Sunday 22 October 2017

Writing in cyberspace: The rise of mums who blog

Mother feeding baby in home office with laptop
Mother feeding baby in home office with laptop

IT all started with ' Wife in the North'. A journalist and mother, Judith O'Reilly, began blogging about her unhappy move from London to Northumberland, spearheaded by her husband, and readers followed in their droves. A book deal followed. A big advance. Suddenly the idea of the 'Mummy blog' was born.

However, is blogging really the way to achieve literary fame and potential riches for new mothers, or are there other reasons why harried mums are committing both their words and their time to the blogosphere?

"If you start blogging solely to get a book deal, I think you're approaching it the wrong way," explains Irish-based blogger Hazel Gaynor, or Hot Cross Mum as she's known to her fans. "I was actually at the Cybermummy conference in London in 2010 where Judith O'reilly spoke to 300 mums, and she basically said luck played a huge part for her."

Gaynor herself came to blogging after she was made redundant from her job in professional services in 2009. "I needed to find something else to do, so I attended a course on writing for the web run by Vanessa O'loughlin of Inkwell Writers' Workshops and Writing.ie. I thought it might be a nice way of generating a bit of income when the kids were in bed."

It was there Gaynor came across the concept of blogging. "I found out that people had been able to use their blog to earn money or open other writing doors for them. I came home and straightaway started Hot Cross Mum."

FORGING A NEW IDENTITY

Gaynor says the blog has been "an amazing experience" on all kinds of levels. "I found a hugely supportive community, particularly in relation to parenting and childcare. I'd think I was the only person going through something, and then someone would leave me a comment saying ' that happened to my child yesterday, here's what I did.'"

She says blogging also helped re-instate her identity after leaving the corporate world.

" When I was out of that corporate environment suddenly everything I'd known about my working identity was gone. It was a real shock to the system. I was used to interaction with colleagues and travelling with work and suddenly my house and my four walls became my world. I found the positive feedback I got through the blog really useful."

Another Irish-based blogger whose star is in the ascent is Alison Wells. Her blog 'Head Above Water' began in 2009. A former HR manager and technical writer, Wells also wanted a space where she could re-assess her role as a busy mother and further her creativity.

" To begin with it was a personal thing and it coincided with a time when I was really revving up with my writing. I have four kids, aged 10 down to three, and the blog was about getting giving me headspace to write away from the clamour. I also wanted to explore how other busy mothers combine work with writing."

To this end, Wells interviewed a number of mothers who write, including Colette Caddle, Maria M Duffy (whose first novel will be published in November), Hazel Gaynor, and Vanessa O'Loughlin. This series was subsequently featured on Writing.ie, where Wells now has a guest blog, 'Random Acts of Optimism'.

HONING ONE'S CRAFT

Both Wells and Gaynor say writing a blog has hugely impacted their freelance and creative work.

"In my own mind this was always going to be more than just somewhere to put down my thoughts," explains Gaynor. "I'd already decided it would be a platform for developing my freelance career, and a place for me to hone my writing craft. The end goal was always, always, always the dream of having a novel on the shelf in Eason."

Almost simultaneous with the launch of her blog, freelance work began to trickle in. "I pitched one of my blog articles to a parenting magazine, and they accepted it. I began to think 'I can do this'. I started writing for the Leinster Leader and began to become more confident. I then started approaching national press and other magazines. A blog is a brilliant way for people to find you, it's a portfolio of your work."

Likewise, Wells says the blog has had a real impact on her fiction writing.

"I post a lot of my fiction on my blog, and what I find really useful is the support you get from other people reading your work and commenting on what they like about it."

Interestingly, she says one of her most popular posts was entitled 'I'm not an aspiring writer'.

"I was discussing how, until we're published, we call ourselves 'aspiring' because we don't regard ourselves as writers until we're paid. But I felt it was important to take ownership of my own identity as an author, and the blog has helped me do that."

Already Wells has been shortlisted for the Hennessy and Fish awards and is working towards a short-story collection, 'Random Acts of Optimism'. She has also written one novel, 'Housewife with a Half Life', (she's currently looking for a publisher) and is working on a second book.

Likewise, Gaynor has self-published an e-book. Hot Cross Mum: Bitesize Slices of Motherhood, based on

Mother & Babies

Editors Choice

Also in Life