Ashburn Farms is a quite planned neighborhood. The type of town you are likely to hide in after a heartbreak or earth shattering failure or both. Small, private and not at all commercial; hospitable but not invasive; alive in a suburban sense, but not quite there if you are looking to feed off the high energy clusters found around Times Square and Broadway.
Ashburn was a town where you went to recover, to forget, to start over again. It was place to park yourself when you didn’t want to be in New York or LA, where you didn’t want to be found by anyone except by yourself. And yet close enough to Dulles airport for you to make a quick getaway if you didn’t like what you found.
We moved into our two bedroom apartment in Ashburn Farms on 13th September 2001. Twelve hundred and eighty square feet of bedroom sized bathrooms, an open gallery, a gourmet kitchen and much needed escape. One eight of my spanking brand new salary and a 40% discount from our much maligned Southern California abode.
It took about a year to sort out my life. To check off the eighteen and a half items I had put on hold before graduating from Columbia and after starting Avicenna. We paid down a part of our credit card debt, bought a car, first drove down to Middleburg and then drove up to Maine. And yet after Fawzia and Amin would go off to sleep every night, I would stay up and wonder what I should do with these empty four hours before sleep claimed me for the night.
That is how the Blue Screen came to me. In the emptiness. I had already taken a look back when we did the accounting and the tax losses. The email and invoices trails was bloody and broken. But a year down the road with some money in the bank and a respectable paycheck to my name it really wasn’t that difficult to finally look back. I thought I would write a few pages, slay a few demons, and lay at rest the ghost of the life that could have been.
What started as a harmless attempt to do something useful with my life before I dropped off to sleep in a small town off Seven, turned into a 5 year long project. The project turned into a book. Before the book, there was a questionnaire that I used to send off to random strangers just to see if I would be laughed off my pedestal or welcomed with some understanding. The questionnaire required a presentation that I started making at local business schools. A crazy class coordinator who knew me from a previous life invited me to teach a fulltime course at SZABIST, which is where I found Adnan and Adnan found lootmaar.
SZABIST and Bootstrapping New Ventures (BSNV) is the course where the outline of the book finally came together. All the crazy ideas that I wanted to try out found a welcome audience in the thirty or so twenty somethings in my class. Two years later after BSNV we had a 200 page manuscript. Given the secrets I was privy to as Adnan’s mentor, I was able to arm twist him in working as an Editor, for free. Uzma took care of the typesetting, Mohtashim did the illustrations and the very first cover that every one hated but I loved. A long search on E-lance turned up Kris Sherer, a marvelous editor for hire who convinced me to drop a number of hare-brained schemes that only an author in love with his words could come up with. What Adnan and I missed, Kris covered and fixed.
In June 2007 the book was out as an ebook on Amazon, Powells and Lightening source.
I still remember the first few reviews. Amir said he dropped off to sleep after the first five pages. It depressed me enough to let go of the project for about a year. Then somehow someone read a copy floating around in his email box and sent in an encouraging note. Three entrepreneurial friends asked to preview it finished it the same night they started it. Jehan loved it and signed on as the honorary agent.