You asked for it: More about my book

Readers of this blog increasingly ask: Can you tell us more about your book?

Most of you know I’m writing a travel memoir about my solo journey through French-speaking Africa. It’s based on my travel blog, Inkslinging in Africa.

I’m recounting my backpacking adventure, which took me overland through West Africa — across Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana — then to Cameroon and Madagascar. Traveling alone as a woman in these countries was empowering, humorous and, at times, scary.

Part I: West Africa. A three-day boat ride up the Niger to Timbuktu, an inspiring AIDS-infected teenager in Burkina Faso, a drug deal in Ghana. Seeking independence through adventure, I end up connecting with new friends.

Part II: Cameroon. Delivering the gift of school to a polygamous family makes me appreciate everything I have: my running shoes, my education, and my financial and personal freedom as a woman.

Part III: Madagascar. Watching the world watch my country elect a historic president, then finding myself vulnerable in a dangerous bus station at night, and finally feeling high on travel, I learn that I can do whatever I want on my own. And that even traveling solo, I’m never really alone.

What my book is not: My beef with most women’s travel narratives is that the author usually finds love at the end. Sure, this makes for a romantic, feel-good ending, but it also reinforces the illusion that the only way to reach gold at the end of the rainbow is through a relationship. I adored Eat, Pray, Love until the woman who claimed for 300 pages that she was looking to discover herself finally feels fulfilled in part because she finds a man.

I’m out to fill what I see as a gaping hole in modern stories about women’s solo travel: the tale of true self-exploration. I did my share of flirting with men in Africa, but I didn’t need — or want — one professing his love to me to feel complete. (Although, ironically, I often fended off would-be suitors by telling them I was married.) Instead, my book is about seeing this beautiful yet poverty-stricken continent through my own eyes, learning to depend on myself as I push my limits and eventually, coming to love traveling avec moi.

Coming soon: At your request, I’ll post a few short excerpts from my work-in-progress. The trick is offering enough of a tease without giving too much away!

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14 Responses

  1. This sounds interesting, Alexis. Additionally, you seem to have a difference maker in perspective when you pitch to agents and publishers—always good. Will your book include maps, or a map? I had to admit my appalling lack of geography on the African Continent…and just about everything else Africa. I’d be willing to wager I have every sterotype every propagated about the place. I’d also be willing to bet I’m not the only one. Maybe a page on myth vs fact, or, a MvsF blurb at the outset of each chapter?
    Best Regards, Galen.

  2. I’m with you on “Eat, Pray, Love,” Alexis. I’m glad you’re going to write something very different from the usual formula and hope you’ll have wonderful success with it…

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Good for you for trying to avoid womens’ travel narrative cliches, but I wonder if prospective publishers will put pressure on you to insert some sort of romantic element in your book.

  4. Alexis,
    I’m learning so much from reading your blog. I loved “Eat,Pray,Love” and never thought about the whole female independence thing from the angle you mentioned. I wonder if it’s an age-difference. You’re 28, I’m 60, Elizabeth Gilbert, I believe is in her 40s. Having grown up during the heart of the womens’ movement, I’m all for independence and equal rights. You don’t have to give up those things to be in relationship. Can’t wait to read your book once it’s published.
    Karen Walker

  5. I’m looking forward to reading more, Alexis. Your story fascinates me. I never had the courage to take off on an adventure like that, so I love reading the tales of those who did.

  6. As a woman in my 40’s who grew up without a strong female role model, I find your views on independence exciting. Your slant will make your book stand out from the pack.

  7. I love the idea of you telling your story and taking the reader along on a discovery of yourself. It seems like it will be an empowering book for young women. I think my daughter would love it. She loves to travel and has no qualms about setting off on her own and making her way. She’s probably the bravest person I know.

    Straight From Hel

  8. Your book sounds intriguing – adventure in far off exotic places with an honest taste of the culture and flair. It sounds as though you trip was very rewarding (sans malaria) and begs to be told. I wish you much success. Book writing in and of itself can be quite a journey but when partnered with the real travel experience I am sure it is magnified even more.

    Nancy, from Just a Thought…

  9. Sounds so good! Glad to find your blog. Visit mine anytime! I have teasers too.

  10. Good on you! I had a similar path… journalist… left to travel in Africa, only I went up its eastern spine. I left for six months at the age of 43 and was gone – 3 years! I never got around to writing the book because I was always going to do it ‘when I had the time’… The time never came so congratulations on your discipline in hitting it while it’s hot. I look forward to reading it – and perhaps reviewing it on my site. I agree – there are far too few narratives by women who travel independently.

  11. Wow, you have been to many interesting places. Why did you decide to go there in the first place? I’ll be very interested to learn about the scary bits.

    In Quest of Theta Magic

  12. […] Wanna learn about my travel memoir first? Check out this post. […]

  13. […] (aside from my literary voice, of course), unlike most women’s travel books, my story is not about looking for love nor running away from a failed relationship. It’s about taking a leap in life, following a […]

  14. […] was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed. She uses italics beautifully! (For not loving the end of Eat, Pray, Love or most of Committed, I sure do give her a lot of props.) I’m not sure that I can explain why […]

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