The Peace Corps lists three goals (“The Peace Corps Mission”) on their website. One: help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. Two: help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. And three: help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
When volunteer Christine Herbert packed her bags and traveled to Africa for her Peace Corps assignment, she never imagined that, 18 years later, she would be publishing her first book—her way of contributing to the third goal she’d promised to fulfill.
Herbert is a debut author with GenZ Publishing. Her memoir, The Color of the Elephant, follows her journey of familiarizing herself with the people, land, and culture in Africa, along with detailing her own struggles and successes that happened along the way.
“There were certain moments that begged to be written. There were certain things that wouldn’t let me sleep,” Herbert said, describing her writing process.
Inspired by watching Peace Corps advertisements on TV and safari-type National Geographic shows when she was younger, taking an assignment in Africa was Herbert’s dream.
After returning from Africa, Herbert committed to learning story-craft by taking the time to write daily, encouraged by the numerous people throughout her trip who told her she would go home and write a book about her experiences.
“My friends and family would transcribe them [letters written home]—write them down, type them up, and send them out to everybody,” Herbert explained, creating “a little following of my life and my adventure.” This is when she started becoming a writer, but she didn’t know it at the time.
“I thought, ‘No, there’s no way I will do that because writing is so hard for me,’” Herbert said. Yet so many encouraged her, she began to think, “maybe there’s something about this, about me, and my abilities, and my life, that I’m not seeing.” Then she started asking, “what does it take to be a writer?”
Once she had a completed manuscript, Herbert went to conferences to pitch her work, however, the rise of COVID-19 led her to explore other routes of pitching. She connected with GenZ Publishing through #PitMad, a quarterly Twitter event where authors pitch their unpublished manuscripts. Once interested—hooked by a 280-character pitch—an agent or publisher likes the tweet to request more information.
“Traditional publishing is almost impossible to break into,” Herbert said. However, recently, the industry has been changing. There are many more available options for self-publishing and publishing with small, indie presses, like GenZ.
“I really liked that GenZ has the mission of supporting new and emerging authors, helping them get a foothold in an industry that it’s hard to get credentials in,” Herbert said.
As The Color of the Elephant is her first book to be published, Herbert feels she has come full circle in her writing journey. She’s now able to share her work with a larger audience.
“It feels wonderful. It feels surprising. There were times that I wasn’t sure it would ever happen for me because it has been a long road to publication,” Herbert said.
Of the many lessons Herbert learned from her Peace Corps assignment, one was to take chances. Her upcoming book is one way she’s putting that practice into action.
“I became unafraid of new opportunities and unafraid of failing, as strange as that sounds,” Herbert said. “I learned that you’re going to fail many more times than you want to fail, and you’re going to move forward…I learned to take chances.”
Reflecting on her trip led Herbert to recognize successfully persevering through her challenges. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” Herbert said, alluding to Voltaire.
“Even when I get to my last draft, I have to realize, that doesn’t have to be perfect either, you know? It can be just as good as I can make it,” Herbert said, refusing to let her perfectionism be disabling.
With her first book published, accomplishing “The Peace Corps Mission”, there’s no saying what’s next for Herbert in this world of opportunity. No matter how she continues to share her story, her biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers is to read anything and everything—to discover what they like and why, along with finding out what makes them feel. She also encourages them to always keep writing.
“Don’t wait for that perfect idea to come,” Herbert recommended. “Just set yourself a time every day…and stick to it. Just take that time to write. The more of a habit that becomes, the more the inspiration will come.”
The Color of the Elephant is available for preorder now on Herbert’s website. The book will be officially released January 4, 2022.