Q & A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Shannan Younger of Tween Us

Q & A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Shannan Younger of Tween Us
I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to interview the talented Shannan Younger of the parenting blog Tween Us as well as the brand-new blog Mom Factually.

She not only shared many practical pieces of advice, but left me inspired as both a parent and a blogger, which is one of the things I love about this community at ChicagoNow and blogging in general. Thank you to Shannan for sharing her words of wisdom!

On her favorite blogs to read
"I really like the ChicagoNow homepage. Maybe I'm biased, but there are amazing writers in this community. It's also a wide breadth of topics and viewpoints."

Other tween/teen blogs she likes
My Crazy Good Life, Club Chica Circle (a tween craft blog), and Ooph

Her advice for new bloggers
"Be patient and enjoy it. There's a steep learning curve aside from the writing - the technology, the promotion, there's a ton to learn, but you don't have to learn it all at once. And don't panic when readership is low to start. It's okay. To paraphrase Kevin Costner, if you write it, they will come. Well, actually, if you write it and promote it, it will come. It may take time. And if there's a post you love that doesn't give a ton of attention, you can always share later when you have built an audience."

On balancing motherhood, work, blogging, and time for herself
"I just asked my kid and she said, 'Very carefully.' My husband said, 'Very well.' I think they are both wrong. It's a constant struggle. I love the balance beam analogy to work/life balance - you're constantly shifting and wobbling."

On balancing writing, marketing, brainstorming, and all the other different aspects of running her blogs
"It often depends on the post, but writing and marketing get the most attention. I do believe content is king. If what you're sharing isn't great, it's never going to take off, no matter how much you promote."

On generating content and getting it out there
"Saying 'content is king' sounds like a lot of pressure. But they can't all be gems... Lists are big for me. People like them, they're digestable, and they're very easy to write. I try to keep my posts between 300-700 words, not super long. You can write a lot when you're writing short posts. And for some reason, odd-numbered lists do better than even-numbered ones."

On keeping to a schedule or waiting for inspiration to strike
"Somewhere in between... I try to plan it out in advance a month and try to post at least two times a week to Tween Us. Sometimes I google tween and see what comes up. There's always something in the news to talk about. Technology posts are happy and plentiful -- there's always going to be a bad app!"

On her post on Shaun White going viral
"I wrote it in under an hour, sitting on my couch... Surprisingly a lot of people don't like Shaun White. Some people thought I was being sexist because I said something about being a 'female couch potato.' I wasn't talking about all women. I was talking about myself, sitting on the couch!"

On being a "no-drama blogger" and dealing with mean comments
"I try to be a no-drama blogger, but you never know how people will react. I wrote a post about a 10-year old being kidnapped and how I drive my daughter to school. People called me overprotective, said it was a selfish choice, that I was not fit to parent...I try not to interact,  try not to respond to those comments and just say, 'Thanks for reading.' I've learned to stop commenting and trying to defend myself. Another good thing is to wait before you comment. Sometimes other readers will step in and take care of you and say exactly what you want to!"

On competitiveness and blogs dealing with the same topics
"I try to keep to the saying 'when you light another candle, it doesn't make your candle any darker.' I know Julie DiCaro used to say this all the time --'Generosity is currency on the Internet'--I think remembering that takes away any kind of competitiveness. I try to promote other bloggers and the work they're doing. People are always going to read good content. Things tend to go in cycles, and you never know who's going to be popular."

On using google analytics
"I use it to know what posts are doing well. If traffic is dropping, I might do a tech post. It helps me see who's sharing, and I can thank them and build relationships. It's weird and fun to see where you're stuff ends up. I wrote a post about how Justin Bieber went to the Anne Frank Museum, and I saw that I was getting hits from London. I saw the link to BBC and that they were quoting me in an article. It helps you be aware of what happens to your posts."

On setting herself apart from all the blogs out there
"Uh.....  I'm not exactly reinventing the wheel, but I do feel there is less written for tween parents than for toddlers. And what is true for tweens is often good advice for adults at any age, too."

On engaging her readers and building community
"Facebook is big for that. I like asking questions of my readers. I do not know it all and learn so much from them."

Her daughter's reaction to posting personal information and photos of her online
Shannan has already thought this one through, and in fact she's already written a post about it.

More on protecting your child's online privacy:
"I posted one picture of my daughter early on. It was of her playing tennis. Did you know you can do reverse picture searches on google? You can find the web address of your photo and see where the photos have been used. Maybe it's because I was a criminal prosecutor and handled appeals, but I don't think it's safe. I want to be mindful of my daughter's digital footprint and not post every picture. When they're little, they're pretty oblivious. But kids should know if they share something it gets out of their control... I don't want her to worry about how many likes she got on a picture. I know some other bloggers put hearts over their kids' faces or stop posting pictures at a certain age. I have a lot of pictures of the back of my daughter's head! The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act states that you have to be 13 to have a social media account, so I keep to those rules for my daughter. The Internet is a crazy world. We don't give them keys and send them off."

The scoop on her new Mom Factually blog
"It has a broader focus, and it's not just about tweens, and more things not related to parenting. I include recipes and a section on Disney, which opens it up to sponsored posts and giveaways. We did just go to Disney World. I did a lot of research, of course. But my favorite parts were the moments that were surprises....We also waited about two hours to meet the Frozen princesses. They are now in the Magic Kingdom and you can get a Fast Pass, but they were in a different location in Epcot when we were there."

On her family's plans for the summer
"We have a month of lots of mini-camps for my daughter: culinary camp, dance camp, the school district's summer band program is an hour/day for a month, park district tennis lessons. She's also going to sleep away camp for the first time - she'll be gone for a week. And we have lots of family time planned."

On balance and not over-scheduling her tween:
"The older she gets the more I let her choose her activities.  I really try to emphasize being well-rounded. I think it's important for her to have a sport she can play. She dances and plays instruments, too. I try to  define things within certain genres and try not to over-schedule. There are a  lot of amazing opportunities. I was interviewing a middle school principal about the 'summer slide,' and he kept talking about the importance of not over-scheduling and how downtime is important, the intrinsic value of unstructured playtime and the educational benefits of it."

On the books she's reading
"The Invention of Wings and One and Only are waiting for me on my nightstand."

And last but not least, the story behind how she began blogging
"I had just moved to the suburbs, and a friend had a cocktail party where people were talking about the show Long Island Medium. Some of the people at the party had experience with psychics. So we had another party where we invited a psychic. I was skeptical, but he was very good. He told me, 'I really see you doing something that you always wanted to do as a child.' I had always wanted to be a writer, and my friend Tracy who was blogging for ChicagoNow at Plight of the Subarbanite at the time (Tracy now blogs at It Builds Character), asked if I wanted to write a couple blogs for her site....It surprised me how much I enjoyed blogging. I felt like ChicagoNow was a family...Tween Us began two years ago in May."

Currently Shannan is pursuing her writing full-time, blogging for Tween Us and Mom Factually, and freelance writing for Chicago Parent and Make It Better. Thank you again, Shannan for taking the time to share your blogging and parenting insights!

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Filed under: Blogging, General Parenting

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