Melissa Benn was born in London and educated at Holland Park Comprehensive and the London School of Economics. She has worked at everything from waitress to contract researcher but is now a full time writer, the author of five books - three of them non-fiction and two novels. She is currently working on another novel and is taking notes and turning over ideas in her head for her next book on the modern history of education. Melissa blogs at Melissa Benn.
Why do you blog? > The potential of a blog is limitless; it can bring in fiction, art, politics, everyday observations, stories, jokes, music, etc. I also like the inherent generosity of the form; I can refer, quickly and often, to other people's thoughts and work.
What has been your best blogging experience? > The growing sense I have of entering a new world but one that talks about the old things in a new way; making an entirely new set of connections.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Apart from the truly appalling personal insults from the net nutters? Friends who were scathing about my blogging, at the outset, although one of them recently asked me how she could set up her own blog. Enough said!
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write about what interests and absorbs you; keep it short; don't chase an audience.
What are your favourite blogs? > I'm still exploring.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I have no heroes but I admire, in no particular order, Simone de Beauvoir, Barbara Ehrenreich, E.L. Doctorow, Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, Richard Sennett, Zygmunt Bauman.
What are you reading at the moment? > I am just at the end of Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife, a popular novel that manages to be incredibly thoughtful about the human cost of fame and a life in politics. I am finding it quite a painful read. Also James Wood's How Fiction Works and Robin Lane Fox's The Classical World.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Anna Karenina, probably.
What is your favourite movie? > Dinner Rush.
Who is your favourite composer? > Bach. (Can I have Schubert in there too?)
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I turn all the major political issues over in my mind constantly. It's exhausting.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The Fall of Public Man by Richard Sennett. It has remained a forceful reminder of what I first learned growing up in a political family: the importance of public debate.
Who are your political heroes? > No heroes, again, but I have a lot of time for Ed Miliband. He seems to me a working politician who actually thinks out loud, although, as with all politicians, I think his most interesting reflections will come later in life.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'A week is a long time in politics.' I've seen that come true again and again.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The potent mix of arrogance, ignorance and extremism.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Be firm and kind, with yourself and others.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Radically different? No.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness, followed very closely by a good sense of humour.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > I loathe arrogance, largely because those who display it don't even realize that it IS a fault.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > All the obvious ones.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > No!
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Increasingly, watching TV (although after I wrote this last night, I thoroughly enjoyed watching a programme on Public Art during the New Deal).
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Too much, too often.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would get to the point more quickly.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > A classy dark blonde in her prime! Pfeiffer, Streep, Blanchett, Redgrave etc.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I love my home.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A pool to swim in, a pile of books, cold beer and good conversation at sunset and no demands.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading. Dreaming.
What talent would you most like to have? > To sing like Aretha Franklin.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > English or History teacher in an inner city school.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > My elder daughter and I have just discovered Michael McIintyre; we swap details of his best routines at breakfast.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To phase out private, grammar and socially selective faith schools and create a universal, high quality state school system.
[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.]