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.
It’s finally here! It’s Blogalicious Week in my world! That’s right I am taking a whole week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Blogalicious community and conferences which connect over 5,000 multicultural women and men influencers with brands and celebrate diversity in social media.
I’ve been a fan ever since the first conference in 2009. Read my Examiner.com blog which captures the magic of my first Blogalicious experience.
The 2011 conference at the Gaylord National Hotel in Maryland was probably the most convenient for me since I live in Washington, D.C. It was a lot of fun because my dad, Dr. John F. Leeke was able to attend. He had a lot of fun learning about blogging. His experience inspired the 2012 launch of his blog.
The 2012 conference was held in Las Vegas. It was my first visit to the city. I loved the early morning walks Xina and I took (we roomed together again which was a lot of fun). I also enjoyed the wonderful conversations I had with various Blogalicious community members during the Afternoon Tea. I learned a lot from Mario Armstrong’s keynote and was inspired by the luncheon talks given by Miss Lori and Corynne Corbett. I was honored to share my insights about blogging and the blogosphere during the community jam. Danica Kombol brought the Heart of Haiti family together with an impromptu get together!
This year’s conference is going to be AWESOME. I am rooming with Xina and my dad is coming. I am so excited to see everyone, listen and learn from the brilliant speakers, share my creativity coaching services in one-on-one sessions, moderate the crowdfunding panel on October 4th, and sip some sweet tea!
I’ve got some great news to kick off this new month. Last week, I submitted the final manuscript for my book, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online to my publisher. See a description of the book below. The next steps include me reviewing the proofs (manuscript in book form) and approving the book cover design. My book should be available on Amazon.com in early October (paperback and Kindle). So get ready for a great autumn read!
Book Description: Digital Sisterhood provides insight and inspiration for any woman seeking to celebrate, express, or reinvent how the Internet, social media, and technology impact her life. Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke became a pioneer in the digital space when she first logged into the LexisNexis research service as a first-year law student at Howard University School of Law 27 years ago. She was immediately smitten with what the World Wide Web could do and in this compelling memoir, we follow her on her journey as she finds herself in an Internet café in Beijing, China and has an interaction that changes her life.
Leeke begins to embrace and define the concept of “digital sisterhood” and through interactions and conversations both on-line and in-person, she embraces a complete career reinvention (spoiler alert, she leaves the legal field) and finally embraces her enormous creative spirit. We get to know the digital sisters in her life as true sheroes and virtual mentors. Their experiences and insights helped her use the Internet as a self-discovery tool and identify leadership archetypes that shaped her role as a social media leader.
Her blogging and social media adventures will highlight the lessons she learned while tapping into the power of her leadership archetypes, the reasons she launched the Digital Sisterhood Network, and the experiences that caused her to adopt what she terms the “fierce living” commitments. At the end of each chapter, you’ll have an opportunity to explore aspects of your own Digital Sisterhood journey through a series of interactive exercises.
In honor of this major accomplishment, I thought I would share a photo of artwork that appears on the book cover. Dariela Cruz, an amazing graphic designer and co-founder of Dari Design Studio, and I worked together on the design concept. Dariela created the final product. I think she did a fabulous job. What do you think?
Thank you to everyone who has supported me in my writing journey. I am deeply grateful for your positive energy and prayers.