My essay is featured on the new Chicken Soup for the Soul podcast and how writers can raise their profile by having a podcast

Chicken

The editors at Chicken Soup for the Soul have informed me that they have just started a series of inspirational podcasts to promote their books. Chicken Soup for the Soul’s publisher, Amy Newmark, will discuss a different Chicken Soup for the Soul book each day and highlight one story that appears in that book.

My essay, “Short Distance Romance,” which was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game has been chosen to play a role. My story is on the website now under “Wow Wednesday,” and will continue to be available on the Podbean app—which is available for free from the app store—once it airs. It was neat hearing Ms. Newmark talk about me and my story. The podcasts are six or seven minutes long and provide entertaining stories as well as great advice and easy-to-implement tips for improving your life.

For writers, podcasting is fast becoming another medium for storytelling and bringing attention to published works. It can drive traffic to your website. There is tremendous power in being in a listener’s ear as well as before their eyes with the written word. It is also a way to introduce your writing to people who aren’t avid readers. They can listen to you while they’re driving, exercising, doing housework. They can listen to you while they’re multitasking.

We’ve all heard that creating videos is important for writers to grow their online presence—book trailers and author interviews are examples. For writers who don’t feel comfortable on camera, podcasting can be the right avenue. I understand that podcasting equipment is affordable and simple to use. The newer line of USB microphones and software are inexpensive.

Podcasting does require content production and a commitment of time in order to be successful. For writers, it could be worth pursuing.

My reading at the ladies’ tea

LISA PHOTO READING

I spent Sunday afternoon with the ladies of the Greater Boston Section of NCNW. They held their annual membership tea at The Jonathan Belcher House in Randolph, Massachusetts, a lovely building on the National Register of Historic Places, which is GROUP SHOTavailable to the public for meetings, wedding receptions, birthday parties and other occasions. The ladies showcased my good friend Bithyah Israel, the founder of City Strings United, an organization that enriches the lives of young people through cello lessons. She sang a solo, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” They also had me read my story, “Short Distance Romance” from Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. Greater Boston Section of NCNW is a voluntary nonprofit membership organization helping to improve the quality of life for women, their families and communities. One of the board members paid me a beautiful compliment after my reading. She said the reading was special because it was the first time she’d been read to since she was a child.

Support local bookstores before it’s too late!

I was looking forward to reading my monthly e-newsletter from Bestsellers Café, Bestsellers Cafethe bookstore/coffee shop in Medford, Massachusetts. I always like to see what books they recommend and the listing of upcoming author and live music events. However, I was saddened to see that the latest email was a good-bye letter. Bestsellers Café will be closing down at the end of January because of “unfavorable terms of a lease agreement.” I am so sorry to hear this. Bestsellers Café showcases the work of rising authors and has a section devoted to books published by local authors and independent presses. A couple of months ago they invited me in to speak about the essay I got published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology. The manager gave me a lovely introduction before I gave my talk. Only a handful of copies of the book were sold, but I was invited to come back the next time I have something published.

Writers who are trying to get established depend on this country’s privately owned and independent bookstores like Bestsellers Café for support. You’d have to be a highly successful commercial author before Barnes and Noble would consider hosting an event for you. There’s nothing to be done about the closing of Bestsellers Café, but let it be a reminder to all of us of the importance of supporting locally owned bookstores. Because if we don’t, they will cease to exist.

Announcing the winner of the literary trivia quiz!

A few weeks ago I posted a literary trivia quiz about famous writers. The prize was an autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. The contestant with the most questions answered correctly is Reshma Kodandaram. Reshma is a university student majoring in journalism and business. She hopes one day to become a foreign correspondent for a major news organization. Being able to answer all of the questions correctly in this trivia quiz will give her a great start!

Here are the trivia questions with the correct answers.

  1. Which 19thcentury writer continuously got his wife pregnant and then got mad at her when she was too tired to travel with him overseas on his lecture tour? (Charles Dickens)
  2. Which writer, who in later years became famous during the Harlem Renaissance, strung along a high school romantic interest through letters for years with no intent of having a relationship with her? (Langston Hughes)
  3. Which married 20th Century writer invited other women into his bed while his wife was in it, knowing that the wife would lie there in humiliation and pretend to be asleep? (Ernest Hemingway)
  4. Which contemporary author spent much of his youth getting into bar brawls and street fights, partially because of his anger at his father, also an author? (Andre Dubus)
  5. Which contemporary author spent much of his youth being raised by the regulars who frequented his neighborhood’s bar? (J.R. Moehringer)
  6. During the 1800s this author helped a financially struggling African-American law student pay his tuition at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. The law student in later years mentored Thurgood Marshall, who later because U.S. Supreme Court Justice.(Mark Twain)
  7. This writer was tossed into jail repeatedly for what was called “The love that dare not speak its name” (Oscar Wilde)
  8. This writer was a college dropout who moved in with reclusive writer J.D. Salinger. The relationship ended when he announced to her that he didn’t want anymore children. (Joyce Maynard)
  9. This prolific writer’s relationship with prison inmates inspired the two novels that launched her career. (Danielle Steel)
  10. Oprah sought advice from this author and poet. (Maya Angelou)

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.

Win an autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game!

InkwellBe the first person to correctly answer the following trivia questions about famous writers and I will send you an autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. Keep in mind that these are not your standard boilerplate publicist-vetted factoids about these writers. I dug a little deeper for this trivia quiz to expose the salacious, offensive, petty, and admirable side of those you’ve come to love and hate through their crafting of the written word.

Don’t be put off by these 10 questions! Researching the answers will be fun. Unlike scratch off tickets, the odds of you winning are very VERY good. That’s because very few people actually read my blog. So good luck. I look forward to hearing from you.

  1. Which 19th century writer continuously got his wife pregnant and then got mad at her when she was too tired to travel with him overseas on his lecture tour?
  2. Which writer, who in later years became famous during the Harlem Renaissance, strung along a high school romantic interest through letters for years with no intent of having a relationship with her?
  3. Which married 20th Century writer invited other women into his bed while his wife was in it, knowing that the wife would lie there in humiliation and pretend to be asleep?
  4. Which contemporary author spent much of his youth getting into bar brawls and street fights, partially because of his anger at his father, also an author?
  5. Which contemporary author spent much of his youth being raised by the regulars who frequented his neighborhood’s bar?
  6. During the 1800s this author helped a financially struggling African-American law student pay his tuition at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. The law student in later years mentored Thurgood Marshall, who later because U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
  7. This writer was tossed into jail repeatedly for what was called “The love that dare not speak its name”
  8. This writer was a college dropout who moved in with reclusive writer J.D. Salinger. The relationship ended when he announced to her that he didn’t want anymore children.
  9. This prolific writer’s relationship with prison inmates inspired the two novels that launched her career.
  10. Oprah seeks advice from this author and poet.

My book signing in Boston is only days away

Chick ChickNext Saturday, May 3rd, I’ll be signing books from 1 to 3 p.m. at Frugal Bookstore, in the Roxbury section of Boston at 306 Martin Luther King Boulevard. The bookstore is located in The Mall of Roxbury. I spoke to co-owner Clarrissa a couple of days ago to confirm all of the arrangements. I’ll be at a tabe in front of the Chicken Soup Coverbookstore with my pen ready to sign copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. She said the mall tends to be heavily trafficked in the early afternoon hours, so I should expect to sign quite a few books. As it turns out, another author will be signing in front of the store at the same time. I understand she’s flying in from Maryland, so between the two of us we should be able to draw a lot of customers. If you’re in the Boston area, I look forward to seeing you there!

Hosting a book signing at a store with a mission

Frugal Bookstore LogoThe mission of Frugal Bookstore in the Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts, is “Changing Minds One Book at a Time.” I like that objective. Books have opened my mind to so many ideas and possibilities over the years. That’s why I was pleased when the owners agreed to schedule a book signing for me on Saturday, May 3, 2014. I’ll be signing copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.

Owners Clarrissa and Leonard are dedicated to not only building a business, but building a community. Frugal Bookstore offers Boston’s largest selection of books by African American authors, along with African art, children’s books, greeting cards, and gifts. The bookstore is located in a shopping mall. Clarrissa and Leonard plan to set up a table for me in front of the bookstore so that not only people in the bookstore but mall shoppers will know that I’m there.

Why Being a Member of a Book Club is so Important to a Writer

Book ClubAny writer will tell you that crafting a novel, short story, or other creative work can leave a person filled with angst and feeling isolated. We stare at the computer screen or the blank notebook page and eventually put our emotions on the line, not knowing whether what we’re producing is of publishable quality or a waste of time. Writers are competitive. Many wall themselves off. Few whose names appear on the spines of books you’ll see on the shelves at Barnes and Noble will help a writer trying to get established. I could tell you some stories, but I won’t.
That’s why being a member of a book club is critical. The majority of the women in my book club are not writers. They are book lovers. We meet at each other’s homes once a month for potluck, a glass of wine or two (or three) and a spirited conversation about that month’s book selection.
They have lifted my spirits when I’ve become discouraged about my writing and heave unwittingly helped me with my craft through the remarks they make about the month’s book selection. They have read my entire novel in progress, The Talking Drum, and were brutally honest in their critique. Months into my latest revision, I am still reviewing their suggestions and weaving them into the manuscript.
They also rallied around me when my story came out in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game a few months ago. This is the kind of support a writer needs, especially one such as myself, who’s trying to get a foothold in the industry.

What I Learned from My First Book Signing

BWC KEEPER

I’ve been a member of Boston Women Communicators for several years. The organization supports women in communications and helps them advance in their careers. Jane Breschard Wilson, the founder, agreed to let me conduct a book signing at a recent monthly meeting held at the College Club of Boston. On the table set aside for me I arranged copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, in which I have an essay, a copy of an article about me that was published recently in the Weymouth News that I had laminated and mounted with a small easel at Fedex Office, pens that I pre-tested to make sure they worked properly and copies of my business card with my blog address. BWC3

I only sold two copies of the book but I had a delightful time chatting with the members and getting good practice for future events. I got a good sense of what people like to talk about when they come to an author book signing. A number of people took business cards which I know led to more traffic on my blog based on my stats in the days following the meeting. I came up with a stock phrase to use when I signed the books so I could write and chat at the same time. So while not getting my essay into the hands of many readers, it was worth the time and effort.

Why it’s so hard to get attention from Boston

Now that one of my stories, “Short Distance Romance,” has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, I have become part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Inner Circle. I’m not making this up. The Inner Circle is a real thing. Much of it is top-secret, hush-hush, involving special communique’s, etcetera, but what I can reveal is that as part of the Inner Circle other writers who have contributed their work to Chicken Soup have tracked me down to congratulate me and coach me on how to get publicity for being published, critical to building an audience for the novel I’m writing.

One of those contributors is Melissa Halsey Caudill, of North Carolina. The title of her story in the volume is “Uncomfortable.” I’m not lying when I tell you that I had to pull out the Kleenex by the time I got to her last paragraph. Melissa has deservedly enjoyed a media bonanza in her corner of North Carolina. She’s been written about by two newspapers, made an appearance at two libraries, given a talk at a brew house, and has a book signing scheduled on Valentine’s Day at a dinner theater event hosted by the local arts council.

I have followed Melissa’s “playbook” for getting publicity, but so far in Boston–the big city just 20 minutes north of where I live–I’ve heard nothing but the sound of crickets. I don’t blame Boston. Ignored PlantThe City of Champions has been very good to me. I became president of the Women’s National Book Association Boston Chapter, met my literary heroes at author talks sponsored by the Boston Book Festival, and have attended a host of events at the Boston Public Library and local bookstores, featuring well-known and bestselling authors.

And that’s the problem. I live in an area that provides so many literary events and is home to so many writers, that getting published in Chicken Soup for the Soul garners, at the most, a mild yawn.

But the weekly newspaper that is published in my town, the Weymouth News, did a lovely feature article on me this week and gave my sister, Sylvia Braxton Lee, a photo credit for taking my picture to go along with the story.

Getting publicity in Boston is difficult, nearly impossible. It’s a competitive market. But I’ll keep writing and maybe one day Boston will notice me.

Here’s a tip for promoting your writing

Chicken Soup Door PrizeGypsy Kitchen is a gourmet wine and cheese shop near where I work. I like to stop by for the Friday evening wine tastings and chat with the owner, Lisa. The other day she told me about the special events the wine shop hosts–bridal showers, singles events, girls’ nights out–and I got an idea: why not offer a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, in which my story, “Short Distance Romance” appears, as a door prize. Lisa said she’d be happy to do it and that she would mention me along with the door prize in an upcoming issue of her newsletter.

I’m also giving a copy of the book away as a door prize for the next meeting of a women’s club I belong to in Boston. I’ve autographed the books, tucked my business card with my blog address on the page where my essay appears, and placed the books in decorative wrapping.

Door prizes are a great vehicle for promoting your writing and getting your name before the public. What do you think? If you have a great idea we writers can use to raise our profiles, I’d love to share it.