From Blog to Book: Kelly Oxford Talks About the Latest Chapters in Her Life

Having built a devoted following on social media, the Canadian writer is moving into TV, movies, and books

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Image: Kelly Oxford
John Sciulli / WireImage via Getty Images

If you’re on Twitter, there’s a good chance you follow Kelly Oxford. Her hilarious, wisecracking tweets have earned her a devoted following, not to mention a spot on TIME’s list of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds. With a popular blog featuring her irreverent take on pop culture and motherhood (she has three children), the 35-year-old Canadian homemaker has earned a reputation for being the coolest mom on the internet—and still finds time to write TV pilots and screenplays. With her new collection of essays, Everything Is Perfect When You’re A Liar (It Books/HarperCollins), in stores April 2, Oxford spoke to TIME about Twitter, people who hate her, and her favorite kind of writing.

TIME: Tell me about the book. It’s autobiographical—so what can people expect from it that’s different from your blog?

Kelly Oxford: I wanted to write about how I think it’s really important that people [shouldn’t be] hard on themselves. I find that a lot of people are anxious and stressed out and hard on themselves for being who they are and for messing up. I really think that young people need to hear that message—and older people need to hear it—and to be reminded that [mistakes] can be funny. Messing up and following your gut are all parts of being human that need to be celebrated too—and I just wanted to write stories that were about that.

(READ: Kelly Oxford – The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011)

Is there a big difference between sitting down and writing chapters versus shorter blog posts?

Because I’d been writing and self-publishing and having stuff online, where I’d get instant feedback, I found it difficult to sit down and write 30 pages and know that, at the end of the day, nobody was going to tell me it was awesome. That was really daunting! Sitting on them and knowing that I could keep playing with them and changing them for weeks was fun. But I was also, like, ‘Oh my god, when is this going to end?’—I just wanted it to be over and put it out there. I’m excited for it to be coming out, because it’s like the biggest blog in the entire universe for me.

Kelly Oxford book cover

Are some of the stories things you’d always wanted to write about but didn’t feel your blog was the place?

Oh yeah. The “Finding Leo” chapter [in which Oxford travels to LA at the age of 17, determined to meet her celebrity crush, Leonardo Dicaprio] was one, but it’s so long. As much as I put online, I could never do any of these stories online because they were just too long. I knew that they had to be in a book or a script.

You’re definitely not afraid of dark humor. In your book, you casually reference, among other things, hate crimes and rape. Is there any topic that should ever be off-limits when it comes to comedy?

Oh, no. I don’t think there’s anything that should be off-limits. I think everything should absolutely be discussed. And if people don’t want to hear it they can just log off —they don’t have to hear it! But there’s always going to be an audience for everything. And some people are masters at really turning things on their head.  They show why things happen and are truth-tellers who point out the humor in everything.

(READ: The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013)

What’s the most bizarre misconception about yourself that you’ve heard in the media?

Probably that my Twitter feed was bought for a TV show. [Selling my pilot] had nothing to do with Twitter! I had to sit down and put this friggin’ script together. And I worked so hard on it. I had to get out of my comfort zone behind a computer screen and sit in front of the presidents of ABC and NBC and try and pitch this show. I was so lucky that CBS was interested in it and loved the script—but it was just so disheartening [that it ultimately wasn’t picked up]. And I don’t blame all these people who are like, ‘Oh, I hate Kelly Oxford’— and they still hate me to this day!—thinking that I wrote these stupid little quips online and got this television and movie career and a book deal. So, I’m just happy the book’s finally coming out so people who want to hate me will have an actual reason. [Laughs] They can actually read what I’ve said and dislike me for that. I’m totally fine with that!

So does it irk you when you’re referred to primarily as a Twitter success story?

Well, I think there is a truth to that. But it’s also misleading in a lot of ways. I think I was able to use Twitter to my advantage because I had been online for so long.

You’ve been blogging since the ‘90s, right?

Yeah! I’ve been blogging since I was in high school. So I’ve been online for a super, super long time. And people were finding me in the blogging communities. I was like, well, I’m generating all this interest when there are no people online so when there are people online this should really pay off for me. And it just became a matter of everyone finally getting online with Facebook. And then Twitter came along, and it just was the place where everyone was actually there to communicate to each other. I saw it instantly as a place where I could put my thoughts, the same sort of observations that I was making all along online.

I was always just a self-publishing writer. I just needed to get an agent and get the attention. And after Twitter gave me that attention , I had all the work to sort of back up the attention I was getting. Does that make sense?

Definitely. You write about your kids a lot, but you’re kind of the anti-mommy blogger. Does it bother you that a lot of people express surprise that you’re both funny and a mom?

Well, I think that everyone sort of perceives the mom to be, like, the stay-at-home mom who doesn’t really do anything. You know, the perceptions of the working woman, it’s changed so much but, in a lot of ways, if you’re a homemaker, there’s still that sort of a 1960s view.

Like you spend your days watching soap operas and vacuuming?

Yeah!  I mean, I went to the grocery store and spent time with my kids. But I was also going to a creative-writing group at night, or was online while they were having naps or going to school. I was really trying to focus on putting content out there that the audience I had would like. But I think that’s the easy story that gets people interested. That’s the story that everyone wants to champion, you know, the young mom at home celebrated for what she’s doing. And there is truth to that, but it also diminishes how much actual thought and logistics went into [my career].

So you’ve written television pilots, screenplays, a blog—and now, a book. What kind of writing do you like best?

Oh, good question! I like them all for different reasons.

Very diplomatic!

[Laughs] Well, I like writing for TV because it’s short and quick and there’s dialogue. I love the movie because it’s a longer story—but it’s the same with TV where you can visualize it and it’s mostly dialogue, which I love. But then, I love writing books too, because I can get out a full story and all the descriptions. And I think that I can get the emotion through in a better way. [Laughs] I don’t know! I do like them all, but in different ways.

Is there anyone in Hollywood you’d like to collaborate with in particular?

Um, no. [Laughs] There isn’t anybody! I think the people that I like the most are the people that work on their own and do their own thing.

2 comments
nettiewrites
nettiewrites

This story is inaccurate on the timelines. The actual blog platform was not pushed out until 1999 and unless she was 23 and still in high school - it's inacurrate - http://nymag.com/news/media/15971/ . If she is 37 now and was on the very first platform - (if she was) - then she must have had several years in high school. "

sachi_bbsr
sachi_bbsr

Is she truly funny or just "still quite funny/edgy despite so many followers"?

I followed her and her husband Rob Delaney for a while but not any more. There are more edgy and funnier people out there who are not so famous and that sort of "allows" them to be so edgy. Success must make you conservative.

@sachi_bbsr