Cofounders of Parenting Site Razed Talk Back | Creative Writing | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Cofounders of Parenting Site Razed Talk Back


Published June 22, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 22, 2016 at 11:48 a.m.

Eric Olsen and Kimberly Harrington - COURTESY OF AMANDA GUSTAFSON
  • Courtesy Of Amanda Gustafson
  • Eric Olsen and Kimberly Harrington

On June 6, 2015, in Burlington, Swale guitarist/website developer Eric Olsen and writer/creative director Kimberly Harrington gave virtual birth to a bundle of joy named Razed. One year later, their baby — a website "focused on conceptual humor related to parenting" — is growing like a weed.

In the tradition of Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Razed rocks the cradle, offering both style and substance. No stock photos on the site, only sublime illustrations. Submission guidelines ask for "Original voices. Weird ideas. Laughing." Content includes the hilarious category of "Pro/Con," pieces in which writers/parents talk themselves into/out of an idea.

There is no sacred territory on Razed, as evidenced by "Snip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: A Vasectomy Playlist," written by Olsen himself and including songs such as "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. (Listen here)

Harrington frequently delivers her own doozies, as in "An Open Letter to My Kids About How I'll Never Write Them Another Open Letter":

So let's just talk like people. I say one thing, you say something back maybe, and on it goes. Maybe I jot a few of my thoughts down and give them to you in a card or, really, just keep them for myself because let's face it, that's who this shit is really for.

We spoke with Razed cofounders Olsen (father to Magny, 8, and Esme, 4) and Harrington (mother to Walker, 12, and Hawthorne, 9) about raising their brainchild in the internet age.

SEVEN DAYS: So, who raised the idea of Razed?

ERIC OLSEN: I texted Kimberly and asked her if she had any free time whatsoever. "Hell no!" "Me neither! Let's make a humor website!" "Great! But only if it has unreasonably high standards!" "Deal!"

KIMBERLY HARRINGTON: I was feeling pretty saturated with inane or overly earnest or anxiety-inducing writing and advice about parenting. As much as I'm a cog in the machine of modern parenting and read every clickbait-y article there is, I also want to punch all of it in the face. Hard. Also, I desperately wanted a home for some of my humor pieces that had no place to go. So, when Eric texted me, it was perfect timing. I was up for making something for free as long as it was creatively satisfying.

SD: How did you give birth to the website? Given the complete absence of ads, has it been a labor of love?

KH: The website went from start to finish in just over six weeks. Which, looking back now, is nuts. I just knew if we were going to launch it, I wanted it done before my kids got out of school for the summer. Eric was the one who came up with the idea of launching it on June 6, '15, because [the digits can represent] 666. We're the only ones who think that's funny. But us being the only two who think something is funny pretty much sums up most weeks at Razed.

EO: If by "labor of love" you mean "spending time and money we don't have," then yes. And I love it. And I still think the 666 launch date is objectively hilarious.

SD: How you do define "conceptual humor," and what led you to that particular slant?

KH: For me, McSweeney's really defined it back when they launched their website at the dawn of the internet. Essentially, conceptual humor pieces are brief, 1,000 words or less, and have an unexpected central concept or premise. And, obviously, it needs to be funny. There are enough sarcastic mommy and daddy blogs out there; the world doesn't need one more. What there isn't enough of is sharp and knowing criticism from the inside. Criticism from the outside world? Check and check, everyone!

EO: Every parent has endless stories of the funny shit their kids do, and there are plenty of websites for those stories. This is not one of them.

SD: What are some of the pros/cons (to use a Razed conceit) of being the brains behind Razed?

EO: We're making something I would be bookmarking and reading if I weren't part of it, and I'm proud of that. I'd love to be able to pay our contributors, but, hey, maybe a wealthy and benevolent overlord will fund us just for kicks, and we can pay everyone, including us. And have little umbrellas in our drinks. That happens, right?

KH: I feel like we're building this virtual community of witty and talented smart-asses all around the globe. The downside for me is that I've had a lot going on since Razed launched. And Eric's in the same boat, except I think he's in, like, 11 and a half bands now. What I'm saying is, our spouses hate us.

SD: What do you look for in submissions? Do you receive a lot? Do you reject a lot?

KH: Submissions need to be conceptual humor related to parenting, full stop. If it's a personal essay, a poem or something that would be at home on a blog, it's not for us. We look for smart, weird, unexpected pieces. We receive two to five submissions a week — which, as a site that only publishes once a week, is plenty for us. We reject about 75 percent of the submissions we receive.

SD: How did you connect with your illustrators? There seem to be a lot! And no photos!

EO: We started off with friends — we both have lots of connections in the illustration world. Now we just reach out to illustrators we're stalking on the interwebs.

KH: Having illustration as a central element of Razed was an early focus for us. We knew it would stand out and could be our signature. It was an intentional choice to avoid photos. Websites in general, and parenting websites in particular, are awash in stock photography.

SD: What do your analytics tell you about Razed readership?

EO: Of our readership, 38 percent are between the ages of 35 and 44, 66 percent are female, 69 percent visit Razed on mobile devices, and 100 percent are smart, super nice, and have glowing complexions.

SD: What kind of reactions has Razed received? Give us the full poop.

KH: Readers have loved it, with the exception of some horrible humans who trolled us over our gay marriage piece. We put the site together knowing we wanted a clear design focus, and that's paid off with attracting both illustrators and writers. We're really proud of that. That all being said, there are plenty of people who don't get it; it just isn't their cup of tea.

SD: How much time per week do you each devote to the website? Is it like having another child?

KH: I probably spend about five hours a week editing. Responding to submissions and social media take[s] up additional time throughout the week. Thankfully, I don't have to feed the site with my breasts, so, no, not like another child. But, yes, like another child in that I think we'd both like to pay more attention to it, but we're highly distracted by other things, like making a living. We're being the best parents to Razed that we can be right now.

EO: Fact: I spend 15 minutes more a week on Razed than Kimberly does. And I shout at it all the time.

SD: What happens when RAZED is all grown up like your own kids?

EO: Wait, that happens? That's a thing? 

KH: I actually panicked about that last year, like, Holy crap, what do we do with this thing when our kids are grown?! I see us wrapping it up way before then. Unless Facebook wants to buy us. We're open to that.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Raising Razed"