Interview by Serrated Edges

When Lana from Phuket Writer (formerly Serrated Edges), requested an interview, I was happy to oblige. And as her site is no more, I’ve parked it here.

This article was originally posted on

Interview by Lana of Serrated Edges…

Background: Where are you from, what do you do for a living, how long have you lived in Thailand, what made you decide to live in Thailand?

Hi Lana. In a nutshell… As an expat growing up with expat parents, calling one place home was not an experience that lasted for long. And as for working in Thailand, I don’t. That is what I tell myself anyway!

I moved to Thailand in January of 2005, following the tsunami in. Deciding to relocate to Thailand was a gradual decision made after taking the whole world into account. Loosely paraphrasing from the lengthy explanation at Expat Interviews: Some countries were too hot, others were too cold, but Thailand was just right for me.

When did you start blogging?

It seems so long ago now. To get the answer to your question, I had to dig out a lightweight article I wrote when blogging started for me: [Blogs, Podcasts and all that stuff – no longer online]. The file says 2005, and as I can’t exactly remember – there were too many things happening during those years – I’ll stick with that date.

Why did you start this blog?

I started Women Learning Thai for several reasons: Learning Thai, and improving my writing and photography skills.

When I moved from the quiet island of Borneo to the busy city of Bangkok, I had difficulties keeping a focus on learning to speak the Thai language, and off the swirling excitement going on around me.

Also, when I went to track down a Thai language course to suit the way I learned, there seemed to be more resources available for men than for women.

‘An American man sits down next to a Thai woman on a bus in Bangkok…’

So my initial aim was to find learning resources suitable for women too, and then document the resources as well as my progress on a blog.

My motivations started out self-serving: Putting the information on a blog would make it easier for me to locate the resources again; posting my progress (or lack) would then (hopefully) make me publicly accountable.

I not only wanted to learn Thai but also desired to upgrade my writing and photography skills. And unlike the other sites I manage, on WLT I could do all three without impacting anyone but myself. That was the idea anyway.

But before WLT was even a thought (and because she deserves the credit for pushing me out of my comfy non-writing nest), I hired coach Joanna Young, a Scottish lass who blogs at Confident Writing.

Joanna got me to the point where I felt comfortable enough to write freely, without worrying so much about making mistakes. And it worked. Joanna took me from frozen to flying in a few short weeks.

Then, several months after my writing breakthrough with Joanna, I came up with the idea for WLT. After blogging on WLT for awhile, I realised that it was time to upgrade my writing skills, so I contacted a writing coach closer to home: Paul Snowdon at Bangkok BC Writing.

Each week or so I would send Paul a selection of posts from WLT in a Word doc. Paul corrected my work, and then sent it back with notations explaining where I went wrong, as well as where I could read more about each correction.

Paul also answered the many questions I had about style. You see, one of the problems with growing up overseas is that I’m not always sure if I’m writing British, American, New Zealand, Singlish, or whatever. So Paul pulled me back to my agreed style, time and time again.

So, can writing coaches benefit bloggers? Absolutely. In rereading a post created pre-Paul, I was surprised at how badly written it was. Ouch. But at least I can (mostly) see where I’ve gone wrong, and then correct my mistakes without too much pain.

How would you rate your knowledge of Thai before starting the blog? And how about now?

I would say that I’ve gone from cacca to less than cacca, but I’m not really the one to judge my true level of the Thai language. I do have friends who say, ‘You speak Thai!’ but speaking Thai is not my strength (I’m quite shy); I’m more comfortable with reading Thai.

Is this your only blog? If not, what other blogs do you operate?

Catherine Wentworth Photography: Online photography site for my no longer new camera.

I have more blogs, but I’ll stop there…

How much time per day/week do you estimate you spend on your blog?

I don’t punch a clock so all I can say for sure is that the time varies. Some posts on WLT only take an hour to put together; others can take several weeks or months of on and off again research.

For instance, the resource page Learn Thai for FREE was put together over a year and continues to be updated. When I finally settled on the format you see now, it took more than a full day to rearrange the resources and write the post to announce the revamp: Learn Thai Online for FREE… the Mother of all Resources.

Do you think you’ll ever blog full-time? If not/If so, then why?

Not for a while. First off, while daily blogging does improve a blogger’s writing skills, mine are not yet to my satisfaction. Secondly, at the moment I’m spending more time researching and writing for WLT than I am learning Thai. And while the experience is an extraordinary amount of fun, finding a decent balance is crucial. But no worries – I do have several ideas in mind.

How has blogging affected your personal life?

Blogging is similar to running a business. When I was involved in the design industry, before leaving on holiday I worked doubly hard to make sure the clients were happy with their projects. In blogging, I also have to work overtime to write posts scheduled to go live while I’m goofing off elsewhere.

The big difference between having a design company and being responsible for a blog is that with a blog, you can set the posts to launch and that’s that. You walk away, knowing that your job is done. But with a design company, clients are forever coming to the designer the day before the designer’s planned holiday, informing the designer just how frantic the latest surprise situation is and that the designer just has to do something ASAP or the client’s world will be in dire danger of imploding.

So I guess you could say that blogging is a personal preference of mine.

Another way that blogging has impacted my personal life is with all the stuff I get to buy. To prepare for posts on WLT, I’ve amassed a large collection of books, CDs, and software on learning the Thai language, as well as learning any language. And as I love books and new stuff to play with, I am in my element.

Having the Thai language resources, online and off, also means that my knowledge has grown in a different direction than when design was my all consuming passion. From what I’ve read, a totally different set of neurones are now going off in my head, creating new connections here and there. And when you think about it, that’s not too shabby a life change.

On a more personal level, during my search for all things learning the Thai language I continue to meet wonderful people along the way: respected Thai language gurus, language learning experts, language learners stretching across the various levels, book and software sellers, tuk tuk and taxi drivers, bloggers and twitterers, writers and writing coaches, photographers, teachers, celebrities and more. They have all enriched my personal life immensely.

What has surprised you the most since launching the blog?

My biggest surprise is how much I love writing for WLT. I often go to sleep excited about a future post, waking up in the morning ready to jump into the research needed to pull it all together in the hopes of creating a resource others might find useful too.

And these days, when I’m running around wherever, as well as carrying a camera for the odd photo opportunity, I take along a small notebook too. This way, if I get an idea, I can jot it down for later. If I do forget to take a notebook, I send messages to myself via my mobile phone. One purchase for WLT was the iPhone… oh my, the possibilities (oh, yes, there are posts on learning Thai on the iPod too).

What’s the strangest/most memorable comment or reaction you’ve had to your site?

I get a number of emails about WLT. The most memorable is one I couldn’t possibly share here, but I will cherish it. And hey, I might even make it into a screensaver ☺

How have your goals/ideas about your blog changed since you started?

Absolutely. When I started WLT, it was to create a resource with a mostly female focus. Sometime after launching, I found myself having so much fun including everyone, that I added a wee twist to my intended target audience. I’m glad I did, as the guys are a total hoot. Also, guys seem to be more prone to leave comments on WLT, which increases the fun as I enjoy reading what people have to say.

Now, if I just get the gals to join in more too…

What do you like the most about blogging?

It changes month by month, but I would have to say that the blogging community is a huge side benefit of blogging. Different blogs have different communities made up of different bloggers commenting on each other’s blogs, creating posts about each other, twittering and emailing back and forth. The growing friendships create sort of a warm and fuzzy feeling that stays with you throughout the day, and if needed, supports you through any iffy times.

What do you dislike about it?

At first I though that this would be a difficult question to answer, but no: spam; spam, spam; updating to the latest WordPress; dealing with the odd CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) snafus; and the absolute worst of all, breaking my WordPress theme and then having to run to Jay (my programming buddy), to fix it. Yeah for Jay!

What are your plans for your blog(s) in the months and years ahead? Any plans for a book or other type of publication?

Although I have been asked to participate in publications on learning Thai, I don’t have plans to write a book from the contents of WLT. Not yet anyway.

What I have done is enlarge the scope of WLT. The field of language learning has entered intoxicating times, so having knowledgeable people share their methods is an obvious plus for a site with a language theme.

With this in mind, last year I added guest writers, which increased WLT’s reach immensely.

The top two writers are Rikker Dockum with the Thai 101 Learners Series and Hugh Leong with Thai Language Thai Culture. You can see the rest of the generous writers here: Guest Writers.

My Successful Thai Language Learners series is another way to learn from other’s experiences.

Interview by Lana from Phuket Writer