By Henry Ehrlich
Congratulations to Gwen Smith and the team from Allergic Living for the “Food Allergy Anxiety Guide.” This 90-page e-magazine will surely be the definitive guide to all aspects of the subject for years to come. As Gwen writes in her introduction, “The purpose of this e-magazine is to discuss the fears and the ‘what ifs’ with honesty, without sugar-coating, and to begin to understand this phenomenon as its own anxiety disorder.” Mission accomplished. It is an authoritative and polished product, complete with podcast, and should be on the desktops of patients, parents, and practitioners.
I wrote to Gwen and asked her a couple of questions:
AAC: What was the impetus for starting the project and how long did it take?
Gwen: I have a long interest in the anxiety issues surrounding food allergies. But the impetus for this full-on ‘Food Allergy Anxiety Guide’ stems directly from our decision earlier this year to transition to a digital publication. Doing so related to the future direction of publishing, but it also provided me an opportunity to stand back and assess: What could a digital Allergic Living be that was truly useful to the community? Coming from a current affairs (radio) and news magazine background, I’m always interested in taking apart and packaging big topics.
This led to my idea of a “big topic” special edition guide, and I had a sense from our community that a natural such subject/need was food allergy anxiety. We tested the idea on our social media channels by asking: “If you are stuck in food allergy stress, tell us your story.” (The Consulting Editor on this issue is Gina Clowes; she asked the same on Allergy Moms.) The outpouring in emails and posts was incredible, and people’s stories were so affecting. The need here, just as quality-of-life surveys have shown, is clear.
The edited-down reader quotes (preview publicly available here) are what led me to go slightly overboard and create a 90-page interactive publication. I felt compelled to do something exceptional on this topic. It’s almost more a book than a magazine. I honestly think this is the best work we’ve done in a dozen years of publishing. The reason is the importance of the topic and the fact that our writers and podcast moderator were able to get top food allergy therapists to give actionable strategies to show that you don’t have to stay locked in stress and fears.
We pulled it together four months. We burned lot of midnight oil. But we got there.
AAC: Wow. Tight timeframe. Were there any particular challenges?
Gwen: Even with Allergic Living’s big audience, getting enough people to know about the Guide and to understand it’s a significant and unique piece of work on the food allergy anxiety topic is taking a great deal of work. It’s also a bit of a challenge to communicate that while the Guide discusses anxiety, the real focus is on the steps toward stress control and better quality of life.
There were some hiccups at the beginning, but fortunately we got those sorted out quickly. Transitions always seem to come with learning curves.
What was NOT a challenge – finding people to speak on this topic. There are many wanting to talk, wanting to find a way through.
The finished product is worth the cost: $7.95. It’s not a one-time thing. Readers should go back again and again for the advice, for the inspiration, and for the exposure to multiple points of view. Print out pieces of it and show them to your uncomprehending friends and relatives. Get a grip. You are not alone.