Don’t mind the ruin and destruction on the avenue my friends; it was just the sequestration passing through in the form of a violent windstorm during the first hours of March.
At least it’s Friday, though.
To kick off the first Follow Friday of March 2013, we head far into the north to a small town somewhere in northwestern Ontario, where we meet up with Shayla of Northern Exposure. I first met her in late February during a BlogTrends Twitter chat about re-envisioning blogs, and decided to ask if she wanted to kick off the month. From her thoughts on the differences between blogging and journalism to her recommendations on what to experience in her neck of the woods, learn why Shayla and her blog were chosen as this week’s Follow Friday.
* * * * * * * * *Name: Shayla
Name of blog: Northern Exposure
Date of founding: 13 December 2010
A short description of your blog: Northern Exposure is a little collection of life’s moments: the food I eat if it’s particularly good, photos I take, interesting online finds I stumble across, introspective ramblings, travelogues, too many cat stories, and, of course, my attempts to be fashionable.
How did you find your way into fashion blogging?
Shayla: It was sort of a challenge, to be honest. Nicole from Gypsy in Jasper and I have a lot in common — we’re both Canadian journalists on a pretty similar path in life — and her What to Wear series — exploring outfit choices for different situations — intrigued me from the first day she began. She started a campaign to get me to join, which I avoided due to nervousness and a feeling of not being stylish enough. But in January of this year, I basically shut my eyes and hit send on an email asking to join, because I made a resolution to say yes to more things (and to do something that scared me). Since then, What to Wear has been a lot of fun and I find myself thinking about my regular fashion choices a bit more. Seeing all of the other ladies who are participating is really motivating, and it seems to be taking off with new members which is great to see!
What is the story behind the name of your blog?
Shayla: I initially envisioned Northern Exposure as more of a photo blog than anything else. Most of my family lives pretty far away from me and not all of them have Facebook, not to mention I am the worst person for remembering to upload photos into Facebook albums. I wanted to share more of my life, and more of my photos, with the people I left behind when I moved north. So, I started Googling photography phrases and things involving the word ‘north’ — when I saw “northern exposure” I knew it was perfect, even though it shares the name of a TV series I’ve never seen.
By day, you’re a journalist for a small newspaper in Ontario. What similarities and differences do you experience between writing for a newspaper and writing for a blog, and how have your experiences with both influenced your writing overall?
Shayla: It’s night and day, I think! News writing is, for the most part, straightforward and basic. There isn’t a lot of room for personal reflection, all in the name of brevity, reducing bias, and being concise. My blog, on the other hand, affords me the opportunity to let my mind and my words wander. I find blogging comes to me faster, because I don’t have to think about facts and figures so much — it’s more personal, and I’m allowed to let my own voice shine through a bit more.
A similarity, though, would be that I am always thinking of my audience whether I’m writing about trying to find a good pair of winter boots or churning out a front-page story. I actually feel like I know my newspaper audience a bit better because I’ve been working at that paper for three years and know nearly everyone in town, whereas my blog draws people from all over the internet, some of whom are only popping in once or twice.
They do influence each other back and forth. Blogging makes me feel like I am still honing the creative side of my writing when I feel bogged down by news, so when I do get the chance to be a bit more creative at work, the words flow easily. And, sometimes when I’m having a blogging block, being able to sit down and write hard news helps me from feeling useless — and it sometimes sparks an idea for a blog post.You also write for Weddingbee, a wedding site featuring contributors from the United States and Canada who write about their wedding planning journeys. How did you come to be a part of Weddingbee, and how does writing for their audience compare/contrast with writing for the readership of both your blog and your newspaper?
Shayla: When my husband proposed, I knew right away I wanted to write a wedding blog. Nearly everyone who wanted to know about wedding stuff was not local to me, and I wanted to share information with them without clogging up Northern Exposure (and I didn’t want my blog identity to turn into all bride, all the time). Weddingbee has been on my radar since my older sister got married and I have to admit, I had it in the back of my mind the whole time I was writing my wedding blog. I didn’t know for sure if I would apply — there are not that many Canadian bee bloggers and I didn’t think I, writing from somewhere most Canadians can’t even find on a map, would fit into the demographics — but I ultimately decided that I’d give it a shot. To my surprise they accepted me on my first try!
Jumping from small-scale personal blogging to Weddingbee was amazing. The day my first post went live, I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people commenting, and I knew even more people were reading! I did have to grow a thicker skin and learn that people on the internet can sometimes be harsh, but on the flip side, I also felt the joy of having so many wonderful people help me along my way, and I was able to help them, too. Writing for Weddingbee gave me a sense of community that really cemented my desire to keep blogging — it brought the whole global village concept to life. I have less readers at Northern Exposure, but I still strive to maintain that sense of community on my own blog.
Wedding blogging showed me how much community interaction helps motivate me, and I wish I could get that kind of feedback from my readers at my day job! It was difficult sometimes to switch between writing for the ‘Bee, keeping up with Northern Exposure, and writing for work — it was almost three different styles of writing bouncing around in my head for months. Again, news writing is very direct, while Weddingbee felt more like speaking to people from a podium than the quiet, intimate style of writing for Northern Exposure.
If any of my readers were to visit your part of Ontario, what would you personally recommend they experience?
Shayla: I always tell people if they want the REAL Northwestern Ontario experience, they should drive up to Pickle Lake, which is a few hours north of here. It’s where the maintained highway system ends, so it is literally the end of the road, going north, and it’s a pretty classic NWO town, full of pilots and geologists and cops and really wonderful people.
I think anywhere you go in this region, though, it’s the scenery that will take your breath away. My husband and I are renting a house that is right by the aerodrome, the water base for float planes, and all day long there are little brightly-painted planes cruising along the lake and circling around town. The sunsets are spectacular year-round, and I swear you can drive a few kilometres and see seven different kinds of wildlife just from the window of your vehicle.
What has been your favorite moment as a fashion blogger?
Shayla: What to Wear has been such a great confidence booster. I feel like I’m just a fledgling fashion blogger, so when my first What to Wear post went up I was really nervous about how it’d be recieved — would people like it? Would I look at all the other What to Wearers and feel like I did a terrible job? Would I regret joining? Luckily, and not surprisingly, everyone was really supportive and wonderful, and it made me feel like I could keep going with it without as much anxiety.Why do you blog?
Shayla: I’ve struggled to answer this question in the past, but I’ve settled, mostly, on this: I blog for the interaction and the joy that gives me; I blog for the memory-keeping and the ability to look back on a life that is hopefully well-lived; I blog because it makes me feel connected with so many far-flung friends and family members. And I blog because it makes me smile, and it’s a nice creative outlet in a world that sometimes feels too rigid.
What post best defines your blog?
Shayla: This is the story of how I came to move here, and why I ended up staying, defying my own plans. It’s my favourite post I’ve ever written, I think. I re-read it every year as a reminder of where I came from and how far I’ve come.
What advice would you offer to my readers regarding…
Style: I had a really great conversation with a friend of a friend at a party a few months ago, about how we both feel like our fashion sense has faded since moving north. I used to wear heels, but now I don’t because I don’t want to slip on ice or freeze my feet. I used to wear lipstick, but now I don’t because if I do everyone wonders where I’m going and why I’m so fancy. He told me, essentially, to just wear the damn lipstick and do what I want, and it’s a philosophy I’m trying to get back into my life. Wear the damn lipstick, put on the funky-coloured jeans, rock the four-inch blue heels at a backyard wedding (like one of my bridesmaids did). You’ll be happy all day, and eventually people will get used to it and you won’t feel weird anymore.
Journalism: If you are a journalist, kudos to you for sticking it out in a tough job — it’s harder than it looks! If you want to be a journalist, I am telling you now, if you are a student, spend this time pursuing your own stories and photos and documentaries on the things that interest you, and it will serve you well if you get a job in the industry. Sometimes covering the same events, week after week, month after month, can get really dull, and if you have already established a habit of dabbling in the unique things that remind you why you liked journalism in the first place, you will be able to better handle any drudgery that comes your way. And if you just like to read newspapers and magazines and watch the evening news and otherwise ingest news, I’d advise you to reach out and interact with your news providers. We like getting letters to the editor, even if they challenge us. We like getting emails and phone calls, unless they are blatantly rude. Journalism can be a discussion, not a one-way street, and it’s more fun for everyone when that happens.
Life in general: One of my college profs had a way with words, and he’d dispense his wisdom out to us like candy. He was big on sharing knowledge, and one of his sayings has stuck with me: “Do the best you can in the time you have allowed.” For us that often meant a less-than-stellar picture is better than no picture at all, if that was the best we could do, but I think it can apply all over the place. Know your limitations, and then kick as much butt as you can within those boundaries.
Who is your blog for?
Shayla: It used to really just be for me and people I knew in real life, but I’m happy to see it expanding. Now, it’s probably equally for me, for the people who love and miss me and my husband and can use it as a window to drop in and say hi, and for the readers and friends who I have yet to meet but who mean a lot to me. I’m happy to share my blog, and I feel privileged to share in so many conversations with the people who have taken time out to read it.
Who is the blogger you most admire, and why?
Shayla: Catherine from Walking with Cake has been an awesome blog friend since we “met” online. She’s one of my first non-Weddingbee blog friends, and I truly find her inspiring. We have a ton of differences between us, probably the most obvious being that she’s a Texan and I’m a Canadian, but despite that we bonded over blogs, writing, fashion, you name it. She is always on the ball when it comes to trying new things, putting herself out there and giving it her all, and nothing seems to get her down, which really impresses me.
I love her blog, and her writing style, and I’m especially psyched because we (well, mainly she) dreamed up an awesome collaboration, The View from Here, so now every week we’re delving deeper into blogging and learning more about how writing works for each of us.
Any final words?
Shayla: Thank you for all of the awesome questions! I really enjoyed the opportunity to dig into them and consider my own motivations and inspirations.
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Photos: Northern Exposure.