The HerStories Project – My Interview with the Collaborators

herstories-ebookMy best friend and I have known each other for over 20 years. We can finish each other’s sentences and make each other laugh harder than watching Will Ferrell tap the cowbell on Saturday Night Live. And when life hit us with some tough moments, we were each other’s first call. Still are.

So when Jessica, from The HerStories Project, contacted me about their new book about the stories of female friendship, I was happy to read it and provide a quote for their website. Here’s my quote:

“There should be a warning that comes with this anthology. A warning that reads: ‘Holy crap, get your tissues ready and make sure chocolate is on hand.’  It’s one of those reads that speaks to your core. From having a best friend that means the world to you, to a friendship you lost years ago that still aches, the collection of stories speaks to the truth of friendship between women. It’s so awesome to see a group of writers come together and share the reality of friendships – the good, the bad and the absolutely amazing thing about calling another woman your true friend.”

I then thought it would be fun for you all to learn more about how this book came to be and who these ladies are. So I put on my Barbara Walters hat and conducted my own little interview with the collaborators of the project – Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock.

How did you and Stephanie first meet?

Stephanie: Jessica and I first connected when she read a post I wrote on BlogHer about how blogging made me feel awkward. We wound up reading each other’s blogs, commenting on posts, and noticing that our “Books We Love” pages had many of the same favorite books and authors. We wound up in a Facebook group for bloggers together, and that furthered our correspondence. We continued to talk about books and blogging in general; I recommended the book She Matters: A Life in Friendships to Jessica, and after we both read it, she suggested we start a friendship blog series together. And the rest is history!

Where did the idea of the book come from?

Stephanie: After a few months of publishing weekly blog posts on our individual websites, we decided to create a brand new website for the friendship series- The HerStories Project. It wasn’t long before we had a collection of essays that really resonated with readers; at that point, inspired by some of our blog colleagues’ success with self-publishing anthologies, we decided to turn the friendship series into a book- a collection of friendship essays. The book contains 50 essays from women writers and bloggers, as well as several chapters on understanding friendship from two friendship experts- Shasta Nelson and Carlin Flora. We were also thrilled to have Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy write the foreword for our book! The book is divided into four sections– adult friendships- in real life and online, early friendships and family connections, friendship and motherhood, and friendship breakups, grief, and loss. We are so proud of the diverse and powerful essays from extremely talented writers.

What three stories speak most to you personally?

Jessica: For me, I loved them all, especially reading them together as one collection. But if I had to name a few favorites, I love Samantha Brinn Merel’s piece “The Final Picture.” It’s simple, moving, and powerfully written. So many of us now have had the experience of seeing past friends or significant others move on with their lives on Facebook. It hurts, and yet — for me — I’ve found that in certain circumstances, I can’t turn away. That piece felt so timeless to me, yet so modern and reflective of how relationships work in today’s world.

I also love the two pieces about friendships and race by Jessica Vealitzek and Shay Stewart-Bouley. It’s a fact that many of us still tend to develop close relationships with people who are mostly like us — the same race, the same social class, the same educational level. Not always, of course, but there is still a racial barrier in friendships. I love the openness and frankness about these barriers in both of these pieces.

Stephanie: This is so hard- can I please do 4? I loved Liz Aguerre’s essay, “The More the Merrier”. She talks about how she gets something different from each friend, and how having more women who feed her differently is perhaps more important than having one “best” friend. I totally agree- in my adult life, I have noticed how each friendship brings me something different and important. Alisa Brownlow’s “The Way it Was” is a poignant look at how things inevitably change; I so often reflect on my college years with nostalgia and longing. Her essay resonated with me, as it brought to mind how sacred those memories are, and how formative that stage of my life–and those friendships– were to me. I loved Nina Badzin’s “The Case For a Friendship Break,” because so many of my college friendships, and even one close “grown-up friendship” required a break to get back on track. And finally- Christine Woodruff’s “A Dog, Two Families, and Amy” makes me cry every time- her friendship with Amy sums up something I have always longed for in my life.

What do you recommend to anyone considering self-publishing?

Jessica: Even though it’s called “self-publishing,” be prepared not to do it alone! You’ll need lots of help during the entire publishing process. Unless you’re a graphic designer yourself, I think it’s vitally important to invest in a good cover designer. We all judge a book by its cover, and you want to avoid the self-published look, which is nearly unavoidable unless you are a professional. And no matter how advanced your grammatical and spelling skills are, you absolutely need another set of eyes — preferably a professional copyeditor — on your book. There is no way that you will catch every error on your own, and you must put out a product that is as close to perfect as is possible.

I also recommend putting in a lot of thought into how you are going to market your market before it’s ready to publish. It’s so tempting to be proud of your work and think that the book should speak for itself. But hitting “publish” online is only the beginning; actually, the hardest work is ahead of you: getting others to learn about and buy your book!

Stephanie: I echo Jessica’s advice- the cover design and the copyediting are crucial for success. Working with a partner was so helpful to us, but for those who plan to go it alone, get as much feedback as you can from trusted friends and colleagues. Try to do as much research and reading as you can before you begin. I think that good organization is essential for self-publishing success. You may find yourself with dozens of spreadsheets (we did!) to help you stay organized, but there are so many tiny details to stay on top of- and you are the only one who is responsible for making sure things don’t fall through the cracks. So find a good organizational strategy and stick to it!

The HerStories Project:

The HerStories Project on Facebook:

The HerStories Project on Twitter:




  1. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book and what woman can’t relate? I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for a little “insider” on the authors!

  2. It IS a great book!!! And I’m not just saying that because my name is on page 99 😉

    Seriously, every piece I read, I find myself nodding or tearing up. Some of the details will be different with each one, but every essay has threads that are weaved throughout each of us in our stories of friendship. I think that Stephanie and Jessica did a fantastic job collecting pieces for this diverse and relatable anthology.


  3. I started reading it last night! What a beautiful tribute to women and their friendships!

  4. Wow, I really enjoyed this. I have an essay in the book, but didn’t realize what all went into it. They did an awesome job! I’m so proud to be part of this book.

  5. Thanks for such a great interview!! I too loved to learn all that has gone into making the book so special. I loved all the essays, but I too really related and loved, A Dog, Two Families and Amy. That one just got to me!!

  6. Great interview and thanks for the little mention of my essay here! I love the variety of topics in the anthology. Even though friendship is the overarching theme, there are so many unique stories.

  7. Thank you for the shout-out, Jessica! It is such a pleasure to be part of this project and book. I love that a book like yours is out there in the world.

  8. Stephanie and Jessica are amazing – they tackled this huge project and made it look effortless. Danielle, thank you for interviewing our fearless leaders and giving them the credit they deserve!

  9. This interview was so much fun, Danielle! Thanks for getting your Barbara Walters on for us! :)

  10. It has been an amazing experience to be a part of this collaborative, and Jessica and Stephanie did a wonderful job of weaving, not only the essays, but the contributors together (via Facebook and Twitter). I keep ordering more books for my friends (and not just because I’m in it :) ) but because the combination of the 50 essays really captures the true essence of women and friendship. Great interview, Danielle!

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