There are so many fabulous bloggers out there, and we want to highlight them on CityLine.ca. We’ll be profiling different lifestyle bloggers from month to month — they might write about food, fashion, beauty, décor, parenting, entertaining, gardening, you get the idea! For April 2012, we’re putting the spotlight on one of our favourite family blogs, Jack Straw Lane. Run by Katja Wulfers and covering adventures and misadventures with her husband, 12-and-a-half year old son and 8-year-old daughter, and subjects both hilarious and more serious, we love how she lets us into her daily life. Here’s our Q&A with Katja:
When did you start Jack Straw Lane and what was your inspiration behind starting the blog?
I started it back in February of last year, but I didn’t really start writing regularly until the fall of 2011, in September. I started blogging for a couple of reasons. First of all, I love to write: I kept saying I’m going to start writing, I’m going to start writing, I’m going to start writing. But I’m a mom, and like everyone who is a mom, you’re running around and you’re busy and things get put to the back burner. But my husband just kept saying to just start writing. So I was reading in a book that you need to find a way to exercise your writing muscles, so I thought, “okay, this will be me exercising my writing muscles and getting my ideas out there.” I’m a big chatter – anybody who knows me knows that I love to sit down for a great chat, so I thought this will be me chatting, and if someone’s listening great, and if no one’s listening that’s okay, too.
In the beginning, my readers were my mom, my dad, and my husband – those who were forced to read the blog. But anyone who knows me says “oh, that’s you – that’s your voice when you’re speaking when we’re having a conversation.” And that’s what I want to keep it as, so that anybody that comes along and does start reading my blog, if they read a couple posts they’ll figure out pretty quickly who I am. I try to keep it humorous because that’s kind of how I look at the world. Sometimes I have my moments where I rant or get a little serious, but I kind of write the way I think and the way I speak.
Where does the name Jack Straw Lane come from?
A couple of years ago we were on holidays out near the Thousand Islands and Kingston, and we were puttering around the back roads and we came across this tiny little lane, and the name that someone had stuck on the end of it was Jack Straw Lane. And I don’t know why it struck me, but it struck me as a place that was a fun and quirky place to stop and visit. So I wrote the name down in a notebook – I always keep a notebook with me – and I said to my husband, “I don’t know why I like this name, but I’m going to write it down.” And I just kept it handy and when I started my blog, I checked to make sure it didn’t exist already as a website and it didn’t. But the place does exist in the UK – and it turns out it was the home of what they think was a highwayman back in the 1700s in Oxford, and after his death all sorts of treasures were found in his basement and I thought, “well that’s a nice romantic story” to go along with the quirkiness I think my blog is.
How do you decide what to write on your blog? What kinds of posts do you like writing the most or are most drawn to?
I have an ongoing list, so I’ll be driving down the street and an idea will pop into my head and I’ll just write that down. But often, the ones that come easiest or the ones that are most organic are the ones where something funny has happened to me, or something I think is funny – maybe nobody else will think it’s funny, but I’ll think that it is and that I have to tell that story. It’s usually related to family and those are the stories I find the easiest to write. The ones that I’ve had the most fun writing and have gotten the best feedback on haven’t necessarily been on family, although those ones have gotten some fun comments back from people, like ones about teenagers – it’s so relatable. Everything I write is stuff that has happened to us – my son will read it ahead of time and he’ll just giggle. That’s not the reaction I’m going for – I’m hoping for a lesson here! Those are the most fun to write for me.
You have a line to straddle when writing so much about your own family – finding the balance between letting your readers into your life enough to keep them engaged, but also not oversharing. How do you find that balance?
When I started writing I had the kids’ names on the blog, but I’ve since dropped them. I don’t have my husband’s name on there, but that’s actually because I actually call him D. I started getting uncomfortable with the idea that my kids names were out there. Some blogs that I read that I really like, they do have their kids names and I don’t have a problem with that, but for me it started getting uncomfortable and I’d lie in bed thinking about it, so I decided I’d take them out.
In terms of where I draw the line, I will not write anything that will embarrass my family or my friends. I will never write anything that will belittle anyone or make them feel awkward. I don’t want to cross the line and go to the point where people feel uncomfortable about what I write about them. And in terms of what I write about my family, my husband reads everything before I post it because I bounce all of my ideas off of him. Every day when I pick my son up from school, he gets in the car and he’ll ask me “did you write anything yet today?” He gets really excited about what I’m writing. Both the kids do, really, because they know they’re the fodder for most of the writing and they know I’m not crossing the line, I’m not writing about them in a belittling or embarrassing way. A lot of my stories are cute or silly or tongue-in-cheek, and that’s for sure where I want to keep it. I do get a little uncomfortable with blogs when they get really nitty-gritty into the details – I don’t want to know about your sex life. I don’t want to know all that and you for sure won’t hear about that from me.
Tell us about a few posts that you’re particularly proud of and want to share with CityLine.ca readers.
Three posts I’m proud to have written:
It’s one my few serious topics, with a touch of humour, but I really like it.
The following are recent posts that I had fun writing:
What do you hope visitors get from reading your blog?
There are a lot of great blogs out there that talk about really serious subjects and there’s more niche blogs, and I think that’s great. I once said to someone I met online that I read some of these blogs and I think where do I fit in, because I just babble. This is just me. You’re inside my head and we’re having a conversation and we’re drinking virtual glasses of wine – that’s how I look at it. It’s not that I won’t talk about serious subjects – I wrote a post about bullying and my experience with mean girls in high school, so that’s a subject that was close to my heart and I wanted to write about it. I want my blog to be a place people come to for a fun read, maybe think about things a little bit, but I almost always want to have a humorous twist to it, because life is pretty heavy for everybody and I don’t want to be the place to add more heaviness to them. They have enough to digest with their daily life and hard stuff isn’t hard to find. I don’t think I’m a comedian by any stretch of the imagination, but I want my place to be where you come and have a chat with your girlfriend and you have a good chuckle and act like goofs and then you go back to real life. That’s where I want it to be. I think it’s so nice that I can make someone I don’t know laugh.
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