Blogger of the Month: Helen Jane of HelenJane.com
As a professional party-thrower, cheese whiz, bocce ball player, and blogger, Helen Jane Hearn definitely seems to live an enviable, albeit jam-packed, life. Despite being a mother of two and holding down a full-time job, Helen Jane is still able to find the time and energy to pursue her hobbies with gusto and straight-shooting determination. Of course, her beautiful photography and witty blogging doesn’t hurt. Luckily, her passion for parties (amongst others), has taken her down many paths in life, including hosting a blogger roundtable with actress Jennifer Garner. Her entertaining yet insightful tips on creativity, entertaining, and life meld together to create a blog that is aesthetically pleasing, helpful for any reader, and just plain addicting.
First off, are there any stereotypes, common myths, or thoughts about professional bloggers that you would like to dispel?
My day job is working for a big ad network that represents bloggers. This means I’m not a pro blogger — I have a day job. From my experience, less than 1% of bloggers are doing this full time. That said, there are three common misconceptions about blogging in general I’d love to correct:
a. You’re doing it wrong.
Blogging is less than ten years old. Blogging for dollars is less than five years old. We have no idea what’s around the corner. Everything’s changing. Don’t be so quick to judge other bloggers for doing it wrong. We’re still figuring out how underwriting blog content looks. There is so much space to be a part of the evolution of storytelling.
b. Blogging success looks like “this.”
I have had my blog since 1998 and until this year, never made a penny from it (and am seriously only making pennies). I do have loads of friends, however, from this hobby of blogging. My blogging goals are not monetary, but around having a successful network. And let me tell you, my network can help propel me to far greater kinds of success than just having a well-trafficked blog.
c. Traffic is everything.
Traffic is a lot of things to a brand, but it’s not everything. Often, brands want to have 200 posts about a certain topic. Sometimes, brands want, say, a food blogger within 60 miles of Michigan. Mostly, they want their brand content showing up on a believable site with aesthetically pleasing site layout. The targets and goals are so varied, there’s room in there for everyone. Write about what gets you excited. There might be a match out there for a similarly minded brand. There might not. Love your blog first, love the monetary possibilities later.
What do you think about the health of our nation? With hefty issues like obesity, do you have any strong views or ideas about how to lower the rising weight of our population? Are you an enthusiast of sustainable farming and organic eating, and is there a specific farm you support?
I think that it’s sad that taking care of oneself is considered selfish in a big part of the country. Why work out when you could work longer hours, clean your house, give more of yourself over to your family/job/church/others?
The economic realities of today don’t lend themselves easily to health. They lend themselves to driving, fast food and obscene levels of stress. I know I’ve bragged about my long work days only to realize it’s coming at my long-term expense. We WANT to move in the right direction but it’s awfully expensive (time and dollars).
We have subscribed to a CSA (Farm Fresh to You) but had to stop due to budgeting (ack! dollars), but now we get most of our veggies from the Farmers’ Market and from a woman who runs a small fruit and vegetable stand on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail.
If you had to make sweet, sweet love to one dish, what would it be?
Literally? I’m going to have to get back to you on that (*grin*). Figuratively? I’d have to say Sticky Baked French Toast. Or the Bacon Blue Ring Cheeseburger at Gott’s. I will also eat your spider roll, anywhere, any time.
What are your favorite restaurants in the Bay Area?
Rock on, St. Helena. Rock on.
What would your last meal consist of?
A butter burger and fried cauliflower buds (with ranch) from Kroll’s in my hometown (Green Bay, Wisconsin). To drink, I’d have an Old Fashioned, Wisconsin style: Sierra Mist, Brandy, maraschino cherries, and bitters.
When you first started blogging over 10 years ago, what specifically did you want to talk about? Was it more of a personal diary/outlet, or did you want to specifically share recipes and tips on entertaining?
It has always been a personal diary first. The recipes were in there as part of my personal diary — it was the only place I could find my own recipes for my 12 lb. Lasagna or White Sangria. As my blogging has evolved, it made more sense to focus on what brought me the most joy in life: throwing parties in my home. My ultimate goal is to have a complete record of my adult life. At thirteen years and counting, I’m well on my way.
Find more of Helen Jane’s practical entertaining tips, disarming honesty, and entertaining narration of her cheese whiz club and bocce ball league at her blog here.