How Not to Go On Sabbatical Using Craigslist

Today is the first of thirty days that my husband and I will be spending in New York City. It is my intention to try to blog every day that we are here. My husband is on sabbatical after having served for eleven year as vice-president and Dean of Faculty of Hampshire College. Our original intention was to try and swap our house with someone in either Boston or New York. That really didn’t work out and I would not recommend using craigslist to try to pursue either a swap or rental. One person, who seemed like  he was  anxious to rent to us, was not home when we arrived at the designated time to see the apartment.  Another couple  told us they would not be deciding for a couple of weeks; we got back to them in two days. They then said they had rented the apartment to someone else the same day we saw it. To make matters worse their  craigslist listing  reappeared three weeks later. I always checked that I didn’t not want any realtor listings but we wound up with a very unpleasant real estate agent in Cambridge. The final bad result from craigslist was a nice apartment in Boston. We went to see it but the man already had a couple from an agency who also wanted it and he was contractually obligated to give to them. Why did he have us come and look at the apartment then? I have concluded that craigslist is very prone to scams and unreliable listers. My friend owns the place we are renting in New York so that has worked out fine.

I didn’t set out to rant about craigslist but it was very frustrating. As far as sabbaticals go I feel a bit like I am on one too since I will not have my usual responsibilities during this month. I hope to post about interesting things we do in the city, both beer related and other, and include pictures. I also plan to work on my new book which I will talk more about later in another post.

Beyond Amethyst: The Conference

This past Friday I attended a conference at Hampshire College about the drinking age and whether it should be changed. Alex Torpey, a graduating student , organized the conference as part of his Division III, or senior project.

Ralph Hexter introduced the keynote speaker and indicated that he feels the issues around the drinking age and drunk driving hinge on responsibility. President Hexter is a signer of the Amethyst Initiative which called for lowering the drinking age to eighteen. Continue reading “Beyond Amethyst: The Conference”

This was cross-posted from Women Grow Business

“Am I a Woman in Business?” Learning to Promote Yourself the Same Way Businesses Do

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Am I a woman in business, a businesswoman?
That is an interesting question for me to contemplate in writing a post for Women Grow Business. I started my website, AmyMittelman.com, and my blog, Musings, because I wrote a book, Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer.

Many years ago, I had a business, Academic Publicity, that provided promotional help for academic authors.

In retrospect, my business plan had a fatal flaw: academics didn’t want to pay for my services.

In general, academics do not think of themselves as writers and thus do not want to pay to increase their book sales. The existence of the book itself punches their tenure ticket. And most academics write only one book. The one major business success I had was getting my husband‘s book, Nazism, the Jews, and American Zionism, 1933-1948 into paperback.

New business, young family, and next steps
At the time that I was running Academic Publicity, I had completed a PH.D in American history and had two small children at home. I had started the business because I was realizing it was unlikely I would be able to get an academic job without significant disruption to my life.

The perfect vision of hindsight
Because of life’s increasing complexity with family, including buying a new home, I ended the business after two years. With the perfect vision of hindsight, I realized that was too short a time to grow a business. I pulled the plug on Academic Publicity so quickly because I was losing money and I already had some feelings of guilt because I had been unable to find an academic position.

I think inadequacy, guilt, and feelings of illegitimacy are all common problems for women as they negotiate between professional goals and family life. I ended the business and quickly looked around for some way to be gainfully employed.

I settled on becoming a nurse.
I have been a nurse for 14 years and have worked in many different healthcare settings. I do not feel that being a nurse replaced being a historian. I brought all the skills and lessons I had acquired from my academic career, my business, and my family life to my new profession. Again, I think this is typical for women.

Many women’s lives do not occur in a linear fashion.
Both male and female baby boomers are famous for second acts and continually reinventing themselves. I believe this has always been truer for women and has certainly been true for me.

Contemplating a book on beer
Although I enjoyed being a nurse, I had always wanted to publish my dissertation as a book and that remained a goal. About seven years ago, with an increased focus, I began to contemplate taking material from my thesis and writing a book on beer. I was fortunate enough to obtain a publishing contract in the spring of 2006 and Brewing Battles was published in December 2007.

I believe persistence was the key to my achieving this long held goal.

And to achieve anything you probably have to have a passion for the endeavor.

Algora Publishing (who published Brewing Battles) is a very small press, providing very little marketing support for my book. So I have had to market the book myself. Luckily, I had the experience from once running my business Academic Publicity to fall back on. However, in the 15 intervening years since I ended the business, publicizing and marketing books changed completely.

I have marketed the book in both traditional and new ways.
I sent out advance copies to various academic and trade journals, hosted a book party, and have given book talks. Of course, almost all of my correspondence and press releases have been via email (…haven’t done any direct mailings). And many blogs also received my press release about Brewing Battles, in addition to traditional print media.

Learning curves and achieving mastery on the blogosphere
The blogosphere represents the most significant change from the world of book marketing 20 years ago. Setting up my own blog was definitely a challenge with several false starts. Every new task I have attempted has come with a new learning curve and a deep sense of accomplishment when I achieve mastery.

Persistence is key here as well.

Finding the answer to “Am I a woman in business?”
So in answer to my original question, I am a writer and that means I am in business for myself. My varied life experiences have taught me that everything in life is about marketing, marketing yourself. Not in a conceited or self-absorbed way but in the sense that…

You have to put yourself forward and promote yourself in the same way that businesses do.

 

A Day in New York City

Yesterday I had to go to New York City for the day. After my appointment I had about four hours to kill before my train left. First I went to the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum which until 2000 was the Abigail Adams Smith House. I had chosen to go there because I thought it was the headquarters of the Colonial Dames of America. colonial-barbie

The CDA does manage the Museum but their offices and presumably archives are in the building next door. This was built in 1977 to look old. Oddly enough, this building looks worse than the museum, which was built in 1799 as a carriage house for the planned mansion of Abigail Adams Smith, John Adams daughter, and her husband. The museum does not have any artifacts pertaining to the Smiths which may be one reason they changed their mission.In 1826 Joseph Hart purchased the carriage house and turned it into a day resort, equivalent to a spa today.  Hart operated this business for seven years until 1833.

The museum only has a few things that are actually from the hotel. The rest of the artifacts are “of the period.”  This is often the case with small museums. No one was in at the CDA so I couldn’t talk to them.

After the 30 minute tour of the museum I ate lunch and then I went to Bloomingdales. I haven’t been in Bloomies in a very long time. The display windows  are full of Barbie doll mannequins because Barbie is 50 and Bloomingdales is celebrating her birthday. According to the New York Times the store is “leaning on Barbie to salvage its quarterly bottom line.”

On the third floor there must have been over one hundred Barbies from different years dressed as different careers including doctor and stewardess. There were also Barbies as different celebrity figures. Apparently the first one of these was Twiggy in the 70s but there is also one of Beyonce. Most of the dolls are from the 90s. The 1959 Barbie is a replica.I confess I still have my Barbie which dates from that time.

On the second floor the store is selling Barbie purses and replica dolls. There is also a display of life size mannequins in designer clothes. Although I didn’t plan on it, the day turned out to have a theme, Both the  Colonial Dames and Barbie represent American womanhood and ideals of femininity. Now I just have to figure out how they are connected.

What’s Next

I have started thinking about my next project. Brewing Battles was my attempt to get into print some of the ideas, concepts, and research contained in my dissertation. Publishing the book has given me a good sense of closure yet I am not sure if I am done yet. My dissertation, “The Politics of Alcohol Production: The Liquor Industry and the Federal Government 1862 – 1900” dealt both with distilled spirits and beer. The parts of the dissertation that dealt with distilling remain unpublished; there is limited access to the material. I would like more people to read the ideas contained in those chapters but I do not feel that I necessarily want to write a companion book, Distilling Duels: The History of the Distilled Spirits Industry in America.



For the book, I chose to focus on beer because the story of brewing and brewers in America seemed both more cohesive and more integral to American history. The history of distilled spirits in America is a more predictable one, with concentration and consolidation occurring earlier and more completely. A notable exception was bourbon which claimed a more distinctive heritage and marketing.

Recently the same impulse that prompted home brewers, craft brewers, and regional brewers to reinvent American brewing on a small, local, artisanal basis has spread to distilled spirits. Anchor Steam now has a distillery, V1 Vodka produces small batch vodka in Western Massachusetts, and there are artisanal producers of rum and other alcoholic beverages.

To order my dissertation you can go to Dissertation Express . Type in my name, Amy Mittelman and or the title of the dissertation, “The Politics of Alcohol Production: TheLiquor Industry and the Federal Government, 1862 – 1900.”

You can also try to get a copy of the dissertation through inter library loan.