With a journalist for a grandfather and an editor as a grandmother, Alanna Fincke grew up loving words and the power of language. After her graduation from Syracuse University, Alanna went straight to work for Elle magazine, followed by instrumental roles at US Weekly and the then-fledgling, InTouch. Now, at the helm of the Martha Stewart Living publication, body + soul , Alanna Fincke is able to combine her literary talents with her passion for healthy living. She also contributes to the Survival Guide  here at Mommy Tracked. Listen in and learn more about this amazing media powerhouse—and mom.
Since we’re a mom-focused site, could I start by asking you to share a little bit about your children?
I have two wonderful children. Eva is 20 months old and Jonah is a rambunctious 4 ½. Right now, Eva is obsessed with hoodies and her new Target princess pink shoes, which she has to wear until the moment she goes to bed. Meanwhile, Jonah insists on taking all the cushions off the couch, turning the entire family room in to some sort of fort/gymnasium, which makes both the kids squeal with joy, while my husband grumbles that there’s nowhere to sit.
Eva and Jonah are both redheads, which is really quite funny, because neither my husband nor I have red hair. My husband was a red head when he was younger, and I was strawberry blond as a very young child, too. But what’s even crazier: my brother’s two children also have red hair, and neither of their parents are redheads. It must be a very strong recessive gene in our family!
You’ve traveled a wondrous -- and enviable -- journalistic path. Please tell us a bit about the steps on your route to your current role at body + soul. Any memorable/humorous/growth-spurring tales from any of your earlier positions?
I grew up on an organic farm, and my parents were hippies. Now, I treasure that I had the experience of growing our own food and living sustainably. But I resented it for most of my younger years. After all, it wasn’t cool when my mom showed up to my stuffy private school recitals in her Birkenstocks. But being raised this way has informed my perspective on life. It has taught me to always prioritize my health, promote my own wellness, and to live by eco-friendly principles. Through crazy jobs and a fast-paced New York City life, I always came back to these ideals.
I started at Elle magazine right out of college and stayed there more than five years. I learned so much about how to talk to women and how to do top-notch health, fitness, news and fashion stories. And I got to live the glamorous New York life of fabulous parties and fancy dinners. Then I went to US Weekly, soon after it went from a monthly to a weekly. It was incredibly intense. The hours were long, the bosses were tough, and the celebrities were crazy! In the midst of this chaos, I dove into yoga. It provided a wonderful balance to the stress. Then, when my job was at its busiest, I signed up for a yoga teacher-training program. I wanted to learn more about the practice and dive more deeply into the spiritual side of it. It was amazing and truly life changing. I learned how to let go and flow more smoothly with the inevitable ups and downs of life. And I went from someone who feared change to a person who can embrace it. I also started writing a yoga column for body + soul. Then I got a call from editor Richard Spencer. He wanted to start a new celebrity weekly called, InTouch. I really liked him and his vision, so I joined the team and helped launch the magazine and stayed for almost four years.
My time in celebrity journalism taught me worlds about how the consumer thinks, how to package and sell a magazine, and how to write powerful cover lines and headlines. When I got a call about coming to body + soul, I knew instantly that it was the perfect next step for me. The position would bring together my expertise as an editor and my passions as a human being. When I met our publisher Jan Bruce, I also knew this was the job for me. She and I connected immediately with our vision for the magazine and the brand. And then something strange happened that affirmed this move even more: Going through the interview process, I noticed that the address of the offices outside of Boston looked familiar. I’m from the area originally. It turns out that my dad and his friends had a meditation center in the seventies in the same building, on the same floor, of our offices! I used to hang out here as a kid. I have come full circle, and it has felt right from the very first moment.
The name Martha Stewart reflexively evokes thoughts of female power and achievement. Can you tell us a bit about what it is like to be a part of a Martha Stewart publication?
It’s amazing to be a part of a company that honors and respects creativity and that produces such beautiful, inspiring, high-quality publications. And Martha, herself, is an inspiration. She has built an amazing business and brand. And she is incredibly smart.
Via your “Letter from the Editor” you’ve essentially been bestowed a periodical bully pulpit! How do you decide your topic(s) to opine upon each issue?
I always pull from real experiences in my life when I write my letter. I want the readers to have a connection to me and learn about who I am. They need to know that I’m right there with them on this journey. I struggle just like them to find balance — no one is perfect. We can all live better, eat smarter, be greener.
Do you think parenting requires more freestyle composition or strategic editorial work?
Parenting teaches you to use all your best personality traits: patience, caring, love, tenderness, creative thinking, imagination, sharing. And like a muscle that you continue to exercise, you get stronger at incorporating more of these lovely characteristics into your daily interactions as time goes on — even when you’re not with your children.
Parenting has taught me worlds about life, too. It’s the best teacher when it comes to learning to let go and go with the flow. You can have the best-laid plans, and they all go right out the window when the inevitable unexpected comes along. I don’t sweat the small stuff as much anymore, either. It’s helped me prioritize the important things and let go of dwelling on what I can’t control.
As someone well-ensconced and highly respected in a word-centric field, care to share your favorite example(s) of the written word (and why)? What literature do you love sharing with your children?
The favorites in our house right now are Goodnight Moon, Charlotte’s Web, anything from Dr. Seuss, and, of course, Mother Goose. I like to keep the nursery rhymes alive. My parents read them to me.
As for me, I’ve been reading a lot about the state of our nation’s food supply. Agribusiness has almost completely wiped out the farmer and has totally changed the way we eat. Currently, I’m reading Righteous Porkchop by Nicolette Hahn Niman. She uncovers the abominable practices of feed-lot farming. I think changing the way we eat for the health of our selves and the planet will be the next big movement.
In the past few decades, many books and articles have centered on the all-too-frequently volatile debate between working-out-of-the-home and working-in-the-home mothers. Why do you feel so many mothers lean toward judgment — as opposed to support — of other women’s choices? Any personal related stories to share?
I’m mystified why there’s still so much judgment put upon working mothers. If you’re lucky enough to have the choice to stay home with your children, then I honor you for that. But for the majority of women, staying home with their children is not an option. I have always had to work — I have worked since I was 15 years old — and probably will always have to in some capacity. And if I didn’t have to, I might choose to anyway. I’m not sure because it’s never been an option for me. But no matter what your situation is as a mother, whether you’re working in the home or out, women need to be supportive of one another. We’re all dealing with the same challenges and trying to raise our children to grow up and become happy, successful, caring human beings.
You are so busy! How do you find balance between your professional life and your personal life? What do you do to relax? Do you ever find yourself a victim of “mommy guilt?”
I find balance by practicing self-care and listening to that inner voice when it speaks. Our bodies talk to us; they tell us when they’ve reached their limit and when they need attention. It’s essential that we tune in and listen. When we don’t, exhaustion sets in and disease will sprout. My plan includes taking care to make time for the things in life that make me happy, eating a healthy, whole foods diet, getting enough sleep (I’m best when I get 8 hours a night), practicing regular stress reduction (breathing, meditation, yoga), and exercise. You’re probably wondering when I find time to fit this all in with my busy schedule. Most of it, I do right along with my kids. We cook delicious meals together, my kids love doing yoga and exercising with me. I’ll pop in an exercise DVD and they’ll dance around me in the living room while I do my Pilates. At night before going to bed, I take five minutes to breathe, de stress and meditate. It’s funny how you can suddenly find the time to do the things that you really want to fit in.
As for mommy guilt — I have a lot of it. That’s my honest answer. I absolutely adore my children, and I don’t want to miss a moment. Leaving to go to work is always tough. It never gets easier — even though I know they are well taken care of and happy children. But on the other hand, I’m providing a life for my children that wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t work. And that makes me feel incredibly proud. And when my children see the magazine each month or see me on television, they get so excited. They are proud of me. I know that I’m setting an example for them of someone who is living their passion and dreams. And I hope that seeing what I’ve achieved encourages them to go after their dreams.
Of all your achievements, which one do you think makes your children the proudest? To date, what is your proudest professional moment? Proudest Mommy moment? What’s next on your plate?
Having my two children is my proudest accomplishment, by far! Just watching my kids grow and change is so unbelievably rewarding. I get so excited when Eva learns a new word or puts new words together and can express herself in a new way. Jonah is starting to understand how the world works now, and he’s starting to say the most amazing things. The other day, as we were getting ready to leave the house for school, he said, “Mommy, what are we going to do when the world runs out of oil?” I mean, this was deep!
My proudest professional moments have been at body + soul. I have so enjoyed working on this brand and being an integral part of its enormous growth. Last year, we won our first award, which was very gratifying: a Folio Eddie for best issue in the women’s lifestyle category. It felt great!
Alanna Fincke is the Editor-in-Chief of body+soul, a registered yoga teacher, a wife and mother of two. Learn more about her by visiting body+soul . Alanna Fincke also contributes to Mommy Tracked's own Survival Guide  for multitasking moms.
Mommy Tracked Survival Guide contributor and body + soul editor Alanna Fincke interviewed by Cheryl Lage: The author of Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy through the First Year , Cheryl Lage is a freelance writer/editor and a full-time mom. Her twin-centric perspectives have appeared in a wide array of print, web and broadcast media including: MSN.com, TWINS, Pregnancy, AmericanBaby.com, Parents.com, ePregnancy.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio, iVillage.com, People’s Celebrity Baby Blog, Richmond Parents Monthly, and her own web support site, Twinsights.com .
Currently, she lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia, where she is an elementary school room mother — times two! Learn more about Cheryl by visiting her blog, Twinfatuation .
Want to hear more from Mommy Tracked's own writers on how they balance life and work as busy working moms? Check out our interview with Cool Mom Picks  co-founder and Picks from the Personal Shopper  contributor Liz Gumbinner !