Today, I am sharing an excerpt from an author interview I did for my new book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online (available for purchase on Amazon.com). See below.
If you are in Washington, D.C. on October 19, please plan to attend my author talk and book reading from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, NW (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Green Line Metro Station). Click here to register for the event. See you on October 19th!
Q: In your writing, you tell stories. How did you become a storyteller?
AKML: I grew up around women who loved to tell stories about their lives. My grandmother, great aunt, and mother shared photo albums, scrapbooks, clothing, jewelry, and memorabilia from events they attended to illustrate their stories. Their stories were told so often I memorized them. Eventually, they were embedded into the tapestry of my life. In high school, college, and law school, I proudly wore their vintage clothing and jewelry with my outfits and told stories about the items to my friends. I still wear these items and share stories. Wearing their things reminds me of who I am and where I come from. It connects me to them at all times.
Q: This book is your second memoir. Who are your favorite memoirists?
AKML: Dr. Maya Angelou is the first memoirist I read in junior high school. I love how Dr. Angelou tells her life stories in a series of books. I adore how Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange have used poetry to tell their personal stories. My friend and activist/artist/scholar Tim’m West’s poetical memoir gave me freedom to write my first memoir. I also enjoy reading memoirs written by feminist scholar and cultural critic bell hooks, artist Faith Ringgold, and yoga teacher Cyndi Lee.
Q: What prompted you to write this book?
AKML: In 2009, a publisher (that was on my dream list of publishers) contacted me to explore the possibility of entering into a book contract about how the Internet has impacted women’s creativity. Thrilled and excited, I entered into a round of discussions with the publisher. She introduced me to two writing mentors who helped me flush out my ideas for a book outline. I shared the Sisterhood the Blog book outline with her and launched a blog, Facebook group, and Twitter account to begin writing the book. A few weeks later, the publisher lost interest. I tried several times to follow up, but did not receive a response. Devastated is the best word to describe how I felt.
My writing mentors encouraged me to write and self-publish the book. So I dived deep into my new blog and distributed its content on my social media sites. A few months later, I added a podcast to the mix. Through my blog, podcast, and social media sites, I was able to interview and profile a diverse group of women in social media and technology. When I attended local and national conferences, events, and meet ups, I used my video camera and audio podcast app to record my interviews. These efforts expanded my understanding of the roles women play in the digital space.
My focus for the book changed after I attended the BlogHer annual conference’s closing keynote, “How to Use Your Voice, Your Platform and Your Power,” featuring PBS anchor Alison Stewart, White House Project founder Marie Wilson, author and activist Gloria Feldt, and journalist and environmentalist P. Simran Sethi, in 2010. Listening to these women’s stories convinced me to write a memoir about my online journey and how women have influenced, informed, and inspired my digital experiences.
That same year, I changed the title of the book, blog, podcast, and social media to Digital Sisterhood after I conducted a series of interviews with women bloggers about their relationships with women in social media at the Blogalicious Weekend Conference.
Q: Who did you write this book for?
AKML: I wrote the book for women between the ages of 18 to 76 who spend time in the digital space blogging, building community, chatting, coding, creating webisodes and videos, crowdfunding, developing mobile apps, engaging in commerce, giving back by supporting social good campaigns, hosting online events, liking on Facebook, mentoring, pinning on Pinterest, podcasting, posting photos on Flickr and Instagram, reading blogs, publishing books, running businesses, serving as social media leaders, sharing information, teaching, tweeting 140 characters or less on Twitter, watching videos, and visiting web sites. I also wrote the book for women and girls who need greater access to technology and training.
Q: What do you want readers to gain from this book?
AKML: I want my readers to take what they find useful in the book and use it in a positive way. I hope my women readers are inspired to explore, celebrate, share, and publish their own stories about being online and the Digital Sisterhood connections they have made with other women. I hope they will publish their stories on blogs and in books. I want more women to write and publish books about their online lives, businesses, social good campaigns, and thought leadership.
Q: Did you use any research data to identify your niche audience?
AKML: I used BlogHer’s Social Media Matters Study which reported that 87 million women between the ages of 18 to 76 were online in 2011. The BlogHer study also reported that 69 million women used social media weekly, 80 million women used social media monthly, and 55 million women read blogs monthly. When I read this data, I realized these women have created a powerful digital footprint as communicators, connectors, community builders, tech creators, early adopters, and influencers.
Q: Tell us about your journey in embracing the Internet. How did your digital footprint begin?
AKML: My digital footprint began when I logged onto the LexisNexis research service as a first-year law student at Howard University School of Law in August 1986. It marked the beginning of my Internet geek path. My Internet experiences have been greatly influenced by the social connections women have made online and offline. Through them, I have witnessed the growth and expansion of women’s presence and power on the World Wide Web. Women are making digital herstory with blogs, books, businesses, careers, coding and software development projects, conferences, events, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, live streaming, meet up groups, mobile apps, online communities, online magazines, organizations, Pinterest, podcasts, Twitter, videos, webinars, web sites, and webisodes.
Q: What are your favorite social media tools?
AKML: That’s a hard one. I love so many. Right now, my favorites are all visual: Animoto, Flickr, Google+ Hangout, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.