The ubiquity of social media has transformed how we live and interact — how we date, how we work, how we parent. Used effectively, it is a means to forge connections and foster a dialogue.
One of the 10 most visited websites on the Internet, Twitter is a virtual thought forum, where more than 500 million users can share their random thoughts, news, photos and links with their followers (as long as they do it within the confines of 140 characters).
While a majority of the tweets floating around in cyberspace may be minutia, some serious sifting through the site can yield real comedic gold.
Writer Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and illustrator/web developer Jessica Ziegler have created two anthologies of tweets that perfectly illustrate the comedic and connective potential of Twitter. Their focus – hilariously astute tweets from parents. Dworkin-McDaniel and Ziegler compiled The Big Book of Parenting Tweets (2014) and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets (2015).
Dworkin-McDaniel (whose work has appeared in Redbook, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping and Food & Wine) and Ziegler (whose illustrations have been featured in The Hartford Advocate, Las Vegas Life Magazine,and Las Vegas Weekly) teamed up to create the illustrated humor/parenting blog, the Science of Parenthood, in 2013. The two had been friends for over a decade when Dworkin-McDaniel approached Ziegler with an idea for a parenting book with illustrations and playful scientific observations.
“I knew [Jessica] to be funny and talented,” Dworkin-McDaniel said. “So, when I came up with the idea initially for a book called Science of Parenthood, she said, ‘I think it’s much bigger than a book.’”
Ziegler, having worked in web design and development since 1999, saw the potential to build the Science of Parenthood into a brand with the support of an online community.
“I’d watched the birth of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, etc., and I immediately thought about the graphics and cartoons that were being shared frequently on Facebook and shortly-there-after on Twitter,” Ziegler said. “It seemed like a natural way to reach a lot of people very quickly, and it has been, absolutely. At that point I didn’t realize how imperative having a social presence was becoming for authors of any genre, but it is absolutely necessary these days.”
The blog was a catalyst for The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets. A novel based on the site, Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, will be published in Nov. 2015, and will feature the duo’s trademark blend of illustrative, parent humor with a scientific spin. The book will be the third they have published in twelve months.
With the help of editor Kate Hall, Dworkin-McDaniel and Ziegler put The Big Book of Parenting Tweets together in only four weeks. According to Dworkin-McDaniel, each of the women’s specific skill sets ensured that they produce a high-quality compilation in a very short period of time.
“I have a lot of editing and magazine experience, Jessica knows how to put together a book very quickly, she knows the fundamentals of how you paginate, and she’s got the illustration skills,” Dworkin-McDaniel said. “We brought in Kate and, being so familiar with Twitter, she immediately sent out queries to a bunch of people she was familiar with.”
For the first book, they hand-picked people whose work they were familiar with, and asked that they send their 20 best tweets (with many of them sending around 50). They then conducted a blind vote to select their favorites, the one criteria being that it make them laugh out loud. Over 300 tweets made the cut, accompanied by 30 illustrations.
Due to the massive success of the first book, people were clamoring to be featured in its sequel. This time, they sent out an open call and voted on over 2,500 tweets.
“We all have a good sense of what makes us laugh, and we’re well trained in the parenting part of the blogosphere, so we know what’s original,” Dworkin-McDaniel said. “We figured that if it made us laugh — and we read this stuff every day — then it would probably amuse parents.”
She added that the ability to amuse via Twitter is a uniquely difficult task.
“Twitter is phenomenal for comedy because you only have 140 characters, so you really have to work that joke,” Dworkin-McDaniel said.
Ziegler’s illustrations epitomize the charm, whimsy and wit of the Science of Parenthood brand. According to Ziegler and Dworkin-McDaniel, the aim of the blog and books is to allow parents to feel less alone in their journey – to find a moment of relief in laughter.
“Parents always say they have no time for anything after having kids, and it feels like it’s become true for everyone else, as well,” Ziegler said. “Cartoons live right in that space — catch my eye, make me laugh, send me on my way. The other part is that we are able to add humor visually in ways that would take too long to explain in text — you can get to the joke much faster or even add another layer to a joke.”
Dworkin-McDaniel said that her writing has always mirrored her personal life journey. She said she has always found solace and catharsis in seeing the humor in every situation. As a writer and mother, she hopes that The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets provide that comfort for other parents.
“Parenting can be very isolating. If it’s your first run at it, you really don’t know if what you’re doing is right,” Dworkin-McDaniel said. “Parenting is second guessing everything you're doing, feeling that you’re doing it badly. The comedians we invited to be in our book are regular people on Twitter. They are going through the same stuff, and their mode of coping is to make it funny.”
Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler will sign copies of The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets at Learning Express Toys at West Shore Plaza on Sunday at 1 p.m.