• Niranjana Iyer
  • Women Doing Literary Things: "An Ode to My Promo Squad" by Farzana Doctor
Women Doing Literary Things: "An Ode to My Promo Squad" by Farzana Doctor
Written by
Niranjana Iyer
September 2011
Written by
Niranjana Iyer
September 2011

Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based author and the recipient of the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Grant for an emerging gay Canadian author (2011). Her first novel, Stealing Nasreen, received critical acclaim and earned a devoted readership upon its release in 2007. Her second book, Six Metres of Pavement (Dundurn 2011), has been praised by Publishers Weekly as "..a paean to second chances." In her spare time, she provides private practice consulting and psychotherapy services and is a co-curator of the Brockton Writers Series. www.farzanadoctor.com

"Like so many woman writers, I do a variety of things in my life. I’m an author, a diversity consultant, psychotherapist, activist, curator and community member. The last item is particularly important to me.

Being part of a community has nourished me as a writer. My communities have inspired my writing, helped me critique and edit, made me feel less alone and bought my books. These communities are overwhelmingly female and/or queer and often filled with people of colour.

I’m in the process of promoting and touring my second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, and am acutely aware of just how important my communities are. Although I am very lucky to have a wonderful publisher with hardworking and creative staff to assist me, I know that it takes an entire village (or perhaps an entire town) to promote a new book.

So, a few months back I sent an e-mail to just over a hundred people, announcing my book’s imminent release and asking them to help me promote the book. Fifty-six people said yes and thus was born “The Six Metres of Pavement Promo Squad”. I send the members bi-monthly e-mail requests to complete specific tasks like library and bookstore orders, tweeting and emailing the link to my book trailer, and posting news and reviews on Facebook. Many reply with enthusiastic and proud reports of their progress. Last week one woman wrote, “I sent out an e-mail to twenty people and many wrote back to say they’re getting your book!!”

Although I think this strategy would benefit straight white male writers too (the publishing world is a difficult one for nearly everyone), I have to wonder if my Promo Squad scheme would be as necessary for their success. We can’t discount the impact of sexism, heterosexism and racism (and all the other isms) in this industry; the publishing world is just a microcosm of society. All of us have been well trained to believe that dominant voices are more relevant than marginalized ones.

Being a member of my communities means that it’s possible to create a Promo Squad and receive its generosity. It also means that I need to be generous in return, and I take this commitment seriously. I believe that we all have to open space for emerging writers, promote them, offer advice when asked. We should endeavour to be non-competitive, open-hearted with our colleagues. We need to use the privileges that we earn or stumble upon to pave the way for others. We also have to work on our internalized oppression so that we can see that our sisters’ (and brown brothers’, and trans siblings’) work is just as relevant (and sometimes more relevant) than those who hold power in our society.

Being a politicized brown queer woman writer means that I want to be part of a community that works to enlarge and liberate the limited space in this industry. This can feel like an uphill battle, tiring and depleting. But then I remember my dear Promo Squad, and I feel nourished and loved."


This post was first published in March 2011, on the Women Doing Literary Thingssite.

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  • Patricia A. McGoldrick

    Niranjana, what an ingenious way to spread the word!

    Great to meet another Canadian voice! Have you joined the Writers in Canada group? There are so many great groups at SW.