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A few days ago, I hosted my Book Group for cocktails, conversation and a preview of Lagging Indicators.  My Book Group is comprised of women who share one fact in common:  We’re all expats—hailing from the United States, Canada, France, England and Australia, to name but a few—who moved to Sweden for a relationship or work.

We meet about once a month and many of these women have become dear friends.  Like most Book Groups, our choices range from commercial to literary novels; classics to contemporary fiction and non-fiction; and sometimes we eliminate books all together and go to a museum or watch a movie.  In other words, we’re not too hard on ourselves!  So, I thought it could be a nice change before the summer to have an event around the subject of following one’s creative passion and discuss my writing and self-publishing journey.  Book groups are a curious phenomenon; the themes from the stories can spark an openness and exchange of confidences that may not occur in a regular setting.  I have found myself revealing things to my Book Group that I haven’t even articulated to close friends!  For this reason, I felt very comfortable giving them a sneak peek of Lagging Indicators.  After mingling over wine and finger food, we sat in my living room and I gave a little presentation (slides created so professionally by my daughter) about the pros and cons of being an indie author.  The questions and comments I received from the Group were so thoughtful, perceptive and encouraging!  I am grateful beyond words for their support and positive energy.  I hope you’ll enjoy these pictures from the evening as much as I enjoyed spending time with these wonderful women.


I had ordered 25 advance reading copies to distribute to my Book Group and was so nervous they wouldn’t arrive, but they came as scheduled the day before. I couldn’t wait to open the box and see the bound version of Lagging Indicators for the first time.


Putting some finishing touches in the living room. I moved the dining room chairs there so everyone would have a place to sit while I made my presentation.


I ordered a spring buffet from Carotte Catering, cupcakes from Cupcake Sthlm and macarons from Wiener Konditoriet. As you can see, the theme was pink, mirroring the cover of Lagging Indicators. I call it “Power Pink!”


My daughter suggested displaying the books in the office and I love the way she arranged them. I have to admit it was pretty cool–and surreal–seeing them lined up like that! My protagonist, Mia Lewis, looked like she had come to life!


Pouring rosé of course!


During my presentation, I discussed traditional publishing vs. indie publishing and gave my Book Group a look at the different cover drafts for Lagging Indicators. Choosing the right image, font and colors was one of the hardest parts of the creative process, but I’m so pleased with the final product!


I really appreciated how interested they all seemed :).


Signing books: I have to work on my signature–it’s been a while!


My Book Group friends gave me the best present by attending my little preview, but they also spoiled me with these lovely congratulatory gifts.

Lagging Indicators will be released on July 2nd, but it’s available for pre-order now on Amazon!


It was a sunny and mild Tuesday evening in central Stockholm, the perfect night for an afterwork drink or dinner outside, but a few hundred of us sat in a darkened auditorium on the third floor of Kulturhuset, eagerly awaiting acclaimed American writer, Jacqueline Woodson.  Woodson would soon begin a conversation with literature professor Elina Druker as the 2018 Laureate of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), the world’s largest prize for children’s and young adult literature.

Ironically, I first heard of Woodson through her second novel of adult fiction, Another Brooklyn (2016), a story about female friendship set in the 1970s.  I spent a lot of time as a kid in pre-gentrified Brooklyn; it was an era that I remembered well and was keen to see represented in literature.  However, it’s Woodson’s work as a children’s author, portraying young characters (usually between ten to sixteen years old) and worlds not typically depicted in that genre, that has won her accolades and a beloved following.

Working with themes such as racism, segregation, socio-economic inequality and sexual identity, Woodson challenges us to reconsider what comprises “children’s literature;” to confront our own prejudices and comfort level; and to give young people their due as legitimate voices.  The force in Woodson’s body of work centers on its ability to transcend age groups.  During the author talk, she reflected that readers of all generations—and walks of life—confess that they can relate to the experiences and observations recounted in her stories.

Woodson described how she always wanted to write and was a voracious reader as a kid.  The library was her second home; a detail that was very similar to my own childhood.  She also spoke about the importance of diverse narratives and the concept of “mirrors and windows.”  Books are the most powerful when we can see ourselves in the characters and gain insight into worlds other than our own.  By grabbing readers at a young age, children’s books are wonderful tools to share our similarities and differences.

As a tip for writers, Woodson recommended being as specific as possible when crafting scenes.  We shouldn’t shy away from delving deeper into setting, detail, voice and emotion.  Through this specificity, scenes become more honest, authentic and, hence, more universal.  Druker asked Woodson to read out loud a few passages from her memoir, New York Times bestseller Brown Girl Dreaming (2014).  Written in a lyrical, verse-style, it’s a journey through Woodson’s childhood alongside the people and places that have shaped her identity.  Tight and concise, the requested passages encapsulated so much depth and feeling, transporting us in the audience to the landscape of Woodson’s history.


The newly-released, Swedish translation of “Brown Girl Dreaming.”

It would have been enough for Woodson to be a brilliant, immensely gifted, prolific novelist who has been honored with the National Book Award; Coretta Scott King Award; the NAACP Image Award; and now, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, but she was also humble, conveying warmth, humor and empathy.  Did I forget to mention that she did a reading at the Obama White House?  I think everyone in the room would have liked to exchange thoughts with Woodson about a host of topics—both related and unrelated to her books.  I’m so proud my adopted country has recognized the beauty and breadth of Woodson’s writing.  I got the sense we all understood the urgency for inclusiveness in these divided times.

Woodson graciously signed books after the ALMA interview.  When I got home, I saw that she had written in mine: “Jennifer, my fellow brown girl dreaming!”



It’s one of those loaded words that we intuitively understand yet still struggle with.  The Cambridge Dictionary defines ambition as a strong wish to achieve something and a desire to be successful, rich and powerful.  Implicit in this paradox is the suggestion that ambition fosters greed and hubris.  It carries a double-standard with it, too; one steeped in gender biases.  Men are complimented for their ambition:  He’s driven; he’ll be a good provider; or possibly start the next successful tech company.  Whereas in women, it’s treated with suspicion:  She’s selfish; too tough; unlikable.

Mia Lewis, the protagonist in my new book Lagging Indicators, is ambitious—unapologetically, competitively, aggressively so.  I first met women like Mia when I was young and new to the corporate world.  They were more seasoned professionals whose moxie and intensity made me uneasy at first, due to my own misconceptions about powerful, successful women.  I mistook their no-nonsense style for being cold, forceful and cocky.  But were they so different from the male excutives at the professional services firm I worked for?  Or did I hold them to a different, higher standard because they were women?  Did I expect them to be softer, more subtle?  A tall order considering this was Manhattan and they, like their male counterparts, had to manage demanding clients and were being judged every day.

After analyzing my unconscious biases, I stopped feeling intimidated and embraced what these women could teach me.  Their work-ethic was a given, but they spoke up; made connections; seized opportunities; and even self-promoted.  Since I was more of the quietly ambitious kind, I could only look on in admiration and think:  You go, girl.

Novelist Jessica Knoll recently wrote an essay in the New York Times that stirred some debate because she announced in the title that she wants to be rich and isn’t sorry about it.  I interpret “being rich” as a metaphor for control, security and power.  Knoll’s not sorry for being ambitious, for figuring out how the game is played (and won) by men and applying the same mindset and methods to get there.  Many were shocked by her bluntness; I was excited she tapped into an issue I explore with Mia.

Women today have made many strides, but recent events have also demonstrated how precarious this progress is.  The fight against objectification, harassment and scapegoating isn’t over; nor is the struggle to prove that we deserve a seat at the table.  Nurturing female ambition means offering women and girls the education and resources that allow them to reach their full potential, giving them the freedom and voice to choose who they want to be.

Maybe ambition isn’t such a dirty word after all.  What do you think?

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