They all said that Bangladesh would be an experience…
For Anne Hamilton, a three month winter programme of travel and ‘cultural exchange’ in a country where the English language, fair hair and a rice allergy are all rare in the extreme was always going to be interesting, challenging and frustrating. What they didn’t tell Anne was that it would also be sunny, funny and the start of a love affair with this unexplored area of Southeast Asia.
A Blonde Bengali Wife shows the lives beyond the poverty, monsoons and diarrhoea of Bangladesh and charts a vibrant and fascinating place where one minute Anne is levelling a school playing field ‘fit for the national cricket team,’ cobbling together a sparkly outfit for a formal wedding the next.
Along with Anne are the essential ingredients for survival: a travel-savvy Australian sidekick, a heaven-sent adopted family, and a short, dark, and handsome boy-next-door.
During her adventures zipping among the dusty clamour of the capital Dhaka, the longest sea beach in the world at Cox’s Bazaar, verdant Sylhet tea gardens, and the voluntary health projects of distant villages, Anne amasses a lot of friends, stories…and even a husband?
A Blonde Bengali Wife is the ‘unexpected travelogue’ that reads like a comedy of manners to tell the other side of the story of Bangladesh.
I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to fit in the reading of A Blonde Bengali Wife by Anne Hamilton (available via Amazon in the UK and US, originally released in October 2010, . reprinted 3 November 2015). I’ve read great reviews from friends, and – with my love of travel – it really does look absolutely fascinating. And given that mention of other on-line reviews, Anne has written me a quite perfect post – on moving forward from being a social media virgin! Over to you Anne…
This time last year I was, more or less, a social media virgin. Okay, I’d dabbled in Facebook – even though looking at other people’s posts and pages, even by invitation, seemed a bit like rooting through their knicker drawer – and I did already have a blog. Well, let me clarify that: I have an online diary-thingy that I update once a month; an amalgam of A Blonde Bengali Wife’s journey since its original paperback publication, the development of Bhola’s Children, the charity inspired by and supported by the book, and random thoughts and stories from my writing life.
That was, for a long time, my sole online presence, and updating it was shoved to the bottom of the virtual Must Do Sometime pile – filed somewhere between finish PhD and write novel. As it happens, ‘sometime’ arrived last summer when I first gave head room to self-publishing an eBook reprint of A Blonde Bengali Wife. I told myself I must be mad; there was an excellent local publisher willing to take it on… but I’d been there and done that five years earlier. Now was the time to feel the fear and watch – hopefully – something even better rise up. The impetus came from Claire Morley, author of Tindog Tacloban, who had successfully and very professionally self-published her novel. It was Claire who showed me that the end product – virtual book on virtual self – was nothing without promotion to real, living, breathing readers. (Claire’s book was featured here on Being Anne…)
Every author wants to sell their book; most want to resonate – somehow – with their readers, too. I particularly want(ed) to tell a different story about Bangladesh and yes, to continue to make royalties for Bhola’s Children. In order to find my audience to do this, I’ve come to believe that social media is not only invaluable for all writers, it is essential for those authors who choose to self-publish. Before A Blonde Bengali Wife was launched (and with Claire and her fledgling company www.myepublishbook.com) I had sought reviewers, set up a free book giveaway, written a few blog posts and carried out several author interviews.
This is all thanks to the support and encouragement I’d received from my early forays into finding Facebook Friends and Groups like #BookConnectors, and following Twitter accounts. That such promotion works is obvious; when it was launched, A Blonde Bengali Wife was already in a Kindle #1 spot.
Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that most fellow writers, readers and bloggers are really – and I mean really – kind and generous people who want each other to succeed. It‘s not the cut-throat, ruthlessly competitive business I’d expected from the occasional troll-horror-story; instead I’ve made several good friends, I’ve watched and learned, and I can always find something to aspire to or laugh about. Writing is so potentially isolating, I can’t put a price on such supportive networks. And when the rare unsavoury comment filters through, well, I have the back-up to make me stronger. All I have to do in response is to make sure I give exactly what I would like to receive – respect, retweets, shares and likes. And reviews, of course! Always reviews.
All that said, it’s clear to me now – and remember, I’m still only a few months in – that I was the type of zealous convert inevitably headed for burnout. Too busy writing about writing, I didn’t edit my novel, I didn’t write any new fiction. Notifications were too exciting to ignore and messages must be returned immediately. Then, I had to, just had to, come up with witty and scintillating Facebook posts. As my Twitter Followers grew in number, I panicked: what if I missed someone and offended them? Missed an unmissable event? Why was I being Un-Followed…? Aargh.
Simply, I overdosed on social media to the point where it quickly lost its gloss and even became a bit of an irritant. Yes, I still believed it was essential to book promotion, but the idea is that a writer writes, so I couldn’t rest on my laurels and promote one book forever and ever. Everything in moderation, they say, and that meant I needed to check accounts a couple of times a day rather than every half an hour. The rest of my time I could fill in with a bit of writing, teaching, editing – you know, the things I do for a living!
There remains a lot of social media, like Pinterest, like Instagram, where I’ve yet to venture. I need to upgrade my blog and my work websites. I’m also told I need a Tweet Deck, but that puts me in mind of a crazed DJ spinning messages at random. One day…
Right now though, what better opportunity to reflect on the progress I’ve made in social media and writing (and often none of us is good at doing that – in any walk of life) and in doing so, say a huge thank you to all those people who have helped make this happen. What better advert for social media and book promotion is the fact that fourteen intelligent, busy, committed and generous bloggers have agreed to take a chance on hosting A Blonde Bengali Wife (and me) on this very blog tour?
Thank you, all of you. #thanksisnotenough
That’s a wonderful post Anne! A particular thank you for the mention of #BookConnectors – which you’ll know is close to my heart. And if you ever manage to get your Tweetdeck synchronised and spinning, maybe you can give me some tips!
I’m so delighted to be part of this tour arranged by Brook Cottage Books, spotlighting the book and offering a chance to win an e-copy. Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Meet the author
Anne Hamilton wrote A Blonde Bengali Wife after she fell in love with Bangladesh on her first (of many) visits there. The travelogue inspired the charity, Bhola’s Children, and continues to support it. Before she became a full time writer, editor and tutor, Anne’s career was in social work and community health – which led to many of her earlier international travels.
Anne can never quite decide if she comes from the East of England or the West of Ireland, so she compromises by living in Scotland, with her small son; they still travel when they can. Anne has a PhD in Creative writing from the University of Glasgow, and is the editor of local online magazine, Lothian Life. She is currently revising and seeking representation for her first novel, Chasing Elena, and working on her second.
You can find Anne on Facebook, here and here on Twitter, and on Goodreads. She also has a blog and website.