Saira Rao grew up in Richmond, VA in the 70s-80s watching cartoons – and as many children of the 80s can attest to, there was nothing quite like waking up early on a Saturday morning to consume as many cartoons as possible. It was our entertainment, and we wanted to see ourselves in the stories. Fast forward 30 years, and Saira found herself watching cartoons again – this time with her young daughter. She was shocked and concerned to find, though, that they were not any more diverse or inclusive then when she was a child. Hadn’t we grown and learned anything over the last three plus decades?!
Saira started out her professional life as a television news producer before going to law school – which then led her to a clerkship on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadephia as well as a lawyer on Wall Street in New York City. She left her law practice when she authored the fiction book, Chambermaid, so that she could go on a book tour. It was after that that she had her first child and was awakened to the fact that diversity was severely lacking within the stories children were reading and seeing.
So – she decided to do something about it! She made a change in her life, so that she could create the change that she wanted to see in the world (talking to you, publishing!). Saira did not set out with the intention of being an entrepreneur – she became an entrepreneur because she saw a need and had to find an answer to it. As she explains, she “became obsessed with what wasn’t there, namely authentic, interesting, nuanced girl characters and characters of color.” Instead of complaining – she set out to find a way to create compelling stories for underserved markets, where readers see themselves in the stories they are reading. And so – In This Together Media was born!
In the podcast episode we talk about how she and her business partner, Carey Albertine, had to make many pivots in the creation of In This Together Media, the doubts they have felt along the way (and how they move past them), and how they have learned to “cut out the noise” in order to create something that they feel so passionate about being in the world! Listen below to learn more about Saira’s Chapter Be story…
CHAPTER BE QUESTIONNAIRE…
…lieve you can do it!
What’s your favorite quote, story or fact?
If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Worst work experience?
What is your definition of success?
Looking forward to, rather than dreading, the workday.
How do you tap into your creative energies – especially when you are feeling drained?
I don’t. When I am feeling drained, I rest and resume creative endeavors when it’s passed. I’ve found that trying to power through low energy only prolongs it for me.
What does “to be” mean to you?
Present. Being present is “to be.”
How do you spend your time when you are procrastinating?
Refresh NYTIMES.com, watch The Box in a Box YouTube video from a billion years ago, pluck my chin hair. In fact, I did just that.
Ideal READING LIST – books, websites, blogs, podcasts, magazines, etc. that you would want on your Swiss Family Robinson deserted island?
In no particular order…
- Anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, Jennifer Egan, Rebekah Crane, Michael Cunningham, Suzanne Collins, Ta-Nehisi Coates,
- Elf (the screenplay),
- Prairie Home Companion,
- New York Magazine,
- Fortune cookie inserts (in the hope of predicting island escape),
- Post-modern/Post-Kardashian People Magazine,
- The Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Koran and Talmud,
- and if it’s ever written, a commercially-viable non-fiction indictment of the NFL.
Favorite song with “be” in the title?
Tried To Be True by The Indigo Girls
LINKS & RESOURCES…
- In This Together Media
- Carey Albertine – Co-founder
- Fred Seibert
- Marley Dias & #1000blackgirlbooks
- Hunger Games
- Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
- Jess Regel | Foundry Literary + Media
- Miss Representation
- The Mask You Live In
- In This Together Media’s Young Adult Books
Images via Chapter Be