Drinking Diaries: Blog Becomes Book
Everyone has at least one or two—if not several dozen—booze stories to share. DrinkingDiaries.com was created as a judgement-free forum for women to discuss anything alcohol-related. It ended up being so successful that, as of this week, it's now also a book. It all started with just two women, Caren Osten Gerszberg and Leah Odze Epstein, each struggling to deal with her own mother’s dependence on alcohol. The two became friends, and leaned on each other during the hard times. “I would sit on her porch and we would talk and I would kind-of lament about my situation," Gerszberg tells The Fix. "I didn’t know how to handle it." Epstein wanted to suggest Al-Anon, but a couple of bad childhood experiences at meetings with her mother left her feeling pessimistic. "I just had this fantasy about sitting around with cool women, actually sitting at a bar or something, just talking and telling our drinking stories," Epstein tells us with a laugh. "I just wanted to have a free and open dialog."
One night over dinner, the two writers came up with the idea for Drinking Diaries. They ultimately wanted to publish a book, but decided to start online. “We were sitting at the table and we were like ‘Oh, let’s start a blog!'" Gerszberg says. "'Let’s see if there are other women that feel compelled to share their story or similar feelings that I was having, like where do you go? And what do you do? And how do you deal?'" The blog launched in 2009 and—despite the fact that both women knew nothing about blogging—rapidly developed a following, with new interviews and essays added every week. The two were busy editing, writing and high-fiving "like football players" whenever a high-profile writer like Julie Powell or Joyce Maynard agreed to contribute. "I was kind-of shocked that people were willing to be so honest," Epstein says. Author Ann Leary even came out as an alcoholic on the site.
Epstein and Gerszberg decided it was time to publish in print, and this week saw the release of Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up. The anthology contains experiences and anecdotes from women of myriad perspectives, cultures and ages. Of course, the blog continues. And Epstein hints that she'd love to work on a project involving teens in the future—or perhaps even some men. But for now, it's time to enjoy the success of Drinking Diaries so far: "I feel very gratified that we’ve put so much of our effort and brought together some amazing stories," Gerszberg says. "As much as it was a personal journey, the goal is really to bring this issue out into the open so that as many women as possible could feel like they too could open up and share their stories and not ever feel judged. That was really the crux of this project.”