Longtime AAFSW Art & BookFair volunteer Carol Stricker used much of her downtime during the pandemic to write. In Bombs, Bullets and the Tank at the Office, Protecting America on Diplomacy’s Front Lines, she shares stories from her 25-year diplomatic career serving in countries across the globe. With a dash of humor, a dose of history, and important lessons for today, she talks about how crucial diplomacy is in nurturing, maintaining, and defending democracy. She also touches upon living the diplomat life, which is anything but parties and “cookie pushing.” Carol ends her book with a call to all Americans to help support and defend diplomacy, and to honor those who died in service to our country.
What inspired you to write the book?
I’ve served overseas in some very tough countries, and saw how people worked so hard and suffered to bring democracy to their countries. I was an election observer in Ghana alongside a Ghanaian journalist who had been beaten and jailed for advocating for democracy. I was also in Ukraine in 1994, and I was moved to see the Ukrainians throw out their old communist-legacy regime through peaceful elections.
Yet in the United States lately, I’ve seen honorable public servants being bullied and attacked, and our institutions disparaged: I felt that I had to speak out. Many of you readers will have your own stories, and I thought that I could serve as a spokesperson for all of us who have served in challenging and even dangerous places while trying to make the world a better and safer place.
What is the most memorable moment from your book?
Presidential visits and Timbuktu were amazing, but I think the most memorable moment would have to be at Embassy Kyiv. Little did I know when I arrived that I would be working on a site still under construction, and I remember needing to go to the restroom from my trailer/office that first day. Fortunately, a very alert, cleared American guard saw my dilemma — heels vs. a sea of mud, and he swept me into his arms and off to the porta-potties. After that I always brought my trusty hiking boots to the office. Two years later, I was proud of my part in helping build Embassy Kyiv, and in helping rid Ukraine of thousands of nuclear weapons.
What was it like writing a book for the first time?
Well, it was scary, but I had wonderful friends who supported me through this long year. Still, I would strongly recommend that if you feel passionate about something — write the book, tell your story, and share it with a larger audience. Some guidance says organize your thoughts, have a structure in place… and then write. Personally, I’ve been writing down (on scraps of paper, in e-files and in journals) interesting things for years. And when I finally went to pull it all together, I followed the guidance of a friend who said, “just get it all down, Carol, and worry about structure later.” Do whatever works for you, but — do write!
One last thing, writing a book will always take longer than you think, but don’t give up. I was so proud when I first “finished my book!” . . . and then had to rewrite and retweak it perhaps a dozen times. But, every bit of input from my editors helped me make it better. And then I had to learn “publishing 101” which was a full-time job in itself, as I chose to self-publish. Layouts and font-size and photo plates, through to indexing and book covers, oh my!
I’m now marketing my book to both the foreign affairs community and the general public. I hope it will help Americans better understand diplomacy and its importance in the world. I end my book with a call to action to all Americans to take steps within their own communities to support diplomacy, democracy, and the public servants who have dedicated their lives to a better world.
Carol’s book Bombs. Bullets and the Tank at the Office, Protecting America on Diplomacy’s Front Lines, is available on Amazon, and Carol is available for virtual author talks. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.