The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


Great Interview Experiment: Laurel of Sass Attack

You know what? You're somebody.

I'm somebody. We're all somebody. We all matter, even if we're not rich, famous, or in big positions if power. But how often do we feel like we matter? Probably not often enough. Too often we feel small, misunderstood, overlooked. (I wonder if those feelings could even be worse for the aforementioned rich, famous, and powerful?)

Everyone has a story, and Neil Kramer of Citizen of the Month started the Great Interview Experiment so that more people had a chance to tell theirs. As Neil explains: "...I think anyone who decides to write about their life online is interesting, even those who may not do the best job yet of conveying that on paper. We all should be interviewed, at least once."

I was randomly matched up with Laurel of the blog Sass Attack. Laurel lives in NYC with her boyfriend AS (short for "Adult Sleep"), ran the 2006 New York City marathon, is preparing to go to grad school in Chicago, and used to be a synchronized figure skater. You'll read about all of that below.

Other things you won't read about include her favorite TV shows (Lost, Dawson's Creek, and Felicity), her computer preference (Mac), and a few bad habits (keeping her temper when she's upset; refraining from correcting other people’s grammar; and saving money.) I think many of us can relate.

Read on, and then hop over here to get to know Ms. Sass a little better.

When and why did you start blogging?

My first foray into blogging was a short-lived project with my book club in 2005. It was fun, but difficult to keep momentum going with six contributors! I have always kept a personal journal, but became frustrated when my entries became a string of boring event recaps or mushy thoughts about my boyfriend. I read a bunch of personal blogs already and liked the idea of regularly writing something topical. So, I took the plunge and started Sass Attack in August 2006.

What keeps you doing it and do you have a blogging philosophy?

Now I am sustained by (and accountable to) my blog-friends. I have met some "real" friends this way! My blogging philosophy is a combination between Write Something Coherent and Interesting and Don't Take It Too Seriously. I love meeting people and getting comments on my blog, but I'm not in this to become well known. In fact, when signs emerge that new, random people have found my blog, I'm not always thrilled!

You were born in Minneapolis and call yourself "a Midwesterner at heart." But you also say that you "refused to go to college in a five-state area" and moved to Seattle for school. Then you spent a semester in France and finally settled in New York City. Did you have to leave home to appreciate it?

I definitely did! Although, my transformation from rebellious Minnesota refugee to sentimental Midwest devotee was pretty much instantaneous. I was singing Minnesota's prizes by my second week in college. Minnesotans have a lot of pride! At the same time, my choices to go to college in Seattle, study abroad in Paris and then work in New York City have exposed me to a lot of really interesting people and experiences. I'm not sure that my experience would be this broad if I had stayed in the Midwest. Of course, living away from Minnesota also makes me miss my hometown's advantages: reasonable real estate prices and cost of living, a great arts and cultural scene, wonderful running opportunities and, of course, proximity to my family.

What's the most important or interesting thing you've learned from living in different places?

I didn't realize until I had lived in New York for a while how unappealing I found it as a place to ultimately settle. Unfortunately, if you want to live in the suburbs, you're looking at exorbitantly expensive real estate, high taxes and a long commute. I still don't understand what happens when both parents work in the city, their kids are in school an hour away on Long Island, and a kid gets sick at school. On the other hand, if you stay in the City, you're looking at OBSCENELY expensive real estate, private school tuition and/or insane competition for the "good" public high schools, high taxes, and no back yard. I didn't realize that any of that was important to me! My boyfriend AS and I hope to spend the married / kid-raising period of our lives in a more manageable place.

It looks like you're headed back to the Midwest for graduate school in Chicago. Are you excited?

I am thrilled. I think the school I will be attending is the perfect fit for me--in no small part because it is in the Midwest. My degree is known to be intense and competitive, and I really think the more relaxed, down-to-earth Midwestern attitude helps defray that a bit for me. The downside is that AS, my boyfriend of almost three years, is tied to his work in NYC, so we will be in a long distance relationship for at least part of my time there. As excited as I am to move to Chicago, there is a part of me that is very sad and anxious to leave New York. Living in NYC makes me feel like I'm living at the center of the world! So, I think an upside to the long-distance relationship is that it will help ease the transition out of the New York stage of my life.

Your childhood sounds interesting. You were a synchronized figure skater and also went to Norwegian language immersion camp. Tell us more!

I only participated in such strange childhood activities because I wasn't any good at "normal" stuff like soccer. My family is deeply Scandinavian (Norwegian on my dad's side; Swedish on my mom's). I attended language immersion camp in Northern Minnesota from age 8 to 15. It was just like regular summer camp--sports, crafts, pre-teen romance--except conducted in Norwegian and focused on Norwegian culture. I think that experience instilled in me a lifetime interest in other languages and cultures.

Figure skating will always be my first love. I am quite the klutz on the ground, but I manage to be somewhat graceful when I strap blades to my feet. Go figure. Synchronized figure skating (where teams of 12-24 skaters skate in unison and form shapes--similar to synchronized swimming) was a wonderful experience for me. I thrived as a member of a team and met lifelong friends. We also traveled independently to competitions all over the US, which, as you can imagine was very glamorous for a 16-17 year old!

What do you do when you're not blogging?

Lately, I have been neglecting my blog a bit, so this question should be easy! I run--sometimes I run a lot. I read about a book a week, the New Yorker and listen to NPR (the geek trifecta!). I cook for my boyfriend and the occasional roommate or friend. I watch a fair amount of bad television! These days I spend a lot of time getting things organized for my impending move to Chicago.

I read in your "100 things" that you're a "fourth generation, dyed in the wool Democrat." You call your 85-year-old, religious, retired farmer grandfather in rural Minnesota the biggest liberal you know and say his Democratic roots come from a very Christian place. Do you get frustrated that the media portrays Republicans as having cornered the market on all of the country's religious or spiritual people?

It really, really does. I think that the traditional "liberal" view in the rural area that my grandfather and father grew up comes from some of deeply Christian values. The difference, I think (and probably why the conservative view is more visible), is that the center of their beliefs is humility. They believe in policies that work towards peace, equal opportunity and economic fairness because they think it is unjust and immoral to accumulate huge wealth when others in this country and in the world are struggling. There are a lot of Democrats making great arguments for progressive economic / anti-poverty / health care policy and ending the war, but I think the Christian argument in support of those ideas is not often brought into the conversation. And, to me, the message of peace and equality is the best part of Christianity! Why would you leave that out?

Back to blogging: Do you read a lot of other blogs? Care to recommend any?

I read so many blogs. I am addicted. This question reminds me that I have to update my blogroll; it is woefully outdated! Outside of my personal blog friends, I love the Fast Company blogs for business news and ideas; The Superficial; and Apartment Therapy for design inspiration.

Your blog is called "Sass Attack." Do people call you sassy?

I've been called "sassy" a time or two! I am definitely a girl who likes to be funny and can keep up with the guys when the BS starts flowing. I think sassiness is an excellent attribute.

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add to kirtsy | 9:56 PM


Blogger bella said...

I greatly enjoyed this.
It looks like the interview bug is happening all over. And it is so much fun!

4/07/2008 11:30 AM  
Blogger Judy Merrill-Smith said...

Nice interview -- I really enjoyed reading it.

4/07/2008 2:31 PM  
Blogger janet said...

great questions! and answers :) I heart Laurel!

4/08/2008 3:01 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Love the Sass!!

4/08/2008 3:06 PM  
Blogger nicoleantoinette said...

What a fun, well thought out interview. Um, and Laurel is AWESOME.

4/08/2008 5:14 PM  
Anonymous heidikins said...

I heart Sass! Great interview!


4/08/2008 5:41 PM  

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