This Spiral Life

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“My Persian Paradox” is Published

img_4869When I look back, four years ago, I had a comfortable life. Today, I feel fulfilled. My book “My Persian Paradox” is released. It is now time to work on sharing this story with others. Maintaining a fulfilling life needs continues move full of actions. I am learning how to reach out to my readers. I will not stop doing it as each reader is a new gift in my life to teach me more, to bring more depth to my life (regardless of their positive or negative opinion about this book). A dear friend said, “Shabnam, this is the beginning of a new path for you.” It indeed is!

Let’s celebrate life!



Let’s get to Business: A Checklist for How to Become an Indie Author

independent pic

Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel

(1121 words – 8 minute read) Independence has been the magic word through out my life. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be independent. I’ve tried hard and succeeded in so many aspects of my life; immigration, finance, job back in Iran. But, I have been a paycheck lady ever since I came to the U.S. Every now and then I thought about becoming a freelancer again but didn’t seriously pursue it. I was not and am not ready for the financial risk. But a few years ago, I noticed an inside revolution and strong desire, demanding to create something new other than a freelance project analyst. The uprising in my heart took me home; I began writing my memoir.

Writing my memoir taught me develop more critical thinking skills, approaching the society from not one but many different viewpoints. In short, I became capable of understanding how to put things in perspective. I learned, saying it is very different than practicing it.

When I had a complete manuscript ready,  I automatically followed the norm of the community, traditional publisher hunting. For a couple of months, I stressed myself by preparing a query letter, writing a proposal, searching and making a long list of agents and small presses. I noticed one thing was happening every time I took a break from the highly competitive environment of traditional publishing. I sheltered to websites about self-publishing. It was exciting to understand that process, kinda liberating. You are going to say, “Wait, self-publishing puts you in a more competitive environment”. My answer is “NO”. Writing a book is creating a piece of art. Assessing a piece of art is subjective. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to wait for one agent or a small press to evaluate my book based on how much money it makes. All I wanted was to share my story with readers. What if I find readers myself?

I got into the mode of risk analysis. I am confident about my book and I worked hard on it. The professional editing done on this book has been a masterful job. However, this is my first book and I am no James Baldwin. There is a slim chance of finding an agent who works with big publishers. For that pixel of a chance, the time I needed to spend could be up to two years. Indie publishers and small presses don’t have a budget for marketing and publicity so I have to do it myself, and they were going to take a long time to publish my book. I had a feeling that with everything going on in America, now is the right time to publish my book and share memories of an Iranian girl. The result of my risk analysis: I became an indie author who will self-publish her own book.

I decided when I want to publish it, what the cover design and interior design would be, and I wanted to try to find my own audience who would like to know about stories of women raised in other parts of the world. Was it stressful or scary? YES! But there are different types of fear and stress and the type I chose are constructive and motivating.

It was time to learn about publishing, marketing, and PR, subjects that I had never touched before. Six months passed and I now feel good about the steps I am taking. I even feel joy and confidence walking this path. Not pursuing becoming a best seller goal, I know I will find opportunities to share my story with the right people and will connect with them heart to heart.

Here (below), I am sharing the complete list of my steps for book publishing, marketing, and promoting. This list is built over the past six months and will improve over time. I will be happy to answer questions about any step. I have many helpful websites for each step that I can share. Please reach out. It makes me happy to connect and help!

·        Finishing editing the 2500th version
·        Professional Editing
·        Permission for poems in the book
·        Research and finalize the title and subtitle
·        Write book description for Back Cover
·        Send the book to beta readers
·        Incorporate beta reader’s feed back
·        Send final manuscript to copyedit
·        Research for a creative cover design
·        Hire the cover design artist
·        Write author bio, dedication, acknowledgments
·        Review the copyedit and resolve all issues
·        Proofread the entire book one more time
·        Finalize the front cover design
·        Create a draft of the advanced reviewer request letter
·        Create a list for the advanced reviewer request
·        Sending advanced review request letters
·        Send the book to advanced readers
·        Send the book for PW Book review
·        Send the book for paid reviews (City Book Review – San Francisco)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The indie reviews)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The US Review)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The Midwest Book Reviewer)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The New York Review Books)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (Reader’s favorite)
·        Create Goodreads author webpage
·        Purchase Website domain
·        Website design
·        Making a list of authors for Endorsement request
·        Making a draft letter for author review request
·        Sending request to authors for blurbs
·        Create own publishing Company
·        Purchase ISBNs
·        Library of Congress registration (PCN)
·        Copy right for each format
·        Write the press release
·        Send final copy to interior design (For print and Digital)
·        Review designed pages; adjust/revise (For print)
·        Complete back cover design + spine (For print)
·        Create Ingram Spark Account (Amazon, Smashword, D2D, and many others…)
·        Research/determine price point for all formats (Ingram Spark helps with Pricing)
·        Research/determine sales categories
·        Research/determine keywords/tags
·        Download and learn Caliber SW for EPUB (For digital)
·        Create EPUB/MOBI files (For digital)
·        Proofread final files in all formats
·        Upload the files to Ingram Spark
·        Send a copy for test prints
·        Send a copy of the book to the Library of Congress
·        Release the book on-sale for pre-order in Ingram Spark
·        Print run for X paperback and X hardback
·        Create Kickstarted Project (Crowdfunding)
·        Audiobook Production
·        Distribution for PR (O magazine & NPR) – (Needs a list for other places) (PR)
·        Talking to a lawyer for any possible legal issues
·        PW Bookfairs (London, Sharjah, NY) (Marketing)
·        Make a list of Indie Book Stores in each city
·        Contact Bookstores as soon as first reviews come in (PR)
·        Create quotes from the book (Marketing)
·        Marketing design for goodies (Marketing)
·        Plan Launch party (PR)
·        PW Promotion with PW publication (Marketing)
·        Research for Bookbaby Support (Marketing)
·        Research for NetGalley Support (Marketing)
·        Create a short Video – Trailer (PR)
·        Contact related department at Universities (PR)
·        Sent an application for Book Festivals (PR)
·        Reach out to Radios and Podcasts to Request Interviews (PR)


Let’s celebrate life!

Editing credit: Mike Curtis

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The Weather and the Wall

Well said! Please echo.


Will Meyer | Longreads | January 2019 | 15 minutes (4,073 words)

“At the museum steps
Didn’t we establish
That all this blood is not a dream
This is progress
And we are not that high
We could almost be redeemed”

 — unreleased song by The Lentils


For years, changes in butterfly populations and migrations have been considered an “early warning indicator” of global warming. In 2006, a British butterfly specialist told The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert that of 10 species living in Southern England at the time, “Every single one has moved northward since 1982.”

Now, several years and many missed early warning indicators later, the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, that has received a letter from Customs and Border Protection announcing the government’s intent to build a border wall through critical habitat for 240 species of butterflies and 300 types of birds. The letter…

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My Persian Paradox

My Persian Paradox

Coming Soon!

February 20th – Pre-order

March 20th – Publication Date

On a cold night in 1978, seven-year-old Shabnam Shahmohammad clung to her mother in a Tehran apartment while the sounds of gunshots rang out in the street: The Iranian Revolution was at hand. She and her family survived that night, but as the Islamic fundamentalists took the power over, she grew up watching her father take his beloved books away to burn, his friends be arrested and disappear, and women like her mother grow ever more marginalized. Confused by her father’s communist ideology, her mother’s conservative religious beliefs, and the regime’s oppressive rules, she developed a deep longing to live a different life.

Finding herself being married at nineteen, she naively dreamed to team up and discover an adventurous life. When she gave birth to a daughter whose future, she realized, mattered more to her than her own, she had to find a way to unlock her little girl’s possibilities. She longed to emigrate, but with Western countries’ embassies mostly absent from Tehran, options for escaping Iran were limited.

My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl is a tale of resilience facing oppression and dictatorship along with fighting with narrow traditional and restrictive cultural rules. This memoir is a journey of self-discovery, mother-daughter relationship obstacles, forbidden love, and the universal desire for freedom.

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2018 Report Card


Photo by Artem Saranin on

(716 words – 5 minutes read)

Reviewing my first blog post in June 2016, I felt very proud that my plans were realistic enough and were completed on-time. I had scheduled to finish final editing and begin the publishing process in 2018 which is exactly what I have done in 2018. I have a complete manuscript in my hand ready to be sent for the first print test.

2018 was a very vigorous and dynamic year for my book. During the first 6 months of the year my editor Mathina Calliope and I worked on the developmental and line edit chapter by chapter. Her inquiries on developmental edits were so thought provoking that it created a complete re-write on some chapters. The least of the changes were adding more memories and removing the non-related ones. Mathina and I went to retreats and writing conferences together. I attended her workshops and other writing workshops to write personal essays and practice more writing.

I read so many great books (fiction and nonfiction) with a writer’s eye. I fell in love with James Baldwin’s words and enjoyed Isabel Allende’s engaging stories. Memoirs such as Disoriental by Negar Djavadi, Elsewhere by Richard Russo, Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin, A Fractured Life by Shabnam Samuel, and so many other beautiful stories will never leave my memory. What I read taught me more humanity and made me more compassionate, added to my wisdom, and connected me to life and others at a deeper level. I learned more about diversity and how enriching it is in human life (if we understand it correctly).

Conferences I attended were good for different reasons. Hippocampus was great for networking, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was eye opening to what’s going on in other parts of the world, and AWP 2018 Florida offered helpful writing workshops as well as publishing skills. I came to the conclusion that writing conferences are great for networking but writing workshops are the main place to learn more about writing.

Also, a few great blogs and podcasts are out there that offer valuable information about both writing and book publishing/promoting.

The Creative Penn blog and podcast is managed by Joanna Penn, a cheerful positive lady who authentically provides a wealth of information to Indie authors. The spectrum of the information starts from basic writing skills to interior and cover design of a book, marketing, and book promoting. Jane Friedman’s blog provides the best of the industry of publishing as well as great articles about the craft of writing. I purchased a very easy to use Microsoft Word interior formatting file from Joel Friedland’s website Book Design Templates. You can learn the detail by watching the one hour video that Joel has on his website.

And, the GREAT news is that I decided to become an Indie Author and will publish my memoir “My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl” myself. The launch date is set for March 20th (the Persian New Year). The pre-order will start on February 20th. I will post another article to tell the story of me becoming an Indie author soon.

And here is the list of my writing goals in 2019 (A list of goals: so very cliché. I know! But it’s simple and it works for me. 😊)


  • Self-publishing my books – February 20th pre-sale & March 20th sale
  • Starting my second book in January – This is very important since I want to be a “writer” first
  • Attending writing workshops throughout the year
  • Creating a crowdfunding project through a Kickstarter campaign in February
  • Creating my book website (Under construction) in January
  • Writing and submitting more personal essays throughout the year
  • Attending reading events throughout the year (Scheduled for two readings at two events in Washington DC in January)
  • Offering a memoir writing workshop – January workshop at the Sterling, VA library was successful
  • Working on my book publicity
    • Submitting applications for Literary festivals across North America and other parts of the English speaking world
    • Submitting applications for providing a talk at colleges and cultural institutes
    • Submitting applications for providing a talk at high schools, libraries, book stores, and other public places such as breweries and wineries.
    • Being more strategically active in social media, following the rule of building a community: give 80% and advertise 20%.

Let’s celebrate life. To a great 2019!

Editing credit: Mike Curtis


My Book Marketing Plan Is Coming Together

blur bookcase books bookstore

(1050 words – 8 minutes read)

Being creative isn’t limited to writing even though writing is an artistic creative being. Writing is a never ending learning process. It can always improve and go deeper. But the most improvement happens when the writer shares her work with others, exposes herself vulnerably, and asks others to read her writing. Finding the right  audience interested in reading the writing, connecting with the writer, and providing feedback is not an easy job or at least it is a lot of work and needs marketing skills.

I have done many other things in my life but I never considered my personality suitable for marketing positions. I was a quality system analyst, then became a project performance analyst working with Excel sheets and databases all day. Then when I was 43, I started writing a book. I know I can learn new skills but learning many at the same time is a tall order. Needless to say, after I had my finished manuscript in hand, I started searching for opportunities to publish it. No matter what route of publishing I take, traditional or self publishing, I need a marketing plan. A marketing plan is an important part of a book proposal to send to agents. It becomes even more important when you decide to self-publish.

The first article I read about creating a book marketing plan sounded like gibberish. The second and third ones didn’t add more to my understanding. I attended workshops and read more about it. After a while it started hitting me and my understanding level of book marketing started to climb. I know there is still a long way to go and although I have a draft of a plan, it will be modified daily as I learn more about it. I am enjoying the process as overwhelming as it is, and trying to constructively use my previous skills to get a hang of this part of life.

The most important question a writer needs to answer is who is her target audience. The million dollar question!

So here is where my journey led me after tons of research.

The most reliable website about publishing and book marketing I found is Jane Friedman website and the ones she recommends. I bought her book The Business of Being a Writer too. It is a good source book for me.

I had a preliminary answer to the most important question, as I was working on the draft. My memoir is about me growing up in Iran dealing with dictatorship of the Islamic regime and the authoritative, male-dominant culture. My target audience was people who liked similar books about Iran and the Middle East especially focused on women’s lives. But this is as vague as it sounds. There are thousands of Iranian-Americans who left after the revolution and lived abroad and are now curious to know how life was for those who stayed in Iran longer. This group is easier to reach out to. My marketing plan needs to address the tasks of getting to know these people and getting their attention to my story.

After reading many articles, listening to many podcasts, and watching YouTube videos, based on a suggestion Jane Friedman has in several useful articles, here is a rough draft of my marketing plan. Bear with me. It still needs a lot more work as I learn more.

  1. Do I need a Website? Yes. I am going to use
  2. What social media do I want to use to build followers? I am going with Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and will create an Instagram account later.
    1. In Goodreads I try to connect with people who read similar books.
    2. I am also creating my Goodreads Author webpage.
  3. What is an efficient way of using the social media? Using associated hashtags in my story and work, following my potential readers, offering what I can (more than marketing), and having an honest and earnest presence.
  4. How do I build credentials? I will apply for book prizes that I am qualified for.  I have written personal essays and submitted them to magazines and popular related blogs. I will write more and will submit more.
  5. What is my target number for sale? I am targeting 1000 books in the first year.
  6. Do I have a robust budget for publicity? No, I will try to do my best. I hear publicity including hiring a publicist can cost up to $25K. Jane Friedman suggests “For $1,500, you could hire a skilled publicist, with an excellent network of contacts, for probably one month to help garner mainstream media attention.”
  7. What publicity strategies will I use?
    1. I will reach out to indie bookstores and will plan a book tour starting with the Washington DC area and then the rest of the East Coast. Indie Bound provides information about the location and information of indie bookstores in the U.S.
    2. I will ask some authors whose writing I connect with if they would be willing to read my book and provide a review.
    3. I will reach out to my Goodreads friends (1300 now) and will ask if they would be willing to read my book and provide a review.
    4. I am thinking about using some online marketing tools such as Facebook and Instagram ads as well as websites like New in Books and Written Word Media. These websites are recommended by Joanna Penn. Joanna offers great advice for indie authors.
    5. I will reach out to podcasts and radio channels to apply for an interview.
    6. I will pitch to journalists to try to get my words to the press. I have not used but will give it a try.
    7. Last but not least, I will reach out to libraries and colleges to see if I can have any events for book reading. There are different student organizations in each college that might like to open an event for an author to talk about her book.

Seems like A LOT of work! I will try to do my best to make it fun and learn from this process. The most exciting part of it is connecting with other people and sharing my story. May sharing my story encourage others to share their stories. We will understand each other and our differences better when we know about each other’s stories. Everyone has many untold stories.

Celebrate life!


Editing Credit: Mike Curtis

Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo on

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Finishing It Brought Me Down, I Needed to Dance It Out

Salsa Dancing

517 words  (5 minutes read)

The bitter-sweet feeling of sending the last chapter of my memoir to my wonderful editor Mathina Calliope and then go dance with her was an interesting experience.  Mike and I got to the dance club earlier. When Mathina got there, I ran to her and we hugged tightly.

“I will be sad too. I miss it. I loved reading and editing your story.” She said looking at my gloomy face.

“Oh, I am not going to stop writing. I already started working on editing the first draft of my second book. But finishing the FIRST book is a different feeling. You know you will be my forever coach.”

Since it was our second attempt at Salsa dancing with no previous training, Mike and I felt self-conscious. Due to the mood of the day, I felt weird and was not even enjoying my own made up Persian-Salsa fusion either. We gave up on dancing and started watching people dancing skillfully.

“Salsa is a sexy and technical dance. The dancer feels sexy and creative.” Mathina’s boyfriend Inti explained to us.

I thought, awesome combination. I wish I could experience it.

After Inti explained some of the techniques to me, I started watching the dancers carefully. In the beginning everyone danced differently to me but learning about different techniques, I started realizing the moves and then the dancers’ facial expression. It felt they were in high spirit. I started understanding why they dance and why they want to dance skillfully. Developing skills and using them is such a joy.

Writing doesn’t make me feel sexy but the joy of writing (including learning about writing) lifts my soul and makes me feel my being. Developing creativity and practicing it through writing over the past three years has taught me similarly rhythmic moves. It is just that my soul dances with words and the more skillful, the deeper the joy it brings.

The fact that I have become brave enough to write reviews for books I read in Goodreads is an accomplishment for me. The fact that I have something to say about the writing style of the author, the structure of the book, the wisdom that the story offers, and even about the crafting helps me see how writing created more consciousness in me. Learning to write was my way of soul-searching, making me capable of putting stories and people in perspective, accepting people for who they are, looking at them through their rhythmic moves throughout their lives and helped me become more compassionate. In short, taking steps towards living life fully.

It’s time to start looking for publishers and promoting my book. As nervous as I am, I believe this part of the process will be complementary to the writing. It will help me develop other skills such as standing my ground and speaking my mind to the level that I can even voice the unvoiced people.

Publishing processes here we come. I am nervous but ready!

P.S to feel sexy, Mike and I are thinking about learning Salsa dancing… 😊


Celebrate Life!


Editing Credit: Mike Curtis

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