Three Questions with Ariel M. Stallings of Offbeat Empire

1 min read
Offbeat Empire Founder Ariel Meadow Stallings (left) and Author of "Cat Call" Kristen J. Sollee (right)
Offbeat Empire Founder Ariel Meadow Stallings (left) and Author of "Cat Call" Kristen J. Sollee (right)

Interview with Ariel Meadow Stallings

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Residence 11

How did the website you created to promote the book you wrote, “Offbeat Bride,” become a far bigger deal than the book itself?  Why did so many people connect with it?

Ariel Meadow Stallings:

The website launched in January 2007, and was one of the first blogs dedicated to nontraditional weddings. I’d launched it primarily as a way to promote the book, but it became immediately clear that the book wasn’t what people wanted from me… they wanted visual wedding inspiration, a place to talk about their wedding planning challenges, and a sense of community and support.

The book certainly wasn’t a failure (hell, the third edition just came out a few weeks ago, and it remains a back-catalog bestseller for Seal Press!), but folks frustrated with wedding planning wanted real-time conversations and a sense of cheerleading and community that a paperback just wasn’t going to give them.

It was humbling for me as a young writer — I’d thought the Offbeat Bride book would finally be my ticket to legitimacy; a way to get away from web writing. (In the mid-00s, digital publishing was still seen as very much “less than” traditional print publishing.)

Instead, the website ended up launching my career as a small business owner and a publisher myself. It was one of many times in my life when a frustrating failure ended up being an opportunity.

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Residence 11

Can you describe the typical fans drawn to your “Offbeat Empire” of websites?  Who are these “nontraditional types working their way through the traditional passages of life”?

Ariel Meadow Stallings:

The Offbeat Empire demographic has been mostly female-identified (about 90%), mostly American (but some Canadians, Brits, and Aussies), and generally 5-15 years younger than me… although many of the folks reading Offbeat Bride these days are 20 years my junior, which is always a little awkward to be like, “Oh my wedding happened when you were in middle school.”

Many of the Empire’s readers identify as geeky in some way — whether that’s academically nerdy, or just pop culture geekery and fandoms.

While many of the Empire’s readers are in big cities, there’s a massive long tail of folks in smaller and even rural markets. It’s been amazing over the years to talk to folks who credit Offbeat Bride with introducing them to concepts they’d never had exposure to in their daily lives — polyamory, queer theory, social justice issues, stuff like that. It’s always been the most enjoyable part of Offbeat Bride: it’s sneaky deep.

Folks show up for the centerpieces and wedding fluff, and then the next thing they know, they’re reading about a wedding between a transgender Latinx disability rights activist and their polyamorous lover and having their minds expanded. It’s sneaky deep.

With a new book coming out next year, I’m actually really enjoying exploring different audiences these days. I’ve been doing some writing on a new platform called Substack (ams.substack.com) and have been getting lovely emails from (GET THIS!) older male readers.

MEN! READING MY WRITING!??! After so many years of writing on the Empire, I forgot that was a thing that could happen…

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Residence 11

You had an event with author Kristen Sollee and a room full of feral femmes and witches, what question around the book (or author) sparked the most debate?

Ariel Meadow Stallings:

The event (“A Feminist Conversation About Witches, Sluts and Pussies”) was mostly a pretty supportive conversation, so not a lot of debate.

That said, when it comes to incorporating the feral feminine into their lives, Kristen had some great perspectives on how the cat can be viewed as an icon of individuality and the untamed, a refusal of patriarchal prescriptions, a being that resists hierarchy in every way… “…unless there’s food involved,” Kristen said. HA!

We also got into a great conversation about the publishing industry’s discomfort with women’s sexuality. She had an image removed from her book that featured a woman in a cat suit, flogging a happily consenting partner.

Meanwhile, I dealt with a line in my upcoming book being edited from “It all started when one of the women from the foursome didn’t text me back,” being quietly revised to “It all started when a newish friend didn’t text me back.” EXCUSE ME!?

Follow Ariel and her work!

@offbeatbride  | @offbeathome | @arielmstallings

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