Terrouge E-zine Archives
The Erin Interview: Part 1
By: Lauren S./Brya
I have the extreme fortune of living in the same town as one of our former Editors-in-Chief, Shorestar, also known as Erin. We agreed to meet up at an Applebee's so I could pepper her with questions about Redwall, the ROC, Terrouge, and what in the world she's been up to since she stepped down.
The weekend before, I scurried around my parents' house looking for an old tape recorder I remembered using once - with my tendency to garble remembered conversations, it was that or be constantly taking notes. And then I remembered: I had an iPhone. One visit to the app store and I was ready. On the two-hour drive back up to my apartment, I put the application through its paces. It weathered my car-singing with good grace, so I knew that I could depend on it.
When I got to the restaurant, Erin was already there, sitting at the window in the purple winter coat she'd described to me as an identifying mark in our pre-meetup messages.
"Are you Lauren?"
And the rest was history.
But I suppose you'd like to know more. Read on: when we were seated, I broke out the trusty iPhone and made sure I would be okay to record our conversation. Erin assented, and was reminded of her own interview adventures with Brian Jacques:
Erin: He did a book-signing-type event at Notre Dame up in South Bend. I went to that. At the time, Kelly Hamilton was still doing art for us and we had business-card-type things. And I was gonna interview him there, but some kind of mess-up had happened with his publicist and stuff so he was scheduled too tightly to actually talk to me. So then I ended up calling himno, he ended up calling me on the phone. He found time to do that which I found very nice of him. I'm trying to remember when this was… it has to be about, you know, seven, eight years ago, now, and technology was not nearly as awesome as it is today. I think what I rigged up was… I think it was basically holding a computer microphone next to the phone as I talked, and you know that little tiny sound recorder program, that comes bundled with Windows? It was terrible quality and then I ended up transcribing the whole thing. It took hours.
Me: I bet.
Erin: Hours and hours.
Me: So have you been around the magazine since '98? Were you there, reading it?
Erin: I was there reading it from the very first issue. I got in contact with them I think I officially came on staff at the third issue. And… when I came to college, I had to give up my role as Editor-in-Chief and I kind of kept in contact for a while… fell out of contact, and when Zian took over, he actually started trying to bring me back in which was something that I was interested in, but … his life kind of made it impossible for him to be Editor-in-Chief so I'm not even really aware of what is going on with the magazine right now. I mean, I've visited it, I saw that you have decided to focus back in on Redwall …
Me: What do you think?
Erin: I think … first of all I want to not be entirely critical of what Jason was trying to do with Firebird. I think that expanding the magazine to cater to the fact that a lot of the audience is older, a lot of the audience has been with the community for a while, I think that it was a good idea. I think that the way it was implemented, particularly with entirely abandoning well, almost entirely abandoning the Redwall content was … if it's not too harsh, maybe a bit short-sighted. I did think there were a lot of good things about what he was trying. I'd be equally --As disappointed as I was to see him go away from the Redwall route, I'd be equally disappointed to see you guys abandon trying to make it …
Me: More accessible …
Erin: I think that what he was doing with Firebird was great, and I think people would've really warmed to Firebird, if it was being published alongside even a much more slender Terrouge. If Terrouge still came out every month, if it had the article covering the ROC, article commentating on the books, maybe something talking about an upcoming book or a related book … You know, something fairly slender, four or five articles, I think that you would have kept the Redwall Online Community interested and active. I mean, the Crier was always an easy article, too. I don't know if you're doing that anymore?
Me: We aren't, because we don't really have contacts with the rest of the clubs. I mean, over the past couple of years, Terrouge has been kind of really insulated.
Erin: The Crier kept us a lot more connected, I thought. And once people knew they could get a paragraph published as long as it wasn't inflammatory, or whatever … You know, grossly self-promoting is fine! But people would contact us, it would give us leads for stories, and it was always an extremely low-maintenance feature, that I think a lot of people found useful.
Me: Yeah, Lucy's been - Lucy's the current Editor-in-Chief she's been kicking around the idea of having two different magazines.
Waitress: All righty, ladies. Sorry about that, we're taking care of that poor woman's steak over there. She's having a little fuss… I would, too.
Erin and I commiserate and ask what happened with it.
Waitress: Well, it was supposed to be medium-well, and it had a lot of red in it. You know how that is. I would've ate it!
Here we engaged in some mostly un-noteworthy conversation about steak. For those wondering, Erin's a medium-well person, and I like mine medium-rare. Eventually we got back to the discussion.
Erin: Where were we?
Me: I was struggling to figure out where we had started from, actually. But I have a million more questions.
Erin: That's fine!
Me: So, obviously you went through college, after you gave up the Editor-in-Chief position, and you've been in Computer and Information Technology?
Erin: Computer Graphics Technology, but the title of the major is misleading. It's about half front-end, half back-end. Right now I'm working on the internet team for the local television station WLFI, recently put up a Facebook page for them … I do a lot of the same stuff I was doing at Terrouge actually, in terms of going through the articles mainly, making sure that they're correct grammar-wise, fixing the headlines, maybe changing the angle a little bit for the Web, not for the TV pulling in additional content to make them more … you know, like if we ran a previous story, making sure the stories are linked together … a little bit of stuff for social media. I've been kind of entertained the past couple months, because I would never have thought that what I did with Terrouge would have been so very applicable to my first job.
We have a lot of content go through there, so I'm not gonna 100% certify that at any second that you look at the website everything's word-perfect, but it has improved considerably and will continue improving.
Oh, and obviously I was married last August.
Me: Yeah, congratulations on that!
Erin: Thank you. That's been working out well. Erin Coduti now, I used to be "Erin L." on the website, so I figured I should explain that.
Me: So, was the magazine the first site you found on the ROC? How'd you get involved?
Erin: I've always loved to read the story my mom tells is that I taught myself at age 3. I certainly can't ever remember being taught, so there may be some truth to that. But when I first got on the internet, probably in 1995, some of the first sites that I found … When you have AOL, it's kind of hard to break out of the chat rooms and all of that, but once I started getting around that a little bit I actually found … I think it was a website called Salamandastron? Not the one that kept running for a long time, just a small website by the same name, and you could join, and you could be a hare, and you could draw pictures and get points, and I thought this was amazing. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade at the time … it was awesome. I think the website had like five colors on it, none of which went very well together … but I really enjoyed myself there. I started to draw Redwall art, and I started finding places to try and put that. And really just kind of existed on the ROC for a while. Redwall.net was another website I was on that, gosh I don't know how early. Very early, though. Before I joined up with Terrouge and for a while afterwards, there were a lot of great people there. But I was very active on their forums.
When I ran into Terrouge, I was really excited about it. I thought that this was a great resource, that really pulled the ROC together, because it was big. It was a pretty big online community. The series was popular, but there were a lot of other series that were more popular that had less of an active community. It's probably not true now, but after even, say, the first three or four Harry Potter books came out, there weren't very many Harry Potter sites on the website. Even though it was selling who knows who many times as many copies. Obviously I didn't know that then but I did know that we had these extremely active people on the web but they weren't one group.
So I joined up at the magazine, I started writing articles … I forget exactly how I got in touch with the creator-slash-maintainer of Redwall.org, but I got in touch with him, and we got linked every time we put out a new issue, for a number of years, we got linked on the Redwall.org main page. And I think that was huge, not only for Terrouge but the health of the community as a whole. A lot of times you go to an author's official page, you know, you find out some stuff about the author but that's about it. But without forcing Brian Jacques or his webmaster to maintain any sort of online club and all the work that that entails, this gave them kind of a portal to send people through …
Me: Sort of an unofficial proxy for an official fanclub, basically.
Erin: And I think a lot more flexible than an official fan club would be, because if you wanted a site dedicated to writing, you had the RFF. If you wanted a site dedicated to art, you would have one. If you just wanted to be in a club and talk about Redwall and pretend to be a rat, you had what was it, Ublaz's?
Me: Imperial Navy Serving Ublaz.
Erin: And eventually Vulpine Imperium, of course.
At this point, the waitress interrupts us to bring us our food. Despite the enthusiasm with which Erin ordered her bowl of Cheddar Jack Mac and Cheese and Chicken and the wonderful smells it emanated she does not let it distract her. I, on the other hand, tuck right into my Oriental Chicken Salad.
Erin: If you wanted to be a goodbeast you had a whole medley of sites, Fort Ruddler of course being one …
Me: There was Camp Willow …
Erin: There was another otter site that I can't remember that I was active on for a while.
Me: The only one I can remember was the first club that I was ever in, was actually Holt Purple Sunset. It was not very big at all. Do you remember, perhaps I don't know how I might even say it, but it looked like the Mun'ya Reib? It was like some Celtic name … run by Ringet Loris.
Erin: I remember it.
Me: You know, Dave redesigned the official Redwall site. It's so much smaller now and it doesn't have any outgoing links anymore, I don't think. Not to the fan sites.
I went back and looked again, and I can correct myself: it does have links to Snowfur's Encyclopedia and the DAB, but there used to be several other links to active fan sites. Now the way through to the ROC via the official site is very narrow; new fans might think Snowfur's and the DAB are all we (the ROC) have.
Erin: There were a lot of things that I wanted to do with Terrouge, but never got around to. Like in terms of expanding it.
Me: What were you thinking?
Erin: For one thing, we've got this strong Redwall Online Community. Are there other communities like that? If there are other websites like Terrouge, can we get partnerships with them? Share readers?
Me: In the same fandom, or in different fandoms, or both?
Erin: I'm more talking about different fandoms, because I think most of the people in the ROC know about Terrouge. You know, a number of other Terrouge-like sites spawned off of us and we did articles on them. But I think for the audience size that you have, really one big site is probably all you need. And I think it's probably a lot better for the community to have one site with more content, than three sites. But I don't know that the same is necessarily true if, say, we were to make a partnership if Terrouge was to make a partnership, obviously, not 'we' anymore with other sites. Not fandoms that would be inappropriate for the Redwall readers. But you can then think of things that could bridge up. Redwall they're chapter books, and really long chapter books, but I think that probably their audience is mostly middle school. Series that as I said, not going into anything inappropriate are more targeted towards older readers. If there were communities like that, I think that would be something that would be very beneficial without necessarily detracting from Terrouge.
Me: Yeah. Basically figure out where we all went after we got tired of or, when they got tired of the Redwall series, what other sites would they be at if they weren't at Terrouge?
Here my recording software freaks out again, replacing several seconds with silence and ambient noise (we had a small child somewhere near us who liked to vocalize, but only occasionally). From what I can remember, Erin spoke about a hypothetical place for Terrouge among similar communities for other fandoms. I borrow the bridge idea: there are sites like Terrouge in 'younger' fandoms whose interest Redwall could catch. Likewise, since Terrouge's visitors are interested in other series that could be considered at an equal or higher level (of reading, understanding, or maturity take your pick), partnerships with those sites and our varied level of non-Redwall subjects and interests could keep people coming back even when they've 'outgrown' the series or lost most of their fan-fervor for it.
Erin: At the time that I was in charge I couldn't really find that many vibrant communities I think. Sorry, that was kind of my little trip.
Me: No, no problem. That was fun, actually. I was a total newb at Terrouge forums, when you were in charge, you were kind of like my hero. You really were, and I remember there was this post that you made, talking about the difference between you acting with the full weight of your Terrouge position behind you and just you acting like yourself. You said, 'whenever Shorey is mad at somebody, it feels like the entire horde of Terrouge is mad at somebody' - I'm mangling it a little bit…
Erin: I definitely couldn't tell you word for word, but … you do have to be careful in any sort of leadership for that kind of thing. I played WoW (World of Warcraft) for a year, I was the top leader of my guild on my server. And it was the same sort of thing: the rank and file could kvetch and complain, be like 'I hate so-and-so', but that was definitely a bad plan coming from me, unless I was willing to kick somebody from the guild. Personal image aside, you just don't want to cause trouble. If you're in charge of something, a part of your image is always going to be bad, there's always going to be somebody who thinks they can do it better, but isn't willing to work to do better. They're willing to complain about it not being done better.
Me: I can think of a few examples from Terrouge's history. Like, do you remember 'Terrouge Is Evil'?
Erin: I honestly really enjoyed all of that.
Me: It was kind of fun. I just can't even remember who we thought it might have been, or if it had just been somebody totally faking it.
Erin: I think we found out, but I can't remember. I'm very sorry.
Me: No worries, hardly anyone will know what we're talking about. And, the boycott on Redwall.org, when it wasn't nearly as professional as it looks now? There's an article in our archives that's an interview with … I feel like it was Kenny.
Erin: Wow, that's so far back I can't even dredge up anything to say about it. I remember that it happened, but I don't remember anything else.
Me: Were you still really around when Lord TBT started causing interesting discussions in the forums? Or was it … actually, I don't even have the correct order of the editorship in my head right now.
Erin: I think I was, because I remember his name, and I wasn't super-active on the forums after I left. I came to college and I think I already knew I was stepping down from the editorship, and during my freshman year of college, Josh passed away, and I'd definitely been planning on keeping in closer touch. But I think without every really thinking about it after that, I just drifted more and more out of contact. Which I regret, because there's a lot of people who were there and who are there that I would've liked to keep in better contact with, but I think it's only really looking back that I see the connection.
I met Josh more or less through Terrouge, but as much as you can over the internet we were really good friends. We talked really frequently, we talked on the phone occasionally, when he was coming through on a trip of the lower 48, we actually got to meet briefly. And he was a really great guy.
To be continued…
Check out the next article for part two of this interview.
But first, here's that Facebook page Erin's done at WLFI. From it, you can access the main WLFI website and see some more of her handiwork. Happy clicking!