Blog to Book: Interview with The 52 Weeks
Want to try something new but can't get yourself off the couch? It definitely takes effort to break old patterns and incorporate novelty into life. In 2013, I've tried a week with no gluten, taking my newest cat outside on a leash, reorganizing my kitchen and using my crockpot more often. I talked to blogger-turned-author Karen Amster-Young, who decided to try one new thing a week for a year. She and her co-writer and friend, Pam Godwin, blog at The 52 Weeks. They even turned their idea into a book, which will be out next year from Skyhorse Publishing. Whether you're interested in turning a blog into a book or just want to try something new, check out our conversation.
BlogHer: How did you get the idea for the 52 weeks project?
Karen Amster-Young: Pam, my co-author and I, were out having drinks one night and found ourselves complaining to each other: We both felt stuck! We had checked off many of our major life goals -— career, husband, children, friends -— but lost momentum. We came up with a plan and challenged ourselves to try one new thing every week for a year -— from test-driving Maseratis to rock climbing to dance lessons -— and to blog about our weekly efforts and experiences.
BlogHer: Did you start the project with doing a book in mind or did that just happen?
Karen Amster-Young: It totally just happened! We really never thought about a book at all! The blog was just a way to be accountable to one another. Then, after a while, we realized many, many women felt the same way we did, especially women in their forties. It was only after a local media interview that we started seeing the importance of sharing our message beyond our blog and getting a book out there.
BlogHer: How do you two know each other?
Karen Amster-Young: We met when our daughters were in preschool together! They are now in middle school!
BlogHer: Which has been your favorite project?
Karen Amster-Young: It was less about a “favorite” 52 to-do and more a sense of accomplishment each time we checked something off. The blog just helped get us going again!
BlogHer: How did you decide what to cull from the blog for the book?
Karen Amster-Young: The book is a combination of our personal stories that were on the blog and advice and tips from many experts. The experts were an important part of the book. We interviewed many, including doctors, CEOs, therapists, artists and even a poker diva!
BlogHer: Is there fresh content in the book that wasn’t on the blog?
Karen Amster-Young: Yes. Each chapter begins we some of our original blog stories but then follows with first-person narrative, anecdotes from Pam and me and then expert advice. There are also inspirational quotes and a Next Steps section for readers. The book also features some worksheets and other tools -– including lists of ideas for jump-starting every area of your life.
BlogHer: Tell us a little about your journey to finding a publisher.
Karen Amster-Young: Emails, emails, and more e-mails. We didn’t know anything! After being encouraged by a close family friend and some preliminary interest from a few industry people, we quickly found out we had to write a nonfiction book proposal to really outline our concept, marketing strategy and backgrounds. There is an industry formula to follow. We reached out to many literary agents and a few select publishers directly. As it turns out, Karen met our publisher at a panel about six months before we finished our book proposal, so networking is obviously really important, too. After Skyhorse Publishing expressed interest in publishing our book, we locked in a great agent. It usually works the other way around (agent, then publisher) but we wanted an agent on our team. You can’t underestimate the value of what a good agent brings to the table.
BlogHer: Would you do another book based on a blog?
Karen Amster-Young: We see many future possibilities for The 52 Weeks, including a series based on the original idea. There are many natural extensions of the first book, including 52 Weeks for specific areas of one’s life (Wellness, Relationships, Giving Back and so on). We don’t see another book from a blog, but you never know!
BlogHer: Are you going to keep going after the 52 weeks?
Karen Amster-Young: The original 52 weeks ended quite a while ago. The book process is a long one! However, we hope we, along with our experts, will continue to inspire people to start their own 52-week project! Workshops, other products, they are many possibilities we are talking about.
BlogHer: Do you have plans for more books?
Karen Amster-Young: We believe people are always looking for simple ways to get going again and regain momentum in their lives. If there is a demand for more books related to our concept, we will be there.
Which new thing would you most like to try this year?