Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 3 Discussion Questions

Chapter 3
1)   Americans generally don’t kiss each other on the cheeks as an informal greeting – in fact, Americans only shake hands in relatively formal/business situations.  The only physical contact that usually occurs in an informal greeting is hugging, which is only between relatively close friends and family, and not between two males unless they are very good friends.  This is called "personal space" - in every culture, the personal space we have that others usually don't enter, is different.  How do your friends greet each other in your culture?  How much "personal space" is usual in your culture?
2)   Shoes are not worn inside Turkish homes, but slippers are always worn.  Rachel prefers to go barefoot, but Aylin’s mother insists that she wear slippers.  Are street shoes worn inside the home in your home country?  Why or why not?
3)   Are there any formalities concerning food in your native language or native culture?  If so, what are they?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chapter 2 Questions

Chapter 2
1)   Aylin’s family spends the summer in a “summer house”, otherwise known as a vacation house.  While common in Turkey, this is not common in the United States.  Is it common in your country for middle-class families to have vacation homes?
2)   Did/do you study English in your country?  If so, do you think that you learned/learn useful things or more literary language?
3)   In her first e-mail, Aylin tells Rachel that she is “waiting for her with four eyes”.  This idiom is one that Aylin has translated word for word into Englishc, but makes no sense in English.  Can you think of any idioms in your language that would not translate well into English?
4)   Rachel tells Aylin that she’s “a junior”.  In the U.S. education system, there are special names for the first, second, third, and fourth years of high school and college/university: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, respectively.  Do you have a similar naming system for grade levels in your country?
5)   Rachel doesn’t know what kind of clothes to bring to Turkey.  This is in part because she knows that most people in Turkey are Muslim, and assumes that they dress very conservatively.  What is the “dress code” for teenage girls in your home country – either an official dress code of what is allowed, or a “social” one, dictated by society.


Revised Question 2! :))

My sweet brother Scott in formed me that some people do get to take geography courses in school.  While I did have to learn the locations of most of the world's countries in various classes (history, foreign language, etc...), I never had a separate geography course in the United States (though I did when I did a year of high school in France).  Here's the revised question two!

2)  Rachel’s mother didn’t know where in the world Turkey was when the letter Rachel received mentioned it.  Did you know where Turkey was before you started reading this book?  While most Americans have to learn the geography of the United States in school, world Geography is not consistently taught.  Is it an important school subject in your country?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Secrets of a Summer Village as an ESL/EFL teaching tool

Something I have in mind for Secrets of a Summer Village is an ESL/EFL (English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language) teaching version.  Not necessarily for teaching grammar, but more for teaching culture and as a conversation starter.  American culture is discussed in the book in contrast to Turkish culture, and each chapter naturally raises multiple cultural questions.  A friend recently suggested that the book might also be useful for Turkish students who are learning English, and the book could in that case be formatted with English on one page and Turkish on the facing page - an idea that I love, but that I could not do unless the book were, in fact, taken up by a Turkish publisher and professionally translated.

Months ago, I started writing discussion questions for each chapter.  I haven't finished them all, but I am going to start posting them on this blog.  Feel free to respond with your thoughts in the comments section!

Here are the Chapter 1 questions:

Chapter 1

1)   Many American high school students get after school and/or summer jobs.  They use the money to pay for a car, as pocket money, and/or they save the money so that they can attend college.  Do high school students in your home country usually get jobs in the summer or after school?  If so, what do they use the money for? 
2)   Rachel’s mother didn’t know where in the world Turkey was when the letter Rachel received mentioned it.  Did you know where Turkey was before you started reading this book?  Geography is not a regular school subject in the United States.  Is it in your country?
3)   “Pig Latin” is a code language that is created by taking the first letter of every word, putting it at the end of the word, and then adding the sound “ay” at the end of the word.  For example, “Pig Latin” in Pig Latin would be “Igpay Atinlay”.  Do you have such a code language in your language?

Friday, November 18, 2011

In the hands of an editor?

As mentioned in my previous posting, my sister-in-law has some connections with Arkadas Kitabevi in Turkey, and a manager there mentioned that she thought the book would be interesting to this publisher.  On Monday, my sister-in-law, Neslihan, excitedly told me that an editor at the publisher wanted to see my full manuscript.  I quickly sent it, and it's now in the hands of an editor there.  Arkadas (pronounced /AR- KAH- DAH-SH/) means friend in Turkish.  What a nice name for a publishing house!  I think it would be an appropriately-named publisher to print a book that is, in part, about friendship.

Dear Neslihan is waiting on pins and needles for a response from the editor.  While I am excited and would love for a Turkish publisher to buy the translation rights for Turkey (as well as maybe the rights to the English version in Turkey), these things take a long time.  I'm sure my manuscript isn't the only one on that editor's desk.  For now, at least, I'm accepting the lack of response as long as it lasts because it's better than a form letter telling me how great my writing is but that they don't think the want to take it on.  Bring on the silence, arkadaslar!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Overwhelming day/week

Wednesday was crazy. 

First, I sold 9 books, with three more promised.  That may sound like ridiculously few, but as I've mentioned many times, my book does not have a fancy cardboard display at Barnes & Noble.  Every sale is to people I know.  On Tuesday night, I sent a message to the members of my international women's club (membership approximately 200), and 6 copies were requested.  I brought three extras, just in case someone saw my message, wanted a book, but didn't write back.  I sold the three extras, and could have sold at least 3 more if I'd had them.  This is so exciting to me - I don't even really know some of the members who bought books from me.  I hope that they enjoy it, and I cannot wait to hear their comments!

After picking up the kids from school, I took them to the local library.  While there, it occurred to me that I should ask them if they'd carry a copy of my book at the library if I donated.  What's the worst that could happen?  They could say no.  So, I asked.  And they said yes.  Simple as that.  It took me one minute to ask.  I was shocked that they said yes so easily.  Wow.  So, now my book holds a place at the Gemeindebucherei Feldkirchen

When we got home, there was a message from my sister-in-law, Neslihan, that I only partially understood, but I knew that it had something to do with my book.  Long story short, she and my brother-in-law, Samim, appear to have talked about my book with someone who has connections to the publishing industry in Turkey, and that someone knows someone who may be interested in publishing it in Turkey!!!  Who knows if anything will come of this - in the publishing industry, you must really put up your defenses because of the huge amount of rejection that you inevitably receive.  So I do not have my hopes up, but if something does come of it, we'll definitely have to open up some champagne.

Other things happening this week:

I may get an opportunity to do a reading of my book at The Munich Readery, the largest English-language second-hand bookstore in Germany. 

The Turkish American Association of Washington has received a copy of my book and may recommend it to its Turkish language and culture students.

A local cafe has offered to carry copies of my book :)

The first author I wrote to (see previous post) wrote me back.  Seriously, write to authors whose books you have enjoyed.  

I feel like there was something else, too, but in short, things are moving.  It's exciting.  I think I'm going to make some business cards! :)

If you read my book, please let me know what you think, and write a review on Amazon!! :)))

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Connecting with readers

Someone I have never met and with whom I have no (known) common friends and with whom I have no relationship whatsoever, has read my book.  Even better, she happens to run a large English-language bookstore in Istanbul (Greenhouse Kitapevi), and writes book reviews for an English-language daily newspaper in Turkey.  She reviewed my book a few weeks ago, and even though I have to say that I truly like my book and think that it's an enjoyable, informative read, I was floored when I read her review.  It doesn't lack critique of the book - no book is perfect, and I have to say that I even agree with her criticisms, but the review on a whole is itself is poetic and flattering.  I wonder if the reviewer is an author herself?  Or maybe she can write so well because she reads so much?  I am thrilled that she enjoyed the book, and I hope others will, too. 

Some friends and family are buying it for other friends for Christmas... I do hope that when people read it, they will post their comments on Amazon, so that people who are curious about it can see that others have enjoyed it (hopefully).  And for me - writing can be a very isolating experience.  Since I'm self-published, I do get more contact with people than I probably would have if a publisher were taking care of all the marketing, but still, you write by yourself, edit by yourself, and show it to a few close friends as you're writing.  Once you publish, hopefully your work will be read, but still - how often have you written to an author to tell them how much you liked their book?  I once posted a comment on Amazon to say how much I loved Arther Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, and he actually wrote me back, thanking me for my comments.  Now I understand that even though he was already famous by the time I read his book, it made him happy that I had read and enjoyed his book.  That is what most authors want.  So I am going to write to a few authors today.  Maybe you should, too. 

If you'd like some inspiration, here's the link to Marion Jones' review of my book: