Do you ever have one of those days when you just need a pick-me-up? When I have a day like this, where my coffee just hasn’t been enough to do the trick, I often turn to Mother Hen Diaries. Dorreen Augustine always has that special blend of optimism and wit to catch my attention and perk up my day!
Seriously…she’s funny. It’s what attracted me to her blog initially. With so many blogs that exist to simply be rant sessions, Dorreen’s blog stands out as being a beacon of positivity.
As an American living in the U.K., she has a very interesting perspective on life, one that I find inspirational, and as is the case with many bloggers, Dorreen describes herself much better than I could. From the About page of Mother Hen Diaries, here is a snippet of what Dorreen has to say about herself:
“First and foremost, I am a Jehovah’s Witness. (Yes, I do knock on doors!) 🙂 I am also a wife, mother, cuddly Nanny, a reader, a thinker, a dreamer and a storyteller, Margarita expert, singer and entertainer, jam maker extraordinaire, serial dieter, and mother to a dozen chickens.”
After following Dorreen’s writing for some time, I was so pleased when she agreed to have a virtual cup of coffee with me to answer my questions for this interview. Read on for Dorreen’s thoughts and advice around blogging and writing. It’s good stuff.
What led you to start blogging Dorreen?
I have been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil. I was an early reader, and, thanks my mother’s promise that “you can travel anywhere in a book,” my love of both reading and creative writing was encouraged from a very early age. (I wrote a fun post on this called “It’s Just a Number”… man, was I ever a geek!)
When Handsome Hubby (HH) and I moved from the States over to England in the early 90’s, my love of writing was expressed in a series of letters to my family and a few close friends, anyone who cared to stay in touch after receiving 4 page typewritten letters from yours truly.
With the advent of social media, this family connection was transferred to Facebook, where I almost immediately started spamming my wall with laboriously long status updates, short stories, funny moments and embarrassing overshares.
Most of my family liked what I wrote, but there were one or two critics out there who shamed me into shutting down my account. Like a lot of Facebookers, I shut down, I started up, shut down, started up, deleted, then returned… etc.
Somewhere in all this, a dear friend suggested I start a blog, and I had a few more “fans” clamoring for daily posts and mini-bytes of humour to dunk in their daily coffee, and Mother Hen Diaries was born!
As an American living in England, what are the differences you’ve noticed between your U.K. and U.S. followers?
Readers of my blog tend to be pretty similar on both sides of the pond, actually. I tend to attract easygoing, happy go lucky types who don’t really want to get controversial or particularly deep or dark on a daily basis.
I like to think of my little patch of writing as a sunny, warm kitchen people can pop into for a nice hot mug of tea and a plate of scones. Whereas you run a virtual coffee house, I run a tea room! 😀
As for PEOPLE in general, I would say Americans by our very nature tend to be optimistic, whereas Brits lean toward pessimism. I believe this has something to do with “island mentality”. I suppose if half the population was dodging bombs in World War II, this should not be terribly surprising.
Having said that, I absolutely love the Brits. Once you manage to get past their crunchy outer shell, you will find that most have a sweet, nougaty center. And let’s face it – the Brits are the champions of comedy! (Ok, so it’s sarcasm…)
What characteristics or attributes do you admire in your favorite blogs to follow? (Feel free to name a few of them– we’d love to check them out!)
I follow a huge range of blogs, but what I enjoy most of all is humour and wit! As a writer of a family-oriented blog myself, I am not a fan of profanity or anything morally questionable, so I am pretty selective in who I choose to read. But I so enjoy anyone with a clever, intelligent take on life, a fresh voice, and more than anything, a good story well told!
I am a massive fan of Janey B. Goode from Cupid or Cats I flatter myself by saying that she is my younger Irish twin – we share the same sense of whacky and weird, vaguely twisted humour.
I also simply adore the writer of Almost Iowa. Right now he has just a little over 200 followers, but frankly, once the WP gurus out there discover him, he is going to be huge. He is simply that good.
For lovers of a fantastic yarn, take a look at Nutsrok. This is warm, family humour from an astonishing and outrageous past. Goodness, her family history is a whole TV series just waiting to happen. Just think Little House on the Prairie meets The Middle, and you’ll get the picture.
Other faves: Tom from Cats at the Bar, Don from Uncle Bardie’s Stories and Such, the lovely Sarah from Your Moderate Mama, and the ever fabulous Ellen Hawley from Notes from the UK – I never, ever miss one of their posts!
As you consider your work, which post are you the most proud of and why?
Oooo… that is difficult! Choosing a favourite post is a bit like trying to pick a favourite child! I love “The Blue Gypsy,” which documents my childhood spent in the back of our VW bus.
From a humour standpoint, possibly “Burgers and the Ugly Brit,” though that decision could be coloured by the fact that it replays a day in my life when my kids, now grown, were still little. I miss those days!
Another favourite is “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rats (But were Afraid to Ask)”. I also write a series called How to Talk British, which has been very well received.
For straight up fiction, take a look at Shooting Jackrabbits. It is not funny, but I do believe it is hands down my best piece of writing.
If you were giving advice to a brand-new blogger on starting a blog, what guidance would you give them for setting themselves apart?
I would advise any new blogger to read ten times more than they write.
When you start a blog, it is not always easy to find your proper voice at first, and sometimes we can go all over the road trying to work the bugs out. Over time, you can decide what you do and do not like in other people’s work, what you can add that hasn’t been said and done, and your own voice will begin to emerge.
Only follow what you TRULY LIKE and are willing to read. Do not fish for followers by “following” what you are not actually reading and commenting on.
Be very careful with spelling and punctuation, and don’t imagine for a minute that your first draft is your final. Editing is part of the process.Your very good points may well get buried beneath the weight of verbosity, sloppy spelling, grammar and punctuation.
The very best way to learn to be a good writer is to READ good writing. Go looking for it – the blogosphere is teeming with amazing talent!
You can ask the world’s best blogger for advice, but you can only ask one question. What do you ask them?
How do you manage to balance the demands of your real life with the “life” of your blog?
Last question, considering we drink a lot of java here, how do you take your coffee?
Ooo… great question! I’ll take a skinny latte with 2 extra espresso shots and one sugar! But since I’m forever on a diet, I make that one Splenda. Make mine fluffy, gutsy, and sinlessly sweet. 😀
Once again, my thanks to Dorreen for participating in this interview– I appreciate it. As always, if you haven’t already, head over to Mother Hen Diaries. You’ll need to get a refill first though, once you get there you’ll be there for a while! There are too many great articles to choose from.
I interview bloggers that I enjoy for one reason or another nearly every week. I find it interesting to pick their brains about how they create their work; many of them have been very successful at the art of blogging. Check out our Interviews page for links to other interviews such as this one.
Warmest regards until the next post!