Paola is the author of Grandmother Power and Women Who Light the Dark. She advocates for development using her creative talents.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am an author and photographer who has documented women’s lives in 55 countries, all working to create a better future for their families and communities.
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?
My story is unique. I was originally neither a professional writer nor photographer and I never studied either discipline.
I spent 35 years in business, mostly as a communications strategist or working to win clients for advertising agencies. That last year, I also taught summer executive institutes at Stanford University.
After that year, I was exhausted; I had earned a million United Airlines Frequent Flyer award miles (so I could go—and stay—virtually anywhere free); and I had earned two years worth of money in one year (I’d bought myself a year).
I decided to take a year off and do only what I loved most (photography and travel) and what I wanted to learn next (about women’s lives in the developing world).
That year, I created a photographic book. I had so much fun doing that book that I never went back to business. In 2012, my fifth book was published. So much for “a year off!”
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?
First: if you learn fast enough and work hard enough, you can do what other people believe is “impossible.” Focus, work like crazy, and disregard the nay-sayers.
Second: forget everything you hear about what you’re “supposed to do” at a specific age. I started my second career at age 55; I am now 75 and starting book number six. (I’m also convinced that “amazing” work can be done when you are supposedly too young to do it.)
Third: the book industry is changing faster than you can read this sentence. Stay current or you may discover that what you’re creating has no market.
Fourth: do your best to change the world. Future generations are relying on you.