Joonie: Hi Saffia! Thank you so much for spending time with me today and for being one of our awesome Home & Expo Sponsors!
Saffia Widdershins: It’s my pleasure, Joonie! Is this where I should mention how you had to chase hard and pin me to a seat?
Joonie: Hahah! Why yes, this would be the perfect place for that! So let’s start this interview off with the burning questions we’re all wanting to know – What is your favorite color and why? Do you pronounce your name Sa-feeee-uh or SAF-e-uh?
Saffia: Purple is definitely my favourite colour. And I say “SAFF-ee-a” but I answer to most pronounciations.
Joonie: What color are your eyes?
Saffia: My eyes are very, very blue.
Joonie: Tell me a bit about where you were born and where you live now.
Saffia: I live in Oxford – and I moved here a number of years ago – too many to count! – when I came up to University. I was born in Walsall, a town north of Birmingham in an area that was so heavily industrialised that it was known as the Black Country from all the factory smoke. So I grew up with an accent like Julie Walters, or Mark Williams who plays Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter films.
Joonie: Lol. I think, now that you mention it, I’ve heard that accent before. What was the deciding factor in wanting to be a sponsor at H&G?
Saffia: It’s our core event. Prim Perfect is at the heart of what I do in Second Life. It was the first Home and Garden magazine in virtual worlds, and it’s now the longest surviving magazine – I think we beat BoSL by an issue!
We have the talks … and we have a café every year. This year it’s a taverna … and after the talks, people will hang out and just talk about what they’ve done, what they’re doing. I love those sessions.
Joonie: I look forward to those talks every year. You came to SL to do research for a RL employer? Is that correct?
Saffia: Yes, that’s right. And immediately I saw it was tremendous fun. So the very same day I created an alt to explore further. And that alt was Saffia. I don’t think I’ve worn my original since about … oh, 2008, poor thing!
Joonie: haha! Maybe she has some lindens you can borrow. What was your initial reaction to SL for you personally?
Saffia: I loved it. I saw so much potential for learning, for sharing and creating. I wasn’t a video gamer – I had been involved in online writing games. I think I responded at once to the potential of the grid. And virtual worlds had long had a fascination – I’d read Howard Rheingold when I was studying for my MA in the mid-nineties, and looked at the Palace. So in a way, I suppose I was waiting for Second Life to happen, and once it came on my radar, I was hooked.
Joonie: I was hooked the moment I realized I could fly. What made you stay after that initial visit? How did you first get into the publishing/business/event area of things?
Saffia: Well, coming back was not a big decision! As for the magazine … I realised that there were lots of blogs and magazines aimed at personal style, but nothing aimed at the home and garden market. And everyone was nesting – getting homes, furnishing them. They needed guidance – heavens, I needed that sort of guidance! And designers needed an outlet to tell people what they were doing. So starting the magazine was filling a niche.
Joonie: What are your current projects and what would you like to be doing … let’s say….a year from now? What projects are you most excited about?
Saffia: Well, I am very excited about re-starting The Quest for the Golden Prim, our steampunk(ish) web comic. We re-launched at Fantasy Faire, and we’ll be developing new episodes over the coming weeks and months. And then there’s SL10B Community Celebration too, which I’m very excited about. And the Relay weekend, of course, with the Telethon … then we’re going to be launching a new website shortly – that’s an exclusive for you, by the way. So the next few months are looking really busy. This time next year … what would I like to be doing? Possibly reclining on the verandah of my houseboat on a lily-covered lake in Srinagar, contemplating a gin and tonic … Maybe cruising through the Baltic towards St. Petersburg … But probably not. I’d be fretting about broadband coverage!
Joonie: That sounds like Paradise! And take note everyone – that was an EXCLUSIVE! You heard it first here! New website to launch soon! Okay get ready for the REAL burning question! What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you in SL?
Saffia: Eeep. Most of my gaffes are social. I am actually very bad at gossip and keeping abreast with things like relationships. I have been known to rave on to people about this GREAT new designer they ought to know, only to realise they were … erm … partnered. Or, even more embarrassingly, ex partners, and SO not speaking to each other. I have to be taken aside to have these things carefully explained to me!
Joonie: Hahaha! Well, partnerships come and go fairly often. What do you have planned for us at H&G Expo this year?
Saffia: We have gone with a theme again (after our very successful Blue Willow region last year). This year we are going with a Greek theme, and Aisling Sinclair is creating a beautiful little Greek village – and many people in the sim are picking up on elements of this, which is lovely. The key buildings are the temple, where we’ll be holding a series of talks with designers, the tavern, where people can hang out and talk about ideas, projects, plans … and the platform where we will stage the daily lantern release. We did this last year, every day at 4pm. You can have a private lantern release at other times, but at 4pm every day people will gather, light lanterns and remember those we have lost, and those whose fight continues. It’s a very special and magical moment.
Joonie: Oh! The lanterns that were created by Alchemy Immortalis. They’re so beautiful. I remember that from last year. It was very moving. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.
Joonie: I know you are involved with several non-profit types of events in SL. How did you decide to include Relay for Life in your list of events? Do you have personal reasons for getting involved?
Saffia: I have lost friends to cancer – much too young. My reason for getting involved with RFL is that firstly I was asked to be part of Treet’s very first telethon. I was bowled over by what was happening, and from then on have become increasingly involved. This may sound strange but for me it’s less about the fundraising and more about the support and information that the people involved in Second Life can give. As a Brit (and one who lives in Oxford) I know I am at the centre of some awesome research into the disease spectrum of cancer, and that we have also important centres for care in Oxford, such as Sobell House Hospice, which has done pioneering work in palliative care and Helen and Douglas House, which was the first children’s hospice in the world. So, for me, the fundraising is only one aspect of the valuable, indeed vital work that RFL does.
Joonie: It seems each year more people are wanting to be one of our sponsors at H&G Expo. What would you say to those who might be interested, but aren’t sure they want to pursue it?
Saffia: I would say it’s a lot of fun. We like being active sponsors and meeting the people who share the sim with us, looking at joint ways we can build visitors. Of course the talks, the tavern and the lantern release all help that!
Joonie: If you could share only one quality that you think is a must-have for success in SL, what would it be?
Saffia: Flexibility. Things will go wrong. Computers will crash. People will have to do things in their First Life. Second Life will refuse to do what we want. Things will go wrong – as well as going gloriously right. You need flexibility to deal with this – to sigh, maybe to curse … and then to move serenely on to Plan B. Or C.
Joonie: Share with us what a normal day in the life of Saffia Widdershins looks like.For instance, what do you have on your plate today?
Saffia: Today … oh my. Well, having been up late the previous day, I got up late. But I knew I would be up late tonight soooooo …
First of all , I needed to get some blog posts out. Monday is the day when Designing Worlds goes out, so I needed to do publicity for that,. I started with a jigsaw. I post a link to a jigsaw every day on my Plurk – there’s a little hearted competition to see who can finish them the fastest. Then several times a week I post a Prim Perfect jigsaw, which is a jigsaw of an image taken in a virtual world. That goes out on the blog, and then is – like all blog posts – publicised on several social media – Facebook pages and groups (about ten of those), Twitter streams (five of those) and Google + (just one feed there!).
I also spend some time each day in Photoshop, editing pics for blog posts and jigsaws.
Then I wrote the blog post to say that last Friday’s Happy Hunting show was on the web – that was a bit late, and I checked something with one of the team too. That went on two blogs – Happy Hunting! And Prim Perfect. Publicised through social media again. Then I did some behind the scenes work for SL10B and some work on the Talks we’ll be having at the Home and Garden Expo – contacting people, talking to them and making plans. And going through a few spreadsheets.
Then another blog post – this time to remind people it’s the last day for applications for the SL10B Community Event. That went on the SL10BCC blog and the Prim Perfect blog. Publicised that – and alerted the press team so they could spread the word too – they really are an awesome bunch of people.
Final blog post – this time to publicise Designing Worlds. That goes out on the Designing Worlds and Prim Perfect blogs – and on the Treet blog. That, unfortunately, uses a different system so that images have to be uploaded again and separately. Social media publicity to support that. Then inworld to send out group notices – I have to check who has sent messages asking to be unsubscribed and then access the database to remove them before I can send out the messages. Designing Worlds notices go out to three different lists – the main Prim Perfect one, the one for Designing Worlds and The Primgraph one, which is mainly aimed at steampunk and Victorian regions. The Primgraph used to be a magazine, but now it’s a blog and an active mailing list.
By now it’s mid-afternoon so I pause for lunch. After that it’s back to dealing with things that might have come up – checking on the progress of the current magazine, for example, checking the status of The Quest for the Golden Prim, or looking at aspects of the talks. I also took time out to buy some new hair for the Fantasy Faire final backstage party.
All the time I’m inworld I will be im’d by people who want me to come and see something, or who need a question answered or who have something they need me to do. I try to meet people’s needs as far as I can – and with courtesy. Sometimes, when I am very busy, I am sometimes inclined to snap, but I remind myself that people are trusting me with something that is important to them, and I need to give it some time and attention. Sometimes, when you have a dozen deadlines, that becomes very hard to do.
Then I got down to writing a Designing Worlds script – even as I was dancing and chatting at the party! I broke off to go and hostess the Designing Worlds show and chat with the audience, then back to the party AND script writing. And accepting a very helpful offer to design a poster for me, detailing the timing of talks – thank you, Joonie!
And then I took a final visit to see how our Expo build is going and discuss my thoughts about it with Ash, who is doing a really awesome job. Then log off and answer these questions!
Also … this was a fairly busy SL day, I guess! Some days are quieter – three days a week I fit in a first life job too!
Joonie: OMG! I need a nap just reading that! No wonder Winona Wiefel thinks you have kryptonite for breakfast! Thanks so much for your time today, Saffia. Before we end this, tell me what your favorite word is.
Saffia: Gorgeous! People used to imitate me saying, “Oh, that’s GORGEOUS!” cos I said it so much on the show.
Joonie: What is your least favorite word?
(I had to look that one up. It means - 1. Strictly attentive to minute details of form in action or conduct. 2. Precise; scrupulous.)
Joonie: What makes Punctilious your least favorite word?
Saffia: It’s fussy and it also reminds me of punctures!
Joonie: Too funny!
Saffia: I am all about encouraging and energizing people and helping them to follow their dreams, not puncture them. What I want to do is to help people follow their dreams, and make them happen. I think it’s always worth stressing that I’m one of a number of teams. What we achieve couldn’t be done by one person – it’s the result of teams of people working together.
Joonie: You have an awesome team of peopIe. I can see why you are such an amazing leader. You make people want to work for you. And this concludes our interview. Thanks so much, Saffia, for spending time with me! It was fun. See you at Expo!
Saffia: I’m really looking forward to it!
You can check out the awesome Prim Perfect area of Home Expo HERE. Prim Perfect Talks will take place HERE. Stay tuned for the full schedule which will be posted under the Entertainment/Activities tab above!