The Jenny Lawson Interview

The Bloggess chats about professional jealousy, the term 'mommy blog' and taxidermied rodents

December 7, 2012

Today I talk with Jenny Lawson, the proprietress of the beloved and award-winning humor/parenting site The Bloggess, on which she based her bestselling debut book, the darkly funny memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.

Tell me about how Hamlet Von Schnitzel the mouse became the cover of your book.
I just wanted to see if I could publish a book with a dead rodent on the cover. Turns out, you can.

I’ve read that one of the reasons you started your blog was so that you could write a book. Did your journey from blogging to book-publishing go the way you envisioned? What was harder about book-writing than you anticipated?
It was harder to write the book because it was longer than a blog post.

This is when you start to question why you asked me for an interview.

How is your novel coming along? Is fiction more of a challenge or a release when you write so much nonfiction?
Actually it's another memoir, and right now I'm having such writer's block that it's more of a small pamphlet.

I’m teaching a course on blogging this winter and was concerned when I learned I'd have to talk about setting revenue goals when starting a blog. Do you think it’s possible for a lone person to create a “successful” blog (either in terms of traffic or revenue) from the get-go, or is it something that has to be discovered and proven over time?
I think it's possible to make money immediately. Like, if you posted a lot of porn maybe.

What is your process or policy reading comments and interacting with your readers?
I read all the comments but I hardly ever respond to them because I feel a lot of pressure to be clever and I can't handle it.

How much do you keep your daughter in mind when you post online? What if anything have you held back in order to ease her future Googling?
I never write anything I think could be used against her by bullies as she gets older. It limits me A TON. But she's worth it.

Have you ever published anything online that in hindsight you wished you hadn’t? 
I think you always see the flaws in your own writing and at some point you have to just let go and publish. I try to never write anything hurtful so that I won't ever feel regret. People can say I'm not funny, and that's fine. But it would bother me if people said I actually hurt their feelings.

Is “mom blog” a pejorative term or just a descriptive one to you?
Descriptive, although I prefer "parenting blog." I'm not a fan of the term "mommy blog," though.  It seems a bit condescending.

If you were to change tack and blog about a completely different topic, what would you make your beat?
I've written a sex column and two advice columns and I enjoyed them, but I think it might be nice to do something more graphic. (Meaning illustrations — not that other kind of graphic.)

How often do you experience professional envy? And if you’re up for it, who is someone you experienced it towards lately?
As often as the next person, I suppose. It's hard to see people who writing comes to so easily. It takes me so long and I labor over every sentence. People like Stephen King — who are so prolific and talented — can make me a little frustrated as a writer.

How does it feel to be the 334th person interviewed for Zulkey.com/WBEZ?
Blessed, happy and little bit gassy.