Christine Herbert (Zambia) answers questions on Operation Awesome
Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Don’t wait for the “perfect idea” to arrive before writing. Just get those fingers on the keyboard. The ideas will come.
What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?
Above all, I want the readers to laugh. Hard. In my face. (Okay, not literally. Please don’t show up at my door, point to a page in my book and guffaw. That would be weird.) Because my book deals with a challenging time in my life—namely living in a mud hut in the middle of Africa by myself—there’s going to be a lot of emotions flying around. There are some truly soul crushing moments in there; I’m not going to lie. But mostly I wrote the book as a way to laugh at myself, and I hope the reader will too.
What is something about Zambia that most people probably don’t know?
Gosh…everything. What have your heard about Zambia through international news coverage? Nothing comes to mind? Thought so. It is truly the hidden gem of Africa for this reason. It’s such a peaceful country it doesn’t make headlines often. Which is astounding considering it is one of the most majestic places on earth and home to one of the “Seven Wonders of the Natural World,” Victoria Falls.
Would you share a picture with us of your book with something from your adventures?
This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of my time in Zambia 2004-06. I am attending the Mutomboko Festival in Luapula Province (in which the local chief illustrates the mighty victories of his people through a traditionally costumed “dance off” with other tribes). It illustrates my utter “out of place-ness” and the excessive amount of attention I would draw, just by being my plain-old, pigmentally-challenged self.
How do you support your fellow debut authors and have any of them supported you?
One of the great things about being published by a small indie press which showcases new and emerging writers is that we all have ample opportunity to get to know each other and support one another. I have loved reading and reviewing my peers’ debut releases.
Time to double-down on social media! What’s your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday? Also, can you please recommend a favorite #bookstagram account profile?
My twitter handle (and my instagram handle, wink-wink, nudge-nudge) is @authorherbert . I’d love for you to give a #WriterWednesday shoutout to these fabulous writers and human beings on twitter: @rebeccazornow and @MarilynKriete and to the lovely bookstagrammer Heather, who goes by @booksbyheath on instagram.
What is your favorite creative non-writing activity to do?
When not writing, I can be found with my nose someone else’s book or curled up in a movie theatre seat, enjoying stories that other people have created. (Hello, my name is Christine, and I am a story-a-holic.)
In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
My story is an exploration of Zambian culture, as seen though the eyes of a white American. It is multi-cultural by nature, though it does not attempt to “unpack” any weighty social justice issues, nor will you find any “white savior” elements in the storytelling. I often refer to my memoir as “Bridget Jones Goes to Africa”—what you learn about Zambian culture will be through my own bumbling attempts to understand and navigate it. It is a story about people who are different—mostly because of how and where they’ve been raised, rather than the color of their skin—who learn from each other and, ultimately, love one another (despite the protagonist’s many, many flaws).
What’s the biggest writing goal you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
Finally being a published author feels like I’ve achieved my #BucketList as a writer, so let me enjoy that for the space of two breaths. Okay. That was nice. Now on to the next goal! I’ve been working on a novel (also set in Sub-Saharan Africa) for several years. My bucket list now involves taming this “pantsed” literary monster into some kind of actual storyline and achieving publishing success as a fiction writer.
What was the query process like for you?
I have had mixed success with query letters. I was often able to get a full or partial manuscript request, especially if I’d had the opportunity to meet the agent or editor in person beforehand at a writer’s conference. But, ultimately, no one offered to sign me. I had all but given up on traditional publishing and was ready to self-pub when I learned about #PitMad on twitter, a quarterly event when unagented writers pitch their completed manuscripts in 160 characters or less. A “like” from an agent or publishing house is an invitation to query them (and rise above the slush pile). During the time of COVID, when gathering for in-person conferences was a bust, this turned out to be the perfect way to pitch my story to a wide, somewhat-captive audience (it’s hard to lose someone in 160 characters). I was offered a publishing contract within weeks.
Would you please ask our audience an intriguing question to answer in the comments?
I like bonkers questions that make me think creatively—questions you never thought someone would ask and you have no idea the answer to until you start talking (or typing) it out. So here goes: if an interpretive dance troupe offered to express your current work in progress through movement, what’s that looking like on stage, and more importantly, what are they wearing?
Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Christine Herbert is a part-time writer, part-time bodyworker, and full-time space cadet currently living in the Pacific Northwest. A dyed-in-the-wool introvert, she occasionally surprises everyone—especially herself—by chucking it all and living an adventurous life of service overseas, once as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia and later as a manager for a non-profit organization in Nepal. When not adventuring off to distant lands, she can be found holed up in her glorified oubliette under a pile of lap blankets surrounded by a multitude of storybooks and wheels of cheese.
Christine loves connecting with fellow writers, readers, globetrotters, and woolgatherers. She can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for news about upcoming releases, the latest scoops that uplift and encourage the human spirit, and travel snaps of her adventures abroad.
Praise for “The Color of the Elephant” —
The Color of the Elephant is the kind of book you stay up past midnight to finish. I loved how often I laughed out loud at Christine’s courage to be so imperfectly and wonderfully human as a visitor to another country.
Christine Herbert (Zambia 2004-06) is a part-time writer, part-time bodyworker, and full-time space cadet currently living in the Pacific Northwest. A dyed-in-the-wool introvert, she occasionally surprises everyone—especially herself—by chucking it all and living an adventurous life of service overseas, once as a PCV in Zambia and later as a manager for a non-profit organization in Nepal. When not adventuring off to distant lands, she can be found holed up in her oubliette under a pile of lap blankets surrounded by a multitude of storybooks and wheels of cheese.
3 CommentsLeave a comment
Thank you. This is a very interesting format. i particularly like the ‘intriguing question’ discussion and am looking forward to reading “The Color of the Elephant.”
Thanks, Jim! I hope you will enjoy my story and it will bring back some fantastic memories from your own service. I have read many Peace Corps memoirs and find that no matter what country you have served in, some experiences are universal.
Thank you Christine. I’m currently writing my Peace Corps memoir. It’s 300 pages and only half complete. But I can be forgiven because I served in Malaysia for five years, got married to a Malaysian art teacher, Moke Chee, and our two children were born in Malaysia.
In the process of writing, I’m discovering things about my service that I was unaware of while serving. That, in and of itself, is reason for every RPCV to write a memoir of their service.
The universality of our service is something I find encouraging. Time passes things change but the interpersonal bi-cultural experience fostering personal growth in RPCVs is constant.
Thank you again for encouraging RPCVs to write. Each of us has something worth sharing.