I wonder if Paige Erickson would be willing to do a “Freaky Friday”-type of switch with me? Paige, whom I met several years ago when we were both teaching humanities for Kaplan University, lives my dream life. She travels internationally, most often alone, soaking in the culture and meeting new people wherever she goes.
She has quite a following on her blog, The Nice Thing About Strangers, where she details her travels through short vignettes. She has now compiled many blog posts into a new book. The book captures the spirit of travel and the rich observations that come from being in a new place. Paige introduces us to children and marketplace sellers and old women and fellow travelers. She reminds us of humanity–that no matter where we go, we’re all humans and experience love and joy and shyness and kindness.
I’ve long admired Paige and her writing and I’d like my readers to get to know her and her book. If you like travel, and good news, and good writing, you won’t be disappointed with The Nice Thing About Strangers, both the book and the blog.
Here’s Part I of my email interview with Paige. I’ll post Part II on Wednesday.
- Tell us a little about your blog (how long you’ve been writing it, what you write about, etc.).
My blog is The Nice Thing About Strangers and I’ve been posting stories since November 2011. The theme is built into the title. I’ve been living abroad for several years, and other than a few trips with friends, I’m always traveling alone. I write a lot in a notebook on my journeys and take down the details. I noticed that I have a tendency to focus on the good things, so I started writing very short (1-5 paragraph) creative nonfiction stories from those notes. Given all the bad news we get in any given day, I thought these positive observations might be worth passing on.
- You have a lot of blog followers! What do you think is the best way to create a strong blog following?
I was amazed the other day to see that I had over 2,000 subscribers. I’ve been at this for a while, so think that’s a part of it. I make time to seek out other blogs, read what writers are posting, and leave comments. However, I feel like one of the ways that I have kept so many readers is my self-imposed deadlines. It says right in the header of the blog that I will post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I think if people know what to expect—posts three times a week, always on the theme “nice things”—this can make a big difference.
I gave myself the deadlines to keep a promise to myself as well. Part of the purpose of the blog was to be vulnerable on a regular basis, and posting the promise from the start helped me to feel accountable to post on those days. It got me in the habit of writing, editing, and sharing, and it meant I had to keep my eyes open for new material, since I have a new set of posts due each week.
- What was the impetus behind the decision to collect your blog posts into a book?
I’d been working on a novel and battling drafts of it for a while. One of my aunts got very interested in the novel as a project and kept encouraging me to finish it. Finally, I told her I wasn’t going to make it this year, but she said she’d been planning to give away my book for Christmas. She asked, “So now what am I going to give people as presents?” I laughed it off, but the next day I started thinking that a compilation from the blog might help me get through the blocks I am having with the novel. I think a lot of the procrastination with the novel is about the vulnerability of putting it “out there,” especially as a first book. Since many of the blog stories had already been seen, I thought a book form the blog might help me to lean into the fear of publishing.
Tomorrow: Paige’s thoughts on the writing process, self-publishing, and do-it-yourself book marketing.