Writer, poet, and publisher Jo Parfitt gets to know recently published Summertime authors, Dr Lisa Pittman and Diana Smit of Expat Teens Talk: Peers, Parents and Professionals offer support, advice and solutions in response to Expat Life challenges as shared by Expat Teens.
Tell me about your book. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences?
Expat Teens Talk is a book aimed to support Expat Teens with the real life challenges they are confronted by as a result of having a transient, International Life. Expat Teens worldwide were invited to write their stories, experiences, challenges, fears and issues as a result of their lifestyle and in response would receive (in our final publication) solutions, advice and support from responding groups of Expat Peers, Expat Parents and Expat Professionals. In a nutshell, it is a supportive ‘self help’ book for Expat Teens
Why did you write it?
We found, as professionals and as a parent of three Expat Teens (Diana being the parent), that we continued to hear stories of Expat Teens sharing the difficulties they were confronted by as a result of moving to another country, going to a new school, and adapting to new cultural and social norms, while missing what they left behind in the countries they just left behind. We discussed this as professionals and set out to arm ourselves with resources to support these teenagers; however, to our astonishment, nothing was available that was specifically targeted to the unique population. This was all the motivation we needed to do something about it, so, we took it upon ourselves as professionals working with Expat Teens to develop a much-needed resource. Lastly, we once heard another author say “If you cannot find the book you want or need to read then write it yourself”, which is exactly what we did.
What qualifies you to write this book?
Dr. Lisa Pittman is a psychologist and expert in counseling with years of experience of working with teenagers and their families in both monocultural and international settings. Diana Smit is an Educational Therapist and mother of three Expat Teenagers, who only know Expat Life (they have never lived in either of their two passport countries), and she is exposed to teenagers professionally and personally on a day-to-day basis.
Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will it do for other people? How will it help? Did you have any competition?
Our book needed to be written to fill the void of what was missing for Expat Teenagers. No one else, to date, has written anything specifically targeted to this group of people. Teenage years/adolescence/puberty is considered to be the most challenging time in everyone’s life as a result of all the internal, external, emotional, hormonal and physical growth and development. It is a transformational period in one’s life of growing and developing from a teenager to an adult and so many challenging things happen during this period. Add on top of adolescence and puberty an international move, which inevitably means being confronted by endless change, which can result in having some difficult and challenging experiences that Expat teenagers should not have to go through alone. This book aims to answer the questions Expat Teens, their parents and professionals working with Expat Teens (teachers, doctors, principals, counselors, university advisors) have, while empowering them with support, advice and solutions from the most important influences in any teens life: Peers, Parents and Professionals. To our knowledge we do not have any ‘competition’. To date, all current experts who are passionately working, writing, acknowledging and supporting Expatriates through different means have been extremely supportive of our project, and this is something that we are grateful for.
Who do you think will read your book? What made you think that there was a market for it? When did your book come out and what reaction have you had so far?
Our primary target audience is Expat Teens, of whom there are more than 2 million worldwide. Secondary audiences include Expat Parents, Professionals, and International corporations, as well as Embassy personnel – people who are largely responsible for sending Expats around the world. We realized how great the need was after conducting some market research with a group of 20 Expat Teens to whom we presented our idea in the very early stages. They understood what we were saying and saw our book as a platform on which Expat Teens could have a voice and be heard, but more importantly could receive the support and responses they needed. While our book has not yet come out, we anticipate that we will continue to receive a positive response.
It does not matter how good a book is, or how good your writing is if no one knows about it. What steps have you taken or do you plan to take to promote your book? Which methods do you think work best and can you give me any examples?
With the support and advice of our publisher, Jo Parfitt, we have been active in creating a blog (www.expatteenstalk.blogspot.com), where we have recently started inviting ‘guest bloggers’ to share their own stories, projects and points of view. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter, both of which are social media accesses all Teenagers are ‘hardwired’ to use on a daily basis. We have also always been very active in visiting schools and talking to parent and student bodies about what we are doing and why. We have a lot of support from many International Schools worldwide with whom we worked to reach out to Expat Teens to invite them to share their stories, participate in our research and share our project. We have active plans to jump back on the International School stage to share our end product and promote Expat Teens Talk. We have a lot of supporters worldwide who are connected with International organizations, companies, relocation and moving companies and embassies – people who are committed to supporting us in promoting our book. We have been very successful, taking an active personal lead in networking which, again, indicates the interest and the need for our book.
What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of your book? How have you overcome that?
Our biggest challenge has been and continues to be ‘time’. As parents raising busy families and as professionals pursuing demanding careers, while dealing with our own challenges of Expat Life, the biggest being not having our families nearby to support with family needs and to donate some time, we always found having the time to devote to the research behind putting this altogether, as an international project, to be challenging. We overcame this challenge by working as a team. From day one, we found that we were very compatible in terms of our strengths, weaknesses and like-mindedness. We endlessly supported each other, while having the support of our respective families, from a distance, and that of good friends and fellow authors Ruth Van Reken and Tina Quick, who were great inspirational motivators.
Now you have written this book, what has writing it done for you, your family, your self-esteem or your business? If your book is only recently released, please comment on what you hope its publication will do for you.
We never set out to do this for our own personal interests. We found a need and took on the attitude that it was our professional responsibility to a certain degree to fill it. The writing of this book has always been about acknowledging, recognizing and addressing the challenging needs of Expat Teens as a result of experiencing so much diverse change in their lives and providing the support they need accordingly. Diana’s teenagers think it is pretty ‘cool’ that their mom has written a book for them, their peers, and others living similar lives worldwide. What we really hope is that teachers, professionals and parents will realize what the impacts are of having a transient life as a teenager. We fully acknowledge that living an International Life is full of endless opportunities to learn, explore and discover people, languages, countries, cultures, climates, and religions. It is a unique way of being exposed to different aspects of life and ways of living, but it can also be challenging, as moving around as a Teenager while going through adolescence and puberty can be a very lonely, insular, challenging experience. We want our book to be a tool that opens up dialogues and gets Expat Teens to share what they feel, while helping them learn how to deal with challenges and issues that so many others like them are also experiencing.
If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book, what would be your number one tip?
Be realistic about the planning, timing and investment of ‘self’. Be organized and work with timelines that outline realistic time-set goals. Make sure you have a good ‘support system’, as it will be challenging at times. But above all else: Do it! Go for it! The process will not always be easy, but the outcome – having achieved a goal – is a fantastic experience!