treat it more like a job — a feedback loop.

I don’t regret this transition from hobby to job at all though! I feel very lucky to not ony entertain people but to make part of my living off of my writing. And my sense of professionalism compels me to try to do a good job, with satisfying results.

Q: You have some big-name followers on Twitter. What does Tweeting add to your blogging experience?

A: My Twitter feed isn’t just a “blog” feed — I put up links to my other work, links to things I find interesting, jokes I come up with, etc. there too. I do link to every blog post, though, and I try to put up a bonus joke when I do so it doesn’t just feel like an automated feed to readers. I sort of started as an experiment, and I was suprised to find that Twitter quickly became my #2 referring domain after Google. It’s also a quick and easy way for me to communicate with readers who tag me in a Twitter post — less intrusive and more manageable than e-mail.

Q: How often do you correspond one-on-one with your readers? Do you post regularly on the Discussion Forum on your site?

A: I do try to read all of my comments, and I probably post comments myself a two or three times a week, especially in reply to comments that are asking me something directly. I get plenty of email and try to get direct responses to everyone in a timely fashion (though I don’t always pull it off). I do think remaining accessible is important for a site like a blog that is very strongly identified with its owner/writer.

Q: What is your personal favorite blog post and/or corresponding comic strip?

A: Man, after 2,600+ posts, it’s honestly hard for me to pick! I have to say that one of my favorite sequences — which also corresponded to an uptick in my traffic — came in the summer of 2006, during a bizarre Mary Worth storyline in which a Captain Kangaroo lookalike who had fallen for Mary was literally hounded to death by Mary and her friends. After the strip where we learned that he died, I somehow managed to put together a passable W.H Auden spoof of which I am still proud.

But, to prove that I’m not just resting on my laurels, I was actually pretty pleased with the post I just put up this morning, for maintaining a theme across discussion of several strips.

Q: Have you ever thought about branching out to cover comic books in addition to newspaper comic strips?

A: I haven’t, for a couple reasons. One is that quite honestly I’m not a big comic book reader, and haven’t been since I was a kid. The other is more strategic: there are *lots* of comic book blogs out there, but I’m pretty much *the* newspaper comic strip blogger. One of the things I think is key to success in blogging is to find your own niche. What’s the thing that you love that nobody else is writing about?

Q: What is something about you that your readers don’t know?
A: Hmm, there are actually very few things I don’t talk about on the blog, actually! I don’t make it all “me me me” — it’s not that kind of blog — but I’m a big believer in transparency.
Q: Where did you go to grad school? How does this influence your blogging?

A: I went to grad school at UC Berkeley and got a completely useless master’s degree in history. The original plan was to stay through and get a PHD and become an academic but after a couple years I realized it wasn’t for me and beat an honorable retreat when I got the master’s. The subject matter didn’t really affect my blogging directly, but getting a humanities degree involves learning how to very closely read cultural products (writing/art/etc.) both in and of themselves and in a larger cultural contexts, which is more or less what I’m doing with Mary Worth, bizarrely enough.

Q: Do you have a go-to blogger who inspires or provokes you?

A: Not a specific blogger, but I have a huge blog-crush on all the folks who write The Awl.

Q: You were on Jeopardy! While you were going through the process, were you thinking about how you would write about the experience in a blog post?

A: Yes, I did! Even though it had nothing to do with my blog per se, which is why I made it a standalone page.

Josh would like to extend the following discount code to advertisers. As a throwback to the days when he wrote under “I Read the Comics so You Don’t Have To,” use the code irtcsydht to receive one free week of advertising on the Comics Curmudgeon between 12/24/10 and 1/2/10. He would also like to extend an offer to any Comic Artists or Owners of Comic-Related Websites for 50% off banner ads during the month of January! Send Josh an email for more information.


Candy Kirby: Full-time family humor blogger

by susie
Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Candy Kirby, a Pennsylvania-born Los Angeles transplant and former writer for “The Bold and the Beautiful,” added Blogger to her resume in 2006. Three years later, she added Editor, Founder, and “Chief Waste Management Technician” when she created The Laughing Stork, a blog dedicated to unveiling the unpredictable and humorous nature of parenting. The blog’s tagline “Home is where the humor is” also applies to the antics of her crazy cats who happily pose for holiday photos, and Candy’s desire to turn a diaper genie into a beer keg. Her good-natured tweets appeal to a wide audience ranging from @BarackObama to @AmyGrindhouse. You can also friend her on Facebook to stay up to date with Candy’s zany updates or check out her fun game for expecting mothers: Pregnancy Bingo!

Candy Laughing Stork

Candy Kirby, Founder and Editor of The Laughing Stork

Q: When did you start blogging, and what was your inspiration to start?

A: I started blogging on a whim – like so many other people – back in 2006 when I was “on a break” from TV writing. At first I thought, “Oh, it will be nice to do this on the side as another outlet for my writing.” Then blogging became my passion. I originally poked fun at pop culture and eventually segued into family humor, a much more rich area for material in my opinion, when I become pregnant in 2009.

Q: What do you think makes The Laughing Stork unique compared to other parenting blogs?

A: The Laughing Stork is not a resource for parents and does not provide one iota of credible information. It is pretty much all humor and satire, all the time.

Q: How much time do you spend each day on blogging?

A: Four to ten hours, which also includes working on advertising, marketing, responding to readers, etc.

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

A: Every day. I make a concerted effort to respond to every e-mail, because the site wouldn’t exist without readers’ support.

Q: Were there any unexpected joys or pains associated with blogging when you first started out?

A: Oh sure. When I wrote about pop culture, there were “trolls,” some of whom were actually other (oddly competitive) bloggers, that would leave vicious comments and try to drive my other readers away. That was certainly stressful. But you learn how to closely monitor comments to keep the community somewhat cordial and, even more importantly, how to develop thick skin! Also, there was – and is – the addictive nature of blogging. It is tough when you’re unable to really take a vacation day. On the flip side, that’s exactly what makes certain blogs successful: that need to post every day and connect with your readers.

Q: What is the meaning behind the name of your blog, The Laughing Stork? Were there other names you considered using?

A: Yes, I had a whole list of pretty terrible names, including – I kid you not – “The Bottle Lines.” Can you imagine? But, hey, there are no bad ideas in a brainstorm! *AHEM* I knew I wanted something different from many other parenting blogs, something that didn’t have the words “mom” or “baby” in it so, with the help of my brand management consultants (AKA my cats), I ultimately decided on The Laughing Stork, which is a play on the phrase “Laughing Stock.” Think it captures my brand well.

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

A: I eat everything out of a bowl. Even pizza.

Q: Would you mind elaborating on that a little more?

A: Oh boy. How to explain my many quirks? There is not much logic behind my affinity for bowls (or behind most of what I do, for that matter). I think it all started because I’m a messy eater and I discovered bowls contain my food and crumbs better than plates. And now, well, I feel compelled to eat almost everything out of a bowl if possible. I will eat off a plate at restaurants. But I’m not happy about it.

Q: What is your own personal favorite blog post?

A: Sounds cliché, but it’s hard to single out just one. There is a column about the time I was tragically defeated by an umbrella stroller, Woman Versus Stroller, to which many mothers can relate. And, even more importantly, my mom thought it was funny. I also created a fun new game: Pregnancy Bingo!

Q: Has your approach to blogging changed over time, and what motivates you to continue?

A: It is no longer a hobby; it is my livelihood. So I have to approach it as a business without making the site feel that way.

Q: Since blogging is now your livelihood, is it less fun than it was when it was a hobby?

A: Well, sure, because there is more pressure to keep increasing traffic and, therefore, advertising revenue. And anything becomes a “job,” eventually. But getting to write whatever I want for a living and having the schedule flexibility that I do…? Ain’t too shabby.

Q: What recommendations would you give to up and coming bloggers who wish to make their own blogs their full time jobs?

A: Be sure that you’re passionate about blogging. Don’t quit your day job until you’re generating enough revenue on which to live. And, most importantly, invest in plenty of sweatpants and Red Bull.

Q: You have some big-name followers on Twitter. What does Tweeting add to your blogging experience?

A: Not only does it broaden my community and offer a marketing tool for my stories, but it also gives me an outlet for thoughts or ideas that aren’t necessarily blog post-worthy. In other words, I post a lot of nonsense on Twitter.

Q: You mentioned that a successful blog is one that has daily posts; do you ever take days off?

A: I don’t post much on the weekends anymore because I think it’s important to recharge the creative batteries. However, I rarely take weekdays off – and usually find myself writing during vacations, as I did recently in Hawaii. I make it up to my husband by buying him a couple of fruity umbrella drinks. He’s easy like that.

Q: Do you have a go-to blogger who inspires or provokes you?

A: I regularly go to blogs that celebrate the absurd, such as AwkwardFamilyPhotos and CakeWrecks.

A gift guide for bloggers and gadget enthusiasts

by susie
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Too busy blogging (or buying ads) to pick out gifts?  Here are suggestions for the seasonal gift-hurl:

Agloves

Agloves maintain connectivity between your fingertips and touch screen while keeping your hands warm.

How often do you find yourself waiting at the bus stop, sitting at a stoplight, or taking the dog out in chilly weather when *beep beep* you receive a text? You can’t very well take your hands out of their cozy gloves to respond. The answer to this scenario is Agloves! These gloves allow conductivity to pass from your fingers right to your digital device! Touch screens can’t even tell the difference between Agloves and bare fingers, so you no longer need to worry about frost bite.

Twournal

Twournal compiles tweets into a book you can display in your home library

Twournal transforms Twitter’s tweeters’ tweets into tactile titles. This gift is great for the Tweeter who uses Twitter as a personal diary or the Tweeter who has always wanted their work to be printed.

bench cookie

Bench cookies are great for keeping laptops cool

Why spend over $20 on a cooling station for your laptop when you can buy the Bench Cookie? Bench cookies provide an adjustable gripped surface. Place four under a laptop to promote air circulation, which makes your machine safer and more energy efficient. As an extra bonus, these handy little discs are multi-taskers! When not under a laptop, these handy Oreo-like discs can be used for various home projects. Create a steady surface for your kitchen’s cutting board or incorporate them into your woodworking projects.

Etch A Sketch

The Etch A Sketch faceplate turns an ordinary iPad into a classic toy

Looking for a way to make your iPod feel more like a childhood toy? Affix the Headcase Etch A Sketch® faceplate to your iPod for that classic 1950s nostalgia. Also available for iPhone!

matias folding keyboard

The Matias Folding Keyboard fits into a laptop bag for easy travel

For laptop lovers who prefer a full sized keyboard, the Matias Folding Keyboard provides a great option for traveling bloggers. This slim peripheral has a number pad for efficient spreadsheet entry, volume controls, and is specially designed to reduce the long-term fatigue sometimes associated with prolonged keyboard use. Whether your recipient is an iPhone, iPad, Macbook, or PC laptop user, the Matias folding keyboard is a solid pick.

iBoo

iBoo will scare up your favorite tunes

The blogger whose inspiration comes from pumping out tunes might be interested in the iBoo. Available in red, white, and blue, iBoo scares up your iPod’s library through a 9 W Subwoofer and 15 watts of total output. If your blogger does not sync with these Pac-Man reminiscent ghosts, check out the iPig or iPanda instead.

Prank Boxes

Hide your expensive gifts in one of these prank boxes

For those of you who have already found the perfect gift and want to present it with gusto, hide it in a prank gift box. The Prank Pack Fake Gift Boxes include two phony product boxes: The iArm (“Forearm Mount”) and a PetPetter (“Never touch your pets again!”). Simply insert your high priced gift in the box, wrap it up and stick it under the tree. Your sweetheart will never suspect the diamond ring you’ve hidden inside!

Larrys Holiday Blend

Add some pep to your day with some NC roasted organic fair trade coffee

Caffeine motivates the masses. There are plenty of fabulous local coffees available, but here are a couple of North Carolina brands that are near and dear to our hearts. Both Larry’s Beans and Counter Culture offer environmentally sustainable organic, fair trade, shade grown beans, so you can feel good about supporting these roasters while you get your coffee buzz on. Check out their online stores for seasonal flavors like Larry’s Rockin’ Holiday Blend and Counter Cultures 2010 Holiday Blend. And for coffee drinkers on the go, get them the Photojojo. This clever portable coffee mug poses as either a Nikon or Canon lens and keeps your coffee toasty warm for those cold commutes.

photojojo

Finally, a mug for the shutterbug coffee enthusiast

For more fabulous gift ideas, check out these sources:
Techno Claus from Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood
Wired’s Gift Guide for Geeks on the Go
The Think Geek Holiday Gift Center
Mashable’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

Rebecca Joines Schinsky: The Book Lady

by susie
Thursday, December 9th, 2010

The Book Lady’s Blog, written and edited by Rebecca Joines Schinsky, features reviews for a range of book genres as well as coverage of industry news. Rebecca is a self described “panty-throwing, book-loving, wild woman” as well as a member of the National Book Critic’s Circle. Some of her favorite things include parentheses and author John Irving. When she isn’t busy reading, composing blog posts, or recording the Bookrageous Podcast, she can be found updating her Twitter feed (followed by tweeps including writers like @susanorlean and publishers like @simonschuster and @powerHouseBooks) and Facebook account from her home in Richmond, VA.

Rebecca Joines Schinsky, writer and editor of The Book Lady's Blog

Rebecca Joines Schinsky, writer and editor of The Book Lady's Blog

Q: When did you start blogging, and what was the inspiration that got you started?

A: I started blogging in July of 2008. I had just recently discovered book blogs and LibraryThing, and I was so pleasantly surprised that people were using the internet to create a literary community. I was bored at work one day and thought, “Well, I could totally do that!” and I just did it the way I do pretty much everything else– I jumped in head first and learned as I went.

Q: Were there any unexpected joys or pains you experienced when you started blogging?

A: There are unexpected joys all the time in the form of new relationships and book discoveries and hearing that I’ve turned someone onto a great book or new genre. That’s incredibly rewarding. In terms of pain, well, blogging is like everything else in life: it’s only as painful as you make it. The Book Lady’s Blog is a drama-free zone, so the pains have been relatively few and far between.

Q: What keeps you motivated to continue blogging?

A: What? You mean besides the millions of dollars I… oh wait… Really, it’s the people! I love books, but what I really love are book people. They’re the reason I started my blog, and they’re the reason I continue. Blogging has allowed me to connect with people who share my passion for literature and whom I would never have met otherwise, and it’s opened up all kinds of exciting doors into the world of publishing and bookselling. Access to books before they come out isn’t too bad, either.

Q: How much time do you spend on blogging each day?

A: It varies. I write about a thousand words a day, but it takes me much longer to reach that total when I’m writing a book review than it does when I’m writing a piece about publishing, an event I attended, or my reading life. In general, I spend about two hours writing my blog each day and another several reading other blogs and engaging in social networking.

Q: When your blog transitioned from a hobby to a part-time job, did it lose its novelty (forgive the pun!)? Does it ever feel more like “work” rather than fun?

A: Sure, at some points it has felt more like work, as I’ve felt increased pressure to have new content every day and to utilize social networking with more focus in order to attract new readers, but the flip side is that it is also more rewarding. Now that I have income from something that began as a labor of love, I see a way in to making this part of a career, and I’m taken more seriously for being able to reach a wider audience.

Q: How does blogging fit in with your family life?

A: When I started blogging, it fit into my family life (which is just my husband, my dog, and me) the same way any other hobby did– I did it in my spare time and focused on it when my husband was engaged in his own hobbies. Now that it’s more of a part-time job, I dedicate time for it– and for reading, can’t forget the reading– each day, and I fit other things in around it, instead of the other way around.

Q: Do you ever worry about running out of things to blog about?

A: No– as long as there are good books, there will be things to blog about. What I worry about is running out of writing mojo.

Q: What do you think makes The Book Lady’s Blog unique compared to other book blogs?

A: Blogging is all about voice, and I think mine is a bit snarkier and more irreverent than many. Publishing has been so doom-and-gloom for the last few years, and I think it stands out that I’m working to make reading fun and sexy and not quite so serious.

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

A: I can sing every last word of REM’s “End of the World As We Know It.”

Q: What is your personal favorite blog post?

A: It changes every week or so… there are several that I’m really proud of, but I really don’t have a favorite.

Q: What is your current favorite? Do you have a couple of top posts that you are particularly proud of?

Right now, I’m loving my end-of-year series. In the past, I’ve done one big round-up post, so this year I decided to shake things up and create several “best of” lists. I’ve released the “genre busters” and literary fiction lists so far and look forward to sharing my selections in narrative nonfiction, memoir, and “the best of the rest” next week.

Q: You have some big-name followers on Twitter. What does Tweeting add to your blogging experience, and how do you decide who to follow back?

A: Tweeting makes the room bigger. With blogging, the conversation is limited to the blogger and the people who comment on a post. Tweeting opens up a much wider audience for making connections, growing the conversation, and driving new readers to my blog. And it’s fun! Some of my best ideas and projects (including #pantyworthy and the Bookrageous calendar and podcast) began on Twitter. If you can work the room at a cocktail party, you can get something out of tweeting.

Q: You mentioned that you also have a podcast. Is there a lot of overlap between the podcast and the content of your blog? Is it difficult to find enough content to keep both of your projects fresh?

A: There’s a little overlap in terms of the books I discuss, but the podcast (Bookrageous Podcast on Podbean and Bookrageous Podcast on Tumblr) is a project with two friends (Josh Christie of Brews and Books and Jenn Northington, event manager at Word Bookstore in Brooklyn), and our collaboration keeps the conversations new and fresh. We record every other week and choose themes to guide our discussions, many of which are initially born on Twitter, so in the way that three brains are better than one, it’s a whole lot of fun and the new content seems to come naturally.

Q: Who are your go-to bloggers, whether for inspiration or provocation?
I follow so many blogs– and they span books, feminism, music, photography, cooking, and general life-y stuff– that I feel like it’s both impossible and unfair to name favorites. I love what Jessica Valenti has done with Feministing; I always learn something and walk away feeling inspired, and they are nothing if not thought-provoking over there. The Pioneer Woman validates my opinion that it’s not a meal if it doesn’t involve real butter. The Millions, The Elegant Variation, Largehearted Boy, and Beatrice (among many others) remind me what blogging can become and what it can do for books and readers. And the hundreds of passionate, talented bloggers who introduce me to new books every single day are nothing short of amazing… but I’m not naming any names on that one. :)

Rebecca is offering a discount code for 50% off a one week ad. Fittingly enough, her code is bookrageous. Simply enter this word into coupon field when you buy an ad on The Book Lady Blog.

Proto-blogger Lynn Siprelle, making a home on the web since 1999

by susie
Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Lynn Siprelle is one of the few people who can justly claim to have started blogging in 1999. She got started writing about home-making and today runs the popular The New Homemaker. You can follow Lynn on Facebook for regular TNH updates, or check out her Twitter feed, where she is followed by tweeps including @ScienceChannel, @GrammarGirl, and many others.

Lynn Siprelle, editor of The New Homemaker

Lynn Siprelle, editor of The New Homemaker

Q: Your Facebook page says The New Homemaker was founded in 1999. Did you start out as a blog or did you use another platform in the early years?

A: 1999 was “pre-blog!” :) Before I did TNH I did a thing called That’s Useful This Is Cool, which was definitely a proto-blog; I highlighted one useful website and one cool website every day for a couple of years, until it became obvious that the web really was here to stay and was going to grow exponentially.

TNH started out as an e-magazine, but I quickly started the blog component, Diary of a New Homemaker, not long after.

Q: How did you choose the name The New Homemaker?

A: When I became a stay-at-home mom, I went looking for resources for a woman like me: liberal, non-Christian, attachment parenting-oriented, and home-oriented. I couldn’t find one. All I found at the time that was as comprehensive as I wanted were sites geared toward conservative evangelicals. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it’s just not me. Since I couldn’t find the resource, I started it. The name “The New Homemaker” comes from my outlook: I don’t stay home because I have to, I stay home because I want to–because we’ve thought hard about it and decided that’s what’s best for our particular families. That’s what makes me and women like me “new” homemakers, not time on the job.

Q: What inspired you to start blogging?

A: I can’t shut up. :)

Q: Were there any unexpected joys or pains you experienced when you started blogging?

A: I’ve been a professional writer most of my adult life; the pains and joys, I think, are the same no matter what you write, though the fine line between public and private is perhaps walked a little more finely in blogging.

Q: How does blogging fit in with your family life?

A: My family is used to me scribbling *something* pretty much all the time, bless them. :)

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

A: That I write fiction under a pen name.

Q: Care to disclose that name, or point us to some of your work?

A: I write fantasy under the pen name MeiLin Miranda. It’s quite the departure from my New Homemaker work. http://www.meilinmiranda.com/ — also a Blogads site, I must add.

Q: What is your personal favorite blog post?

A: It’s the posts I wrote about 9/11 and its aftermath, probably, which are no longer on the website. I have them in my archives somewhere; they got lost in a platform switch-over. To my amazement, when I introduced myself on a mailing list a few years ago, someone else on the list–someone I did not know–pulled the initial post out of thin air and quoted it entire to the group. That someone liked something of mine enough to save it–that qualifies as a joy, I think.

Q: I am sorry to hear you lost your favorite blog post during a platform transition.  Was anything else lost in that transition?  Was it difficult to recover?

A: I managed to keep all my other content, but the blog posts were more difficult. I believe I have local copies, but I don’t know where they are. *slaps at hard drive, raising dust and cobwebs*

Q: What was the gist of your post-9/11 posts?

A: I was worried for our Afghani neighbors across the street (and in fact, this year their new house under construction in the suburbs was the target of an attempted firebombing). My second daughter was only four months old, and I talked about how we passed the baby from person to person, just hugging her and playing with her–anything to take our minds off the horror on CNN and the eerie silence of the skies and streets.

Q: Do you ever worry about running out of things to blog about?

A: As long as I’m alive I’ll have stuff to write about.

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

A: These days, not so much. In the “old days,” quite a lot. TNH is considered primarily a resource site now, I think.

Q: Which new online services, such as Facebook Groups, Foursquare, or Clickset, have you tried and gotten excited by?

A: Twitter. I love Twitter. I don’t really care for Facebook, Foursquare seems like an absolutely horrid idea to me, and I have no idea what Clickset is. *runs to web browser…*

Q: Do you communicate directly with your readers via Twitter?  How do you decide who to follow back?

A: You know, I don’t use Twitter much for The New Homemaker. I do for the fiction stuff–a lot–but not the nonfiction.

Q: Who are your go-to bloggers, whether for inspiration or provocation?

My daily stops are DailyKos, because that’s how I roll politically, La Vida Locavore because I’m deeply interested in the politics of food, and the Bloggess because she’s freaking hilarious.

Offer Code Alert! For the next week, Lynn has extended a 50% off discount code to advertise on The New Homemaker. Simply enter “tnhinterview” in the discount code field when you’re entering your ad. While you’re visiting her order page, think about giving it a Facebook “like” on the top right.

Kristen Chase: what does it take to write a leading parenting blog?

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

One of the best things about working at Blogads.com is all the interesting bloggers we get to know and correspond with. (And send money to.) We’re going to do regular interviews with bloggers and share some of their insights about blogging with you.

To kick off, we traded thoughts with Kristen Chase, who blogs at Motherhooduncensored and CoolMom Picks. She’s celebrating her 5th anniversary as a blogger.

You can follow Kristen on Twitter @thatkristen and on Facebook here. (On Twitter, her 5,500 followers range from @bettycrocker to @todayshow.)

Kristen Chase

Kristen Chase

Q: When did you start blogging?

A: I began writing Motherhood Uncensored back in November 2005 – so happy 5-year blogaversary to me!

Q: What got you started?

A: I became completely obsessed with the blog of a fellow military wife and friend who had moved away and decided I’d start one of my very own that addressed the challenging aspects of motherhood.

Q: How did you decide on the name of your blog?

A: Well, the first 18 months of parenting kicked my butt and I found myself slightly bitter that no one had warned me it would be so hard. So I decided to write candidly (but also humorously) about the challenges I faced so that perhaps I could help other mothers out.

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

A: Look – every blog is unique because every person is different, but I think we gravitate to what we can relate to, or, conversely, what we somehow aspire to or that inspires us. When I began writing, I was a yankee living in the Deep South who wasn’t afraid to write about anything, and that fascinated people. Now, four kids later but back in the Deep South, I think it’s more about other moms feeling as though they can commiserate with me and my experiences. And maybe a little “boy I’m glad I’m not in her shoes” too – ha!

Q:  Your fourth child was born just a month ago — how are you able to keep blogging?

A: I figure since I’m not getting any sleep anyway, I might as well capitalize on it!

Q: How much time daily do you spend blogging?

A: Because blogging has now become a business for me, I spend much of my day doing something related to a blog – though unfortunately, it’s not actual writing, unless you count “answering emails” and “tweeting” as writing.

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

A: I do my best to reply to comments on my site, as well as return emails from readers, though I don’t really get too many of those. Much of the correspondence I have with readers happens on Twitter these days.

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

A: I admit that I’m much less uncensored than I was when I first started. No one knew about my blog and I was pretty anonymous. But now that I’ve added more kids, moved into a neighborhood with people who know how to use Google, and written a book, I’m much more careful about what I’m writing about. Maybe I need to change my blog name to “Motherhood Kinda Uncensored.”

Q: What does your mother-in-law think of your blog? :)

A: Well, my mother-in-law doesn’t read my blog! I’m not that brave. Or insane. Heh.

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

A: If you had told me I’d be doing this full-time when I started five years ago, I would have laughed. But that’s the exciting part about self-publishing and life in general. You just don’t know where it’s going to take you. I’ve been fortunate to have had amazing experiences and to have met fantastic people.

Q: What is something your readers don’t know about you?

A: Well, I’m horrible with sayings and spelling. Let’s just say I use Google and a Dictionary a lot when I write my posts and find myself saying “Oh, so that’s how you [say/spell] it” more often than I probably should be admitting.

Q: What is your personal favorite blog post?

A: Oh man, it’s so hard to pick one, however I still love my post “Secret Agent Mom” from ages ago. A recent favorite is the post I wrote about having a 3-year-old. *language warnings*

Q: As your kids get older, what thoughts do you have about what their friends might think reading the blog 10 years from now?

Considering I wrote a book about sex and that’s what comes up when you Google me, the content on my blog is pretty tame. And quite frankly, I wish my mom had kept journals like this so that I could have read them. I view these stories as a gift to my kids, so when I’m not here, they’ll have something to look back on. And hopefully laugh about together. Even if it’s at my expense.

WANT TO ADVERTISE ON Motherhooduncensored? Here’s the order page. (Long-time buyers of blogads will notice that we’ve streamlined the order page.) And this week you can get a 50% discount (celebrating Kristen’s 5th birthday as a blogger and our new offer code discounts) by using the phrase “uncensored.”


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