31 December 2010

Offerings and Transitions

The Bird Sisters: A NovelNew Year's eve, and I'm wrapped up in a blanket feeling the stark combination of caffeine withdrawal and sore throat. I want nothing more than to tuck in a little longer and read The Bird Sisters while drinking the hot sahlep drink at my side sprinkled with cinnamon. I'm ready to say goodbye to 2010's roller coaster cold and flu cycle, but I had such an amazing year in other ways that I'm not quite ready to let go. Two big reasons include these:

Voice Lessons from a Hybrid Ambassador - a blog ring that took a stance on a polarizing book promotion on She Writes.
Dialogue2010 at expat+HAREM - the 10-person roundtable discussion that sparked a year of conversation, comaradarie, and creativity.

60 Secs of Holiday Cheer
With just a few hours to spare on this side of the world for the New Year, squeeze in sixty seconds to watch this little video interview I did for She's Next on Family and Traditions from Anywhere.

Compared to last year, when I did a big holiday dinner and had lots of guests, we had a very quiet Christmas. In some ways, it was kind of a relief not to try so hard this year and to enjoy new little traditions of our own.

My New Newsletter

I took the leap and created a monthly newsletter called The Art of Cultivating a Creative Life. Sign up here for the newsletter! Inside will be offerings on creativity, art, and writing, plus a section I'm calling Creative Life Picks with links to articles and posts like this month's list below:

Creative Life picks for December 2010

Moving On
In January, I'll be moving my blog from Blogger to my own site (yeah! cheers!). I've been moving my portfolio site to the same website, too, so it's been a learning curve in terms of bringing all these things together. I'll make the announcement soon, but www.rosedeniz.com will be the hub from January onward.

Wishing you and yours a healthy, creatively abundant new year!


19 December 2010

Conversation with Maggie Sutrov on Value, Story, and Ship

Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and listen to a great conversation I had with artist Maggie Sutrov on creativity, storytelling, and sharing your work! She's a painter in love with plein air, but has made a major shift and is working in more interactive and less object-centered ways.

I met Maggie on Triiibes after we both participated in an ongoing discussion on how artists can best market their work in a tight economy. We found that we both were moving away from a gallery model and gravitating towards storytelling and social media as a way to share and support an art career.

Listen to the podcast here!

16 December 2010

How art concepts apply to writing

Anne Wilson, Topographies, from Mouth to Mouth Mag
I remember piling into my intro art and design classes with other sleepy-eyed freshmen to learn how to draw, paint, and critique. We were taught how to see and to talk about a piece objectively, not just what we liked or disliked. We talked about craft and attention to detail. When it came to subjectivity, we were taught to point out what was or was not working, and why.

Laura Miller at Salon.com this week tells us Why we love bad writing, and one of her reasons is about flow:

Novels are praised for being a "fast read" and above all for having writing that "flows." "Flow" is an especially fascinating term because it's one that literary critics have never used, and it perfectly captures the way that clichéd prose can be gobbled up in chunks at a breakneck pace.

I'm interested in her attention to "flow" because it does get used in visual arts and design. It's how your eye moves, or how the line work or composition flows. To me, books that flow do not always equate cliche. As M. D. (Dom) Benoit asks, "Plot vs. quality. What a concept. Why not both?"

How does an art concept like flow apply to writing? There is something seamless and tight about prose that flows. It means something is working below the surface to grab a reader or viewer's attention and hold them tight.

So, what do you think, why not both

08 December 2010

One artifact

One of these three. Which one got broken?
It survived a tumble in a suitcase across the ocean. It managed to escape breaking at the grabby hands of my 4-year old. It also teetered on the edge of the bed one morning thanks to my 2-year-old daughter, but never fell.

The hand-painted statuette my mom made when she was a little girl, it's pastel pink dress and creamy white angel wings, was like the traveling gnome prank, always showing up somewhere new in our house. But now it's gone to artifact heaven, that place where all the little tchotchke's go when they're broken. Fitting that the word tchotchke is from Yiddish* - my mother's family spoke it, and I wonder if my bookish, clutter-oriented grandmother would be dismayed I have so few of them now.

At a time when I'm paring down stuff, it surprises me how hard it is to accept that the ceramic is gone.

How do you say goodbye to an object that is emotionally laden?

It's timely that the theme of the inaugural issue of MOTIF Mag is Nostalgia. It's cover is graced with a retro feel, but a quick peek inside shows nostalgia can take on a fresh look.

I'm proud to have designed the logo and title of this enticing and lovely free online magazine. Partnering with Lara Cory and Tegan Pasley, we created a motif, no less, for a theme-oriented magazine welcoming talent, skills, and ideas from readers related to the next issue. I hope you'll subscribe and seep yourself in the world of nostalgia. 

*The OAD says the first usage of tchotchke was in the 60's, Merriam-Webster the 70's. Regardless of when it came into parlance, the little effigy I moved from ramshackle apartment to apartment in the Midwest and then over to Turkey, was made in 1955, born just in time to fit the definition.

01 December 2010

Hello, Creative Block!

It started off innocently enough. A day or two of procrastination. Then stuff came up. And then more stuff. And then someone asked me about my book, and all of a sudden, I felt like a writer-impersonator.

It happens that fast, I marveled.

While the writer world tapped to the NaNoWriMo beat this past November, I wrote a scene here, a mock-interview with my protagonist there, my words moving at a trickle. I put everything I had into my first draft in August, but still thought I'd keep myself buoyed up by NaNo adrenaline. I know others, like MadMemoirist, could relate to feeling out of sync with the month-long no-holds-barred writing feast. We sent each other tweets of support - you go girl! aim for low word count! hang out on the couch and enjoy your TV over the roar of the NaNo crowd!

I have a parenting rule of thumb, though: when I want to retreat, get closer. Get down on the ground on my knees, pull child to chest, get closer. It almost never fails to soothe and stop a problem from getting bigger. Sometimes I don't know what I'm supposed to do - but I stop and ask myself about my reaction, rather than theirs: if I want to leave the room, I make myself stay. Creative types, especially if you are HSP like me, will understand why you'd want to shut out the stimulation, but it works.

Here are two posts this week that helped me get closer to why I was having creative block (hint: the ubiquitous internal editor), and helped me get back to the book:

-Judith van Praag's NaNoWriMo Editor/Devil - Git Friendly or Git!
-Chris Brogan's You Are So Stupid

How do you know when to get closer or walk away from a creative project?

28 November 2010


Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. A quick Skype phone call home on the big day to listen to the familiar cheer of my family setting out to eat and then walk, or nap off, my favorite meal of the year.

The cliche pops up before I can stop it: There are no words to describe....  how it feels to long for home.

Is there something you long for that seems to be out of reach sometimes?

This has been a year of learning curves, so I am grateful for you. Grateful for needs met, for the power of and energy of common causes like #girleffect. Grateful for the chance to explore and ask questions, define and redefine, for conversations and simple pleasures.


16 November 2010

The Girl Effect

At 12 years old, I was writing stories and poetry, illustrating my notebooks with doodles. I was thinking about my first crush and spending hours alone daydreaming. I never had to think about birthing a baby once I hit menstruation, raising a child through my teen years, nor not being able to attend school. I had choices. My family encouraged my independence. 

I'm a mother to a two-year-old girl. A lot of the time I think about how important it is that I just stay alive for her, that I don't die before I am forty like my mother. I delight in her joy, her freedom, her exploratory curiosity.

Sometimes I don't know when to speak up. Speaking up takes courage. Sometimes I don't know when to wait and let something pass. Knowing when to stay quiet takes authenticity. This past February, I wrote about Medine Memi, the young girl buried alive in Kahta, Turkey, and the female Turkish writers and journalists who combat honor killings through their words and questions. 

Keeping girls and women in the center.  Not looking away even when it is tough, and finding solutions. 

That's how I envision The Girl Effect. And I'm proud to be part of Tara Sophia Mohr's The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign

Authenticity and courage, two words kari m. said applied to my blog yesterday. After all the voice lessons, worries over the language of mothering, and awkwardness of standing out as a foreigner abroad, authenticity and courage seem something I aspire to. The fact that I can aspire, though, is a result of the fostering of independence that I was raised to believe was my right.

I only want the same for every other girl in the world.

>>There are now more than 40+ other bloggers in Tara Sophia Mohr‘s Girl Effect blogging campaign. You can add your own blog post and follow #girleffect tweets on Twitter to join in!<< 

12 November 2010

Essential words & Quiet drawings

Paintings take up wall and storage space. Image files, as I discovered this week haunting my backup files, take up vast amounts of virtual space. Years of making paintings, illustrations, and drawings, and I have thousands of images stored.  Originals. Duplicates. Different scales and formats.

I'm aware of the outpouring of images I have to share vs. the amount of words that will fill the 'Writer' pages of my revamped website. For art, there are slide shows options and collections of visual projects. I write every day, but such a small percentage of it surfaces. Writing files and folders multiply as I add lines and paragraphs here and there like I would shade a drawing. All those words to reveal just the most essential few. 

Is there something you quietly pursue knowing it will take shape later?

A fantastic conversation with Maggie Sutrov in Maui will be making it's way to my Art is Dialogue podcast soon. Sometimes a conversation is the best way to bring those sketched out, typed out ideas to life. Enjoy her lovely quiet drawings in Markings, her live, hand-illustrated story.

Markings: Of drawing, horses, and art from our earliest times.
by Maggie T. Sutrov

05 November 2010

Learning curve

Several times a year I take on projects that are more than I can handle. I make sure that they are outside of my area of expertise, and keep me up late at night problem solving. Like writing a book in August and revising it while redoing my website and this blog at the same time.

My dreams as of late have been preceded by images of navigation bars, widgets, and CSS code, or snatches of dialogue from a story that I feel is emerging slowly compared to the gusto with which it was born over the summer.

In order to make myself feel better and ensure more procrastination, I downloaded these fantastic essential (free!) story outlining worksheets and checklists from Karen S. Wiesner's From First Draft to Finished Novel and am printing all 50 pages. The sound of the printer is soothing, and it offsets my guilt about paper and trees and all the ink I'm wasting. Not to mention the printer I have uses cartridges only available in the US, so it requires serious finagling to refill them.

A new job teaching (screaming!) English to grade school and middle school kids has me way out of my comfort zone, too.

Are there projects you take on that you know are worth the steep learning curve? 

27 October 2010

The taste of initiation

At my women-only gym, the middle-aged Turkish women I do crunches with talk about pastries. It reminds me of my first summer in Turkey, where instead of crunches, my neighbors would knit or crochet in our garden while talking about baked goods.

Is there no bad time or place to talk about pastries?

My vocabulary has become peppered with the Turkish versions of pastry dough (börek), cake (pasta), and salty or sweet cookies (tuzlu and tatlı, respectively). Baked sesame seed rings (sımıt) are a daily part of our life.
Sımıt, for Pukka Living

Eat, and then work it off. Bonding in the form of locker-room chat. On the aerobic floor, commiseration over leg lifts and latent stomach muscles. Chats about tattoos, taboos, and domestic routines.

Food was my initiation into Turkey - hours in my mother-in-law's kitchen taught me the aromas and textures that filled the Turkish table - but my gym in Turkey is a social sphere of my own choosing. 

What's one surprising place you go that makes you feel at home?

21 October 2010

Which language says 'Mother' best?

At school, my son gives me a hurried, "Bye, Rose!" Not mommy, not 'Anne', the Turkish word for mother, but Rose.

My two-year-old called everyone 'Baba', father or daddy in Turkish, until recently, and now she's learned Anne.  I hear 'mommy' when I ask my son to say, "Can I please have x-y-x, Mommy?" and he repeats.

Is this some kind of permissive parenting style? Some sort of confluence of culture where anything goes?

Not really, but being raised in Turkey has made my kids acquire language differently than I expected. My mother-in-law has hybridized English and Turkish, calling me 'Rose Anne' in front of the kids. As a result of American movies, my in-laws still think everyone (rudely) addresses their parents by their first name in America, even though I correct them. It gets confusing.

English at home, Turkish outside of the house, my husband and I agreed. But when I'm with the kids outside of the house, I hesitate.

If I speak Turkish in public, everyone will understand what I am saying, and with some regret that I care, it means they will be more likely to think I am a good mother.

Four years of raising children in Turkey, though, and some phrases in Turkish come more quickly than in English. Networks of expat women raising kids abroad help soothe my worries, while some articles remind me of the difficulty of being disciplined and consistent.  It feels like every day I choose my language.

Has your native language been shaped by a change of location?

13 October 2010

Good guilt

"I'm doing research," I say, and huddle in the corner cloaked in my Uzbek suzani to watch Pretty Little Liars.

In September it was Glee. I had just finished a first draft of a young adult novel, and I celebrated with three days of impassioned singing and crying (every time I'd sing along, the kids would cry at me to stop).

Now it's October and Pretty Little Liars. I'm humming the theme song, "Got a secret, can you keep it..." while I revise the novel.

Pop culture bingeing? Guilty.

This is good guilt. This makes all the "shoulds" run in terror: "I should be working. I should be cleaning. I should finish x-y-z project I lost interest in." It makes me a goal artist instead of a goal athlete.

Tara Sophia Mohr says, "Detours will lead to fruitful places. Important things will gestate in so-called fallow periods."

Detour taken, binge over, and everything shifts back into place. Revising sounds good, projects look interesting again. 

What guilt-laden detours have helped you get back on track?

08 October 2010

Boats on the Sea of Marmara

Boats, 2004
Seeing Izmit through new eyes, how the landscape changes at the onset of winter, the last few days of rain hinting at November. Boats on the water. Smoke rising from factories. Mountains foggy in the distance. Drawings that chronicle daily life, where cold laundry whips in the rainy wind. Where that bright spot of yellow and red is heightened by the gray sky. City streets that get dirtier rather than swept clean in the rain. How painted concrete buildings have a story of their own.

29 September 2010

Cultural style memo

Last weekend I went to a wedding. Evening at poolside, giant sparklers shooting into the air while the happy couple walked the aisle. Husband in cotton jacket with red polo, me in fancied up jersey dress with pleats and sparkles and flats.

Every. Single. Woman. was wearing heels. And some version of black with sequins. I had skipped the coiffeur and wore a ponytail.

"It happened again," I moaned to my husband, who's closest friend at the wedding chided him for wearing beige. I had led him astray telling him he didn't need to wear a suit. "I wore the wrong thing at the wrong time. Was there some sort of memo I missed?"

Some sort of cultural memo, I wanted to add. The one that tells me what to wear and when in Turkey.

I've learned to kiss hands and cheeks, touch hands to foreheads, implement a no-shoes-in-the-house rule, offer something to drink the second a guest enters the house, and implore them to sit down and stay even after five hours of tea. I've learned to accept that plans change at the last second, that mostly everyone will be late. I've spent hours at the coiffeur, basking in the pleasantries of salonistas and manicurists. I've even learned how to make some tricky Turkish food that impressed my mother-in-law, but for some reason, I've blindly guessed about what to wear to Turkish events and been wrong.

Tights and heels to a dinner where everyone is wearing sleeveless shirts and open-toed shoes. Jersey when everyone is wearing silk. Jeans when everyone's in a dress.

When have you felt this way, and is there something to learn from being slightly out of sync with your surroundings?

22 September 2010

Shaped by what we don't remember

It's that time of year again, for longing for distant things, the crunch of leaves under my feet, for waking up a little chilly in the morning and hoping for rain.

Torino, Italy

It's that time of year to be quiet and studious and read good books. In the last two weeks I've read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest and Writing Great Books for Young Adults, and I started The Dive from Clausen's Pier today. Staring now at my bookshelf and thinking over the books in my Kindle, I'm surprised that I can't remember what I read before that. The time before and after I read a Stieg Larsson is always changed and different, like I'm on an adrenaline rush, and now it looks like with the third book in the series finished, I'm done.

Inability to remember some of my even my favorite books and movies reminds me of this essay in The New York Times: The Plot Escapes Me. In it, James Collins consoles me through Professor Maryanne Wolf's assertion that we are the "sum" of what we've read, even if we can't remember everything (or anything) about it.

I wonder if it's some trick of the memory that we can devour a book and then forget the contents. A kind of amnesia with a unknown purpose? All that time spent a writer spends writing. Hours, maybe days and weeks spent reading, and then you might not even remember the name of the protagonist.

What do you think - do we store that information somewhere? Are we still shaped by what we don't remember?

15 September 2010

Show, don't tell

Illustration for PAWI writing club

Artists tend to know this concept intimately: show, don't tell. Writers are beseeched to embrace it, but art is all about showing, even when work like Nancy Spero's The Torture of Women from 1976 includes jarring, typewritten layers of text. 

In conversation yesterday with Julie Tallard Johnson, we talked about her book The Wheel of Initiation and stating intention for creative work. 

Stating intention is like showing instead of telling, being clear on why you choose to be present in this moment.

Being mindful is, like Diana Baur talks about in her post A Case for Mindfulness"the practice of not missing out on your life because you were too fragmented to really notice.  If there is no other case to be made for mindfulness, it would be this fact alone."

Having an interest in, and studying mindfulness, is much different than being present. Mindfulness outside of my creative work does not come easy. One ear on the kids and while I try to focus on whatever task I have set out before me. Half-listening while I'm thinking of everything I want to get done. High sensitivity to sensory overload. I go into my work with such intensity that everything outside of it can sound like one long clanging bell trying to get my attention that I tune out.


That's a whole lot of telling, not showing. And several really good, clever excuses to avoid being mindful. Sounds a lot like Steven Pressfield's definition of resistance in The War of Art

What holds you back from being mindful?


02 September 2010

Pop culture vs. high art?

I'm a latecomer to the Glee obsession. My August NaNoWriMo writing binge was followed by three days of the first season of Glee with breaks to sleep, eat, shower, and feed my kids. It has become a post-project ritual to dive into entire seasons of shows and catch up on movies I've missed. Glee is research, I reason. I just finished the first draft of a young adult novel and don't want to appear clueless about American pop culture.

At the same time, I've been following along with the Franzen-Picoult-Weiner debate, a discussion on the extensive coverage of Jonathan Franzen's newly released book, Freedom, sparked by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner. Bestselling writers Picoult and Weiner argue Franzen's star treatment makes commercial writers, especially commercial women writers, look excluded from the literary boy's club.

Glee and the FPW debate both point to the supposed pop culture vs. high art divide. Seven examples show Glee and FPW might not make such strange bedfellows. 

1. Opposites attract. Glee club and football practice. Reading Alain de Botton followed by Candace Bushnell. We need variety or get bored as a species. Where would we be without the complementary colors on a color wheel? We're uncomfortable with consumption, but don't want to have to choose just one type of cultural food. While I love the rich flavor of a yogurt lassi made from scratch, drinking diet Cherry Coke reminds me of going to the dollar theatre with my best friend for double features. One summer I read as many of the Stephanie Plum books I could find while traveling through Europe. I ate at a Burger King in Groningen, the Netherlands with a Dutch friend who'd spent time in the States and was not repelled by Americana.

Can you be comfortable with fusion and relish variation and opposites?

2. Readers and viewers like a good show. Bestsellers make readers excited. What happens next? A bestselling author knows how to keep their readers guessing and coming back for more. Likewise, the buildup to Franzen's book release was borderline fanatic and giddy. It's not about good or bad, it's about getting a show. Glee, without a doubt, made me flashback to high school. My most quietest introverted friend forever captured the heart of my 1997 senior class by dancing along to I Will Survive in a sparkling blue floor-length gown to thunderous applause. Want to keep people interested? Surprise them.

3. They bring out the love and the hate. Met many people indifferent to Glee, Jonathan Franzen, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner? Unlikely.

4. Competition makes people sport their full regalia. Glee is obvious with its costumes, but couldn't it also be said that writers rise to the occasion when they defend their genre? We get to see who throws a literary punch better than someone else, who can write themselves out of their corner, who just thinks its a colossal waste of their time to care and retreats to their bench. It's the thrill of the fight, not choosing the winner, that keeps us enthralled.

5. After it gets duked it out, everyone gets back to work. Write, dance, paint, sew, whatever the creative preoccupation, everyone gets back to it. Or risks losing their jobs or passion in life. Smart creative people never show every trick at one time to conserve energy for the work.

6. The line between pop culture and high art is blurry. Andy Warhol is the classic example of an artist who inserted himself into pop culture while satirically criticizing the mainstream. Despite its cast of misfits, the Glee soundtrack has sold 7 million copies.

7. They point to what people care about. And sometimes what people care about makes no sense. Sometimes it seems pointless. Awful. Sometimes it seems noble. Sometimes it is the voice that breaks the silence. As an observer, it is fascinating. And there's not more fertile stuff for novel writing than the tension between two opposing sides.

There's something really attractive about liking something you're not supposed to. 

When do you unleash your inner high artist and pop culture fanatic? Do you take sides?

25 August 2010

What's your {life} color palette?

Hair dye packaging. Quilting fabric. Cosmetic color forecasts. Paint store swatches. Just a few of my favorite things. I like how a few smart words dressed up in the right clothes can make or break a deal. I love how word and image combined bring out delicious, unexpected combinations. I love embellished details and color blooms against monochromes.

While embarking on my Style Journal, I noticed a synchronicity between what caught my eye as a handbag designer and textile worshiper and my most recent (and patiently waiting in the wings) quilting project.


Chromophobia (FOCI)Chromophobia, by David Batchelor, is an excellent read on the history of color. Orange. Russet. Fire engine red. Party pink. Deep turquoise. Magenta. Ochre. Beige. Love me and leave me heart stopping yellow (as a dear friend and I agreed, why didn't we know how amazing yellow was until recently?). I'm a blissful chromofanatic. Looking around I see bright red couches. A turquoise water glass. My blog colors emblazoned on my curtains.

Who's hiding in the curtains? Hmm.

What's in your color palette and does it overlap with the rest of your life?

19 August 2010

Monsters, irascible inner critics, and Merilee

"Hybrids are used to strengthen the homogeneous. Grafting different orchids together makes flowers nobody has ever seen before. Cross-pollinating makes hardier fruits and vegetables. Hybrid cars are more energy efficient. Not one, or the other. Both. Conjoined. The hybrid/monster can be sensed even from the shadows. Poison Ivy left behind her traces of vanilla scent. The snakes in Medusa’s hair hissed." 

 Sezin Koehler, from a hybrid/MONSTER manifesto

When I read The Fluent Self, I find myself enmeshed in Havi's language, the way she talks to monsters like inner critics, doubts, and fears. I've been hanging out with my inner writing critic since I started writing stories on yellow legal paper in this maroon recliner in our farmhouse over two decades ago. I discarded the stories over and over because I didn't like how I had written the words. I didn't like how the words looked. I was obsessed with perfect transcription and had no idea that a first draft could be messy and alive.

I think about the 9-year-old me who threw crumpled pieces of paper on the floor because she thought writers were always surrounded by their maimed, discarded thoughts. The opposite of cultivating a creative life.

Once proud of moving overseas with only a few suitcases, I now have stuff spilling over. And not just physical stuff, but also taking time to work on things that I love, building in quiet time into my otherwise bell-clanging-kid-filled day. Words fill up space. Ideas fill up space. Sometimes our own thoughts seem insurgent to the ones before them and that thinking takes up space. How do we live with conflicting ideas? Mediate

I'm in the middle of making 1,600 words a day for thirty days come to life. These run-at-full-tilt-projects are what keep me energized and fueled up.

It's a lot easier to take a break from my irascible inner critic thanks to the 15-year-old girl in my head telling me what to do. Not my adolescent self. Merilee. The girl in my NaNoWriMo novel who's father writes eulogies for a living and who's in love with a celebrity. Totally not my thing to write about celebrities - it's all Merilee's doing.

And then there's this other way of looking at monsters: Sezin Koehler's collaborative hybrid/Monster project is a glimpse into how letting the shadowy side of our selves be visible can create rich, creative, multifarious ideas of beauty.

What are your monsters, and do they ever help you discover something wonderful? 

11 August 2010

Voice lessons from a hybrid ambassador

HYBRID AMBASSADORSa blog-ring project of Dialogue2010
You met our multinational cultural innovators this spring in a roundtable discussion of hybrid life at expat+HAREM. Now in these interconnected blog posts they share reactions to a recent polarizing book promotion at SheWrites. Join the discussion on Twitter using #HybridAmbassadors or #Dialogue2010

Every day, from my Twitter stream to my blog reader, there’s a controversial topic that captures my attention. Poised on the edge of typing in a heated response or writing a blog post in reaction, my surety wavers. I’m at a precipice, knowing that if I chose to go further, I commit publicly to an idea or a belief that is part of a larger mosaic of my online identity.

I acknowledge that my words could leave a trail of anger and resentment or a digital footprint of critical thinking, empathy, and support.

Can I admit that sometimes I don't know when to jump in or when to watch from the sidelines? That insecurity surfaces when I feel my voice isn't loud enough? Or would be silenced before it is given a chance to be heard?

Case in point a Countdown to Publication post on SheWrites by author Lori L. Tharps. The platform gives Lori, and other selected writers, an audience of 10,000 plus women with whom to share their progress marketing and publishing their books. In Wanted: White Ambassadors to Help Me Cross Over, Lori appeals to white women to promote her book because of the publishing industry's failure to market their writers of color to white audiences. Segregated bookshelves are a reality. SheWrites Advisory Board member and author Tayari Jones writes about 'The Colored Section' in a guest post on Maud Newton, part of a reader-led discussion.

The problem was the how, not why, though there are so many resources for authors promoting their work through platform building that I was surprised by the entreaty. Like 
this on artistic revolution, this on writers of the future, and this on interactions being personal, not business. Not surprising is that people read Lori's post and reacted personally. 

When some people spoke up about the awkward, jocular tone of the post, their reaction was interpreted as being an attempt to humiliate the author, an unwillingness to support her, and a reluctance to engage in a discussion on race. Others pointed out they wanted to help Lori, but were critical of her casual conclusion that 'if you're white and you like these authors, you might like my book, and if you do, your other white friends might like it, too.' Those critics were seen as infringing on Lori's right to free speech. Only those who heartily agreed to tell their white friends about the book were applauded. Anyone who brought up alternative ways to spread the word about her work was called a 'detractor' and told to keep their thoughts to themselves. The comment section was rife with disquiet. 

Featured homepage content, like Countdown to Publication, is considered proprietary to SheWrites. "White Ambassadors" is on its Facebook Wall and was included in its newsletter. Lori's post is endorsed by SheWrites at the same time that their second credo is "community has the power to nurture and sustain creativity."

What if what is perceived as a negative comment is actually a call to action by people who want to support you? Why the slap on the wrist by other commenters to the people who wanted to bring in a perspective they felt was missing from the post?


Lori L. Tharps's forthcoming novel Substitute Me is about two women with lives that are in contrast - in other words, rich/poor, black/white, though it's claimed neither to be a 'black' or 'white' story, but a story about women. She describes it as a tale of "modern-day motherhood" that "all women can relate to." 

There's no way all mothers everywhere get along and have the same ideas of motherhoodAnd if the book's about womanhood, why the outdated idea that women and babies always go together in the same sentenceFor a writer who's steeped in the nuances of being outside the dominant majority, has traveled the world, married a Spaniard, is raising biracial kids, wrote the acclaimed Kinky Gazpacho and co-authored Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, the generalizations about who her readers might be are surprising. As Chimamanda Adichie says, the problem with stereotypes is not that they aren't true, but that they are "half the story," and the single story "emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar."

I didn't comment. Fear of being lambasted by other SheWrites members stopped me. One contrarian was called "uncivil" for objecting to the breezy, cheeky feel of the post. It could have been an enlightening dialogue on publishing and 'culture collide,' like on Lori's interesting and contemplative blog, but instead it was on upholding polarity as a life and work model.  The publishing industry has changed and it means more authors can take matters into their own hands instead of relying on traditional publishing models. Being resigned to "the way things are" is a sign of not believing in your own power.  If you want word of mouth promotion, you need your readers to love your voice and not feel alienated by it.

Hybrids know what it is like to not fit in anywhere, or to have a delicate sense of fitting in at any one time.

Maybe that's why the White Ambassadors post stings so much - it makes the worn out conjecture that everyone subscribes to a binary way of life. 
It is a bleak reminder that assumption about inclusion in a group based on the color of one's skin is still the elephant in the room

At the Women and Work conference held in March in Turin, Italy, on the anniversary of the first women's conference in 1910, I joined more than twenty women bloggers from emerging nations to talk about ways to bridge our differences through social media. Rather than deepen divisions, we mapped new territory with excitement and first-hand experience that unifying can lead to change and growth. 
Which is why I'm speaking up. This is in my own neighborhood, after all. I'm using my voice to draw attention to what I think was a missed opportunity to garner wide-ranging perspectives and to forge one's own path instead of doing the expected. 

I'm sorry, Lori, I didn't do what you asked. I went out and told all of my friends about your book. 

More thoughts on this subject from fellow HYBRID AMBASSADORS:
Catherine Yiğit's Special-ism
Anastasia Ashman's Great White People Book Club
Sezin Koehler's Whites Only?
Tara Lutman Ağaçayak's Circles

Catherine Bayar's Thicker Skin
Judith van Praag's We Write History Today
Elmira Bayraslı's The Color of Writing
Jocelyn Eikenburg's The Problem with "Chinese Food"