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  • Meet Our New Assistant Editor: Allie Smith

    The HerStories Project keeps expanding…. beyond what Stephanie and I can manage on our own! We reached out to get a little help.

    ???????????????????????????????We’re thrilled to announce that Allie Smith, freelance writer and contributor to Mothering Through the Darkness, has joined our team as Assistant Editor. She’ll be helping us out with the HerStories Voices column and with our blog tour and other promotional projects in anticipation of the book’s publication in November.

    If you’re not familiar with Allie, she blogs at The LatchKey Mom. (Read more of her bio on the new HerStories Project Editors and Team page!)

    Allie was also kind enough to answer a few questions.

    Jessica: How did you hear about the HerStories Project?

    Allie: The first blogger I became friends with was Nina Badzin. At the time I was writing book reviews for Chick Lit Central and trying to understand this thing called “Twitter.” The woman who runs the site suggested I check out Nina’s blog, because she had great tips for how to use Twitter. While there, I saw an essay about her “failed career as a novelist,” which I loved. I started following her and read everything she wrote. She had an essay about friendship breaks published at The HerStories Project. I love reading about female friendships and I became a fan of the site.

    Jessica: What is your favorite type of writing — as a writer and as a reader?

    Allie: My favorite type of writing is nonfiction story telling. I like to write about my family and particularly about our travel adventures (we take huge road trips every summer). I think that’s where my voice comes through the best. I prefer to write about happy things, although my more serious or sad pieces seem to be more popular.

    As for reading, I’m all over the place. I love to read fiction with a happy ending. Not necessarily sappy happy endings, but I want to feel as though I’m leaving my new friends in a good place. I enjoy humorous pieces as well – fiction and nonfiction. Inspirational essays and memoirs – stories about people overcoming obstacles and living their lives the way they were meant to. I’m always reading whatever I can about slowing down the aging process and healthy living. Finally, I’m a shameless consumer of celebrity gossip – I visit People.com and TMZ frequently!

    Jessica: What are your goals for yourself as a writer?

    Allie: Once upon a time, I wanted to be the new Nora Roberts, but I’ve let that one go. My dream is to have a road trip memoir published, and perhaps an autism memoir as well.

    Jessica: Tell us a little about yourself (your family, your hobbies, background).

    Allie: I’m a married mother of four (ages 8-14), living in the suburbs of Atlanta. I’m a former CPA, with a B.A. in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Accounting. It took me a couple of years to realize that the corporate world of accounting didn’t make me happy. As a stay-at-home mom, I joined a writing group and took a few classes and wrote secretly in my office for years. For our first big summer road trip, I started a blog so family and friends could follow us on our adventure – and I got the bug. I wrote book reviews for a couple of sites, before launching my own blog, The Latchkey Mom. In the last few years I’ve had my work published on a variety of websites and I write a travel column for a local magazine. I’m also very excited to have an essay featured in the HerStories Project’s upcoming anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness.

    I love to read, so much so that I often annoy my family and friends with “book talk.” If I pass a stranger who is reading a book, I have to stop and ask what they’re reading. I cannot possibly pick a favorite book or author.

    I love to travel, and often have as much fun planning a trip as taking it. The beach is my happy place and spending time with my family and friends will cure almost anything. I’m organizationally challenged, unless a spreadsheet is involved (old habits die hard). My favorite TV shows, past and present, are Mad Men, House of Cards, Friday Night Lights, The Good Wife, Friends, Sex in the City and Downton Abbey. I don’t do reality TV – except for Dancing with the Stars, which I watch with my daughter.

    My vices include coffee with creamer that isn’t good for you, really good Chardonnay, and all forms and flavors of cheese. I’m eternally devoted to the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox and have held grudges against people who’ve attacked them – you’ve been warned. I also harbor a few inappropriate crushes on men I’ll never meet: Kyle Chandler, Jon Bon Jovi, Chris Pratt, and Kid Rock (although this one, I am working through).

    Please join us in welcoming Allie to the HerStories Project!

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  • And Then We Meet (In Real Life, Yes for the First Time) at #BlogHer15

    My heart flutters. My hands are a little sweaty. I play with my phone. I scan the crowd of conference-goers again and again.

    Oh, my gosh, I realize. I’m nervous. And then I realize that I was also experiencing deja vu.

    I’ve done this before. Not in a decade. But the feeling returns immediately. The sweaty palms. The racing heart. The nervous scanning of a crowd.

    This is just like a blind date, I think. I’m excited and hopeful about the potential of this in-person meeting. I’m also anxious and worried. What if we have no chemistry? What if her hand gestures annoy me? What if she doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like her? What if she smells bad? Should I have worn a different dress?

    Then I see her. Our eyes meet. Her eyes are friendly, and her smile is tentative at first and then wide. She’s taller than I thought, but this is okay. We approach each other and hug. Both of us giggling sort of nervously, we stand there. Awkwardly at first. Then we both talk at once about silly stuff.

    Our first selfie!
    Our first selfie!

    And I realize that it’s okay.  This isn’t like a blind date at all. Because I already know Stephanie. I know her voice, I know how she thinks, and I know her many of her hopes and fears.

    She’s already my friend, I think. And we spend the next 24 hours laughing, talking, meeting other friends, working, and presenting. I’m nervous about our personal essay writing lab. It’s one thing to like a person and know her; it’s another thing to present well together.

    But that goes well too. I leave New York City less than 24 hours after I arrive, and I can’t wait to get back to work with Stephanie, my friend and business partner.

    – Jessica

    Some of our favorite online (and real-life!) friends
    Some of our favorite online (and real-life!) friends


    It’s the morning of our presentation. I am only mildly anxious about it, because we’ve covered this material over and over in our online essay courses for the past year. Still, it feels like we should have some sort of game plan. Who’s going to say what? Do we take turns covering bullet points? Do we need to practice or something? I drink too much coffee at breakfast, trying to compensate for the ill-advised combination of anticipatory adrenaline and the dull fatigue of having stayed up too late singing karaoke in my pajamas. Yikes.

    The previous evening seemed sort of like a baptism by fire: if we decided we still liked each other after the surreal first meeting in an over-crowded expo hallway, a late-night of signature BlogHer cocktails, and my requisite change into my comfy uniform (read: T-shirt and sweatpants), then we would be totally fine presenting together, right? After realizing that our face-to-face interactions were simply an extension of several years of regular phone calls and email conversations, I relaxed. Our two and a half years of working together wouldn’t need to be scrapped because of real-life social incompatibility.


    The hour between breakfast and our presentation was a blur. There wasn’t much time. We needed to prepare our writing lab tables. I already knew it would be too loud in the room, that we would feel crowded, and that we’d have a handful of our online friends there to support us. But all the other details were still unknown. Who would show up? Would our table be embarrassingly sparse compared to the other writing lab centers? Were we prepared enough? Would those who attended feel like they were wasting their time?

    In spite of these thoughts, I felt strangely calm. When both the tables we’d pushed together filled up, I relaxed even more. We can do this. Our presentation flowed smoothly as we naturally shifted leading the conversation, filling in details for each other, and at times practically finishing each other’s sentences. The mood at the tables was light and yet focused. It was even more fun than I thought it would be. As soon as it was over, I immediately thought, “When can we do this again?” I was so energized, not to mention relieved that there wasn’t even an ounce of awkwardness in our dual presentation style.

    (Want to see a slideshow outline of the presentation? See it here.

    Want to sign up to receive notifications about our next classes? Click here.)


    When you work long-distance with a partner, you think you know each other. You think you have a sense that you make a good team: your areas of weakness are her strengths, your skills and personalities balance in a way that is both cohesive and complementary. And it’s absolutely gratifying when you’re able to validate those beliefs in real life. Now that I know we make just as good a team face to face as we do online, I can’t wait until the next time we get to work side by side.

    – Stephanie

    We’d love to hear about your first meetings with online friends!


    Before the writing lab...
    Before the writing lab…



    Meeting our She Writes Press publisher, Kamy Wicoff!
    Meeting our She Writes Press publisher, Kamy Wicoff!

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  • Meet the Contributors to Mothering Through the Darkness

    A few weeks ago we announced the winners of our first HerStories essay contest. Those three writers will have their essays published in Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience.

    Today we’re thrilled to announce the rest of the contributors to the book with the book’s contributor page.

    Our contributors include writers of all types (essayists, humorists, bloggers, fiction writers, poets, memoirists). Filmmakers. Stay at home moms. Working moms. Writers who have never been published before as well as those who have acclaimed writers. Women in their twenties, thirties, forties, and beyond.

    It’s a diverse group, to say the least. But what they all have in common is the desire to share their postpartum struggles. They want other women to know that they are not alone. They want to dispel the myths about what it means to be a mom who has faced these challenges. They want everyone to understand that recovery is possible.

    We hope you spend a little time clicking through their biographies and reading what they have to say about this project and their experiences.



    The process of choosing essays from over 200 submissions was agonizing; there were dozens and dozens of incredibly powerful, beautifully-written essays that we were unable to use for this book. We want to give these brave authors the opportunity to share their message in another way; at the end of this month, we will be hosting a blog post linkup and social media blitz to raise awareness for this subject and to help share your powerful voices. If your essay was not chosen for publication and you published it on a different website or on your personal blog, we would love to have you link up with us so we can share your story through our website and via social media. If you didn’t submit an essay but have a postpartum story you’d like to share, consider writing an original post on your blog! Stay tuned for more details on #ThroughTheDarkness later this month– make sure you’re subscribed to our email newsletter to receive updates!

    -Mother.Writer-Learn more about our upcoming writing and discussion class in May: “Mother, Writer: Finding, Claiming, and Using Our Voices

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  • Announcing the HerStories Project Writing Contest Winners… and a Book Cover Reveal!

    Presenting our book cover!



    More than six months ago, we put out a call for submissions for our next book, Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience, to be published by She Writes Press in November 2015. We also announced that we would be sponsoring a writing contest, associated with the book, to be judged by a panel of several of our favorite writers, women who also experienced postpartum struggles of their own: novelist Julia Fierro (author of one of the most anticipated novels of last year, Cutting Teeth), journalist and author Lisa Belkin, author Kate Hopper, author Katrina Alcorn (author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink), writer and clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Zucker, and blogger and writer Lindsey Mead.

    We knew we would receive powerful stories of women’s experiences with postpartum depression and other mental health struggles. But we were completely unprepared for how many beautiful essays we would receive (more than 200) and by the inspiration and pain in these stories. We were, in a word, overwhelmed.

    And we knew our judges had their work cut out for them. We assembled a selection of finalist essays. We heard right away from the judges about how difficult it was to choose just a few essays because they were all so brave, so important, and so powerful.

    We are so thrilled to announce our first-prize winner, Maggie Smith, for her essay “Here Comes the Sun.” Here’s what our judge Julia Fierro had to say about Maggie’s essay:

    I love the simplicity of the language here, which, along with the matter-of-fact tone and episodic structure, inspires trust in the reader. I believed the honesty here. But the details are anything but simple–they are unique to the narrator and her experience (the figurative language- the apples!) and that made me feel as if I was allowed access into the intimate world of her love and pain and loss and joy.

    Here is an excerpt from Maggie’s beautiful essay:

    I can’t find the notebook.

    My husband threw it away, or I threw it away, or it threw itself away.

    With my son I wrote everything down: every feeding, what time he started, what time he finished, when he burped, when he spit up, what the spit up looked like, when he peed, when he pooped, what the poop looked like, when he cried, what his cry sounded like, when he slept, what position he slept in, when he woke.

    If I wrote everything down, I would see The Pattern. The Pattern That Would Make Him Happy. The Pattern That Would Make Him Sleep.

    The Pattern That Would Fix Him.

    The Pattern That Would Fix Me.

    Maggie is an accomplished poet, but, amazingly, this is her first personal essay. Maggie Smith’s second book of poems, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, April 2015) was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of the Dorset Prize. She is also the author of Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, and three prizewinning chapbooks, the latest of which is Disasterology (Dream Horse Press, forthcoming 2015). A 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in poetry, Maggie has also received four Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives with her husband and two children in Bexley, Ohio, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her website, on Twitter @maggiesmithpoet, and on Facebook.

    Maggie Smith_photo by Studio127 Photography


    Our second place essay is “Life With No Room” by Celeste McLean.

    Celeste Noelani McLean is the woman behind RunningNekkid, where she explores the intersection of grief, mental health, and her Pacific Islander ancestry. Her writing has been featured on Blog Her and has appeared in SisterWives Speak and Stigma Fighters. She left her island paradise home over twenty years ago and has been trying to figure out how to get back ever since. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband Ian, where they raise two children, grieve one, and make each other very, very happy. You can find her at her blog http://www.RunningNekkid.com or on Twitter @runningnekkid.


    Dr. Jessica Zucker said this about Celeste’s essay:

    This essay left me speechless from the very beginning. Poignant, poetic, earnest, soft. She does an exemplary job of taking us through her journey wrapping around and all the while gleaning cogent and complicated insights. Truly remarkable.

    Here is a passage from “Life with No Room”:

    I nurse the baby in front of my therapist and we talk about my second son, the one who died. About how much my new baby looks like him, and how much I want him back. I want both of my babies. But I also want none of my babies. I am tired of babies. Bone tired. I want to be dead.I want to be dead, and I admit to this in a way, and it is so embarrassing to admit this. But also, it is a relief. I have spoken these words and I have not died. I do not want to die any more than I wanted to die in that moment before I said it. And, miraculously, nobody came to take away my children. I want to be dead, but I also do not want to be dead. I want all of my babies and I want none of them.

    I am afraid of the baby waking. I am afraid of the baby not waking.

    Our third-place winner is Jen Simon, for her essay, “It Got Better, But It Took a Long Time To Get Good.” Julia Fierro describes her piece:

    I think the “arc” of the story shows the infinite varieties in even just a few years of a mother’s life. How things can go from “terrible” to “okay” to good” to “bad” to “great.” And how a mother can feel both love and regret simultaneously. I love that the essay allows the narrator to have some perspective, which gives the reader a hint of the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

    Jen Simon is a Huffington Post blogger and a Babble contributor. A freelance writer, her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Elephant Journal, Your Tango, The Frisky, Kveller, Nerve, Women’s Health Online, and more. Mothering Through The Darkness is her fourth anthology, her second with the HerStories Project. Jen stays home with her sons – a toddler and a sleep-challenged 5 year old.

    You can see more of her work at JenSimonWriter.com. Follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jensimonwriter and on Twitter @NoSleepInBklyn.


    Here is an excerpt from Jen’s powerful essay:

    I’m not sure what to do with him, so I do all the things I think I’m supposed to do. I dress him as a miniature version of my friends in jeans and hoodies and socks that look like Vans. We go to playgrounds where I push him on swings. We go to baby music classes and sing silly songs. We go to baby gym classes where I grab him, kiss him all over until his laugh, his unmistakable all-consuming belly laugh, fills the room and the other moms and nannies give us approving smiles. Do you see me? I think, Am I doing this right? I tell myself I’ll just fake it until it feels right, but it never does.

    I recently stopped nursing, my broken body no  longer producing milk, so I buy organic formula and feed it to my son in BPA, Phalate-free bottles. All of his food and my cleaning supplies boast that they are “organic” or “natural”or “green.” Maybe if I can do all the “right” things for him, I can start feeling the right way about him. But the truth is I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about him because I don’t have feelings for anything. And no belly laughs or Plum Organic pouch or tambourine sing-a-long can fix that.

    Every day, I kiss his smiling face while actively regretting having him. It is horrifying. I am simultaneously empty and brimming over with hate and anger. Every day is filled with these disparities.

    Thank you so much to every woman who submitted her story and to the judges who offered up their valuable time and insights. Stay tuned for the announcement of the rest of the contributors to the book later in the month….

     Did you hear the news that My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends has been chosen as a Finalist for INDIEFAB Book of the Year?

    Have you joined our community of women writers on Facebook?

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  • MY OTHER EX Chosen as a Finalist for INDIEFAB Book of the Year

    Stephanie and I received some exciting news last week! MY OTHER EX: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends was named a finalist in the Anthology Category for Foreword Reviews’ 17th Annual INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards.


    From Foreword Reviews:

    Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd.

    In the next three months, a panel of more than 100 volunteer librarians and booksellers will determine the winners in 63 categories based on their experience with readers and patrons.

    Foreword Reviews will celebrate the winners during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco on Friday, June 26 at 6 p.m. at the Pop Top Stage in the exhibit hall. Everyone is welcome. The Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Publisher of the Year Award will also be announced during the presentation.

    About Foreword: Foreword Magazine, Inc is media company featuring a FOLIO: award winning quarterly print magazine Foreword Reviews and a website devoted to independently published books. In the magazine, they feature reviews of the best 160 new titles from independent publishers, university presses, and noteworthy self-published authors. Their website features daily updates: reviews along with in-depth coverage and analysis of independent publishing from a team of more than 100 reviewers, journalists, and bloggers. The print magazine is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription.


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  • A #SoGladTheyToldMe Twitter Party and Social Media Blitz

    Many of you may have followed Stephanie’s viral post, “I’m Glad They Warned Me,” and the resulting social media campaign that we announced a few weeks ago, #SoGladTheyToldMe. We were absolutely blown away by the support and feedback from readers, and we want to thank all of you so much for supporting the social media movement and the efforts to change the cultural dialogue about motherhood by sharing your own photos and stories. We’ve received almost a hundred photos from mothers sharing their #SoGladTheyToldMe messages, and more keep coming every day!

    Since the campaign’s launch, Stephanie was interviewed by The Chicago TribuneWGN RadioThe Huffington Post, and was on live TV with 9 News Denver. Websites in Australia, Canada, and the UK have featured their own stories on So Glad They Told Me.  We have been genuinely moved and inspired by all the women who have come together to share their truth and present a broader, more realistic view of motherhood, all while providing support and compassion to other moms.

    To celebrate, we’re having a big social media blitz on Tuesday, February 17th. We’re inviting moms everywhere to take photos of themselves with their signs and share them all over social media that day with the hashtag #sogladtheytoldme. Post your messages (you can just share your sign without being in the photo yourself, if you prefer!) on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. To make an even bigger impact, change your profile picture on Facebook on the 17th to show your support and raise awareness.

    We’re also having a Twitter party on the 17th at 9 PM EST where moms can share their photos and their stories, and bloggers can share their own #SoGladTheyToldMe blog posts. The HerStories Project will be giving away an Amazon gift card AND announcing our next book topic and call for submissions. Don’t miss it!

    stephaniesprenger.com (3)

     To participate in the Twitter party, follow @HerStoriesTales and @MommyIsForReal and use the hashtag #sogladtheytoldme. It’s easiest to use TweetDeck and make a column that follows the hashtag! We can’t wait to reveal our next project and call for submissions!

    You can find all the media links and updates on #SoGladTheyToldMe right here. We hope you’ll join in on February 17th by making your own sign and sharing your photo! Here is a photo gallery for inspiration!


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