Local Artist Spotlight: Erik Jon Slangerup
Erik Jon Slangerup has been writing children’s books as a side gig for nearly two years. His first book, “Dirty Boy,” came out in 2000. Since then he has published others, and more recently developed an app that has been nominated for a Webby Award.
Slangerup first thought about developing an app a few years ago, when his daughter was just a few years old. He’s on his second time around with having young children, he says; he was a dad before the internet and smartphones. But raising young children now has a different set of challenges.
“You get distracted all the time with emails or messages or social media, and you’re always reaching for your phone. Even at home, there’s job creeps. I see it happen all the time, and kind of at the expense of their children.”
Slangerup says what he was most looking for with the app, called StorySnacker (stories on the app are short, one-minute reads he calls “snacks”), was a way to equip parents with technology to support their parenting, instead of it getting in the way. The stories are pretty simple, with topics ranging from pirates to monsters and robots. The key to the app is that each story is 160 words and designed to be read during the “in-between times.”
“That’s kind of what our day is made up of these days. They’re made up of spare minutes,” says Slangerup. “If we’re standing in line at the grocery store or whatever it might be, you actually have that as a resource to create a moment with your child, versus isolating the child.”
Slangerup authors and illustrates each story digitally, which is a fun adjustment for him he says. Co-creators Adam Bergman and Zach Overholser handle the development and digital design of the app, respectively.
The app has always been a passion for the three, says Slangerup, and was never meant to be a lucrative venture. They’ve even changed the pricing, so that all of the 50 or so stories on StorySnacker can be read for just 99 cents.
“It has been something we have just done for the joy of the stories,” Slangerup says. “It’s something we wanted to make for ourselves as parents. We wanted it to exist out there, and our kids love it.”
When the creators of StorySnacker learned of their Webby nomination — an award presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to individuals and organizations representing the “best of the internet” — Slangerup says it was more than what they were expecting. The app is nominated with four other apps in the Family and Kids category, including giant names like Nickelodeon and Dr. Suess. Still, StorySnacker managed to hold a spot in second place during the People’s Choice voting period.
“And I’m thinking because we’ve had a lot of Columbus support, that we’ve already had enough support to keep us like in a strong second place up until now,” he says. “I’ve been kind of banging the drum just for all my friends and family and people that I know to say, hey, if you could cast a vote for StorySnacker, ’cause we actually have a shot.”
StorySnacker itself is not meant to replace traditional story time, but to make the in-between times more meaningful. If you literally have just one minute, Slangerup says, instead of pulling out their phones to check their email, parents can squeeze in storytime.
“This is not meant to take the place of traditional storytime. I’m a huge fan of that and you really can’t replace that,” he says. “It’s the snacks in between a healthy diet, like full-stop, meal-size stories.”
For more information on Erik Jon Slangerup and StorySnacker, visit storysnacker.com.