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50-for-50 interview: Eden M. Kennedy, erudite yogini and blogging pioneer

the lovely and hilarious eden m. kennedy

If Eden M. Kennedy is not one of the principal reasons why I decided to start blogging, she is certainly one of the principal reasons I decided I would have to do it well, if I did it at all. Her outstanding blog has been around since the Flint-Arrowhead-and-Space-Food-Sticks days of the Internet, and has held to a standard of excellence in writing, thinking, and design that puts the modern plug-’n’-pay blogging world to shame. What’s more, Eden manages to do everything she does with a mix of style and true compassion for the planet we probably haven’t seen in one person since Audrey Hepburn. Ergo, if Eden didn’t make me laugh so hard, I’d probably have to hate her.

When did you decide to become a writer?

When I was around ten years old a friend of mine told me she wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and I was all, “What? How is writing even a JOB?” But it was around the same time that I fell in love with reading, after discovering Bambi by Felix Salton, which I read about a dozen times in fifth and sixth grade. All that said, I don’t think I ever decided I wanted to “be” a writer, I just write. It’s my primary form of expression. More words come out of my fingers in the course of a day than come out of my mouth. There’s no purer form of communication for me.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Miss Macaluso. She taught my 11th-grade English class, and she was one of the warmest, most encouraging teachers I ever had. She thought I didn’t work hard enough (I didn’t) but she laughed at my juvenile sense of humor, and when I’d compose poetry all over her chalkboard after school, she’d leave it up for everyone to read the next day.

What do you love to write about?

My favorite thing to write about is reality. Or, more to the point, MY reality. Whenever something unusual happens to me, or occurs to me, I want to find a way to turn it over and look at it from all the most interesting angles. Exploring something ordinary and finding a new twist in the topic, that makes me so happy. I wrote about a can of dog food the other day. It may not go down in history next to Shakespeare, but I felt like I’d written about dog food in a way I’d never seen before. I felt like I’d completed a really weird crossword puzzle, that’s the kind of satisfaction it gave me.

What has writing taught you?

It’s taught me that the first thing that I put down on the page is just my brain-engine warming up. Ninety percent of the time I end up cutting my first paragraph, because it’s just me yapping about how I’m going to write, but I’m not actually saying anything yet. So writing has taught me not to be satisfied with the first idea I have, because it’s just a warm-up act for the real thing I want and need to write about that’s still waiting behind the curtain.

How has writing made you stronger?

I was often angry as a kid and I didn’t know how to deal with it, so it would come out in weird ways — I’d get really quiet, or I’d be mean to someone, or I’d shove my feelings down because I didn’t know how to express them honestly, which resulted in me going numb, and then becoming incredibly insecure. Writing helped wake my feelings up again, and helped me to express things I didn’t know how to say. One of my favorite quotes about writers is, “A writer is someone who hides his secrets in print.” Writing is one way to take a raw feeling and turn it into something more powerful, or beautiful, or funny than it would be if it was just you screaming into your pillow.

If you could go back in time and tell 10-year-old you anything, what would it be?

In a couple of years you’re going to spend a lot of time figuring out how to get in with the cute, blond, popular crowd. It’s not going to work. You’re just going confuse those people, and everyone else will vote you into student council because they clearly see that’s where you belong. Don’t fight it. Nerd out.

What are your five favorite books, blogs or things to read?

Nonfiction: A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
Fiction: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
Blog: The Trephine
Magazine: The New Yorker
Currently reading: Don’t Let’s Go Down to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller

Eden M. Kennedy is the author of the Web site Fussy.org, which has been featured in The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times and celebrated as one of the top ten parenting blogs by The Wall Street Journal. With Alice Bradley, she is the co-author of the best-selling Let’s Panic About Babies!, from the popular blog of the same name. Eden has written for PBS’s Remotely Connected blog and Babble.com, and her work has appeared in several anthologies. A former bookseller and magazine editor, she lives with her family in Southern California.

Photo © Alice Bradley.



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