Monday, May 14, 2007

Letters to a Young Diplomat: Plea for Participation

Picture of Eugenie Moore Anderson
In October 1949 President Truman appointed Anderson United States Ambassador to Denmark; she was the first American woman to serve as the chief of a mission abroad.

Ok, "plea" for participation sounds a bit desperate, but here's the deal: in times when our foreign policy is constantly questioned by other countries (and often rightly so), an art project highlighting a more human side to our activities overseas seems critical. Why art? At its best, art whittles down matters to powerful visual and forms that have residence. I leave you with one of my favorite art quotes.

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in our days, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Signposts on the way to what may be. Signposts toward greater knowledge.

Keith Ferrazzi on Networking

I was listening to podcasts online and stumbled on this one that seemed worth sharing:

Below are a few of my notes from that interview, much of it from Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone What I liked about the podcast is Keith's focus on networking as natural. I love the Christmas package analogy because I do like meeting and helping other people. With this subtle shift in attitude, the conference or cocktail hour can become less anxiety-ridden and more pleasurable.

When you are at a conference / party:
-imagine that everyone's a Christmas package, and you get to unwrap them and discover their goals
-ask how can I help them be successful? what can I do for him or her?

Personal relationship action plan

How many people are going to be critical btw now and you achieving your dreams?
-probably 25 people (family, friends, etc)
-list 25 people
-list next 50
-list next 50
Then you'll have 125 people

Send a quick email to the top 25: keep in touch with them every other week.

It may sound contrived, but your family and best friends can be in that top 25, and we all know in the chaos of life, it's easy to fall out of touch. Sometimes, it helps to have weekly reminders to reach out to others. This is especially true when you are bouncing around the globe...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Best Expat Blogs

Interesting list at Expatica =

Looking forward to nosing through it later.

A billion thanks for the web's best-of sites because there is just too much stuff to wade through on the internet. For all of my art lovers, here's one of my favorite art ones =

Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

obituaries + movement

Notebooks from a Creative Capital Foundation workshop has me writing one, three, five and ten year goals. Then it asks me to write an obituary. Although it sounds like a morbid task, it does put every goals into perspective. Now I'm nosing through the New York Times obits only to find one on Isabella Blow. When her rich grandfather escapes gambling debt by fleeing to Kenya where "he joined the Happy Valley set of alcoholic, aristocratic semi-exiles." It's no wonder when expatriates are thought of as privileged vagabonds. I flash back to a squirrel seen yesterday—specifically to his skip, skip, leap, skip and his simple joy found in movement—maybe in less cynical terms, that is what all the moving is about...

Howard Zinsser

Another expat contacted me about her interest in my project and mentioned her interest in writing about her expat experiences. I recommended Howard Zinssers' How to Write Your Memoir. Since I loved his book On Writing Well, I'm guessing that I can recommend his book on memoirs. An interview with Zinsser about memoirs can be heard at


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Letters to a Young Diplomat: Letters Sealed

Having stuffed envelopes for far too long today, the letters to our current female US ambassadors are sealed and ready for delivery. Admittedly, I am terrified that none of them will participate--I realize that they have hectic lives--but I'm hopeful so that their voices might be gathered in one spot rather than scattered in a handful of publish and unpublished memoires.

The value of artworks is that they develop ideas / critical thoughts / momentous events into powerful forms. Inshallah, my piece for the fall show, resulting from these letters, will be one such form.

More to follow...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Letters to a Young Diplomat

Websites for inspiration:

Florida State University gave me a 2007 summer grant to continue work on my Female Expat Project. In preparation for an exhibition this fall, I'm emailing and sending letters to all of the current female U.S. Ambassadors a letter by a fictional, inspiring young diplomat. I'll also post that letter here. Modelled after Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" and Art on Paper's "Letters to a Young Artist, the project documents what role women play in the power structures of the 21st century. Please email me at or simply post to the blog if you have a response. These responses will be used to create glowing plexi pieces housed in furniture with the possible addition of sound. I'm so excited.

As I wrote in the letter of introduction to our ambassadors, I hope that you will consider participating to help document our shifting definitions of place for future generations of women overseas to enjoy the recent, huge shifts in these definitions.


Dear Ambassador:

I am writing you as a young woman interested in the Foreign Service. Although I was raised in a small city and have only traveled throughout the United States, other cultures have always fascinated me. Coupled with my interest in international relations and a commitment to community service, this interest in a life overseas inspired me to research careers in the Foreign Service. During this research, I encountered your name.

At the prompt of our teacher's assignment, I am writing to you in the hope that you can find the time to write a letter in response. I'm specifically interested in the joys and challenges of a life overseas, and if you would do anything differently. Although regret is a useless emotion for an individual, when clarified for a future generations, it is informative. I hope you are able to find time in your busy schedule to send a few words of wisdom.

First, I have a few questions about gender. If the people with the greatest amount of power in the 20th and especially the 21st centuries are those people who can thoroughly understand and gracefully navigate the global scene, what role are women playing in these high-powered roles? Have you found any challenges in the Foreign Service because you are a woman? Do you notice any difference in how your male and female colleagues manage their work and personal lives? Is there a glass ceiling? Are you always taken as seriously as your male counterparts in other countries?

Lastly, with anti-American sentiment on the increase, does you position in the Foreign Service ever make you uncomfortable? Friends of my parents, who have lived overseas, say that people in other countries often clarify their anti-American sentiment by explaining that they dislike the government, not Americans. As a representative of our government, can you clarify how this sentiment affects your work and sense of self?

In contrast to the politically correct statements made my most government officials, I hope you can speak candidly in your response since such honestly will helps guide me to make important decisions. I tried to look up memoirs of diplomats and other books related to the Foreign Service. Not a single one was written by a woman. Please let me know if there are any that you can recommend.

I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time.


Joelle Dietrick