Interview by Christina Milanowski
I’m pleased to introduce you to Kate Selner (@KateNTheKitchen), long-time local blogger at Kate in the Kitchen. Kate will be speaking alongside Ed Kohler, Kate Arends and Aaron Wahlstrom in a panel session that kicks off this year’s Minnesota Blog Conference. Read on to learn more about this Midwest faith-driven nature girl whostrives to tell stories that matter – with a fork in hand!
1. Kate, what do you plan on divulging in your #MNBlogCon “How I got started blogging” talk?
I hope it’s a good exchange of questions and answers that’s casual and wholly organic in nature. I hope that we all can share what inspired us to begin this journey and, really, what’s held us together and kept us going.
2. Can you tell us a little more about the beginnings of your blog, why did you start it and what have been your biggest ah-ha moments as a food and lifestyle blogger in Minnesota?
I had just left the 18-month culinary arts program at St. Paul College in the Spring of 2006, where I’d immersed myself in food daily, with 20 other people who were just as driven and excited about food as I was. We cooked, talked, explored, ate and argued over food, a discourse that I embraced and enjoyed and when it ended, I had no outlet for that passion. I needed that outlet to talk about food, as well as for the enormous desire to use my writing skills. A blog was a perfect option.
3. Who are your peers in the blogosphere, and how do you stay connected?
The best part about the rise of the food community in the Twin Cities is the ability to find the deep friendships that come from the sharing of good food together, and I love the relationships I’ve built through this means. Staying connected is easy with social media, but the friendships that have moved beyond 140 characters and in to my life, that have sat at my table and clinked a glass with me over a good meal, or sat down in a restaurant and shared life, a plate of food and a glass of wine, those are the ones I value for the sharing of information, the exchange of ideas and plans and the sheer love that comes with enjoying a good meal with each other. Food is the common denominator in all of it. What’s better than that? When a friendship forms around that, with mutual support and admiration, it’s even better.
4. What’s your favorite Kate in the Kitchen blog post of all time and why?
I’ve been blogging for seven years, and have written over a thousand blog posts in that time. Every time I change my site design, I eliminate more posts that have become irrelevant. Is there a favorite? Was there ever a favorite? It’s hard to say. The posts where I open my heart and share what’s in there, the ones that evoke the sense of unity over a shared feeling or expectation, that show me I’m not alone in trying to blog authentically and true to who I am, those are the posts that I’m most proud of, the ones that I feel good about writing. My goal with my blog is to connect to others. When a post does that, it resonates deep with me, and reminds me of why I blog in the first place.
5. Conversely, what’s been your most popular post of all time – and why do you think Internet readers loved it so much?
I wrote a post back in 2007 about the health benefits of bananas that was featured on the Reuters international news site of Health and Wellness. “Banana Facts, Jack,” was posted, re-posted and linked in dozens of different ways. The post contained so much factual information about how good bananas are for you, and that made it travel far, and fast.
A second post, that was picked up by The Kitchn website was a post I wrote about baking an egg inside a baked potato shell. At the time, “Inspirational Eggs,” contained some of the best photos I’d taken as a food blogger, which, with the simple point and shoot camera I used then, was saying a lot. It generated multiple days of astronomical hits on my blog, and was linked to for more than a month afterwards. It was just a simple experiment that I did, a delicious idea that was culled by a very well-know site. It was pretty unique and I think that’s why people enjoyed it so much.
5. How do you interact with brands and companies, and what’s your opinion on sponsored posts?
I will not do any sponsored post on products that I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen and I decline way more offers that I ever accept. I research products before even accepting samples offered, and if I can’t, I won’t accept them. I want to know that a product isn’t made with a bunch of chemicals and additives, that it contains pure ingredients and will be a good food to eat. When you see a product review on my blog, it’s because I believe it’s a good thing, has value for the consumer and merit as a product.
6. What do you like to do in your spare time and, most importantly, what’s your favorite food
I read incessantly in my spare time. I love knowing what people are talking about with regards to food; I love seeing how people are changing what they eat and how it’s made. I love to read history, too, especially anything on natural history. I read literary magazines and magazines that provoke thought and share remedies for healthy living in the mind and body. I exercise regularly too, love to garden, spend time at my lake home and with good friends. I’m crazy about my two cats as well.
And my favorite foods change with the seasons, so right now I love tomatoes from my garden. In a month, the root vegetable love will take over. I eat mostly plant-based foods, with a little meat, raised humanely.
7. What have you learned along the way about yourself?
Writing a blog is an act of self-promotion, without a doubt. You need to have a pretty high opinion of yourself to sit down and share it with the world like we do, as there’s a lot of ego involved. It’s a snapshot into someone else’s life, and it makes me examine what I’m doing within my life so that I feel it’s as authentic as possible. It’s pretty easy to share only certain aspects of yourself online, as no one can really know what’s real and what isn’t; the community I’ve found because of it has given me a deeper appreciation of knowing and understanding the person behind the scenes, both in myself and in others. I don’t over-share, but what you see on my blog is the real me. That’s very important to me.
8. What’s your advice to the new, mid-level or established blogger?
At any level of blogging, be true and authentic to who you are and write from the heart. Be willing to share the triumphs and the trials, the good and bad, the messes and weaknesses, and don’t hide behind some perceived notion of perfection, or what you think should be posted on your blog. Don’t follow the herd. Ever. Don’t ever mimic the style of others. Find your own voice, create your own style, make your own niche and write what you want. Be consistent, but allow for natural changes through the years, a progression to what you are truly passionate about.
Christina Milanowski is a blogger at MaccaPR and serves as social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency. She serves on the planning committee for #MNBlogCon. Stay tuned for more speaker interview posts!