little blog on the prairie is a semi-anonymous journal from a southwest Champaign writer named Laura. She avoids the solipsism of most bloggers and looks outward to provide a straightforward take on life in C-U, whether it be railing against the boutique puppy store in the mall or offering a breezy critique of the service and food at a new restaurant.

Laura, also known as the little blogger on the prairie or lbotp, is a former newspaper writer, and her blog archives extend back to 2004. She's been blogging so long, she's not even sure if that's when she started.

But she could easily remember why she started blogging. "I have a natural curiosity about where I live, the people around me, things to do and places to go," Laura said. "I started it when I was married with no kids, so I had lots of free time on my hands, pre-children, and I was always looking for new things to do, new places to shop, new places to eat. I was always the type of person who would talk about that kind of thing with my friends, and my friends were like, 'Oh, you should start a blog.' So I did, and that's just how it happened."

Blogging came easily at first for Laura, but after a difficult pregnancy with her first child in 2005, she hit a wall. "My time evaporated really rapidly and I just wasn't out there. I really didn't feel like I had anything to say," she said. "So I just stopped."

Soon enough, though, her loyal audience pulled her back in. "I just forgot about it for a while," she explained. "Then I started getting comments from people, like, 'Where are you? We miss you.' And so I came back.

"And it's a little bit different now, like I don't get to the new restaurant right away, don't go shopping at the new store right away. I don't have that life any more. But I still have plenty to write about when I have time to write."

One of Laura's frequent subjects over the past couple years has been Lucky Puppy, the pet store that sells puppies from puppy mills. Or, as she refers to it, the tragedy at the mall (TTATM). It's been her favorite topic to blog about. "I've just been proud that I've been able to educate people who weren't aware that there's a more nefarious side to people selling puppies in the mall," she said.

Although the topic brought lots of traffic to her blog, it also caused some very heated conversations in the comment section, which led to her closing comments for the first time on one of the posts. "I never usually do that," she noted. "I like it when people argue on my blog; I like to create conversation, but in that case it was getting pretty ugly, and there was a lot of misinformation.

"As a newspaper reporter by background, I don't like to censor people, but it was just getting irresponsible."

Now with a second child in tow as of a few weeks ago, Laura is struggling to get back into the groove, which has her thinking about why she blogs. "I've never tried to make money off of it, and I don't think people really realize that," she said. "I don't have any ads on there and I'm not really interested in that stuff. I do it for fun, and it's definitely paid off for me in ways that are not quantifiable in money. I've met some of the most fantastic people. I'm not exaggerating by saying that some of these people have become part of my inner circle. It's expanded my social network, definitely."

She's certainly struck a chord with many people, as she gets between 500 and 700 hits per post when she's updating regularly. But her popularity remains a mystery to her, despite the obvious high quality of her work. "I'm glad that people still read me, but I don't know why they read me. I don't know what I'm saying that's so unique or different. People always tell me they love it, and I try to be funny or witty or whatever, but it's really just me entertaining myself. So the fact that other people are entertained by it kind of tickles me."

There are many tremendous blogs and bloggers in Champaign-Urbana, and we're starting a new regular column to recognize them. Every other Tuesday, we'll shine a light on a different outstanding local blog, taking you inside what got them started, what keeps them going and where they're headed. Know a local blog that you'd like to see profiled in this space? Send me a tip at joelgillespie [at] smilepolitely [dot] com.