An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Julie Harrison Of Coffee With Julie

Julie Harrison authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner Coffee With Julie, which placed 2nd in Family & Parenting and 3rd in Life.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

After my daughter was born, it just didn't feel like enough to simply send photos to her grandparents overseas. I wanted so badly for them to know her, and really feel a connection to her life. So, for instance, if I was emailing a Halloween photo, I'd write up a little story to go with it so that they could experience the event a bit more... how the costume was picked, any funny little anecdotes... that kind of thing.

It snowballed out from there to include friends, and then those friends would sometimes ask if they could share the story with their friends. That kind of reception to my writing made me feel great. And it was fun, too! So that is what continues to drive me — I enjoy sharing stories and I find writing to be very fulfilling and relaxing.

Some people golf, some people quilt — but me? I like to blog.

Your archives at Coffee With Julie only go back to July 2009, but your weblog has the flavour of one that has been around much longer. Do you have a history with blogging prior to Coffee With Julie, or does your established-seeming style come from your background in communications?

No, Coffee With Julie is my first blog. I don't feel like I have an established style since I'm a little all-over-the-map when it comes to topics! But, yes, I do write corporate communications for a living, so maybe that helps? Also, I love great design and made a choice early-on to invest in a professional blog design.

You and your family love to travel, and you are both a travel writer and blogger. Do you write and blog during your trips, or do you wait until the trip is over? Do you find that it detracts or enhances your travel experience?

I love to blog while I'm travelling on holidays with my family. Writing relaxes me and makes me feel happy, and that's what holidays are all about, right? I think that blogging enhances my travel experiences because it heightens my senses to what's around me. Another important element in any travel experience is the memories that you bring back with you and blogging definitely helps with that too.

However, if I am travelling on a press trip or for work, I don't usually blog. The days are very full and by the time I return to my hotel room, I am just too tired. Instead, I collect notes from each day in a journal and use them for inspiration later.

photo credit: Andrea Tomkins of Ottawa Family Photography

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

Unfortunately, I have far more ideas than time for blogging. This makes me feel frustrated sometimes. But c'est la vie as a working mom with a young family. I don't look for inspiration, I look for time! And the less time I have, the less inspired I feel.

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I don't hide the fact that I'm a blogger, but I also don't actually bring it up in conversations at work or in social settings. The funny thing about blogging is that only other bloggers seem to "get" it. That's why my trip last year to a first blogging conference (BlogHer '10 in New York City) was so joyful for me — I felt like I'd found my tribe!

With the exception of some family members and close friends, most people that I know offline don't actually read my online writing. My husband doesn't even read my blog regularly! So, I rarely get any offline reaction.

photo credit: Andrea Tomkins of Ottawa Family Photography
Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

I really enjoy alot of local weblogs. Here, in Ottawa, Canada, there seems to be a particularly vibrant and active blogging community. Two local blogs that I've followed for a long time are Postcards from the Mothership and A Peek Inside the Fishbowl, but as time goes on, my list of local blog reading gets longer and longer — Coffees and Commutes, Stay-at-Home-Mayhem, Turtlehead, Finola, XUP... and the list goes on and on!

I also tend to seek out weblogs that are of a completely different style than my own. For instance, I adore The Bloggess, but I simply will never have her zanny sense of humour or ability for shock-and-awe. And I appreciate deeply personal blog writing, but I self-censor too much to be able to pull that off.

What advice do you have for new bloggers?

I think the most important thing is to decide at the outset what personal boundaries you and your family are happy with. For instance, does your spouse mind if you detail an argument you had with him, or how do your children feel about having their photos online, or what would your mother think if you recounted childhood memories that don't mesh with hers... those kinds of things.



2010 CWA Winner:

Julie Harrison
Ottawa, Ontario
Coffee With Julie
2nd in Family & Parenting
3rd in Life

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.