blog

  • Our Summer Writing Class: Write Your Way to a Better Blog

    For bloggers, summertime means conference season, with two of the most popular blogging conferences taking place during June and July. We are excited to be attending BlogHer in New York City this July—in fact, we’ll be presenting a personal essay writing lab! As bloggers work themselves into a frenzy on social media, making plans for rooming together, attending parties, and meeting up for drinks, many of their peers experience a serious condition known as “conference envy.” It is totally no fun at all knowing that all your favorite bloggers are hanging out without you, and maybe even learning amazing new skills that will advance their craft. (I personally plan to go completely offline during Blog U this year, as I can’t bear to see cute photos of all my friends having fun without me.)

    Summer is a great time to focus attention on your blogging and writing skills, but attending a blog conference isn’t always realistic. Those of us who are parents have to consider childcare needs before we hop a flight across the country, not to mention scheduling around summer vacations, camps, and reunions. For others, it can be hard to take time off work to travel to a conference. It can be a significant financial commitment to pay for conference registration, travel, hotels, and food. And when it doesn’t work out, it is a huge bummer to miss out on the perks of conference attendance: learning, networking, and socializing with other bloggers.

    So we have a great solution for those of you who aren’t able to make it to a blogging conference this year. (And for those of you who are attending a conference? You should join us, too!) We’re offering one of our most popular online writing courses from last year, Write Your Way to a Better Blog, as a summer-long event.

    Write Your Way

    This time, since the class packs in so much valuable information, practice opportunity, guest instructor expertise, and feedback, we’re slowing it down and breaking it up a bit to cover the entire summer. And for the first time, you’ll be able to choose if you want to take the entire course, or pick and choose from four mini-courses. The sessions start June 21st and span the entire summer, on and off until August 22nd.

    Here’s a breakdown of the sessions:

    Session 1: Purpose and Authenticity

    Why are you blogging? What do you want to say to the world that is unique?

    With help from bloggers including Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha, we’ll focus on:

    • How to define the purpose of your blog.
    • How to develop and refine a clear, authentic voice in your writing.
    • How to incorporate your blog’s purpose into each blog post.
    • How to write about diverse subjects and to write in diverse styles while still remaining true to your overall voice and purpose.
    • How to draft a compelling, concise About Me page or bio for other publications.
    • Find out how many popular bloggers write about their personal lives with integrity, and explore our own limits

    Session 2: Telling Stories on Your Blog

    We’ll learn about the power of storytelling to enhance your writing with tips and techniques from Danielle Herzog of Martinis and Minivans, as well as:

    • Learn the importance of narrative structure, character, dialogue, and sensory details.
    • Learn how to capture your audience’s attention with a strong beginning and finish your story with a powerful conclusion.
    • Brainstorm and explore ideas for blog posts that would captivate readers.

    Session 3: Humor Writing

    With practical tips from guest instructor Kate Hall of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine and other humor bloggers, we’ll learn how to incorporate humor into your blog posts in a way that is authentic to your voice.

    We’ll explore different humor techniques, as well as:

    • How to write different types of humorous posts.
    • How to use humor in your social media platforms to engage with readers and increase your fan base.
    • Discuss when/why it is useful to use humor in a serious post, and how to do it tastefully.

    Session 4: Editing and Pitching

    We’ll discuss the importance of knowing the difference between revising, editing, and proofreading. We’ll also:

    • Discuss common grammatical errors and other mistakes to avoid in your writing.
    • Practice revising, editing, and proofreading your writing.
    • Discuss the differences in levels of editing needed for posts on own blog vs. submitting to other sites.
    • Learn how to impress an editor with a powerful pitch
    • Learn how to form productive relationships with editor

    The course will include:

    • the full class platform, including several weekly lessons and discussions about each lesson and assignment
    • instructor feedback on assignments in the class platform
    • a private Facebook group for class members, instructors, and guest instructors
    • a PDF of course lessons at the end of the class
    You can find out full details about our mini-courses, session dates, guest instructors, and other bloggers who offered their expertise for our lessons on our class information page. We hope you’ll join us this summer for a great opportunity to take your blog to the next level, practice your writing skills, learn from some fantastic bloggers, and find a new community of bloggers. Sign up today!
    **Do you have a personal essay you’d like help with? Did you know we offer editing and essay consulting services? We would love to help you polish your essay for publication: find out more information here.
  • 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!

     

  • Get Published: A New Class and Writing Goals for the New Year

    It’s a new year, and for many writers, that means an opportunity to reflect on a new set of writing goals. For some that may mean carving out more time to write regularly, to overhaul and rebrand our blog, or to improve networking skills. But for the vast majority of us, writing goals in the new year involve getting our work published. But where? And how?

    Some people may not know that a lot of writers struggle with insecurities, envy, and self-doubt that can lead to a lack of focus and ultimately, inaction. (Oh, God. It’s not just me, is it?) We see links from our writer friends show up in our newsfeed, sharing articles they’ve published on prestigious websites; we scan our favorite magazines to discover who wrote that incredible piece we wish that we had written, and we stare at the same rough draft in our folder that has been taunting us for months. Why is it so hard to take the next step? And how exactly can we achieve our goals of getting published in the new year?

    If you have dreams of getting your work “out there” this year, you’re not alone. We love this article  and podcast on Beyond Your Blog, sharing some of the writing goals bloggers want to accomplish in 2015. Many writers have the drive to keep writing and submitting, but aren’t exactly sure how to go about it. That confusion can be a roadblock to taking any steps at all—finding the impetus to just take that first step can be hugely important.

    We are beyond excited to announce our next writing class, an interactive online course that will focus on that one thing that so many writers want to accomplish in 2015: getting their work published. The Publish Your Personal Essay Writing Bootcamp will focus on several key objectives: crafting an excellent personal essay, revising, editing, and polishing it for a particular publication, and submitting your essay to the perfect place.  We will provide a roadmap of popular publications for submitting work, including both traditional print and online magazines as well as high-profile websites. Writers can learn more about the publications they’ve had their eye on, gain a better understanding of the submissions process, and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how to impress editors.

    essaygraphicwinter

    In addition, this course will also emphasize the value of participating in a writer’s group community; participants will learn specific skills to help one another revise and edit their work. Have you ever been asked by a fellow writer to help edit an essay? It’s often difficult to know where to begin. The Publish Your Personal Essay Writing Bootcamp will provide unique tools for critiquing the work of your fellow writing group members in addition to providing important strategies for crafting and revising your own essay.

    We are pleased to include the expertise of Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog and Norine Dworkin-McDaniel of the Science of Parenthood, as well as Lauren Apfel of Omnimom and debate editor at Brain, Child magazine and The HerStories Project’s developmental and copyeditor. Both will provide feedback on your essays, from editorial suggestions to tips for submitting to the perfect publication.

    Common obstacles for writers who want to get published are:

    1. A lack of clear direction— what are my options? Where do I begin?
    2. Uncertainty about which publications are out there, which ones would be a good fit for their work, and how to submit.
    3. Challenges with revising and editing their pieces– revisions are often the most challenging (and yet essential!) part of the writing process, and many writers have a hard time editing their own work.
    4. They feel like they’re working in a bubble without any feedback, suggestions, or inspiration from other writers.

    The Publish Your Personal Essay Writing Bootcamp will address all of these obstacles to help you achieve your publication goals in 2015. Being part of a writing community can be such a powerful experience. We hope you’ll join ours! The online course begins February 2nd, and is limited to 20 students because of the interactive nature and personalized feedback provided in the course. The class is now full. Make sure you sign up to learn more about spring classes!

    **Are you a blogger who wants to take their writing to the next level but are short on time or money? Try our Write Your Way to a Better Blog course; the PDF is available for only $20 for the remainder of January to help you with your blogging New Year’s resolutions! Along with the six weeks of lessons, you’ll also be invited to join an interactive Facebook discussion group. Find out more about the course and download the PDF here.

    writeyourwaygraphic

  • The Power of Finding a Writing Community

    We just wrapped up our second online writing course—Write Your Way to a Better Blog—and we learned so much while teaching it. We were first and foremost impressed and inspired by the talent of the 20-some women writers who took the course; their diversity, unique voices, honesty, and courage blew us away. Each of them brought something very authentic and different to the course.

    The most notable impression we took away from this class was the support and camaraderie that exists among bloggers. Sure, you hear about blog envy (I mean, who hasn’t had that? That viral post last week that you totally should have written yourself!), competition, and an overcrowded market. Sometimes it feels like we’re stepping on fellow bloggers’ laptops to come up with the most provocative title, most poignant reflection, or funniest personal anecdote. It can be overwhelming.

    But when we started this six-week class, we were pleasantly surprised to see how instantly the bloggers taking the course began to interact, to support one another, to offer ideas and feedback, and even to share each other’s accomplishments. Our intention was to provide a class chock-full of helpful advice, tips, and exercises, and of course we hope that happened! But another component of the course that was equally meaningful was the community of writers that emerged from within it.

    We learned that having a writing partner (all the participants in class were paired up with another writer) is an invaluable tool, as is finding a writing community. In the blogging world, we hear so much about “finding our tribe,” and many of us are lucky to do just that without too much trouble. I personally would have stopped blogging long ago were it not for the support, understanding, and virtual cheerleading of my own blogging tribe.

    IMG_1764
    Me with two of our HerStories contributors at the BlogHer 2014 Voices of the Year Reception.

    Among the many benefits of finding a writing community are:

    1. Meeting writers who get what it’s like to be part of the online writing world: it can be overwhelming and discouraging. There’s nothing like a conversation with another writer who “gets it.”
    2. Someone to provide honest and helpful feedback on your work. It’s amazing how another pair of writer’s eyes on a piece can help you; a fresh perspective can do wonders for a blog post or potential essay that has been stagnating.
    3. Finding encouragement and inspiration. Sometimes we all need to hear that our writing matters, that our words have the power to touch, entertain, and explore, and it’s so helpful to have a community of writers to give you that much-needed lift.
    4. Learning new styles of writing, topics to explore, and opportunities for publication. Being part of a writing community can open doors that you may not have known even existed. It’s like girls’ night and a networking session all rolled into one.

    We are happy to announce that now that our online course has ended, we are offering Write Your Way to a Better Blog as a PDF! Although it won’t have the online course interaction component or instructor feedback, we think we’ve found a way for bloggers to get that writing community experience we think is so valuable.

    writeyourwaygraphic

    We encourage bloggers who have bought the PDF to join a brand new Write Your Way to a Better Blog Facebook group we’ll be forming for discussion, interaction, and support. The group will be community-led, and we think you’ll make new connections and learn so much from each other. We encourage you to team up and find a writing partner (or maybe you already have one who will join the class with you!) within the Facebook group. Complete your exercises and assignments together; keep each other accountable; provide honest and helpful feedback on each other’s work.

    You can learn all about the course and the PDF, and buy a copy for $29 (the price will go up to $35 next week, so hurry!) right here. We hope you’ll learn a lot and find a fantastic writing community of your own. In the words of one of our students,

    I’ve taken quite a few blogging classes and a few writing ones too but what I was really craving was something that combined the two. I blog to write and my goal when sit to post on my blog is to improve my craft. The Write Your Way to a Better Blog course was exactly what I needed. The instructors are fabulous and the lessons and exercises so incredibly helpful. In the first week or two of class, everything felt so much clearer. And, so essential, everyone is so supportive. It was a truly fabulous experience and I know I’m a better writer now than I was 6 weeks ago!

    Purchase the PDF of Write Your Way to a Better Blog right here! And stay tuned next week as we announce our next online writing course, which will begin at the end of January!

  • Book Club With The HerStories Project

    Earlier this week, our contributor Nina Badzin shared her experiences with finding the perfect book club. As her post states, friendships and book clubs don’t always mix. Just because you enjoy the company of certain friends, neighbors, and co-workers doesn’t mean you’d necessarily click as a book club. The dynamics of a perfect book club have always reminded me of finding the right partner: sure, you may enjoy the same movies or share important values, but do you want the same things out of your relationship?

    The first book club I ever joined at the ripe old age of 22  made me feel terribly grown-up- I mean, I was in a book club! Wasn’t that what real adults did? Getting together with other intelligent adults to passionately and astutely dissect literature sounded right up my alley. After I forced myself to endure the torture of Kafka’s The Trial, I decided to spice things up with a new, out-of-the-box (heh heh) book about feminism. I chose a somewhat controversially titled book by Inga Muscio. To my great surprise and outrage, both the men and the women in the group tore my selection to shreds. The verbal evisceration continued outside the monthly meeting, extending into strongly-worded email exchanges. That was it. I was out.

    My most recent book club fell into the all-too-common trap that Nina alluded to: a bunch of women sitting around talking about their jobs and families and spending perhaps three total minutes talking about the book. Half of the group never read the book, and we too did that awkward dance where we tried to discuss the ending without ruining it for the slackers. “You know… when Martha has her transformation?” we would ask pointedly, raising our eyebrows at fellow book-finishers. “Ohhh, right. I agree- that part was very…pivotal.” Not much of a discussion.

    Even when I’m reading a book by myself, I frequently read through the Discussion Questions at the end. For one, if the book was engaging, I’m often in withdrawal already and am anxious to soak up just a few more pages before saying goodbye and moving on my next selection, which I’m already convinced could never measure up to its predecessor. I also enjoy taking a few minutes to process some of the nuances of the characters or plot, and maybe even apply the storyline to my own life.

    Not surprisingly, we think The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship would make the perfect book club book! We love how the book has inspired women to reflect on their own life experiences and friendships, and what better environment to dig deeper into the power of friendship than a (harmonious, dysfunction-free) book club?

    So to help you avoid falling into the traps I mentioned:
    a) The unfocused rant conversation
    b) The vague, unpleasantly brief, lacks direction discussion

    We’ve come up with some book club discussion questions that we invite you to use when discussing The HerStories Project with your book club! We will give them a permanent home in the menu of our website, but here they are!

    1. Which stories resonated with you the most? Why? Did they remind you of yourself, or of a particular friendship or time in your life?

    2. How long have you known your closest friends? Do you have any of the same friends you’ve had since childhood, high school, or college? When did you meet your current friends?

    3. When you think of your current friendships, how did you meet? Why did you decide to become close friends?

    4. Which qualities are most important to you in a friend? What important qualities do you bring to your friendships?

    5. If you are a mother, did you make any new friendships during your transition to motherhood? What did these relationships do for you? If you are not a mother, were there important transitions in your life– graduation, move to a new city, a new job, marriage– that brought new friends into your life? Why do you think we tend to form new friendships during these stages of extreme change and flux?

    6. Have you ever had a friendship breakup? Did you initiate it, or did your friend “break up” with you? How did you feel about it? Were you sad or relieved? Do you still miss your friend?

    7. Are there friends who are no longer in your life that you wish you could reconnect with? What would happen if you did, and what reasons would compel you to try again or keep your distance?

    8. Have you ever mourned the loss of a friend? What helped get you through it?

    9. How are your friendships similar to romantic relationships? How are they different? Are you more or less emotionally intimate with your girlfriends than you are with your partner?

    10. How often do you need to spend time with your friends to feel happy and balanced? What obstacles do you face that prevent you from staying in touch with your friends? How can you stay more connected and still make time for yourself, your family, and your job?

    BookClub2If you haven’t bought your copy of the book yet, you can order one right here, and send your fellow book club members over, too! In the spirit of friendship, consider buying The HerStories Project for a friend for February 14th: International Book Giving Day. We think it is a great tribute to the importance of female friendship in a woman’s life.

    Happy Reading!

    Enhanced by Zemanta
  • “The Girls From Ames” Gave Me a Complex

    We have another brand new friendship essay from one of our amazing contributors, Shannan Ball Younger, who writes for Tween Us. Shannan shares her feelings about her own friendship history after reading Jeffrey Zaslow’s book about a group of women who have been friends since childhood. Did you read The Girls from Ames?

    Am I The Only Grown Woman in America Without a Close Friend From Childhood?

    While I found the book The Girls from Ames to be a good read, it gave me a complex, or at least significantly exacerbated one that I already had. It is the non-fiction account of 9 women who have been friends for decades who all grew up together in Ames, Iowa. They have remained close despite different life paths and geographical distance.

    And as I read it, I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have those kinds of life-long friends?”

     

    Red book.I went away to college and graduate school and then moved even farther from where I grew up. I feel very, very fortunate to have a number of amazing girl friends, but I would not say that any of my close friends are the ones with whom I grew up.

    When I think about female friendships, I often feel like I have failed or that something is wrong with me because I am not friends with my best friend from kindergarten.

    Not that I don’t think of my kindergarten best friend on occasion. I remember the day we met and thinking that I should become friends with her because she was very fair taking turns on the slide at recess. We stayed friends through elementary school and even through middle school, which included a New Kids on the Block lip syncing contest that was broadcast on cable access.

    I feel like this is the beginning to all the great friendship stories, but mine comes to an end in high school. She became a goth as I became a band geek. I realize that it sounds like an episode of Glee; it pretty much was. I remember being in high school English class with her and trying to strike up a conversation as we neared graduation, but there just wasn’t a connection. We haven’t spoken since.

    Even those who were close friends in high school are ones from whom I’ve grown apart. While I certainly enjoy being Facebook friends and the occasional dinner when visiting my home state, they are among those with whom I confide, overshare or ask advice.

    I do have those friends, and I am crazy grateful for them, its just that I met them later in life.

    Why does that make me feel so odd? I wondered if my perception that I’m on of the few without a childhood friend to whom I’ve remained close for decades.

    This is not the first time that my perception is not, in fact, accurate.

    Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The Girls from Ames, wrote in a Wall Street Journal article that “a Harris Interactive Inc. survey in 2004 found that 39% of women between ages 25 and 55 said they met their current best friends in childhood or high school.”

    That means 61% of us do not have that life-long bond with a friend. That’s a pretty solid majority. I am not the friendship leper I feared I was. It’s more that a book about friends of a few years is apparently not quite as exciting to publishers as a friendship story spanning many decades like that of the Ames girls.

    I probably should have realized that I needed to get over my complex before reading that statistic, but honestly, it helped knowing that it’s not just me. I’m certain there are numerous reasons that I do not have those sustained childhood friendships, and those will take more than a blog to explore.

    Instead of wondering what was/is wrong with me, and there is a fair amount wrong with me, I’m going to focus on the close friends I have who remain in my life despite my flaws.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t great benefit and comfort in old friends, but I think I can say that I know that first hand. I find that one aspect of birthdays that I love now that I’m old not young is that it makes my college friends feel like “old” friends. We’re coming up on two decades of friendship and that’s pretty solid, in my opinion. The friendships with those girls are well aged, if you will.

    All this has called to mind the Girl Scout song “Make New Friends and Keep the Old.” (You hear it in your head now, don’t you?)

    A friend from college sent out an invitation not long ago to a cocktail party with the explanation that she knew a lot of “awesome women” (her word choice) and that she thought it was high time that we meet each other. There was no specific pressure to become friends, but we did. I loved the idea of friendships begetting more friendships.

    In the past year I’ve made new girlfriends with whom I’ve instantly clicked. They feel like old friends. I’m as comfortable with them as I am with my favorite, broken in sweatshirt. And for that I am grateful.

    Friendship cannot always be measured by a calendar. I’m wondering if it should be measured at all, or only in the quality and not quantity of smiles shared, ears bended, tissues passed, shoulders offered, hands lended and hugs given.

     

    As we prepare for the release of our book, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, we have a special offer for e-mail subscribers only! We will send a newsletter on Friday to all subscribers with an exciting offer- if you aren’t a subscriber yet, it’s not too late! You can subscribe to our weekly email newsletter by entering your email address in the sidebar.