In my interview EFL Geek, he mentioned Katie of TEFLlogue fame as someone he most missed from the TEFL blogosphere, and I’m sure everyone who was active at that time will feel exactly the same way. She was incredibly productive, and although she had a positivity that would’ve fitted in very nicely with the atmosphere of TEFL blogging today, she also had a great way of including grumpy old men like me and Sandy. One of the reasons for three posts a day and her feelings about dealing with Mr MacManus are revealed in the exclusive TEFLtastic interview below:
“Why did you decide to start TEFL blogging, and why on a travel site?
I originally emailed the travel website that ended up setting up the blog, offering just to improve the EFL content on their site – they had the idea of writing a blog. I like writing, so I knew I would enjoy it, but I also liked the idea of sharing my own experience with others interested in going abroad.
And they paid me. (:
What did you most want to achieve with your blog?
World peace, I guess! Seriously, mainly I wanted to share my experience and let people know that it really is possible to go work abroad – you don’t have to be the one or two out of a hundred hand-picked by the Peace Corps or JET. Day to day that was all, but I do actually think going abroad to teach English matters in, like, world affairs in the long term.
I think it is especially important for people from the US, because my country sometimes plays a negative role in world affairs. The US puts tons of money into trying to change minds about US foreign policy and so on, but I think there is a lot of space for people in the US to update their views – and going abroad is one way of doing this.
How and why blog up to three times a day?? How did you find time in those pre-i Phone days?
Well, I got paid per post ($3-4)! I have a lot of ideas and like writing – and because I was drawing some income from it, it made it possible to devote the necessary time to it. In one place my rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $200/month, and most of the time I was writing for the blog I was not working a true full-time load.
What TEFL and other blogs were around and/ or popular at the time? Which did you read?
EFL Geek was probably the best-known one that I read, and of course Tefltastic. The Daily Kimchi was cool, and Guy Courchesne blogged off and on from Mexico. I read blogs mainly to get to know something about the person and less for teaching ideas. I like coming up with my own ideas and generally found enough in the teachers’ room.
Did blogging lead to other stuff for you?
As far as work – not really. But it has definitely helped me write fairly quickly and edit my own writing pretty thoroughly for clarity and so on.
Could your experience happen to bloggers nowadays, or did you just time it well?
I think you mean the TEFLlogue kind of ”taking off” and getting some readers…I guess it was a combination of luck and “other” for me. I was the one writing and producing the content. but also a) there was this web-based travel company that gave me advice and paid me, and b) I was living in a place with a low enough cost of living that it was feasible to spend so much time on it for the relatively small amount they paid.
I’m guessing some actual computer skills must have been necessary back when you set up.
Ha! Not for me. I didn’t know what a blog was when I started blogging, and the travel company did pretty much all of the groundwork.
Do you follow any TEFL or other blogs now?
I read a couple of DC-based blogs. One of them is kind of a neighborhood blog, and the blogger lives two blocks away from me! I met him when I bought a t-shirt with his blog logo on it and he delivered it. I didn’t tell him I was a former blogger, but I felt a bond with him because of it. I think he actually quit some kind of government job to blog full-time – pretty cool!
Most controversial post?
I don’t know about controversial, but I was pretty worried when Sandy (of TEFL Blacklist? I can’t remember which blog he was writing then) parodied my very first TEFLlogue post! Actually it was kind of flattering that he found the blog important enough to make fun of, and he didn’t direct anything right at me, so that was cool.
When and why did you decide to finish it?
Mainly because I had returned to the US in winter 2007 and investing that much time for $300 a month was not feasible. The travel company proposed some new kind of pay structure (surprise: I would make less) and the suggestions they gave made me feel that they were most concerned with gaining random, one-time hits rather than providing good content. [To be fair to the travel company, they were overwhelmingly good about letting me write whatever I wanted, not making a lot of requests, and never editing what I wrote. And of course the fact that the site did get traffic is part of what made it possible for them to pay me.]
Anything you miss about writing that blog?
I really enjoyed exchanging comments with readers, and I like the challenge of coming up with a (relatively) polished piece of writing every day. Aside from just getting comments, it was really cool that people I had come to respect via their blogs found my blog worthwhile to read and comment on.
Was blogging mainly something you enjoyed doing or mainly meant to lead onto something else?
I definitely enjoyed it – writing that much would be really painful if I hadn’t! The fact that I derived income from it was part of my motivation to keep going though too. I wouldn’t have minded if it had evolved into something more full time, but I didn’t really expect that.
What did you learn from blogging?
Believe it or not, I’m a fairly reserved person and I don’t necessarily share my views all the time. I wouldn’t say I’m outspoken now, but I think blogging has made me more comfortable speaking my mind in real life situations.
You were one of the few female TEFL bloggers at the time. Was there a distinct “woman’s touch” to your blog, do you think? Do you think TEFL blogging has changed now that women have at least their fair share of impact?
I did notice that most other bloggers were guys, maybe because of the tech skills you mentioned in an earlier question, or at least the perception that you needed such skills. I don’t hate technology or anything, but I tend not to be fascinated by it either, so I almost never wrote about new technology for ESL or anything.
As far as the content, I think it was more personal or more about my experience than others’ blogs, so that might be a difference – but whether it is because I’m female, I don’t know. It could also have been that I was uninfluenced by other blogs because I hardly knew anything about them!
Did you read about blogging, or just make it up as you went along?
No! Occasionally the travel company sent on “Top 50 search engine terms for ESL”, or tips about, like, including those terms or combinations in the first five sentences once or twice but not more than that…I couldn’t stand that stuff and I only did it enough to pacify them!
What are you doing now?
I am nearly done with a Master’s degree in a program with an international focus (not TESOL or EFL). Believe it or not, the zeal that I formerly put to writing TEFLlogue posts, I am now putting towards yoga classes! Thankfully not three a day though. Washington DC is home now and I will be working part-time for a small local NGO that sets up yoga classes for people who experienced trauma or currently live in other difficult circumstances. And I will also be teaching ESL! I started one class as a volunteer a few weeks ago with students from several different countries.”
Many thanks and best wishes for the future to Katie. Now that she only has a top secret personal blog, and questions or comments for her here on this post please: