Marketing My Book: A first-time author’s journey

Notice something different in the title of this blog than the title of my July entry?  In July, my blog was “Marketing My Self Published Book: A first-time author’s journey.”  A fine title but does being self published really matter anymore?


What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2

If the term self published bothers you, drop it.  You are an indie author.  Your imprint is Create Space or Ingram Publishing Services or whatever publisher puts ink on paper for you.

Part Two:  Book Festivals

All literary festivals have applications to fill out and deadlines to meet.   Be sure to read the rules and guidelines before submitting your book.  If your book doesn’t comply with their requirements but you have your heart set on hobnobbing with the other authors, it’s worth contacting the director.

I had my heart set on being part of the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Since KINGSLEY wasn’t coming out until November 8th and the Virginia Festival of the Book deadline for submission was October 1st, I asked permission to submit the final draft of my novel instead of the finished product.  I was very fortunate that they agreed.

The sad fact is that most Literary Festivals aren’t welcoming to indie authors.  When they are, they seem to give priority to indie authors living in their state.  This is where doing some legwork before you publish pays off.  I was an active volunteer for many years with the Virginia Festival of the Book, and I’d moderated and participated in panels.  I can’t say for certain that this is why I was accepted but it might have helped.

The Virginia Festival of the Book is a multi-day literary festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. The festival invites authors and publishing experts from all over the country.  Most of the events are free so they draw a good crowd.  The festival is held in March, which means weather can be a factor in its success.  A lovely spring day attracts more attendees.  Rain or snow is a real wet blanket.   My panel was scheduled for a Friday at a popular library.  I was looking forward to it.

Regardless of whether an author is invited to participate in a panel, they can still rent a table at the Omni Hotel on the last Saturday of the festival to sell their books.  I rented half of a table, which cost $110.  Virginia Festival of the Book 2015

Bottom line: Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your book or to rent a table if your goal is to be part of a book festival.

Once I had advance reader copies of KINGSLEY, I began submitting to other Literary Festivals.  At that time I didn’t realize how slim my chances were of getting in.  Most of the festivals I applied to required several copies of my book, which meant more trips to the post office.  Money going out and none coming in.

I was rewarded for my hard work with acceptance to the Dahlonega Literary Festival in Georgia.  This festival was scheduled for the weekend before the Virginia Festival so March was filling up with opportunities to talk about my book.  I was to be part of a panel that wrote science fiction and fantasy.  I had high hopes so I rented a space for book signings and sales.   It only cost around $35.  Not bad, but attending the festival in Georgia meant renting a hotel and a couple tanks of gas to drive there and back.2016-03-12 08.47.16

Was it worth it?  Not in sales.  But both festivals allowed me to spread the word about KINGSLEY, sharpen my presentation, and focus my pitch.

And as the saying goes,

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice”?

Next up: Practice makes perfect (or at least better).  Watch for it in  2017

What Sir Salman taught me last week

Free Speech and Writing

So the National Endowment for the Humanities threw its 50th birthday celebration, Human / Ties, in Charlottesville, VA, mid-September 2016. Almost all the events, over a span of several days, were offered free to the public, and I went to a few of them. It was a treat. I ended up feeling chuffed – and sobered – about being a writer myself.

Publicity from UVa on behalf of the NEH and HUMAN/TIES

Publicity from UVa on behalf of the NEH and HUMAN/TIES

On the Friday evening, 16 September, at the Paramount Theater – our lovingly refurbished former Vaudeville theater now hosting drama, music, speaking, meetings, large-screen movies, etc. – Sir Salman Rushdie came for a chat. The successful author and teacher, who catapulted to international fame when an Iranian Ayatollah put a bounty on Rushdie’s head in 1989, sat on an elegant chair near the center of the vast Paramount stage. To his right, in a identical chair, his interlocutor, Suketu Mehta, a fellow professor at New York University’s School of Journalism, spoke for several minutes, after which, inserting brief questions from time to time, he let his friend and colleague do most of the speaking, .

Rushdie in 2016. Photo from Wikipedia.

Rushdie in 2016. Photo from Wikipedia.

I didn’t know what to expect. I signed up weeks before the event for my free ticket, as soon as I heard about it, on the theory that this was an important occasion and I might be surprised by what I observed and learned. I’m so glad I did that. Turned out to be a worthwhile theory.

Following are some of the nuggets I came away with, from Rushdie’s conversation with Mehta.

FYI: To the best of my knowledge, the quoted material here is accurate. I had a little notebook with me in which I scribbled😉 Any errors in transcribing are mine.


On Dissidence and Writing

The writer is the voice that nobody owns.

The authoritarians … want to control the narrative.

If you say, ‘no it doesn’t,’ that’s why they want to lock writers up.

These remarks and the narrative around them led me to feel pleased and proud to be one more member of the international clan of writers, dating back from the storytellers in the cave, to the present-day, where we express ourselves through so many means in so many media. It’s a privilege and perhaps a duty, Rushdie implied, to write the truth as we perceive it – and as we choose to communicate it.

On Freedom of Speech

Having lived in the New York area for twenty years, he said, he applied for and received US citizenship. Rushdie emphasized that “the most important thing” in his decision to do so is the existence of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Handwritten text that would become the First Amendment

Handwritten text that would become the First Amendment. Courtesy Wikipedia.

After overcoming some discomfort about people in the US being able to say more terrible things about others than they are permitted to, for instance, in England or Germany, he said he gradually came to value more the First Amendment’s wisdom. It favors openness over control. After all, some people will be in power, and they are the ones who’ll say what’s permitted and what isn’t. What if you are on the wrong end of the people in power?

All it says, as adopted in 1791, is this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Here’s some of what Rushdie had to say about the importance of that brief paragraph.

Bad ideas don’t disappear if you forbid them.

I want to know where the assholes are. … [T]hen we’ll know where they live.

Lest we try to believe that censorship can be used for good, in the interests of protecting those segments of a society that are smaller, less recognized, or less vocal, he gave us this heartfelt advice.

Don’t use censorship to defend minorities – it will backfire.

Rushdie was clever, funny, and sincere. His friend, Professor Mehta, conducted the conversation elegantly, with minimal fuss.

I am grateful for the chance to sit there, take notes, and take it all in. All writers can be brave. Some like Rushdie are called on to be publicly, conspicuously, so. That night, he did not let us down. Seated in his chair, under the spotlight, he stood up for all writers.

— AM Carley writes fiction and nonfiction, and is a founding member of BACCA. Her company, Chenille Books, helps nonfiction authors develop their books. Her first nonfiction book, Becoming Unstuck: The FLOAT Approach for Writers, is forthcoming in 2016. #becomingunstuck 

158 Queries or, Another Case for the Growth Mindset

“I queried 158 times before I sold my first word.”

I was sitting in a Just Buffalo writing workshop led by Nancy Davidoff Kelton, the author of Finding Mr. Rightstein (Passager, 2016) and Writing from Personal Experience (F+W Media, 2000) and countless personal essays. “158 queries” was part of Nancy’s opening remarks.

The rest of her workshop was useful, personal, and entertaining—even if you don’t count the law firm’s noisy party on the floor below. But “158 queries” is what I needed to hear the most. I walked into the workshop, thinking “I don’t need a writing workshop—I need a query pep talk.” Unlike most of the other workshop participants, I’ve taken writing classes…several. I’ve spent a couple years, in those classes and working with 2 different writing groups, developing control over my voice, so the academic in me doesn’t come out unless invited.

But so far I’ve not developed a successful query process. I think I know my query issues, AKA false beliefs that serve to self-handicap, AKA the fixed mindset when it comes to querying. What’s ridiculous is, when it comes to writing, I’m the queen of growth mindset, which is the idea that if you keep doing something, you will improve. And improving depends on regular practice.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this because the research on mindsets (made famous by Carol Dweck who wrote the book) says that indeed, a person can have a growth mindset in one area and a fixed mindset in another. Here’s what I mean:

My attitudes about querying (Fixed Mindset):
– I query intermittently, not on a regular schedule.
– I, inaccurately, see querying as separate from writing in the sense that I “can’t” make room in my schedule for both at the same time.
– I dread querying because of the (extremely high) chance that I will fail.
– I don’t believe that if I keep doing it, it will pay off (meaning, result in an accepted piece).

My attitudes about writing (Growth Mindset):
+ I write regularly: multiple times per week, if you count academic writing, which I do since it’s my day job.
+ I make time to write in between all my other obligations.
+ I look forward to writing, because I see it as something that I can improve if I do more of it.
+ I believe that if I keep writing, I will end up with a piece I’m satisfied with.

Before Nancy’s “158 queries,” mini-pep-talk, I had been lying to myself. Telling myself that querying is too hard, that it’s not in my skill set because writers aren’t natural marketers, and that if I just keep entering contests I will eventually, miraculously, be found through that process by an agent or publisher who can’t wait to publish eerything I’ve ever written: my books, short stories, personal essays, back files, rough drafts, and even random, lightly polished journal entries (hey a girl can dream).

Ha. Please don’t tell Jane Friedman, or Anne Janzer, who helpfully present more on mindset-as-applied-to-the-writing-life here.

So now I’m trying to stop lying to myself. Querying is difficult, but Nancy did it. 158 times before she had any success. And now she is a grand success. She had, and has, a growth mindset about both writing and querying.

They (people, somewhere) say identifying the problem is half the battle. So here I am, problem identified.

Time to stop writing—for now. I need to go send in a query letter.

Marketing My Self Published Book: A first-time author’s journey

Part One

After spending years writing KINGSLEY, I felt like everyone knew everything about my novel.  Family and friends had heard about it, read excerpts, and even backed my Kickstarter campaign to push KINGSLEY through the final steps of publication.


A month before KINGSLEY launched, I contacted a local book store to host the launch party.  The date was set, invitations sent, menu planned.  About 50 people attended, filling the small bookstore.

Certainly by now, everyone in the world had heard about KINGSLEY, right?

All I had to do was watch the sales numbers to learn the truth.

Over my next few posts, I will lead you through my meandering marketing of KINGSLEY.  My failures, my successes, and what I learned along the way.

Let’s start at the beginning.   I decided to publish KINGSLEY through Amazon (eBook) and Create Space (an Amazon company that prints paperbacks.)  I found both easy to use and cost effective.  Their websites are clear and their technical support is great.  Need help in a hurry?   Create Space gives you the option to input your phone number on their help page and receive an immediate call back.

The upside to using Amazon and Create Space is obvious.  Amazon is the largest book seller in the world!  This meant I could market my novel to the entire world.


Good luck with that.  It’s hard enough getting people in your town to buy your book, let alone readers in France or Japan to purchase an unknown book by an obscure author written in English.  But at least by using Amazon, readers in other countries have the opportunity to buy my book.

The downside of using Create Space to print your book is that some bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, won’t work with Create Space.   Amazon is their competitor. If you find a way to make a deal with Walmart, Barnes and Noble, or Costco please let me know and I will pass it along!

Now that I’ve told you what you can’t do, stay tuned for ideas on how and where to sell your self-published book.  

Becoming Unstuck for Writers – Two Tools

It happens to most everyone. From time to time, the words just aren’t there. You may have set aside time for writing, you may have a good idea, even a supply of your favorite food and beverages for writing. No matter. You’re just making false starts. It feels bad. You’re stuck.

Becoming unstuck is a topic I’ve given some thought to this year. My book-development clients face down stuckness now and then, as do my fellow BACCA writers, and, oh yeah, I do too. In fact, I’m writing a book about how writers can become unstuck.

Here, I offer you two tools – one larger, and one lower-impact, for your consideration, the next time you feel that stuckness in your vicinity.

The Big Idea

One of the tools I recommend is — dum – ta- dum – dum — The Deadline.

And not a fake deadline that only you need to pay attention to. For this to be effective and more likely to be resistance-proof, you need to set up a deadline where you’re responsible to others. A deliverable to a third party. A date certain. An event. That sort of thing.

Fake deadlines – for instance, putting an event in your Google calendar – can be persuaded to postpone themselves. Don’t ask me how I know this, but it’s super-easy to grab one of those quiet little fake deadlines and slide it over a day or two. Or month. The possibilities are limitless, really.

Courtesy Pixabay

Courtesy Pixabay

To make the deadline strategy work for you, do yourself a real favor. Make a plan with someone else, someone you respect. Make a solid promise to them. Did the odds just increase greatly that you’ll deliver something good, and on time?

Here’s a not-so-random illustration of how this can operate: I’d been planning and drafting this book for a while. And maybe I’d been sliding over my self-imposed soft deadline dates in my online calendar once or twice. No one would know the difference, I told myself….

Now, I’m leading a workshop on the topic next month at Andi Cumbo-Floyd‘s writer’s retreat in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. And when I agreed in March to do this, I committed to having in hand a beta version of the book in time for a late-July event. See how that works? It’s simple and powerful. (And check out this retreat!)

The Littler Idea

Sometimes, all it takes is a walk around the block.

Do this for real, on ‘shank’s mare‘ (as my dad used to put it), or more virtually (standing up and stretching, your favorite deep breathing routine, a journaling break, and so on). A simple refreshing change brings you back to the same place, only it’s so barely recognizable that it has become a different place.

Ah, words don’t do justice to the beautiful simplicity of this concept. Check out the illustration to get a clearer idea of how brilliantly this can work.


Here’s to becoming unstuck.

May all your stuckness be resolved. May you scratch your right ear and get on with your work.

— AM Carley writes fiction and nonfiction, and is a founding member of BACCA. Her company, Chenille Books, helps nonfiction authors develop their books. Her first nonfiction book, FLOAT: Becoming Unstuck for Writers, is forthcoming in 2016.

How One Little Idea Turned into $70,000 for Books

My how-to guide Crowdfunding for Authors is coming out in October. It’s based on three years of experience at The Artist’s Partner, working with authors who have used Kickstarter and Indiegogo to finance their publishing projects. Since 2013 these authors have raised $73,972 for novels, memoirs, children’s books, and more. And it all grew from one little idea five years ago.

author mosaic

Read more about these crowdfunded authors below.

It began when BACCA decided to periodically incorporate the “biz” of writing into our critique meetings. At our first such “biz” discussion, I floated the idea of teaching an eBook publishing class. I received an enthusiastic response, and some useful suggestions. I submitted a proposal, and was teaching my first “eBook DIY” class at WriterHouse in the spring of 2012.

It was in a subsequent class that author Stefan Bechtel (Roar of the Heavens, Mr. Hornaday’s War) was a student. He was then writing the memoir of retired action bowler Bob Perry. Bob is a quintessential New Jersey hustler, so in retrospect it’s no surprise that he and Stefan were the first to suggest that maybe this “Kickstarter thing” could be used to fund their book. They hired me to orchestrate the campaign, and in September of 2013 we raised $6,945 for what was then titled Bowling for the Mob. By the following April it had been picked up by Rodale Press for a sizable contract, national distribution, and a makeover that included the title change to Redemption Alley.

By the fall of the next year I was guiding four crowdfunding campaigns simultaneously. I was onto something! It’s been a steep learning curve, with many mistakes and victories along the way. Crowdfunding books is hard – only 29.5% make it. That makes me all the more proud of my authors’ success rate of 97%. Here are what I’ve observed are the top five reasons for their impressive levels of success:

  1. Great cover design purchased prior to the campaign. People judge a book by its cover – even on Kickstarter.
  2. Firm commitments of 40% of their fundraising target locked down prior to campaign launch. Only 29% of books succeed – but 97% of books that cross the 40%-funded threshold succeed.
  3. Email and social media lists right-sized to cover the additional 60%. There’s too much math involved to explain “right-sized” here in this post, but suffice to say: these authors had, or developed, good connections with their prospective readers during the 3-12 months prior to their campaigns.
  4. Photos of their faces. Many (introverted) writers hate this, but people respond to faces. It’s called Facebook.
  5. Commitment to the process. Crowdfunding is a marathon, not a sprint. These authors put in the training, and then ran their best race.

crowdfunding for authors draft coverI’m thrilled to be publishing the guidebook that helped these authors to crowdfund their books, because you can crowdfund your book, too. Crowdfunding for Authors is itself available for preorder on Indiegogo, and will be released on Amazon in October.

Bethany Joy Carlson

Here are the amazing authors who have raised over $70,000 with The Artist’s Partner since 2013!

Organized as follows: Author / Platform – Title (availability).

Zack Bonnie / Indiegogo – Dead, Insane, or In Jail: Overwritten (Coming fall 2016)
Marc Boston / Kickstarter – The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff (Amazon)
Ramgiri Braun / Indiegogo – HeartSourcing (Amazon)
Lizzy Duncan, B. Cunningham, G. Jackson / Kickstarter – Camila’s Lemonade Stand (Amazon)
Jenny Edmondson / Kickstarter – GroomsDay (Amazon)
Mary Buford Hitz / Kickstarter – Riding to Camille (Audible)
Peter Kalifornsky and Katherine McNamara / Indiegogo– From the First Beginning, When the Animals Were Talking (iTunes)
Priya Mahadevan / Kickstarter – Princesses Only Wear Putta-Puttas (Amazon)
Belinda Miller / Did not fund – published anyway! – Above the Stars (Amazon)
Carolyn O’Neal / Kickstarter – Kingsley (Amazon)
Bob Perry and Stefan Bechtel / Kickstarter – Redemption Alley (Amazon)


Publishing: Where Art joins Business

by Carolyn O’Neal

UPDATE:  Celebrate Earth Day with KINGSLEY!  


Enter for the chance to win a copy, shipped to your doorstep, for FREE.





Writing a novel is a long, meandering journey, more akin to kayaking  unexplored waterways than jetting to a known destination. Carolyn Kayaking Writing KINGSLEY took years.

Plot and character.

Revising and editing.

Critiquing chapters with my writing groups and sifting through their suggestions.


A thoroughly enjoyable adventure from start to finish.

That was writing.

Publishing is a very different adventure.

Publishing is where art and business join …  and I knew I needed help.

Let me back up a bit.  It was clear from the first time I met Bethany Carlson that she was a rare talent.  Not only did she have the rich imagination of an author but she also had a practical head for business.  I remember one writing group meeting several years ago in which I prophetically told her she should go into publishing.  That’s why I take partial credit for the success of her company, The Artist’s Partner.

The Artist’s Partner is a coach for artists becoming entrepreneurs. We provide crowdfunding consulting, and have helped artists raise over $90,000 for their creative projects through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

We work with arts companies and non-profits, authors, musicians, filmmakers, theater production companies, crafts persons, and other artists who seek to raise funds to professionally produce and distribute their own work.


One of her first Kickstarter campaigns was for  Bob Perry’s biography Bowling for the Mob.  Not only was his Kickstarter campaign a stunning success –  complete with a professionally produced video to entice backers – but his book, now renamed Redemption Alley, How I Lived To Bowl Another Frame – was  picked up by Rodale Books!

I had seen Bethany’s work ethic and her insightfulness.  I had seen her honesty, her deep patience, and her eternal optimism.  These were the qualities I needed if I intended to go from private writer to public author.  When I felt ready to publish KINGSLEY, I contacted Bethany.

Bethany Joy Carlson

Bethany Joy Carlson

First thing she did was establish a clear timeline.

Bethany guided me through how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.  We discussed the intense prep work needed, then blocked out the time  for editing and cover design, and then we set a target date for proofing the final drafts, distributing the books to my Kickstarter backers, and finally, publication.

As I began prepping for the campaign, Bethany set up a meeting with local director Michael Duni to shoot my promotional video.

My Kickstarter campaign ran one month, raised over $5000, and presold close to 100 copies.  Even more important, the campaign spread the word and built excitement.

KINGSLEY was coming!

Bethany put me in contact with Graphic Artist Mayapriya  Long of Bookwrights  to discuss the cover.  Honestly, that may have been the best part of the entire process.  Here are a few of the iterations…

Cover design





KINGSLEY is available on

Final cover for KINGSLEY. Now available on

She contacted copy editor Betsy Ballenger for the final review and then, KINGSLEY hit the presses!

The launch party for KINGSLEY was held on November 8, 2015 at Over the Moon Bookstore.Over THe moon Logo

It was a huge success and a wonderful experience!  Here are some fun photos from the launch:




Guest Post: Writing Fuel

This post is courtesy of Phyllis A. “Maggie” Duncan, novel and short story author.

If you believe the Facebook memes about the writing life, writers are solitary creatures, shuttered in our writing caves, subsisting on caffeine, and keeping distractions to an utter minimum. To an extent, that’s true, but biological and psychological needs conspire to push us into the non-writing sunshine, where we get inspired to write again.

Maggie book1

Available on

A key aspect of inspiration for me is my participation in two writing groups.

But, you say, going to writing group meetings takes time away from writing, and what possible good are they, anyway?

My answer:  A writing group consists of people who respect each other’s work and who are interested in each member’s success. How do I know this?

I retired six years ago to write for myself rather than Uncle Sam, but, frankly, I would have been content to sit in my office and write only for myself if not for my writers groups.

When I first joined the Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group of Writers (SWAG Writers), our meetings were social gatherings only. We met in a bar—of course; we’re writers—and chatted about what kind of writing we did and what we hoped to achieve. Then, a member had a story accepted for a literary journal, and that prompted me and others to try the whole submission thing.

SWAG was the place where I shared the news of my first acceptance of a story for publication, where I could do readings in a comfortable environment and could argue the efficacy of the Oxford Comma.

Along came National Novel Writers Month and the Shenandoah Valley Wrimos, a Facebook group where we encouraged each other and lamented our lagging word counts.

From that group developed the year-round writers group, Shenandoah Valley Writers. We have online short story discussions, writing sprints, and other craft-related fun. Mostly, however, we celebrate each other’s writing. We share each other’s publishing successes and commiserate over rejections. Though our primary interactions are online, we have occasional in-person get-togethers to talk writing and/or eat muffins, along with consuming large amounts of that writer’s fuel, coffee.

From both of these groups I get validation as a writer, I get encouragement, and, well, I have fun with writing. In short, without my writers groups, I wouldn’t have had anything published (including two recent releases, a novella, My Noble Enemy, and a novel in stories, The Better Spy), wouldn’t have won or placed in any contests, wouldn’t have evolved as a writer. I’d still be sitting in my writing cave, writing, revising, rewriting, and being the only person in the world to read my work.

A writing group challenges you, not merely to write, but to write better, to question your own writing toward the end of making it the best it can be. If you don’t have one, find one or make one and watch your writing blossom.

©Phyllis A. Duncan:


MaggiePhyllis Anne Duncan is a retired bureaucrat with an overactive imagination–at least that’s what everyone has told her since she first started making up stories in elementary school prompted by her weekly list of spelling words.

A commercial pilot and former FAA safety official, she lives and writes historical thrillers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A graduate of Madison College (now James Madison University), she has degrees in history and political science. Her love of politics continues to this day.

Her first print collection of short stories was the 2000 paperback, Rarely Well Behaved, which, in 2012, became two separate, reissued books, Blood Vengeance and Fences. In December 2012, she published Spy Flash, a collection of espionage flash fiction stories. In 2015, a novella, My Noble Enemy, and a novel in stories, The Better Spy, were published.

Other short stories have appeared in eFiction Magazine in 2011 and 2012; in the 2013 Blue Ridge Anthology; and in the 2013 1 x 50 x 100 Anthology, a collection of 100-word flash fiction; in the 2014 Skyline Anthology. A short story, “Marakata,” submitted for WriterHouse’s 5th Anniversary Short Story Contest, won third place. Her short story “Man on Fire” was a finalist in the Press53 AWP Flash Fiction contest and later published in Prime Number Magazine. A short play, “Yo’ Momma,” won the Ampersand Arts Bar Hopping Contest and was staged in April 2014 in Staunton, VA. Her story, “Reset,” will appear in the premiere issue of Ink Ribbon Press in 2015. Two contest winning stories, “Dreamtime” and “Blood and Guts,” will appear in the 2016 edition of Skyline.

Ms. Duncan has studied writing at the Gotham Writers Workshop,, and Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. Her freelance, feature articles on life in the Shenandoah Valley appear occasionally in the Staunton News-Leader. She is a member of WriterHouse, James River Writers, Virginia Writers Club (1st Vice President), Blue Ridge Writers, Shenandoah Valley Writers, SWAG (Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group) Writers, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

When not writing, reading, or reviewing books, she takes delight in spoiling her grandchildren.


Writing blog:

Author Website:

Social Media:

Facebook Author Page:

Twitter: @unspywriter



BACCA Literary Is At It Again

BACCA Literary just can’t stop organizing these mixers for writers. This time, it’s an evening session at Downtown Charlottesville, VA’s Central Library at 201 East Market Street, one block up from the Downtown Mall. (We’ve done ’em before, at the Virginia Festival of the Book, and the Virginia Writers Club Annual Symposium.)

Free Session! Free Parking!

Local writers are welcome to attend free of charge. Parking is validated for nearby garages, too!

Here’s the flyer that Reference Librarian Hayley Tompkins just sent us. She’ll be there on Wednesday, 7 October, 2015, at 7pm, to welcome participants to our session.

BACCA Literary welcomes area writers to a mixer on Wed 7 Oct 2015 at 7pm in downtown Charlottesville, VA

BACCA Literary welcomes writers to a get-acquainted mixer on Wed 7 Oct 2015 at 7pm in downtown Charlottesville, VA. The Central Library is at 201 East Market Street.

Arrive a few minutes early to get yourself situated!

We hope to see you there.

— Bethany, Carolyn, and Anne

Guest Post: Writing Groups – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This guest post is courtesy of Belinda Miller, children’s book author.

No one, except a fellow writer, understands the laments or the excitement a writer experiences when you are writing. There is a commonality, a bind, a coming together of an art form that is almost spiritual.

The third book in the Middle Grade Phillip's Quest series will be released this November

The third book in Belinda Miller’s Middle Grade Phillip’s Quest series will be released in November

After a twenty year plus career is the finance industry, and a medically forced retirement in 1998, I found myself, in 2013, at age 63, writing and publishing the Middle Grade series Phillip’s Quest and Children’s series The Ragwort Chronicles. At first, I was a little freaked out. Like any fledgling author, I wondered, besides whether I was good enough, what the heck do I do now? I had written technical manuals, which were always for “in-house” use, but these books were going to be published — I hoped. Well, it is now 2015, and my fifth book is ready to be released. Amazing — huh? Surreal to me. It took hours and hours of work, and hours and hours of help, and hours and hours of my husband’s patience. One thing that helped me immensely, was a local writing group whose members shared and compared their skills and experiences. A handful of us formed a strong, like-minded bond, some with more and some with less experience, but all with the same goal — to perfect their art. To learn and share things like technique, websites, books and contacts that are not found in a text or course on writing. And, as one becomes more confident and successful with their writing, through the group, one has the opportunity to expand and market oneself — brand oneself as an author. As I was able to do.

With much sadness I resigned in August from this local writing group that I had helped to gain a strong community presence. This handful of hard-working and now successful writers took part in various library and arts’ council events; held signings on First Fridays [in Manassas, VA]; donated books to First Book and various veterans’ organizations; conducted workshops for young writers, and most recently, joined with Manassas City officials and the Public Library Foundation to build and dedicate little free libraries throughout the City and [Prince William] County. We did it through persistence and perseverance. It was a tough decision to leave because of these three reasons: 1) I loved the people that were at the core of the group, 2) I learned a tremendous amount from these people, things that would take months or years, if I would have had to learn on my own, 3) the camaraderie of like-minds is invaluable.

I resigned because like many groups that are formed, they explode in size — this one started in 2011 with four people, and last week, it boasted some 250+ members. How did that happen, you ask — the explosion? It happens easily when there are no clear-cut guidelines for allowing people join. People were welcome from all over, (instead of a geographic area for which the group was designated), and who knew who they were or if they’ve ever written more than a sentence. So: know your members.

But most of all, as it grew the mission became blurred. Yes, there are bylaws, but they were not enforced. If you’re joining a group, and you can’t get answers about mission or financials, don’t join. If there are no scheduled meetings, or meetings that are put off, and off, and off — don’t join.

I will miss the group as it was. The beauty of a well-run, organized, cohesive group of like minds, is that you share ideas and experiences that you cannot share with anyone who does not write! It doesn’t matter whether it is prose or poetry, or what the genre is, there is a commonality, a bind, a coming together of an art form that is almost spiritual. No one, except a fellow writer, understands the laments or the excitement a writer experiences when you are writing — a poem, a short-story, a novella, a novel! No one understands the angst you go through to have your story published. No one, except another writer! Will I join another group? Already have. Many are the same people who were part of the group before, but this time, we are more knowledgable, older, and much, much wiser.

Belindbelinda headshota Miller is a former language arts teacher who applies her love of literature and the arts when writing Middle Grade series Phillip’s Quest and Children’s series The Ragwort Chronicles.  After living in Colorado and Wyoming, this ex- New Yorker makes her home in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, Gary, and her cats, Sambucca and Skye.