My next collection of poetry releases this year and I have decided on the title, “My Soul is a Witness.” I want to thank the members of my email list for helping me to choose the perfect image (we had a contest featuring several images. If you are not subscribed for exclusive first-looks and sneak peeks, you may click here).
This book releases in the fall and will be available for preorder soon. Exact date to be announced.
One of my favorite movies (I have lots of favorites lol) is The Great Debaters. I love the use of language, history, and education, and it also feels like to me they are doing performance poetry, not just debating. When the movie comes on, the Negro Spiritual song, “Witness,” is being sung as the people dance.
Just as with I am Soul, My Soul is a Witness jumped out at me and I felt it in my spirit that this was the appropriate title for the book. The soulful, sacred, and riveting Negro Spiritual songs taught of freedom, of hope, of redemption, and biblical justice and righteousness. I hope these poems do the same for you. I hope that they are liberating, restoring, and reinvigorating. “My Soul is a Witness,” is poetry that reminds us that in our darkest moments, there is still hope. It reminds us that our scars do not cripple us but prepare us for a work, and that our greatest weaknesses make us strong. Here, I give you my ache and my praise. This is a love letter to our overcoming, of yours and mine. My Soul is a Witness.
I couldn’t help but think about “Vision” on the Top Floor of the World Trade Center in Baltimore. The view is a beautiful layout of the city and the binoculars let you see everything up close. That’s what 20/20 is about for me, seeing clearly.
20/20 = Perfect Vision
At this time of the year, most people are talking about their wins but I believe it is my losses that have caused the most growth and given me the most lessons. It was the letdowns, betrayals, and disappointments that have cultivated in me the strength I’ve had to endure last year and all the other years before it.
Keep Yourself Full didn’t do as well as I had thought and while it bothered me at first, I can honestly say that as of today I’m okay with it. I’ve been Self-Publishing my books for a while now and what I’ve learned is that experience brings clarity.
Hindsight is 20/20 and what I see now are the mistakes I made with this particular book, the audience I thought would be there but wasn’t, and the solace in knowing that my poetry is inspiring enough.
A ‘Snellen chart’ is an eye chart that’s used to help you determine the clarity of your distance vision. Somebody with 20/20 vision has normal acuity (sharpness or keenness of thought, vision, or hearing) meaning if they were to stand at a distance of 20 feet from the eye chart, then they would be able to clearly see each row of letters. This person has good eyesight.
What’s being said is that if you look back at situations that went poorly, you can clearly see (20/20) what you could have done better.
This entire year is 20/20 which means a time of looking back and reflecting on all I’ve done. I know the word “reflection,” is being used a lot this time of the year so it may not hit you as hard but I caution you not to let its repetitiveness water down its powerful meaning.
Reflection is serious thought or consideration but it also shows, expresses, or is a sign of something and an image of something in the mirror. To reflect is to give serious thought and consideration to ourselves, the image in the mirror. It is to look at ourselves. What do we see? What are we showing or expressing?
My philosophy (for lack of a better term) is “do you but do you intelligently.”
I believed, and still, believe, we should not just decide, but that we should make informed decisions. From this point forward it’s not just about making decisions but knowing why I am making those decisions. It’s about being intentional in every way. From this point forward, everything I do has a reason. Everything is a strategic move. From publishing a book to publishing a post.
There are projects I will retire this year and projects I will relaunch. Looking back, I can see clearly what works and what doesn’t work for my writing business.
I am flawed and imperfect. I will mess up but I am striving every day, learning, and correcting as I go along (with all the failures and pitfalls that come with it). I know these losses can do nothing but make me stronger, and wiser so that when I look back, there is nothing to regret.
The losses taught me to focus the first time around and to trust my discernment so I can see things for what they are, not for what I want them to be. The losses are a reminder to see things clearly.
Go to my IG page here to check out more vacation pics at some awesome museums including The Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Visit me on the web at yecheilyahysrayl.com and subscribe to this blog for notification of more posts.
Title: Birth Days: Stories of Women Who Turned Difficult Beginnings into Glorious Lives
Author: Carol Massey
Print Length: 157 pages
Publisher: Pure Heart Publishing
Publication Date: November 2019
Reviewed By: Yecheilyah Ysrayl
Birth Days is just what its subtitle says, “the stories of women who turned difficult beginnings into glorious lives.” The author introduces us to several fictional women who endure heartbreaking struggles with birth and parenting. Dr. Francine Young gives her baby up for adoption, Lulu didn’t know she was pregnant until two months before giving birth, Margaret messed around with Jackson Jones (and he was not her husband), and Lulu’s grandson became the President of Howard University in 2027.
We are witnesses to the trials these women endured, the men they loved and the people who assisted them in their journeys. (Like Aunt Sis who acted as a Midwife and caregiver for Mary and Connie). Readers will be eager to see what happens next as each woman tackles her beast. We can consider the stories historical as many of them take place as far back as the thirty’s and forty’s and I enjoyed the pieces of history sprinkled throughout as it pertained to the differences of the lives of African Americans in the North as compared to the South. (Though, I wish the author had placed more emphasis on how racist the North was too. To her credit, there was mention of the racial subtleties of the North, but I still got the feeling that for the characters it represented the land of milk and honey.)
My favorite story is the first one, Two Sisters, with Connie and Mary, Aunt Sis and Aunt Ailene. I could see the mother’s grief at having such a difficult pregnancy and the fear that gripped the family at having lost a baby before, and their anxiousness over whether Mary would live. I felt the father’s heartache at building the baby coffin out of the fear she would die like the others. (And when the father renovated the house later in the story and came home with Clara it had a Color Purple feel to it). I was eager to see what would happen to the sisters in the long run. The author did a good job of keeping me wanting to read on. (I enjoyed Dr. Francine’s story too.)
I believe this book to be a five-star read. It’s not a long book and the stories of the women and their struggles with maternity fit well within today’s society where women, their efforts and lives are at the forefront. However, because of a few errors, I cannot rate this book the five stars I think some minor adjustments could help it become. Too much telling, no chapter headings and too many exclamation marks are among my concerns that impede the flow of the reading and, as a result, contribute to my final rating.
After retiring from a 30+ year career in health and educational administration, Carol Massey had time to reflect on the people, places and events that influenced and inspired her. She wanted to pay homage to some of the women who guided, nurtured and supported her journey from childhood through college, career and life as a single mother of an African American male child. Carol, a California native, now lives in suburban Atlanta with her rescue pup, Ms. Frances.
You don’t have to wait until January 1st to get started on your 2020 goals. If you want to release/write a book in 2020, you should be planning...now. Actually, you are already behind. Even if you are Self-Publishing, it helps to start early. Notable mainstream authors releasing books in 2020 already have their preorder up. “Planning out your book marketing in advance and adequately preparing for your book’s release is crucial to a successful book launch.” (Sansevieri, 2019) Don’t wait two weeks before release to prepare your audience for your book. Here are some tips:
Put some money aside for your book. Your biggest expense will be editing, then cover design. You will also need the book formatted for e-readers. Don’t wait until the last minute to put something to the side. Invest in your book. Invest in yourself. Save some coins. (Prioritize your expenses! Don’t spend money on the tools you don’t need right now. Business cards and fancy thank you cards can wait. Save your money.)
If you want to start a blog, do it 3-6months before your book releases. Post content relatable to the book and who you are as a person (don’t make your blog all about your book. Talk about other stuff you like.)
Set up your Author Social Media pages and get to work. Talk about the upcoming book, educate, inform, uplift, go live. Use SM for something other than memes and gossip. Social Media is a FREE platform to use to spread the word about your book/business. Don’t sleep on it.
Make sure your website is ready to go. Here’s something the “gurus” won’t tell you: Selling through Amazon is nice, but selling through your own website is better because you get the entire dollar instead of just a percentage. Print on Demand Companies like Amazon’s KDP, Lulu, and Ingram Spark makes it easy to order copies of your book in bulk that you can sell individually through your website. (You can also sell your books in bulk! I’m trying to tell you something…level it up)
Create a landing page with a great giveaway offer or freebie to collect emails for your author email list. A sample of the first few chapters of the new book is a good start. The email list isn’t for everyone, but it’s good to have in case Social Media (blogs included) is no more. You will still have a connection with your audience. Find what works best for you. For instance, the giveaway/freebie thing is a good idea and many people use it, but this strategy didn’t work for me. I get more email sign-ups by having the pop up on this blog than giving away a free chapter of a book. People say pop-ups don’t work but they do for me so don’t let people tell you what will or won’t work for you. I wrote a post on how to set up an email list with Mailchimp here. Also check out 7 Common Sense Reasons You Should Build an Email List.
If you want to host author events in bookstores, start pitching them about 3-4months out. If they’re local, walk-in and introduce yourself. (I book most of my events by walking in and talking to people in person.) Always travel with a copy of your book and some business cards.
The point of starting early:
You want to build your readership ahead of time so when you release the book you have people who want to buy it.
CLICK HERE for more Indie Author Basics and happy writing! I’m rooting for you.
On January 17, 2015, I started a Blog Series in honor of Black History Month called Black History Fun Fact Friday. The series was supposed to run from January 2015 through the end of February 2015, but two badges and 66 weeks of posts later we are still going strong. 2017 and 2018 have been our best years to date with the most posts and the most interesting topics.
But I don’t have that kind of time anymore and no man is an Island.
Black History Fun Fact Friday is not just a Black History Month segment anymore. It has carved out its own space in the internet’s land.
I want to get back to publishing Black History articles to this blog every Friday, and would love to have some help.
As we prepare for 2020, I am reaching out to Black writers interested in helping to contribute to this series.
Because of the nature of this series interested writers must be Black/African American (this includes so-called Afro Cuban, Jamaican, Hatian, Cuban, Afro Brazilian, Dominican etc.).
Must be original work. Do not copy and paste the article from other blogs unless that blog is your own. If you have a Black History article to share that you published to your own site you are welcomed to submit it for Black History Fun Facts. I have no problem with that as long as it is your own work.
Topics must be relatable to the history of Blacks/African Americans.
Articles must be emailed to me for approval at least one week before publishing. If you email your article on 1/31 for example, I will publish it on 2/7 if there are no needed changes. This series is not exclusive to Black History Month but if you want your articles published in time for February, please have them submitted no later than Monday, January 27, 2020. Writers looking for more exposure will be wise to try for a Feb slot. A Black History Article during Black History Month will naturally attract more readers.
Please send articles in a Word Document, 12p Font, Times New Roman text.
Please do your best to self-edit your work for basic typos/spelling/grammatical errors before submission. Grammarly and ProWritingAid are good free self-edit software programs to use.
The BHFFF badge will be included in every post but you are welcomed to create your own image to add as well. Canva is a good program to use to make your own images. Unsplash is good for free images.
This is Black History Fun Fact Friday not Black History Opinions so do your best to submit articles covering accurate historical information. I will vet the submissions to make sure they do. If you have links to sources, please include them.
Please include a photo of yourself, social media handles, website, or links to books you’ve written on the topic. This will be added to the end of the post as your call to action. This is where you give readers the chance to follow/learn more about you.
Benefits of Guest Blogging:
Increase traffic to your own website/blog
Build Relationships/Online Influence
Build Domain and Search Engine Authority
Capture Wider Audience
Develop Your Authority on a topic
Improve Your Writing
Opens the doors for paid business opportunities
The series is Black Historical so submissions should be articles detailing the history of Blacks in some way. You can talk about The Transatlantic Slave Trade, Enslavement, Civil Rights, Police Brutality, Medical/Educational discrimination, Black Power Movement, Inventors, Black Biblical History, and much more.) Tell us about a little Known Black Historical Fact or introduce us to a little-known Black Historical person or place. (For example, I once published a post on Sundown Towns, all-white communities where Blacks were restricted from after Sundown).
Topics can vary as long as they cover Black History (this includes Jamaican, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Caribbean, and Dominican.) Specifically, I am looking to feature full-length articles that inform and educate on some part of Black History at 300+ words or more. (Do not send a book, but make sure your article is at least 300 words. We want it long enough to inform but short enough to keep the reader’s attention.)
A copy of this post is archived to its own page here.
Email articles to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Houston Signing was excellent. It was different from my other signings. We had a small crowd but it felt more intimate and personal. What’s better than talking about self-love to a group of Black women? It reminded me of teaching and you know what they say “when you teach you learn twice.” One of the most important lessons I learned is the importance of telling our stories. I wish I had gone deeper into my background during the introduction. I think it would have added a bit more depth.
I was raised on the south side of Chicago in the Robert Taylor Projects, the largest housing project in the world and one of the poorest urban communities in the United States (second only to Cabrini Green). I’ve seen things most people only read about or watch in hood movies. I know what it’s like to grow up around drug addicts and gangs. I got my own war wounds. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been hungry. I know what it’s like to be depressed and sad. Keep Yourself Fullis not a regurgitation of the latest Social Media Self-love Guru. Keep Yourself Fullexist because I know what it’s like to feel empty.
This kind of vulnerability helps us to be more relatable with others and capable of helping people who are where we were to see living proof that overcoming is not just a word: it actually is possible. If we consider ourselves healed and whole, how did we get that way? What lessons have we learned? We didn’t always know what we know today and preaching and browbeating rarely works…
…but stories do.
Tell your story. Let people know how you got here. Stories help us to connect more with others. It humanizes us and makes people open to hearing our perspective.