Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, New York Times Bestselling Author of ‘The Dressmaker of Khair Khana’
What prompted you to write your book, “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana”?
We are so used to seeing women as victims of war to be pitied, not survivors of war to be respected. When I met Kamila and heard this story of young women who had managed to become breadwinners during years in which they could not even be on the street I thought it was a powerful example of how much work women do during war to protect and provide for their families, and I became committed to bringing this history to readers.
Scenario: you meet a business exec who is looking to fund a cause that already has had enormous positive implications for the community locally and abroad. He wishes to offer $50,000 to a cause that is innovative in its thinking. He has 10 minutes available to speak with you. What do you share with him about your work?
I write about women entrepreneurs who support their own families and their communities. This work changes not just their lives, but their children’s futures, because when women earn an income they earn respect AND they send both their boys and their girls to school. Investing in women is investing in families — and their future.
For most successful entrepreneurs, there is no typical day so please give us a sample of your schedule from start to finish.
- Read blackberry
- Feed baby
- Answer email
- Make calls
- Write more
- Email more
- Feed baby
What are your “can’t live without” apps on your desktop/cell phone?
I am slow on the uptake with apps…my email and twitter for blackberry are my biggest addictions.
What are your tricks for time management?
Get up when you need to move on to the next activity. Clear your head, have a cup of coffee and move on to the next task/piece. Email will always be there so don’t let it rule your life or your schedule.
Best advice received when you started your career?
Keep at it and don’t give up. News was in a recession and there were no jobs. It was great advice and I did.
Given the current economic climate, how has your strategy for building awareness of your work changed for the short-term and long-term?
Social media, building networks, talking to bloggers, answering, listening to and reaching out to readers on Twitter, all of these are important for both the short- and long-term. And they are also a great deal of fun.
What’s been your proudest achievement as such an immensely accomplished Entrepreneur and journalist?
It is all very much a work in progress. I am proud and humbled each time a reader writes to tell me that The Dressmaker moved them and helped them think differently not just about Afghanistan, but about their own lives. That means a great deal to me.
What are some of the ways that you achieve balance in your life?
I do not think I have achieved balance!
Your top 3 book recommendations for our readers (and why?)
There are so many to recommend.
Check out this post at The New Yorker – I think your readers might really enjoy these books as they are about enterprising women.
If you had an exceptional month and earned double of your average month, what (if anything) would you spend it on?
What are some of your most rewarding charitable involvements and why?
I write about exceptional people, from women in shelters to young girls who escaped child marriage, to entrepreneurs in Afghanistan who support their families on their business profits. All of it is incredibly rewarding because it offers readers a view of people they will never meet who are fighting every day for something better for their own sake and the sake of their children.
Who has been the most influential person to you as you’ve advanced in your career?
My mother and my grandmother were powerful role models who taught me the importance of strength and toughness and the difference between the two.
What’s your advice to my someone interested in journalism and entrepreneurship?
Get started. Start writing. Believe in your work and keep at it so that you continue to improve. It is not supposed to be easy, but it is rewarding.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a Fellow and Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2004 she left ABC News to earn her MBA at Harvard, where she began writing about women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Rwanda. Her reporting on entrepreneurs in these countries has been published by the New York Times, theFinancial Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor,CNN.com, Newsweek, and the Daily Beast, as well as the World Bank and Harvard Business School. She lives in Los Angeles.