If you’re a dedicated reader of mommy blogs, you know Amber Dusick, creator of the too-too-funny blog Parenting. Illustrated With Crappy Pictures. The blog quickly inspired a book of the same name —
you can get your copy here! Amber stopped by to chat with us about how she became known for being so delightfully “crappy”!
Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, has been going strong since mid 2011. How were you bitten by the blogging bug?
I’m not sure I was bitten by the blogging bug. I think the bug flew in my mouth. I started my first website in 2004 when I was planning my wedding. It was a wedding crafts blog, and eventually I was able to replace my income and quit my job as a graphic designer in the music industry. Over the years I’ve run a network of craft sites, and that is still my current “job” that pays the bills. Crappy Pictures sprang from two posts I illustrated on my personal blog just for fun. I never intended to start a crappy pictures blog, but the second post went viral so I ran with it and started a dedicated illustrated site.
Were you always, or did you always want to be a writer and or artist?
I’ve always been an artist. I have a pottery wheel and a kiln in my garage. I have a half-finished coffee table that I’m building out of wood. I ran a wooden toy business. I also sew and paint and draw, and I used to have a silver jewelry business. I have a degree in art, blah blah blah. I’m always creating; it keeps me sane. I’ve always written too, but never considered myself a “writer.” I’ve kept regular journals since third grade ,and journal writing is a whole lot like blogging. It was a natural evolution.
How did you settle on your illustration style?
It was a joke! I was up late at night and nursing my baby with my laptop next to me. I was using my finger on the trackpad of my laptop in photoshop, which is really difficult, so the pictures were hilariously crappy. I knew my current readers (who were used to posts about my wooden toys and sewing projects) would think it was silly and funny. Little did I know that it would go crazy viral, and I’d be forever known as a crappy artist. Oops. I mean, Yay!
You have a lot of comments even on early posts. Did you already have an audience going into this, or did those comments come later as your audience grew and started back tracking through older posts? How did people find you in the beginning?
When my second ever post went viral, hundreds of thousands of people viewed it over a couple days. I have no idea how that happened or who shared it that made that chain of events happen. It must have been one of the 20-50 people who read my personal blog. I didn’t have a large following at all. From there it grew fast, and people began commenting on my first post (which originally only had 15 comments).
Do your kids ever get curious about what you’re writing or drawing? Do they try to give you ideas?
I don’t write or draw around them. That mostly happens after they go to bed. But they’ve seen some of the stories. I’ve read them the Good Stuff chapter in the book, and they love it, they laugh their butts off. They don’t give me ideas intentionally.
You already chose to use the pseudonyms Crappy Boy and Crappy Baby in place of your family’s real names. Have you ever heard any backlash from “Crappy Family,” especially Crappy Boy on being called, well, crappy?
Surprisingly, no. People understand that it is referring to the crappy quality of the pictures, not the people. And my own kids just think it is hilarious. Crappy Boy introduced himself to strangers as “Hi, I’m Crappy Boy!” at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last weekend.
What’s your favorite part of writing and blogging about your family?
How cathartic it can be. Also that I see frustrating situations differently now. I see humor in so much more than I did before.
Your brand-spanking new book, Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, just came out in March, 2013. How did this book come together for you? How do you decide which essays you’ll post on your blog and which you save so they’re brand new for the book?
I got an agent, wrote a proposal and then crossed my fingers. Unfortunately, had I known a book was in my future there are many stories I would have saved for the book. But then again I had to continue to write good content for the blog to keep my readers there. It was really difficult deciding which things to share and save. If it were up to me I would have put tons more stories in the book, but then it would have wound up being a thousand pages and too expensive.
I think most people are really surprised at how long it takes to write a book and go through the publishing process, especially when they see bloggers producing content on a weekly or even daily basis. How did you find the editorial process of creating a book , dealing with input from so many different directions – editors and art directors, compared to simply sitting down, writing your own stories and being your own editor? Did the process change how you approach your blog writing?
The whole process took over a year. The actual writing of content part took me just over six months and then the rest was editing and layout. I really lucked out with my editor though, she understood my writing style and didn’t need to change much. Most of the editing was shortening and deleting stuff so it would all fit. And minor things like tense and fixing typos.I don’t think it affected my blog writing at all. I’m sure I have just as many typos as I always did.
Do you have a favorite story in the book? Have you been surprised by which stories are getting the most feedback from readers?
My favorite story is the road trip story because I still laugh when I think about it. I knew that one would be a reader favorite too because almost every family has had to go on a car trip … and they’re just so classically awful.
Who are your writing/humor role models? Besides your family, who inspired you to put pen to paper … or finger to trackpad?
One of my favorite authors is Douglas Adams. And I love Kurt Vonnegut. I also love British comedy.
There seems to be a contingent of people who love to blast mom bloggers for “complaining about their kids all the time.” Do you find that you get any of that sort of backlash on your site? What do you say to people like that who clearly cannot recognize (or take) a joke?
I haven’t gotten that much because my site isn’t very negative or full of complaints. Sure, I get frustrated and post an exasperated “my kids are killing me!” type post once a month or so, but the rest is balanced out with other types of stories. It is clear that I actually love being a parent.
When a single post or image is taken out of context though, like when my images were on MSN and AOL’s homepage a few weeks ago, yes those types of comments flooded in. I don’t engage them. It’s not worth my time explaining myself to someone. Not everyone will relate. No big deal.