“Designed to make you feel like everything is going well. I am your Perestroika.”
— Kelly Oxford’s “bio” on Twitter.
Kelly Oxford is a stay-at-home mother of three, living a fairly average domestic life in Canada, and, as I post this article, has 37,007 followers on Twitter. Her most recent tweet helps explain the incongruity:
“ ‘She’s your problem now’ – dad to my husband after our wedding.”
She’s hilarious, and people are noticing.
Though she never went to college, Oxford has always had a love for writing. She started an anonymous blog more than seven years ago after spending a lot of time online reading sites about child-rearing. What she found were places where fellow mothers could communicate with each other, but they just weren’t very entertaining.
“I thought it would be fun to have a site to talk about problems and make them funny,” Oxford told me over the phone from her home in Calgary. “I included [celebrity] gossip because people love gossip and stuff like that. I tried to make it entertaining to get through my days stuck at home with a baby and pregnant and not leaving.”
When the social media site MySpace became popular, Oxford felt it was time to drop the anonymity, bringing her name and personality to her blog. And then came Twitter. In those brief moments in between the demands of watching the kids, Oxford found a knack for writing short messages that had wit and some bite.
Her family is often the topic of her tweets: “The kids will be mad when they discover there really isn’t a law that prohibits them from talking while I drive.” Sometimes she offers witty maxims: “My instinctual faith in people tells me I’m dumb.”
Those little observations have earned Oxford a large following. Jessica Alba, Tony Hawk, Kevin Nealon, John Mayer and Fred Willard are among her celebrity Twitter followers. Diablo Cody, the writer of the film “Juno,” was one of the first to discover Oxford’s writing. Film critic Roger Ebert has become a big fan, too.
“Well, she’s bitingly funny, but everybody knows that,” Ebert told the Daily Beast earlier this year. “Didn’t the man write in the play, ‘We laugh, that we may not cry?’ That may provide an insight into why she’s funny.”
Oxford has been writing and telling stories for as long as she can remember. As a child, she would get in trouble at school for making things up, like saying she had a baby over spring break or that her sister was a prima ballerina. She even created a fake newspaper for her neighborhood, reporting on fictional murders and pets being eaten.
“In high school, we only had 1,000 people and no school newspaper,” she said. “I made up my own sheet and I would write down one liners…. It was basically Twitter — one liners, stupid kid stuff I would photocopy and pass out.”
Now the world is paying attention to Oxford. She has been offered a reality show and the opportunity to write screenplays. She has an agent and is currently working on a pilot.
“The Internet puts you on an equal platform,” Oxford said. “I think that finally, literary agents and the entertainment world are catching up to what a lot of writers have known and what people have known for five to ten years online, that there is an amazing pool of writers writing.”
Kelly and I exchanged 10 questions over e-mail. To fit the Twitter form, the questions and answers were limited to 140 characters. (She went long on the last answer, but I’ll let that slide.):
1) What was your first tweet?
‘I’m scared of @iamdiddy’
2) You had blogged anonymously before. What made you switch to letting your name out there?
“When MySpace became popular and I saw entertainers and the media were finally using social/internet media to interact, I knew it was time”
3) Some poets have argued the constraints of form are liberating. Have you felt keeping things to 140 characters has helped your writing?
“Yes. Full conversations, interactions can always be summed up in 1 or 2 sentences. You just need to cut to the heart, subtext, motive.”
4) Do you think you will ever publish your tweets in a book? Will your kids read tweet anthologies?
“I’ve been asked, but I don’t understand what would motivate people to buy a book of my tweets when they are free online. I wouldn’t do it. It’s dumb. “
5) What’s the most random response or offer you’ve gotten from the Twitterverse?
“I was offered my own reality show.”
6) Are you working on any big projects (aside from raising 3 kids)? TV shows? Movies? Memoir?
“I wrote a spec pilot for a television series….”
7) You’re not shy about making jokes about sensitive topics. Does anything go when it comes to jokes?
“As long as I’m not hurting anyone, and I’m just exposing a point of view, I don’t mind offending people. “
8) Who is your favorite person to follow?
“I can’t pick a favorite, that’s a Twitter ‘Sophie’s Choice’. I enjoy everyone I follow. “
9) Will you encourage your kids to blog? Do you worry what they will read about you if they explore your blog?
“My kids aren’t into writing. One draws and designs, one is a performer and plays basketball and one is learning how to talk. I’m their Mom, I’m not very cool. “
10) Rick Moody’s tried… but do you think we will see literature produced on Twitter? Do you see it as a publishing platform for short fiction?
“I don’t see it. It’s there and it’s free, why buy it? I think Twitter is an amazing platform to develop a persona, or character, that people can feel connected to. Based off that following you can then move on to publishing or televising the life of that person everyone is already interested and involved with. “