Liza Elliott to host mixer for local bloggers, authors, and poets

Birmingham-based author Liza Elliott

If you’re a blogger, author, or poet you need to be at Little Professor Book Center on Sunday at 1:45 p.m. Birmingham-based author Liza Elliott is hosting a B.A.P. (Bloggers Authors and Poets) Mixer for local writers. This event is a great chance to meet other Birmingham-area literary artists. 

Elliott is the author of 30-A Supper Club (Red Camel Press), which follows sociologist Harley McBride on her quest to identify a gold coin she finds on a Florida beach near County Road 30-A. McBride’s search leads her into a murky world where her longtime friends and members of the 30-A Supper Club protect deep family secrets dating back to the Civil War. A complicated pursuit of the true meaning of the coin begins drawing Harley into secrets about illicit affairs, murders, and more.

Read on to get to know Elliott and be sure to come out to Little Professor on Sunday. 

30-A Supper Club seems very different from books you’ve written in the past. What was the inspiration for this novel?

The beach.  On my first trip to Cape Cod when I was a child, I fell in love with the sand and water, the thrill of digging out a partially hidden shell, and the ever-changing sound of the sea, from big waves to gentle slaps on the shore. 

A few years ago, I was strolling along the beach in Seagrove Beach, Fl, and thought, “What if I discovered a gold coin in the sand?  How did it get there?  What if it was old?” Then, I began to imagine the theme of the book. What if identifying the coin led to lost Confederate gold? By the end of my walk, I had the plot.

Tell me about your writing process. Do you write daily? Do you write in a certain place or at a certain time of the day? What do you use to keep yourself inspired?

I write everyday in my home office and prefer the early morning.  In the afternoon, I critique my draft, make notes, and problem solve story dilemmas.  

All my characters have bios, which I hand-write on an index card.  These have details such as hair and eye color, where they went to school or college, their occupations, their hometowns and favorite music, sports teams or movies — in short, a brief back story. I tack them on a bulletin board, which hangs over my desk.

As for what inspires me, it is people, their stories and the contexts of their lives.  How persons individually, in a community, or in a society, interact alone and together under a variety of circumstances presents endless story possibilities.  The true ones are often more fantastic than any made up story. So I listen to or read about people with stories of good times, bad times, heroism, or foolishness.  Mix it all up and voilá — a story.

Why did you decide to publish 30-A Supper Club with a small press?

Small presses take risks.  That is their strength.  They give new writers a chance to showcase works that might be a potential mass audience blockbuster, but more often are smaller niche market books.  In addition to working with the writer to produce the best manuscript possible, a small press will handle the details of the cover, the ISBN, and so forth.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing? 
Self-publishing, to me, is no different than a musician setting up his or her own label and producing their own albums, CDs, and singles.  Many A-list actors set up their own production companies to write, star, and direct.  Each succeeds on the basis of the quality of the work and their efforts.  Technology and the Internet has made this possible for writers.  Writers should explore all options and decide what is best for them. 

The B.A.P. Mixer is a great networking opportunity. Why do you think it’s so important for writers to meet and build relationships with other writers?
It is always good to see what is going on in one’s field.  The energy from discussions of all sorts of topics can inspire and motivate those who participate.  Writers can exchange thoughts on new styles of writing, the future of ebooks, and so forth.  Being part of a community of writers reduces the sense of isolation writers sometimes feel.  Writing is solitary work.  Knowing you can call another writer for input, problem solving, or just to vent about something is valuable.
Liza Elliott will host a mixer for bloggers, authors, and poets
Sunday at Little Professor Book Centers in Homewood.
Do you think Birmingham is a good city for writers? 

A writer can be anywhere and write about anyone or anything. That said, Birmingham is a good city for writers.  It has a complicated rich history that can be mined for great stories.  

Birmingham still has bookstores, from the big chains to important independent bookstores with loyal customers and supporters. Professional recognition and support between local writers and local bookstores can be a match made in heaven.

Birmingham also has a terrific literary magazine, the Birmingham Arts Journal, edited by author Jim Reed.  He is the godfather of writers around here and is a longtime leader in the Alabama Writers Conclave. 

The Birmingham branch of the National League of American Pen Women, of which I am a member, is a longstanding organization of women writers, artists and musicians where collaboration, exchange and support has existed for many years.  Its national scope and activities helps local writers reach a national audience.

With coffee shops to suit your every mood, universities, sports fields, museums, concert halls, small club venues for music, theatres for plays and dance, there is no shortage of settings, people, and activities, here, that can inspire a writer from non-fiction to fantasy, and everything in between.

Join Liza Elliott for The B.A.P. Mixer Sunday, May 19 from 1:45 to 3 p.m.  at Little Professor Book Center, 2717 18th St. South in Homewood. A light brunch will be served. 

See Javacia Lead

Even though it was quite horrifying to see my big head taking up a whole page of a magazine, I am extremely honored to be featured in B-Metro’s women’s issue this month. The article is about my wrote with See Jane Write and you can read it here.


A Recap of Our Latest Event, I Wrote a Book…Now What?

Our Amazing Panelists:
Irene Latham, Kathryn C. Lang and TK Thorne

Another See Jane Write event is in the books! Last night’s panel discussion I Wrote a Book…Now What? was a huge success with more than 50 people in attendance. Irene Latham, Kathryn C. Lang, and Teresa (T.K.) Thorne were amazing panelists and I can’t thank Stephanie Naman enough for being such a great moderator.

Thanks to Christina J. Wade for tweeting this picture.
She was ready to take notes!


Things went so smoothly. The hardest part of the night was trying to tweet out and take note of  all the words of wisdom our panelists and moderator were sharing about the publishing industry. I learned so much.

The question that seemed to be on the minds of many attendees was if they should self-publish or go the traditional publishing route. Lang stressed that this was a question you’d really have to answer for yourself based on what you really want out of your writing career.

One of the advantages of going the traditional publishing route is greater distribution and more opportunities to get your book reviewed. Also, with a traditional publishing house you will receive help with marketing. Even if you have a book deal with a major publisher, however, Latham advises doing your own marketing in addition to what your publisher provides for you. For example, when she published her children’s book Leaving Gee’s Bend with Putnam/Penguin in 2010, she took it upon herself to arrange school visits to help market her book.

“I wanted to give my book the best shot it could get,” Latham said.


Being the English teacher that I am, as I listened to last night’s panel discussion I found myself searching for a theme and I didn’t have to search for long. The thing that kept coming up was the importance of building relationships.

If you are publishing the traditional way, one important relationship will be that with your literary agent.

To find a good agent the panelists suggested attending genre specific conferences. You should also check websites like for reviews on agents. Lang says if a literary agent asks you for payment upfront, run! Typically, the arrangement is the agent receives 15 percent of they sell for you. 

Additionally, if you read a book that’s similar to yours check the acknowledgements as writers often thank their agents. Find the agent and send him or her a query letter.

Speaking of which, Thorne stressed the importance of mastering the query (and gave me an idea for a future See Jane Write workshop) and the importance of having a tough skin in this business. You’re going to get rejected (by agents, publishers, etc.). Accept it. 
Your relationship with your literary agent is a serious one. “It’s like a marriage,” Latham said. An agent, for example, can serve as a mediator between you and your editor.
“And my agent can talk me off the ledge when I’m freaking out,” Latham said.
Nonetheless, it is still a business. Remember you hired your agent.
Moderator Stephanie Naman had plenty of wisdom to share too!

By a show of hands, most of the people in the audience last night were interested in self-publishing. There was a time when self-publishing was looked down upon in the writing world, but Naman said that’s changing. For example, self-publishing is now a huge topic at writing conferences, she added.

Nonetheless, quality is still important. Even if you’re not seeking a traditional publishing deal you still need to present your best work. Attend writing conferences and join a critique group, Thorne recommended. Get an editor and a professional graphic designer to help with your cover, Naman added.

Having a good marketing plan is essential for writers who want to self-publish. And the key to successful marketing is, you guessed it, building relationships. 

Thorne, who has found much success with email distribution lists, said having an online presence is important but reminded us not to be a pest. She said she understands how excited you’ll feel after your book is in print. “I had to resist stopping strangers on the street when Noah’s Wife was published,” she said.  
Of course, you also need a website or blog and using social media is a great idea too but don’t post about your book every three minutes on Facebook, Lang said. 
Naman recommended that authors use methods that work best for them; stick to things you’re good at. For example, Naman is not a fan of book signings. Instead she loves blogging and networking on Twitter and thus has used those platforms instead to promote her book Murder on the First Day of Christmas
When marketing remember to focus on how you can help people. This will help you build relationships and make people really care about the success of your projects. So instead of your emails and blog posts simply being about you and your work, use these tools to share valuable information (such as writing, publishing, or networking tips) with your followers. 
Marketing will be a lot of work, but don’t stop writing to focus solely on marketing. The more you write the more connections you’ll make. And the money you make from your first book can help you produce and promote your next one. 
“The key to a successful writing career,” Lang said, “is to keep writing.” 

How You Can Carry On the Mission of Magic City Post

We were very sad to learn yesterday that Magic City Post is closing. Since 2010 the Magic City Post website has been publishing great stories about the positive aspects of Birmingham, about the passionate people dedicated to helping Birmingham live up to its nickname of the Magic City, and about all the hip happenings of the city. 

Yesterday’s farewell post by MCP founder Emily Lowrey was the site’s final post. The Magic City Post website and social media channels will shut down in a few weeks. 

It’s so hard to say goodbye, but Lowrey says it’s time.  In her post Lowrey writes:

If you’re wondering why we’re shutting the site down…well, it’s just time.  In many ways, we feel like we fulfilled some of our mission to help inform people about the bright side of Birmingham.  More often now, we’re seeing positive local content covered by other publications and that’s a good thing.

Magic City Post Founder Emily Lowrey

Still I can’t help feeling as if the closing of Magic City Post is going to leave a huge void in Birmingham’s media and blogging scene. Perhaps that is a void that you can fill. 

I asked Lowrey to share with me any advice she’d give to someone hoping to pick up where she left off by starting a website like Magic City Post. Lowrey gives these ten tips: 

1. Develop a posting calendar. For MCP, this meant working the calendar out weekly, but it’s a tool that should work for you. Adjust to fit your niche.   

2. Don’t do it all yourself.  If you can afford to pay writers to contribute, then do that because you make the local writer community stronger.  Also, rely on your writer friends for guest posts to help fill your editorial calendar and be sure to reciprocate.   

3. Find under-served communities who need to be brought together, and do that through your blog by producing content important to them.  On that same note, remember that if you and your community share common values and interests you’ll likely find content ideas or even complete stories just by asking your community for contributions.  

4. The “right” intern can make your blogging experience far more enjoyable.  Mandy Shunnarah worked well for Magic City Post not only because she was a writer, but I’d say even more importantly because she shared MCP’s mission to experience and share the positive side of Birmingham. She was absolutely invaluable to this experience. 

5.  If you choose to partner with anyone, most especially a business partner, make sure that you share those common values and that you’ve agreed upon a list of ground rules for how you’ll resolve any issues that you encounter. 

6. Be mission focused.  For you, that may mean that you are building up your presence and expertise in a particular topical area.  However, if you are blogging because you want to make a living off blogging, then you either need to become a sales expert or you need to find a sales expert partner.  

7. Extend the reach of your blog by partnering with a network.  On the content side, this could be a group like See Jane Write where you support and share information with one another.  On the revenue side, this could mean finding advertising solutions that allow you to sell into a larger network.  MCP’s real estate partnership with Zillow was one example of revenue network extension.

8. Rely on expert resources.  I still learn something new each week that I visit, a site with information that will help you identify and develop online communities.  

9. Some of my favorite experiences at MCP was meeting our readers, but nothing can ever top hearing that you connected two readers who then went on to fulfill your mission (for us that was making Birmingham a better place to live).  That, my friends, is liquid gold.  

10. Finally, you aren’t married to your blog forever; you do need an exit plan.  If you develop a community and decide to shut down that community, point your members toward new resources where they can find similar content.