‘Chicago mom’ is a term synonymous with Amanda Simkin. When I was freelancing for parenting websites, our paths kept crossing in such unique ways that by the time we officially met I thought, “Wait- how have we not been friends for years?!” Good news, we are friends, and I glean inspiration from this mama-of-two everyday- her luminous smile, candor, and entrepreneurial spirit make for a high-five-worthy convo.
Amanda’s writing went viral when she wrote a blog post about the best Christmas lights in the Chicago area. She swiftly crafted her blog into a full-blown business that helps guide parents and families, while celebrating all things Midwest.
So let’s dig in.
(1) What do you write and what are you reading?
I write mom-focused content for my blog, Queen of the Land of Twigs ‘N Berries, and for other family-focused websites and magazines. Some days my articles feature recipes that my kids happily gobble up while other days they share tips for visiting new museum exhibits. I try to vary my content so that it appeals to moms of all ages, both in the city and suburbs of Chicago.
Since my mind is typically so wrapped up in informative articles, I tend to read fiction in order to give my brain a break and get lots in character development and plot twists. I also receive many books from publishers hoping for a blog post or social media review so I have a wealth of titles to choose from. The current standout is “The Joy of Missing Out” by Tonya Dalton and an oldie (but goodie) that I just leafed through for inspiration is “Well Played” by Meredith Sinclair.
(2) Were you always a writer?
I was—creating books as a kid and then encouraging classrooms full of students to write as an English teacher and Reading Specialist. Only once I transitioned out of the classroom did I become a full-time writer. I honestly can’t imagine what life would be like without writing—it is a part of my daily life that I never want to give up.
(3) Best perk about your job?
All of the cool and unique opportunities my family gets to experience. We were able to sleep with Nickel, a 100 pound sea turtle at the Shedd Aquarium as part of their “Asleep with the Fishes” program and I am constantly meeting new and talented people like car seat experts—and Lady Gaga’s mom! I love that my job introduces me to so many different people and situations I may not otherwise learn about.
(4) What do you wish people knew about the blogging industry?
Recently I found out that some moms were criticizing my blog and social media in a local moms group and my goodness did it STING. Many of us bloggers tend to get a bad rap because, as many of the participants in that forum pointed out—ANYONE can be a blogger. It’s true. And anyone can take an Instagram photo. But that isn’t all that I do. I craft engaging, insightful content all while being authentic and building a relationship with over 25,000 Chicagoland moms (and some dads). It is hard work and I wish more people appreciated it instead of criticizing content that they don’t agree with.
(5) Who do you love and how does that sneak into your writing?
I love my kids and husband fiercely and they are a major part of my writing. My most recent piece about “Sports Sideline Etiquette for Parents?” It was inspired by my soccer-loving husband (I promise he isn’t the one who needed a manners refresher). My trials and tribulations as a mom show up often on my social media accounts, but I will be integrating more editorial pieces on my blog in 2020.
(6) When were you most proud?
My proudest moment was happily also my eight-year-old’s proudest moment. Another mom texted me to thank him for being inclusive and always making her son feel welcomed and invited while playing at school. That text assured me that maybe, just MAYBE, I might know a thing or two about this parenting gig.
(7) It’s a tradition in this series to talk about sex (more specifically, writing about it). What can you share?
It’s funny that I have never written about sex yet one or two steamy nights (or mornings?) provided me with the content and inspiration to create Queen of the Land of Twigs ‘N Berries. All I know is that the “Twigs ‘N Berries” part of my name makes people blush so maybe it’s good that I haven’t written an article about sex tips just yet.
(8) What are the wildest, most impractical goals you have for yourself?
My wildest, most impractical goal would include being named the “Queen of Chicago.” With a crown and everything, obviously. But in all honesty, continuing to build my brand (I’ve already started an off-shoot of my blog—Queencation—that is travel focused) and creating a team of writers and savvy media loving moms in order to make an even stronger network of Chicagoland families is my ultimate goal. Oh, publishing my own book would be great, too.
(9) Biggest lesson you’ve learned as a writer?
Be unafraid. Write the critique, share the controversial opinion and write what is true in my heart—no matter what the “mom group” haters might say.
(10) Who are your mentors?
I’m sad to report that I don’t feel like I have any writing or blogging mentors. Working from home and in a competitive environment (why people clamor so much for a page view or “like” is beyond me) is very isolating so hopefully this article will help me find some inspiring mentors.
(11) Tell me a story about a story.
Well, people constantly ask me why I decided to create my blog. I did it to use my brain (being a SAHM can be very challenging and quite a change when you are used to being a school administrator) and participate in the Write 31 Days challenge many Octobers ago. I decided to focus on my content on free family-friendly activities for Chicagoland families because I was the first of my friends to have kids and instead of responding to the same questions via text over and over, I wanted one place to refer people to. But the thing is—I was TERRIFIED to share it with people. I shared it with my Write 31 Days group but not with friends—or even my husband—until the month was over. Why? I’m not sure. But after a popular post about Christmas light displays in the Chicagoland area the secret was out—and I haven’t looked back since.
A huge, Chicago-style deep-dish THANK YOU to Amanda for sharing bits of her writer life. May her story inspire you to write, read, or just get out with your kids to do something fun.
Read & Subscribe to her blog here
Peruse her beautiful Instagram (OMG the Halloween charcuterie board!)
Follow her on Twitter
***As part of this series, writers are asked to submit photos capturing who they are as well as a glimpse of his/her writer life.
***Know someone that would be a great fit for 11 Questions? Nominate them or yourself: KellyQBooks (@) gmail (dot) com