My Freedom, My Individuality, The Catalonia within me


img_8802When we visited Barcelona three weeks ago, my excitement was threefold: 1) I was there to celebrate my brother- and -sister-in-laws 25th wedding anniversary; 2) I was about to revisit La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a magical place I have kept alive in my memory since my first visit 13 years ago and 3) I was finally going on vacation.

I remembered Barcelona as a beautiful, thriving, architecturally stimulating city of friendly people. I remembered La Sagrada Familia as a sacred space in the middle of the city that brought me such as sense of calm and well-being that I had no doubt that God was present within its walls.

Would Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia live up to my memories? Or had I blown that first visit completely out of proportion?

We arrived at night and were whisked off to the family apartment, where we stayed up late enjoying the company of half of my husband’s immediate family. It wasn’t until the next morning that we ventured out into the city. After a lovely morning exploring a local flea market, followed by a too-short visit to a national museum, we headed to La Sagrada Familia in time for our afternoon reservation.

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Sometimes expectations and built up anticipation are the perfect recipe for disappointment. But the funny thing about La Sagrada Familia is that it will never be exactly as someone remembers it, since it has been undergoing construction since 1862 with estimates of completion in 2026. Although several architects have worked on it throughout the years, it is Antonio Gaudi’s organic design that defines the building we now see. He took over the project in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926.

As we waited outside in line, I looked to the exterior, awe firmly intact. But when we finally made it inside, tears filled my eyes. Despite the crowds, the heat, clicks of cameras and cell phones all around me, its sacredness had not diminished. If anything, it had expanded.

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In my second novel The Things We Said in Venice, travel vlogger Alexi visits La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona–one of many stops on her international trip. Here is a passage from my novel about this sacred place designed by Antonio Gaudi.

As she edges inside, the hushed murmurs of the crowd convey awe and wonder that mimics her own. The building is spacious, filled with light. Off-white columns rise skyward like trees. Flower-shaped stained-glass windows bathe the walls in gold, green and orange. The vaulted nave soars forty-five meters high. She has seen this sacred church in books, read about it online, but nothing could have prepared her for this moment.
~ Chapter 3, The Things We Said in Venice

Although Alexi is a fictional character in my novel, we nonetheless have a few things in common. We both like visiting churches when we travel, and we always light a candle for someone when we’re there.

During our visit, I lit a candle for Bud Tullis, a childhood friend’s father
A silly shot of me inside La Sagrada Familia, giddy with excitement

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My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were married in La Sagrada Familia, and thus part of the festivities was to attend a Catholic mass in the lower chapel of the church with friends and family on Sunday. The priest, who said he would mention them during the service, actually seemed to shape his sermon around love and commitment and called them out time and time again during the mass. To accommodate the visitors from The Netherlands (the majority of the groom’s family), they asked my husband to do a reading from the Bible in Dutch.

This lower chapel is at the basement level, thus visitors on the ground floor can peer over the balcony at the church-goers and observe the religious as a curiosity, or perhaps experience a moment of connection with faith.

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Image courtesy https://twitter.com/noticiesCAT

Something that intrigued me about Barcelona when I visited so long ago was the idea that two languages were spoken in this city: Spanish and Catalonian. I didn’t fully get the history of this difference at the time, but seeing signs throughout the city in two languages had made an impression on me back in 2004.

When we visited last month, we saw the Catalonian flag flying from balconies and saw signs with the flag throughout the city with the word “Si” printed above it. While sipping cava at the anniversary party at a beautiful restaurant, I asked my Catalonian table mate Marta J. about the Catalonian flag hanging from so many balconies and what the “si” was all about. She explained the long standing and ever-growing tensions between the Catalonians and the Spanish government. A large section of the Catalonian population wants independence, but the Spanish government is adamantly opposed to secession. The flag was a reminder to vote “Si” or “No” during the upcoming referendum on Catalonia seceding from Spain, even though the judicial branch of the government had deemed the referendum illegal / was not giving credence to Catalonia’s right to voice its will.

I thought of the beginnings of my own country of origin, how bloody hard our ancestors fought for freedom from the crown and how that freedom formed The United States. I felt sorry for the Catalonians, trapped within a larger country that did not honor their independence and apparently didn’t value their contribution to society.  It’s not like they could sail across the world and discover a new land and set up there. They were already home.

The tension between Catalonia and the Spanish government is nothing new, and somehow, in my short visit years ago, I picked up on that tension. In fact, it playfully made a cameo in my 2017 novel. In this passage, travel vlogger Alexi is filming a vlog post for her followers, and imparts a bit of cultural knowledge, while providing insight into her own character with Catalonia as metaphor.

“This city is beautiful, the people friendly, but there is a strange duality here. The signs are both in Catalan and Spanish. Catalan is a unique language quite similar to Spanish that is only spoken in four provinces known as the Catalonia region of Spain. The history of Catalonia and the reason for a separate language within Spain is a bit complicated, but just Google it and you can get the scoop.

“So I’m like Barcelona. I have two languages within me; two cultures coming together. I’m not talking about actual languages, but rather a duality of personalities. Although friendly and comfortable in one-on-one situations, I’m actually quite shy in my day-to-day life. I work in counseling, and my clients value me. But now I’m on a one-year sabbatical, discovering another me — my freedom, my individuality, the Catalonia within me.”
~ Alexi during a vlog post in The Things We Said in Venice

Our five-day trip to Barcelona ended the first week of September, but Barcelona was definitely in my thoughts as October 1st approached. This is the day Catalonians would attempt to vote for their independence from Spain.

This video from The Guardian gives a quick impression of how that turned out.

I, like many people throughout the world, was shocked to witness the violence in Barcelona captured on the news and social media. Just a few weeks earlier I had only witnessed sunshine, peacefulness and beauty. The police brutality and denial of the right for Catalonians to hold a referendum recalls harsher chapters in Spain’s history. Is this the face the Spanish government wants to show the world?

To add a little background, consider these words from the website Armstrong Economics: In the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco abolished Catalan autonomy in 1938. Following Franco’s death in 1975, Catalan political parties concentrated on autonomy rather than independence.

A bit more research reveals that in 2006, this statute of autonomy was challenged by Spain’s high court of justice, and there have been growing protests throughout Catalonia ever since.

Will the international community come to Catalonia’s defense? Unless there are rich natural resources to usurp or threats of mass genocide, it seems the international community is rather reluctant to get involved in civil debates–though civil hardly seems like the proper term here.

Just as I was about to publish my post, a friend who had just had a romantic weekend getaway in Barcelona, sent me pictures from her trip. Based on the smiling faces, the gorgeous Mediterranean sea, the lovely touristic shots, life in Barcelona continues despite the protests on both sides.

One of the last shots she sent me seemed to be the perfect way to end this post.

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If you are interested in knowing more about my travel romance The Things We Said in Venice, please visit my other blog: www.authorkristinanderson.com. Or, visit Amazon to download a free sample, or what the heck, purchase one.

Signing off.

Kristin in Holland

 

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Presentation during 6-24-17 Parelroute 2017 Bezuidenhout


img_7323Have you ever walked through your neighborhood and heard one of your neighbors playing live music and wished you could walk in and listen? Glanced into an open window to see art lining the walls of a ground floor residence and wished you could enter that home like a gallery? Or wished to enter that beautiful garden?

On Saturday, June 24th, you can follow that impulse in my neighborhood during the “Parelroute.” Starting at 11:00 and going until 4:30p.m. neighbors as well as five public venues will be open to the public to share their creative talents, from musical performances, painting and sculptor to ayervedic knowledge and fictional writing. Celebrating it’s ninth year, The 2017 Parelroute features 44 stops along the route. The only problem with the Parelroute is that there are so many cool things to choose from and just one day in which to do it all!

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I’m drawn to Katharina van der Leeden and the B-Project that will be held at the Christus Triumfatorkerk, Juliana van Stolberglaan 154 (above).

I would also like to see Elleke Davidse’s paintings (Van Reesstraat 61).

But perhaps some live music is a better use of my time. For example, I would like to catch the jazzy music of Bart Riemsdijk and friends at Spaarwaterstraat 17, or visit the nature town ATV Loolaan at Ijsclubweg 5.

Or maybe a workshop on making illustrations with Manuela Bianco?

Oh the choices!

As a resident of Bezuidenhout, I’m honored to be one of the “parels” this year as well. In addition to blogging, I’m an author of two novels, Green (2013) and The Things We Said in Venice (2017).  I will be reading from my second novel and sharing how living in The Hague influenced the narrative of this work of fiction. Too bad they put the wrong address in the brochure that went out to thousands of people (correct location is the Haagse Hout Library). Here’s a carefully revised brochure.

Here’s a link with the full schedule for the route (in Dutch).

Hope to see you on Parel dag!

Kristin

 

 

 

 

* Parel = pearl. Route = route.

Nadja Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot visits The Hague


Last week my British friend invited me to see Nadja Tolokonnikova speak at Border Kitchen. Nadja reached international fame in 2012 when she and her feminist Pussy Riot bandmates were arrested on charges of “hooliganism” when they gave a spontaneous performance at a Moscow cathedral.

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Image from Border Kitchen website

She served two years in a Russian prison for her act of hooliganism. During her sentence, she worked 17-hour days sewing uniforms. But that’s not what she wanted to talk about with the interviewer and audience at Paard van Troje. She wanted to talk about starting a revolution. I could almost hear  a punk version of Tracy Chapman’s famous song playing in the background. Yet at the same time, Nadja’s approach to starting a revolution is much more in your face.

When she first started speaking, I was put off. She dropped the F bomb like a rapper, she didn’t always answer the interviewers questions and she made a lot of generalizations. It didn’t seem to be a matter of stage fright. On the contrary, she seemed quite relaxed and content to digress from the topic if she so desired. I thought I was in for a long, awkward evening at the hands of an anarchist.

I soon realized it wasn’t her who was undergoing a bout of awkwardness; it was me. I was in an adjustment period. Nadja’s presence and her way of thinking were foreign to me. As I let go of whatever preconceived notions I might have had, she emerged before me as a true revolutionista, or in this case a  революционер.

She wasn’t interested in being in the spotlight for the spotlight’s sake. She didn’t care about fame. She knew that she was risking her life just about every time she partook in acts of rebellion in Russia. But she just chose not to think about it. No point. We all die. And better to live your life fully engaged and stand up for what you believe in, then living in fear. Not exactly her words, but that was the sentiment she conveyed.

The more she talked, the more I realized that Nadja is a unique brand of brilliant. She is strong, optimistic, driven, detached. When she talked about celebrities and politicians she’s met from Madonna to Obama, I didn’t get the idea she was name dropping. It was more like telling it as it is.

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Here is my attempt to summarize some of the best insights I received from her talk. These are not her exact words, and could very well misrepresent what she said. But they are my attempt to recall from memory what she said over a week ago.

  1. On Trump. Yes he’s an ugly fascist pig, but it’s a good thing to have that ugliness out in the open where we can all see it. He’s in your face and you can’t ignore him and his ugly attacks on women, the environment, muslims and immigrants. These policies are not hidden and happening behind doors. You are fully confronted with what he’s doing right out in the open. The question remains, what are you going to do about it? (Start a revolution, perhaps?) We can all do something, no matter who we are. We can all take action and stand up for what we believe in. You can see Pussy Riot’s Make America Great Again Trump video here (not for those under 18, or with delicate temperaments).
  2. On communicating with ‘the other.’ When she spent time in prison, she met people with whom she would have never come into contact in her life outside bars: pro-Putin Russians and other people who had completely different opinions than her on almost everything. But they all became friends. How? Surprisingly, she referenced  Acts Chapter 2 of The Bible, to explain her approach to communicating with those who don’t agree with you.
    Acts discusses people speaking in tongues during Pentecost and suddenly being able to understand each other. I don’t think it was about all of these people suddenly speaking Polish and French and all of these different languages. I think it was about people actually being open to ‘the other’ and listening with their heart to one another, being willing to step inside their shoes and see the world from their perspective. That’s what I tried to do in prison. I walked in their shoes. And from there, we could communicate and understand one another. Damn. Nadja has a good point.
  3. On humor: I was one of a half dozen Americans in the audience who raised my hand to ask a question. I notice that I often seek out humor as a way of dealing with the disaster that is Trump. (Think Borowitz report from The New Yorker, or most Late Night shows). Afterwards, I feel a release of pressure, but also a release of the desire to take action. Does humor make us passive?
    Nadja’s answer to my question was also a relief. Here’s my summary of her response. I have activist friends who think humor detracts from activism. But I believe that we do need humor. In fact, humor makes life better, both in and out of prison. It’s hard to listen to people who are serious all of the time. Humor is a way of connecting and taking a serious problem and making it approachable. In other words, humor is a valid tool in starting a conversation and a platform for taking action.

I should probably also mention that Nadja Tolokonnikova wasn’t just there to talk. She has authored a book called: How to Make a Revolution. She’s also started a prison reform project and a media website, Mediazona, with the idea of keeping the world informed about human rights abuses in Russian prisons and calling for prison reform.

“I’m just a damned Russian peasant,” she said as she finished up her presentation to thunderous applause. She might very well be a damned Russian peasant, but she’s a damned impressive Russian peasant, fueling the fires of a revolution in her wake.

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She’s back. But is she here to stay?


Some people find the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions to be a bunch of childish mamby pamby for losers who don’t realize it’s just another day. Me? I’m a dyed in the wool sucker for hope and fresh beginnings in the New Year. And if there’s one thing I can count on, it’s me making a whole list of resolutions and tackling them with glee and newfound hope.

Counting on that momentum, mid December Kristin–whilst saying yes to a second helping of hazelnut marzipan cake and a double cappuccino–waved her hand nonchalantly as if to say “No worries! January 1st Kristin will put a stop to all this indulgence. So just keep on keeping on before the party ends!”  But a funny thing happened on the way to the New Year; I had thoughts and imaginings and even talks. But the resolutions never came.

I thought about dusting off the juicer and starting a daily routine of fresh carrot-celery-ginger juice for the whole family. I imagined signing up for a 10k and developing a training schedule. I talked quite a bit about this being the year that my son should actually enroll in a sport of some sort. I even thought vaguely about the plot of my second book, and how I’d left my lead character in the precarious situation of undergoing eye surgery while a hit man was heading toward the hospital where it was being performed.

I had the best intentions to move things forward. But cookies held sway over carrots, streaming movies via Netflix trumped time working on my second novel, and my son seemed perfectly happy sitting on his butt playing with all of his new legos, so why did I have to go and change?

But then January 14th rolled around and BAM! January 1st Kristin is here, “resolutionizing” everything in sight. I simply said no to any processed sugar for the entire day and had no problem keeping my promise to myself. I confirmed a visit to the Haagse Rugby Club and made the trip downtown with my son to purchase cleats, warm work-out clothes and a mouth guard. I resolved a half dozen loose ends with friends, work and projects and despite the ice-cold weather, I biked my son to the Haagse Rugby club at 6:00pm in the evening to introduce him to this rough and tumble gentleman’s sport.

I even scheduled a piano lesson for my son next week and agreed to a morning run with a friend from the gym who is training for a half marathon. Did I mention that I actually arranged a babysitter for Friday night so that my husband and I can attend a lecture by Karen Armstrong?

So New Year’s resolution Kristin is back, but is she here to stay? I certainly hope so, because I simply cannot endure another sugar-frosted cookie, late night movie that leaves me groggy in the morning or hearing myself whine about not taking the time to write. That’s so 2014!

Happy New Year!

Angolan Sun


I awoke Monday morning before the alarm went off with a strange sensation; energy. I had slept well three nights in a row, and was experiencing a clarity of mind I hadn’t even realized was missing. I was focused and productive at work, I understood almost all of the Dutch that was thrown my way, and I was pro-active when I got home. I finished customizing a flyer my friend Antara had designed for my book Green and headed downtown to drop it at ABC Bookstore in The Hague where multiple copies of my novel GREEN are now sitting on a shelf, waiting for their new owners to come fetch them.

Your copy is waiting for you at the ABC Bookstore in The Hague
Your copy is waiting for you at the ABC Bookstore in The Hague

When I stepped outside, my energy increased exponentially because the sun was shining! When you grow up in an area of eternal sunshine, you don’t miss the sun or even realize it’s impact on your mood. You take it for granted, get annoyed with it, even, for it’s unabashed persistence in warming up every day. I always wondered why I saw so many lobster-red German and Dutch tourists in my home state of California. Now I know why they’re not on board with the sunscreen concept; sunshine is a rare commodity in their daily lives. It’s like they think a good sunburn will make up for all those overcast days when the sun was just as intangible as world peace behind the cloud front.

For once, I was happy the tram wasn’t coming for 10 minutes. I leaned against the edge of the tram stop, my hands in my pockets, my face tilted upward toward the sunshine.

When I got on the tram, I sat next to two women with beautiful brown skin more fit for a sunny climate. They spoke in a fluid language that was at once familiar and foreign. I couldn’t help myself.
“Welke taal spreken jullie?” (Which language are you two speaking?) That one question launched a friendly, inspired dialogue that happens on occasion among strangers in a big city. They spoke Portuguese and had been in The Netherlands for over a decade. Although I’ve heard Portuguese, my exposure is limited to a few CDs of Brazilian artists. I soon learned they were from Angola, not Portugal or Brazil. Angola has a long colonial history with the Portuguese, and Portuguese is the country’s official language.

Before our short tram ride was over, the women were opening their purses and looking for something they wanted to give me. Ah. A pamphlet on the power of God. I took it with a smile and waved goodbye.
Rejuvenating sleep put me in the right space to be open to experiences. The sun gave me a physical jolt of warmth and this simple conversation with two Angolan women on the tram emphasized the importance of human interaction. angola

As I walked toward the ABC Bookstore to drop off my flyer, I noticed that people were smiling at me.

Green by Kristin Anderson
Poster designed by Antara Hunter

Why? I had a smile on my face, and I guess smiles can be contagious, especially if the sun is out and your energy is just that much more open from its warmth. The ABC Bookstore was closed, but the employees were busy conducting a store wide inventory. I slipped the flyers under the door, hoping the woman who I’d spoken with about the flyer was working that day. I placed a few more flyers in other locations and headed back to my neighborhood, thinking about the Angolan sun.

Dappled with rainwater


I subscribe to a blogger called Kristin Noelle because 1) she writes about living with trust in your life and 2) I share her name, Kristin Noelle (my first and middle name and I suspect her first and last name). My second reason is a little silly, but I think there’s something interesting about us walking around in the world with the same name, even if expressed differently.

A while ago, she sent an email entitled “Dappled Things.” If I could have a love affair with a word, this would be it. Dappled reminds me of light summer rain, of nature, of sunlight through trees, of thoughts transitioning in front of you, and of a distant poem I love about dappled rainwater.

I started writing a response to Kristin Noelle’s email, eager to share my thoughts with her, and I yarned on about an E.E. Cummings poem I loved so much that had the word “dappled” in it. I couldn’t remember the title of the poem, so I started searching through E.E. Cummings’ works, soon realizing his poems have very little to do with dappled sunshine and a lot to do with sex and his most-likely-made-up last name.

I had thrown my love affair word to the wrong poet. Then William Carlos Williams popped in my head. Oh, that’s it! I thought confidently. And I pulled up a poetry website and quickly found that beautiful poem from all those years ago. And without much further ado:

The Red Wheelbarrow
by
William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Glazed with rainwater? Not dappled with rainwater? So much for my dappled tryst; it’s not even in the poem.

This leaves me to believe, that like Robin Williams in the 1994 film The Final Cut, my brain had somehow misremembered a crucial piece of information from my past.

Perhaps crucial is a bit strong, but I feel cheated by my own memories, and I have to agree with William Carlos; glazed with rainwater works much better.

But back to my namesake. Kristin Noelle’s email, the one that caused me to expound upon the virtues and amorous nature of dappled, also made me slow down and ponder her words:

Life is a dappled thing. The contrasts are *everywhere*. And since my goal is to learn and practice a worldview of trust – that is, a softening into, rather than a constant resistance to, what is – then my invitation is to practice saying yes to these contrasts. Practice watching for the gifts in them. Practice listening for what they’re calling me to learn or remember or do…or to release and let go of.

What if the dappled things, the many startling and confusing and even horribly troubling contrasts, are a deep sort of kindness, and learning to trust is the process of waking up to that kindness? Of learning to welcome it, and soak in it, even when we can’t yet recognize its outlines? (excerpt from an email sent out by Kristin Noelle to her subscribers on Dappled Things)

And now you can see why I subscribe to her blog; these are the sort of thoughts that make us contemplate our lives and perhaps see goodness and lessons of growth in a place where we only once saw trouble.

I often think of the internet as this wonderful, horrible thing, a dappled thing; it offers up an incomprehensible amount of information, and like an expanded Wikipedia, it represents a superhuman collective of our history, thoughts, experiences and beliefs; some horrible and dark, others refreshing and insightful.

The internet is knowledge. Harkening back to a famous story of a snake, a woman and an apple, some say knowledge is evil. But I disagree–it’s what you DO with the knowledge that makes all the difference. We can handle knowledge if we have trust in our lives–trust in our own ability to reason and differentiate, and to make decisions based on our core beliefs.

How do you live with trust when betrayed by your own memory? I can fact-check the author of a poem online or in a book, but how can I fact-check that experience I had when I was nine years old when one of my best friends betrayed my trust? I can’t.

If I got back in touch with that long-ago friend and asked for her version of the experience, would she have the same story, or something completely different? Whose version would be right? Would our interpretations be based on feelings as much as facts? Can we trust our own ability to recall an event objectively and in that moment, or do we reshape our memories with layers of new experiences?

Trust is also the ability to realize you can be wrong once in a while, and to do so with grace.

Talking with authors


A handful of you may know that I’m almost finished with my first novel. This would be a great time for me to mention the title of my book, but unfortunately I’m like a floor fan on a hot summer day when it comes to determining the best title for my debut novel–oscillating between one corner of the room and the other. A title, after all, is crucial to marketing your book and conveying what the potential reader can expect from the content nestled between that compelling cover design and the great quotes (from your mom) on the back cover.

The title isn’t the only delay. I’ve been reading online about marketing and it is clear to me that if I hope to sell more than a handful of copies, I better get my marketing p’s and q’s in order. Because after all, people have to know our books are out there before they can purchase them and a book will not likely go “viral” unless you’ve done your time promoting the heck out of it.

Even though there is an overabundance of advice online on how to self-publish, I tend to lend more credibility to the advice that comes from people I know who have already gone through the experience.

Thus my morning coffee date with Carolyn Vines, author of Black and Abroad. I met Carolyn at a Connecting Women gathering in The Hague and discovered that she had self-published a book a few years back. Seeing as the point of these monthly Connecting Women gatherings is to connect with others, I got up my nerve and approached this beautiful, well-spoken, self-published author to admit that I was; 1) working on a book, and 2) would greatly appreciate it if we could get together for a cup of coffee and discuss her self-publishing experience. And instead of saying she was too busy, or that I needed to be further along in the process, or a more crushing response (get lost! for example), she replied “Yeah. I’d love to get together with you for a cup of coffee.” And so today was the big day.

As two American women who have chosen to live in the Netherlands with their Dutch husbands, Carolyn and I unanimously picked a table in the sunshine, determined to catch some rays while we could. As she sipped her coffee, Carolyn graciously tolerated my flow of consciousness style of questioning, and did her best to answer along the way.

First off, she confirmed what all the online sources say; you need to be ready to self-promote through multiple channels of social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, an Amazon author page, if you’re going that route, and a website designed for your book or books. Good news is, most of these sources are free or low-cost–unless you have a premium LinkedIn account or go for a fancy website design.

But no process is ever entirely free. A book launch, for example, can be where the expenses begin to add up. I learned from Carolyn that if you want to do a book launch as a self-published author at a bookstore, you need to order and purchase the hard copies of your print-on-demand books (at cost) and sell them to the bookstore. The bookstore will then determine for how much they will re-sell them. I’m assuming because of overhead like rent, employees, etc, bookstores need to make more than a buck on the exchange. Thus they mark them up quite a bit–sometimes as high as 19.99.

This kind of mark up can be quite problematic for a self-published author. Imagine you are attending a friend’s self-published book launch. Your loyalty is with your friend, so even though the sticker price for her novel might shock, you’ll most likely bite the bullet and pick up a 19.99 (plus tax) copy of her book. But let’s say the book launch is over and you’re another customer browsing the bookshelves who doesn’t know the author personally–would you purchase a novel that costs 19.99 from an unknown author, or get the latest work from a world-renowned bestselling author offered for 25% to 50% less? The competition is steep enough without having to deal with this sort of inequity. It’s not the fault of the bookstore; it’s just a byproduct of supply and demand economics.

Adding insult to injury, it’s quite possible that the bookstore will ask you to “purchase back” the books that aren’t sold within a reasonable amount of time. No problem, you say. I can sell them from the back of my car, or from the basket of my bike (for my Dutch readers). But once again; you have to prove yourself.

But back to Carolyn Vines. The most fascinating part of our discussion was about Carolyn’s book, Black and Abroad.

I purchased it as an e-book and was blown away by her natural writing style. This memoir is far more than a fun journey about falling in love with and moving abroad with her Dutch guy. It spans twenty years of her life and deals with topics of race, poverty, transition, depression, prejudice, culture and finding your strength to grow beyond tragic situations, rather than letting these situations make you a lifelong victim. But words from her website can sum it up much better than me. In her online bio, I pulled the following:

black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity, Carolyn’s memoir, spans her twenty years’ living and traveling abroad and shares how she found the inspiration to transcend the limitations of her identity as a black woman.

And to top it all off, she brilliantly describes humorous situations and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself–a quality I’ve always admired in people. Seeing as I’m only a handful of chapters in and already hooked, it seems clear I’m recommending it to you as well. Although the book was written for a black female audience, you do not have to be black or female to appreciate it. In fact, I think the honest portrayal of racial issues is important for everyone, regardless of race or gender, to read about. I got the kindle edition here. If you read it, let me know what you think!

If any of you are interested in knowing when my as-of-yet-untitled novel is coming out, please subscribe to this blog by pressing “follow” at the top of the page, and you’ll be sure to hear more.