We Heart Karen Alpert's Book About Her Little A-Holes
You’ve just gotta love a woman who says Fuck a lot. ‘Cause even if I don’t always say it, I am usually thinking it. Loudly. Very, very loudly. Sometimes it comes out flippin’ or freakin’. But you know, know, know, that while my lips are saying frickin’, my brain is going FUUUUUCK! Which is why last year, when I stumbled onto the wickedly funny post “Why I’m A Worse Mom Than You,” I fell totally head over F-Me-heels for Chicago blogger Karen Alpert — better known to her many, many fans as Baby Sideburns. Now I’ll certainly debate her premise — there are definitely days when Joan Crawford would get Mom Of The Year ahead of yours truly. But like the thousands of other readers who also found Karen last year after her “What NOT To F’ing Buy My Kids This Holiday” went viral and firmly established her as a Must-Read Mom Blogger, I was instantly hooked on her rant-like-it-really-is POV. So I was beyond thrilled when I learned (via Facebook, natch) that she’d joined the ranks of Mommy Lit Authors with I Heart My Little A-Holes, a collection of new essays and blog favorites about poopie diapers, vajayjays, penises, hating on Caillou, traveling with tots and the other horrifying, maddening stuff of motherhood. Published by Alpert herself through an ingenious Kickstarter campaign, I Heart My Little A-Holes was released October 22 and immediately hit the New York Times Best-Seller List for ebook nonfiction — alongside such heavyweights as Malcolm Gladwell, Cheryl Strayed, Sheryl Sandberg and Peter Baker, no less. One small step for mommy bloggers … and a gigundo leap for all of us who aspire to a book of our very own.
I called the New York Times best-selling author a few days after she learned she’d earned the right to tack that bio line after her name forever after, to find it was still business as usual in the Baby Sideburns household: Her kids were having a knock-down-drag-out fight over … a book. Preschoolers, it turns out, don’t give a shit about the New York Times, or media calls for that matter. And since I was a full hour early for our interview — because apparently even though I have gone to college and graduate school, I’m not able to negotiate a change in time zones, even before the clocks got turned back — Karen graciously informed me she’d be free once she could hand off her referee whistle to the babysitter and escape to Starbucks. (Honestly, WHERE would writers get any work done if there were no Starbucks?!?)
So 60 minutes later, as she settled in with her coffee and cell phone in a reasonably quiet corner of her neighborhood Starbucks, I asked her straight up, “Karen … so, how the fuck did you do it?”
Karen Alpert [laughing]: It’s been a crazy year. I found out a couple of nights ago that I’d made the best-seller list, and I think my jaw hit the counter top. And when I woke up the next morning, I was like OH. MY. GOD! It’s unbelievable.
Norine: So, give us a bit of the backstory. How did Baby Sideburns come to be a blog and how did your blog lead to a best-selling book?
Karen: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. And after college, I was an advertising copywriter for 15 years. But even before I knew what blogging was, I was writing stories about having my first child, Zoey. Meanwhile, I’d moved to the suburbs of Chicago. I didn’t have many friends there yet, and I was a stay-at-home mom for the first time. That’s when I started writing a blog I initially called Mommyhood Unplugged. I was probably putting up one blog a month and maybe had about 170 readers. Eventually, I began writing for the website Families In The Loop, and my blog got accepted onto Chicago Now, a conglomerate of awesome blogs in the Chicago area. Then last November, I wrote a post called “What NOT To F’ing Buy My Kids This Holiday.” And my blog just exploded. The number of readers I had just snowballed. After that, I started writing and writing more, just feeding the beast. I was trying to post at least three times a day and write at least two blogs a week. I kept the momentum up. In less than a year, I went from 170 readers to 142,000 readers. It’s been crazy.