Small Growth is still Growth

It’s hard running a small business. Independent Artists (authors, publishers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) aren’t backed by huge companies and corporations and many of us don’t have millions of dollars in the bank. In fact, most small business owners still have 9-5s because, like you, we have bills to pay and families to provide for. But the truth is most people only see the result, the finished book, the mastered track, the Indie film. You don’t see the prayers that go up, the tears that come out, and hope that what you are doing is not in vain. You don’t see the depressed spirits of artists who lack support and feel like giving up. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming that it doesn’t seem as if you are making progress at all.

That’s why noticing small growth is important to me. I don‘t post about my work for applause, fake pats on the back or to look important. I post and get excited about it because baby steps still move us forward. Even when it’s something small and even when it may seem silly to others I am free and I have the freedom of celebrating where I am on the way to where I am going. It’s time we stop waiting until we’ve become Bestsellers to see the value in our work.

In these moments let’s remind ourselves that progress does not have a price tag, it’s not a social media meme, and it’s not a popularity contest. If you went from $0 to $10, you have progressed. If you went from no book sales at a signing to five books sold, you have progressed. If you’ve gone from wanting to publish a book to holding that book in your hands, you have progressed. Even if you’ve only moved from the bottom of the bookshelf squeezed between books where hardly anyone will ever see it, to the top of the poetry section (yours truly) you have progressed! Stop waiting to be some kind of celebrity before you realize the value in your work. Growth is growth no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

If you love poetry, black history, or self-care literature and you are in the Marietta/Atlanta area, I’d appreciate you investing in me by stopping by this B&N (address below) and purchasing a copy of my poetry book, I am Soul or grab and review the ebook on Amazon here. (Listen to my poetry on YouTube here).

Thank you for your time, attention, and support of a small business owner. Remember that support begets support.

Store Location:

Barnes and Noble Booksellers

The Avenue West Cobb

3625 Dallas Hwy

Suite 40

Marietta, GA 30064

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The 32nd Year: A Reflection

I am in the 32nd year of my life journey even though the gray in the front of my locs won’t let me be great. I just had a birthday (5/26) and I am usually quiet around this time. (And yes, I do admit this is my pitiful way of explaining why *aside from author Interviews* I have not been very active on this blog). But while I have not spoken much about it or posted many pictures, I enjoyed myself and I cannot say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of love from social media.

Like I would expect anyone to be, I am always excited about my birthday and pretty much think about it up until the day passes, though I am also usually quiet around this time because I also approach birthdays from a reflective point of view. I don’t celebrate holidays, but I do honor, acknowledge, and value birthdays. It’s not something I take for granted or shrug off as a non-important since this is the day when the power of all powers decided I was worthy of entering the world. Stitching me together in my mother’s womb and commanding it to hold me there until it was time to give birth.

Another birthday means another year has passed. I am quiet because I look back on the past year to see how I’ve grown and to be grateful for who I am, where I am and whose I am. I review my goals and the action steps needed to accomplish them. Am I moving or standing still? And if I am moving and if I am standing still is this reality or perception? I know that there is no greater deception than self-deception so it’s important to me to honestly and realistically reflect on my life, my progress, and my purpose since I do not intend to bring last year’s baggage into this new age. It’s important to me to see the good in the finished and the unfinished work. To be grateful for where I am and celebrate on the way to where I am going. Have I wasted a year, or have I taken full advantage of every day? There is much to think about and much to do.

I do not know what this year has in store for me, but I hope I can take full advantage of the day so that next year I can look back on today and know that I have done my very best to contribute to the forward movement of the world.

3rd Annual Poetry Contest 2019: Tips and Best Practices

poetry contest


We are so excited to meet all the amazing poets who will be entering this year’s contest! Prizes include a $50 Barnes and Noble gift-card, promotion, and publishing in our 2nd Edition, 2020 Poet Magazine. Below are some tips and best practices for bettering your chances of winning this contest! (For the video version of this post, go to my IG account and watch the EcTV version!)

  1. Read the rules (CLICK HERE FOR THIS YEAR’S GUIDELINES)

 

  1. Make sure your poem lines up with the theme surrounding one of these words: Strength, Courage, Wisdom, Faith (Read the rules).

 

  1. To qualify as entry you MUST subscribe to my email list. CLICK HERE to sign up. Then, go ahead and send your poem to yecheilyah@yecheilyahysrayl.com. Don’t rush to write your poem and forget to sign up for the email list. Last year’s winner got her poem in just before the deadline and won the entire competition so take your time and do it right. The best way to remember is to sign up for the email list first and then spend the rest of the time writing your poem. (Read the rules)

 

  1. Deadline for entry is August 1st. Winners announced November 1st. (Read the rules)

 

  1. Poems are judged based on ORIGINALITY, style, and how closely it relates to the theme. Poems cannot be previously published in a book or online and plagiarism is cause for immediate elimination.

 

  1. Pay Attention to the theme: If you submit a poem that is not about Strength, Courage, Wisdom, or Faith in some capacity you put yourself at risk for elimination. Why? Because poems that don’t follow the rules are one of the first to go. My team has to read through a lot of poems and you don’t wanna make it easier for them to disqualify you by not…following the rules.

For a full list of the rules, guidelines,

and prizes CLICK HERE.

My Memoir Writing Journey

What exactly am I working on now? A lot of things but mostly my memoir. Now that Keep Yourself Full is on its way out, I really want to get this done and I will have to deter a lot of projects to do it. At least until I finish the first draft and then I can work on other stuff and just work on the memoir from there.

This is the hardest writing job I’ve ever undertaken. I have deleted everything I ever sent my email list as a sneak peek two years ago (can’t believe I let you in on that *insert eye-ball roll*) and have started over. I am fifty pages and nine chapters into the first draft so it’s not so bad considering starting over. What I don’t want this memoir to be is an autobiography. I’ve always wanted to write an autobiography, but that’s before I learned the difference between the two.

I learned memoirs differ from autobiographies. Memoirs are popular because they center on one theme and read like novels, making them much more interesting than the chronological format of the autobiography.

Theme

One thing I am working on is not making this psychoanalytic, if that’s the right word. While I’ve endured much trauma in my life, I don’t want this to be a dark history of my crazy. I don’t want this to be a therapy session. This is difficult because I’m not a sugarcoat type person and neither is my mother. I gotta keep it all the way real. I gotta be honest. How do I do this without going too far?

My title is “I Wasn’t Built to Break,” so my theme is to take all the things that have been obstacles and challenges in my life, that could have broken me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but didn’t. This means that I will not go into every single detail of my life but I will focus on certain significant events, starting with growing up in the Robert Taylor Projects.

Anyone who grew up in any of Chicago’s projects is a survivor in my eyes, a warrior. It meant they not only escaped the drugs, violence, poverty, neglect, and gangs, but they also escaped literal death. Perched above the high-risers of Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green, snipers (aka Gang Members) with high-powered rifles would sit on a top floor (in a vacant apartment) and shoot their rivals. These bullets though, often hit innocent bystanders, mostly children. I remember my Uncle coming to school to get us early because the buildings were shooting, and we had to run to our building. When I say it was a Warzone, I mean that literally. And none of us project kids ever got counseling or therapy for the things we saw. Not even the classmates of the seven-year-old Dantrell Davis from Cabrini who was shot by a sniper on his way to school in 1992 in front of his mother, teachers, police officers, and classmates.

Historical

Writing a memoir is no easy task so my approach is to research and write this as if I am writing a Historical Fiction novel, except everything is true. Since I enjoy writing Historical Fiction, I’ll use history as a buffer. Instead of focusing on my experiences only, I want to take us back into the politics of some of what was going on in the world I did not have knowledge of as a kid. There’s my world where I can only see what’s in front of me and around me. As, a child my view is limited not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. I can only understand my current surroundings and circumstances from an eight-year-old‘s perspective (which is the timeframe I am focusing on in the beginning of the book). Then there’s the world at large. How did the decisions of others affect me, one of 21,000 children growing up in what became known as one of the poorest urban communities in the United States, a concentration of poverty they called it, the Robert Taylor Projects?

I want to go into how the projects under the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) replaced the Chicago Slums, the discriminatory policies like redlining that kept blacks from purchasing homes in their own neighborhoods, the kitchenettes and one-room basements blacks lived in during the 30s, 40s and 50s, the beacon of hope the projects promised as a replacement, the mixed-community that was there (because whites and blacks both lived in the PJs!), the racial riots that never made the news, and the racist policies that caused many white families to move out of the projects and into the suburbs. Also, the Plan for Transformation that demolished Public Housing and replaced them with a mixed-income community of condos and townhomes and what this cultural mix meant for former public housing residents. (There is even history behind the name Robert Taylor. He was a black man on the board of CHA who opposed building the projects on the same land as the slums. He wanted to spread them out, so they fully integrated blacks throughout Chicago. After CHA refused, he quit. To name a building after him in the same location he worked against was disrespectful and an insult to his memory.)

I hope that if I do this, it will be a much more enjoyable read. I want to incorporate both history and personal testimony with the testimony supporting the history. I remember for instance that whole “Homie the Clown” Scare of the early 90s. I remember that because I had nightmares of the clown coming into our apartment and chasing me around the couch. In 1991, rumors surfaced that a man who we called “Homie the Clown” was riding around in a van kidnapping and killing kids. “Homey the Clown,” was the name of a character played by Damon Wayans on the early 90s sketch-comedy show In Living Color. The character was an angry black ex-con who carried a sock for knocking bad kids upside the head. His catchphrase was “Homey don’t play that.” Our “Homie the Clown” was allegedly dressed as a clown and went around kidnapping kids. Rumors said that he rode in a van and liked to stand next to mailboxes eating bananas. This sounds silly now, but it was serious back then, just like the recent clown scares. We got let out of school early and children were afraid to walk by mailboxes. It also didn’t help that Stephen King’s IT had also just come out.

Community

It wasn’t all bad though so I want to talk about the close knit community that existed there too that never made the news. Generations of families grew up together in what is rarely seen today. My mother’s friend, who lived next door, helped her to babysit. People watched one another children, shopped together, stepped up when someone was in need and shared food. We could go next door or downstairs to ask if someone had sugar or flour. We bartered services and passed along information about job openings or what was new at the Aid office and the candy lady was an entrepreneur. She used her food stamps to open a candy store back when you can get one piece of candy for every penny you had, better known as Penny Candy.  People threw house parties and sleepovers. Robert Taylor was not just a concentration of poverty. It was also a thriving community. When things were good, they were really good, and everyone was family. But you didn’t see this on the news. We were not all crack babies. We were not animals.

Five Ways To Give Your Characters Emotional Depth

Good stuff. Well written characters who are like real people is my favorite.

K.M. Allan

Creating a character isn’t all physical description and heartbreaking backstory.

Well, a lot of it is, but it’s not just that. You need to round out that tall, dark-haired beautiful orphan with some emotional depth. The kind that will keep your readers turning the page and recommending your stories.

They’ll do this because they’re invested in your books. And they’re invested because they relate to the characters. They might not be tall, dark-haired, beautiful or an orphan, but they know how it feels to miss family, to never find the right pant length, or to be judged by their looks.

Creating a relatable connection to universal struggles is key and ensuring your characters have emotional depth is the metal that forges that key.

Five Ways To Give Your Characters Emotional Depth

Don’t Say Emotions

Emotions are something we all feel, unless you’re a serial killer.

Writing “She was sad”

View original post 619 more words

Lessons from a Book Signing

It’s time for another post on lessons from a book signing. I try to learn something new from every event I do. I also enjoy seeing if what we learn online applies when in direct, real life, person-to-person contact. Here’s what I learned from Friday‘s Book Signing.

  • Practice Makes Perfect

 

While I am not perfect by any means, consistency and practice really do help us to get better. Cliche as it is now, the saying is true. The more book signings and events I do, the better I get at pitching my books. I am a naturally shy person but author events help me to be more open. It is the chance for me to learn how to communicate what my book is about without being scripted (which is easy to do when you’re behind a computer), but that you only have seconds to do in person. For example, I had the chance to sit and think about what I wanted to say here, how to say it and the words that would best sum up this experience. In person, the time is much, much faster. There is no time to sit and think about what to say. There is nothing but your knowledge of your product and why you think it‘s worth the time and money investment. They even asked me to recite a poem on the spot! I am thankful to Yah I was ready.

 

It’s also not just about selling books but genuine interaction with the people. There were many people who bought books but did not take pictures because they didn’t want to and I did not force them. Some people didn’t buy books at all, but they sat and talked with me and laughed and we shared some interesting conversation. I met a new poet who told me about some open mic spots to hit up and a young man who referred me to a Barnes and Noble in the area that accepts Self-Published Authors. The best way to get started making change is to begin where you are.

 

  • Competing Against Cell Phone Attention Spans

 

In person, you get to see the distractions we compete with up close and personal. People‘s attention spans are short already but add to it the mobile device and it’s easy to get discouraged. Many of the people who walked past my table were glued to their mobile device or already talking on it. This makes me much more conscious of this when doing business online. Knowing that the interest in the smartphone is a big deal is one thing but seeing it empowers me with so many new ideas and thoughts on how I, as an author can keep this in mind when interacting with readers.

 

  • Don’t Try to Sell to Everyone (Don’t Sell At All, Connect)

 

The same thing about finding your target audience online applies to offline as well. While the time is faster and you do have to pull people away from their phones, discernment is important as well. I am starting to pick up on who to reach out to (literally) and who to let walk by. This may sound funny but it’s not just about getting a sale. Some people purposely crossed the street to avoid my table (lol), some people purposely focused on the ground and avoided eye contact, and some people were not on the phone. They just pretended to be to avoid me. These are examples that “I don‘t want to be bothered.” Just like not everyone will want to buy your book online, not everyone wants to buy your book in person. Some things I picked up on from people who wanted to buy my book or was interested in learning more:

 

  • They hesitated and stared at the book cover while walking by
  • They stopped by
  • They spoke to me
  • They asked questions
  • They stopped when hearing what the book was about

There are ways of knowing if you should reach out to people and if you should not. I hope to use the experience from Friday to help me at the Atlanta book signing in July.

  • Some Writing Advice Does Not Apply Offline

 

Every time I meet with people face to face it‘s a different experience than being online. What may surprise you is that I find writing advice (not all, but some) we use online does not apply to offline. There’s no screen, no script, no hashtag, nothing but good ole fashioned communication between two people who may share a genuine interest. In real life people do want your business card to learn more about you, they do ask about your website, and they want to know if they can follow you online. This means that while some advise against business cards, author websites and social media, this is not true when you are face to face with the people. In my experience, no one asks to follow your blog or if they can sign up to your email list (unless there’s already a sign-up form present and you ask them). While I think both are important and are necessary for Indie Authors to have (and both have helped me tremendously), in my experience when talking to the people in person who don‘t already know me, the basics they want to know is:

 

  • Do you have a card?
  • Do you have a website?
  • Can I follow you online?
  • Can I pay with my card?

 

Applying this means:

 

  • Having business cards with me
  • Having a website for people to go to
  • Being present on social media
  • Having a card reader on hand

 


If you did not get to stop by or you are not in the area, remember that I am Soul, my latest collection of poetry is 99cents in ebook through the month of April in honor of National Poetry Month. Also, if you are in the Atlanta area this summer, I’ll be at the Atlanta African American Book Festival in July. I’ll be premiering my first Non-Fiction release, Keep Yourself Full (of course I’ll still have my other books present as well) and other author swag. Don’t miss the chance to connect. See you soon ✒📚📸

View more pictures from this signing here
Connect with me on IG here, Facebook here, and Twitter here
Visit me on the web Here