I have the great fortune of knowing Emily, an incredible person that also happens to be a fantastic, successful and passionate writer/blogger among many other things. She has been a huge inspiration and source of encouragement for this blog and I’m lucky to call her a personal friend as well! I asked Emily a few questions about her blog, Ember Grey, her upcoming novel and what writing means to her. Read her answers below!
What is Ember Grey and how did you come up with the name?
Ember Grey is a lifestyle blog, meant to connect, encourage and inspire. Ember is a nickname given to me by my dad when I was in high school. My dad and I are really close, and any time he calls me Ember, I feel special. He still calls me Ember to this day. Grey came about in a few ways: I have always loved the color gray. While most would associate it with feeling down, a depressing color, I’ve always found it to be calming, clean. I’ve also always thought the name Gray would make for a cool middle name. One other odd fact: my mom and I each go into British accent mode when we’re stressed. We both have done this for years, without the other knowing. One Christmas, I burned one of the pies – filling the house up with smoke and the fire alarms blaring – and you can imagine the shock and hilarity when she and I both started screaming in British accents. So that’s why Grey is spelled in the British spelling. I suppose Ember Grey is somewhat of a nod to my parents!
How did you start blogging?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I graduated college and moved away from my home state of Indiana to Chicago, I created a private blog where you had to be invited in order to read. This blog was created for my family members and best friends so they could stay up to date on all of the things I was doing, but it quickly became a place I wrote down all of my thoughts, feelings, and dreams. It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that I decided to start a public blog. I still can’t remember what made me take the leap, as I am typically a pretty private person, but I’m SO glad I did. I made so many life-long friends through blogging, and learned a lot about the blogging world, creativity, other people, and most of all: myself. It’s pretty cool to have one spot where I can look back on my life and read about exactly who I was that day. One of my favorite quotes that reminds me of this is from Alice in Wonderland: “I can’t go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” I think it’s really important to love yourself in all seasons of your life… because it does change. You will change.
When did you decide to write a novel? Was it an easy transition from blogging?
I’d had this story idea for years and years and years, though I never really thought about writing it out. I’d become so obsessed with the story though that I found myself waking up in the middle of the night and writing parts of it out – emailing them to myself. I’d no idea what I was going to do with them, but fast forward about a year later and I’d realized I had close to a hundred “story emails.” I wondered one night: if I’m this obsessed and in love with this story and these characters in my head, is it possible other people could fall in love with them too? So I decided to start putting all the parts together and writing it out in novel form… I’m nearly finished with the first novel, and have already begun the sequel. I have always written in the way I think and speak, which I think is easily gathered when you read my blog posts. So because the novel is written in the main character’s voice and point of view (1st person), it came fairly easy to me to write.
Can you tell us what the novel is about?
I am still pretty secretive with the story line 😉 Give me until the end of 2018 and I might start to give more info!
Why do you think blogging is an attractive platform for writers?
Blogging has changed A LOT in the last 10 years. When I was in college (ugh, dating myself here: about 11-12 years ago), there were very few, what I call, “Big Bloggers” and it wasn’t necessarily something most people thought of even attempting to do, and certainly not as a form of actual income. Instead, Xanga and LiveJournal were the main platforms and were used as just that: online journals. Think of it as more as a Chatroom kind of vibe: you would write about your day, your crush, or whatever in your online journal and others who had journals would read yours and reply. It was more about the writer wanting to write freely and maybe connect with some other people – not even writers per say – than it was about an agenda, selling a product, or gaining more followers. (And Instagram was not around back then; Facebook only just beginning!) When I started to blog, NOT everyone was doing it. Bloggers were still blogging about their personal experiences, but it was slowly becoming more about gaining loyal followers, making money, and maybe all of that landing you a bigger writing job via the Huffington Post, etc. – none of which is bad, by the way. It’s just different from the way it was when I first started. In the last year, I’d say, almost every single person I know is blogging – which is GREAT – because I think writing is such a great way to express yourself, but because everyone is doing it, it makes it harder for you as a blogger to be found, read, and bookmarked. In my opinion, in today’s blogging world, it’s less about the writing and more about the visual content – and most of the time that means perfectly staged pictures. Some people connect to this, whereas I do not. This is a BIG reason why I love your blog, Meg! Your writing, content, and blog as a whole reminds me a lot of how blogs were back when I first started. It’s authentic and a breath of fresh air.
Another change in today’s blogging is “internet trolls” – mean people who hide behind their computer and will say the most hateful and hurtful things in the comments below one of your posts. Not only have these people steamrolled their way into the hobby, but they have tripled in size, which has changed the way people write. Not everyone, but a lot of people are now writing through a big ol’ filter, hoping to not have one of these trolls attack them, which changes the way other bloggers now share their own content: things must be shared a certain way, it must reach everyone, and it must look perfect. While my blog is still active, I stopped publicly blogging in September of 2017 for all of these reasons: when my son was born, it took literally ONE person’s negative comment about the way I was choosing to share my experience of parenting for the first time to make me say – BYE. It was one thing for me to defend myself, but I wasn’t about to subject my son to a complete stranger’s “opinion.” Another honest reason for pausing on my blog was TIME. It takes a lot of time to get a blog post together, complete with perfectly themed header photos, and then respond to comments (and that was always important to me), and don’t forget posting it to all of the other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I felt like if I found myself with any free time, it should be dedicated to my novel. I have started to see another shift in the blogging world though (you are in this shift!), where people are going back to the “root” of blogging, sharing their heart and soul. It’s made me miss it, so I’m sure I’ll be back one day.
Do you find it easy to write autiobiographically?
100% yes. I can’t tell you the number of times I turned down the opportunity to write for someone else/an online magazine, etc. because it’s really, really hard for me to write in a voice that’s not solely my own. And my own voice is FULL of my opinions, my experiences, my feelings – basically nothing right down the middle where every single reader would be able to say “yes, I relate.” I think that’s why I connected to blogging as much as I did: it really brought people together who had been through similar things, and I think that’s important to be able to find and connect to. Not everyone will connect to the stories I’ve chosen to share on my blog, and that’s okay. But I think it’s pretty special when you read something from someone else and can say, “Yes. Me too.”
Do you think there are any topics bloggers or writers should avoid in such a volatile sociopolitical climate?
Absolutely not, although I do think it’s important to think about others before you press “publish.” I think we need more of this, actually: people using their true and unique voices, without the fear that someone might not agree. When I take the time to read a blog post, I want to go into it knowing whatever I’m about to read is REAL and not just written because the writer thought that’s what the readers might want to read. Write what you feel, write what you know – and remember that those things might change for you… and that’s okay too. As a writer, it’s so important to be true to yourself, but you also can’t expect every single reader to connect to it, or come back. I think there’s a healthy way of prefacing certain topics before you get into them – not because you need to please everyone, but you certainly don’t want to intentionally hurt anyone either.
What inspires you as a writer?
LIFE inspires me. There were many times, when I was actively blogging, when I would take blogging breaks. It was essential, because in order to have things to write about, I had to live them first. I think any time you sit in front of the computer screen and you’re reaching and struggling for a topic, solely to have a daily something to publish for your readers to read, that’s when you need to hit Pause and go live your life out from behind a screen. Beyond blogging, I am inspired by so many things: nature (walking under the trees ALWAYS creates new words to write), personal experiences, and mostly – for me – other lives I’ll never actually live. I’ve always said: novel writing is so much fun because it’s the only way I can be other people without being committed to an asylum. 😉
Where can people find more information about you, Ember Grey and your forthcoming novel?
You can always find me on Instagram. I have three different accounts: more of a personal one (@emilyecullen), one solely for writing (@embergreywrites), and then one for all things safe beauty/living -another love of mine!- @thebeautywechoose. As far as the novel goes, keep your eyes peeled for updates at the end of 2018/early 2019. I will absolutely be updating embergrey.com with any and all news on that front. And… I will be back to blogging on Ember Grey one of these days, in one shape or form 😉
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