Lisa Dickey, Author of "Bears in the Streets," Talks Feminism, Writing, and More

Author Lisa Dickey's newest book, "Bears in the Streets," takes readers on a journey across Russia during three different time periods: 1995, 2005, and 2015. During her travels, she interviews the same people — creating relationships and discussing how the country and their lives have changed over the last twenty years.

MAKER Madeleine Albright calls it "brilliant, real, and readable." MAKERS recently caught up with Dickey to learn more about her writing career and newest book. Read our exclusive Q&A with her below, and learn more about her on her website here.

Q: Here at MAKERS, we're always looking to share industry advice with our audience. What's the best advice you could give to other aspiring female writers?
A: When an agent or editor or publisher turns you down, don’t take that as the final word. It doesn’t necessarily mean your writing isn’t good or that your idea isn't worthy of publishing; it simply means that particular person won't be involved. Persist! Fight for your idea. The road to getting published is often paved with rejection slips — even for authors who go on to produce best sellers. Just ask J.K. Rowling.

Q: Can you expand on your experiences as a female writer? How do you overcome hardship as a female in the male-dominated literary world?
A: I don't think of the literary world — at least, the publishing side — as male-dominated. Of the 18 books I've written or helped write, more than half had women editors. In the nonfiction sphere, it’s really the quality of the idea and the writing that matters.


Lisa Dickey with Gary Matoso in Moscow, 1995

Q: Describe your proudest moment and/or accomplishment as a writer.
A: My proudest moment was finally publishing the first book that was just mine, as opposed to a collaboration: "Bears in the Streets." It took me nearly 20 years, in large part because I didn't follow my own advice in question 1 above, but I finally got there!

Q: During your travels and time in Russia, how did being a woman influence your perspective?
A: That's kind of tough to answer, as I’ve never had any other perspective than as a woman. But I can say that one thing I tried to do on these trips was to listen more than I talked. I was much less interested in arguing with people than I was in hearing what they had to say.

Q: We often ask this question to our MAKERS: How do you define feminism?
A: Feminism is the belief and practice that women and men are equals. Radical, huh?


Lisa Dickey with photographer David Hillegas in St. Petersburg, 2005

Q: MAKERS set an ongoing #BEBOLD agenda at The 2017 MAKERS Conference in February to continue the conversation about women's leadership. How do you define what it means to #BEBOLD? And how are you actively doing so?
A: Being bold is believing in yourself. Being bold is being unafraid of criticism. Being bold is being willing to take risks. I am boldly working on being better at all those things.

Q: You're friends with MAKER Kara Swisher. What's your friendship like and what's it like working together?
A: I’ve known Kara since roughly the Pleistocene Era. We met in 1993, when she was a young Washington Post reporter and I was an administrative assistant with dreams of becoming a writer. A little-known fact is that I’m the person who, in 1994, persuaded her to try out this new technology called "e-mail." At my suggestion, she signed up for an AOL account… and the rest is history.

Now, of course, Kara is the most feared and admired woman in Silicon Valley, but I still see her as my old pal that I used to go rollerblading and argue with about girls. She’s like a Tootsie Pop, with that crunchy, hard exterior but the sweet Tootsie Roll inside. Admittedly, it's pretty deep down in there — but it's there!

Q:  Please let us know if there's anything else you feel our MAKERS audience would love to learn about you or your work.
A: You can check out my book trailer, which explains the three Russia trips and includes tons of photos, here: 

NEXT: Read the Exclusive Q&A With the Women Behind the National Women's History Museum »

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Photo Credit: Lisa Dickey

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