A Blog of Her Own: Sarah Allen

SARAH ALLEN: Writer and owner of the blog "From Sarah, With Joy"

Your blog is called “From Sarah, With Joy”. Why? What does “joy” mean to you?

C. S. Lewis said “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (I have this quote on my blog.) I guess that’s kind of what I mean by “joy”—those experiences you have sometimes that seem too big to hold inside one person, too big for this world. Really good books and art and film and music are all things that I think bring that feeling, and writing is my way of being part of it. So that’s what I blog about, along with other things that bring me joy.

What is your blogging philosophy? (Or, why blog? Why not a private journal?)

There are three main reasons I blog. The first is that writing a blog helps me work out my own thoughts about writing and the other things I write about. Second, I have communicated with some amazing people, and their comments have been invaluable. Blogging is a way of being part of a community. Lastly, even though I have not published a book yet, I am working on it every day and once I get to that point my blog will be a very useful tool for marketing and book promotion. A slightly more mercenary reason, but there you have it.

When did you start blogging?

I started blogging in October of 2009.

How long have you been writing? When and why did you start? 

I think I have been writing and telling stories in some form or another for pretty much my entire life. I know I have been reading voraciously for my entire life, and that, I think, is nearly as important. But it was really in seventh grade, when I took my first creative writing class, that I realized not only how much I enjoyed writing, but how fulfilled and wonderful it made me feel. I remember when I was fourteen we were having dinner in my Grandma’s backyard, and for the first time I thought, I could do this for a living; this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Outside of your blog, what do you tend to write about? Are there major themes in your work, and why do you think this is?

The main genre in which I write is adult mainstream (though I have and will experiment in other genres). I like to write about the issues and problems of everyday life, which a lot of times means romantic troubles, though what I write would probably not qualify as “romance” per se. Some of my favorite writers are Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Also I tend to write about lonely middle-aged men. I’m really not sure why.

Favorite authors and/or books?

This is such an impossible question, but I’ll try. I am one of those sadly indiscriminate readers who kind of soaks in everything I read. However, there are a few writers who have changed my life. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Their stories are the kinds of stories I crave. George Elliot, Norman Maclean and Wallace Stegner, who write impossibly gorgeous, stunning, breath-taking sentences. C. S. Lewis, of course. Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, Connie Willis, and Stephen King. I adore J. K. Rowling, but who doesn’t. Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Hugo, Dickens, Hemingway. Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, Chaim Potok, Leslie Marmon Silko, Thomas King, Zora Neal Hurston, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Tim O’Brien, Stephen Crane, Neil Simon, Lois Lowry, Sharon Creech, Gary Schmidt, Kaye Gibbons, Harper Lee, J. D. Salinger, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, Don and Audrey Wood…ok, ok, I’ll stop.

Favorite blogs?

Janet Reid, Literary Agent.  Pimp My Novel.  Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary AgentMashable.  Also, What about ME? (a blog all about Michael Emerson), but that’s just because I’m a total nerd.

Your blog is primarily about creative writing. What made you choose this topic? If you deviate from the main topic, when have you done so and why?

I picked creative writing because that is pretty much my life, and I don’t know if there’s anything else I could or would even want to write about. I sometimes do deviate from that topic, but that mostly happens when there is something I particularly want to write about (for example movie reviews or if something awesome happens to me) or when there is a some kind of world or national event that must be addressed (holidays, the riots in Cairo).

How often do you post? Do you have a schedule (and do you stick to it)?

This has actually changed recently. In the past I posted consistently, but sparsely. Now I post daily, including weekends, and I do stick to that for the most part.

 How personal is your blog: how much do you choose to reveal about yourself, and why do you reveal those things?

Interesting question. I guess it is semi-personal. I don’t often talk about my personal life. However, it is hard to write about writing without getting personal, at least emotionally and mentally. I try to be very honest about my own writing, my process, struggles, etc.

How does being a woman inform (or not inform) your blog posts?

Another interesting question. This is something I have to think about carefully before I answer. I think as a society we have, hopefully, mostly gotten past the feminine repression thing. I think we women can, for the most part, claim the same rights as men. However, I also get sort of bugged when women use their femininity as a handi-cap, if that makes sense, when they claim certain privileges or rights just because they have two x chromosomes. In a perfect world, success is based on hard work and talent, not gender.

How do other aspects of your identity (race, nationality, sexuality, age, socio-economic class, etc.) inform your writing and blogging?

Everyone’s source material and writing themes come from who they are as a person. I am a young, white, middle-class politically conservative American woman, so my story ideas and themes come from that paradigm. Of course, the beauty of writing is that you can use your identity as a starting point for exploring and understanding other people and ideas.

How does your blog relate to other aspects of your life (career, family, friends, romance, ect.)? Does it relate to these things?

One aspect of writing is the actual writing. This is the more glamorous part. However, there is another, more mundane aspect to a writing career. I’ve heard it said that one must treat their writing career like a business, and though many people don’t like thinking that way and want to leave all that stuff up to someone else, I think every writer should do as much as they can. My blog is me trying to take care of some of the business of writing.

What are your hopes for your blog? Your hopes for your writing, and yourself?

Ha :) Well, I hope for my blog to get as wide a readership as it can get. I hope to help as many people as I can. I hope to use my blog to promote future books and things. I hope for my books to reach and connect with as many people as possible.

Check Out Sarah’s Blog Here:

From Sarah, With Joy

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A Blog of Her Own: Bashful Radical

This post marks the beginning of a new project titled “A Blog of Her Own”. I will periodically be interviewing women who blog about why we write, and particularly why we blog. This project is a follow up to my previous post, “Why is your writing so published?”, in which I explored the struggles of women in the writing and publishing world.  Blogging is a fairly new sector of writing and publishing that allows writers to publish their work automatically. Many women have been using their blogs to intersect the personal with the political; I am interested in these women and how they use their space to speak out. In particular I will be exploring the work of writers who blog about feminist issues.

I first discovered Notes from a Bashful Radical last year, and I was immediately attracted to the author’s creative style and outspoken posts on gender, sexuality, and identity. I hope you enjoy hearing from her as much as I do!

Bashful Radical

1. We’ll start off with a very simple question, and one that I know is maybe hard to answer: Why do you blog?

I began to blog when I realized that I was writing everyday for myself anyway in a sort of diary of my thoughts on social justice issues and my life.  I had been told by a number of friends that I should share my writing with other people, so I decided to make it public.  I found it immediately cathartic.  I have, however, recently, felt that I disclosed too much of my life because I ended up disclosing information that involved other people (notably, my current and ex lovers) and so I am rethinking how public and honest I will make the blogs.  Though I feel strongly that it is important to be honest, especially since my blog is technically anonymous, I’m realizing that because I keep it public through my facebook, people on facebook can definitely tell about whom I am writing.

2. When did you start blogging?

Last year, around—hold on, let me check the blog..September 2009!

3.  What is your blog about?

Now I have three blogs, in an attempt to distribute my multiple personalities.  The first and sort of ‘home’ blog was initiated to accommodate my writerly reflections on the philosophical/ethical conundrums that dominate my life.  I prefer creative nonfiction to journalism, and I wanted the blog to be personal, open, and artistic, even more than ‘activist’ or journalistic. The main blog is more creative and deals with social justice issues almost entirely.  The Buddhist blog is a diary for my Buddhist practice and the goals and struggles involved therein.  The arbitrary synecdoche blog is what I write when I am feeling extremely bored and/or obnoxious and need to channel my secret misanthropy and OCD.

4. Do you blog under your real name or a pseudonym? Why? How did you choose your blogging name?

I chose a pseudonym that I felt expressed me and the blog—actually, I had been writing a collection of essays for myself, which I called ‘notes from a bashful radical’ because that title embodies my relationship with activism.  I am an activist, but I don’t want to degenerate into dogmatism or self-righteousness, and I like the word bashful because it is cute.  So I thought I would trick my readers into thinking I’m cute and lure them to learn about different social justice issues.

5. How public is your blog? Do your friends and family know about it? Do you advertise it through social media?

I have links to the three blogs on my facebook, and I occasionally highlight my blog writing in my facebook status to remind people who want to stalk me of the avenues available.

6. How much of your private life do you include in your blog? Do you consider it a personal space?

All of the blogs are highly personal, which is another reason why I am content with my peanut-sized following.  When too many people read on the issues that I post about—many of which concern my sexuality—I will have to deal with, what are those people called who lurk the blogs of people they hate and engage the blogger in a war of attrition by constantly posting inflammatory comments?  Oh, trolls.  I have become involved in a troll dispute once, regarding gay marriage, and I have neither the time nor the energy to glue myself to the computer and reply to a barrage of illogical but persistent insults.  So.

7. How does being a woman inform (or not inform) your post writing?

Hm.  Probably very self-explanatory if you read the blogs.

8. How do other aspects of your identity (race, nationality, sexuality, age, socio-eonomic class, etc.) inform your writing?

I write about those issues that I have experienced, which include race, sexuality, gender, my own class privilege, my education.  Basically, being a lesbian biracial woman of color with a strong financial privilege and extremely elitist education makes me blog about lots of things, but I try not to speak about those issues that I do not have direct experience with, since the blog is not meant as an objective or factual one, but a series of creative essays about my attempt to improve and work towards a peaceful world.

9. What is your level of education?

I am a college graduate with a Masters from the University of Oxford and I will be entering Columbia University to get an MFA in creative writing beginning this fall.  Weeeeee higher education!

10. What sort of reactions or comments do you receive from people who read your blog? Describe both positive and negative reactions and how they affect you as a blogger/person.

Well, of the one or two people who read my main blog (bashful radical), the comments are all supportive.  I had a couple of other followers, one or two of whom were probably in disagreement with everything I wrote, and I don’t know if they read it anymore.  WordPress doesn’t allow me to stalk my viewers the same way that I can on the tumblr blogs using google analytics.

11. How does your blog relate to other aspects of your life (career, family, friends, romance, etc.) if at all?

I pretty much tell people everything about my life through my blogs, especially if anyone takes the time to read all three.

12. Do you consider yourself a writer?

Since I write when I’m on the subway, the bus, the toilet, the grocery store, in bed at 3:00 a.m., and every day, probably.

13. How formal or informal is the writing on your blog? Do you write in a specific style? Does it differ from your other writing?…Do you proofread?

I have divided the blogs into three based mostly on subject matter, but I also alter the style.  For my ‘daimoku’ or Buddhist blog I write in a very bland style—when an issue is relevant to the main blog I will post it there but in a much more creative way.  Actually, you can see the difference in my writing in the more recent ‘bashful radical’ entries, as they started to become less creative.  I’ve not been too successful in splitting my styles, and it’s something I want to work on.  I find that I am most creative when I am most emotional about the issue, and when it is most painful.

14. Anything else you want to say?

Thank you, this has been an interesting reflection!

Visit Bashful Radical’s Blogs Here:

Notes From a Bashful Radical

Dream, Fruition_Machine

The Arbitrary Synecdoche