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Season 2, Episode 5
Shameless Self-Promotion with Geraldine DeRuiter

Geraldine DeRuiter (she/her) is the James Beard Award–winning blogger behind The Everywhereist.com and the author of “All Over The Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft” (Public Affairs, 2017) and the upcoming “If You Can’t Take the Heat: Tales of Food, Feminism and Fury” (Crown, 2024). Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, Marie Claire, and Refinery 29. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, Rand. They are currently working on a cooking-themed video game and ordering too much takeout. 

Website | Threads

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Discussed in this episode:

  • Geraldine’s relationship with feminism and how it evolved to become intersectional
  • How Geraldine deals with feelings of Imposter syndrome re: her feminism
  • Dealing with the vulnerability hangover of sharing deeply personal stories
  • What Geraldine learned from sharing about a funeral crasher on social media
  • Managing the hate and pushback that comes with a large social media following
  • How changes in publishing have shifted expectations on writers
  • Marketing a book as a non-marketer, and why getting a “no” isn’t so bad
  • The importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone
  • Defining success outside of societal expectations
  • What makes Geraldine happy (ie, her deeper why)
  • What it’s like to be married to a truly feminist man

Resources mentioned:

Becky Mollenkamp:

Hi, thanks for joining me Geraldine.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Thanks for having me.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I am going to ask you to talk about feminism, which I think will be, I hope, not such a difficult thing for you because it’s in the title of your book. So tell me about your relationship with feminism.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

You would think it would be easy because it’s in my book. I have such a complex relationship with feminism. I have a good relationship with feminism. But I would say, like to give you some background, I am the first girl in my family born in a generation. So a very large Italian immigrant family, seven male grandchildren, and then me. And I was named after my mother’s sister who died in infancy, so the amount of baggage that I was carrying just the second I emerged from the womb, I had little baggage on me. And so there was a lot of gender roles just from the very, very outset kind of put on me. So I would say, I don’t really think I started to understand my relationship to feminism until, I guess, you know, probably came to it early, but at the same time didn’t really have a grasp of it until later, you know? I probably was in high school when I started to be like, oh yeah, feminism is awesome. And I get it and it’s cool. But then it wasn’t, I would say it wasn’t until my 20s and 30s where I was like, what is this? What is my relationship with it? And how much internalized misogyny do I carry with me? So it took a while. And it’s still complex because I think I still carry a lot of antiquated ideas that I internalize and put on myself.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Good, I want to talk about that because you mentioned in the book, and I pulled a quote out about that, so we’ll get to that in a second. But you mentioned on your blog that one of your favorite things along with your husband and food is intersectional feminism. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum, we can’t forget him. When did your feminism go from that feminism of your youth, which I would guess—we’re about the same age and I have a feeling we have a similar story in that our feminism of our youth probably doesn’t look like our feminism of today, it probably wasn’t very intersectional. We didn’t understand that. So when did that evolution happen for you?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Late, late, right? Um, and, uh, you know, I had a few friends of color who kind of, you know, did the emotional labor that they did not need to do of being like, no, like our experiences are not the same. And that’s where I was like, oh, like you’re dealing with other shit on top of it. And that, you know, that was kind of in my, in my 20s and in my 30s. So it was late. It was really late where I was like, oh. And I didn’t have a name to put to it. And I would say the first time I heard the term ‘white feminism,’ I can assure you I bristled. I was like, what’s that? Because that’s what you’re supposed to do because, you know, white supremacy, we’ve all heard this before, but it’s very true. White supremacy is an institution built to protect itself. And so if you are a white person who exists within the existing framework, it is designed so that if you hear the terms ‘white privilege’ and if you hear the terms ‘white feminism,’ you’re going to react. No, I don’t like those terms, those terms don’t apply to me. And that’s designed so that you don’t fight against them, right? Like, and that’s a very easy way, and then it just reinforces itself and then it’s protected itself by making you afraid and making you feel victimized by these terms. So I definitely came to it. I would say, oh, my head just got very big. 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Only for those watching, don’t worry.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

I got very close to the mic for a second, but yeah I would say I came to it late. And then what someone helped me realize is that, you know, if you start to fight against it, if you start to fight against these institutions that have existed, then you become a lot more comfortable when people complain about these institutions. When you start to analyze yourself and how you reinforce the existing structure, then you start to realize how you can dismantle it and things become a lot easier for you. You don’t bristle. And so now when I hear ‘white feminism,’ I don’t bristle, but what I do is I look at my life and I’m like, right, how am I reinforcing white feminism and what can I do to make my feminism more intersectional? And so that’s good. I don’t have that knee-jerk reaction anymore. I hope. Some days I still do, because we’re all a work in progress.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Exactly. It’s about dropping the defensive piece, dropping your defenses. I’m like, to me, that’s such an important part of the journey and very, very, very challenging.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

And realizing it’s a journey, right? Realizing it’s a journey. You’re never done.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Right, that there’s no finish line, and that takes me to what you were talking about earlier about still finding those, rooting out those places where misogyny still exists inside of you. In your book called, “If You Can’t Take the Heat: Tales of Food, Feminism and Fury.” I love the title. And one of the quotes that I loved was you said, ‘I once naively thought feminism would be a cheat code to make the right decision. But sometimes it’s just there to make me feel like a hypocrite for not being able to escape my old patterns of thinking, my ingrained habits, the memory of all the shitty misogynistic things I’ve done.’ I’m sure you love having people read your book to you.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

I mean, I’m not mad about it. Yeah, who knew this was my kink? 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

We all have ours, but I love that because it gets exactly this idea of like we think we’re supposed to figure it out and then we are going to be the ones who have it figured out and we can talk about these things with confidence. And, you know, you have feminism in the title of your book. You talk about these things on social media. I relate very hard to that because I also do. And I know that I’m not an expert, and I never will be, and that I will never like have conquered this thing, and that I still find these places where it’s in me, whether we’re talking about like misogyny or, you know, racism, there’s still all of the stuff that I have to root out and I always will. And that creates sometimes for me, this ‘who am I to be talking about these things? If I haven’t gotten it figured out.’ That thinking can come up. Has that happened for you at all with the way you show up on social media or with your writing where you feel that sort of impostery thing come up around these issues?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Do I feel like an imposter and a hypocrite? Is that the question?

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

That’s the question on the table. How do you deal with it?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

This is the second time I’ve been asked this today. And both times. The first time was earlier this morning, and I started laughing maniacally like a Batman villain. Yeah, all the time, right? Like this is the nature of it. And in part, I would say that, you know, it is, we are imperfect creatures. And the work we are doing is imperfect because what we are doing is aiming for something beautiful and ideological and big right? And at the same time, it should be very attainable, right? To treat other people like human beings, to treat women like human beings, to treat people of color like human beings. These should all be very attainable goals, right? Like they should all be very ingrained things that we just do. And so yeah, it is a battle and there are days where I will think like, I think I say this in the book, like I stand in front of like, there are times when I stand in front of the mirror, and I do not like myself, right? Like, which I think is a very universal experience. And I think, you cannot have these thoughts, right? Like you cannot because you literally wrote the book on why this is bad. So you better fucking like yourself. And things get complex there, right? Because I can either double down and get angry at myself and feel like a hypocrite and hate myself more, or I can take a minute to reframe and be like, right, so this is a moment to check in and realize that maybe I’m not living my values. Maybe, you know, looking at myself and being unkind is something I would never do to someone else. I would never in a million years think that to someone else. If someone else were standing in front of this mirror and they didn’t feel good about themselves, what would I say to them? Well, I would be the most kind person, right? Like I would tell them, no, like first of all, you are beautiful. And second of all, like, you know, we’ve been taught to hate the way we look because we don’t fit a certain model and that’s  ridiculous, right? Like that’s ridiculous. And so it gives me those, in those moments, I take a moment and I reframe. And that works, right? Like being kind to myself in those moments and also like having those moments of extreme resistance. And it’s almost like the, when I start to hear those intrusive thoughts of not liking myself, it’s almost like I react even harsher to it. And I’m like, no, I’m hot or no, I feel great or no, like my worth is beyond this and like dancing in front of the mirror and just doing whatever I can to really appreciate this body and like all it’s done for me. It’s a battle, I’m not gonna say it’s not. And also realizing at the end of the day, I actually do have for some reason, and I don’t know, I think whatever higher power there is or I don’t know what it is, but at the end of the day, I do like myself. I don’t know why. I don’t know how that happens. Not to say that I’m not likable, but it’s a weird thing. And I realize that it’s unusual. And the more I talk to people, men and women, I realize it’s a rare thing. So I just try and keep doing it.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You write very openly about a lot of the circumstances of your life leading up to where you are now and your childhood and the things that can affect a lot of us that maybe will contribute not just societally, but from our family to not necessarily loving ourselves. And you certainly had some of those things like a lot of us did, like, you know, a father that wasn’t really around and what I’m really wanting to know about is writing about those things. Because you write about really personal things, family, you write about religion, blowjobs, I think you wrote about cleaning up your husband’s shit off the toilet.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Actually, to be clear, it was cleaning up the toilet after I did. It was not my husband. I want to be, I want to go on record to say it was not my husband. It was me. I destroyed that toilet.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

That makes me feel better because I love my husband a lot, but I don’t know that I love him so much that I’m happy to clean his shit out of the toilet. Cleaning my own shit for sure.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

He would never have done that to me, but I would absolutely have done that to him.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I relate. I relate. How has that, I know that’s what you do. You’re writing memoir, you’re writing about your life. I also imagine there can be blowback from some of the things that you write about or just even the vulnerability hangover that I would imagine would have to come when you put a book out that talks about giving blowjobs. I feel like you’re laying yourself bare and there has to be something that would feel a little difficult about that. How do you manage all of that? Both the like, reactions from other people that you write about and then just your own putting it out for the world to read.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

So with a lot of anxiety and there is a weird, and I actually had such a vulnerability hangover. I had so much anxiety when I turned in this book to a degree that I cannot even, I was a mess when I turned this book in. I was like, what did I do? And that is something that I have dealt with a lot in my career. And it’s, you know, it is part of the price that one pays to be an essayist, right? I think, and you know, you see David Sedaris did it and he talked about the blowback from his family. Lindy West has done it in a very real way. And she has, she has written about, you know, her abortion and her relationships and the abuse that she has faced. Sam Irby does it and seems to be just so skilled and so funny in her way of doing it. And so I see people who do it all the time and navigate it. And I do wonder, like, is there a way to be an essayist and not kind of exchange something very personal? I don’t know. That is a very deep question, right? Like that is a very deep question that’s hard to explore. I will say for me personally, at the end of the day, I’ve made a choice. And I have. And that line, that becomes something that, you know, I’ve always questioned, well, am I telling stories about my family that I don’t have the right to tell? And I was like, no, because they made me, I was a part of it. Right? I was never not a part of it. I wasn’t an interloper, you know. The thing that comes up a lot is, you my aunt just passed away like two weeks ago. And this past weekend, we had her memorial service and we had a crasher. We had someone who crashed her funeral or her memorial. And I got, sorry.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I saw it on social media and it was quite the ordeal.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

It was bonkers. And part of the reason I was so angry is that this person was privy to family stories that they didn’t have a right to be. And in my head, I could hear someone almost saying, well, you share family stories. And I was like, yeah, but it’s not the same because I’m a part of this family. So I’m a part of this family, and I share from my perspective. So I’m sharing my stories. Whereas this person has walked in and they are now a spectator to our grief. And that is different than being someone who is actually feeling that grief. And so I feel like part of it is realizing that, you know, these stories belong to you and you have a right to tell them. And also just being really grateful that your mom doesn’t read your books.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Just don’t even let her know they’re coming out. Well, I ask this because, I mean, our audience is mostly business owners, but in this world that we live in now, and I think we’re going to get into this a lot, everyone is expected to be their brand, to be a personal brand. You are your brand. You need to talk about your brand. You need to share your stories. And for many people, that’s really uncomfortable. How much to share, what to share, and then when they do share, the vulnerability hangover that can come. And then also, especially when you share and you receive strangers online, giving their opinions about the things you’ve shared and about you without really knowing you and deciding they now know you. And all of that is really, it’s difficult to navigate for many people in a way that I don’t feel like happened before social media. Certainly not to the degree it does now. And so even though, you know, you’re specifically an essayist and writing these these memoirs, many of our listeners may not be. I think they can relate on that piece of sharing and building their brand. And so I was just curious, you know, how you deal, I think what you decide to share, but then also just the vulnerability piece. And I know the book’s just coming out. So you’ve had some readers, but not as much as you will be having soon. But what plans do you have for caring for yourself and dealing with what you know will probably be challenging as a lot of people are reading these very personal stories.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

You know what’s fascinating in all of this, it’s actually really, really interesting, is that if you were to meet me, like my husband jokes about it. Um, he’s like, you do not talk about your feelings in person. You do not, right? He says, you do not tell people how you feel and you do not, you don’t say when you’re upset. You don’t say when you’re angry. You don’t tell people when you love them. You don’t tell them how much they mean to you. You do not talk about these things. And I even had a friend, you know, I gave her a hug and she told me she loved me. And I said, I love you too. I just, I’m not good at saying it. And she goes, I know, but I feel it. And that was a really meaningful exchange that we had, but I realized that. The essayist Geraldine and real life Geraldine are not the same. That is not to say that who I present is untrue, because it very much is true, but it is not a complete picture. I want people to feel like they know me and I say this in the book, I want people to feel like they know me because that means that I have created a meaningful story that they’ve connected with, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve shared everything, right? They don’t know all the details of my life. They sure as hell don’t know my social security number, right? Like it’s not all there. Like it’s not, you know? They probably don’t know my favorite color. They don’t know my favorite song. You know, they don’t know what, well, they probably do know what I like the most about my husband. And what I would say to people is you can be sincere and authentic in how you present yourself and you don’t have to present all of yourself. And I think that’s an important thing to remember. And the other thing I would say is just because you choose to share things with people online, whether you are creating a brand, whether you are creating a company, whether you are creating instructional videos for people, if you are the face of your brand, just because you are out there does not mean that people are entitled to you. It does not mean that they know you. It does not mean that you have to tell all of your story to them. Just figure out where that line is for you. And that might and that line might change. It might change over the course of your career. It might change from day to day. It might change over the course of the day. And that is fine. You are allowed to have boundaries. And if people say you’re being hypocritical? No, you’re allowed to change your mind and where your boundary is. You are. And that’s just, that’s just true. So I would say that the hardest part really is enforcing boundaries to protect your own comfort.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

This is really hitting me at a time when it’s really helpful. I’ve never had a large social media following before and suddenly on threads, I have this strange growth there. And it’s interesting what it’s showing me and teaching me and helping me to figure out for myself because random strangers can just come on and call you bitter or mean or all sorts of things. And you have to sort of sit with that and think about like, how much of this am I gonna actually let affect me and how much do I wanna share? And when people start to demand more of you, what are you comfortable with? And it’s interesting and my following is nothing like you had on Twitter or X, whatever it is. I don’t know that you’re still there, but what was that experience like for you?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Again, I talk about this in the book. Twitter is kind of a double-edged sword, right? Because you create this platform and people follow you and and again, as an essayist, you want people to think they know you, and then I would post something and it would go viral and I would get hate messages. I would get people calling me names, and the presumptions that people make, the ways in which they think that they know you, the things that they say about you, the things that they say about your spouse. There are days when I would feel like I had lost, like you do feel, and I try not to use this term, but it comes up a lot because I just think of the, there’s a quote from Zoolander that Will Ferrell says where he’s like, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. And it does feel like where you’re like, everyone seems to be like, you are saying this. And I’m like, what? No, like my husband doesn’t secretly hate me. I’m not angry and embittered. Like I don’t, you know, I’m not doing this for attention. I’m not like I’m not this hideous person. Sorry I just got, my husband just came in to take photos of me because he’s proud of me right like that just happened now. So it’s like all of these things where you’re like you don’t know my life and you have to remember that you are the authority, you are the final authority in you. You are the final authority. And that is such a hard thing to do. That is such a hard thing to do. And I think what I’m grateful for, as bonkers as this sounds, is… I can’t believe you’re in here taking photos. The thing that I had to remind myself of is that even before I had an audience, there were people saying these things that were just so wrong, you know? And so it sort of prepared me, it prepared me for it. And when they said things that were just so contrary to what I knew to be true. Look, I mean, you can tell me things that might hit at the heart of my insecurities. You can tell me that I’m a bad writer, you can tell me that, you know, I don’t know, at least insult me in a way that makes sense. Like, I don’t know, tell me that I use the M dash too often. And I’ll be like, Okay, yeah, that’s fair. But like, tell me that I have too many books. I’m like, yeah. Tell me that I don’t wear patterns properly. I’m like, you know, these are fair assessments. Tell me that my husband doesn’t love me or that I don’t have a good sense of humor. I’m like, no, sorry. That one doesn’t fly. Like that one doesn’t fly. So it is really about remembering that you are the authority on you. And Twitter, you know, Twitter kind of reminded me of that a lot. The first couple of times I went viral though, oh man, I was like, I wish, you know, I actually said I’m like, I wish this hadn’t happened. I remember when the Batali post went up, there was a brief moment where I was like, maybe I shouldn’t have written that.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have won a James Beard award. So I’m assuming that you also look at that as something that was worthwhile. But that is the hard part of putting yourself out there, isn’t it? Like we do it. And then you have to hope that the good outweighs the bad.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Yeah, and realize that it doesn’t always, like you’re not going to always see a specific return like that. You know, obviously at the end of the day, I feel like I have no regrets about writing that post and proud of that post. I would have been proud of that post even if it hadn’t won a James Beard award because I think it’s, you know, it’s something that was well written and hell, it was good. It was good. And it taught me that, you know, food writing was something I was passionate about. And the intersection of food and feminism was something that I was passionate about, but also realizing that there are days where you’re not going to see that return on, you know, speaking up or sharing your soul. It’s not going to be like, oh yeah, if you do this, you might get some hate, but you also might get a journalistic prize or a book deal or something. That might not happen. And so I think again, it comes down to is this what you want to do? Is this what you want to say? Is this authentically you? And are you being true to yourself? And really finding that integrity? And again, that’s hard to know. That is hard to know. And it’s funny because I posted, and I know you were kind of following this, I posted about the crasher at my aunt’s funeral, my aunt’s memorial. And there were people telling me she was probably a friend of your aunt’s. How do you know she was a crasher? And I was like, are you kidding me? And they were like, well, it’s not like you went up to every single person there. And I was like, no, no one knew who this woman was. And she walked up to me and she was like, what’s the husband’s name? Because she didn’t know my aunt’s name, but she wanted to know my uncle’s name. And here’s the thing, they had been married for more than 60 years, and you don’t know my uncle’s name, and you are at her memorial service where there’s 40 people in the room? No, like no way. So it was just, and having people say, she was probably a friend of your aunt. I was like, oh, that is, both of my cousins were like, who the fuck is that? I’m like, I’ve never seen her before.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I was shocked at the people saying, well, she was probably homeless. You should have fed her. And I would have fed her. And I mean, basically, this judgment of like, you just didn’t want to feed somebody and what a horrible person you are. It was really mind blowing. And I’ve seen a lot on social media.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Feeding someone and being okay with them walking in and taking photos of your grieving family members and then getting into a very nice car and driving away. My mom took down her license plate because my mom was like, I don’t know who that woman is, are two very different things. So yeah, it was a bonkers moment for social media. I do agree. But again, it brought up the you know, I shared an experience because I thought it was kind of a moment of the human condition that felt worth talking about, right? Like this was a moment that felt worth talking about. And I do, I am one who is, you know, I record my life experiences. That is what I do. And to see that backlash, that was actually a moment where I was like, you know what? I probably, I don’t know that I have regret, but I was like, I think I would have saved that for, and I think I will write that in an essay, rather than have exposed myself to that level of vitriol in a time when I was already, and am still, you know, grieving so much. At the same time, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that level of response. Like that was truly, to have people truly tell me you’re a bad person for not feeding this woman who, by the way, there was no indication at all and there remains no indication that she was a person experiencing homelessness. And she exchanged contact information with a family friend. And we looked at her social media and it seems as though she crashes a lot of events, a lot.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Which actually brings me to what I, a lot of what we were hoping to talk about today, which is the promotion of this book. And this idea of having, that you are a writer, who is now experiencing this pressure to be a marketing expert, really, to get people to buy this thing. Like you just want to write the thing. And in the world we live in now, there’s this heavy expectation on authors to be marketing pros, to show up on social media, to drum up traffic, to get people excited about this thing. Something that I feel like pre-social media, pre-people having a following, being influencers, that fell more on the book publisher to do that marketing. And now it’s really this shift towards like, no, we only want to work with people who already have a big following and then use that following to convert that into buyers. And that’s been a whole experience for you. And I’m wondering what’s the difference between this time and the last time you wrote your book? Have you noticed already a big difference in promotion, or is it it’s always been this way for you in the promoting piece?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

I switched publishers from my first to second book. So I guess I can speak fairly frankly about it now. I would say with my first go around, I was not entirely thrilled about the amount of press that the book got. I thought that it was a little, it was less than I would have liked, you know. And it was a quieter book. It was a smaller book. It’s a travel memoir. I still highly recommend you get it. It’s called “All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft.” And it’s fun. It’s a fun, sweet book. But after that kind of, you know, happened, I was like, oh, like maybe you do need a big following. Like you really do need to sell books yourself in this world because there’s just so much, there’s so much other noise and there’s so much competition. So I had this huge Twitter following. I had this huge Twitter following when I sold my second book. And I will say it was largely part of the reason why I think I got the book deal that I did. My book went to auction. It sold for a fantastic deal. I was very happy with it. I wanted six figures. I got that. And so, and nobody talks about numbers in books, so I try to. I’m not trying to be like a crappy flex here, but like we should talk, we should have transparency in what we talk about for our books. So it sold and I was happy about that, but then Twitter imploded. And I realized, okay, there is an expectation for me to sell this book, and now my main pipeline to do that has essentially just dried up. And I do feel like there is a lot of pressure on me, on any writer to do whatever you can to sell it, to sell your books, to get out there. It’s difficult because, and I said this to someone, I said, you know, I write books and I’m a writer because that’s the thing that I good at. I’m not good at making videos. I’m not on TikTok because I’m not, you know, pithy and I can’t edit things and I’m, you know, in my opinion, not like telegenic in that way. And I look stilted if I’m just recording myself. I do well on written platforms. So Threads and Twitter were great for me. I’m not great on Instagram because my photos are all kind of awkward selfies from like the going up my nostril. So I said to her, I was like, what if my book fails because the only thing I’m good at is writing? Like, what if I fail at being a writer, because the only thing I’m good at is writing? And that was a very kind of scary moment. I do think that there is a lot of expectation on writers. I do. I say that but at the same time I want to be clear, my editor called me yesterday from my publishing house and she said I just want you to know we see how hard you’re working. She’s like and it’s incredible and she’s like and I also don’t want you to get burnt out. She’s like so please take care of yourself. She’s like I don’t want you to run yourself into the ground. And they are doing, I know they’re doing a lot. I see all the copies they’re sending out. I see the interviews they’re getting. I see the press that this book is getting that I could not get. So in an ideal world, I think it is a joint effort. But I think for a lot of other people, what they are experiencing is their publishers are essentially book printers and are like, go and do this. And part of the problem too is we have no evidence that if you have a giant social media following, that that will convert to sales. You might have a ton of followers on TikTok. There’s no reason why someone on TikTok will buy your book. You might have a ton of Instagram followers, but why? Like, does that mean that they’re going to read something that you wrote? You know, so I think that all of this is quite new. We’re in a very new uncharted territory and it’s hard to know what to do. 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

What are you doing that’s maybe different this time than last time? Or just in general, what is your sort of marketing approach as somebody, a non-marketer doing a marketing approach?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

I would say the first time around, I did not ask things of people. I did not think it was okay to ask things of people. So this time I’m actually, I’m just asking people. I’m like, hey, like, can I be on your podcast? Can I talk to you about my book? I think I have stories to share. Can I share them with you? I’m reaching out to people, you know, I reached out and part of it too is I’ve done because I’ve had all of these viral pieces since the last time. I’ve done so much press. I’ve been on so many shows. So I just looped back. I was like, hey, you know, X reporter from whatever outlet, remember when you covered me on this? Well, I’ve got a book coming out that covers the backstory behind, you know, this piece that you covered. It covers the story behind the story of this. If you liked this thing that I wrote, then you’re really going to like my book that I wrote. I’ve reached out to the NPR show. So later today, I’m going to our local NPR studio, and I’m going to talk to them about my book because I’m a regular on one of their shows. And that’s something that’s happened in the last few years. So I would say that part of it is that my audience, my profile as a writer is bigger. And that makes it easier for people to, I guess, say yes. But also, I am reaching out in a way that I didn’t seven years ago. And I think that fundamentally, I’ve realized the worst thing they can do is say no. And people saying no to you is not that bad. It really isn’t. And the more and more they say no, the more you get used to it, you know? And granted, there are some days when you get a bunch of rejections in one day and you’re like, okay, that one hurt, like that hurts. I get it, I get it. You don’t want me, you know, whatever show, wipes tear, but then somebody does want you, you know? And you’re like, oh, hey, hey, Becky Mollenkamp, you want me on your show? That’s cool. We’ll talk about feminism and marketing. So you get the wins too. So I would say I’m just reaching out to a lot more people and putting myself out there and unabashedly talking about this book. And as a friend of mine said, you know, just believing in yourself in maybe a way that you don’t, actually. No doing that a lot.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

That’s good. Are you stretching yourself in ways that are uncomfortable and new to you with this?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

I don’t know if I’m great at being interviewed. I ramble a lot. So yes, to all of that, like, I would say to all of that I am trying and that’s what I would encourage people to do. I mean, if you’ve got a project or a book or something you are proud of, like do not be afraid to make those asks. You’ve got a network. Ask everyone. Send out a mass email and tell people, hey, do you have a radio show? Do you have a TV show? Do you have connections to anybody? Do you have a newsletter? Can you put me in it? And that is so uncomfortable. That is so uncomfortable, my god, but I’m doing it. And part of it is realizing when people ask those things of me, I do not judge them.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

We’re the exception to our own rules, aren’t we? In the same way, when you’re looking in front of that mirror, you’re the exception to that rule. Anyone else you’d say I would treat you differently. You said that you worry that you could fail at being a writer because the only thing you’re good at is being a writer. Does that mean that you’re putting a lot of weight on the financial success, the perceived success of this book? Or is that a real weight that’s on that?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

No, it’s funny because I don’t actually. But there is this mentality, there’s this cloud that kind of feels like it is there, even if maybe it doesn’t correlate to anything real. So I’ve gotten, the early reviews are excellent. I have gotten starred reviews from Booklist and Bookpage. Kirkus, who is notoriously a snarky publication, gave it an excellent review, so did Publishers Weekly, wrote something nice about it. So the early reviews are phenomenal. And that honestly should be enough to know I’ve written a good book. And anyone who knows publishing knows the structure. And if you don’t, I’ll tell you right now. The structure is you get your money upfront. You get an advance. Most writers don’t sell out of their advance. That’s how it’s designed to be. So I’ve technically gotten paid for this. But I think that we are, the structure of it, the way that we are kind of, you know, geared to think about things is that if I don’t sell all of these copies and if I don’t have everybody’s sharing it on social media, and if I don’t have millions of people on my website, and if I’m not a New York Times bestseller, for some reason I failed. And that’s just such an unkind way of thinking about things. And it does kind of go back to this weird value system that someone else has created. It’s kind of like saying, well, if you’re not a size four or a size two, you’re ugly. Like it’s weird. It’s this weird way of thinking that maybe we don’t even believe. Yeah, I don’t know. Do you have you? Have you ever had moments like that? You must have, right? Where you’re like, I feel like I’m going towards this goal, even though it’s not even my goal anymore.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Yeah, I mean, that’s what capitalism does to us. My work now is mostly around working with business owners to help them stop that, to notice where that’s happening to them and say, I don’t want to do this anymore. Like, why? Because when we sit down and actually ask ourselves, why? Why am I doing this? Why am I chasing this? Why do I feel like it has to be that? Why do I think I need to make that much money or that I have to have that many followers? The answers are often, I don’t know, because I’m supposed to, which is not the answer you want. In the same way that my first marriage was, why are you getting married? Well, because I’m supposed to. Not the right answer. Not the right answer for that. It’s not the right answer for any of this. And so I have felt that. And I think the answer is usually it’s something systemic. It’s not an individual thing. It’s not even about our parents and that programming. It is the larger society and systems that we live in that have convinced us we have to chase after a certain something, whatever it is, whatever that thing is that we think will make us happy. And boy, once you finally stop that, then the answer is like, oh, if that’s not it, then what does make me happy? And that can be a scary place when you don’t know, because it’s not those things we’ve been told will do it, then what is it? But finding it is great. I’m curious, what is it for you? What makes you happy?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Oh, what does make me happy? Really, I’m spending time with, it’s such a simple answer, but really spending time with people I love makes me so happy. But I do have to say having, and this is kind of part of it, you know, when I say it’s not about the money, like that’s a very privileged response and this is true. Like I’m thrilled that I got the book deal that I got. I want people to read my book because I want people to read my book, right? And so it comes down to, I’ve talked to my husband about this, he’s like, somebody asked do you like writing? And I was like, no, but I enjoy having written. And I heard that somewhere and I loved it, you know, and I feel that way too. And it’s like, I love knowing that the people I care about have read my work. That’s really meaningful to me. And I love spending time with those people and I love connecting with those people. And the idea that there are other people out there reading my work gives me a lot of value and that brings me a lot of happiness. So, that is, I think that comes down to why I want this book to do well, because I want people to read it, if that makes sense. And it’s not about the material associations with it, but to know that they’ve read my work. But if we’re going to talk about non-career things, yeah, it’s sitting on the couch every night and watching a TV show and having dinner with my husband and having dinner with friends and spending time with my husband’s grandfather who’s 96 years old and still incredibly sharp, god love him. And that I find a lot of value and obviously I think a lot of us do. I think that’s fundamentally what’s important.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I’m not surprised to hear food come up in your answer since it’s such an important part of your life. And also your husband. And the last thing I wanted to ask you about was in fact about Rand because he’s an outspoken feminist. In fact, long before I knew you, I was searching on LinkedIn for just who could be people to be on my show. And I was typing feminist into LinkedIn and his name came up and I was like, oh boy, eye roll, who’s this man saying he’s a feminist? Sure. But the more that I, and so I kind of just sort of set that aside, hadn’t thought about it for a long time. And then thinking about when I met you and was going to have you on the show, I didn’t realize he was your husband. I guess I should have, but I didn’t. And so then in reading the books and learning about you, I was like, oh, well, maybe he really is a feminist then. So I’m just curious, what’s it like? What does him being a feminist, how does that affect your career, the way you show up, and also, was he a feminist when you met him or did you turn him into one?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

I didn’t turn him into one and it’s actually infuriating because he’s a way better feminist than I am. Because I’ve got so much internalized misogyny and he’ll be like, don’t talk about yourself like that. Like, what are you doing? And I also think that, you know, family dynamics contribute so much to who we are. And so he didn’t grow up with that. But I think what he does is, in a lot of ways I feel accountable. I’m like, all right, like, if I cannot, you know, I don’t always show up in the way that I should for myself. I do not. And that is the sad truth of it. And I hate to tell people the fundamental lesson is that I’m showing up for a man. I hate to say that but there is some truth to the fact that he, you know, keeps me in a state of integrity because he is so much better at it. I don’t want to say better at it, but because he, you know, he holds me accountable. Um, and that’s not to say he’s perfect. Like we both made mistakes. We both are, you know, suffered growing pains. We’ve both, you know, been critical of ourselves. He’s also like when we first met, I think he was very, he did not, he did not earn a lot of money and I supported us in the early days of our relationship. And that was so hard for him, right? Because his ingrained thinking was, I need to, I need to be the one bringing home money. Like I do. And that was hard for him. That was really hard for him. And he’s like, you know, I look at it now and I realized that that was just part of these antiquated gender rules. He’s like, I get that. He’s like, but even now I still think that she should not have been paying my rent. So I see that he has it too. And he falls into those, you know, traps too of thinking and it’s hard. It’s hard to break free from that. But I think we both keep each other in check. And it’s also just delightful to know that it’s, I never need to explain to him. I never needed to say, that’s sexist because, and he has never said, why is that sexist? Like I’ve never had to have that conversation with him, which is great. The amount of like emotional labor that that takes off my plate, it’s really good to have. The amount of times he’s yelled at my family for me and been like, nope, we’re not doing that is just great.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I think it’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing that. And I love that it keeps you in integrity. The last two questions that I ask everyone are for a book recommendation and an organization that’s doing good work in the world that you support. For the book recommendation, we’ve talked about your book. We could use your book, but is there something else that’s something you feel like is really interesting or worthwhile to share? 

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Can it be fiction? Is that all right? 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Sure.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Okay, so one of my favorite books is “We Ride Upon Sticks” by Quan Barry. And it is the story of a young women’s field hockey team in the late 80s. And they are in Salem, Massachusetts, and they accidentally form a witch’s coven. And it’s so beautiful, and it’s kind of about really figuring out who you are at a young age, and it’s a very delightful kind of feminist read about this idea of young women finding their power, or becoming witches, which is not it, but oh, it’s so great.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

It sounds really interesting. And I know so many people who are refinding or finding their way to like learning more about witches and finding power in that as women, and I love that share. And then an organization that’s doing great work in the world.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Oh gosh, there are a few that I like. So if we are talking about food specifically, I would say that José Andrés is doing amazing work. I can’t remember the name of his organization. I want to say it’s World Kitchen, but I can’t remember quite now.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

World Central Kitchen?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

World Central Kitchen, yes. And then we’re big fans of Give Directly, which just gives money directly to individuals so that they can do whatever they need to do with it. So whether it’s start a business or fix their house or pay off a debt. And the return rate of basically then paying back, it’s microloans, and the return rate is something like, I can’t even remember, like 99.99%. So they return, you actually get your investment, so to speak, returned. So it’s an incredible organization and I actually think it’s changing the world in some pretty profound ways. So GiveDirectly is another one I’m a fan of. Bakers Against Racism is doing some cool things, so I highly recommend people look them up. Those are some of my favorites, both food and beyond.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Well, that’s awesome. And I will link to them in the show notes and make a donation to all of them to say thank you for your time. And I would love for readers to do the same thing. Check the show notes and get those links and go check them out. Send them some money and say thank you for Geraldine’s time. We’re going to do a little bonus content. If you want to get the bonus content, go to Feminist Founders Newsletter. That link is also in the bio. Thank you so much for your time, Geraldine. I really appreciate it.

 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Oh, thank you for having me. I hope I didn’t ramble too much.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You did great. Thank you so much.

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