April 1, 2009

A peek behind the curtain

I went to see Heather Armstrong at a book signing last night. She is the woman behind the apparently uber-popular blog, dooce.com. I have only recently begun reading the blog but I have enjoyed her blunt, sarcastic, somewhat crass tone. I was interested to peek behind the curtain and meet the woman behind the blog. A brief history from her site:
In a previous life I was a web designer. I lived in Los Angeles, California, for several years where I worked for drug-addicted executives and discovered what life was like as a recovering Mormon...

I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID. Never write about work on the internet unless your boss knows and sanctions the fact that YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT WORK ON THE INTERNET. If you are the boss, however, you should be aware that when you order Prada online and then talk about it out loud that you are making it very hard for those around you to take you seriously...

This website chronicles my life from a time when I was single and making a lot of money as a web designer in Los Angeles, to when I was dating the man who would become my husband, to when I lost my job and lived life as an unemployed drunk, to when I married my husband and moved to Utah, to when I became pregnant, to when I threw up and became unbearably swollen during the pregnancy, to the birth, to the aftermath, to the postpartum depression that landed me in a mental hospital. I'm better now.
The site also features some great photography of her family, dogs and other random things. Her blog has become so popular, that she has been able sell enough advertising to support her family. I'm not sure where these money-making ads are as I don't see them on her blog.

Heather has now written a book, It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita. From what I can gather, it is largely her blog in book form. Probably a dream for a lot of bloggers to not only make money for blogging, but then to end up with a book deal.

The only other book signing I can remember going to was for The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. His first book Tuesdays with Morrie was very successful, and his new book sounded really interesting, like a book I wish I had written. The author read excerpts from the book, talked about his inspirations and life as an author. There were 20 or so people at the book signing asking questions, and it was really interesting to hear him speak.

Last night there were over 300 people at the signing.

She clearly has a large and devoted online following. She read a couple of bits from her book and an old blog post about a previous trip to Seattle. Afterward, she took questions from the crowd. There was actually a podium with a microphone that the questioners stepped up to like a town hall meeting. It was weird. Not what I expected for a book signing. This internet thing may be catching on.

I'm glad I went. She was funny and her answers during the Q & A period were an honest look into her public and private life. I'm tempted to go back to her 2001 entries and hear her story beginning. Or I could read the book.

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