Talking Blogging With Eden

Eden Riley (photo nicked from her blog)

Yesterday was a big day. I learnt how to Skype (I know way out of touch, even my Mum has been Skyping for years, but I’ve been busy alright).

I had to learn how to Skype because I won a half hour chat with Eden Riley in a competition on her blog Edenland.

Eden has just been named as Australia’s Top Blogger in a competition at The Sydney Writers Centre.

Blogging for five years (which probably equates to about 50 years in the normal world), Eden was blogging before it even really existed in Australia. Originally it was a way of documenting her journey with IVF and later her husband’s battle with cancer. In the beginning she was surrounded by US bloggers, because that’s where all the action was happening, but gradually blogging began to take off in Australia, and I think somewhat to her surprise Eden has found herself pushed to the front of the pack.

Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, monetising blogs, inclusion in the blogging world, authenticity and the art of writing to name a few. It wasn’t an interview, so I didn’t take notes but I wanted to share some of the highlights from our conversation.

What did I learn from Eden?

Silence the Voices In Your Head

In Eden’s blog she writes in a style often described as “raw” she is fearless in the topics she tackles writing about her past drug and alcohol addiction, being a mother and stepmother, a tough childhood. Eden stressed you need to turn off the critical voices in your head, the ones yelling “you can’t say that”, “that’s not right”, “what will people think”. Your blog must represent you, your voice and you can’t be sidetracked by second-guessing yourself or worrying about how other people will respond.

Saying more with less

Eden shared her writing process of revisiting a post before publishing, cutting, cutting, cutting, entire paragraphs removed and replaced with just a single word or sentence. This is a practice I must start to embrace, I am the world’s worst editor. I write fast and I publish. I think it probably stems from learning to write in frantic radio studios, where you get it down, get it to the announcer and it disappears into the ether. Slow down, consider, take out the unnecessary, create a more powerful piece.

Relatable

Eden spoke of the importance of your content being relatable for people. You can share your struggles without detailing every moment but by sharing key factors which will resonate with your readers. You need to find the universal aspect of your experience and incorporate it into your writing. You need to be authentic in what you blog.

Making Money is Not Evil

OK there is a possibility Eden is just coming to terms with this one, having only started to monetise her blog recently. I wondered why she had taken so long to start the process. Eden says she was always uncomfortable with the idea, it felt like selling out. However, now she recognises that the time and effort she puts into her blog is worth something, she wants to be able to bring in an income to help make her family’s dreams come true. But she wants it to be a transparent process, she isn’t coy about sharing figures and personally, as a newbie blogger I find that approach extremely helpful. I actually want to know the top bloggers are making a decent income for the work they put in, otherwise what do those of us at the bottom of the food chain have to aspire to?

Find Blogging Buddies

Seek out bloggers at the same level as you, comment on their blogs, build relationships. It really helps to sustain you if there are at least a few friends stopping by with a comment or two on a regular basis.

The Aussie Blogosphere

Eden is keen for the Aussie blogging community to be an inclusive environment.  Considering the question of whether it is a welcoming place I have to admit there have been times I’ve felt like a kid back in highschool. There’s all these cool chicks, who know what they are doing and everybody loves, they’ve all met each other at blogging conferences and become mates. There’s in jokes on Twitter and private conversations going back and forth. An introvert by nature (and frankly useless at Twitter) I have felt at times like a stalker watching all the fun but not allowed to play. I suspect just like highschool I will probably end up middle-of-the-road, not one of the “populars” but not a complete nerd either (well OK a bit nerdy but not like a complete geek or anything). However, that’s my issue bringing my own shyness and doubts to the situation.

The blogging world here in Australia is changing. We are starting to see some bloggers emerge as leaders, they are gaining publicity, getting sponsorship and an income.  I suppose this can create some jealousy but in my opinion let them do the hard yakka, sorting out what 70,000, 150,000, 250,000 pages views a month are worth, negotiating with brands, figuring out how to keep your readers when you monetise. Makes it easier for those of us hoping to come up behind them. Frankly I’ve never been a trailblazer – you clear the path – I’ll watch your back!

I have found most of the experienced bloggers in Australia are very generous in sharing what they have learnt. We have Digital Parents a forum for blogging parents which offers loads of advice and support and our top bloggers participate and throw in opinions and advice on a regular basis. They often take part in Q&A sessions on Facebook. They write posts on their blog focused on particular aspects of blogging. This is really helpful – there’s no uni course for blogging – we are all learning as we go.

I hope this generosity continues and I don’t want us to get to the point where the jealous and mean-spirited stop our successful bloggers being willing to share. In America top bloggers need to be issued with flak jackets to deal with some of the criticism, there are entire websites set up focused on hating those who have made a name for themselves. I wandered into one of these sites recently and it was an ugly place.

Blogging vs Journalism vs Writing

There’s been lots of conversation recently about blogging vs journalism vs writing. I think all are different genres but no one form is lesser than the other. Eden recently travelled to Africa for World Vision and created a series of posts about the West African Food Crisis. Some were critical about Eden’s approach calling her “naïve” but she wrote an honest account of her experience in a heartfelt narrative with all the complications, queries, fears and innocence of a well-fed, white woman who knew her kids were safe and cared for back at home.

Although this was obviously sponsored by the charity and not a reporting situation, it did give me a sense of the different approach bloggers take when creating their posts. As a former radio producer if I was going to Africa I would have researched the hell out of the story, I would have wanted the facts and figures, I would have wanted the who, what, why, when, how. I would have been a bit player in the story, my personal feelings squashed to report on what was happening to the people I met.  Eden got a plane and figured it out when she got there. Her emotions mixed with heart breaking stories of hunger and death and impossible choices, she openly admitted she was struggling to remember the facts and figures but the message came through very clearly. There are a lot of people dying because there is no food.

Eden’s posts remind me blogging is a very personal game, it means ditching some of the lessons learnt in Journalism classes and media work to write in much more intimate way.

Thank you Eden for sharing.

PS: But probably my biggest lesson of the day was computer cameras make me look REALLY UGLY.

31 thoughts on “Talking Blogging With Eden

  1. mara4africatoalgarve says:

    Very interesting post. I only recently stumbled on you blog and only got to know about Eden’s blog thru Blogger, who proudly announced her recent win. Am following both now.

  2. From one Aussie blogger to another – there are some great tips here, thanks! It is good to hear that the Aussie bloggers are out there and doing it well. Quite honestly I haven’t come across that many.

  3. Another Aussie blogger newbie here thanking you for this fantastic post. I’m learning as I go and I would love to hear from other Aussie bloggers as, ( and I don’t know if it’s just my take on things) we seen to have a slightly different sense of written expression and blogging style. Cheers = )

    • You are right there is such a variety of blogs and blogging styles out there. That’s why I wanted the chance to talk to Eden because I think she has a particularly unique voice and her style is the polar opposite to mine. The first time I read her blog I though whoaaa, this is full on. She writes really well and I think the most important point for me from our conversation was to stop worrying about what people will think and just write honestly and openly.

  4. Debyl1 says:

    Love this post.Wanting to speak with Eden and then praising her even though her style is as you said your polar opposite, is simply heart warming.I dont blog I just do Twitter but this means a lot especially at this time when there sadly has been so much negativity about bloggers v journalists v writers.You should feel very proud as you have written a great post,shown all styles of blogging can get along and shone a positive light on both you and Eden.xx

  5. theveggiemama says:

    I think this is wonderful, a terrific account of all things at the moment. And with twitter – just jump on in! If someone writes a tweet or asks a question, respond! You’re allowed. It’s one big conversation, please don’t feel shut out xxx

    Ps I’m a huge nerd. We’re secretly the fun ones ;-)

    • Thank you Stacey you were one of the bloggers I was thinking of when I spoke of being generous in sharing your knowledge I participated in your recent video chat on the legal aspects of blogging. A topic which I think is really important. I’ve got a handle on most of it – but picture copyright and pinterest scare me, I didn’t deal a lot with photos in radio. I also miss the ABC Legal Department, hence there’s nothing remotely controversial on this blog.

  6. What a great post :) And I agree with the veggiemama … twitter is a lot less intimidating than it looks.

    When I first went there it looked the way you described and I thought ‘gawd, this is like high school’ and I nearly beat a hasty retreat. But in the end I decided to persist and now consider it to be ‘networking for introverts’ (I am a huge introvert too).

    It’s a little hard at the start when you @ reply someone and they don’t reply back, or you join in a conversation and feel like everyone is ignoring you, but I would say 95% of the time it is not personal – it just happens.

    Eventually you find your own little ‘tribe’ on twitter – the people who are a lot like you and who you know will always reply back when you talk to them. And you carve out your own little place that way :)

    • Thank you Kelly, when I have ventured in with a comment people have been very kind. I just struggle with being amusing in 140 characters – I’m much more longwinded than that.

  7. therealedenland says:

    Janine it was SO NICE and refreshing to talk to you last week. You are not ugly, you’re beautiful!

    Also smart, funny, and clever. I hope the dishwasher guy fixed your dishwasher. Let’s do it again one day.

    xxx PS Sorry for the swearing.

    • Happy to do it again any day you want! The dishwasher man turned it off and on and it worked. I swear we had done that ten times! My work colleagues will be laughing that that you are apologising for the swearing as the stress barometer in our office is how many swear words Janine has expressed?

  8. Becks says:

    What a great post.

    I totally agree on your thoughts about the Australian blogging community and and as a newbie blogger feeling a little on the “D” reserve team..actually I’m not sure I’m even on the team. I started my blog about 8 months ago as I was given an iPad and starting reading blogs. Blogs written by women I wanted to connect with. My Tribe. But it’s not really happened. I know I”m not putting myself ‘out’ there enough and doing all the ‘things’. It feels a bit at times like EVERYONE has a blog, and there are of course, limits to how many you can keep up with, comment/read/ build relationships with. I don’t know… I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but I’m not sure I’ve worked out where I fit yet, or if I do.

    I’m still looking for my tribe.

    Becks

  9. Eden’s ‘realness’ is what makes the blogosphere so awesome. No censoring and plenty of people being people, watch out mainstream media because I’ll take blogging any day.
    It’s also nice to discover another ‘Aussie’ blogger – my tribe are primarily US and UK bloggers.

    Thanks for sharing what sounds like an enlightening chat

  10. Love that. I went to my first blogging conference this weekend and heard some of these same tips – like the one about finding people at the same blog level as you and building a small community. Something else I wanted to actually tell you about was everything I learned about guest blogging – when I find time in my existance (which is hopefully soon) I’ll shoot you an email.
    PS. I’m excited you won something :)

  11. Janine, I am SO thrilled that you got to skype with Eden. What an opportunity and what fun! Thank you for sharing your notes on the session – what a generous way to include us all. Eden has some wise words for us all. Points 1 and 2 in your list are so important when it comes to actual writing. It’s something that has rubbed off on me from reading Eden’s blog. And I couldn’t agree with you more about the Australian blogosphere. Sometimes it’s hard to break in to the ‘cool’ crowd. I feel like a kid in highschool too. And I’m still trying to get the hang of twitter! (And PS I don’t have skype either!). xx

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