maryam montague: artists who blog

The 20th interview in my "artists who blog" series is with a special visual writer - Maryam of My Marrakesh. Her blog is one of the most visually beautiful I've seen, and she is also a gifted writer. Each time I visit her blog, it's like a having little vacation abroad. Maryam also tours other countries in Africa, writing about her experiences and sharing her visual impressions, most recently in Rwanda. Enjoy!

Why did you decide to start a blog?

I started a blog when I was in transition. I had recently moved to Marrakech and I wanted to chronicle my life in my fab new home city and to write about the quest to build our boutique hotel, Peacock Pavilions.

While I had always wanted to be the kind of person to keep a journal, I had never quite managed (eek, problems with organization!). I thought with a blog that it might be different – that I might feel accountable to actually writing because perhaps others would read it. So I started blogging not quite sure where it would take me. At first only my best friend would read my blog. She left me encouraging comments like, “Funny story!!!!” or “Love that title!!!!” It was her exclamation points that kept me going. Slowly, more readers began to trickle in. A few months after writing my blog, I was a finalist in the Bloggies and the following year a finalist in the Annual Weblog Awards. And here I am two years later, and it is hard to remember my life before blogging. (Whatever was I doing before, anyway?)

How did you come up with the name of your blog?

My blog is called My Marrakesh because I wanted the blog to reflect my life in Marrakesh through my own lens. It’s a very personal, visual story. But despite the blog’s name, My Marrakesh doesn’t just focus on Marrakesh. Since I am on the road a lot for my job, I have blogged from places as diverse as Egypt, Tanzania, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, France, Turkey, and Mali. So my blog is filled with strange little stories and images that come together in the patchwork that is my unconventional life. To make things even odder, I often blog in the third person, in order to avoid feeling like My Marrakesh is all about Me! Me!
Me! (Ahem, did I say Me?)

How has blogging affected your work as a visual writer?

Blogging has changed my life. Now I know that sounds quite overblown and Elizabethan (now I just need a humungous ruffled collar) but really, blogging has changed the way that I see the world. It is because of my blog that I became a visual writer – not the other way around. Blogging has made me pay more attention to the beauty of the little things in my world, to value them, and to savor them as if I were experiencing them for the first time. Since life is mostly a long series of little moments – blogging has taught me important lessons about daily gratitude. All of a sudden, my life seems to be filled with crumpets, if you know what I mean. (But really, those crumpets were there all along.)

Why do you think blogs have now become so popular with visual writers/artists/designers?

Blogging creates a forum and community in which real people (yep, that’s you and me) can share thoughts, images, and creative good stuff in real time. It’s that very instantaneous-ness that makes it so appealing. The Blogosphere is also – for the most part – an incredibly supportive environment and so it’s a great place for confidence building (esp. in a world that can sometimes seem unkind, disinterested, or downright chilly).

Do you have any advice for writers/artists/designers starting a blog?

The blogosphere is like a souk -- there are lots of goodies on offer. So it’s important to differentiate your blog from other blogs if you don’t want to be lost in the blog smog. I am attracted to blogs that not only offer beautiful visuals but also have really memorable or fun writing. The blog Hula 70 is state of the art for me. Sometimes artist/designer blogs rely too much on visuals and don’t spend the extra time on making their text special, too. Also, I think extra-long posts don’t lend themselves to blogging (toooo looooong, baybee……….).

What has been the most positive and inspirational aspect of having a blog for you?

Blogging has brought me oodles of inspiration and good karma. First off, blogging inspired me to buy my first camera. (Yippee!) First I bought a Fuji Finepix, then I upgraded to a Leica D-Lux3, and I recently bought a Nikon 60. (My poor bewildered husband was like, “Ummm….what are you going to do with all this equipment, exactly?”) Suddenly everything is a picture -- my world has gone Technicolor:) I have also been asked to do lots of travel writing for magazines, which is very fun. And sold lots of pretty Moroccan textiles and carpets via my blog, which is even more fun. And earlier this year I was signed by a literary agent, and got a book deal from a US publisher -- part memoir, part Moroccan design treatise. I am also working on a big, new, still secret project that came to me via my blog. So I am feel pretty blessed despite the fact that the stock market crashed and I just lost a bazillion dollars (okay, okay, a very small bazillion….).

Thank you for continuing to inspire us with your words and beautiful, exotic photography Maryam!