Erin McKean was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, but being blessed with peripatetic parents, has lived in Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, and lately, Illinois. When pressed as to 'where she's from', she claims Winston-Salem, N.C. She attended the University of Chicago, graduating with a BA and MA in Linguistics in 1993, and has lived in Chicago ever since. Erin is currently Chief Consulting Editor for American Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, and editor of VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly. She is married and has a young son, and she enjoys roller-skating much more than most reasonable adults. Erin blogs at A Dress A Day (and intermittently at Undefined).
Why do you blog? > I suffer from a kind of excess of enthusiasm for certain topics, and like sufferers of hemochromatosis, have to be bled of this enthusiasm regularly so as not to cause serious damage to my internal organs.
What has been your best blogging experience? > A reader told me her grandmother, who was recovering from surgery, looked forward to my posts every day. Also, more often than you'd think, people just mail me old patterns or fabric that they no longer want. They just want to send it to a good home.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I haven't had one (yet). Or maybe it was when it looked like the author of a book I reviewed negatively was trolling in the comments, but that was more funny than bad.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write conversationally. A blog is not a research paper. People are attracted to voices more than to information.
What are your favourite blogs? > Jane in Progress writes wonderfully about writing screenplays, and even if you don't want to write screenplays, reading about how TV is made increases your enjoyment of it. Merlin Mann at 43 Folders is hilarious, and makes me want to be a better (well, more organized) person. LanguageHat writes about languages and linguistics in a way you don't have to be a polyglot to love.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I admire people who may not have any bright flashes of genius, but just keep going, and who are very, very practical. James Murray of the OED springs to mind. The fashion designer Claire McCardell. Of course, I also like people who look at things askew, so Rube Goldberg.
What are you reading at the moment? > There is a stack of books in my office that is literally as tall as I am. I've just started The Alphabet versus the Goddess, and have already marked several pages to go back to.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I don't know if it's the best I've ever read, but I love The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope. There's always something new in Trollope, no matter how many times you go back to him.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Northern Pike' by James Wright. 'There must be something very beautiful in my body,/I am so happy.'
What is your favourite movie? > The Princess Bride. I think anyone who says that they don't like The Princess Bride is lying, or possibly a Cylon.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would institute immediate single-payer universal health care. That the US doesn't have this is a shame.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > If you don't have an appreciation for the absurd, develop one immediately.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness trumps all.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > I strongly dislike people who feel they have nothing more to learn, and who think nothing is ever due to luck.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > I would never tell a mother her child is ugly or ill-behaved, even if directly questioned.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I have a long-standing and ineradicable prejudice against men who see women as something less than full human beings.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Many a mickle makes a muckle.' Just because it's so fun to say, and because most people have no idea what either a mickle or a muckle might be.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Does smoking count?
What, if anything, do you worry about? > I don't really worry about terrorism, or ecological catastrophe, or sudden death; I tend to worry more about immediate things, like being late, or whether my son brushed his teeth that morning.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would have learned how to play the drums, and tennis (although not simultaneously). I understand it's not too late, although right now I have it scheduled for a noisy (and possibly creaky) retirement.
What would you call your autobiography? > How about Redefined? Or is that too hokey?
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I have elaborate (and quite possibly erroneous) fantasies about what life as a US postal mail carrier in Portland, Oregon would be like.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Combine one sunny beach; several dozen enticing novels; my husband and son; and large amounts of fried seafood. Mix well. Repeat as needed.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > I like to sew, I love to roller-skate, and lately I have become obsessed with science-fiction television, notably Battlestar Galactica, Dr Who, and Torchwood.
What is your most treasured possession? > My innate cheerfulness. Does that count?
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > I think I would go by my middle name, Margaret.
What talent would you most like to have? > I would like to be able to roll my Rs. Not being able to do so is a tremendous handicap for a linguist.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I think I'd make an excellent reference librarian, and I'd certainly enjoy it.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > I think no one is as funny as Donald Westlake, the comic crime writer.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I think I would feel a lot less guilty about the amount of fabric I buy. And I would be able to spend more time on projects that aren't measured in dollars.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]