Publications

Author of: The Notes They Played - a lyrical collection of short stories & The Impossible - a what-if story of the triumph over fear

Thursday, November 30, 2017

"Poetry is a hard sell..."

I've heard twice now in the last month that my book will be harder to sell because it's poetry. Two women (one fellow writer, and one bookstore owner) opened my book, scanned a page or two, and declared that it might be difficult for me to increase my audience beyond friends and family. "Poetry" is not at a high demand.

To the book store owner, I just smiled and replied that, "'I'm not poet. It's a book of short stories written in verse."

"And don't judge a book by its cover!" I'd wanted to audaciously quip.

Only, she wasn't judging The Notes...by its cover. She'd looked inside and read a few lines.
Besides, I'm relying on these women to help me promote my book.

I'm two book events in and looking forward to two more in the very near future. And many, many more, God-willing. I have to have a well- thought-out, persuasive response ready when people want to write my work off as poetry, and dismiss it. Because the popular view is that poetry is not for everyone. Poetry puts many people off. It can be elusive. Not everyone has the time to sit down with a good book and decode the words and analyze their meanings. Many readers just want to sip tea and be spoon fed beautifully emotive prose.

How do I convince people that my book is just that - real sentences, complete paragraphs, chapters. Okay, there are no chapters, but you know what I mean...

So I looked up the definition of poetry and found phrases like rhythmic composition, metrical form, elevated thoughts, and words like beautiful, imaginative, and then (oh no!) verse. Verse? Verse!

Not one to give up easily, it was time for me to look at the definition of prose. Here are the words I found:

ordinary
dull
matter-of-fact
commonplace

Poetry it is, folks!

So then there's the other thing - the fact that The Notes They Played might be a hard sell because it's poetry. And, so the question remains: How do I describe this way that I write without scaring people away?

I'm a lover of poetry and would happily claim it, no matter how many people it would discourage from reading my word. But, even with the definitions above, I still cannot say with any confidence that I am a poet. Poetry takes a certain level of genius that I do not possess.

When I was younger, reading poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar and Maya Angelou enraptured me. They took me to a place in my reading life that no novel ever has. Ever could. Their works are the kind that absolutely are for everyone. To be read over and over and memorized. To be shared with children and spouses and best friends.

My only hope is to believe that my writing is suspended in a kind of middle place. Stuck between prose and poetry. And believe that putting it that way to prospective buyers won't sound so lofty that it's off-putting. And just maybe, if I'm lucky, one day I'll be able to think up a book full of brilliant poetry that would have made Paul Laurence Dunbar, himself, proud!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Launch 101

On Sunday two of my dearest friends threw me a Book Launch party. And they executed it beautifully. I'm a writer, but I cannot find the words to allow a reader comprehend the love and support that surrounded me that day. Maybe I can find one word - immeasurable.

They set up the house perfectly, they laid out an amazing spread of food, they invited many of my closest friends. And then they set up a beautiful table from which I would read one story, answer questions about the book, and sell and sign copies.

One of them spoke about me in a way of eulogies. I got the rare chance to see my best self through her eyes. And, it was exactly who I've always wanted to be, but fallen short again and again. And, it was inspiring because it's a me I know I can be. The me I strive to be. And, that she could get a glimpse of that wished-for self and articulate it means that she knows me better than the word "friend" can fully encapsulate. It also means that I'm not doing such a terribly horrible job at this whole wife, mommy, daughter, sister, friend, writer gig. It means that there are moments that I do it quite well, amidst the marriage that rarely makes quality time for its spouses, the kids that struggle with confidence, separation, overconfidence, and honesty. Somewhere in all of the mess is a the woman I really, really want to be. And, someone sees her. Loves her. And is rooting for her to emerge victorious. Thank you!

And then my sister spoke and let everyone know that, even though I trained to be a lawyer and then gave it all up to raise my family, that itch to write has always been there - I have loved books for my entire life, and have been writing stories for almost as long. Thank you for remembering; for knowing me better than anyone else. For being my first friend and for sticking by me even when I was not a very good friend to you. Thank you for loving me regardless. For forgiving me over and over again.

And the friend who did not speak, but who still quite clearly and humbly poured love for me out of her entire being and challenged me the entire time to be in the spotlight and to embrace it. She welcomed everyone into her home to lift me up. That friend didn't need to say a word. Thank you!

So, here's how you have a successful first book launch party -
Here's how you find success at all in life -

LOVE

Love someone so much that they truly see you.
And, accept their love well enough to see them in return.

Love something so much that you have to do it.

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved. - George Sand

John 15:12 - My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you



Friday, October 6, 2017

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Praise God! So many exciting stories to tell regarding my book and the outpouring of love I've received. Mostly it's been friends and family and friends of friends. I'd love to reach a much larger audience. I think I'm finally truly ready for the criticism that inevitably accompanies the praise. I've been sufficiently armored with the secondary faith in ones work that can only come from the connection people feel to it. 

I'd like to get the word out that this book is worth the $10.50 and the hours of reading. 

If you feel it was, then please consider writing a review for me! 

Please let the readers of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads know that it was well worth your $10.50 and your hours. I tend to buy books that have been raved about, don't you? 

So, please rave about The Notes They Played!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36248104-the-notes-they-played?from_search=true

https://www.amazon.com/Notes-They-Played-Joiya-Morrison-Efemini/dp/1946530115/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507334568&sr=8-1&keywords=the+notes+they+played

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-notes-they-played-joiya-morrison-efemini/1127082707?ean=9781946530110

Friday, September 29, 2017

Bring on the Hand Cramps!!!!

Last Wednesday, on my way to the bus stop to retrieve my children, I spotted a woman with a copy of my book in her hands. The next day, I took my daughter to gymnastics and another mom, dropping off her child as well, held MY book!

Okay, okay, full disclosure...those gals are two of my best friends. But, for a moment, in my mind, they were just two beautiful, intelligent women who bought my book and planned to read it.

For the past few weeks, I've been getting pictures of my book and various Barnes & Noble storefronts texted and emailed to me. One friend bought ten copies (nine as Christmas gifts). High school friends, college friends, and friends of friends are emailing and texting to say they ordered, received, and/or loved their book. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude!

One friend remarked that I should get ready for hand cramps, as I have a lot of book signing to do. Well I say, "BRING ON THE HAND CRAMPS!"

As excited as I am about all the love I have received, there's still a small voice asking me, "What about the criticism?" I know there are people out there who will read my book and think they wasted that $10.50. There may be some right now. I know because there have been books that I have started to read, and thought, "This book better get better!" And I've completed many books only to discover that I truly wasted the hours it took. Will people feel that way about my book? Absolutely!

Do I want to hear from them? Intellectually I do. I want to mull over their criticism with a fine-tooth comb. I want to have the courage to deeply consider each negative remark (with the same enthusiasm I absorb all the positive ones), and draw on it all to make me a better writer. Realistically, I might cry for a good long while before I'm brave enough to truly deliberate. But, I vow to scrutinize every unfavorable review.

Because, I think I can finally admit to myself (and to the world) that I'm really taking a stab at this writing thing. It's not just some hobby I took up to help fill the time and the void while raising four kids and running our family. This is an honest-to-goodness endeavor.

A very good friend asked me simply, when she found out about the book, "Now is this just something you're doing for fun, or is your goal financial gain?" One of the many reasons I love her is that she's so direct. I had to think for a few seconds.

I do want to make money from this; to contribute financially to my household, and also because in our world, money is a measure of value. Our world tells us that something that lots of people are willing to pay for has merit. I don't get paid to mother (or wife) and oftentimes this "job" can become a never-ending series of thankless tasks. I do receive a wealth of hugs, kisses, snuggles, and thank yous. If I had to choose the money or the love, you know what I'd pick. But with my writing, it will be lovely if I can have my cake and eat it too. It will be golden if my readers read and love and truly crave more!








Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Personal Appearances

Read The Notes They Played and loved it? 
Have burning questions?
Want to chat about it?

Read it and hated it? 
Want to throw it back at me?

I'm now available to meet with local Metro Atlanta book clubs for book discussions, signings and readings.

Contact me at joiya.me@joiyamewrites.com to make a request OR keep up-to-date right here for scheduled local events!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Countdown Begins

In about two weeks this book, my book, will be available to the world. I'm feeling incredibly grateful to God for this gift and this journey. I'm humbled by the fact that someone, in fact an entire team of someones, at Paradigm believes that my work is good enough to market. I'm excited to know what the response is. I'm proud that my kids will get to hold this idea we've been talking about in their hands. They will see that dreams come true when you sprinkle hard work on them and douse them in prayer.

But, I am terrified!

I sent an advance copy to my dad last week. I never did write a blog post about finally telling my parents about the book. But, I did. My mom was here, and so I just couldn't hide it anymore, with all the last-minute edits and approvals and applications that were going on here (not to mention those darned pictures)! And, I couldn't tell Mom and not tell Dad. So, I told them rather unceremoniously and not at all the way I had planned.

Once I told Dad I was sending the advance copy (in eBook form), it took me at least two minutes to go ahead and just click "send." Once I did, it took me a few minutes to text him to let him know I'd sent it. Then, the real torture began - the waiting. Because, I was exposed. He would get to see the product of my dreams and hard work and prayer. And he'd make a determination of whether he thought it really was good enough. He read all of my stories in less than a day, and he said he loved them. He gushed, actually!

But, he's my dad. So, what about the world? What about you? Will you love it? Will you feel your money was well spent on words I poured over? Words I fought for?

I wish there was a way to send my stories out into the world on a trial basis to just see how readers will react. And a way to call them all back in if the reaction is negative; sprinkle amnesia dust over everyone who's read them. Forget they ever existed. Forget I'd had this ludicrous idea.

But, the world doesn't work that way.

In this world we must dream and hope and pray and try and expose ourselves and pray again and then wait...

I'm not so good at waiting.

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's not all about me!

Recently I had a conversation with my editor in which she remarked on the fact that I was so emotionally attached to my stories. She and the team had assumed my collection was mostly autobiographical. I denied it. I professed that only one story had me in it - The Marathon.

As The Notes They Played came together, I had to hurdle "the process." You know what it's like when you try something new. You take everything you thought about that new thing with you, and you start from there. In my mind writing is 95% writer and 5% editor. My editor had a different point of view. One of her many talents is ghost writing, so she's accustomed to writing words for people.

I wanted this collection to be all mine. She needed to be able to help me hone my craft. We are both very stubborn. She has the experience and the education to back up her assertions when things needed to be reworded to make my words more powerful, proper grammatically, or less tedious (she likes that particular word a lot)!

I'm a first born and an attorney, so I'm always right. Always. Until you prove me wrong. In fact, one of my dearest friends doesn't even bother to argue with me anymore, all the time, when we disagree. She states her opinion. I argue against it. Sometimes she doesn't even bat an eye at my dissension. Days, weeks, or months later, upon discovering the truth, I call her and tell her just how smart she is. She loves that.

Just in case my husband is reading; this is not to say that I am always wrong. I'm right a lot! Always, really...

I like things a certain way. That didn't change when I wrote this book. I doubt it will change when I write the ones that may follow. I maintained that if I'm putting my words out into the word and signing my name to them, then the end product must be conceived and arranged by (mostly) me.

I have no experience in publishing and I was not trained as a writer. But, I know what it is to pick up a book and to feel exactly what the author wants you to feel exactly when she wants you to feel it. I know what it's like to rush to get to the end of that book that you can't put down, and then immediately and truly lament the loss of those characters once you've finished. I know how it feels to be haunted by a story for weeks after reading that final sentence. I know that all of that really only adds up to a tiny particle of what magnificent writing is about.

I am not yet a magnificent writer. This is a journey I'm on and I understand that with hard work, prayer, and guidance (that maybe one day I'll listen to without any rebuff), I can perhaps write a book that I won't worry over. Boy, am I worrying over this one! I think it's possible that one day I'll tell a story that no one has ever told before; one that sucks the reader in, chews her up and spits her out forever changed in a wonderful way.

I hadn't thought my stories were about me at all. And then I read through all of them, the way my audience might, for the final edits. I'd worked on them one by one, or sometimes two at a time, but never read all of them through in the order they will appear in print.

It amazed me, really, the parallels between the lives of my characters and my life. The minuscule ways and blaring ways that I and my friends and my family shimmered in between the lines. I was taken aback. It was true, then, that I was so adamant about wording because the words held personal emotion for me. I fought tooth and nail over punctuation because that period was in my life. Nothing could be deleted or even adjusted without somehow erasing or altering something of me, or of someone I love.

And so I stand corrected. Again.

I'm all over these stories. Not always as a player. Sometimes I'm there as an observer; just telling you what I saw when I was in this certain place at this certain time and came across this unforgettable person that sparked my spirit and wouldn't let me rest until I told that story. Sometimes I had to finish the story in the best way I could with the information available to me at the time.

So, I am in this collection, on every single page. And, so may be you!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dragging my feet into Book Club

I finally got around to sending out an invitation to the other participants of the Girl Scout Mother/Daughter Book Club my eldest daughter and I are a part of. I promised, way back in May, that we'd host the second meeting. Summer break promised to be busy for everyone, so we agreed to resume when school started back up. School started here July 31. Today is August 23...

Let me be clear; I LOVE BOOK CLUBS! Love them! Because, I love books and book clubs are just another opportunity to read books; books that I might never have picked up and read had it not been for that person telling me I was expected to be able to discuss it on some date.

My first book club experience was with Oprah Winfrey. For years I read every book she recommended. It was the first time in my life that someone other than my dad or a teacher told me to read a book. Oprah's book picks were, to me, life changing. Because of her, I read Jane Hamilton, Sherri Reynolds, Kaye Gibbons, Edwidge Danticat, Billie Letts...

I'd read Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, most of the Greats in Black Literature, and all the Great African American Poets. Poetry...poetry will have to get its own blog post one day...

My dad is a lover of the written word and he made sure that I was not just well-read, but also knowledgeable about the Black experience; that I was exposed to Black writers especially since I was raised in a world where books by Black writers were not as visible as books by whites. In our home, there was a library with rows and rows of books by Black authors. It's still there, and when I go home, sometimes I swipe one or two, even though I've read most of them already. Sorry, Dad, if you're looking for it, it's probably here.

When I finally became an adult with kids, and had quit my job, and needed to carve out time to read and to talk about what I read with Girlfriends, I set out to form a book club in my neighborhood. Attendance was low. We could never get more than four of five ladies there for any one meeting. But, oh how those monthly meetings changed me!

It was where I learned that I could live beside one of the most lovely, spiritual, generous woman I'd ever met; who brought fresh cut hydrangeas from her bush just because, loved on my children and always thought of them on their birthdays, brought meals to me and always did the most neighborly of things, even when I were not nearly as thoughtful and generous and neighborly. That same neighbor could tell me to my face that my sons would never be President of the United States because we'd chosen to give them African names; and that she had trouble getting into a book that portrayed God as a heavyset African American woman. And, even though those words infuriated me and hurt me, I could not hold an ill-will against that neighbor. I love her!

Book clubs give us a safe haven. Book clubs connect us because they intertwine our individual lives with the lives of the characters in books, and then they meld us with those who've shared the experience of reading that book with those characters. Book clubs create pseudo families. You might not like everyone all the time, but you grow to love them. So you accept and forgive them unconditionally, and they do the same for you.

Book club was where I learned that thirty pounds overweight, I could turn "I wish I could run" into "I run." Because one woman cared enough to tell me to just download an app and follow it. And, I did. It's why when I moved from that neighborhood, I started a book club in my new neighborhood. Attendance is slightly higher here. And, I often regret having scheduled it during the days leading up to a meeting (meetings are at my house 90% of the time).

My life is very busy with two boys practicing soccer four nights a week, and then playing multiple games on weekends, and a daughter who trains for gymnastics twice a week. My life is busy because I have four children and a busy husband. I have a household to run and have decided to take up writing.

But, book club is one of those things that I just keep scheduling. I miss my Girlfriends when I don't get to see them. And in this busy world, we all seem to have to schedule Girlfriend time, or it doesn't happen. I never say goodbye to the last friend to leave my house after a book club meeting without wishing they'd all stayed a longer; without remembering some aspect of the book we hadn't discussed and wishing we had; without thinking about some profound thing someone said that made me love and respect her even more than I already did. I look forward to the next book and force myself to finish it, even though I don't seem to have enough time to.

I'm hoping that participating in a book cub with my daughter will allow me to share with her some of my absolute favorite books. I cannot wait to read Anne of Green Gables with both of my girls and then perhaps one day visit Prince Edward Island with them. An acquaintance of mine recently took her children there after reading the series with them, and it instantly became a future dream of mine. I'm hoping that we will be introduced to new books and that she and I will read them together and individually. I'm sure that it will tighten our bond, foster conversations we might not have had, and smooth over conflict. I'm prayerful that years from now, she and her children will read books together the way Dad and I did. And, talk about them excitedly, joyously for hours.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pleasant Surprises

My parents have no idea about this book. We are very close and they know me well. So, they know that I'm always writing something; have been writing for my entire life. But, from the moment my editor became interested in my stories, I've gone mum about the whole writing thing. 

This is especially hard because my middle sister and I have been mom-sharing for over a month now. Dad, mom, and my youngest sister live in Upstate New York. But, mom and baby sis have been here since early July, going back and forth between my place and the middle sister's place.

I've been busy with last-minute details pertaining to the book - author biography, cover photo, acknowledgements and dedication, and final edits. All this under the nose of a very involved (nosey) mother. 

The first two pictures I submitted didn't work, so I needed my little sister to take several pictures of me, in different outfits. Not whole outfits; I kept the same old, comfy shorts on in almost all of the photos.  

Anyway, my mom was here for all of it. And, mom has never been one to sit back out of the loop. She could not figure out why on earth I had my little sister following me around the house taking my picture. And, then she laughed out loud when she saw I was actually doing wardrobe changes. What could I say? So, I just let her laugh.

I cannot wait to get the first copies of my book. My heart will soar when I can put my parents' copies in the mail (mom and baby sis will have gone back home by then).  And the anticipation will build inside me for days, like bubbles in the soda cans my kids try to secretly shake, while those copies make their way to my parents' doorstep. Oh, how I wish I could see their faces. How I hope they will love the fact that I'm writing under a hyphenated surname to honor them. How I pray they will feel pride and joy at seeing my dream come true. Will Mom laugh out loud in realization when she turns the book over in her hands and sees my photo? Will they read my words and love them? Will they forever be changed by some little phrase somewhere within those pages? 

And, will everyone else too?


The Notes I Play..

My earliest memories of writing are bittersweet. I grew up in a large family surrounded by a loving sister, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. At the house of my favorite aunt and uncle, in the basement, sat a computer - one of the first computers in our family. And, I was allowed to sit at the desk in a hard silver and black metal chair and type the stories that popped into my head, for hours. Then, I'd print those stories and carry the pages home with me. Those were glorious times! That beautiful aunt and that charismatic uncle have since passed away. But, the freedom they gave me to express myself and to memorialize that expression, will remain with me forever.

It's not without some sadness that I thinking about the fact that they will never get the chance to hold and to open and to read my first publication...

Fast forward  more than thirty years and here I am releasing a little book full of short stories - my specialty - exactly where I left off all those years ago. Before the high school diploma, the B.A., the J.D.. Before deciding to quit my job and devote myself completely to my family. After countless rejection letters. My editor has taken a chance on me. And, I've finally found my way back to my dream.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you. But, even more, I look forward to releasing my book out into the world, and to all the feedback that may come.