“I logged into our Tumblr account one day and saw a huge spike in hits,” Jim MacKenzie
recalls over lunch at The Noodle Shop. “I found out we made The Huffington Post
, so I called Sarah right away.”
The Tumblr was Thomas Wolfe Was Wrong
, the Huffington Post
list was 7 Sites You Should Be Wasting Time On Right Now
, and the Sarah in question was Sarah Giavedoni
, MacKenzie’s frequent collaborator. (Both are contributors to Asheville Grit, too.)
That day, MacKenzie had to leave a voicemail. Despite the exciting news, Giavedoni didn’t have time to chat, because she was setting up for a volunteer event for their nonprofit, The POP Project
“I value the fact that one project feeds into another and that the ideas keep coming,” Giavedoni explains of her and MacKenzie’s frequent projects.
Dedicated to misappropriated uses of Thomas Wolfe’s most famous quote, TWWW is actually their least time-consuming joint project.
In 2008, MacKenzie wanted to help some of his prison pen pals and donate books to prisons. However, one can’t simply show up to a prison with some books. “Some people see problems and some people see opportunities, and this was an opportunity,” MacKenzie says.
MacKenzie consulted Giavedoni, and they agreed to work together to form a 501(c)3 organization that would serve as an access point to books for prisons, schools, churches, homeless and runaway shelters, and other places of need.
Five years since earning nonprofit status, POP – whose name is an acronym for “Pages Opening People” – has donated more than $100,000 worth of books around the region. MacKenzie is POP’s executive director and board chairman, and Giavedoni is the board’s secretary and oversees volunteers, donations, and administration.
POP does important work, but because it distributes books as a middleman, it doesn’t have the important testimonials and name recognition many nonprofits have, and Giavedoni and MacKenzie make an impact much larger and wide-reaching than their individual profiles in the community.
“Our currency is books, but it takes money to sort, distribute, and house those books,” MacKenzie says. The current inventory of adult fiction and nonfiction is high and storage space is at a premium. “We’re happy to accept financial donations, too.”
“And we’re always in need of kids’ books,” Giavedoni points out. On her lunch hours she often drops children’s books off at area schools with more than 50 percent free lunch rate.
This spring, Sarah Giavedoni and James MacKenzie presented at the inaugural WordCamp Asheville
, a conference for those working and interested in WordPress. Their presentation’s title speaks for itself: “Your 10th Post: How to Keep Writing after Your Initial Euphoria Winds Down.”
Their presentation was influenced by real-life lessons they learned from their blog Stuff Monsters Like
, an accidental success created during a period when Giavedoni was underemployed with extra spare time.
While watching the 2010 remake of The Wolf Man
, Giavedoni noticed the Wolf Man running across London rooftops. This spurred a conversation with MacKenzie about tropes used and overused in horror films.
“I liked the monster blog because we searched for it and it was that rare thing on the Internet that hadn’t been done before,” MacKenzie says. “If you have an idea and wonder why someone hasn’t done something, I say you should go for it.”
They established ten solid ideas for a blog in the model of the now inactive Stuff White People Like
, and expected to end not long after their initial ten posts.
“I figured we’d keep going until we ran out of ideas, but we’re past 350,” Giavedoni says.
Some posts include: “Defying Standard Lifespans
,” “Inhabiting Abandoned Houses with ‘Dubious’ Pasts
,” “Refusing to Buy WD-40
,” “Punctuating Sentences with Lighting
,” and, of course, “Running Across the Rooftops of London
The blog’s high number is unusual within the Stuff [Parody-Ripe Noun] Like genre, where four years of regular posting is unheard of. “We definitely are the biggest Stuff [Noun] Like blog out there right now in terms of regular content,” MacKenzie explains.
Giavedoni and MacKenzie didn’t know a great deal about blogging when they started, but learned quickly, and have gone beyond blogging to present regularly at the local events Fanaticon
“We even created our own intergalactic holiday,” MacKenzie adds.
The creative holiday is Hug a Monster Day
, on which people are encouraged to hug the monsters in their life – a personal-to-the-hugger definition that may include stuffed animals, sock puppets, and more – and share photos on the blog’s social media. “One guy hugged a Bank of America ATM,” Giavedoni says.
To enhance the festivities, Giavedoni designed a series of monster mascots
users may print, assemble, color, and hug. As a gift, MacKenzie recently had one of the monsters figurines 3D printed, which Giavedoni colored on a recent Saturday afternoon.
After a year of blogging and learning, it became apparent to MacKenzie and Giavedoni that local bloggers lacked a cohesive, regularly maintained means of networking, so they created the Asheville Blogger Society
The group was a success. The group meets monthly at rotating venues on the second Tuesday of each month. All active and prospective bloggers are welcome. One meeting had almost 70 attendees.
Not every initiative has been successful. In 2012, an intentionally outlandish Kickstarter campaign – to purchase the lunar surface, build a moon base, and write a folk album – brought Giavedoni and MacKenzie attention from Boing Boing
, The Daily Dot
, and nearly 20 other websites and blogs.
As lunch at The Noodle Shop came to a close, MacKenzie asked Giavedoni about the latest idea he added to one of the Google Drive documents they share.
“I don’t get bored,” Giavedoni quips.