Going Green with Author, Shannon Brescher Shea – Career Sweet Spot Q&A
I’m so excited to introduce you to Shannon Brescher Shea, science writer, author, and mom of two! We’ve met so many great entrepreneurs, humorists, and writers through the Career Sweet Spot Q&A series, and Shannon is a perfect addition to the lineup.
If you’ve ever thought about writing a book, how to raise kind children, or how to take care of the environment, Shannon is going to cover all of those things. I’ve learned so much from Shannon since I met her through our writing careers and now you get to too! Hooray!
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Meet Shannon Brescher Shea
Becca: For those who haven’t met you (yet!) can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you’re doing now, and how you go there?
Shannon: I’m Shannon Brescher Shea, a parenting, environmental and science writer. My two kids are three and six years old and give me and my husband a run for our money. I live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with them and my husband, who is a stay-at-home dad. We spend a lot of time mucking around outdoors in our garden, local parks, and neighborhood.
I write the blog We’ll Eat You Up, We Love You So, named after the Wild Thing’s line in the book Where the Wild Things Are. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter. In my day job, I’m a science writer for the federal government.
Growing Sustainable Together
Becca: Your book is in the works and I can’t wait to read it! What can you tell us about it?
Shannon: Yes! It’s called Growing Sustainable Together and it’s coming out June 2020 with North Atlantic Books. It’s a parenting advice book about how to use environmental activities to raise kids to be kind, engaged, and resilient world citizens. From walking places for transportation to climate change activism, it shows how these activities build relationships, teach consideration for others, and help kids learn essential life skills.
In addition to advice from both experts and the social science literature, each chapter has practical tips and resources for more information.
So You Want To Write a Book
Becca: What has been the most challenging part about writing a book. The most rewarding?
Shannon: The most challenging part was the short timeline. I was offered my book deal in April, with one caveat – that it had to be done by November. As I have a full-time day job and am raising two kids, this was absurdly fast. But when else does this sort of opportunity land in your lap?
So I walked into my boss’s office, said “I was just offered a book deal!” and we discussed how that would affect my work schedule. He knew I was shopping around a proposal and was nothing but supportive. I ended up maxing out all of my annual leave and taking one day unpaid. The rest of the work I crammed into a lot of long nights sitting at the computer. It helped immensely that I’m a fast writer and had a very structured approach. I always felt like I was moving forward.
The most rewarding part is a cross between fulfilling a lifelong dream – I’ve wanted to write a book since first grade – and knowing that the book is on a subject I’m extremely passionate about.
Climate change activism / advocacy is truly one of my core passions and it’s so important to me that this book has the potential to truly make a difference. Plus, the cross of parenting, environmental sustainability, expert advice, and drawing from the academic literature is truly something that I feel like I can uniquely write.
Choose to Be Kind
Becca: A big focus of your blog is kindness, which my word the world needs more of! How do you teach your kids to be kind and what tips do you have for other parents?
Shannon: I had a lot of ideas about what teaching kindness looked like before starting the book, but I feel like much more of an expert now! The research shows there are three main approaches in parenting that teach kindness.
The first is having an “authoritative” parenting style, which is loving and warm but holds high standards for moral behavior. You love your kids dearly, but you don’t let them do whatever they want.
The second is having a democratic household, where you talk through why you make the decisions you do, involve kids in making decisions, and discuss ethical issues.
The third is teaching kids the emotional regulation skills to be able to act in a kind way. Even if a kid wants to be kind but they don’t have the self-control not to lash out in anger or the resilience to tackle hard conversations, they’re not going to be able to follow through.
There are other aspects as well – such as establishing relationships with people in your community and doing household chores – but they all relate to those main three. My book covers how a lot of different environmental activities, from gardening to volunteering outdoors, relate to those three core ideas.
Becca: What recommendations do you have for raising “green” kids who care about the environment and preserving our planet for the next generation?
Shannon: Involve your children in sustainability activities, such as saving energy or riding the bus, and talk about why you’re doing those actions. That helps them realize their individual impact as well as opens the door for conversations about the larger issues. My six-year-old has definitely noticed that roads are not made to favor bicyclists, which leads to a conversation about the policies that led to cars being so dominant.
Also, don’t be afraid to talk about and participate in policy with your kids. Teaching your children to advocate for policies that they want to see happen – whether that’s by calling a Congressperson, speaking at a City Council meeting, or going to a march – is part of teaching them to be an engaged citizen.
Finding the Time
Becca: By day, science writer for the federal government. By night blogger. And by well, always, mom! How do you integrate all the different parts of your life? (Not balance, balance isn’t real.)
Shannon: Ha! Not getting nearly enough sleep, mainly.
Part of it is making the most of weird little times. I sleep and write on the subway to and from work, so I take advantage of my long commute. I check email in the car when my husband is driving.
A big part of it is that my husband and I share household responsibilities in a very fair way. He takes on all of the tasks associated with certain things (like my son’s preschool) and we have a family meeting every Sunday where we talk about the events of the week.
The last is assigning certain activities to certain nights. Before I started writing the book, I’d work on the blog on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays, do yoga on Tuesdays, and relax with my husband on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Having those nights set aside for not working meant that I didn’t have work bleed into them. I needed every single night for book writing, but I’m trying to get back into that rhythm again now that it’s done.
Shannon’s Career Sweet Spot
Becca: How have you found your career sweet spot (the overlap between your strengths, passions, and value to others) in your career as a science writer and author?
Shannon: I always tell people that I’m doing basically what I wanted to do in third grade.
In third grade, I fell in love with manatees and decided I wanted to be a marine biologist. However, I already wanted to be a writer. So I settled on being a marine biologist in the summer and famous novelist in the winter.
While I never did become a marine biologist, I do write about all sorts of science and environmental issues, so it’s about as close as you can get. From a strength point of view, the combination of being a strong writer and being able to make sense of a wide variety of scientific papers is pretty unique.
The Write Stuff
Becca: What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever written for We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So or another website and why?
Shannon: My favorite piece of writing overall is my book, but that’s not available yet! Probably the closest is my Washington Post article How Gardening Can Help Build Happier, Healthier Kids. Writing that set a lot of ideas for my book in motion and is the clearest combination of parenting and my love for the environment so far.
In terms of essays that are only on my website and are simply sentimental, I adore Love, Lullabies, and Watching Your Baby Grow Up. It’s about my younger son telling me not to sing to him anymore and still gives me the sniffles.
Becca: I know you also have a funny bone! Do you have a favorite meme or tweet that you’d like to share?
Shannon: The single meme I’ve ever had that’s gone viral is this one:
It says: “It seems unfair that the people who want to go to bed instead have to put the people to bed who don’t want to go to bed.”
I think most parents can relate to kids not being tired when you are!
Shannon’s Parenting Advice
Becca: Any last pieces of parental wisdom you’d like to drop on us? I always like to share that my go-to piece of advice is “none of us know what we’re doing” so the bar is quite low on this.
Shannon: Model what you want to teach your kids. While most kids are pretty bad at listening to us, they totally see what we do. If we want to teach respect, we have to show them respect by our behavior both towards them and others.
Well, how ’bout that right!?
Shannon Brescher Shea is a gold mine of information and I’m thrilled that she is going to be spreading her knowledge across the country (nay, the world!), with her new book Growing Sustainable Together, available wherever books are sold in June 2020.
In the meantime, be sure to check out Shannon’s website!
With a super inspired heart,
Read More Career Sweet Spot Q&A:
Candace Aljani of The Mom at Law
Rachel Sobel of Whine and Cheeze-Its
Lyndsay McNiff of Lyndsay Hannah Photography
Arielle Greenleaf of Expect to Sleep Again Sleep Consultants