In addition to writing about how I moved from Montana to Texas for Fashion Capstone, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tolly Moseley, the writer of the Austin Eavesdropper. If you're not reading her, leave now and go check out her blog. Seriously. Tolly's not just an Austin blogger; she's one the most personable lifestyle bloggers I've come across. Which is why I thought she was a perfect subject. Unfortunately, in our magazine there was limited space, and I had to cut our interview short. Lucky for you, I have a blog, so I get to share Tolly's golden drops of wisdom with y'all. I'm breaking it up into two sections, as it is pretty long. Without further ado...
You started blogging after returning from grad school in Davis, California (Yay for former Davisites!). What drew you to blogging?
I’ve always been addicted to text. I majored in English and went to grad school for English Literature. I wrote for my high school and college newspapers, interned at a Sacramento magazine. But the ability to publish my own writing – whenever I wanted – was the siren song of the blogosphere. I came of age in a time (not that long ago, actually) when seeing your writing “in print” meant submitting to a magazine or literary journal, and hoping against hope that they’d publish it. But blogging lets you decide what’s good enough for the public to see. And for a long time, mine wasn’t. (Even though I repeatedly hit the “publish” button anyway).
From my understanding, “The Austin Eavesdropper” is not your first blog. Why did your other forays into blogging fizzle and why did “The Austin Eavesdropper” succeed?
Austin Eavesdropper is my third attempt at blogging: The first one was a Livejournal (a Livejournal!) about my daily activities, such as, what flavor of Frappuccino I had that day. It was really boring. I think Austin Eavesdropper stuck because at first it was sort of a local resource – like, what’s going on in Austin – then it became more of a girl-about-town chronicle, and now, it’s 75% introspective and personal. That was a big surprise to me: That people had any interest in, say, my cat. Or my alcoholic friend. I’m still trying to understand the appeal. But I think the real reason this one has been more successful is because I’m a better writer and storyteller than I was when I first started.
How did you come up with the name “Austin Eavesdropper”?
It used to be called “That Austin Girl” and then I decided that was really lame. It was supposed to be be a “That Girl” reference but no one got it. Anyway, everywhere I go around town, I love to eavesdrop on people (to my husband’s embarrassment). I think it’s a writer thing – your ears are always perked for interesting tidbits. I don’t really publish the private snatches of conversation I hear around town, BUT about half a year into “That Austin Girl,” I was ready for a new name – and I decided “Austin Eavesdropper” was not only catchy, but kind of autobiographical.
You write about many different topics, from food and fashion to music and the various on-goings in Austin. Where or from whom do you draw inspiration for story ideas?
Sometimes pitches. Bands / designers / artists / restaurants (or their publicists) will write me and ask if I’d be interested in trying out their music / clothes / show / food. From time to time their creations really resonate with me. But mostly, I think that listening to KUT, reading the Chronicle, going to coffee shops and checking out fliers, reading other blogs (both local and non), my friends – all of these funnel down blog post ideas to me. I’m so lucky to have these wildly creative, smart people as friends, and to be married to a musician. They all help me tune my awareness to the crackling sparks of weirdness in Austin – weirdness that, as all Austinites know, is beautiful too!
That and NICENESS. If a band, restaurant, whatever is not only talented, but genuinely comprised of lovely people, I try to support them. Nice is a very big deal to me.
How do you plan your posts—do you go by a calendar, or when you are inspired?
I try to post 3x/week minimum, and write them down on a “schedule” I keep on my laptop. The weekly schedule look something like this:
--MONDAY: Mouth Rejoices: Dinner at Foreign and Domestic
--WEDNESDAY: My session with a psychic
--FRIDAY: Sponsor Spotlight on Birds Barbershop
As you can see, my writing is part reviews – part personal stories – part business hustling. ☺ As I get more advertisers I try to be good to them and show them a little love in blog posts. (It helps that I happen to adore my sponsors).
Aesthetics is a big part of blogging. You recently changed up design on your blog. Did you source this out, or are you an HTML whiz? How important do you think it is for a blogger to know basic HTML?
Changing my design was one of the BEST decisions I ever made! I hired a company called Freckled Nest, and specifically, a designer named Kelly Ann Mount. I found her before I found her company – she’s an artist with a blog called “The Flowerchild Dwelling,” and I stalked her. Seriously. I wrote her in November asking her I could hire her for a redesign, and she couldn’t … I kept asking … finally in February her schedule freed up and she took me on as a client. Power of persistence!
I think it IS important for a blogger to know some basic HTML (which is why I prefer Blogger over Wordpress; Blogger is easier for newbies to tweak their own templates). But, if you’re serious about blogging, or have been doing it for a while and are ready to take the next step forward – hire a template designer. I can’t recommend Freckled Nest enough. My traffic increased substantially after I launched the new design. I think people like spending time in pretty, eye-pleasing corners of the Internet.
You are a passionate and open writer, from your first house-hunting experience to an intervention you had with a close friend. What leads you to write about such personal experiences? What is something that you would definitely consider a taboo subject to write about?
I went to a naked yoga class last year and it is SUCH a good story – but I don’t think I can blog about it! Maybe I can save that one for a magazine somewhere. Anyway, nakedness + sex are pretty much the only off-limits topics for me. I admire sex bloggers a lot, but that’s a topic I keep just between Ross and I. ☺
Anyway, as for the other personal experiences, I think I just have a craving to tell good stories. I’m not a very good story-teller in person. But I’m good in writing. Shaping my experiences into narratives helps me make sense of things (both when they are happy things, and also when they are very, very hard things). Also, you know those people who just LIVE to cook? They love shopping, picking out all their special ingredients, marinating chicken breasts for hours, etc? I am so not like that with cooking. But I can relate to the passion. Picking out words, shaping sentences and dialog, the satisfaction that comes with a really punchy story conclusion – that all just makes me feel like a badass when I can pull it off.
You work for the local boutique publicity firm PR by the Book. How has your work as a publicist influenced your work as a blogger and vice versa?
Being social media savvy in any realm – whether you’ve got a ton of followers on Twitter, you post on Facebook all day long, you blog – always helps in publicity. I train my authors how to use these tools, and further their message by building up their own social media networks.
But being surrounded by books helps my writing, too. I read diverse items for work – cookbooks, memoirs, sci fi, children’s books. I’ve learned that there is a market for nearly everything, which encourages me as I think about taking on more serious writing projects in the future. Also, being a book publicist taught me how to publicize myself! I mean, I don’t really send press releases out about the blog, but I’ve got good relationships with local media, and they know they can call on me for quotes and media appearances. Part of being a blogger is “selling” the blog, and although I don’t do that enough – I don’t even have a Facebook page for it, and I really need to make one! – I’ve learned how to offer myself as a helpful source without being pushy.
There is also the question of: What are you an expert on? I teach all of my authors early on how to answer that question. I am (sort of) an expert on Austin, and (sort of) an expert on transitioning from kid to grown-up.
Stayed tuned for Part II of our conversation!
(And thank you everyone for the positive feedback on my post about moving to Austin. 'Tis greatly appreciated, and I am honored to be an inspiration to a few of you. If you haven't read it, please do, and tell me what you think! It is by far the most personal thing I've written for my blog, and it's exciting in a daunting sort of way. Happy Wednesday!)