Darin L. Hammond
As I sit down in the host’s chair for the first time, I am grinning, honestly excited because I have a sense that my first interview will be a lot of fun for both Darin L. Hammond, the reader and myself. I hardly know where to start. Have you looked at the list of his blogs on BC? If that does not intimidate you, go look him up on Linkedin. This fellow is brilliant. Of course the clincher is that he is not an arrogant, cold intellectual but a husband, father, approachable teacher and patient mentor. I know this because in a few short weeks of commenting on BC and BrooWaha, Darin has offered information, encouragement and praise to me, a 57 year-old, green writer.
Darin: You may think you are green, but I am certain that I am blushing red. Thank you for the chance to engage with you, and I appreciate your kind words. As you mention, I am an English professor, teaching at Idaho State University currently. When I say that, I feel nerdy and old. My specialties include American literature and advanced composition, but my secret interests are more fun. My passion in life is learning, about everything.
Seriously, I study the spectrum, from quantum physics to bonsai. I enjoy getting the four kids involved with my eccentric learning habits. Yesterday, in the snow, I shot baskets with my only boy, and we pruned several bonsai during our breaks. We stepped inside every half hour to check on my two youngest daughters who are down with colds. I lead a crazy, strange life.
In my blogs at ZipMinis, I always have to force myself to stay focused.I blog about social media as it intersects
Melanie: Can you tell us a bit about your family?
Darin: My four children range in age from 6 to 13, one boy and three girls. Yes, this is a little unusual, by which I mean crazy, insane, frustrating, and irritating. Seriously, I love them very much, and they are the center to my existence. I won’t gush about them too much, but they are perfect. Literally, as I said that, all four were screaming at the top of their lungs outside my office door. Through fatherhood, I am learning what it means to be fully human.
Melanie: All this makes me wonder what you were like as a kid. I am curious about your childhood. For example, where did you grow up? What was your home life like? What sort of kid were you? You could give us a glimpse of who you were by relating one childhood memory.
Darin: My favorite memories are of rubbing my mother’s back in the evenings, after she had worked all day at Hewlett Packard. I could feel her tense shoulders relax and see the pleasure in her eyes. She enjoyed it so much. She told me one time when I complained about doing it that “one day I would remember the moments fondly.” She passed away in 1996 of breast cancer, and she was absolutely right. I’m with her again when I remember those moments.
I experienced a lot of anxiety and depression as a child because I was very introverted, and any kind of social activity stressed me out. School was especially bad, even though I was a decent student. I could handle the classroom fine if I didn’t have to speak or make myself conspicuous. Recess and lunch terrified me because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt uncomfortable playing with other children, but I felt even worse standing by myself because then I was conspicuous.
I loved summers because we lived in the country, the nearest neighbor with children miles away. The last day of school, I would throw off my shirt, put on my shorts and sneakers, head out into the sagebrush covered hills in southern Idaho and basically not return until the end of summer. I enjoyed wandering, adventuring, and imagining.
I did not overcome the introversion and anxiety until I had been a teacher in college for about five years. I still do not like social activities, but the classroom environment works for me.
Melanie: How did you ever manage to stand up in front of so many young people?
Darin: With great difficulty. I felt as young as the students back then, and I remember looking out at a room full of 30 students, already bored and daring me to keep their interest. The only confidence I possessed came from my academic and writing skills. I forced myself each day into that small space of security and taught from there. My lesson plans were ridiculously long and detailed because I charted every 5 minute block of class. The students seemed indifferent to me, and I endured. After years of repetition, gradually I eased up, and I think some of the students even like me now. I am very comfortable in front of classes and can be myself.
I did NOT imagine the students naked or any goofy tricks like that, nor would I recommend them. Writing skills gave me the first bit of courage, and I have found that blogging has the same effect. I have only been blogging since July, but I find it empowering as I overcome the fear of sharing my inner self.
Melanie: No one would ever guess that you are shy because your writing is so smooth. It flows like a strong river with a purposeful current. Your writing voice is calm, natural and open. It is not stunted or self conscious. I would say that when you write, your true self rises up and speaks, leaving your shy society persona behind. I also would guess that it was your natural gift of writing that saved you at school, chose your profession and really has defined who you are. What do you think?
Darin: Part of the power that I find it in writing is just what you describe: if I am able to write skillfully, readers are unable to detect my fear and shyness. The voice you describe is not the same that would hear in speaking with me in person where I tend to be jumbled and flustered. My communication skills are slow and deliberate, and verbal discussion does not allow me the time I need to clarify and smooth the language, caress the words until they feel right. I do believe that my written words are my true voice, the voice that I cannot speak.
The ability to write has certainly helped me along the journey, but I did not realize this until late in high school. Dr. Mooney was my crazy English teacher my senior year, and he mentioned to me while passing briefly in the hall that I was a good writer. I had never considered myself proficient at anything, and I latched onto those few words as if they were a lifesaver. I began to believe in my writing because he gave me permission to, and I will forever be grateful to him. We often times do not know the power for good or evil that a few words in passing can have.
Melanie:That is an incredible testimony to the power of words both written and spoken. No wonder you are so affirming and encouraging as you comment on other’s posts.You are giving other people the same healing words that were spoken to you. Is this why You became a teacher? I also noticed on Linkedin that many students seem to admire you as a prof and mentor.
Yes, I try to be hyperconscious of the feelings and needs of others. I enjoy trying to understand how others feel and why, so that I can then nurture. Because of this drive, I
have turned to some pretty intensive study of the neuroscience of empathy over the last two years. I’ll save that discussion for another day, or blog.
This is certainly what led me to writing and teaching, though subconsciously and quite by accident. I don’t think my conscious mind would ever have allowed me to pursue teaching. The fear was simply too intense. However, I finished my bachelor’s degree in English, firmly committed to being something other than a teacher. Only, I could come up with nothing for a career. All I knew was that I enjoyed school, so I decided to continue on to the master’s level. There, I was shocked to find out, teaching was a requirement.
I fell into teaching by default because I couldn’t think of anything else to do and the opportunity presented itself.
Melanie: Although you were coerced into teaching, it is not just a job any more is it? It has become a vocation. A vocation to teach the art of writing and composition. I was wondering about your experience on BC. You have only been here a short time.
Darin:I really love Blog Catalog, as I found blogging prior to finding it quite lonely. The community is so supportive even to new comers, and if you are willing to stay involved, you make some great friends. Without BC, I don’t know if I would continue blogging. A person needs to feel connected to something other than the self to write well. I think.
Melanie: I know you have written about social media.
Darin: When I started blogging, I developed a real passion for the social media, realizing that I needed to establish an online presence and develop networks of like-minded colleagues. I had a large vision for my ZipMinis, one that went beyond an audience of only family and friends. However, I had insufficient knowledge to get my blog running effectively. My passionate quest to know all I could about blogging and social media began.
I had confidence in my ability to learn all of the skills I needed, and I knew that everything I had to learn was on the web. I had a lot of research to do, and I’ve found that the best way to learn something is to write. So, ZipMinis tracks my own online education, mapping out my discoveries and best resources. I made an intense effort to find only the most reputable sources on subjects like social media, SEO, blogging, and best practices. Not only did this help give me a jump start, but I also focused on my intention to share this knowledge with others who would follow after me. I wanted to make the path easy for those who follow me.
Another part of the mission for ZipMinis had to do with the format and delivery. I have a firm belief in the incredible value of the web, but I also see a problem with the glut of information. In other words, there’s just too much, and search engines like Google are only able to do some filtering with no real analysis. In order to conduct effective research, one has to wade through a lot of material. So my vision for ZipMinis is to provide informational and entertaining feature blog articles (of a normal length), but also to provide a new sort of power blog entries.
So, a ZipMini article is different in that each one focuses on a single web resource that I have reviewed and found both credible and worthwhile. I first share with the reader the title of the resource, and a brief quote to give an idea of the language and flavor of the piece. I follow that with my brief and pointed analysis of the article, along with its most pertinent conclusions. So, my readers are provided with a vetted, valuable article, the title and flavor of the piece, my intense analysis, and related links – all in the space of a few sentences. I see this is a valuable counter attack to the glut of information on the web, and I feel passionate about the system I use to accomplish it.
Melanie: You also paint, do a bit of home renovations, you built a gorgeous front porch and you do your own landscaping.
Anything other mystery facts you could whisper, just for BC?
Darin: Few people know that I love hard core metal music – Slipknot, Staind, Five Finger Death Punch, etc. Or, that I play it at an ear piercing volume and sing along at the top of my lungs. I have a sugar addiction and can munch a 2lb. bag of Starbursts by myself in less than 24 hours.
No one knows that I died once when I was 4. My dad found me at the bottom of a swimming pool. And, I didn’t know that about myself until a year ago. My parents never told me. This coincides with my silent belief that I can’t die. I once fell asleep driving 85 miles an hour on the freeway, rolled the car eight times, landing upside down in the middle of the freeway. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and after the car stopped, I climbed out the window, without a scratch. I have other almost died stories too. If this isn’t strange enough, I have a secret desire to die – not suicidal or anything. Just wierd.
I dream of living as a writer in some form. Living off of writing.
Melanie: I feel confidant that if you want to write for a living, you will.
I want close with a bit of romance- a picture you sent me. Thank-you, Darin. You have been generous with your time and candid about who you are, where you came from and how you want to develop in the future. In my opinion, you are a renaissance man for the 21st century.
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