Category Archives: memoirs

A Pope, a Queen, a King, a Princess and Melinda Gates Meet at ICN2

Another one of my articles on Impakter magazine (published under my real name – I attended this Conference last week):ón.jpg

ICN2: Where a Pope, a Queen, a King, a Princess and Melinda Gates Come Together

Claude Forthomme

on 24 November, 2014 at 09:30

ICN2 is not a new disease, it’s the bizarre acronym for the Second International Conference on Nutrition, held in Rome,  19-21 November 2014, at FAO Headquarters.  Anyone familiar with the United Nations “alphabet soup” won’t be surprised. And in spite of this unpromising name, it drew over 2,200 participants, many from civil society, and delegations from over 170 countries, most of them headed by Ministers of Health – again, no surprise as the Conference was organized jointly by FAO and the World Health Organization.

It also drew the Pope, Queen Letizia of Spain, King Letsie III of Lesotho, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein from the United Arab Emirates and Melinda Gates.

                                                                             In the photo: Queen Letizia of Spain – ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Pope Francis made a memorable address (he spoke in Spanish) and was interrupted by applause several times. He told the Conference that access to food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be subject to market speculation. “We ask for dignity, not charity” he said, drawing applause. A little later, possibly deviating from his written text as he raised his eyes and spoke ex-tempore, he said, “God always forgives.” Then he paused, adding with a knowing smile, “Man forgives sometimes.” He paused again, looked around and finished, “but the Earth never forgives!”.  He made it very clear: the Earth will not forgive the abuse of its resources for profit. This was also a dramatic and entirely new way to draw attention to an increasing issue and potentially a devastating one – the impact of Climate Change on nutrition –  if we do nothing to “respect the Earth”.

No doubt about it, International Conferences on Nutrition seem to inspire Popes. At the first Conference, held in 1992, also in Rome and in FAO, another Pope made History: this was Pope John Paul II who used a phrase that became famous, the “paradox of plenty”, to decry a world of food abundance where the poor were denied access to food and died of hunger. And in that respect, as Pope Francis noted, little has changed. The poor are still denied access.


In the photo:  Address by His Holiness Pope Francis. Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), FAO Headquarters (Plenary Hall) ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

The Conference also inspired princess Haya Bint Al Hussein  to share her experience of visiting a hospital ward in Malawi and coming face to face with the drama of hunger. There, she witnessed the harrowing death of…

The rest on, click here.

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Filed under memoirs, United Nations

Why a Best Selling Author Turns to Crowdfunding

I interviewed indie author Marsha Roberts for Impakter to find out why she is turning to crowdfunding for her book, “Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer“, a highly acclaimed inspirational memoir that has sold very well so far, many thousands of copies. Here’s the article:

Marsha Roberts, a “Mutinous Baby Boomer”, Turns to Crowdfunding

on 17 November, 2014 at 07:00

Memoirs are all the rage lately, as one Norwegian writer famously proved by reporting minutely on his daily life including his breakfast (no need to refer to him by name here), and Marsha Roberts’ Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer recounting major events in her life, has turned out to be one of the most popular self-published books with the Boomer generation. And it’s also a big deal with other generations, including younger people, basically with  all those curious about life and its challenges. It has been acclaimed by customers on Amazon that showered it with 5-star reviews (38 to date, a strikingly high number), the prestigious Kirkus Review has praised it as “an optimistic look at the magic of life”, and the book was an instant success in the Goodreads group I created to discuss Boomer Lit. People have said “I’ve enjoyed this so much that I read it twice”, a rare occurrence.

I wondered why Marsha would use Indiegogo for an already published book, and a successful one at that, and she kindly agreed to answer my questions.

Your book is so popular, why did you go to Indiegogo, what obstacles are you facing and that you hope to remove with funding?

First off, Claude, thank you so much for having me here and for supporting my IndieGoGo campaign. I really appreciate it. As far as what obstacles I hope to remove with funding, in two words: marketing issues! You have researched and written extensively about the world of indie publishing and you know better than most the difficulties we face.

I certainly do, indie publishing is perhaps the toughest marketplace any entrepreneur could get into. How do you see it?

From my perspective, the biggest drawback to being an indie author is that we don’t have the professional publicity and marketing machine that major publishers use to push their main authors. You can only take your book so far without spending a significant amount of money, just like the publishers do. It’s the way business works.


To read the full article and find out more about why Marsha is doing this, go to Impakter, click here.

Marsha, thanks for taking the time to speak to me, and I urge everyone who’s read this to contribute. As little as $5 will go a long way! Click here to go to Marsha’s Indiegogo campaign and help a writer with an undisputed and remarkable talent so she can get her book known to a broader public. There are tons of people out there who need to read this book and don’t know that they need to!


Available here



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Filed under Baby Boomers, book marketing, memoirs, social media

Women Make the Difference Everywhere

Here’s another article just published on Impakter under my real name, Claude Forthomme – memories of the days when I worked at the United Nations, traveling to developing countries, to inspect and evaluate aid projects, trying to sort out problems:

Diary of a UN Official #3: When Women Make the Difference

on 27 October, 2014 at 10:31

Guinea-Bissau, October 1990, I don’t remember which day. But I remember how it was that morning when I woke up. Hot, very hot, the way it is in the tropics, damp and cloying, with a low sky of dark clouds, like a lid. I got out of my room, with just a bathrobe on, and ran to the nearest mango tree – the hotel I was staying at was very simple, just a handful of bungalows of two rooms each, set in a large, unkempt garden, no flowers, a lot of mud. But so many mangoes, greenish yellow, with a juicy, golden flesh, the perfect breakfast. I went into the bathroom to carve out my mango with a multi-bladed Swiss knife I always carried with me (back then you could taken them aboard planes). The sweet juice dripped all over the sink. I reflected how in Bissau, there are mango trees everywhere, heavy with fruit; all one has to do is look up and grab one, they’re free – a little like living in paradise.


But Guinea-Bissau back then (and even today) is no paradise. It is one of the poorest countries on earth, more than two thirds of the population lives below the poverty line on less than two dollars a day. If Guinea-Bissau threatens these days to become a narco-state, this is no surprise.  Guess what, even when I was there, most people, some 80 percent, earned whatever living they could scrape from agriculture, mostly rice (to feed their families) and cashew and ground nuts (for export).


I knew all about this, before coming, I had done my “due diligence” to prepare myself for my evaluation mission. Little did I know that in a few hours I would live through the most extraordinary and unforgettable experience in my life as FAO Evaluation Officer.  The project was ending, the question I had to answer was, should it continue, a standard question at the end of a project cycle. I had read about the country’s problems after it became independent from Portugal, how the Portuguese Colonial War had led to a  rapid exodus of the Portuguese civilian and military authorities, and like any war, had wrought considerable damage to the country’s economic and social infrastructure. With continuing political instability, the standard of living had collapsed and while Guinea Bissau had been a net exporter of rice in colonial times, now it was a net importer. And for years there had been no vegetables or fruit (except for mangoes) in the capital – a small town of some 150,000 people (more than double that number today). That had changed with the project I was meant to evaluate. A horticulture project, started a couple of years before, it was meant to provide the town with vegetables. It was a very small project, less than one hundred thousand dollars of expenses in two years. Peanuts. Compared to the big problems the country faced, what was the point of it? How could it help? Was another extension really needed? But I was beginning to revise my opinion.

For the rest, link to Impakter. Expect a very surprising end to that story!

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Filed under Literature, memoirs