Q&A With The 85-Year-Old Voice Behind “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

millie garfieldSpend 10 minutes cruising the Net on what makes for a winning blog and you’ll find the same advice repeated again and again.

Develop a distinctive voice.

Share personal experiences.

Communicate a point of view.

And, of course, the mantra of the digirati: Be authentic.

If you want to see these theories put into practice, bookmark “My Mom’s Blog.” I had the pleasure of talking with Millie Garfield, the 85-year-old voice behind the blog. Like the interview with Master Swisher, Millie offered a mix of insights, wisdom and common sense that can benefit any blogger.

Q: What was your inspiration to start blogging?

A: My son Steve. He said I should I try it. He gave me an old computer and two weeks later I was blogging.

Q: So you didn’t have a computer before you started blogging?

A: No. I wasn’t even on e-mail.

Q: Did you start your blog with a particular audience in mind?

A: I didn’t know what to expect – Who the readers would be or if they would even be interested in what I have to say.

Now I know who they are, what they like to read about – I can tell by their response to my posts. They like personal stories, movie reviews, simple recipes, funny experiences, down-to-earth life experiences.

The good news is that I’m walking around like a teenager. Well, not really like a teenager, but walking without any pain. Now that I have a new hip, I can think back to what it was like before the surgery, and it was painful. After the surgery I had no pain. The nurse asked me on a scale of 1 – 10, if I had any pain, I told her “0.” Then she said I couldn’t get any pain medication. Well I wanted pain medication when I did my therapy. So I told her “three.”
                    I’M HOME: 8 Tips to Surviving Hospital Food
                    “My Mom’s Blog,” June 6, 2010

Q: I noticed in your early posts that you would ask readers for comments but no one was responding. How did you cultivate engagement with readers? Did you get frustrated?

A: I did get a little frustrated. Finally, I asked in my blog, is there anyone out there? I mentioned I was a 70-something-year-old blogger, which got some attention.

Later, Ronni Bennett noticed me. She’s been a producer for TV shows and works with celebrities. She wrote about me so her readers became interested in me. That was my big break. To this day, I stay in touch with Ronnie who’s a friend.

Q: So that got more of your readers involved with your blog?

A: That’s right. On my last birthday, I got so many comments posted on my blog.

Side note: Millie’s blog is a poster child for engagement. What I especially admire about Millie is she continues to push forward with experiments. Her latest is a twist on advice columns called “Dear Millie.”

Q: I know you’ve been in magazines and on TV which also generates attention and more readers.

millie garfieldA: Sure.

Even Ellen DeGeneres’ people called me. They wanted me to come out to the West Coast, but the timing didn’t work out.

I don’t watch her show anymore. She comes out on stage and people applaud for five straight minutes, which isn’t very entertaining.

Q: But you’ve been on TV.

A: When CBS interviewed me, the main point that got on the air was my life would be boring without blogging.

Here I am going out with friends who might not know how the TV business works. I don’t want them to think they’re boring. Fortunately, they understood the situation.

Blogging enriches my life, but it’s not the only thing.

Q: How do you decide what topic to write about on your blog?

A: When I first started blogging, I spent most of the time talking about my youth. But after so many years, I ran out of youth stories, so I needed to be open to other topics.

Q: What posts generate the most interest from readers?

A: It’s definitely the personal stories … the background stories in my life. That’s what people enjoy the most.

People like the humor.

I didn’t know I was funny until I started blogging.

Today I was just thinking about all the men in my life. Now let’s see—
I have an internist in MA, an internist in FL.
I have a periodontist in MA and one in FL.
I have a pediotrist in MA and one in FL.
I also have a gynecologist, gastroenternologist, oncologist, optician, dentist and an opthomologist.
In the Jewish religion you have to have ten men for a minyan. I have more than enough!
PS I could not have made this post without spellcheck
                    I WAS JUST THINKING
                    “My Mom’s Blog,” August 7, 2004

Q: Are there any writers you admire?

A: I’ve read all of the LaVyrle Spencer books. I didn’t care for the Swedish guy.

Q: You mean the Stieg Larsson trilogy?

A: Right. I pushed my way through his first book but that was it.

We’ll publish the second half of the interview with Millie tomorrow (Wednesday).

You’ll learn about her favorite post, a trick for improving hospital food and more.

millie garfield

Photos courtesy of Steve Garfield.

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