Despite having lived in New York since 1982, my career as an author was launched in Spain a decade ago.
It was 2008 and I remember clearly sitting in a marketing meeting with my publisher who suggested that I use Maha Akhtar as my nom de plume. ‘It’s so much more exotic,’ she said,‘and it will play well here in Spain. People will be able to relate to it.’
‘Maja’ in Spanish means attractive, and then of course there is ‘La Maja,’ the famous Goya painting in the Prado Museum in Madrid.
I agreed because I had previously used the name Maha Akhtar when I had danced flamenco professionally in Seville and had developed quite a following. So why not? It would only help book sales.
But now, as I navigate the choppy waters of New York City’s publishing world, I find myself in a ‘name’ conundrum. Everyone in New York knows me as Kim Akhtar…after all Kim Akhtar has lived and worked in New York since 1982…that’s a long time.
So when I went to create a website, I spent some time thinking about which name would reign supreme.
In the spirit of democracy, it was decided that the website would be Kimberly Maha Akhtar. It has all the names. Kim, which is really short for Kimberly and Maha…so if one of my Spanish readers wants to find me, they can, and if my agent wants to tout and sell my oeuvre, potential publishers can find Kim!
Which brings me to this blog post.
As a writer, I have long resisted joining the world of blogging only because I thought that writing books was enough. Not so, said my agent. You have to blog. You need a platform. Publishers no longer look at the quality of the writing, the plot or the characters…today they look at how many followers you have on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook…sadly, social media determines what books get published.
Over fifteen years ago, when I was still working at CBS News as Dan Rather’s right hand, I remember Dan telling me that he wanted to start a blog. A blog, I said. Why? Why would you want to reach a few hundred people online when you are the anchorman of the CBS Evening News and 13 million viewers watch you and listen to you faithfully every night, five nights a week. Because, he replied, blogging is where it’s at.
Boy, was he right.
Today…everyone with a voice and an opinion or an idea can share it online…on their blog.
The rise of social media has forced everyone out in the open, breaking down doors, urging everyone to share, share, share…everything.
Private life…what’s that?
Anonymity…nah…or perhaps if you live in the middle of the Amazon or the Sahara. Even so, the internet is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
Ahhhh…the power of the media. Yes, there was a time when journalists like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings wielded real power… heads of state trembled before interviews, prepping, studying, rehearsing before they faced these men.
Today, that power has passed to blogs, tweets and posts.
So, here I am, with…a blog, another shameless self-promoter that joins the ranks. I’ve written five books, all five published in Spain and throughout Latin America and am finishing up my sixth, hoping to finally find a publisher in the US.
I also write for others, ghostwriter, speechwriter and I edit other people’s work.
I don’t have an agenda, so what I intend to share are interesting anecdotes about places I’ve been to, foods I’ve tried, wines I’ve tasted…more of an old-school travelogue…or a modern-day Herodotus. Not that I could ever aspire to be as grand as the old master…but you never know who might read me 2500 years into the future.
Welcome to my blog: “Stories about life, food and wine.”