The Book Tour Blues

FB profileby Joelle Fraser

I’m sipping coffee in a cute café in the tiny mountain town of Quincy, California, 90 miles from my home. Tonight is the last signing for my new book, The Forest House. For nearly three months, like a traveling peddler from the Old West, I’ve spent my weekends driving from one town or city to the next.

This is my second book tour—and I did it all wrong.

My memoir about a year spent healing in an isolated forest retreat is with a prestigious, but small, publisher: Counterpoint Press. My publicist, sweet and professional, set up about half of my “events”—readings, radio interviews, guest blog posts, a college class and a book club visit—and I arranged the other half.

What I feel, as I wonder how many will show up tonight (3? 6? 10?) is relief. It’s the way you feel as you spy the corner of the last lap of the race. You’re tired, but the knowledge that it’s almost over is like an espresso shot of energy.

Of course, everyone’s tired after three-plus months of concentrated effort, of being “on stage,” of meeting new people and always being polite and punctual.

Before I continue, I will admit there’s something annoying about authors who complain. This is mostly true for authors who’ve made it—who never have to worry if the room will be empty. When reading about book tour advice, I’m come across heartbreaking laments like this: “My toddler kept me up the night before I had to go on the Today Show!” Really?

My first tour, in 2002, was for The Territory of Men, a coming of age memoir about growing up in the wild 70s California with several stepdads, and the legacy of that life on my adulthood. It was a sexy book that struck a lot of chords about the culture of that time. The book was reviewed well in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and I had my 15 minutes of fame on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Fast forward 10 years, and the The Forest House came out to relative silence. I did get fine reviews in Kirkus and Booklist, and a few bloggers gave the book high marks, but it was nothing like my first book.

Instead of the 75 people who filled the room at Northtown Books in Arcata, Ca., to hear me read from my first book, 5 people wandered in for my second. I sold two books at this event that required a 14-hour round trip drive, two tanks of gas, meals, a pet-sitting fee, and a motel stay (all on my dime). The people who did come were enthusiastic and lovely, but would I do that again? Probably not.

For a few weeks I blamed the quiet response to my book’s release on the nature of the book itself—it wasn’t sensational. It was reflective, literary, full of deer and doves and serene, snowy morning walks. Nature memoirs are a lot of things, but sexy ain’t one of them.

Then I finally realized how different the media landscape is: it’s a blizzard out there. All I had was a website and a Facebook page with 290 loyal fans.

According to BJ Gallagher in “The Ten Awful Truths About Book Publishing,“ “it is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with more than ten million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time.””

Publishers are quite aware of this, which is why even selling The Forest House in the first place was a grind because as the big presses told me and my agent, I had no “media platform.”

Today, in addition to having your own blog or at least writing guest blogs regularly, you need an author website, a Twitter and Tumblr following, regular witty podcasts, clever dispatches on your FB author page, a catchy YouTube book trailer—and then you must stride up and down Main Street with a bullhorn.

Guess those publishers had a point: it’s hard to launch anything off a nonexistent platform.
What I would do differently next time? I’d customize my book tour to myself.

Just as there’s a surprising and wonderful difference between a one-size-fits-all outfit and a tailored one, there’s a stark contrast between the traditional, paint-by-numbers book tour and a contemporary, custom one.

So, given that it’s a blizzard out there, what kind of snowflake are you? Here’s what I’d do next time I brave the storm:

1. I’d set up more visits at book clubs, college writing classes, and women’s clubs in my community (such as the Soroptomists). These events meant captive audiences who were excited about me and my books. I brought books to sell and flyers to hand out so people had something to take home.

2. I’d plan more parties with family and friends at houses, restaurants, nightclubs—wherever people can gather to celebrate. Again, books and flyers would be on hand.

3. I’d get my media ducks in a row well before launching—or even selling—the book. That means not just creating an online presence, but ramping up the one I already have by blogging, posting on social networks and YouTube, and doing interviews with other authors.

4. I’d limit my actual “tour” to bookstore events at a few nearby stores where my reading would count as news in the local paper and on the local radio station. If I wanted to visit a faraway bookstore, I’d bring my son and make a vacation out of it.

5. I’d set up “paired” readings with author friends so we could double our promotion and hopefully our audience.

What I’ve learned is that a book’s release into the world should be fun and worthwhile. In the end, I stay gracious—and grateful that I’ve gotten to experience this wild and crazy life as an author. I can’t wait to see what happens with book # 3.

Joelle Fraser is the author of the memoirs The Territory of Men (Random House 2003) and The Forest House (2013). A MacDowell Fellow, she has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches writing and lives in northeast California with her son. Find her at www.joellefraser.com.

The Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer

Today is a very special day. It is time for me to tell you all about the ebook I’ve been working on, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer. The ebook is based on this post, with a slightly altered list of commandments.

Each commandment has been more fully explained, with exercises designed to help you become more fully committed to your writing. This ebook will give you all the tools necessary to plan the next stages of your writing career, including three potential schedules for you to base your own on. If you’re looking for help to make the transition from hobbyist, this is the ebook for you.

This ebook isn’t a comprehensive guide for becoming a successful writer, but it will walk you through the process of laying a foundation for your career. That said, this book isn’t quite finished yet. First, I’m looking for your help.

If you have committed to one of these commandments–you’ve written every day for the last six months and finished a book, or you’ve found and learned to work with a critique group–and it’s helped you grow as a writer, especially if it’s helped you make money writing, I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to add one short personal story from a different writer to each commandment.

This will be a free ebook given to my subscribers. Those who contribute their stories will be allowed to give the ebook to their own personal blog subscribers as well. This is your chance to be officially quoted in an ebook, and to get your name in front of my readers. If you’d like to share your success story, email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com.

I’m also looking for feedback. I’d like one or two people who in the process of laying the foundation for their writing career to give me feedback on the book and the exercises within so I can make any improvements. The ebook is now finished, but everyone needs a second pair of eyes on their writing. I’d like that second pair of eyes to belong to one of my readers. If you’re interested, once again just email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com and I’ll tell you what kind of feedback I’m looking for. Copies will be sent for feedback at the end of this week to any interested parties.

As for the new name of this blog: I’ve had such wonderful suggestions and there was a little conflict because the most popular name is taken by someone else, so I’ve decided to extend voting until Friday, when I’ll also be explaining in more detail my plans for the new site. Vote here.

What do you think of all the changes around here? Are you eager to read The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer?

Summer Schedule and Vote on a New Blog Name

As I mentioned on Friday, there are going to be many changes around here over the next few months. The first thing to change will be the schedule.

For the next two weeks, I will continue at three posts per week. This week I will be writing all three posts myself. On Friday I’ll be introducing the ebooks I plan to release this year. Next week I’ll be choosing a blog name and a great article about book tours by Joelle Fraser will be going up.

After that there will only be two posts per week, on Mondays and Fridays. There will be occasional interviews and guests when people approach me, but I simply don’t have the time to find contributors anymore. I will always accept articles from other writers, and in the new blog I hope to have a regular contributor or two. At this point, however, it looks like there will probably only be one guest article this month.

I will also still be taking one week off a month. This month that week will be the 17th-21st. The week will be devoted to working on all my book length projects.

After that, Mondays will be used for in depth articles and announcements of future changes, and Fridays will be devoted to writing prompts and exercises.

Now, what you’ve been waiting for: potential domain names!

I spent the weekend brainstorming potential domain names, and I’d like you to vote for your favourite–or suggest a new one. The official domain name will be chosen next Monday. The one with the most votes wins. Voting ends Saturday night.

These are my ideas:

  • Every Writer’s Den or All Writers’ Den–more community based versions of this blog’s name, implying that it belongs to all writers
  • The Committed Writer(s)–based around commitment and community. With or without the S.
  • The Serious Writer–I thought of this one because it relates to the ebook I’m currently editing, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer.
  • Genre Crosser(s)–I’m the kind of writer who dabbles in every format of writing and every genre, and I get the sense many of you are the same. I’m not sure about this one however as it sounds great but sounds like more of a fiction blog, whereas I want this to be a haven for writers who dabble in everything, including non-fiction.
  • The Dabbler– For someone who dabbles in everything… To represent that I can never be constrained by one format and genre and to give help to other writers who feel the same way. This one’s my personal favourite.
  • Much Ado About Writing– Suggested by Eric Cameron. Thanks Eric!
  • To weigh in on what you’d like the new name for this blog to be, tell me which one is your favourite and why in the comments below. Your feedback is always appreciated, and it’s still not too late to suggest a new name.

    All new names suggested before Friday will be entered into the vote.

    Progress Report June 2013

    It’s June now, meaning it’s time to do two things: analyze how much progress I made towards my goals in May, and make my plans for the summer.

    Let’s start by taking a look at what I’ve accomplished towards my various goals:

    Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– Last month I edited exactly six chapters and 42 pages. I should be finished editing before the end of this month, and I am going to start looking for beta readers this month. There’s less than a hundred pages to go and I’m thrilled to be this close to the end. So far, June’s looking pretty good month as I’ve already edited three pages and written a new chapter. I’m going to spend the next two weeks in a marathon with a goal of finishing by the time I graduate on the fifteenth.

    Launch the Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer eBook– I’ve now got this ebook almost ready and I’ll be explaining in more detail what it is this Friday. I should be able to launch in June.

    Make $5, 000 this year from my writing– in May I only made $300 from my writing, but I’m expecting more in the next few days and I’m now actively looking for new work. I also had several articles published this month at varying pay rates, which is awesome. And I’ve made a distinct plan for how to get this money, which I’ll show you in more detail later this month. My writing income goal for June is $750.

    Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted blog, and finally decided what my newsletter will look like, so it will be part of the new incarnation of this blog. It will probably launch in July.

    Write a new novel– I actually didn’t choose a plot for a new novel, but it’s percolating in the back of my head as I plan an event for Nanowrimo this year. Instead, I’ve created an outline for an ebook I’m going to release at the end of the summer. My goal for that this month is to have written the entire thing.

    I finish school halfway through this month, and I’m using existing blog posts for sections of the ebook I plan to release in July, so I think these are totally reasonable goals. To achieve them, I’m dedicating one hour a day every Saturday and Sunday to each project. Once school ends, I plan to work on each goal for at least one hour Monday through Friday during the summer and take weekends off.

    What are your goals for this month? How did you do last month?

    Flip Turn by Paula Eisenstein

    Flipturn

    Paula Eisenstein is a wonderful author who I interviewed here earlier this year. You can check out that post for more information about her and the story of how we met–today I’d like to focus instead on her debut novel, Flip Turn.

    Let’s start by glancing at the back cover copy:

    “In Paula Eisenstein’s spare and provocative first novel, a young girl must come to terms with the discovery that her brother killed a young girl. Feeling alienated and not knowing how to ask for help, she decides that suppressing her sexual development will ensure she doesn’t do the same thing.

    In Flip Turn, Eisenstein has created an unforgettable narrator whose success as an athlete leaves her conflicted about the attention she receives. She fears it will remind people of what her brother did and draw negative attention to her family. As her swimming triumphs lead her to the Olympic trials, she recounts her own sexual abuse at the hands of a swim coach and must decide if she should give up her passion to try to find a more normal life.”

    My thoughts:

    Flip Turn is written like a diary. The narrator goes on tangents fairly regularly, which wouldn’t work in an adult book, but helps give the book a teenage feel. On top of having a murderous brother, Flip Turn’s narrator faces the same issues as other teen girls: too much homework, moving, trying to make friends and a constant internal debate about her own self worth. Flip Turn deals with many issues common to teenage girls in an honest way without focusing too hard on any one issue. Flip Turn is also a distinctly Canadian book taking place in London, Ontario, and I’m a sucker for Canadian books.

    This book is written for teens but I can certainly see an appeal for adults. It’s an interesting look at competitive swimming, which I knew very little about before reading the book, and a fascinating look at the impact one person’s crimes has on their whole family. I find this particularly fascinating because in the news they never talk about these people. We always hear about the impact on the victim’s family, but never about how violent crime impacts the perpetrator’s family.

    The writing style feels very true to a teenage girl’s voice, and the editing is incredibly clean. In fact, this is the best edited book I’ve read in a long time. I noticed a few places where phrasing was weird and a sentence sounded awkward, but not a single typo made it through. This is incredible when even most traditionally published books have a couple errors that made it through.

    My only complaint about Flip Turn is that it didn’t truly feel finished at the end. I can’t help but think that there’s more to the story, that something got missed somewhere or perhaps intentionally left out, something that would’ve rounded out the story more. Still, the ending was appropriate even if it felt a bit abrupt, and it wasn’t a Disney happy ending or a tragedy. I’m always happy when an author respects their story and chooses to take the middle ground with their ending, rather than conforming to formulas in the hopes of selling books.

    All in all, Flip Turn is a fantastic novel. It’s a window into the life of one teen girl, and her story is powerful enough to reach across all generations. My biggest hope for this book is that nobody will turn it away because it’s about a teenage girl–this story isn’t just for teens, even if the story is about one.

    I’m going to rate Flip Turn a 4 out of 5 on the Awesomeness scale(yes, ‘awesome’ is a measurement).

    Would you like to read Flip Turn? If so you’ll be thrilled to know that Paula has donated a copy to be given away when I reach 400 subscribers. Don’t want to wait? You can purchase Flip Turn here.

    Happy Victoria Day!

    I’d like to wish all you lovely people–at least all you lovely Canadian people–a happy Victoria day. In keeping with my rules of productivity, I will be taking the day away from Dianna’s Writing Den to work on other things: editing my novel and working on other long term projects.

    You might have noticed that I didn’t manage to reach 400 subscribers in two weeks, but that’s okay. When I do reach 400 subscribers, I’ll still be hosting a massive giveaway. I am still working on my ebook, Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer, and I’m planning to release this when I hit 400 subscribers–with the very first copy being given away to one of you.

    Now, off to writing! Have a wonderful day, and thanks for being a loyal reader.

    Progress Report April 2013

    April’s been a pretty exciting month for me. I got a job writing, editing and promoting blog posts for DJiZM Disc Jockey Services and I’m thrilled to be working with them. I’m also working on becoming a paid contributor to a large Canadian music blog, but I can’t reveal too much about that yet.

    I’m still behind on my personal goals, but I did make more progress in April than I did in March, so let’s take a look:

    April progress

    Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– I ended up only editing four chapters of Moonshadow’s Guardian this month instead of six, but I am making progress. I’ve now created a concrete plan to make more time for writing, both personal and professional, and I’m hoping to actually do six chapters in May.

    Write twelve guest posts– depending on what you mean by ‘guest posts’, I might have made a lot of progress this month. I had three posts published on the DJiZM blog published in April and I’ve got more scheduled in May. This isn’t a blog for my target market, so it’s of limited value in terms of bringing me readers, but it’s certainly looking good on my LinkedIn profile, so I consider this a success. This would put me at seven posts for the year, which is pretty awesome. I do still need to get into more blogs aimed at my target market.

    May plans

    As you can see, while I originally set myself up with several goals for the year, I’ve only been making progress on one or two of them each month. Since the seasons have changed and it’s warm outside, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my goals and make a plan for May involving as many as possible.

    Here’s the plan, goal by goal:

    Query 12 Articles– I’ve decided that this exact goal is going to be scrapped. Instead, I’m going to alter this goal to ‘Make at least $5, 000 from my writing and writing-related activities. I’ve already made over a hundred dollars through my writing this year, and not only am I working for DJiZM and negotiating with one other company, I’ve also gotten ideas for articles I’d like to query to different magazines because of these jobs. This may seem like a big goal, and as someone who’s only ever made a couple hundred dollars here and there, it is, but I still think it’s totally achievable.

    My income goal for May? $650. That’s a little bit less than I need to make each month to reach my goal for the year, but I’m planning to do a lot more writing work this summer.

    Launch 10 Commandments– this project has been put on hold, but really all it needs is an intro, some exercises, and a conclusion. I’m probably going to be working on that a lot this month.

    Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to hold off on this project as I’m having difficulty choosing how I’m going to run it and I’ve got a lot going on right now. I might come back to it this year, but for now it’s off the table.

    Create Dear Diary Workbook– I’d really love to get this done this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the time, seeing as how behind I am on my edits for Moonshadow’s Guardian. Still, I’d like to get it close to done, so my goal is to write at least one page of this book every month until the end of the year.

    Edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known– This will get started as soon as I’ve finished editing Moonshadow’s Guardian, which seems like it will be an eternity. I’ll probably end up working on this during the summer.

    Write one new novel– this is for November, but this month I’d like to figure out what the basic premise of my story will be. I might end up using November to do a full rewrite of the second half of/sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. I don’t know yet.

    This month I’ll be buckling down on my time. No more distracted procrastination for me. I’ve already started carving out more time for myself, but by the end of this month, I’d like to make sure I’m spending at least one hour every day on one of these goals.

    What are you doing to reach your goals this May? How did you do in April?

    Three Hundred and Fifty… Two!

    Today I was going to wrap up my series on disturbances in your writing, but then something very exciting happened: the number of people subscribed to Dianna’s Writing Den reached three hundred and fifty. In fact, it reached three hundred and fifty-two.

    Usually I don’t make a big deal of these markers, but three hundred and fifty seems like a really big deal. So today I’d like to say a few things about Dianna’s Writing Den.

    The first is that I appreciate every single one of you, and that I’m thrilled to be forming such an amazing community of writers here at Dianna’s Writing Den. I’m really proud of the work I do here and I’m glad to be helping all of you. I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey and that someday when we’re all famous authors we’ll be able to have a big party together, sipping tea and talking about the early days of our journeys.

    The second is that I’ve learned a lot from you, maybe even as much–or more–than you’ve learned from me. I know a lot of my subscribers are also wonderful authors who I’ve interviewed or who have written posts for me, and I learn a lot from these interviews/posts. I’ve also learned about what the most common challenges for writers are, and you’ve taught me how to foster an amazing community. Again, I thank you.

    The third is that I’d like your help. Inspired by hitting three hundred and fifty subscribers, I’ve thought of a big goal. That goal is to reach 400 subscribers by May 20th. It seems lofty, but I know with your help I can do it. What do you get for helping me? Well, if I hit 400 subscribers by the twentieth, in exactly two weeks, I’m going to host a giveaway. I’m not sure how big it will be as I’m still working on prizes–if you’re an author and you’d like to donate a book, shoot me an email(diannalgunn@gmail.com)–but I do know that it will involve something special: a small ebook I wrote myself, full of advice for writers. And at least one issue of Penumbra, so if you’ve wanted to check it out for a while, now’s your chance.

    I haven’t decided what this ebook will be about yet. I might use the Ten Commandments project I’ve almost finished, but I thought I’d ask you first: what would you like this ebook to be about?

    Let me know what you’d like to see in the comments–and don’t forget to spread the word about Dianna’s Writing Den over the next couple of weeks.

    Author Interview: Judith C. Owens-Lalude

    Today’s interview is with Judith Camille, author of The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom. Enjoy.

    1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom?

    My book is about Clarissa and her son, George Henry who suffer the indignities of bondage––bought, sold, resold, and abused. Although scarred emotionally and physically, Clarissa refuses to accept enslavement. As Clarissa struggles against time, lessons from her grandmother fuel her compulsion to be free. On the trail, Clarissa and her son are rescued by the Underground Railroad passengers. Taking the long walk to freedom, they follow the North Star.

    2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

    I knew that I wanted to write for children when my sons left home––one to college and one to high school. When they were young I told them stories to get them into bed and it worked. When they were old enough to express a well thought out idea, they said, “Mommy why don’t you write your own books?” I shivered at the thought of putting another task on my must-do-mommy list. Fourteen years later, I saw characters from my storytellings march across my vision. I closed my eyes. I prayed I was not losing my mind. It was my first day home alone. When the visions vanished, I raised my eyelids. Maybe that was a book, I thought. I wrote a 200 word story that day. I have not stopped writing since. Today I have 75 manuscripts crammed into a file.

    3. Why did you choose to write about slavery?

    After spending an afternoon with my family discussing our roots I was compelled to write about Kentucky enslavement. As I began to read and research more, the depth of the pain and suffering of African Americans enslaved in North Central Kentucky, and their African ancestors became more concerning to me. Because of my love for writing manuscripts for children’s picture books, I wrote a story about a mother and her daughter who were runaways and had it illustrated. One of those illustrations appears on the cover of my book, The long Walk: Slavery to Freedom, and another on the title page.

    4. How much research did you do to make sure you were historically accurate/how much did you focus on accuracy?

    I applied for one of my characters to be accepted as a first person interpretive program for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior. I did extensive research to meet their guidelines. The application process took one year. Once accepted, the data gathered became a springboard for writing The long Walk: Slavery to Freedom and its related programs. This alone gave me national recognition. The research continued throughout the writing process and as questions surfaced the research answered them. The title of the interpretive program is The Long Walk: From Slavery to Freedom––slightly different from the book title The long Walk: Slavery to Freedom.

    5. You also run many writing workshops. How did you get started doing this?

    I conduct writing workshops, because I have found it difficult to find people welling to work with new writers. I always had to study on my own. Overtime, I realized there were other mature women wanting to write and share their thoughts. But there was no network to support them. I lead a critique group for one year, and then I applied for a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. With the grant I was able to conduct an eight week children’s picture book writing workshop (CPBWW). Woman after woman said, “We should come back next year.” In September of 2011 the CPBWW celebrated its 10th anniversary. It is now the Write for Children & Teens: Stepwise Program.

    6. What advice would you give someone looking to run similar workshops in their town/city?

    If a writer wants to run a program similar to the Write for Children & Teens: Stepwise Program, I would recommend that they…:

    1]
    Become familiar with adult group dynamics––learn what works.
    2]
    Know the rules for writing for children, teens, and young adults.
    3]
    Create lesson plans for the concepts you might present and attach references.
    4]
    Become familiar with the audiences they plan to write for. Each age group learns and interprets information differently.
    5]
    Understand what makes illustrations and words work together.
    6]
    Be prepared to do all the work themselves, even if they have volunteers––don’t get in over their head, and know their limits.
    7]
    Meet with people who have been there and done that. Invite them to be workshop or conference speakers.
    8]
    Learn to use the computer and its tools, i.e. Keynote, Photoshop, Powerpoint etc. When they plan to buy their next computer, consider an Apple.

    This list has no end. I could go on for several more pages.

    7. How long did it take you to write The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom?

    It took me ten years to write The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom. It was my workshop piece. Whenever I conducted a workshop for the CPBWW, I worked on it. I applied the principles of writing that I planed to teach, ensuring they were understandable and effective.

    8. How have you marketed The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom since its release?

    To market The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom I…:
    1]
    Accepted invitations to be interviewed on radio show.
    2]
    Asked to be included on programs of groups and organizations.
    3]
    Scheduled book signings at local bookstores.
    4]
    Designed appealing promotional materials.
    5]
    Visited the city and farm where my family was enslaved, got to know the community people, and did a book signing at the city’s homecoming.
    6]
    Went back to school to improve my art skills.
    7]
    Participated in a junior college’s open mike. Afterward, the program coordinator requested that my book by ordered for their library.
    8]
    When The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom was formatted for publication, I also had it formatted for Kindle.

    This is a partial list and the title of the first person interpretive program is slightly different from the book title.

    9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

    I would council aspiring writers to not be afraid to make mistakes, or to start over. I would advise them to be persistent, get to know themselves, and continue to make new friends who are positive, supportive, and well grounded in their goals and ideas.

    10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

    I am working on DUNKER, a young adult novel about an academically gifted athlete smitten for a girl who is also a star athlete, but doesn’t seem to notice him. Coming along with DUNKER is a middle grade chapter book, Wedding Drums and the Tall-Tall Tree. It is a story that takes the reader right into a village, on Nigeria’s west coast, where a young boy is distraught over his sister’s impending wedding that he is sure will take her away from him.

    Bio: Judith C. Owens-Lalude is the great-granddaughter of George Henry “Pap” Johnson, who was born in 1850 and was enslaved with his mother, Clarissa. They lived on Ben Miller’s 600-acre farm in North Central Kentucky, now less than an hour’s drive from Louisville, Kentucky, where Owens-Lalude grew up and resides today. After listening to tales told by her family’s closest members about their ancestors, she wanted to know more and visited the farm where her ancestors had been enslaved. She strolled the grounds, reflected at the fireplace hearth where a slave cabin once stood, wandered along the streams and creeks, and photographed the barn and other outbuildings that were a part of her great-grandpa’s and his mother’s daily world.

    Inspired to write a book, Owens-Lalude traveled to her husband’s native Nigeria for a better understanding of the history of slavery in the Americas. She wanted to know its impact on other Africans and African Americans, including her family who lived in Nelson and Spencer counties, Kentucky. From her research, and her powerful imagination, Owens-Lalude has written a compelling novel: The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom.

    Making The Sacrifice

    For the last couple of months we’ve been talking a lot about disturbances in your writing, from writer’s block to family to repetitive strain injury. It’s important to develop strategies for dealing with each of these obstacles, but in the end it all boils down to one thing: making sacrifices.

    Today we are blessed that we can do just about anything we want with our time. We have literally millions of options. We can read or watch anything almost instantly with the internet. We can communicate instantly. We can also do everything that came before the internet: go for a bike ride, travel, garden, socialize at the local pub.

    With so many options, everyone’s always busy. We fill up our time without thinking about it and forget to leave time for ourselves. We forget to make time for our craft. We get caught up in everything else the world has to offer and we forget the most important things.

    It’s fun to party all the time or to spend all your time after work lounging in front of the TV. Even better, it’s easy. But if you want to actually build a successful writing career someday, you have to make sacrifices. You have to turn the TV off. You have to close your browser. You have to say no to that party or at least go home early.

    Making these sacrifices is hard at first, but it gets easier all the time, and without making the sacrifices, you’ll never become a career writer. If you can’t make the sacrifices, maybe this business isn’t for you. Perhaps writing is just an emotional outlet for you or a hobby. That’s fine. Just remember not to treat it like a hobby when you’re trying to turn it into a career.

    To be good at anything, you need to practice. To practice, you need time. To create time, you need to make sacrifices. So make a commitment to your writing and make the sacrifice. You’ll know it’s worth it when you have that first publishing contract.