Enhance your public readings with THE MOTH

When my friend, Sue, asked me to join her buddies Rudy and Amy at THE MOTH story slam, held at Laugh Boston comedy venue this week, I didn’t hesitate. As a writer who tells stories, both fictional and true on the printed page, I was curious to see how stories are told in a story slam. Moth events are held in major cities around the country. There’s also THE MOTH radio hour at a station near you.

Laugh Boston

Here’s how it works. THE MOTH provides a theme for the evening’s event. When I attended, the theme was “dedication.” People sign up after they arrive to tell their stories. Only 10 are chosen per event. They are given 5 minutes to tell their story. If they go beyond 6 minutes, they must leave the stage. One of the organizers goes table-to-table asking people to volunteer as judges.

After we got our seats and ordered drinks, and the storytelling began, it didn’t take long for me to recognize the difference between telling a story and giving a reading. Storytelling is done without notes or pages of text so that we audience members could better connect with the speaker. The storytellers were animated, gesturing with their hands and arms, physically acting out portions of their stories. They changed pitch as they spoke, paused to let the audience laugh, and got emotional as they talked. They truly connected with the audience.

Participating in a story slam may not make for better writers, but could make writers, better speakers. So many writers just aren’t that comfortable in front of a microphone.

I picked up a few other tips. Wes Hazard, a local standup comedian, was picked to tellWES HAZARD a story. His was about gastrointestinal problems that left him flat on his back in both a men’s and women’s bathroom in a comedy club venue. At the close of THE MOTH, there were clusters of people wanting to meet him and talk to him about his horrible experience. Wes was smart. He was armed with postcards with details of his upcoming comedy performances listed and his website. There’s no doubt that he used telling his story at THE MOTH to market his standup. Writers can use events like THE MOTH to increase their fan base and readership.

Sue, Amy, and I did our best to cheer on Rudy when he got on stage and told his story, which, in fact, captivated the audience. However, he didn’t get the top score from the judges. We couldn’t believe it. Some of THE MOTH staff told him as he left the stage that his story was the best. They didn’t agree with the judges. It reminds me of the responses I get from publications I send my stories to. I can get a bunch of rejections and then a publication will come along and the editor will say it’s just what she was looking for. It’s all so subjective.

 

Seville is a writer’s paradise

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On a recent trip to Spain, I included stays in Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, and a day trip to Tangier, Morocco. Of all of these places, the one that got me feeling the most inspired creatively was Seville. Spain’s fourth largest city buzzes with art festivals, breathtaking architecture, flamenco dancing, hand-stitched shawls and lovely ladies’ fans.

Even the air is inspirational, filled with the fragrance of orange trees, jacaranda, and myrtle. The author, James Michener, wrote that Seville doesn’t have ambience, it is, ambience. While taking aDSCN4268 cruise down the Guadalquivir River, I thought of the literature Seville has inspired, including the opera Carmen. Strolling around this city, it’s easy to imagine finding a corner table in a coffee shop, opening up the laptop and creating stories.

Will you join me on my writing blog tour?

I have been invited by writer Barbara Beckwith to participate in a writing process blog tour. I have enjoyed getting to know Barbara through her work with the National Writers Union. During the years that I was the president of the Women’s National Book Association Boston chapter, she and I conferred on joint activities. Barbara is an accomplished essayist. You can read more about her on her blog. This tour has included Leslie Brunetta, Ken Wachsberger, and Adina Schecter.

Lisa Braxton’s Writing Blog Tour

What am I working on?

I’m working on a novel. I’m completing final revisions and plan to begin sending the manuscript out to literary agents before the end of July. The manuscript is set in the 1970s in a struggling New England urban community. The two sets of main characters are from different sections of the same town and are profoundly affected by an urban redevelopment project taking place. The novel explores issues of race, class, culture, and social responsibility.

In addition, I had a story published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game and have written three additional stories that I’ve submitted to the editors of the Chicken Soup Series that I hope will be accepted. I have also written an article for Guideposts magazine that I hope will be accepted.

Why do I write?

I enjoy expressing myself creatively through the written word. I write short stories, magazine articles drawing from my journalism background, and essays. When readers tell me that my writing inspired them, gave them hope, made them cry, made them reflect on their own situations, then I feel that I’ve done my job well.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My professors at the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University told me that no two people can tell a story the same way. I hope that I bring something unique to the reading experience.

How does my writing process work?

I write with my feet up in the bed. I write on the couch. I write in the library, during my lunch break at work, at the crack of dawn at the kitchen table, while I’m under the hair dryer at the hair dresser, while on airplanes. Whenever I can fit in a few moments of writing, I write.

So now it’s your turn. What do you think of the writing blog tour? Care to join me? How about some fellow alums of the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program. Let me know.

What it means to have a writing space all your own

As Virginia Woolf wrote 85 years ago: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Virginia Woolf’s words hold up to this day. Over the weekend my husband fashioned a “writing nook” for me in our bedroom. He thinks much better in a spatial sense than I do and suggested that we put a desk that he had before we got married into the bedroom so that I’d have my own area to write. There was some shifting around of furniture, but we got it to work. The timing couldn’t be better. I’m giving my manuscript a final read-through and plan to start contacting agents in a few weeks, literary agents who handle fiction and are interested in first-time novelists. My writing nook makes me feel that all the toil on this manuscript all these years spent on it were for something of merit that people will want to read. I hope that proves to be true.

In her own words: The Literary Life Coach says there’s a book in everyone

Scratching HeadCoaches are enthusiastic men and women who help us achieve our goals. One of the most visible is the sports coach who works with a team, evaluating athletes’ performances and giving feedback. There is the dialogue coach who works with actors to help them sound convincing before an audience. A dating coach helps individuals pursue healthy relationships. I worked with performance coaches during my broadcasting career to improve my on-air delivery.

But what about writers? Do they have anyone to coach them? If so, who do they go to? What happens to the writer suffering writer’s block, or the writer who can’t get motivated enough to sit in the chair and write the thing, or the writer who’s got a great manuscript but doesn’t know how to market it? That’s where a literary life coach comes in. Lisa Allen Lambert first discovered the lure of writing while researching and writing travel news at Yankee magazine. Later, she wrote, designed, and self-published Eating Clean, a cookbook based on the healing and healthful benefits of unprocessed foods. Recently, an excerpt from her MFA memoir thesis, “Paradise Not Quite Found,” was a finalist in the anthology contest “Times Were A-Changing.”In this exclusive interview, Lisa Allen Lambert, the Literary Life Coach, talks about being a motivator.

Lisa Braxton: What has inspired you to become the Literary Life Coach?

Lisa Allen Lambert: Two things: One, I believe everyone has a book in them. And, two, it was a matter of making official what has long been an avocation: talking with people about their book projects, problem-solving concept and/or structural issues, encouraging writers and following up on their progress. I am a cross-pollinator of people and ideas and love to bring people together; if you meet with me, be sure to bring paper and pen for note taking. As the Literary Life Coach I work with non-fiction writers, primarily business owners, who use a book(s) about their area of expertise to broaden their visibility in the marketplace — to help them make noise in the world. A book keeps your message fresh, long after a meeting or workshop has ended.

L.B.: How does a literary life coach differ from a literary coach? From a writing coach? From a book packager?

L.A.L.: The easy answer first — I am not taking on another author’s book project myself, or collaborating with a publisher, as a book packager would. I function as a writing coach, in that I provide a step-by-step process for growing an idea into a book. Also, I am an accountability partner, a customizable cheerleader. Although I do not proofread, copyedit or edit, I work in tandem with others who do. The word ‘literary’ is my way of implying quality for the end product, the book. In the excitement of seeing their names in print, it is easy for first-time self-publishing authors to overlook the fundamentals such as grammar and spelling. It is my mission to ensure that my clients’ books have integrity, from the inside out.

L.B.: So many authors slog away in privacy and do it all themselves, why would someone need a literary life coach?

L.A.L.: Because writing can be a lonely process, because figuring out how to develop an idea into tens-of-thousands of organized words can be overwhelming.

L.B.: At what stage must a writer’s work be for you to work with him or her?

L.A.L.: Think of my services like a menu — it is possible to order just an appetizer, or an entree, or even dessert, or all three courses. Any stage is the right stage.

L.B.: Do you help with the mechanics of the manuscript? Keeping the writer motivated? Guidance in finding an agent? Marketing the book? Self-publishing?

L.A.L.: All of the above.

L.B.: Tell me of rewarding experiences you’ve had as the Literary Life Coach.

L.A.L.: I’m working with the author of a children’s biography of someone famous. The manuscript has been edited, finely groomed, given the thumbs-up by important people in high places, yet the author needed regularly scheduled check-in sessions to override self-doubt. With the manuscript already in good order, we’ve brainstormed publishing options and marketing strategies. In September I’ll be meeting with the author and her illustrator, an accomplished artist. It is thrilling to seeing this project come to fruition.

I recently had a call from someone who has written several books but described her current project as “writing hell.” She had three versions of the manuscript with input from her team of advisors, and was absolutely stuck on how to organize the chapters, how to edit how some elements that should be used for a different project. How lucky was I that she was vacationing at her lake house, and that we could meet there for a day-long session?! Together we worked out the best flow of information for her book, and, the true test, after sleeping on it, she was energized and focused and back on track.

As the Literary Life Coach Lisa can help you with your nonfiction book or blogging projects. She is the managing editor for Tall Poppy Writers (web site launching in Sept.), a new online consortium that connects smart readers with smart books, and is the assistant residency director for a low-residency MFA program in creative writing.