We’ve noticed many of our parents and caretakers on the forums are very active on Twitter and with their blogs. It’s amazing to see how many parents are using the virtual world (from the forums and beyond) to connect with others from around the world on everything from diaper brands to post-partum depression and even just to keep up with the latest world news in 140 bite-sized characters. For everyone who is new to social media and blogging and are wondering how to get started (and what to write about), we thought we’d ask two of our favorite tweeting, blogging friends, Jennifer Mendelsohn and Lisa Bonchek Adams how they got started, gained a following, and always leave us wanting more.
One of Jennifer's tweets: Explained "fame" to Ethan: "Nobody recognizes mommy because I don't have a job like that." He said, "You should think about getting one."
Since you're more active on twitter than your blog, can you tell me a little about why and how you got started on twitter? Did you begin tweeting about your kids from the start or had you intended to focus on something else entirely?
I only signed up for Twitter because I followed a link promising a free iPhone. Just kidding. I had just heard a lot of buzz about it, and though I believe my exact words were "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of," I wandered over and checked it out. I'm not sure exactly what I was looking for or what I planned to do with it. I definitely didn't go in thinking, "I will tweet about my children." They're a big part of my life, so I sometimes tweet about them.
Have you had any negative reactions to your tweets? If so, how have you dealt with it?
I once used the f-word about the Westboro Baptist Church picketing Yeardley Love's funeral and got summarily unfollowed. And while I'm not someone who curses on Twitter as a rule, I sort of believe that anyone who thinks those lunatics don't merit the occasional F-word aren't people I want to converse with.
When you do blog, how do you decide what you're going to write about?
Sometimes something will happen and it just lights a little spark in my head. I usually walk around with it for a bit before I sit down to see what it yields.
We hear lots of parents saying they like the idea of twitter, but never know what to write about. Any advice for how they can get started?
It's fine to start by listening for a while. Once you get a feel for what the conversation is like, you can try jumping in.
Excerpt from Lisa's blog:
I wish I had the energy of my youth.
I wish I had the body.
I wish I had the fearlessness, the spunk, the drive.
I wish I could have a conversation with that young girl,
bright-eyed and full of wonder.
I wish I could tell her what lay ahead.
I wish I could tell her to gather strength, and wisdom, and patience like a squirrel gathering acorns for the winter.
“Save those things up,” I’d say, “you are going to need them… every last bit.”
Tell me a little about what compelled you to start writing your blog
Originally I started writing my blog after I completed surgeries and chemotherapy for breast cancer. I posted a few pieces on my Facebook page and when some of my FB friends started asking if they could share them with their own friends and family I decided to start a website so there would be public access to them. At first I wrote about cancer, but I then began writing about grief and loss when my beloved mother-in-law was killed in a car crash in 2009. Eventually I began writing pieces about one of our children's physical problems.
How you incorporate writing a bit about your children (was it something you were hesitant to do at first or did it feel natural?)
I didn't originally write about my children. While some of my original pieces were about talking to children about cancer and death, it wasn't until my mother-in-law died that I began to write specifically about my children and their grief reactions. I was struggling with my own sense of loss and I felt that expressing my family's reaction to this tragedy would resonate not only with our own friends and family, but also perhaps with other readers. Eventually I began to write about our son Tristan who was born with physical abnormalities in his hands and spine. I think I initially felt very protective of him and didn't want to write about the things which made/make him different. Ultimately I wanted to share his story because I felt his resilience was representative of the determination I had in dealing with my cancer. I also wanted to use it to share the philanthropic work of Shriners Hospital where he receives treatment and has had surgery.
Has writing about your experiences given you a different perspective on them?
I didn't write about cancer when I was going through the actual surgeries and treatment. It was only later that I could look back on those experiences and reflect on them in a more coherent and thoughtful way. Because I was in the habit of writing already when my mother-in-law died, it was a natural way to document our feelings. I am glad that I have writings for my children to show in print how we dealt with this loss. My youngest child was three years old when she died; this will be one way we will teach him about her warmth, love, and lasting legacy in our family. When I read the blogposts I made in the days and weeks after her death, I am instantly transported to the world of grief. Readers connected with the mutual experience of losing a loved one, especially a death so sudden.
How would you recommend someone gets started blogging?
One cautionary piece of advice I have to parents who want to start to blog is to be very careful about what you say about your family and your children. Children are constant sources of happiness, frustration, and amusement in different combinations at any given time. However, children also grow up to be adults and may not necessarily appreciate stories about their daily triumphs and defeats shared in public. I always make sure to ask myself whether what I am writing is something my children could potentially be embarrassed about. I don't say anything about them that would be upsetting to them as they grow older.
I think that blogging can be done well, but also can be done poorly. Blogging is a more informal method of writing but I don't think that should translate to long ramblings of internal monologue. I think the best blogging is done with short posts meant to convey a particular thought or idea. If that means you have something to say every day, so be it. However, I don't think you do your readers any favors by writing every day if those posts aren't well-written or coherent. My attitude is that I want readers to be excited when they see there is a new post.
I only write when I am moved to; I only write when I feel I have something to say. I do not work on a schedule and I don't publish a post unless I feel it’s saying something that is worth the reader's time.