Imagine a small, windowless room…a seated captive…and a bright light glaring into the frightened face of one Kate Hall, a.k.a. @KateWhineHall, Twitter impresario.
Wrong! More drama! The tables have turned. Kate usually does the interviews for the Hall of Tweets. But today, @HousewifeOfHell interrogates The Boss herself.
I'm eating a vegan lunch today. Sure, it's six sleeves of Smarties and a Diet Coke, but I'm still better than you.
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) April 18, 2013
Facts about @KateWhineHall
Name: Kate Hall
Living in: Chicago suburbs (Grew up in Virginia. College in Ohio. Got a job in Illinois.)
Graduated high school: 1989
Joined Twitter: September 2012
Number of followers: 14.2k if you round up, and I do.
Marital/family status: One husband, three kids (10yo son, 9yo son, sassy just-turned-6yo-today daughter)
I just found 23 selfies of my 5yo daughter on my iPad. This is how it begins.
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) May 1, 2014
On to the interview!
What do you do when you’re not on Twitter?
I homeschool, blog, work on our next tweet book, play Candy Crush, watch Netflix…occasionally, I parent.
So the number one question on everyone’s mind right now is how do you do it all?
I don’t know. I constantly feel overwhelmed. But two things I’ve eliminated are 1) cleaning (I only do laundry and sweep – my family does the rest) and 2) real-life friends. We moved last year, an hour away from our old house and I haven’t made any new friends yet. Friends take up a lot of time, man. All mine are online now.
Typically, I spend two to three hours per day working on my blog, networking or on the computer in some form. Another two to three hours is spent homeschooling. One to two hours on Netflix at bedtime. Rest of the time is making meals, mommy-ing, running my kids back and forth to classes/activities, etc. I have a devoted writing time on Tuesday night, although sometimes I just sit at Starbucks and tweet. Every minute I’m waiting for my kids in a class or anywhere else I tweet or play Candy Crush.
I'm going to accomplish SO MUCH today. Haha, jk. I'm not going to accomplish anything today, I have kids.
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) January 30, 2014
I’m especially impressed that you can fit in time to focus on writing. Did you always want to be a writer of some sort?
Well, I have a degree in biology and nutrition. So, writing wasn’t really on my radar – although I can write a killer research paper. I did enjoy writing stories in elementary school and I’ve kept a journal for 20 years. I’ve never worked in nutrition, but I worked at an animal research lab (yes, it was pretty bad), in food safety (where I met my husband) and finally as a church secretary before staying home with my kids to write and tweet.
So you started blogging as your first writing job? How did that come about?
I started my blog to share our adoption journeys to China with family and friends. One of my friends said I should write a book based on the posts because they were so funny. That sent my ego soaring and led me to want to focus on writing humor.
You are the only person I know with THREE blogs, in addition to Twitter and Facebook. Tell us a little about them, and why you decided to do separate blogs instead of one big one.
CanIGetAnotherBottleofWhine.com is for all my humorous (and occasionally serious) ramblings about my life. I started posting the Top 10 Funniest Tweets of the month on that site, and it made me want to know more about the people behind all those hilarious tweets. At the time, I didn’t realize that others were doing interviews (BT140.com does a podcast, Sam Grittner has done a number of written interviews), so I decided to do them myself, creating the Beyond the Bio interview series.
I created Hall of Tweets because I thought my “whine” followers who weren’t on Twitter wouldn’t be as interested in those interviews. Then I created ITrytoGrowStuff.com, humorous posts on how to garden, because I didn’t think they would be interested in gardening. I just assumed that having separate blogs was the way to do it. I should really have one main page with three branches, but I don’t know how to do that. It’s on my to do list to learn. So, it’ll probably never happen.
How does the blog/Twitter relationship work? Do you attract Twitter followers to your blog or blog fans to your tweets? Do you have a strategy?
I have no real strategy other than to get my stuff out there for people to see. I first joined Twitter to promote my whine blog. Since then I’ve found that the whine blog attracts people to Twitter and that my tweets attract people to all my blogs – well, maybe not the gardening blog.
Post joke on Twitter: 5RTs, 11 stars. Post same joke on Facebook: 2 unfollowers, 4 serious comments, phone call from my mom
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) September 29, 2013
Do you prefer blogging or tweeting?
I like both. I like the challenge of 140 characters on Twitter, and the instant affirmation from stars and retweets. I like the people. I like reading others’ jokes. I like that tweets are short and a quick read. But I also like having a place to write longer forms of humor too.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that sometimes you go through dry spells. How do you break through writer’s block?
I have comedy dry spells a lot. When I’m really busy or I fall into a rut, it’s hard to be funny. When I’m at a water park or on vacation with my family, I’m relaxed and doing something different. I can usually come up with a bunch of tweets.
Indoor water parks are like the wet version of Walmart.
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) March 7, 2015
For blog writing, if I don’t already have a story in mind, I just start writing about my week. Typically, I’ll find something funny to expand on and then just delete the rest of the crap that nobody cares about – at least I try to delete the crap nobody cares about.
Your family inspires a lot of your material. What do they think about your writing? Do they think you’re funny? Are they funny too?
They’re very supportive. My 10yo likes for me to read tweets to him from my book or ones I’ve written. He’s got a good sense of humor – he’ll be good on Twitter some day (that’s a little scary). My husband is funny too, more so at parties and family get-togethers. He’s on Twitter, but rarely tweets, so he hasn’t gotten the hang of the format and timing. He makes me laugh. We make fun of each other a lot – in a fun way.
You are a relatively clean writer – no swears or sex stories. Is that what you’re like in real life, or did you choose to clean it up for social media? Do you ever want to let go and say something wild?
I’m pretty clean in real life too. In fact, until I started hanging out with a lot of bloggers and tweeters online, I never even said swear words in my head. I know, right? I’ve drafted a few tweets that probably would’ve sounded funnier with a swear word, but I never tweeted them, or I tweeted it with a different word – but it wasn’t as funny.
I get embarrassed really easily, so I avoid talking about sex on social media. My parents and family read my blogs, so I don’t want those topics coming up at the next family gathering.
How do you decide whom to follow and retweet? Do you have a strategy for building your account?
Typically, I’ll follow anyone with a Favstar account unless they’re a total pig. I usually follow other bloggers or people writing comedy, or even anyone who says they like to laugh.
As your audience has grown, have your tweets changed?
Yes. When I first started out I would tweet anything mildly funny that came to my head. Now, I’ll only tweet something if I think it’s going to be well received or I haven’t tweeted anything in a few days and I just need to get something out there. So I find myself holding back a lot, which is probably a good thing for my followers.
What’s something you don’t like about Twitter? Is there anything that would make you Twittercide or take a break for a while?
I put a lot of pressure on myself to come up with funny stuff. I have this false sense that people are watching my TL to see if I’m generating enough funny stuff and if I don’t they’ll unfollow me at any minute. It’s totally stupid, but that’s the way I think. So, I hate the false pressure I create. I doubt I would Twittercide, but the pressure could definitely cause me to take a break for a while.
Do you ever have a tweet that bombs? How do you react? Do you delete it?
Sometimes I feel embarrassed about a lame tweet and I’ll delete it, but then other times I think of Saturday Night Live and how that show has been around for 40 years and they’ve had some of the funniest stuff ever created, but also some major bombs. I figure if the best there is has bombs, then everybody does and I’m normal.
What advice do you have for someone who’s trying to get better at joke writing on Twitter?
I’ve asked this question of everyone I’ve interviewed and am working on a post where I compile all their advice. I wrote a post about how to write funny, in general: 14 Tips to Write Funnier. The top advice I have in regards to writing tweets, is to read a lot of tweets and to practice a lot. My tweets are a lot better now than they were two years ago mainly because of reading and practicing.
How did you share your humor before Twitter and blogging? Have people always thought you were funny?
I think only the people I’ve been closest to over the years have ever thought I was funny. In most situations, I worry way too much about what others think about me to crack a joke or say anything that could be perceived as offensive. So I just don’t say anything. I think people I know in real life have been surprised that I can be funny on my blog and Twitter. I always aspired to be funny and watched a lot of comedians and sitcoms growing up – I mean, I studied them – but I never had a stage (because stage fright). Twitter and blogging have given me that stage.
Going to a museum to learn about King Tut which is good because up until now, everything I ever knew about him, I learned from Steve Martin.
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) September 6, 2014
You teamed up with the @SciofParenthood women to compile a tweet book last November called The Big Book of Parenting Tweets, with the second volume, The BIGGER Book of Parenting Tweets, coming out in mid-April. How did that idea come about, and what was that experience like?
In a thread on Facebook, someone wrote something about putting my tweets in fortune cookies. Jessica Ziegler (of @SciofParenthood) chimed in and said, “You know, you could actually do that.” She researched it and gave me the info, but I told her that I’m not much of a risk taker when it comes to investing money. The next day she came back with a better idea: The Big Book of Parenting Tweets. A month later, we launched the book.
The experience has been great. We’ve had a great response to the first book. The best part for me has been getting to know my fellow tweeters. We’re in a Facebook group together and those people are as funny as you’d expect.
Can we expect more books from this team?
After the next book comes out in April we’re taking a break while @SciofParenthood launches a book in November related to their blog, called Science of Parenthood. Then we have plans to launch a third tweet book in early 2016. Right now, we’re thinking the topic will be marriage. Mwahahaha!
[out on a date] Husband: So, what's going on? Me: I got a new pen today.
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) January 29, 2015
Do you have plans yourself to branch out further in the future? Another blog? Another book? New products? Would you consider writing a book on time management for those of us who aren’t quite as productive as you?
I’m game for anything. My approach to branching out is to wait until the right idea comes along. I’m a great “idea person,” but I’m not so great at following through without a bunch of support and encouragement. I’m a good team member.
As for another blog, no, I won’t create a new one – gosh, I hope I don’t. I do have ideas for books of my own, and I even have 40k words of one written, but I don’t have time or motivation to work on it now.
What made you decide to homeschool your kids? What subjects are your favorites and least favorites to teach? Has it worked out the way you hoped and expected?
I homeschool my oldest two kids. But they also take a couple classes at the local school. My daughter is in afternoon kindergarten at the same school.
I decided to homeschool, mostly, because I had a less than stellar experience when I was in school. I remember sleeping through history class. It was all very competitive and all I ever really wanted to do at school was stare at whichever guy I had a crush on at the time. I didn’t enjoy learning. I wanted to create an environment where my kids would enjoy learning. But homeschooling is hard. One of my kids is dyslexic, so his reading journey has been very difficult and has caused him a lot of frustration. Because of that, he (and my other son) takes reading at our local school.
I love teaching history and literature. I don’t mind math. I’m not a big fan of language arts because of the challenges we’ve encountered. Surprisingly, I don’t like teaching science. I know a lot of science, so I can answer a lot of their questions, but all those science experiments are time-consuming and require a lot of work for me. Work sucks. I also don’t like art (mess), so they take art at school.
I really enjoyed homeschooling until the past year. The reading struggles have been challenging. And now that my kids are taking classes at the school, it puts our schedule in a situation where we can’t take advantage of the local homeschool activities – the most fun part of homeschooling. So, we’re trying to figure out what our plans are for next year. Put them all in school, put some of them in school, pull them all of out school? I really don’t know at this point. It’s on my to do list to figure out. I could definitely get more writing done if they were all in school all day. 🙂
Tell us something about yourself people on Twitter may not know.
I couldn’t think of anything, so I asked my husband. He said, “You have an issue with holes (trypophobia – but I’ve blogged about that), you like disco music, you root for the underdog and you don’t like the sound people make when they eat their bagels.” – I’d add bananas to that bagels comment. Actually, any chewing sounds make me want to stab something.
How do you politely say, "The way you're chewing makes me want to throw up for the rest of my life?"
— Kate Hall (@KateWhineHall) April 6, 2014
Also, I met my husband during a job interview (in food safety – my husband still works there). He interviewed me. I got the job. And you didn’t ask anything about my kids being adopted, people usually ask about that. They were all adopted from China (we took three separate trips) and they were all born with a cleft lip/palate – lots of surgeries and orthodontics.
Is there anything else you’d like to say/share?
Actually, I’d like to thank everyone who reads my tweets and reads my blogs. I wouldn’t continue writing if there were no readers. I also want to thank everyone who has ever made me laugh on Twitter. You guys are awesome and so talented. And I have loved getting to know my fellow tweeters through the interviews I’ve done and through the Facebook groups for our tweet book contributors. It’s been a blessing.
Name five tweeters whose tweets consistently make you laugh.
I have way more than five. I have lists. My go-to list where I’m guaranteed to laugh is The Short List. Those are people I don’t want to miss on Twitter.
Ok, feel free to leave a comment for Kate…as long as it’s nice.
Next up on Beyond the Bio: @kcmoore51
In case you missed it, last time on Beyond the Bio: @Jake_Vig
Keep an eye out for The BIGGER Book of Parenting Tweets coming out April 17, 2015.