Author Megan Rubiner Zinn isn’t your average mom. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan surrounded by her clever, loud, and funny family, Megan was destined for a life as a humorist. Her sharp wit has taken her further than she ever dreamed—and eventually to Knock Knock’s door with her hilariously atypical baby book, Our Precious Pooper.
Megan is a woman of many literal hats—really, she’s written for The New York Times and Jezebel, does copywriting and editing for University of Massachusetts Amherst, marketing and publicity for a local children’s theater company, writes features for college alumni publications, and brings the “lols” with her Twitter feed @HistoryOnWry, sharing a daily funny tidbit about something that happened on that day in history. She now dwells in Northampton, Massachusetts and balances her work life with the rewarding experience of raising her own two precious poopers, Charlie and Theo.
Q. What’s a funny moment or story from when you were a new parent?
A. This is more of an early toddler story. My younger son, Theo, loved to go to sleep in his crib with several board books. After he fell asleep, I’d come in and take them all out so he could sleep more comfortably. One night, as I was removing the books, he stood up and started crying/screaming. I put all the books back in the crib and he immediately stopped crying, lay down, and went to sleep. I never took them out again.
Q. What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever been given? And who gave that advice to you?
A. Keep your mouth closed when changing a boy’s diaper. This came from my mother.
Q. What inspired you to become a freelance writer? Any tips for other aspiring freelance writers?
A. I’m not sure anyone plans to grow up to become a freelance writer. More often, it just sort of happens, when you run screaming from a job, or get fired, or become a parent. Before my first son was born, I was the publicist at a small record label. The only part of the job I really liked was the writing, so once my son was born and I wasn’t at my job, I began putting out feelers and got writing jobs here or there through friends and acquaintances. The first two were writing catalogue copy for a scholarly publisher and writing marketing materials for UMass Amherst. As I’ve built up a clientele, it’s been almost entirely word of mouth.
Once I was on Facebook, I very explicitly presented myself as funny and writerly and made a lot of connections among the world of writers. Almost all of my current freelance work comes from connections I made on Facebook (including my Knock Knock work).
To become a freelance writer, I think it helps to have put in time at 9-5 jobs, so you start with good contacts. From there it’s network, network, network, in person and via social media. Make sure people know you’re a writer. If you don’t have a lot of writing samples or contacts, do pro bono work for non-profit/community organizations you care about. Avoid doing free work for “exposure” for for-profit companies. This ends up hurting all writers.
Q. What are your hobbies outside of writing?
A. Do parents have hobbies? Is socializing a hobby? Is social media a hobby? Reading (history, memoir, fiction, and yeah, I’ll say it, romance novels), the New York Times crossword puzzle, and cooking.
Q. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three books would you wish magically appeared on said deserted island?
A. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), How to Survive on a Deserted Island (a book I’ve made up but I hope exists), The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
Q. What is a random fact no one necessarily knows about you?
A. I have normal-sized feet, but ridiculously adorable tiny toes. I’ve never been to Florida, but I did spend a week in Iceland when I was 9. I can name all 50 states, in alphabetical order, in under 20 seconds. I do a decent Springsteen impression, but only singing “Thunder Road.”
Q. Favorite Knock Knock product (besides Our Precious Pooper, of course!) and why?
A. Inconsequential Dilemmas and Consequential Dilemmas, and not just because I’m one of the writers on them. I love flow charts in general and these are so much fun. I also love the graphic design work, which must have been hard as heck to pull off.
Q. What are 3 things on your bucket list right now?
A. 1) Getting something funny published in McSweeney’s or The New Yorker. My Twitter feed @HistoryOnWry going viral. Going on Ellen to talk about Our Precious Pooper.