Mumsnet Blogfest 2012 – Finding Your Voice

Panel discussion at the Mumsnet Blogfest 2012, hosted by Gaby Wood, Head of Books, Daily Telegraph



The journalists Zoe Williams and Zoe Strimpel, writer Rachel Cusk were in London, while blogger Jenny Lawson, better known as TheBloggess joined in via Google+ videolink from Texas. It was 4am in Texas but Jenny was bright and cheery, wearing PJs, make-up and, at times, a cat.

The panel talked of the changes that motherhood had brought them, with Zoe Williams talking of the ‘pram in the hall’ syndrome – when women writers lose their creativity or focus after the birth of their child. She revealed she has a problem in thinking things through, but that as her children grew older, she was more aware of what she was writing and how it would affect them.


Image by Anna Gordon


I found Rachel’s answer intriguing, in that she found that before she had children that her creativity seemed more mysterious and uncertain. Children brought order and structure to her days, and to her writing so that she found she became better at managing her time.

Jenny was worried about being seen as a bad feminist when she admitted that she can’t do all things perfectly all of the time.

‘If I am going to be a good mom this week, then I won’t have time for my book… be proud of these things you are doing and learn how to juggle them’

She also talked of being called a ‘mommyblogger’ in an interview, and had the place in an uproar when she confessed to telling the CNN journalist,

Don’t call me mommy, unless you came out of my vagina‘ 

which had to be the quote of the Blogfest.

There was some controversy during this discussion, as to the value of confessional writing. While Zoe Strimpel talked of moving away from confessional writing, Jenny stated there is no such thing as over-sharing, as long as you stick to the boundaries you have set yourself.

‘Do not endanger your marriage of your child. Get together with your family and have a chat’

The panel touched on the topic of protecting yourself and your family from abusive responses, and Zoe Williams talked about her worry for her family when she talked about abortion.

Conflicting advice from the panel on the issue of editing, with Zoe S advising, ‘Don’t over edit. Publish. Quickly’, but Jenny explaining that she writes three posts for every one that she publishes. I would love to have known if she did this for the Knock Knock Motherfucker Beyonce Chicken post. (Don’t forget to come back here when you have read that, and thank me for brightening your day. Talk about overshadowing my own post).

When a member of the audience asked about what to do when her son asked her to stop writing about him, and whether she should allow him to read what she had written, Zoe Williams reacted with horror,

‘Copy approval is like smoking fags through a veil’

while Rachel noted that this disapproval is all part of adolescence, and children distancing themselves from their parents.

This prompted Prof Tanya Byron, who was scheduled to take part in a panel discussion later, to retort that if a child or an adult expresses a wish not to feature in a blog post, then it would be very wrong to ignore that wish.

I completely agree with this, even though I can see that it causes problems for many bloggers who write about their family life. I have written on the subject of privacy for family members of bloggers, and the issue of what mummybloggers do when their children grow up.