2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Exclusive Nominee Interview with Marc Vandersluys of The Eagle & Child

Marc Vandersluys authors The Eagle & Child, which has been nominated in the Religion, Spirituality, & Philosophy category of the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards.

Why blogging?

It's a great outlet and an accessible way to get some writing "out there" without editors mucking with your material. In my context it's a fun way to bounce around ideas.

In the mid-90s I had fiddled around with a website on Geocities where I had published some stuff similar to what I might post on my blog. But at that time everything had to be written in html: background colour, font, font style, formatting, alignment, etc. All that coding was a hassle and got in the way of writing. And in those early years of search engines I had no idea how to get my website into "the system" so that people could find me.

Years later, a friend of mine started recording his travels in Kenya at 20six. Beyond his writing, I was intrigued by this new "weblog" format of reader interaction and preset templates in which I would only have to worry about writing. So I thought I'd give it another go. At the time I didn't know how to get people to find and read my blog, so I sent what was my first and only mass email to everyone in my address book. I said something like, "I've set up a blog where I'll be posting pictures of our kids so that I won't be clogging your inboxes with picture files anymore." But that was just a cover to get people to read. I did one post with pictures of my infant daughter before permanently moving on to other material.

The name of my blog comes from a pub in Oxford, England where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and others used to meet together weekly to talk literature and philosophy and who knows what else. I thought my blog could be a place where people could be that pub, except in the ether, as it were.

Originally I had quite an idealistic picture of blogging. I thought it would be an outlet for some of my musings as well as maybe a platform that might one day lead to some "serious" publishing. I realized fairly quickly that that wasn't going to happen.

There are days when I wonder why I still bother with blogging. But I enjoy writing and blogging is good even as an exercise, I suppose. I can't help myself. Plus over the years a little community of regulars has developed, which is nice. I wouldn't want to lose that.

You were blogging for over six years when you chose to pursue your Master of Divinity. Has this shift in your life affected your blogging? In what ways?

In the year or so prior to moving, I was blogging less frequently. Other things started taking priority. I had started working part time at our church and was responsible for preaching a sermon twice a month, which tended to take much time and creative energy. Also, in the last couple of years I have shifted from that idealistic view of blogging to seeing it as simply a hobby and an outlet, so I take it less seriously (for the most part).

But I was frustrated by my decreased blogging and I hoped that the move to a new province, a new town, a new situation, as well as the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of academe would lead to more blogging, but it hasn't. I'm busier now than ever and my writing energy is directed at papers.

Also, by going to seminary I am moving more deliberately towards ordination and eventually serving in the church, so the question of whether what I write on my blog will have a bearing on future work is on my mind more. Of course, I would rather be transparent than keep something to myself just in order to keep or get a job, but the question of editing myself comes up more often now.

What is your personal blogging philosophy? What will you and won't you write about? Why?

I'm not sure that I do have a blogging philosophy. My writing boundaries are set by what I'm interested in.

In some respects there are more things I won't blog about now than when I started six years ago. I can't think of anything specific, but I find myself foreseeing a post turning into an argument and I generally don't have the energy for that anymore, so often I won't bother posting it. Also, I feel like I have less to say these days. More and more I start writing things and then one or two paragraphs in (or five or six) I think either that it isn't going anywhere or, even if it is going somewhere, that it isn't worth posting.

Wow. This is so uninspiring! I should probably be de-nominated. I feel a little bit like this interview isn't going anywhere and that it shouldn't be posted. I'm the Harrison Ford or Robert DeNiro of blogging interviews.

If you were to impart some knowledge to on an aspiring blogger, what would you tell them?

Don't edit yourself once you begin to know who your audience is: family, friends, other bloggers. It is easy to think, "What will So and So think of this? How will they respond?" Try to avoid worrying about what your audience will think. Unless you're writing nasty things about people you know and they start reading you. Then you should edit yourself. But you probably shouldn't have been writing that stuff in the first place.

Write with your own voice. That's the one kind of editing (other than spelling and grammar) that I would suggest. If you find yourself "creating" a voice or saying something that you don't think is you (e.g. for effect), take that part out. Unless you're writing fiction. I think. But I don't know anything about writing fiction.

Write every day. I don't follow my own advice on this one, but I wish I did and had done so from the start.

Also: exclamation marks are solitary creatures. Do not put them together with their own kind.

And finally: write in paragraphs.

Which blogs are your "must reads"? What blogs within your genre do you find most inspiring?

I feel a little like this whole interview has been outside the spirit of these awards. I feel like I should be saying "Rah, rah, blogging!" Instead I'm saying things like, "I don't blog as much as I used to. I have less to say." Zzzzzz.

To that end, I'm not sure any longer that I have must-read blogs. There is simply too much to read out there and I can't possibly keep up with it. I often feel the tension between not reading blogs at all and the pressure to always be on top of "the latest".

Most of the blogs I follow are people I know, some of which are must-reads for that reason alone and probably wouldn't be of interest to anyone who doesn't know them.

One blogger who's reflections I always appreciate is Real Live Preacher, who I guess is in my genre, but lately he hasn't been writing all that much. I also tend to pay attention to what Scot McKnight is writing at Jesus Creed, but he's too prolific for me to follow the conversation there very closely. I don't know how he does it: he's a professor, an author and a speaker, and he manages to have a steady stream of interesting material going up on his blog.

I always look forward to posts on A Mandolyn & Ky, which is nominated in the group blogging category, I believe. I should pay more attention to some of their friends' blogs as well. That whole group of bloggers is so witty. I'm jealous of their wit. Seriously.

But, frankly, I don't read widely when it comes to blogs and my attention span is quite short, so I do a lot of skimming. I'm not proud of this.

Marc Vandersluys has blogged at The Eagle & Child since December 2003. He lives with his wife and three children in a small town in southern Manitoba, where he attends seminary. He enjoys conversation, tea, reading, theology and music. And other things. When he dies, he would like to be stuffed and mounted like a bear in an attack position.


Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health, Woman's Day, and Flow magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.