Friday, March 28, 2008

Someone I'd Like You to Meet: Lis Garrett from Woolgatherings

Lis Garrett at WoolgatheringsI don't know if you've ever wondered how I come up with the Write-Away Contest judge each month, I've got the question once or twice before, and it's no big mystery. First, I only ask people that I know are nice enough to say yes to such a thankless task as being an indentured servant for one full month. I send the judge the entries and they read them all, often putting their own schedules aside, then deliver the verdict under pressure of a rather tight deadline. And all for nothing but my undying affection and eternal gratitude.

But besides looking for extremely nice people (of which I actually know quite a few) I try to find people that I think are good writers--those who have the ability to recognize a finely turned sentence or a grammatical faux pas and who have moved me at various times with their own writing.

Lis Garrett at Woolgatherings is a perfect example of what I'm describing. Not only is she a creative and warm person she's a woman of experience and talent, particularly in the writing department. If I were to give you her resume I'd start by saying she lives in New York state where she and her husband have three children: Hannah (8), Jacob (6) and Bridget (2). She's run her own Etsy shop, A Barrel of Monkeys, and when she's not blogging at Woolgatherings or her second blog, Lis Garrett: Silver Tongued Writer she works as a freelance writer writing product endorsements. Impressed yet?

But despite her daunting productivity she's down to earth and genuine. Here are a few of the questions I put to her so that you could get to know her a little better:

Is there anything you’d like to learn how to do? Either on your blog or in your offline life?

I would love to learn how to be less serious. I am not the witty, funny type. Even when I was little, I was a brooder. My family wondered if I even knew how to smile! I think my "seriousness" stems from the fact that I am very self-conscious, and that's something I'm trying to overcome. For my kids' sake, especially my girls, I don't want them to walk through life always being concerned about what other people think. I don't want them to feel inhibited out of fear that others will think them silly or strange. My oldest daughter is a lot like me, and it scares me that I see in her the same introverted tendencies. My shyness can be debilitating at times - I don't even like to call for pizza!

Has being a blogger changed the way you parent? If so how?

As funny as it sounds, blogging has made me feel that someone is standing over my shoulder "watching" everything I do. Pretending that my parenting skills are constantly under peer evaluation actually helps me be a better mom. Also, I've been a mom for close to 9 years, and I feel like I have something to offer to those just starting out.

If you could have a dream job what would it be?

I would love to start my own publishing company one day (we did say dream job, right?!). Breaking into print publication is HARD. Sometimes it's all about who you know and being in the right place at the right time. I love to root for the underdog, and I think that most people who want to be published ARE classic underdogs. Being able to offer writers a place to submit their work - a place where they don't necessarily need an agent or previous experience - would be a rush.

Have you changed since you started blogging? Has the purpose of your blog changed?

Oh boy! Mine is an ever-evolving blog. I just finished reading His Dark Materials, and it occurred to me that my blog is like a daemon who has yet to settle on its true form. I started blogging in January 2006, and my blog at that time had a very "green" focus. But then I discovered I enjoyed blogging about parenting and my attempts at sewing (which were ridiculously bad!) The blog I have now is the most focused I've been, and even it changes. I recently had a mini-crisis because blogging was taking up WAY too much of my time. I've had to cut down on how much I do.

Blogging, by nature, tends to be a personal action—do you have any feelings about what is proper or acceptable for bloggers to share on their blogs and what is not? Do you have personal limits you’ve set for yourself regarding things you will or will not share?

I try not to write things that are too controversial. Believe it or not, I am a VERY opinionated person. Some considered me the school snob. To me, though, blogging is about bringing people together versus alienating them. Rarely will I mention politics or religion on my blog, although I have very strong views about both. If I talked about those things, I imagine I would lose half my readership! Although every blogger has the right to include what she wishes on her blog, I don't think it's fair to force your opinions on others. I tend to stay away from blogs that are overtly negative or criticize, and especially those that are close-minded. I have one real-life friend whose religious and political views have always been the complete opposite of mine. And yet, we have so much other than that in common. If we can all agree that we are mothers who want only the best for our children, the rest is inconsequential.

In your opinion, what’s the hardest part about being a mother or a woman these days? How do you handle the issue personally?

I think women are under A LOT of stress these days. I have a long history of depression on my maternal side, so I'm always struggling to keep one step ahead of that. There are days, however, when I feel like I can't cope. I put a lot of pressure on myself (I'm a Virgo, after all!). My husband does a lot of traveling for his job, so being a single parent of three kids for up to two weeks each month is difficult. Plus when I am trying to work, tend to the house, cook the meals, help with homework, divert disaster on a moment-by-moment basis . . . it's all a little overwhelming. However, I don't think my situation is unique and there are certainly others who have more stressful situations with which to contend. My husband chides me for being "the martyr," and as much as he helps, I still feel like I do about 85% of everything needed to run a successful family. One of my future posts is called "Why Dads Should Not Schedule Playdates." Hmm . . . great title for a book!

When people ask you what you do, do you call yourself a writer? Why or why not?

My husband is more likely to call me a writer when introducing me to others, but I feel weird calling myself that (and this is where I'm a bit of a snob). I'm a contracted web writer, which I think is a job most anyone with a decent grasp of the English language could do. I've always been the type who wants to be "the best." I didn't want to be just a teacher - I had aspirations of earning my doctorate and teaching on the college level. I didn't want to be just a nurse - I wanted to study to be a certified nurse midwife. However, my inability to "settle" on a career is, in part, do to my being a perfectionist. I have an all or nothing attitude - great for a single person but horrible for a married mom of three. I have a difficult time balancing the professional and domestic in me. Writing has been something I've always done for enjoyment for as long as I could hold a pencil and peck away at a typewriter. Everyone but me thought I would grow up to be a writer, because I thought writers were those people on the Bestseller's List. However, there is only one JK Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver, and Stephen King, and my aspirations with writing was never to receive critical acclaim or to amass a fortune. My writing career has only just begun, and I have still so much to learn. Who knows where it will take me?

How would you feel if you had to close down your blog tomorrow? How would it affect you?

Honestly? There's a little part of me that would be relieved. Eventually, I will close down my blog. I once wrote that my blog is like the waiting room to my professional career; I don't know through which door I need to go, so I'm just hanging out for awhile. I've got a few ideas, though . . .

What is the biggest mistake beginning bloggers make?

Those bloggers who start blogging to make money are in for a rude awakening. The woman whose Pokémon card eBay auction garnered a lot of attention, which spiraled into a blog and book deal and TV sitcom opportunity . . . that doesn't happen for 99.9% of bloggers. Also, it takes a lot of time to develop a loyal following. Patience is a virtue!

Any last words of advice for the novices out there? For either blogging or offline writing?

Take it one day at a time, and don't let it consume you. It's easy to get swept away in blogging, but you have a real-life family whose real-life needs are infinitely more important that writing a blog post.

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luvmy4sons said...

Wow. That was great!

Lis Garrett said...

Michelle ~ thanks for letting me take up space here! I really enjoyed judging the Write Away contest. :-)

Pendullum said...

Great and wonderful interview...
Great when there is a great interviewer and interviewee!

Cocoa said...

I especially love Lis's advice at the end.

Anonymous said...

What a great interview, I really enjoyed reading the responses!

Take Care,


Daisy said...

Great questions! If I stopped blogging, I think I'd miss the writing process, but most of all, I'd miss the people I've come to know in cyberspace.

Jenna Consolo said...

Great interview! I can see why you like her so much. Now, I must go to her blog myself!

nottryingforaboy said...

That was great! And perfect advice at the end.

oh amanda said...

Great answers AND questions! I loved it!

Holding It Together said...

Thanks for sharing this - I really like Lis's blogs and appreciate the chance to get to know her a little better through this.

Lei said...

Wow - a fascinating woman! Thanks for helping us get to know her better!