Meet the Queen of Mammalingo

mammalingo logo on maybrooks for working momsWHO SHE IS: Writer, blogger (Mammalingo), PR and marketing. Former backup dancer for Madonna. Okay, only the first part of this answer is true, but the second part SHOULD HAVE BEEN true.

SUCCESS STORY:  Published in Huffington Post, Motherlode, Chicago Tribune, and Babble (And per Melissa’s blog, she’s also featured “on the walls of various public bathrooms all over this beautiful country.”)

melissa sher headshot on for working moms

WORK SCHEDULE: Flexible. I don’t know if there’s an acronym for a part-time working mom. There should be. There are a lot of us. I’m not a SAHM. But I’m not a WOHM either. Maybe a MWWFHPT (Mom Who Works From Home Part Time). Yes, that’s it. I’m a MWWFHPT. That’s super catchy, right? I should probably trademark it. Please don’t steal it from me. 

KID(S) & AGE(S): Three boys, ages 7, 5 and 2

SANITY VICE: I think answering this might imply that I am sane, and I don’t know if that’s true. I do drink a disgusting amount of coffee on some days. If Starbucks offered college scholarships of some sort, my kids would be shoo-ins.

From television publicity to “The Weiner’s Circle” to “words that should be in the dictionary but aren’t” (in her own words)

My first jobs after college were in television publicity. I worked at Nickelodeon and then, eventually, became a publicity supervisor for Warner Bros. Television, which included handling PR for “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and “People’s Court.” I left television in 1999 because I was interested in what was happening online. My first dot-com client was launching PR for, which was a terrific success story. (Fun fact: the founder and first president of Tumblr both came from UrbanBaby.) I also, later, ended up doing nonprofit marketing as well as crisis communications.

Then, in 2005, I had my first son, and I left the nonprofit where I was working. When he was about a year old, I just had this tremendous urge to write. I remember one of the first stories I wanted to tell. There was a late-night hot-dog stand in Chicago called “The Weiner’s Circle.” It was a pretty infamous place locally but not a lot had been written about it at the time. I called several times and got hung up on and so I just drove there one night and stayed until closing at 5 a.m. I sent the story  to the Chicago Tribune, and they ran it. That led to freelancing.

Then, I started writing first-person essays, and, eventually, blogging. I was fairly late to blogging, in my opinion; I launched my blog in April 2010. When I started, I was making up words related to parenting that I would say “should be in the dictionary but aren’t.” It’s why I named the blog, Mammalingo. After a while, I got tired of that format and just started writing whatever was on my mind. My greatest exposure currently is the Huffington Post. I feel grateful to have my work published there. And, even though it’s not something that you can see, I work behind-the-scenes helping out with marketing and public relations for Daddies Board Shop, a longboard/snowboard company that my husband runs. Please go buy something there right now.

Maybrooks Q&A: How She Does It, Tips on Blogging, and More

MB: You’ve got three boys. When on earth do you write, and how are you able to be so funny?
First, thank you. That’s nice of you to say. I’ll send you flowers for that one. I write primarily during naps and at night. I’ll also get sitters when necessary to work on longer projects. It feels really good to sit down with my laptop and type. I write because I like doing it. When I first started freelance writing (after close to a decade working in PR) as I mentioned before, I wrote human-interest stories for the Chicago Tribune. The problem was that I was paying my babysitters close to what I made for a story. So… I started writing first-person essays. I didn’t need to pay anyone to watch the kids while I conducted interviews or did research. And the first-person essays slowly transitioned into blogging. And then the blogging transitioned back into first-person essays for other outlets. I still write the occasional human-interest story though.

MB: How did you turn your blog into a writing career that pays?
MS: I actually was writing before I started my blog, and the part of my career that pays me the least is the blogging. I do blog for exposure and to have an “online presence.” I have a lot of friends who are writers who took time off when they had kids and, for those who want to get back into it, I often recommend starting a blog. I think it really keeps you on your toes as a writer and gets you familiar with social media, which is important these days for journalists or PR and marketing folks.

MB: What advice do you have for someone who is blogging on how to get picked up by a larger entity for more exposure?
MS: This is just a guess, but I think the reason more bloggers don’t approach publications/websites with story pitches or spec pieces is because they have a fear of rejection. Don’t let that stop you. Chances are that you will be rejected or maybe not have your email read at all. Keep trying. Most people get rejected (or ignored) most of the time – at least I do, so I’m going to make myself feel better and assume it’s not just me. And don’t just try once and then give up. There are so many more places to be published now than ever before. Make a list of the publications you like and just go for it.

MB: What’s the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?
There should be more coverage about the challenges of workplace re-entry, wherever your workplace is (and that can be a laptop in the basement.) I think you guys – Maybrooks – are actually doing great work in this area, such as the Return-To-Work Toolkit on your site.

MB: What advice do you live by as a working mom?
This is advice for all moms. Don’t be so hard on yourself. My parents have tried to give me this advice forever. I have a tendency – as I think most parents do – to worry too much or think that maybe I’m not doing something the right way, or I regret that I didn’t spend enough time on Y but spent too much time on X. This list could go on and on. And then, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Do you love your kids? Are you doing the best you can? Has anyone contacted the authorities? If you can answer “yes,” “yes” and “no” then you’re probably doing just fine.


p.s. You can find Melissa on Twitter @thismelissasher

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