Monday Notes: Cover Letter/Life as a Black Woman

If you ever plan to submit your work for publication or a contest, then you should also plan to submit a cover letter. My journalists friends initially suggested a cover letter only include two quick sentences with the title of the work, word count, and brief summary. I’ve found a letter like that was fine, until I began submitting for longer projects, like book chapters. Sometimes, those editors and publishers want in-depth descriptions, and they usually provide guidelines if that’s the case.

That’s what happened when I recently submitted to win a grant for Black women writers. Although I didn’t win, I was one of the Top 10 Finalists. Consequently, two of my manuscripts will be published with their journal as soon as this Friday.

I’ll share that publication once it’s published. In the meantime, here’s the cover letter I wrote.

img_3807The question was something like, What are the challenges of being a Black woman in America? After mulling over a few notes, here’s what I came up with:

Life as a Black Woman

I learned the importance of my blackness when I moved from Detroit, Michigan to Jacksonville, Florida. It seemed the Duval County school board hadn’t fully integrated. Consequently, the job fair I’d attended in 1997 held a surprise. On one table, there sat a white paper with the words: Vacancy Black English Teacher. After an awkward conversation about my recent graduation from a teacher education program, the white, male principal offered me a position.

That was the first time my blackness preceded my qualifications.

I learned the intricate nature of being a woman during my six-year, doctoral program. Single, childless professors rarely took me seriously once they found out I was married with two young daughters. Similar to microagressions based on race, I could never put my finger on one discreet moment. It was more intuitive. More subtle. But somehow proving I could mother, wife, teach, and learn seemed to become an integral part of attaining the prestigious degree.

That was the first time my intellect was challenged based on the social construction of gender.

I learned what it meant to be a Black woman in academia when I applied for a permanent, tenure-track position at a research university. I submitted my application two separate times. I didn’t receive an interview. The third application was for a one-year, clinical position, teaching only. The institution hired me with a simple Skype conversation.

My new colleague was the person they’d hired in the English Education position I’d sought. He was a white man. His terminal degree was not in English Education; mine is. At the time of hire, he had one scholarly publication; I had three. He had five years of K-12 experience; I had ten. He had no years in higher education; I had two.

That was the first time race and gender intersected to create a sense of dual oppression.

To say that being a Black woman is a double-edged sword is cliché. But it must be said. It’s getting a job because I’m Black and not getting a job because I’m not white and male. It’s reading and teaching about white privilege and male privilege, nodding in agreement with textbook theories, but then having both thrown in your face by the very institutions that preach those concepts.

It’s ironic, really.

I’ve learned what it means to be a Black woman by attempting to participate in one of America’s most hopeful institutions. By attaining the highest degree possible and asking for a seat at the education table, I’ve learned that racism and sexism still exist, both as independent forms of discrimination and as collaborative acts of subjugation.

However, I have chosen to be a Black woman who uses her voice as an act of change. Neither my pen, nor my opinion can be taken from me, no matter my race or gender.

Have you ever had to contemplate your race or gender and their impact on your place in society? What’s your experience writing a cover letter? 

 

Monday Notes: Writing Endeavors®

Recently, I began an editing service business called Writing Endeavors®. While I’m happy for you to procure my services, what follows isn’t necessarily about the business. It’s more about the process of actualizing dreams.

bradburyPeople ask me all the time how I do fill_in_the_blank. The answer is simple. I just do it. Take this business for example. Over the years, friends have asked me to edit work for them. There have been times when I decline and pass the work on to someone else. Sometimes I’ve edited for free. Other times, I’ve worked more like an independent contractor; we create an agreement and the person pays me.

As recently as February, I edited a first-time book for a friend’s son. Shortly after, a thought occurred. The urge to begin my own editing service business flashed in my mind. I needed to stop passing work to colleagues and friends and do it myself…for a fee.

The next step was to tell Dwight. Announcing my plans to him somehow solidifies things. He’s been with me long enough to know that once I say it, then it’s as good as done.

What happens next is what I’ve learned to be the difference between myself and other people. I typically research how to do things while I’m doing it. For example, I didn’t know if I should create a business first, or trademark a name first? Well, after working with Legal Zoom, I found out that you create the business first. So, I did that. The business was created March 21st.

Afterwards, I trademarked the business’s name. During that process, I learned the difference between the little TM symbol and the R in a circle sign. The first is something you can use, whether you registered the name or not. The latter means registered trademark and allows the owner to sue if someone else tries to use it.

More questions cropped up, as is common with on-the-job training.

Should I create a whole new website just for this business, separate from selling books and blogging? Should I pay for this website, or be comfortable with using an extension, like .wix? How about registering the business with the county? The state? The government? What’s required? When am I supposed to pay taxes on this business? I found all of that out…as…I…went…along.

img_3635In fact, I just started editing a client’s dissertation, while still in process of learning more business-related info.

I don’t want to paint an idyllic image. I’m not dancing through poppy fields while establishing a business. Functioning this way can sometimes be a tad stressful, like when the state notified me that I’d missed a deadline for reporting income, even though there was no income. But here’s the reality. I know that dreams might not materialize, unless I just begin. I know it’s important to just get going and trust that the rest will work itself out. I know this because it always does.

So, I have one question. What are you waiting for?

Monday Notes: 5 Ways to Become a Writer

img_3443Sometimes I jot down a note and it’s very negative. When that happens, I re-focus and make it a positive post, like this one.

***

I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:

Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.

Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?

Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.

You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,

Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”

I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.

You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.

I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.

4 Things I Learned while Self-Publishing

TUWcover2#1 Outsource your cover design; however, be mindful about how much you pay. The same person who designed the Kwoted cover also created The Unhappy Wife cover. This time around, she charged $265. This is not what I expected for a simple eBook jpeg. But instead of complaining, I paid her for it and then learned about a site called Fiverr. On Fiverr, you can find anyone to do anything digital for you. By the time I was ready for a cover for the paperback, I simply signed up, listed an ad with these words: I need a 6×9 paperback cover for Lulu specifications, and then narrowed my choices down from international graphic designers. Someone I didn’t know produced the paperback cover in less than 48 hours for $15.00!!!

img_1603#2 Outsource your editor. I started to ask an English major friend to proof and edit The Unhappy Wife, but everything I’d read stated that this should be completed by a paid professional. I used a book called 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing in order to find an editor. The book lists several different editors by state. I vetted a few Florida ones through email in order to determine cost and efficiency. Each one offered a free/sample editing of the first 500-1000 words. Once I emailed the story, I compared editing style, personality and expertise. For example, the editor who charged $700 had a lot of industry knowledge and mentioned book characteristics that I wasn’t familiar with. Another editor who charged significantly less didn’t notice things like number formatting. I decided to go with someone in the middle, Erin Foster Books. She had a great personality, didn’t charge an arm and a leg, and offered two passes (read and edited twice).

#3 Outsource the formatting because it has to be precise. You probably can figure out the formatting yourself, but by the time I’d written a book, revised a book, and edited a book, the last thing I wanted to do was format a book. eBook formatting is so very finicky. It has to do with styles, style changes, making the book reflowable, etc. (big yawn). Paperback versions have to be formatted totally different than eBooks because whatever you send to your distributor is what will be printed, exactly as is. Take it from me; just have someone else do it. In my case, I asked Erin. She was wonderful and both books were published with no issues.

#4 Choose your publisher/distributor wisely. I chose Amazon because it’s the largest retailer of eBooks and authors earn 70% profit, which is the highest in the industry. But because I’m also not a fan of having all of my eggs in one monopoly basket, I chose Lulu.com to publish/distribute the paperback. Again, Lulu is known for paying the largest profit (as long as you sell from their site). This site also offers mass distribution to places like Barnes & Noble. Finally, Lulu prints books that look and feel like traditional books. I’m sure you know what I mean.

If you’re planning to self-publish a book, then I hope this information helps you in some way. If you’ve already self-published a book, then what else would you add? You know I’m all about helping one another!

Drumroll Please…✍🏾️📖🏆

img_2274Remember that contest I told you all about? Well, I won! Initially, I was nervous sitting there listening to all the rules and stipulations about rubrics. When Chris Coward, the president of the Florida Writers Association read my name, I couldn’t believe I’d actually won first place for creative nonfiction.

“The Transition” is the story of how I shifted from bitterness to compassion for my father, while he shifted from life to death due to his cancer diagnosis.

I want to share it here, but cannot because I’ve submitted it for The Binge-Watching Cure, a paid book publication.

Instead of posting it, I want to tell you something I find odd.

In 1983, my mother had a kidney transplant. Consequently, at ten years old, I wrote a book called On the Farm. It was the story of a little boy whose dad had died. The boy had to learn how to take care of the farm and his family. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Patterson submitted it for a citywide competition, sponsored by Gwendolyn Brooks. Remember, I grew up in Chicago so this was a huge deal. My grandmother and I dressed up in church attire and attended. My mother was still in Madison, Wisconsin recovering from her transplant. I didn’t win. But 33 years later, I find it quite strange that I won a competition for a story I wrote about losing my own father.

Today, everything is still surreal. However, if I can say anything to all of you who read my words, it is this: Carpe Diem! That was the 2016 Florida Writers Association’s theme. Seize the Day! Do what you want! Live life and experience it however you see fit. And have faith that everything is working out for your highest good.

3 Reasons the Blogging Community is better than Social Media

Royalty Free Image.
Royalty Free Image

I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now. And one thing has become pretty obvious. The blogging community is not only different than social media, but it is also better.

Here’s why:

Bloggers are readers. Most writers are. I’m willing to bet almost anything that no matter how many WordPress bloggers you have, they read what you write. It’s because they find reading enjoyable. It’s also because they want people to read what they’ve written as well. Social media doesn’t always yield readers. There have been times when I’ve commented on a person’s post, only to realize s/he hadn’t fully read the link themselves.

Bloggers reciprocate activity. If you read, like and comment on their words, then they’ll probably read, like and comment on something that you’ve written too. There’s a shared experience that invites empathy. Writers know the painstaking task of finding just the right phrase to convey just the right message. It can take hours! Consequently, if you took the time to write it, then a blogger will take the time to read it. Seemingly, the quick culture of social media, coupled with an imbalance of newsfeed updates from all several hundred of your social media friends and followers makes it difficult to reciprocate reading/liking activity.

Bloggers post thoughtful comments. Similar to number two, your blogger-followers have probably written, deleted and re-written their comments to express like, love and support for your posts. Sure, some only use the “like” button, but more than not, your blogger-followers have sought thoughtful words to communicate their feelings about your content. Social media friends and followers do not always seem to honor the “thoughtful” part of commenting. Whether it’s the use of text/IM language or the more recent and popular posting of memes as communication, social media comments just don’t seem to be as considerate or attentive.

What did I miss? Do you enjoy social media better than the blogosphere?

6 Book Marketing Insights from Priscilla Goudreau-Santos

After I self-published Kwoted, it didn’t take me long to realize how much I’d underestimated the importance of marketing. As a result, I’ve spent a year researching different aspects of book marketing that might be helpful whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional route. The following advice is based on an interview with publicist, Priscilla Goudreau-Santos. She has worked in communications for many years and has an extensive, well-rounded background in public relations, journalism, and marketing within diverse industries.

KEG:   What are the benefits of hiring a book-marketing publicist?

PGS:   One of the advantages of working with a publicist is that he or she can offer you needed exposure to media. Your publicist has the expertise to develop a list of media and bookstores that are best for you—saving time and energy. Publicists will also make the media calls for you. Although it’s necessary to make an investment in publicity, in the long run it’s much less expensive than traditional advertising and more credible. It also saves you time so you can focus on writing.

KEG:   What are the top three things you believe a good publicist provides to his or her client?

PGS:   When you interview potential publicists, ask them if they will regularly update you on their progress and provide you with information such as media lists, a schedule of media outreach, follow-up results, and any other outreach they may do for you. An experienced book publicist can be a valuable, effective partner who will offer education and direction, and can increase your book’s visibility in a very crowded, noisy field.

KEG:   What are some mistakes that you see self-published authors making when marketing themselves and/or their books?

PGS:   Oftentimes, authors don’t start with a plan. The first step is to determine your goals and expectations. Your book publicist is a resource and guide through all the myriad media outlets, but you are critical to your book’s success. Is your goal to sell a certain number of books? Or, is it to gain recognition of a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? The next step for authors is to start their marketing campaign well in advance of publication. I suggest that they learn as much as they can about publicity and marketing well in advance of their book’s publication date. A good resource is their publisher’s publicist or marketing manager. Once an author has determined her goals and expectations, and thoughtfully plotted a three- or six-month strategy, he or she can decide whether working with a publicist makes sense.

KEG:   Now that social media is a part of everyone’s lives, what do you see as the most important step in a social media campaign?

PGS:   Consistency. Use the channels that are most familiar to you and your fans. And, those that fit your demographic e.g. women ages 25-55. For example, if Facebook is a good tool in reaching your fans – one that you use frequently — this is a good place to start. If there are others that work well with your book topic such as Pinterest, use those in lieu of these or in addition to your preferred social media.

KEG:   How much should someone expect to pay for a publicist?

PGS:   The answer to that varies by which publicist and program you choose. I believe an effective campaign will vary from about $1,500 to $10,000 and might reach $15,000 depending on the scope of your marketing program and the results you hope to achieve.

KEG:   Is there anything else you’d like to add?

PGS:   As an author, remember that you’re in it for the long haul. Develop a campaign that reflects your values, is comfortable for you to implement, and that is sustainable over time. If you create a website or blog, make sure that you post to it regularly and that you include information that’s interesting to your readers apart from your book. Do this with your social media as well. The goal for all your online and traditional media is communication, and developing a following is all about being interesting. Thoughtful, funny and informational posts will go a long way in building loyalty.

prsicilla

Priscilla Goudreau-Santos specializes in book and author publicity. She owns Charlotte-based PR firm Priscilla Goudreau Public Relations & Marketing, http://www.priscillagoudreaupr.com, and is a partner in the author online platform, AllAbouttheAuthors.com. She serves authors and clients within diverse industries throughout the southeast including real estate and health care. You can reach her at 904-371-7751 or via email at priscillagoudreausantos@gmail.com.

3 Ways to Engage with Bloggers

You’ve probably heard that a major part of blogging is not only providing interesting content, but also engaging with other bloggers. But if you’re like me, then sometimes interacting can feel like a part-time job. If you’re also like me, then you already have a full-time job where you make money and another job called “parent” and “spouse.” However, I’m sure you recognize that it’s worth it to invest time to those who support your art.

But how?

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#1: Wait for someone to follow, like or comment. I average approximately 30-40 interactions per day. When a WordPress blogger follows, likes or comments, then I read one of their recent posts and do the same. If I’m not already following, then I check out his or her “About” page and browse around. Most of the time, I find something I like, unless it’s a blog about nuclear physics or something. In that case, I read a post, like and comment, and keep it moving. It takes me about two hours a day. You might be wondering where I find two hours a day. The answer is that I don’t watch Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy or the show about the zombies. Instead, I choose to engage with people who genuinely support me and it’s well worth it.

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#2: Keep a Twitter blogger list. Many bloggers link their WordPress sites to Twitter. So one of the first things I do when I first follow them is search for their page, follow, and then add them to my WordPress Blogger list. The list serves as a filter. I spend about twenty minutes checking Twitter each day. One day I may read the first ten writers. Another day, I may read every other person’s. Either way, it helps me to see the people who haven’t followed, liked or commented on my articles. I squeeze in Twitter time while I’m standing in a long line or waiting at a doctor’s office. If you choose to use this method, then also be sure to like, re-tweet, and add hashtags to posts that you want everyone else to see. It’s the name of the Twitter game.

#3: Check my WordPress reader. This is my least favorite. I check my reader once a month. Like many of you, I use the filter “Blogs I follow.” From there, I can catch up on bloggers I’ve added through WordPress, but not email. Other times I search for topics that match my own categories, such as “quotes” or “inspiration.” This ensures that I follow people who will want to engage with similar content. I’ve found quite a few blogs using this system.

I know it’s hard to keep up with FB, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and also WordPress, so I hope these tips help. How do you blog? What do you do to keep up? Please let us know so we can all become more efficient 🙂