An Interview from EsmeSalon.comhttps://esmesalon.com/interview-with-janet-givens-from-author-janet-givens/ Late this summer I was featured on the EsmeSalon.com blog where I answered 20 questions: 10 about my blog and 10 about me. Reciprocity being what it is, I’m posting it here for those who might have missed it last September. In the spirit of full disclosure, this gives me a short break from blogging as I’m currently on my way to Ohio to watch my 12-year-old granddaughter Kendall star (as in HAS THE LEAD) in Prancer, a production of the professional Magical Theater Company in Barberton. This acting gene is from her mother’s side, I’m guessing. I’ll pop in from time to time to respond to comments here. And I thank you for every one of them. OK. Here’s the interview. You can see the original by clicking on my photo above. Not crazy about the “lovely blog” bit, but I do hope you’ll pop over to her site. And, if you too want to be featured on her blog, I’m sure Esme would love to interview you too. Go for it.
What is the name of your blog and how did you decide on your blog name?I love to tell the story of And So It Goes, though it’s not short. It involves ABC TV news reporter Linda Ellerbe and author Kurt Vonnegut and it begins in high school, long before I knew either of them. Back then I wrote a weekly column for our school paper and its name translated to “Such is Life” a phrase my teenage ears resonated with. My sophomore year I called it “C’est La Vie” since I was taking French that year. My junior year, when I’d changed from French to Spanish, I called it “Asi es La Vida.” Decades later, I met Linda Ellerbe at a political rally and began watching her on TV; her closing was usually “And so it goes.” In between high school and Linda Ellerbe, I read Slaughterhouse Five. In it, Kurt Vonnegut describes Lot’s wife – you know, the one that didn’t do as she was told and got turned into a pillar of salt. I loved how he described her, ending his summary with “So it goes.” I believe Ellerbe picked up on this for ending her news stories. As I was delving into what to name mine, I tried it on and liked it. The stories I bring to the blog are often (I hope) ones that lend themselves to a C’est la vie kind of approach. Such is life, and so it goes, one foot in front of the other. Life just goes on; let’s take a quick look at it..
What prompted you to start on this blogging journey?My publisher told me I had to. (And I’m so glad she did.) As she said back then, I’ll sell 50 eBooks for every print book I sell. So maintaining a presence with folks who are digitally savvy is important. But more so is my message about staying curious in the face of an ever changing world.
To date, what blogging achievement/s are you most proud of?I’m pleased that I’ve blogged faithfully, every Wednesday for over six years. I had my 300th blog post in July. I love the faithful community of subscribers that has grown over those years. And I love that my readers circle the globe.
How would you describe your own blogging style?Chatty? My husband always says my blogs sound like the way I talk. I like that.
What excites you most about blogging?I learn new things with each blog. The research that goes into each one varies, of course, with the topic. But each week I have learned something new
What platform do you use and why?I’m on WordPress dot ORG because it’s what my first web designer recommended. Since then I’ve heard everything from “it’s the only one if you want to be taken seriously” to — actually, that’s the one I keep hearing. I admire those bloggers, though, who can tackle the details of blogging on the dot COM site. That’s not for me. And, frankly, I tend to stay away from the others as they don’t play nicely with WP. Bloggers who comment on my WP.org site can, for example, choose to link back to their latest blog post through the CommentLuv widget I’ve added. I like that ability to share and support each other. That’s what first drew me to you, Esme.
What genre/topic/theme do you blog about? Do you ever deviate from that theme?My mission, as I pull it from my website’s ABOUT page is:
to foster curiosity in cross-cultural experiences, both at home and abroad–especially the ones that make us gasp (and giggle, I’ll add here).I began to blog before my Peace Corps memoir (At Home on the Kazakh Steppe) came out and did so at the urging of my publisher. “Write on the themes from your book,” she told me. My themes were:
- friendship across cultures,
- the power of culture on the individual, and
- the stress and eventual joy that comes when one confronts cultural differences with curiosity, compassion, and courage (by new three Cs).
How often do you blog per week or month?I tried blogging the recommended three times a week, but it wasn’t for me. My blog launches now every Wednesday morning at 3 a.m. EST. (New York time). That’s a nod to my first international follower, Ian Mathie, a Brit who was so supportive in my early years; his comment was always the first one I’d find when I woke up and it often set the tone for the others. Ian died unexpectedly last year and the grief I felt over his passing, given I’d never actually met him, was striking. Friendships formed in this medium can be powerful, and real.
Do you have any wisdom or tip/s regarding blogging to share with us?I’m a big fan of Kristen Lamb’s teachings on blogging:
- Get your name out there, that’s your brand (This was a workshop for authors.).
- Leave lots of white space.
- Use images widely (and wisely, I’d add).
- Make reading it easy on the reader.
- Proofread! Twice.
- Be predictable – schedule so your readers know when to expect you.
- Don’t make it too long (500 words max if you post more than once a week; 1,000 if weekly).
- Capture your subscribers’ emails (I use Mail Chimp).
Do you participate in linkup parties? How do you feel about it?I have no idea what these are, so I guess not. I did try something on Goodreads once but was quite turned off by the experience. And, when I’m going to have time to reciprocate, I do post to your Senior Salon. I’ve found a few good bloggers there that I enjoy following.
All about YOU: Tell us something about you, the real YOU.
What do you like to do other than blogging?I love to write. I could write all day if other parts of my life didn’t call. It is how I feed my soul. I also love to work in my woods. We have 30 acres here in Vermont’s Green Mountains and I feel quite an affinity for them as steward, guardian. I raise chickens and just this past year we opened up as an AirBnB site – a guest room in our home, a campsite across the road, our yurt, and just this week, the old RV pad my mom used to use. We’ve met fascinating people from all over the world as a result.
Where do you reside?Yup – still in Vermont’s Green Mountains on 30 acres. That’s in the northeastern part of the US. It is part of New England, the six most northeastern states of the US: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. We are of Yankee stock up here. Long winters, in sync with nature (usually), with an enormous pride in education. Vermont is the seventh state I’ve called home and I’m now on my 15th mailing address.
Are you an indoor or outdoor person?Depends. I am pulled to get outside when I’ve been inside writing all morning. I love to snowshoe in the winter, walk (and hike) in the summer. Swim all year. I do a LOT of gardening, some of which I thoroughly enjoy. I also like to veg in my recliner and watch a great movie on our TV. And I love late night bubble baths or curling up in front of the wood stove in the winter with my Kindle.
Do you still work, and if so, what is your trade/profession?Funny you should ask. I have considered writing to be my profession for the past ten years. BUT, in honor of my 70th birthday in late August, I’m returning to my former profession of Gestalt psychotherapist, opening a small practice, one or two days a week, and offering video counseling sessions since where I live is so remote. Interesting, once I decided to do that, I stopped feeling “old” (whatever that actually means). Gestalt is an experiential, existential, and holistic therapy. I did a series of blog posts on it throughout August for anyone really curious.
Or are you retired? If so, what do you do besides blogging?“Retire” is what they do to racehorses when their careers are over. Of course, it’s also called “going out to stud.” That’d be fun. ☺️
Do you wish to be 20-something or the age you are now and why?20 again? Oh my heavens no. I love my life right now. I love the flexibility it offers, the serenity of no longer having to measure up to someone else’s standards, the wisdom that has certainly come as I learn from my many, MANY mistakes.
What makes your day a good and happy one?When I cross something off my To Do list, comes first to mind. But that feels a tad flip and this is a really great question. Giving it a bit more thought, I’d say that while feeling productive is important to me, so is self-care, connecting with someone new, and staying serene in the midst of chaos. I am fascinated by people, all sorts. They are endlessly fascinating – the whys and wherefores; I imagine that’s why I love the therapy work I do. I also love when I find myself in the company of someone new who is smart and knowledgeable about something of which I know nothing. That is always deliciously exciting. Listening to my body, knowing at the end of the day I’ve honored its needs, sends me serenely off to sleep. Of course, that’s the goal; I’m also human.
Describe yourself in 3 words.Curious, compassionate, courageous – the values I emphasize in my FB posts and in my blogging. I plan to write more on each of them soon.
Share with us 3 interesting facts about yourself.I’ll list them in descending order of length:
- For the first forty-two years of my life a debilitating stutter guided my life – How could I keep this shameful fact hidden? was my daily challenge. Once I learned I really did not have to hide it, once I accepted that it was a part of me and truly OK to embrace the whole of me, (I was 42 at the time) I came to realize (a few years later) I wasn’t even thinking about it any more. Since that moment, I’ve been a keynote speaker, given book talks and readings often, given workshops, and coauthored a textbook on stuttering and my approach to it (with my now hubs, Woody Starkweather). That was a fun era. Then my hubs and I gave it all up and went into the Peace Corps.
- I am married to a man I met over the Internet, long before chat rooms and dating sites were big. Actually, we first had an exchange in 1989 on the old CommDis list serve out of RPI. So, when I came across his name again in 1993 when he asked me to introduce myself, (I’d just joined his email discussion group) his was at least a familiar name to me.
- I almost dated Elton John (friends have expanded on this plot to say I “almost married” him). It’s a good story.
- I raise chickens?
- Serve in the local guardian ad litem program.
- Sing in a hospice choir, a truly satisfying privilege.
- I used to sing tenor but went to a singing camp a few years ago and came out a mezzo-soprano.
- Stopped watching TV news nearly 12 years ago. I read my news now.