I recently spent ninety delightful minutes on the phone with Chicago-based Liz Strauss, the hugely-popular hostess of the Successful Blog "online salon." She calls herself "a 65th crayon, if there ever was one" — and that's an apt description.
Liz is passionate about the craft of writing, and — in addition to "Successful Blog" — she produces what she calls her writing blog: Letting Me Be. Take it from me, the pieces there are quite moving.
I was introduced to Liz by Ann Michael (Manage to Change) during my first week of blogging: "If you want to be a successful blogger, you've got to go to Liz's site." Since then, I've been reading Liz's stuff and also been a casual participant in a few of her "Open Comment Tuesday Evenings." From this we developed an e-mail relationship. Our phone call was the first time we had talked together.
The first thing I noticed is her voice: it's sultry. (She could be working a 900 number if she were so inclined!) And, just like her blog, she makes you feel comfortable.
We talked about a lot of different things: literacy, "cross-purpose" content, business opportunities, the publishing industry, our children, being from the midwest, blog gossip, and writing.
I thought I'd share a few notes I made about Liz's well-informed view of the world of blogging.
On what she's known for on the Net: "I have the reputation for being three things: 1) being nice; 2) being a good writer; and, 3) being a builder of communities."
On why she's so popular: "Professionally, I was a first grade teacher. This skill set has carried over remarkably into the world of blogging. This is especially important on 'Open Comments Nights' when there might be 400+ comments."
On why she links to so many people: "When I was a kid, my best friend and I collected leaves and would pretend they were money and then give them away. I think of links as "leaves." I love to give them away. I know other people value them. They're the web's currency." [This drawing was made by one of Liz's fans.]
On her blog "tone": "I like to be conversational; I like to turn blogging into something like a telephone call!"
On the percentage of visitors who comment: "I don't know exactly, but I've heard it's only one visitor in one hundred who will stop and make a comment."
On why people are blogging: "People are blogging because nobody else is listening. Everybody wants to be heard, and blogging is a way to do that."
On the two types of bloggers: "Well, you've got your enthusiastic beginners. They've got a topic, and then they burn out after six months. And then, you've got the rest of us who get addicted to this medium and stay on after that."
On the object of addiction: "Bloggers are addicted to the other people, and then they become addicted to communities of people. It's really wonderful."
On her experience of bloggers: "Bloggers are way cool! They'll help you in a second, but don't, I repeat, don't ever tell them what to do — because they are fiercely independent."
On the blogosphere being a "safe" place: "You either buy into the blog culture or you don't, but those who stay realize that it's a safe place to be themselves and share ideas."
Some of her "top of mind" blogs: "I like Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users — she can really make an idea come alive. Steve Farber — I like his books Radical Edge and Radical Leap. Timothy Johnson, Phil Gerbyshak, and Chris Cree also come to mind."
Thanks for your time, Liz. It's been fun getting to know you!