books

  • How to Publish a Book With Toddlers

    When Jessica and I began the submission process for My Other Exeach of us had a two-year-old at home. By the time we’d published the book, our kids had turned three, an age I maintain is even more challenging. Any veteran parents out there know the woes of raising toddlers and can attest to the impact they have on one’s productivity. Frankly, it’s shocking that we got any work done at all during the hours our children were conscious. Somehow, we pulled it off, and looking back on the whole experience, there are a few, um, memorable aspects that stand out.

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    1. Phone conversations are less than professional. To anyone who doesn’t know, Jessica and I live dozens of states away from each other and have never actually met in person. Which means that daily emails and weekly phone calls are absolutely essential for us to stay organized and on top of things. Often, one of us would cover the mouthpiece to urge our offspring to go ahead and watch one more Daniel Tiger or to remind them that no, it wasn’t Daddy on the other end of the line. Or Grandma. Yes, have another bowl of Goldfish. But there was one epic phone call when both our children were at home and awake. Mine was upstairs in her bedroom, supposed to be napping, and she was hollering, singing, and banging the wall, all the while strumming a plastic guitar with her foot through the slats of her crib. I’m dead serious. As the two of us attempted to engage in a coherent conversation, both of our children could be heard screeching, whining, and bellowing demands in the background. It sounded as though we were conducting business in a lunatic asylum. Which, we kind of were.
    2. Mommy’s “office” gets very little respect. When we were in the thick of the book mailing process, the floor of my toy storage area living room office was littered with boxes, envelopes, books, and those annoying little adhesive label pieces from the back of the mailers. My toddler insisted on wrapping every single last one of those strips around someone’s wrist as though it were the 21-and-over bracelet slapped on hipsters at the entrance to a seedy nightclub. This was the delightful era in which she, if left unsupervised, would poke holes in any and all pieces of paper with a pencil. Thus, she literally poked holes in much of my work, including the address labels I had printed to ship books. Paper was wasted. But that wasn’t the worst of it…
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      Boxes, mailers, address labels, those fun “wristbands” strewn about… and of course naked baby dolls and discarded dogs.
    3. Bodily functions and fluids played a prominent role I know. We’re grossed out, too. One of our children, whose identity shall be protected, actually pooped on his/her mother’s book notes. That may have been the same day in which he/she dumped a toddler potty full of urine into the heating vent—it’s hard to say. The day that I stopped by the hip indie bookstore to meet the owner, schedule a book event, and drop off a copy of My Other Ex, I had to bring my daughter with me. Being the stellar parent that I am, I of course bribed her with a lollipop for good behavior. And she was downright charming while we were there. Except for when, in the middle of our conversation about my book event, she loudly announced that she needed to poop. Poop happens– what are you going to do? Not bring your toddler on professional meetings, for one, but such is the life of a work-at-home mom with limited childcare. Of course, the biggest doozy of them all occurred at the actual book party. Everything was going beautifully … until my three-year-old vomited all over my husband. At my book release party. It’s true. Fortunately, after hearing her weakly proclaim, “I don’t feel well,” he hurried outside where she promptly threw up on him, avoiding contaminating the bookstore itself and preventing me from scoring any future book gigs with them. They managed to catch my brief reading and thank-you to my family and friends (Incidentally, I thanked my daughter for not throwing up on me), but pretty much missed the party.
    4. Snacks, Netflix, grandparents, and preschool are absolute necessities. Oh, and husbands help, too. Those hours when our children are being cared for by other family members or were at preschool were golden. During those magical windows, I often had to force myself to step away from my laptop to use the bathroom, as I was bound and determined to make every second count. Due to the nature of publishing, there were times when our kids were home and there was still work to be done. Enter aforementioned parenting crutches. Sure, we don’t recommend planting your child in front of the television with a handful of juice boxes and Uncrustables for hours on end(although it does sound tempting), but there’s no way we would have been able to have a phone call, return an email, or get all that editing done were it not for the miracle of the uninterrupted Netflix children’s series. Yes—even Caillou. Sometimes we choose the lesser of two evils: constant interruptions and shirt-tugging or the muted soundtrack of a whiny bald kid? Desperate times.

    Although the presence of two- and three-year-olds is less than desirable when attempting to read submissions, edit essays, and publish a book, we’re here to tell you: It can be done. Our first book about women’s friendship came out exactly a year ago, when our kids were two, and we can’t wait to see what the next publication experience will bring with a couple of three-and-a-half year olds and a new baby for Jessica!

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    **Remember! Our deadline for submitting to Mothering Through the Darkness, our upcoming anthology about postpartum depression and struggles, has been extended to January 1st. Submit an essay here.

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  • We Have a Big Announcement!

    We have exciting news, and we are thrilled to finally share it with our HerStories community today! Last week, we signed a contract with She Writes Press to publish our next anthology, Mothering Through the Darkness! We could not be happier about this. Have you heard of She Writes Press? In the publishing world, many people refer to them as a “hybrid publisher.” In their own words, this is how the She Writes team describes their business:

    She Writes Press is unique in the world of publishing because we’re neither traditional publishing, nor are we self-publishing. We have begun to bill ourselves as a “third way” and we proudly occupy the gray zone, a much-needed alternative in a rapidly changing publishing landscape.”

    She Writes is an independent publishing company that gives writers more control than a traditional publisher; they provide high-quality services as well as a positive community experience.

    Jessica and I have had a great experience with self-publishing our first two books; we particularly found our groove with My Other Ex. But we are very much looking forward to publishing with She Writes—from working with their cover designer, to their editing team, to being part of a community that helps promote women writers and their work.

    For more information on She Writes Press, their services, and how to submit your manuscript to them for consideration, visit their website. Right now, our book is slated for publication in fall 2015! We are so excited; we’ve been steadily receiving submissions, and we look forward to receiving more in the coming weeks. If you’re thinking about submitting an essay but you’ve been on the fence, we hope you’ll take the plunge.

    On that note, we are happy to share that we will be extending our deadline for our call for submissions and writing contest for Mothering Through the Darkness. The deadline for submissions is now January 1st, 2015. For more information on the anthology, the guidelines, the contest, and how to submit, read this post. And you can submit your essay directly by following this link.

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  • Book Club With The HerStories Project

    Are you in a book club? Book clubs aren’t always quite as easy or fun as they sound; even our own advice columnist, Nina Badzin, has struggled with book club drama! Some book clubs run into trouble when members disagree about the “terms” (you know, whether or not your group actually reads the book or whether they just sit around and drink wine and talk about their kids), and some book clubs can’t seem to agree on a book that interests all of them. I’m embarrassed to say that every single book club I’ve ever been part of (three!) has dissolved for one reason or another.

    But maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you have the perfect book club. Now all you need is the perfect book! (Do you see where I’m going with this one?) Not surprisingly, we think My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends would make a fantastic book club book. Here are just a few reasons why:

    1. Essay collections make for an easy, enjoyable read: you can put the book down and pick it up as often as you like, reading a whole section of the book in one sitting or just an essay or two at a time.
    2. These stories are real, which makes them even more compelling and relatable. We think you’ll find yourself somewhere in these essays, if not over and over again throughout the book.
    3. Friendship breakups and loss are universal; everyone can relate to the loss of a close friendship, whether it occurred recently or many years ago, and whether you were the one who was left behind or you did the walking. Reading about the friendship endings of others is sure to stir up some memories and feelings, and that makes excellent fodder for book club conversation.
    4. You might actually experience some relief, a catharsis, or an “aha” moment by talking about friendship loss with other women. One of my best friend’s husbands always says, “Have fun at therapy!” whenever we get together. It’s true: women gathering together and talking about the richness, complexity, and pain of relationships can be extremely therapeutic.

    And if that’s not enough to convince you, we have one more fun reason why we think My Other Ex would make a great choice for your book club. If your book club decides to read and discuss My Other Ex for its next meeting, you can have a complimentary Skype call with one of the editors! During your book club meeting, either Jessica or I (Stephanie) will be available for a Skype call where members of your group can ask us questions about the book, the publishing process, the essays, or friendship breakups in general. We already have one lined up, and we think it’s going to be so much fun! Send us an email at info@herstoriesproject.com if you’re interested in setting up a chat for your book club meeting! You can buy the book here, and we’re including some Discussion Questions below to get you thinking:

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    Book Club Discussion Questions for My Other Ex

    • How old were you when you experienced your first friendship breakup? Who ended it? Did it take a long time to recover?
    • Have you had many friendships end? Did they fade away or were the breakups more dramatic?
    • When was the most recent time a friendship with a close friend ended? How did you feel?
    • Have you ever broken up with a friend? Why? Did you feel guilty?
    • Has a friend ever badly hurt you by ending your relationship?
    • Have you ever had a friendship end unexpectedly? Was it more painful than a gradual ending? Why?
    • Have you ever had a friendship end because of a romantic relationship? Did you lose friends after a divorce (yours or a friend’s) or after ending a romantic relationship?
    • Have your friendship breakups affected other friends in your circle? Did people have to take sides? Have you ever been “left behind” when your friends chose another friend over you?
    • What do you wish you’d done differently in the breakup? What do you wish your friend had done differently?
    • What would you say to your friend now, if you could?
    • Did you ever have a friendship end and it brought you relief?
    • Have you broken up with a close friend only to reconnect later? How did it change your friendship?
    • Do you think friendship breakups are more or less painful than a romantic relationship ending? Why?

     

    We would love to hear your reactions to the book! If you’ve read it, please consider writing a review on Amazon– it means a lot to us! And please spread the word to other book clubs you know! Happy reading!

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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!

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    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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  • Books We Recommend for Every Friend on Your List (At Any Time of the Year)

    herstoriesxmasbooksNeed a last minute gift for a friend, sister, your mom, or a co-worker?

    Books are always my favorite gifts to give. I love trying to choose a book based on someone’s personality, interests, and book genre preferences. And I love receiving books too! To me, nothing says that someone knows me and understands me better than choosing a book that engrosses me and touches me.

    Over the past year I’ve gotten to know several books about friendship. Some are inspiring and motivating, others are beautifully written examples of memoir, and some are informative and practical.

    Here are a few to check out to give to your all of your friends, from your BFF to your co-worker.

    For your friend who loves literary memoirs…..

    She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenburg.  The book that started it all for Stephanie and me. This is the memoir of friendship stories that first inspired our reflections on our own relationships and then our HerStories blog.  According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Sonnenberg’s strikingly honest depictions of tumultuous female alliances and confessions about friendships are both moving and relatable; her depth of reflection and incandescent prose marks this exceptional memoir as a must-read to share among friends.” We were hooked from the first of these linked essays.

    For a friend who loves to read fascinating and surprising research

    Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are by Carla Flora, one of our own HerStories Project contributors.  An examination of friendship based on research evidence and women’s own stories by a journalist and former Psychology Today editor.

    For a friend who’s looking to understand how to make more friends

    Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends by another contributor, Shasta Nelson.  A guide for how to create friendships in today’s busy world by the CEO of GriendFriendCircles.Com.

    For the friend who likes funny writers

    Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without by Julie Klam. Klam is a very witty writer. She tackles the topic of adult friendship with humorous vignettes. The book is light-hearted but also wise and poignant.

    For the friend who is going through a “friendship breakup

    Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend by “The Friendship Doctor” Irene Levine. In her book (and her blog), Dr. Levine talks about why friendships fall apart, how to cope with getting dumped by a friend, how to end an irreparable friendship, and how to move forward after a traumatic friendship split. She pinpoints many of the various reasons that  friendships can disintegrate and also helps shed light on when it is worthwhile to mend the relationship, or better to cut your losses and move on.

    And finally, for all the women on your list (your friends, your mom, your sisters), don’t forget about our book, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship. Our book is a collection of friendship essays by 50 female writers who reflect upon how a friendship has shaped the trajectory of their lives. We think women of all ages could relate to the power of these bonds and to these stories.

    Which books have you given friends for the holidays, birthdays, special occasions, or just because?

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