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[SWP: Behind the Book] Near the Finishing Line
Written by
Betsy Teutsch
June 2014
Written by
Betsy Teutsch
June 2014

I have been researching my book, 100 Under $100: the Global Women's Toolkit, for nearly two years. This has included curating over 120 stunning photographs of developing world women hard at work, a project all by itself. The photo is me with my tool, a lovely laptop.

My book is unlike any I know of; most books that lay out solutions for alleviating global poverty are academic studies – not breezy reading - or popular books describing one locale or one solution in detail. I started out focusing on tools, which I understood to be technology, with a specific focus on women. Eventually I added public health tools, legal tools, & financial tools. Ultimately, I am covering 11 sectors. This makes the book extraordinarily broad, which is a strength. Those with a depth of knowledge of one area will learn about other sectors. Readers with no background can come away with a general overview. By making the book user-friendly, and adding action items, it moves from being distant to becoming an entry point for personal involvement.

The book grew out of my desire to link the humanitarian tech world, with all kinds of smart solutions for people in rural, off-grid villages, with the women's empowerment sector, which usually is fairly tech-averse. Women will not be empowered if they have no electrical power! I started pinning images of solutions on Pinterest. One day I took a step back, saw all the gorgeous images, and realized they would make a beautiful, informative book. And there was no turning back.

About six months ago things got nailed down with She Writes Press and suddenly I had a deadline: writing the book in six months. Yikes. Each entry is 500 words, requiring extraordinary economy of language. No getting off on tangents, repeating myself, or side comments. I begin each entry with a two sentence précis, forcing me to make a central point and amplify it. Writing a non-fiction book like this, it turns out, is much tighter than blog posts, which can be really casual. I can’t say anything which cannot be substantiated.

One question was footnoting and citing sources. In blog posts and digital books, everything can be linked. Because of the beauty of the photographs, 100 Under $100 will be published in an oversize print format as well as digital, so no hyperlinks in the print edition. Ultimately I opted against footnotes, since I am not an academic. Instead I have relied on “the Google Test.” If a fact or study can be located by putting a few keywords in the search window, I do not include citations. People who want to dig deeper have amazing tools to do so; my book is a general, entry-level introduction.

As I became more nimble, I realized that the best way to proceed, after the précis, was to write without reviewing my notes. I was amazed to see I could bang out several paragraphs from my memory bank. What I recalled about the topic was by definition the sticky stories. Some of my topics are pretty dreary; each entry is the story of a solution to really difficult challenges, so it is important to not get bogged down with numbing statistics.

It has worked. Many mugs of chai latte later, I am about to write Entry #100. Feels great!

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  • Cheryl Rice

    Congratulations, Betsy! What an inspiring book and contribution. Keep up the great work.


  • Betsy Teutsch

    @Kamy Wicoff, thanks for the warm welcome. When I looked into SheWritesPress at @Miranda Spencer's suggestion, I didn't need to look far. Just seeing this in your mission statement, I kn"ew SWP was going to be perfect for this book: "harnessing women’s collaborative power" - in this case harnessing our coolective power on behalf of the world's poorest billion women. We can do it.

  • We are so excited about this! I'm going to share it on Facebook. :)

  • Susan Holck

    Bravo, Betsy! This book will fill an important gap, bridging the tech world  - low tech in most cases - with women's empowerment. The brevity of each entry will make for easy reading and the scope is sufficiently broad that even the most tech-oriented and development-savvy folks will find something new. And there's nothing like a deadline to get you working at full speed!