Seal Press

Sarah Granger's The Digital Mystique

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.39.07 AMSo pleased to support digital life thinker and my fellow Seal Press author Sarah Granger's launch of The Digital Mystique. In The Digital Mystique: How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life – Online and Off, Granger shows us how digital media is shaping our lives in real time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.37.47 AM Long before I moved to SF and met her at TEDx Bay Area's Global Women Entrepreneurs, I was following Sarah on Twitter  (since 2008!) where she was virtually taking me to the conferences and into the conversations I love about how digital life is shaping the way we learn, grow, and thrive. 

Sarah's shared her path to publishing this book and along the way I've been thrilled to share with Sarah my own experiences with the empowerment digital life can bring.

I really appreciate the enriching role she plays in her community, and thank her for recommending me as a speaker for the Exceptional Women in Publishing conference.

The book launch is September 9 in San Francisco at AppDynamics and will feature the viewing of an Emmy-nominated six minute video by Tiffany Shlain, an introduction by BlogHer cofounder Elisa Camahort Page, and remarks by the author.

Check out the book no matter where you are!

Going On Record As A Travel Writer With Rolf Potts' Interview Series

Excerpt from a travel writers interview by Rolf Potts at his Vagabonding site, 2006. View the full interview here. How did you get started traveling?

My fascination with a wider world cropped up early.

As a toddler in countercultural Berkeley, CA my favorite pastime was "French Lady", a tea party with Continental accents.

I began traveling even further when I learned to read -- comic books.

Instead of poring over Archie & Veronica, perky storylines that revolved around characters who never graduated from high school nor breached the border of their staid hometown, I was entranced by the global expanse of history and people and culture revealed in the Belgian-made graphic adventures of Tintin.

Tracking a drug-smuggling ring in Egypt, discovering a meteorite with a Polar research vessel, surviving a plane wreck on an Indonesian island -- this was life!

Tintin's travel tales, and many others after them, remain reference points. Last fall at a museum in Nazca, Peru one long-haired, head-banded Incan mummy stirred a pleasant flashback to "The Seven Crystal Balls", as well as the awe of my twelve-year old self. It's no wonder I pursued a degree in archaeology.

How did you get started writing? AA: In the early  '70s I kept a journal on childhood road trips where I recorded preferences for the wildness of Baja's bumpy sand roads and discovering the mother-lode of sand-dollar graveyards in San Felipe to a sedate spin around British Columbia's Lake Victoria and a fur-seal keychain from the gift shop.

Later I was a correspondent, trying to explain my own culture to teen pen pals in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Malaysia, while I searched for clues about theirs hidden in precise penmanship, tarty vocabulary, and postage stamps with monarchs -- some butterflies, some queens.

During a slew of 20-something media and entertainment jobs I wrote and edited for years, whenever the opportunity presented itself, for a book packager and literary agency in New York, and for television, theatre and film producers in Los Angeles.

What do you consider your first "break" as a writer?

AA: Reviewing Pico Iyer's essay collection Tropical Classical: Essays from Several Directions for the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1997. The newsweekly magazine based in Hong Kong was equivalent to TIME in Asia. I was living in Malaysia and devoting more attention to my writing career, so it was a breakthrough to write for a major publication and huge audience about subjects which mesmerized me.

What is your biggest challenge in the research and writing process?

AA: Calling up facts. Seeing the larger story. Sitting down and doing the writing!

What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint? Editors? Finances? Promotion?

AA: Publishers and acquisition editors and publicists seem to have narrow expectations for travel literature so for my next book I plan to devote a lot of energy to a detailed marketing plan which will accompany the manuscript in its rounds to publishers. Jennifer and I learned quite a bit about marketing to publishers with Tales from the Expat Harem, which was initially turned down by 10 New York houses who liked it but couldn't fathom its market (Turkey's too limited a subject, they said).

We've since determined that it addresses a multitude of distinct groups beyond the basic cells of travelers, expatriates, women writers and travel writers. In fact, we found enough specific target markets we were able to fill a hundred pages of our marketing plan with actual contacts of potentially interested people and organizations, like Turkish American associations, women's and Middle Eastern studies programs at hundreds of North American universities, and specific Turkophile populations like the alumni of the Peace Corps who served in Turkey.

And the beauty of a marketing plan which breaks down readerships is that a writer (or if you're lucky, a publisher) can contact all of these people.

Jennifer and I also compiled more practical subsidiary audiences for the anthology, like multinational corporations with operations in Turkey, and embassies and tourism organizations which might use the book as a cross-cultural training tool or a promotional vehicle. We were successful enough in our initial efforts in academic marketing that the book is currently used in at least three university courses and is stocked by more than 100 academic and public libraries worldwide.

Have you ever done other work to make ends meet?

AA: Always. Often my most satisfying work has been poorly compensated. I do believe that will change, eventually! Until then I continue to be a proponent of pursuing the work you love rather than the work which pays best.

An essay about a transformational subway ride which I wrote for an obscure website in 2002 not only led me to be quoted in the New York Times and brought me my literary agent, but it also now appears in The Subway Chronicles book published by the site's creator, alongside venerated New York writers like Calvin Trillin, Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Lethem.

What travel authors or books might you recommend and/or have influenced you?

AA: Recently I enjoyed Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz for its mix of historical research, personal experience, and contemporary journalism.

Historical travel writing also connects me to the lands I find myself in, and points to the parallels which still exist.

My steamy days in Kuala Lumpur were enriched by reading Somerset Maugham, whose Malayan fiction was entirely believable. A series of historical Asian travelogues and contemporary scholarship released by Oxford-in-Asia jogged my imagination and similarly, now that I am based in Turkey, I'll be turning to the Cultures in Dialogue series at Gorgias Press, which resurrects antique writings about Turkish life by British and American women travelers and refreshes them with contemporary academic analysis.

What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

AA: Advice: Read the bulletin boards at Travelwriters.com. A lot of very fundamental wisdom there about the life and business of travel writing. Warning: Don't post a word at Travelwriters until you've read the boards for a week or two and have a good understanding of what topics have already been covered, and how best to introduce yours.

What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?

AA: Sharing my view of the world with others. Adding to the conversation. Having every excuse to adventure.

Expat Harem Are Women On The Brink

This is the introduction Jennifer Gokmen and I wrote to the book Tales From The Expat Harem:

If there were ever a place tailor-made to play host to wanderers, travelers and those pursuing lives outside their original territory, surely Turkey is that place.

 

The perpetual evolution that travel and cultural assimilation visits upon the foreign born women in this collection echoes the continuous transformation that envelops the entire country. Threshold to worlds East or West depending on which way one faces, Turkey is itself a unique metaphor for transition.

Forming a geographic bridge between the continents of Europe and Asia and a philosophical link between the spheres of Occident and Orient, Turkey is neither one of the places it connects.  Similarly, foreign women on Turkish soil are neither what nor who they used to be, yet not fully transformed by their brush with Turkey.

Our Expat Harem women are on the brink of reclassifying themselves, challenged to redefine their lives, to rethink their definitions of spirituality, femininity, sensuality and self.

Aligned in their ever-shifting contexts, both Turkey and the expatriate share a bond of constant metamorphosis.

 

  • Delirious with influenza, a friendless Australian realizes the value of misafır perverlik, traditional Turkish hospitality, when she’s rescued from her freezing rental by unknown Anatolian neighbors bearing food and medicinal tea;
  • a pregnant and introverted Irishwoman faces the challenge of finding her place in a large Black Sea family;
  • a Peace Corps volunteer in remote Eastern Turkey realizes how the taboos of her own culture color her perceptions;
  • and a liberated New York single questions the gallant rules of engagement on the İstanbul dating scene, wondering whether being treated like a lady makes her less a feminist.

 

These are among the Tales from the Expat Harem.

The titillating, anachronistic title acknowledges erroneous yet prevalent Western stereotypes about Asia Minor and the entire Muslim world, while also declaring that our storytellers share a common bond with the denizens of a traditional Turkish harem.

 

Much like the imported brides of the Seraglio, İstanbul’s 15th century palatial seat of the Ottoman sultanate, our writers are inextricably wedded to Turkish culture, embedded in it even, yet alien nonetheless.

If a harem in the time of the sultans was once a confined community of women, a setting steeped in the feminine culture of its era, then today’s Expat Harem surely follows in its tradition.

Virtual and mainly of mindset, this newly coined community of expatriate women in modern Turkey is conjured by the shared circumstance of being foreign-born and female in a land laced with the history of the harem.

 

Like the insular life in the Seraglio of the past, foreign women in today’s Turkey can often be a self-restricting and isolated coterie, newcomers initially limited in independence and social interaction due to language barriers, cultural naiveté and a resilient ethnocentricity.

Tales from the Expat Harem reveal both the personal cultural prison of the initiate and the peer-filled refuge of those assimilated. Our harem is a source of foreign female wisdom, a metaphoric primer for novices and a refresher for old hands.

Our Scheherazades, modern day counterparts of that historic Arabian Nights harem storyteller, are drawn from a worldwide diaspora of women whose lives have been touched by Turkey.

When our call for stories reached them, through networks of people and computers, we heard from a multitude of expatriates in West Africa to Southeast Asia to America’s Pacific Northwest, all desiring to be counted and to recount their sagas.

By telephone from her home in California, an artist who studied illuminated manuscripts at Topkapı Sarayı was the first to admit the precious affliction she shares with many of her harem sisters: “Turkey gets into your blood. I’m an addict now.”

As editors we faced the delicate task of administrating the Expat Harem’s stories, preparing womanly wisdom for safekeeping. Managing the epic enterprise with its ticklish spectrum of cultural appreciation and feminine self-portraiture, our nights were nearly as sleepless as Scheherazade’s!

 

For months we coaxed diplomats, nurses, chefs and others to explore and express their truths about Turkey in a culturally balanced tone.

Some were not professional writers and some were unable to commit their tale to paper. Of those who did, only a fraction survived the editing process.

But affinities emerged as each woman divulged her internal journey and lasting emotional connection to the place and its people. Systems engineers and hoteliers, missionaries and clothing producers, artists, journalists, and others each share a fierce affection for Turkey.

Revealing what Turkish culture has yielded in their lives, they unspool humorous and poignant adventures at weddings in cobbled Byzantine streets, Ottoman bathhouses, and boisterous bazaars along the Silk Road.

In atmospheric travelogue through a countryside still echoing the old ways, through Giresun and Göreme, they transport us on emotional journeys of assimilation into friendship, neighborhood, wifehood, and motherhood.

Modern women in the real world, they take us along on their quests for national identity, business ownership and property possession.

What follows is a literary version of the virtual, modern harem’s never-ending gathering of women, day melting into night, a relaxed feast while delighting in each other’s diverse company, acting out scenes of cultural contrast and discovery.

 

The country rewards seekers, a veiled place insisting on being uncovered. In the process of discovering Turkey, contemporary women of the Expat Harem unmask themselves as well.

In narratives illuminating imperfect human nature and the fullest possible cultural embrace, our Scheherazades wrestle urges to overly-exoticize the unfamiliar and strive to balance self preservation with the fresh expectations placed on them by Turkish culture.

Some delve deep into interiors of country and psyche, like the shy teacher transformed by the full frontal impact of a 13th century Central Anatolian hamam.

Others teeter on the comic edge of a cultural divide, like the archaeologist who sparks hilarity in the trenches at Troy before language skills supplant vaudevillian pantomime.

In attempting to reconcile countless episodes of unconditional native generosity, expatriate women of the harem learn to accept a new emotional calculus.

 

A mid-life dancer mincing her way through the alleys of İstanbul’s bohemian Beyoğlu district to the beat of a darbuka drum invokes Mary Oliver’s poetic revelation, one that echoes in every tale from the Expat Harem:

 

“I was a bride married to amazement."