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  • Announcing The HerStories Project’s Next Writing Class!


    We are excited to announce our next fall writing course, Writing Your Way to a Better Blog, coming October 27th!
    This six-week class will help you develop the skills needed to write high-quality blog posts, including how to blog with authentic voice and purpose, how to write a clear and compelling Bio page, how to incorporate storytelling, how to infuse humor, how to write engaging interview posts, and how to become a better editor of your own writing.

    Co-taught by HerStories Project co-editors Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger, this class will feature guest instructors, including many of your favorite bloggers and editors, such as Norine Dworkin-McDaniel of Science of Parenthood, Danielle Herzog of Martinis and MinivansKate Hall of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?, and Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha. It will also features tips and advice from Jill Smokler of Scary MommyNicole Leigh Shaw of Ninja Mom, Leslie Marinelli of In the Powder Room, Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog, writer and HerStories advice columnist Nina BadzinJen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Shannon Lell of Mamapedia, Lauren Apfel of Omnimom (and Debate Editor of Brain, Child Magazine), Jenn Rose of Something Clever 2.0, Galit Breen of These Little Waves, Val Curtis of Bon Bon Break, and Lindsey Mead of A Design So Vast.

    It’s not always easy for bloggers to find their way in a crowded, overwhelming blogosphere. Whether you are a brand new blogger or an experienced writer looking for new ideas and techniques to develop and refine your authentic voice, this class is for you! With guidance and tips from a diverse group of experienced bloggers, Writing Your Way to a Better Blog is an interactive online course that will help you gain practical knowledge to improve your writing and your blog.

    One of the most rewarding aspects of online writing courses is the opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with other bloggers, and to become part of a community. Bloggers who enroll in the class will also have access to a private Facebook group for members, instructors, and guest instructors—it’s a great opportunity to learn from and connect with other writers in a welcoming environment.

    Classes starts October 27th and end December 5th. SIGN UP TODAY! Please visit our brand new HerStories Project Writing Classes website for more information

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  • My Other Ex’s Publication Day Is Here!

    Jessica, Stephanie, and our amazing contributors are thrilled to announce the publication of My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends! To buy the book from Amazon or Nook, click here.

    It's Here!

    It’s a collection that all of us involved in the project are proud to release to you. We hope that you are engrossed by these stories and by these women’s wisdom and experiences, as well as comforted.

    A book like this is certainly not the work of one or two women. This was truly a community effort. We had the help of a gifted designer for our covers and marketing material, a fantastic copyeditor, an organized and efficient blog tour coordinator, and so many others. All of the writers in this collection participated in shaping the book and providing us with guidance and support, and we are eternally grateful.

    We hope that you love these stories of friendship and loss as much as we did. And if you do, you can help us to spread the word by sharing what you think of the book on Amazon or GoodReads. Reviews are critical to the success of independent authors and publishers.

    And please stay in touch with us by subscribing to our newsletter and getting updates about our next project, Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Postpartum Struggle, our call for submissions for that project, and our writing contest!

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  • Teaching Our Daughters About Friendship Breakups

    “Mommy, Olivia and Claire are sitting right over there!” my seven-year-old daughter announced excitedly, tugging my arm. “Let’s go talk to them!”

    I shot a pained glance at my girlfriend, seated across the table from me, and sighed. “Honey, Mommy is not going to go say hi to Olivia today.” My daughter looked confused. When we had made plans to meet friends for pizza that evening, it hadn’t occurred to me to be prepared for this conversation. Why would I expect them to be here? Perhaps I’d hoped I could entirely avoid ever bringing this up with my oldest daughter.

    Taking a deep breath, I explained, “Mommy and Olivia had a fight. We aren’t friends anymore, and I’m not going to go talk to her. But you are welcome to go say hello—I know Claire would love to see you.”

    “But why aren’t you friends anymore? Why did you have a fight?” my daughter persisted.

    “Honey, that’s a grown-up problem and I’m not going to explain it to you right now. But I do want you to know that just because Olivia and I aren’t friends, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends with her, and with Claire.”

    “Can Sophie and Claire still be friends?” she inquired, referring to her toddler sister.

    “Of course,” I lied, having a slightly deeper understanding of the parentally-directed social practices of the under-two-year-old crowd.

    She trotted away happily to greet themand I exchanged glances and sighs of relief with my girlfriend, the third side of the friendship triangle gone wrong. Olivia and I hadn’t drifted apart. To say that we had fought was not an exaggeration—it was an ugly, uncomfortable blowout that had bled into other relationships and had even affected my job. It was awful, and I was never, ever going to be friends with her again. So how did I expect my second grade daughter to grasp such intricacies? Especially when I repeatedly coached her to mend fences when she and her own friends had argued?

    My daughter was no stranger to friendship drama; sadly, even in kindergarten she had struggled with unkind friends, gossip, rumors, and the ever-awkward dynamic of three little girls attempting to play together. I knew she had years ahead of her filled with hurt feelings, exclusion, arguments, lies, and eventual breakups. But what I wasn’t sure of was how to begin teaching her about the realities of those inevitable hurdles and subsequent friendship loss. As I reflected on the many conversations we’d had about friendship, I realized we had already covered a lot of ground about how to navigate social challenges.

    Friendship Breakups


    • Openly share your own childhood friendship stories—this is so important to little girls. My daughter loves to hear me share my own tales of trying to balance my friendships with my two best friends who didn’t get along with each other, birthday parties gone wrong, and what happened when the “new girl” came to town and took away my best friend. Knowing that I too had problems, and more importantly, that I overcame them, helps my daughter to feel less alone. As you discuss your own experiences of hurt, anger, and loneliness, you become a more reliable confidante—when children sense that their parents can genuinely empathize, they are more likely to share their feelings, and more likely to listen to your advice.
    • Listen without judgment when your daughter tells you about the friend who wronged her. Whenever my daughter shares a story about an alleged mean friend, I am always tempted to jump in and point out contrary pieces of evidence, offer a solution, or even get angry and “feel her feelings” for her. Women often get irritated when, instead of listening, their husbands try to “fix” their problems—it’s the same with our daughters. Before we can help them sort through their friendship problems, they have to feel heard. Reflecting feelings back to our children often helps them to sort through their complicated emotions.
    • Role play with them. My oldest child loves this, and it has been a positive tool ever since she was in preschool. Whenever she would struggle with a friend who was being mean, rude, or (gasp) bossy, we would practice what we wanted to say to the friend. We took turns playing each role, which helped prepare my daughter for potential retorts and responses. It was so empowering for her to find her voice, her confidence, and stand up for herself, even if that meant walking away from a friend. As she gets older, she may want to involve me less and less in her role-playing, but I’d like to believe that she is developing skills to assert herself, set clear boundaries, and articulate her needs—those skills can last a lifetime.
    • Help her find out when it is time to walk away. Throughout the past few years, my daughter and I have had numerous conversations about one friend in particular; these two girls have split up and come back together too many times for me to count. It is painful for me to refrain from shouting, “Kelly is not a nice friend! You should not put up with this kind of treatment!” I’m afraid the same rules apply to both friendships and boyfriends: often, if a child senses her parent disapproves, it only makes her more determined to make the relationship work. I am mindful not to vilify her pals, but I am very firm and clear when I discuss with my daughter what type of friendship behavior is unacceptable and not to be tolerated. I have had the most success with helping her focus on other friends rather than “banishing” the unkind friend; encouraging my daughter to pursue new friendships has been the most effective way to help steer her away from girls who repeatedly hurt her.
    • And help her cope when someone has walked away from her. Rejection, perceived disapproval, and alienation are extremely powerful and painful experiences for young girls and teens. OK, fine, and for adults, too. Many women carry the pain of an unwanted friendship breakup for years. Remind your daughter of her strengths, of the qualities that make her beautiful and unique. In many ways, losing a best friend is just as painful as losing a romantic partner, an experience that will likely happen multiple times throughout her life; it helps to reinforce the fact that not all relationships were meant to last forever. Help her to reflect on the fun times that were had, the lessons that were learned, and focus her attention on other positive forces and friendships in her life. This is another time when it helps to share your own stories of loss and friendships gone wrong—tell your daughter how you felt, why it hurt, and most importantly, how you got through it. She may not fully understand it for years to come, but you can help to share your perspective that friendships ebb and flow as we grow and change.
    • Teach her when—and why, and how— to stick around and fight for a friendship. Sometimes it may be your daughter who has wronged a friend. One afternoon at the bus stop, my daughter tearfully told me that she and her best friend weren’t friends anymore. She then confessed that she had shared a secret—she had told another friend the name of her BFF’s crush. This is tantamount to ultimate betrayal in second grade. I was chagrined. My daughter felt deeply ashamed, and I convinced her that she had to make things right with her friend. It is humbling to apologize and admit when you were wrong—for children and adults alike. These perceived betrayals will only get more complex as our daughters get older, and as their mothers, we can help them find the clarity they need to make things right when a friendship is worth fighting for. We can help them brainstorm ideas, write apology letters, and support them as they apologize to friends; we can also stand by their side as they find the courage to confront friends who have hurt them, intentionally or unintentionally.


    There are myriad resources available to couples who are looking for help to save a broken relationship, but there seems to be a distinct lack of support for women (or men) who want to fix a troubled friendship. While most people (theoretically) practice monogamy in their romantic relationships, the same concept does not apply to friendships, which perhaps sends a message that friends are expendable and easily replaced. However, much like romantic relationships, finding a new partner doesn’t always mean that unhealthy patterns have been broken, and the same problems often play out again and again. Teaching our daughters about friendship is both complex and essential. As mothers, we can give our daughters the emotional and communicative tools to repair damaged friendships, identify when they need to assert themselves, and help them cope with the pain of loss.


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  • 9 Books I Read This Summer That I Want To Talk About With Girlfriends

    9 Books I Read

    As a true introvert, reading has never been that much of a social activity for me. And that’s basically what I’ve always liked about it. Since I was a little girl, I loved entering a different world  — ALONE! — and meeting new characters and understanding their struggles.

    As a kid, I don’t remember having any burning desire to talk about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer adventures, about why I loved Narnia, or even later my predictions for the next high school romance for the twins of Sweet Valley High. I exchanged books with my friends but we didn’t talk about them much.

    Later I made half-hearted attempts at trying to become more social with my reading. I joined a book club or two and never returned after my first meeting. (Like my friend Nina Badzin, I became frustrated with the way that these book clubs never seemed to get around to talking about the actual book!) I even started my own book club at work once. I tried GoodReads. I went to a few city-sponsored book discussion groups. I even watched Oprah when she featured books that I had read.

    But all of this talking was never for me.

    Then I started blogging and I discovered that I did like talking about books… just not in person. I love having conversations online about books — with my real life friends, with my blogging friends, with other writer friends. The “conversations” are specific and focused; they don’t tend to get side-tracked by comments about the delicious appetizer being served.

    Now I find that if I’ve read a book that I’ve loved, the experience is not complete without “talking” about it with someone: on Facebook, Twitter, in our Brilliant Book Club for Parents, on blogs.

    This summer I haven’t written much about books. Pregnancy, the impending publication of the new HerStories Project book… they’ve all gotten in the way, and I miss sharing my latest reads.

    Here are the books that I read this summer about which I wish I’d had more conversation (online, of course):

    1. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I absolutely loved this novel. It’s narrated by a married guy with a young daughter who’s ended a passionate affair but wants to win back his ambivalent wife. It’s mostly set in France and got me thinking a lot about the idea of monogamy.

    My thoughts: I found myself increasingly sympathetic to this unfaithful husband. Is that a weird response?

    2. Friendship: A Novel by Emily Gould and 3. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff. I’ve already reviewed Friendship, and I’m putting these together because they reminded me of a life that I always fantasized about: living in NYC as a writer/editor in my twenties. My Salinger Year is a actually a coming-of-age memoir about Rakoff’s experiences as an assistant to the literary agent of J.D. Salinger.

    My thoughts: As a writer intrigued by the publishing industry, I loved both of these books. But do you think there are too many books, too many movies and TV shows, about privileged twentysomethings in Manhattan who want to become writers?

    4. Cutting Teeth: A Novel by Julia Fierro. I’ve been a huge fan of this book since it came out as well. It’s about a group of NYC parents (all of whom have serious — and not so serious — issues) who go away for a weekend on Long Island. It’s about the anxieties of frantic modern parenthood, the difficulties of negotiating friendships and alliances with young kids. It’s funny, biting, honest, sad, and touching, all at once.

    My thoughts: How much can you identify with these characters, or did you read the novel as more of a social critique?

    5. All Fall Down: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner. I didn’t love this book as much as I’ve liked some of her other novels. Still I was fascinated by the portrait of addiction that Weiner paints. I knew very little about prescription pain medicine abuse, and I did find myself wondering if I knew anyone who might be suffering.

    My thoughts: Did Weiner’s portrayal of Allison’s coping strategies and descent into addiction seem realistic to you?

    6. Remember Me Like This: A Novel by Bret Anthony Johnston. The plot sounds like this could be an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and if you buy it believing that, you might be disappointed. It’s actually a beautiful, luminous literary novel, nearly disguised as a movie-of-the-week story. It’s about what happens when an abducted child miraculously returns, when happy endings and recovery are more complicated than a newspaper headline.

    My thoughts: The book reveals little about the boy’s time during his abduction. Do you think the author was smart to leave out those details?

    7. The Arsonist: A novel by Sue Miller. I would read anything that Sue Miller writes — her shopping list, a few scribbles on the page. For me, this novel — about a fortysomething African aid worker who returns home to small town New Hampshire just when a series of arsons wreak havoc on her town — did not disappoint.

    My thoughts: Who are the writers that you will always read?

    8. How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source by Johanna Stein. Parenting humor memoirs are not really my thing. I received a review copy of this, and I was surprised to find it incredibly entertaining. I love Stein’s fearless sense of humor and her not-so-serious attitude about parenting. She’s a terrific storyteller.

    My thoughts: I find it impossible to write humor as good as this. What are the keys to be being funny and wise when writing about parenting?

    9. My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. Why, yes, it is our about-to-be-released HerStories Project book. But it’s also much of what I’ve been reading this summer, and I can’t wait until everyone gets to read these compelling and fantastic essays. I can’t wait to see which ones you can relate to and which ones make you laugh, cry, or think about friendship loss in a new way!


    The official release date is September 15th, when it will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as on our website as a download.

    What are some books that you read this summer that you really want to talk about? 

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  • Forty, Pregnant, and Failing at Friendship?


    The term “geriatric pregnancy” no longer makes me wince.

    Neither does the “AMA” (advanced maternal age) stamped on my chart at my OB/GYN’s office. I no longer panic when I read about all the increased risks of pregnancy among the “older” set: chromosomal abnormalities, stillbirth, pre-term labor, gestational diabetes, and on and on. My doctors don’t seem to find my pregnancy to be in any way remarkable so I’m trying not to either.

    First days of "geriatric" motherhood
    First days of “geriatric” motherhood

    I was 36 when my three year old son was born, and I’ll be 40 this fall when this baby (a girl!) is born. I don’t feel like an old mom, but then again I have no idea what it feels like to be a young mom. Compared to my last pregnancy, I need more sleep at night, get more tired during the day, have more leg cramps and leg pain, am more irritable, had worse morning sickness during the first trimester, and feel generally more uncomfortable. Is all of this because I’m older now? Or are these  just the inevitable side effects of raising a toddler while pregnant?

    If the physical aspects of pregnancy at 40 have been relatively easy and predictable, I’m having a little more trouble coming to terms with the social and psychological dimensions. As a younger adult, I never imagined myself adding to my family at 40. During my first years of teaching, I taught with a woman who had her first and only two children in her forties. I remember how strange that seemed to me. In my mid-twenties, my co-worker seemed ancient to me, way past the age that seemed “normal” to me to be caring for infants. I mean, wasn’t her hair almost entirely gray?

    Most of all she seemed out of step with the rest of our co-workers. Among the other women in their forties, mostly worried about kids with new driver’s licenses and getting seniors into college, my friend didn’t fit in. But she didn’t fit in with the other teachers who were new moms either, mainly in their late 20s and early 30s.

    That’s sort of how I feel: out of step. Doing the same things that I’ve observed my friends and family go through — adding siblings to their brood, buying double strollers, juggling multiple school schedules, making the decision to trade in the sedan for an SUV — but just a few steps behind.

    My friends — old co-workers, classmates from high school and college, neighbors — are mostly done with the baby stage. My writing friend Allison Slater Tate wrote a piece for Scary Mommy about turning 40 (she turned 40 just a couple of days before I did last weekend!). She wrote:

    “Forty is walking into a baby store and realizing that I know very few people that might have a need for sleep sacks or pacifier clips anytime soon. After over a decade in the ‘baby zone,’ I have graduated; by this time next year, none of my children will even have a need for diapers.”

    Yes, most of my friends have graduated out of “the baby zone.” And it feels a bit like a divide. It makes me feel like a follower, and some part of me is afraid of being left behind for good. The weddings and baby showers have mostly stopped by this point, and now my friends talk about elementary school homework, soccer teams, dance recitals, and their “Frozen” fatigue. (I’ve never seen the movie.)

    I know in the big picture it’s silly to be worried about whether my friends will be sick of talking or thinking about breastfeeding struggles, infant sleep cycles, and baby milestones with me, when these concerns still dominate my everyday life. Will my concerns feel as irrelevant to them as living in studio apartments, applying to grad school, and finding a boyfriend (the trials and tribulations of our twentysomething babysitters) feels to me?

    JessicaSmockI do know that I’m not alone. There are lots of us out there, figuring out a new way to be fortysomething. I know that there are endless ways for a woman to turn 40: single, married, divorced, child-free. Many fortysomethings are hitting their strides in their career, reaching milestones that they’d dreamed about for decades. Others of us are embarking on new adventures and new career paths.

    I know that in so many ways it’s a privilege to turn 40 today. I have choices and opportunities — in fertility, employment, family structure, education, technology — that women even a few decades ago could never have imagined. I can add to my tribe of friends, join new tribes, and rejoin others later.

    That doesn’t change the fact that someone needs to come up with a better name for mothers over 35 than “geriatric mothers.”

    How old were you when you became a mother, the first time and the last? Did your age ever bother you?

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  • Emily Gould’s New Novel FRIENDSHIP: A Review and Giveaway

    Read my review of this much buzzed-about new novel and enter to win a copy below!

    Is it a sign of impending middle age that I have grown tired of the angst and absorption of modern early adulthood? After all, I turn 40 in less than two weeks.

    During its first season I was a huge fan of HBO’s “Girls.” It reminded me just enough of my own twentysomething, mid-1990s, post-college days living in crappy apartments in Boston with Wesleyan friends to tap into my Gen-X nostalgia, and yet I could also enjoy feeling smugly superior to what I perceived as this generation’s over the top narcissism and self-entitlement. (We were never that immature and self-involved, right?)

    But after a while I grew impatient. More and more I wanted to slap Hannah, Marnie, and their friends and scream, Grow up! 

    So I gave up on these intelligent yet underachieving girls — and had long given up on “chick lit” featuring twentysomething tales of career crisis, bad boyfriends, and depressing apartments.

    Then I starting hearing about Friendship: A Novel by Emily Gould. In literary circles, the buzz was everywhere. Because of the HerStories Project, I consider it my editorial duty to keep abreast of new literature featuring female friendship as a prominent theme.

    But when I read the plot summary, I sighed.

    Described by Amazon as “a novel about two friends learning the difference between getting older and growing up,” it tells the story of Bev Tunney and Amy Schein who “have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life. Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant.
         As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.”

    Then when I researched a little bit about the author, I sighed again. Emily Gould is as much a real life version of Lena Dunham as anyone that I’ve heard about. (In fact, it is rumored that the “Girls” character may be based on her.)

    Emily Gould is a writer, editor, and blogger best known for baring (oversharing?) her life and soul to millions in her columns and writing (on Gawker, in the New York Times, in her own memoir) to a controversial and startling degree. According to the New York Times, “Funny, vicious and nakedly irreverent, her posts were so aggressive at times that they managed to incense even the customarily affable Jimmy Kimmel.” (In fact the character of Amy must be a thinly disguised version of Gould herself. Amy is a blogger who had “somehow snapped a high-profile job at a locally prominent gossip blog mocking New York City’s rich, powerful, corrupt, ridiculously elite.” Her former days of blogging glory are over though — it’s never quite clear why or how her fall from grace happened — and now she works at Yidster, “the third most popular online destination for cultural coverage with a modern Jewish edge.”)

    Despite these concerns about the novel, I was immediately hooked when I picked it up and would recommend it highly even to soon-to-be middle-aged moms like me.

    Not surprisingly, what fascinated me was its subtle and realistic depiction of female friendship and its complexity and imperfection, particularly during early adulthood, with its mix of deep love, loyalty, envy, resentment, and support.

    For these two women, their friendship is the primary bond in their lives, and they depend on each other to meet their often overwhelming emotional needs. When feckless boyfriends and dead-end jobs disappoint, the best friend is there.

    The book is edgy, funny, and wise when it reminds us of that time in many of our lives when we approached 30 with little to show for our struggles. (It’s worth reading just for the vivid, sharply observed details of young urban life, particularly relating to the role of technology in young people’s lives.) It is a book about what it means to be a grown up. These are two friends who learning along with — and from — each other that getting older in years is not the same as growing up.

    Fans of HerStories, even those closer to middle age or retirement age than college graduation, won’t be disappointed.

    Enter our giveaway to win a copy of FRIENDSHIP!

    Are there other novels about friendship that you’ve recently read?

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