Wrote a small piece on where to see Spring Wildflowers in Atlanta...some picturesque locations here so read up!
Alisha L. Gordon is a writer, blogger, and full time graduate student from Atlanta, GA, pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Emory University. The 30-year-old author also has a BA in English from Spelman College and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. Alisha’s book is titled Pieces: Finding the Missing Piece is Easier than You Think. It is a 73-page paperback on Christian/Self Help/Single Parenting (published March 2010) and you can read more about the book at here. The book is also sold on Kindle, LuLu, and the blog site. You can reach Alisha on Twitter and Facebook.
When did you get the idea for a book, and why this particular genre? After having what I consider a “God experience” on New Year’s Eve of 2008, I decided to use writing as a way of dealing with issues that a lot of women face: rejection, unforgiveness, brokenness, a desire to find my purpose, a lot of things. As a single mother, I found that my experiences were universal: every woman is looking to find the missing pieces in their life – often times we lose pieces of ourselves in old relationships, burdensome jobs, broken dreams. How do we go about reclaiming these “pieces” of ourselves? This book was birthed out of the process of finding my own missing pieces and its purpose meets the needs of so many women in various phases of their life.
How long before you got around to working on the book, what research did it involve? Because the book uses anecdotal stories about my life, the research was real-time, being lived out day to day! When something happened in my life that I felt was there to teach me a lesson, I wrote about it in my book. I used the Bible as a means to shape the stories, using some biblical stories to explore the spiritual principles behind the experiences. Writing the book, actually, ended up being very therapeutic!
When did you feel you had a finished book to take it to the next step? I’m not sure when I knew that the book was finished – I prayed a lot during this process because I wanted to be sensitive about what God had to say about the book. I didn’t want it to be about me in the sense that I was making every decision based on what I thought. Because I knew the book had a greater purpose for it, I wanted to be sensitive to what the Spirit was showing about the writing process and even myself. When it was done, I just knew it.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Because my book was personal in nature, it was hard trying to assess what information to include and what to leave out. What I found, however, was that it was important for me to be and remain as transparent as possible in order for the overarching message I was trying to convey to do its best work.
When did you do most of your writing, did you have a schedule? Interestingly enough, I did a huge chunk of my writing during Lent of 2009. Instead of giving up something, I decided to make use of a gift God gave me. I turned my phone off from 8 p.m. - 11 p.m. every night for 40 days and I wrote. Some nights were better than others, but during this time, I was very intentional about getting the words on the paper. It was probably the most impactful time I had spent that entire year.
Did you have any collaborators, editor, designer, co-author? I was blessed to have some friends who were highly skilled in the editorial and design part; a Soror of mine did some heavy duty editing while a college classmate designed my book cover and online graphics for me! The process of self-publishing is truly a collaborative process!
What technology did you use to write your book? Before I got hip to Mac Books, I used my trusted old desk top PC and laptop. I also used Scrivener, a program that many professional writers use, to keep chapters organized and complete the outline and layout of your manuscript.
What methods of publishing did you consider or had plans for?
Initially, I thought that going the traditional route of pitching the book to a major publishing house would be the only way I’d get my book published. I bought a copy of The Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino and I combed through it looking for every agent who would be interested in representing my type of work. After sending dozens of pitch letters and packets (which also came with dozens of rejection letters), I decided to publish the book myself. Waiting for someone else to believe in my book, a book intended to help people overcome defeat, in itself, seemed so self-defeating. So I did the work myself!
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? I set up an account on Lulu.com because they were one of the few online sites that did printing and shipping. I invested some money in my project by buying a couple hundred books so that I could sell them at different events, book signings, etc. A number of my supporters wanted to have their book autographed so this was helpful in that process. It was a bit cumbersome trying to mail out the books myself, but the reward definitely outweighed the inconvenience. I relied heavily on social media and my website to promote and sell the book and even secure a few speaking engagements where the book became the focal point of the experience.
What has the response been to your book? The response has been overwhelming and, more importantly, has impacted the lives of women all across this country. From lawyers to stay at home moms, women have been able to reflect on their own lives and create opportunities for growth – but it is more than just individual change; Pieces allows women to change so that their families, homes, and communities can be better. When a woman is at her best, the entire community thrives!
How did you market it? Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr were essential in making sure I got the word out about the book. I also created an email account for the book (under the To the Nines Publishing umbrella) to contact local media (TV, radio, newspaper) to send press releases about my book signing and general information about the book. It became a one-stop-shop: I did the marketing, promoting, and public relations!
Your advice for aspiring writers planning to publish in the near future? Basketball players dribble basketballs. Singers sing. Writers write. You can’t make a claim as a “published author” without first taking the time to write! Do your research as well; there’s nothing that you need to know how to do that you can’t find out on the Internet! I taught myself how to lay out a book, market, and publish a book all on the Internet! You can too!
So what’s next? Alisha has spent a lot of time blogging but has two books in the works. She has been revisiting her manuscripts and hopes to have one of them ready for publishing in 2014.
Thanks Alisha for sharing your author journey and being the first author to participate in the author series. Good luck!
I will be a guest of Atlanta Business Radio tomorrow morning! I am excited and looking forward to it. For now all I know is there will be other guests on the show, I am guessing I get about 5-10 minutes of the host's time to discus my work, it will be done with first thing in the morning so I will be happy to share a link to that once I have it! Wish me luck!
You've been invited to attend a press conference. What next?
Press conferences are usually hosted by organizations or celebrities to announce something that was not known before. Something new. Something that just came up. Something they would like you to write about. Sometimes with just the intention of making some noise and garnering some attention, and sometimes to really get feedback on what they are doing and what people think or feel about it.
If you are a well connected writer, you will probably get the invitation to the press conference directly from the organization or the agency handling the events and public relations for said party. It is typically in the form of an email stating the date, time and venue for the presscon, the speaker/s and who they are - designation, organization, cause, accomplishments, etc. and the topic to be covered at the event. Most times this will have some background on what is being addressed, especially if it is a current issue or a new product, or new features to a product, or a reaction to an incident. Other times though, they try to leave in some suspense and excitement in not telling you exactly what it is about.
Either ways, do some research on the organizations and speakers so you know why you are headed there. If you are really close to the folks that invited you, it wouldn't harm to ask them for a titbit on what this is about. And do confirm if you are attending, yes please do! This will help the organizers tremendously when they have to consider the logistics of the presscon- parking, seating arrangements, food and drink, handouts, giveaways, promotionals, etc.
When you head for the press conference, make it a point to say hello and thank your contact who invited you to the event. Surely they thought you a valuable resource to invite you instead of just mailing you some information after. Look around at the venue and try to get a spot as close as you comfortably can to the speaker so you can focus on what you are there for and you can hear them loud and clear to get pointers for your article. Take notes while they speak and graciously accept any informational fliers or press kits given to you. They usually contain the information you need when you later remember you forgot to note down some details!
If you have questions, just ask, but only if you are aware of the topic at hand. If this is not your subject area of expertise, then better to hold on till you can get back to your work desk, do some more research and then reach out to the agency with your questions as a follow through to your visit. They will usually be very happy to get your answers to you. If you have questions that have not been asked at the presscon by other attendees, then that might make for a good question or two to ask directly to the speaker/s. This way, you will have exclusive sound bytes for your media outlet. Ask your contact to connect you with the speaker/s immediately at the venue itself, or ask if they can be reached later with some questions you had specifically for your publication. Again, most often than not, they will gladly oblige. I am yet to come across somebody that organized a press conference and then refused to answer additional questions!
Most presscons will include some food and drink, maybe some passed bites and beverages. Help yourself to some but don't eat for the rest of the week at this one event! Presscons usually also involve some small promotional gifts for attendees. Usually this is very subtly included in the press kits, but sometimes these are bigger giveaways and have to be presented individually...use your best judgement on whether you want to walk out with that or not. I have had events where these promotionals had nothing to do with the speaker or organization, but were just a way to say thank you in advance if you chose to write about the presscon. I would typically graciously say thanks and leave, but on the other hand, sometimes, those giveaways have to do with the company or product directly, and I would go ahead and take/ask for one just in case it helps add more information to my written piece.
Always arrive with plenty of time to spare before and after the presscon, unless, of course, the news is just so earth-shatteringly urgent, that you simply have to rush out and get it up on your blog or site asap. Keep time to exchange pleasantries with industry colleagues you happen to run into. Certainly try to get a few minutes at the end with your contact who invited you to the presscon. Sometimes, letting them know which outlets you will cover the event for, especially if you are a freelancer, helps them know you did not just come on over for a fun evening! Be professional about it and you will find yourself invited to more such official occasions to write about.
If and when any publications you write for do feature this announcement, be sure to send a link or a pdf image of your article to the agency, individual, organization, or speaker - whoever your contact is, so the exercise comes full circle. They know to trust you now as someone that will try to get them exposure to the audiences they are targeting. And you can rest assured they will keep you top of mind for other stories that can get you a byline in your desired media outlets.
A few months ago, out of the blue, an old acquaintance messaged me about a book she was writing and if I would edit it before she outs it up for sale. I worked on it and it was a great read. Somehow, that one opportunity has opened the doors to many more such book editing projects. Just as I submitted the final edits to that friend, another old friend of mine also messaged asking about her book and if I would edit. Sure enough, I agreed, and that book, on technical writing, is now available on Amazon for sale! How very cool is that! I am so proud of my friend and her book, it is a great read, even if you don't work in technical writing. It does address all aspects of the trade and the easy writing style helps. Check it out here. And if you do buy her book, please leave her a review.
Looks like this is my year to write a book. I have been ideating a while and toying with this whole book writing thing. It seems pretty overwhelming thinking about it but it does feel like something I really want to pursue this year. I mean, what do I have to lose really? So I have begun with a somewhat wide framework to begin with. I've got some ideas down and disconnected paragraphs but right now all I am trying to do is put words on documents and not consider flow and logic and such rational things...saving them for later. I have also heard setting aside a time for it helps but given my other professional commitments right now, I am able tow rite only when I can. Sometimes on weekends or a few moments stolen between assignments. It isn't anywhere close to where it should be but I think it is getting there. Slowly, but surely. If you have tips to share, let me know. I can use all the help I can get!
All publications - online, print, trade, glossy, international - all run smoothly thanks to the great invention that is the editorial calendar. Almost all publications will have their editorial calendar displayed on their website and some reference might be made to it on their print editions as well. As a writer, whether you want to write for glossies, trade mags or otherwise, this is a great tool for pitching articles. Most websites will have this information in their About Us section or in the Contribute section. You can see what broader topics they will address during the year as well as any specific interest areas they are keen to focus on. If this happens to be an interest area for you as a writer, then this is your job half done. All you need to do is formulate a few article ideas based on the editorial calendar and shoot them out to the editor. They will definitely reply if the pitch is on-target.
If this is a topic you don't know much about but are willing to write on, send in a query to the editor and see if they have any specific stories they'd like to assign you. If you don't see an editorial calendar on the website then go ahead and inquire with the magazine - they probably have one they don't share, have not updated the latest calendar online, or have all their stories assigned and don't need more writers. Many magazines prepare for issues 3-6 months in advance so it might help to check with the editor which issue you can pitch for.
In my experience, working with an editorial calendar has been the best. If I am pitching to a new magazine, then I look for the calendar on their site. If I find it, then I write in to the editor highlighting the stories I'd be interested in and checking which months I should pitch for. If I don't find it, I write in asking if there is one and if it could be shared so I can pitch. I have never had someone reply saying no! Many magazines, especially the new up and coming ones, are always looking for writers and are very happy when you reach out to them for assignments.
That said, here are the links to editorial calendars for a few magazines. Maybe you will find some ideas here and an opportunity to write:
1. Buckhaven Lifestyle
2. Computer World
3. Architectural Record
5. Mother Earth News