This week, we’re sitting down with Red Press author Lyla Bashan (@lylabashan) to talk about why she wrote Global: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes, and how to empower the youth of today.
Was it important to you to write a book that empowers young people?
Definitely! We all have it in us to help make the world a better place. You don’t have to have a career in global affairs or volunteer in a refugee camp in a foreign country to have a positive impact. It’s important to learn about global issues and to determine how you best want to be engaged — it can be writing your government representative to influence your country’s foreign policy, it can be donating to a worthy cause, it can be buying clothes that have been verified as not being made by slave labor, it can even be volunteering time in your local community — that old saying “think global, act local” is the real deal.
Global is geared at young folks because they’re the leaders of tomorrow, so I want to help them become global citizens today. It’s the book I wish I had gotten to read 20 years ago when I was starting on my career in global affairs. It would have been such a gift to get to read Global, which demystifies complex systems and issues — it would have been such a great foundation for what I studied in college and grad school and for what I’ve learned in my career.
Global affairs is such an awesome and diverse field — you get to help people, have adventures and continuously learn. But embarking on a career in global affairs can feel really intimidating and so I’ve laid out certain steps to take, opportunities to be aware of and things to keep in mind. Annex 1 in Global is chalked full of links to cool places to get global affairs job, internships and fellowships — it’s totally the list I wish I had had access to when I was trying to get my foot in the door in global affairs!
How long did you have the idea for Global brewing in your mind?
My wonderful friend from grad school had the idea almost a decade ago. We had studied International Peace and Conflict Resolution and International Development together and he went on to be a high school teacher. His suggestion was that we write a book explaining international affairs in an accessible way to young people. But then he had a baby and I started my Spanish language training for my first USAID tour in Guatemala and our plan got sidetracked. What’s that saying — “life is what happens when you’re making other plans”!
But I had never forgotten about the idea and had always thought it would be a great book to have out in the world. After Guatemala, my next tour was in Tajikistan, in Central Asia. I would often work from home at night after putting my kid to bed and I always thought, if I can spend so much extra time working on my job, I can spend that time working on writing a book. So, eventually, about five years after my friend’s suggestion, I did actually start writing it. I would write it during my kid’s nap-time on Sundays and sometimes at night after she went to bed. But the internet was really slow in Dushanbe, so I’d often spend a long time waiting for a webpage to load as I was trying to do research as I wrote.
It took me a couple of years to get the book done. But I always felt good about working on a project that I felt so positively about and that was for me and not my job. It was definitely a labor of love and took a lot of dedication and focus.
I was committed because I truly believe that, if people have a better understanding about global affairs, they will be more empowered and inspired to do what they can to help make the world a better place.
It’s almost been 1 year since Global was published; what have you learned in that time as a first-time author?
I learned that writing the book might actually be the easiest part! Getting people to read it is not something you can control. Because I’m so immersed in, and passionate about, global affairs, I assumed that, once my book was published, it would fly off the shelves because everyone would be so thrilled to have the opportunity to better understand global affairs!
I’ve also learned that there is an awesome global community of authors who are there to support one another and engage with each other. It’s pretty cool to see how many people there are who have made the effort to write!
I’ve made a website (www.lylabashan.com), which is something that never would have occurred to me to do before for sure. I’ve also learned about twitter and social media as marketing tools — things I had no idea about. It’s made me feel old, but also empowered! Since my life is kind of like a walking advertisement for my book, I’ve shared about my life on twitter, instagram and facebook in a way that I hadn’t before. It’s been interesting viewing my experiences from that perspective and in a lot of ways, it’s made me even more appreciative of all of the cool things that I get to do because of my career in global affairs.
What does it mean to you to be a Red Press author?
I wrote Global to help inspire and empower people to help make the world a better place, so it made 100% sense to me to work with a publisher who had the same goal! I feel like Katherine and I are kindred spirits and it’s an honor to work with such an amazing person who is so committed to her craft and so good at what she does. So first and foremost, it means getting to be part of a tribe of do-gooders who are on a mission to spread knowledge about social justice and empower folks. I am thrilled getting to be a part of Red Press because it means getting to be a part of a badass effort to help make the world a better place!
Second of all, it means getting to go through an amazing process transforming your wisdom into impactful words. I had written Global in a bit of a vacuum. My amazing husband, who is an English teacher, reviewed my initial outlines and my very first chapter, but most of the book I wrote without other eyes on it. After years of writing, I was very proud of my effort and very attached to it. And then Katherine came in and made it even better! It was such a positive process to have Katherine edit my manuscript. I don’t know if I have it in me to write a second book, but if I did, the main motivation would be to get to edit it again with Katherine.
What was the moment you realised you wanted to pursue a career in Global Affairs?
I started down this career path in 6th grade when I did a report on the depletion of the Amazon rainforest and realized how horribly humans were impacting the environment. This experience made me a young environmentalist and committed to reducing humans’ impact on the environment. While at a youth retreat for my parent’s hippy church in high school, I learned about the field of peace and conflict resolution and later, in college, I learned about humanitarian development. These fields connected my dots from the 6th grade — I realized that people wouldn’t and couldn’t care about the environment if they couldn’t provide food, shelter, and safety for themselves and their families. That is why I’ve committed my career to conflict resolution and humanitarian development because, ultimately, it’s a way of helping individual people, the environment, and the world.
Global: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes is available now. Sign up to the Red Press Newsletter to learn more about our upcoming titles. You can also follow Lyla on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.