Interview by Anna-Claire McGrath
Xandra Robinson-Burns is an American blogger living in the United Kingdom. Her blog, Heroine Training, focuses on ways to live life to your best potential through literature. She offers a course in self-development focusing on lessons from Harry Potter called Blogwarts, and a mailing list focusing on wisdom from Jane Austen called Letters from Jane Austen. She is just now finishing conducting a course in self-improvement based on Broadway musicals called Leading Lady.
THE FEM: Would you mind telling me a little bit about yourself and Heroine Training? Why did you start it and what niche did you hope to fill?
XANDRA ROBINSON-BURNS: I’m Xandra. I’m a minimalist Gryffindor from Boston living in Edinburgh. At Heroine Training, I write lessons and courses about being your own heroine and living your story.
Fiction played a powerful role in my childhood; my family moved around a lot, but I always had Hogwarts as a home. Also, I give The Baby-Sitters Club complete credit for my entrepreneurialism. I spent the summer of my 16th birthday at Oxford, and fell in love with this place that inspired so many fantasy worlds, and it became my mission to return. When I did enroll at Exeter College, Oxford, I felt like I was living in a storybook. I want to capture that feeling through Heroine Training, a portable haven where fiction is real and cherished, and all of the magical worlds I love collide.
As for a niche, it started with four words: Harry Potter personal development. I mentioned it to a friend as a joke, but quickly realised it was one of those “haha but actually” jokes. I was already writing about “fabulous simplicity” and that project evolved. There is something special about not just “living the life you want” but owning your role as the heroine.
THE FEM: Why “Heroine” Training? Why not “Hero” Training?When you created the site, did you set out to target to young women in particular or was that more of an accident? Why focus on the empowerment of girls through literature, and not just everyone?
XANDRA ROBINSON-BURNS: Starting a female-centric business was not a conscious decision, but in retrospect, not an accident either. The term “heroine training” comes from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, describing its protagonist as not a “heroine” but “in training for a heroine”, an idea I love, as it celebrates a work in progress.
All of my projects start as an idea for something that I would personally want to read that isn’t out there yet. Subconsciously, being female was part of the criteria I sought.
Even though the term “hero” is supposed to be inclusive of both genders, it isn’t, really. So while I gain inspiration from male heroes as well, I write about them from under the “heroine” umbrella for a change.
THE FEM: What advice do you have for aspiring bloggers out there? What do you wish you had known when you started?
XANDRA ROBINSON-BURNS: Write about what you love, and are itching to write. The best advice I was given was to publish every day for three months, quietly, then share your work if you decide to keep going. That way you find your rhythm, decide if you actually enjoy it, and your readers have a glorious archive of posts to explore when they discover you. Whether you decide to write daily, weekly, or bi-weekly, stick to a regular schedule, for your own sanity, and so that your readers know what to expect from you.
THE FEM: You talk a lot about big dreams and small dreams in your writing, and you say your big dream came true when you were still fairly young. How important do you think it is to keep having new dreams?
XANDRA ROBINSON-BURNS: I believe in dreaming every day, big and small. But, as the great Albus Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. If there is a dream that you know you want to chase, start going after it now instead of waiting for it to happen to you. If you’re not sure what that dream is, but generally want to be a happy person, then strive for that dream. Whatever you do, don’t let that end goal distract from who you are and how you live today.
THE FEM: Who are some other bloggers you admire? Whose sites do you check religiously for updates?
XANDRA ROBINSON-BURNS: Leo Babauta is my minimalist and mindfulness hero. Sara Tasker takes the most gorgeous fairytale-esque photos, writes beautiful stories about them, and isn’t afraid to get geeky. Sarah von Bargen‘s website is like an endless lifestyle magazine of juicy content and real-life advice, all in the spirit of happiness and adventure.