Ananda Kiamsha Madelyn Leeke became a pioneer in the digital universe twenty-seven years ago, when she logged in to the LexisNexis research service as a first-year law student at Howard University School of Law. She was immediately smitten with what the World Wide Web could do. Later, while attending the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995, Leeke found herself in an Internet café, where she experienced an interaction that changed her life.
Over time, through interactions and conversations both online and in-person, Leeke developed the concept of “digital sisterhood.” Embracing this revolutionary concept led to a complete career reinvention that finally allowed her to embrace her enormous creative spirit. She found in her digital sisters true “sheroes” and virtual mentors. Her blogging and social media adventures highlight the lessons she learned in the process, the reasons she launched the Digital Sisterhood Network, and the experiences that caused her to adopt what she terms the “fierce living” commitments.
In her memoir, Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online [click title to purchase!], Leeke details her journey, sharing experiences and insights that helped her and her digital sisters use the Internet as a self-discovery tool and identifying leadership archetypes that shaped her role as a social media leader. [Click title to purchase your copy of Digital Sisterhood today!]
Ananda Leeke is a lawyer turned “Jill of many trades.” She is an innerpreneur, author, artist, coach, and yoga teacher. She founded the Digital Sisterhood Network and currently serves as a blogger ambassador for AARP, Macy’s Heart of Haiti campaign, and Maiden Nation. She lives in Washington, D.C. [Website] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Author Blog] [Digital Sisterhood Network]
Q: What prompted you to write this book?
AKML: In 2009, a publisher (that was on my dream list of publishers) contacted me to explore the possibility of entering into a book contract about how the Internet has impacted women’s creativity. Thrilled and excited, I entered into a round of discussions with the publisher. She introduced me to two writing mentors who helped me flush out my ideas for a book outline. I shared the Sisterhood the Blog book outline with her and launched a blog, Facebook group, and Twitter account to begin writing the book. A few weeks later, the publisher lost interest. I tried several times to follow up, but did not receive a response. Devastated is the best word to describe how I felt.
My writing mentors encouraged me to write and self-publish the book. So I dived deep into my new blog and distributed its content on my social media sites. A few months later, I added a podcast to the mix. Through my blog, podcast, and social media sites, I was able to interview and profile a diverse group of women in social media and technology. When I attended local and national conferences, events, and meet ups, I used my video camera and audio podcast app to record my interviews. These efforts expanded my understanding of the roles women play in the digital space.
My focus for the book changed after I attended the BlogHer annual conference’s closing keynote, “How to Use Your Voice, Your Platform and Your Power,” featuring PBS anchor Alison Stewart, White House Project founder Marie Wilson, author and activist Gloria Feldt, and journalist and environmentalist P. Simran Sethi, in 2010. Listening to these women’s stories convinced me to write a memoir about my online journey and how women have influenced, informed, and inspired my digital experiences.
That same year, I changed the title of the book, blog, podcast, and social media to Digital Sisterhood after I conducted a series of interviews with women bloggers about their relationships with women in social media at the Blogalicious Weekend Conference.
Q: Who did you write this book for?
AKML: I wrote the book for women between the ages of 18 to 76 who spend time in the digital space blogging, building community, chatting, coding, creating webisodes and videos, crowdfunding, developing mobile apps, engaging in commerce, giving back by supporting social good campaigns, hosting online events, liking on Facebook, mentoring, pinning on Pinterest, podcasting, posting photos on Flickr and Instagram, reading blogs, publishing books, running businesses, serving as social media leaders, sharing information, teaching, tweeting 140 characters or less on Twitter, watching videos, and visiting web sites. I also wrote the book for women and girls who need greater access to technology and training.
Q: What do you want readers to gain from this book?
AKML: I want my readers to take what they find useful in the book and use it in a positive way. I hope my women readers are inspired to explore, celebrate, share, and publish their own stories about being online and the Digital Sisterhood connections they have made with other women. I hope they will publish their stories on blogs and in books. I want more women to write and publish books about their online lives, businesses, social good campaigns, and thought leadership.
Q: Did you use any research data to identify your niche audience?
AKML: I used BlogHer’s Social Media Matters Study which reported that 87 million women between the ages of 18 to 76 were online in 2011. The BlogHer study also reported that 69 million women used social media weekly, 80 million women used social media monthly, and 55 million women read blogs monthly. When I read this data, I realized these women have created a powerful digital footprint as communicators, connectors, community builders, tech creators, early adopters, and influencers.
Q: Tell us about your journey in embracing the Internet. How did your digital footprint begin?
AKML: My digital footprint began when I logged onto the LexisNexis research service as a first-year law student at Howard University School of Law in August 1986. It marked the beginning of my Internet geek path. My Internet experiences have been greatly influenced by the social connections women have made online and offline. Through them, I have witnessed the growth and expansion of women’s presence and power on the World Wide Web. Women are making digital herstory with blogs, books, businesses, careers, coding and software development projects, conferences, events, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, live streaming, meet up groups, mobile apps, online communities, online magazines, organizations, Pinterest, podcasts, Twitter, videos, webinars, web sites, and webisodes.
Q: What are your favorite social media tools?
AKML: That’s a hard one. I love so many. Right now, my favorites are all visual: Animoto, Flickr, Google+ Hangout, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Q: What’s next for you?
AKML: I have a six-word memoir that describes what’s next: Fierce Living. Too Bold for Boundaries. It starts with REST, followed by healthy eating and living, spending time with positive and nurturing people, and expressing and sharing my gifts and talents with others.