#Giveaway4Good Challenge Week Three: The Moment I Claimed My Space as a Writer

#Giveaway4Good Challenge Week Three: The Moment I Claimed My Space as a Writer

By the mid twenty-tens, I’d been writing for several decades, but it wasn’t until I attended the 2015 Creative Nonfiction Conference that I truly believed my stories mattered. 

The conference was located in Pittsburgh. I drove there with my mentor Sharon Harrigan. Over the next two days, I attended presentations by self-proclaimed “Godfather of Creative Nonfiction,” Lee Gutkin, Washington Post editor, Adam Kushner, and one of my literary heroes, Dinty Moore. This was in addition to panels that included agents, journalists from the New Yorker and New York Times, and authors of memoirs and essay collections. 

Between sessions, Dinty signed my dog-eared copy of The Mindful Writer, a pocket-sized manual on writing that’s still one of my daily readers. He told me to write true and that’s a promise I’ve worked to keep over the past five years. 

During meet-and-greets, attendees not only asked about my project, they showed genuine interest. A few shared stories with me that were as harrowing as my own. We exchanged email addresses and Facebook friend requests.

Little by little, I claimed my space as a writer. By the end of the weekend, I understood that stories were the glue that binds us together. Each and every one is essential. 

Over the next few months, I applied the skills I learned during the conference to land my first big publication. 

I signed up for the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Conference and subscribed to their quarterly magazine. Creative Nonfiction’s brilliant essays and columns have served as exemplars that motivate me to find deeper truths in my personal experiences and reveal them elegantly. 

Over the years, I’ve been impressed with Creative Nonfiction’s high-quality courses and webinars. Many are taught by writers whose books live on my bookshelf.

This year, I taught my first webinar for Creative Nonfiction, “Writing Through Challenging Times.” On February 24, 2021, I’ll teach a second one on harnessing the power of your emotional beats. 

While I could probably name many launch points for my writing career, attending Creative Nonfiction’s conferences and discovering its magazine were foundational. 

Supporting Creative Nonfiction as part of my #Giveaway4Good Challenge is my way of saying thank you to the organization that helped me believe I am a writer and gave me the tools to become a published one. 

You can earn four tickets toward this week’s drawing by subscribing to their magazine or making a ten dollar gift.


This week’s prize is a box of author-signed published during 2020 by Sharon HarriganAthena DixonLara LillibridgeMolly HowesRose and Anderson AND a spot in Jane Friedman’s self-study Query Master Class.

You’ll also get a copy of the book I recommend most frequently to all authors, The Business of Being a Writer. This prize is a $200 value, all for supporting the organizations that support you.

To donate, click here

To subscribe to their quarterly magazine, click here

Other ways you earn tickets by supporting Creative Nonfiction:
· Join their email list, especially the Sunday Short Reads
· Share their calls for submissions (or submit your own work)  

To enter this week’s drawing, send an email to lisa.cooper.ellison@gmail.com.

Include the amount of your donation or a screenshot of your social media support.

To learn more about the challenge or how supporting Hippocampus Literary Magazine, Brevity, James River Writers, or any other literary nonprofit can help you score tickets for this challenge, click here

Thank you in advance for your literary citizenship. 

#Giveaway4Good Week 3 Challenge: All Writing Roads Lead to Literary Organizations

#Giveaway4Good Week 3 Challenge: All Writing Roads Lead to Literary Organizations

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

All writing roads lead to literary nonprofits.

Not sure what I mean? Let me explain. 

Let’s say you’re an aspiring author who wants to get published. Where do you send your work?

Or perhaps you’re looking for a webinar or class that will help you sharpen your skills or better understand your project. Where do you look for classes if you’re not interested in applying for an MFA

Maybe you earned an MFA. Where do you go to network with other writers, maintain your passion, or present your ideas? Who puts on the conferences you attend? 

Like I said, all writing roads lead to literary nonprofits. 

This list includes literary magazines, nonprofit writing centers, and organizations that host writing classes, webinars, and conferences.

Often, these organizations are passion projects run largely on volunteer manpower, editor funding, and donations that help defray costs, pay instructors, and most importantly, pay writers like you.

During the pandemic, all literary nonprofits have scrambled to find new ways to serve their communities. For many, donations are down. Some, sadly, will not survive.

That’s why I’m dedicating week three of my #Giveaway4Good Campaign to the organizations that support, nurture, and publish writers. 

Here’s this week’s challenge. 

  1. Make a ten-dollar donation to any literary organization or support them on social media, and I’ll give you one ticket for this week’s drawing.
  2. Support Hippocampus Literary MagazineJames River WritersCreative Nonfiction, or Brevity on social media and I’ll give you two tickets for this week’s drawing. Read on to learn more about these organizations and how you can best support them.
  3. Make a ten-dollar donation (or more) to Hippocampus Literary MagazineJames River WritersCreative Nonfiction, or Brevity and I’ll give you four tickets for this week’s drawing. 

 This week’s prize is a box of author-signed published during 2020 by Sharon HarriganAthena DixonLara LillibridgeMolly HowesRose and Anderson AND a spot in Jane Friedman’s self-study Query Master Class.

You’ll also get a copy of the book I recommend most frequently to all authors, The Business of Being a Writer. This prize is a $200 value, all for supporting the organizations that support you. 

Jane’s Query Master Class includes lectures on writing query letters and synopses as well as how to research agents. You’ll also get access to examples of strong query letters that will help you write yours. Writing a query letter is an essential skill for both fiction and nonfiction writers. 

The more you support these literary organizations, the more tickets you can earn. 

To participate in this week’s challenge, send an email to lisa.cooper.ellison@gmail.com. Include the name of the organization you supported and your donation amount or a screenshot of your social media post.

Looking for the best way to support my favorite literary organizations?

Here’s what they’d like you to know. 

Hippocampus Literary Magazine

Hippocampus Magazine is all about true stories: We publish 7 (online) issues a year, packed with personal essays, book reviews, author interviews, and writing-related articles. In 2015, we held their inaugural conference, called HippoCamp. This annual gathering in Lancaster, PA, brought this community to life — so many friendships, so many opportunities! (We’re excited for its return in 2021!)

The success of our literary journal is the driving force behind the literary community we’ve built through HippoCamp, and it’s the heart of what we do. Like many lit mags, we’re a volunteer-runmostly editor-funded publication, and your generous support will help us keep our pledge to offer author honorariums, as well as help with some of our essential expenses, like web hosting, postage, and supplies. Thank you for your consideration!” Donna Talarico-Beerman, Founding Editor

Your donations to Hippocampus Literary Magazine’s friend’s program support:  

  • Writers for Writers Submissions Fund
  • The costs associated with running an online magazine, including technology, marketing subscriptions, postage, advertising, memberships, printing, and event space rental
  • Audio-visual equipment for online events

To make a ten dollar donation to Hippocampus Literary Magazine, click here

Other ways you can support Hippocampus Literary Magazine:

  • Read a Hippocampus Magazine story or article, comment on it, and share with followers on at least one platform.
  • Suggest a Books by Hippocampus book to a local library, indie bookstore, or to a friend/family member as a holiday gift idea. 
  • Add a Books by Hippocampus book to the “to-read” section of your Goodreads account. If you’ve read one of their books, write a review for both Amazon AND Goodreads. 


Brevity Literary Magazine

“Brevity has always been most excited about providing publication opportunities to writers who have either never published before or who are early in their writing careers, especially when this also allows space for marginalized voices or little-heard perspectives, and we’ve rejoiced over the years to see those that we published early landing their first book deals and establishing solid literary reputations. We still publish newer writers alongside some of the more well-known authors in our magazine, and we are especially proud that we are able to pay our writers for their work.”  Dinty W. Moore, Founding Editor

Your donations to Brevity support: 

  • Their ability to pay their writers and expand their mission of supporting both established and emerging authors.  

To make a ten dollar donation to Brevity, click here

Other ways you can also support Brevity: 

  • Subscribe to Brevity’s blog
  • Read and share their posts on social media
  • Follow Brevity on Instagram @Brevitymag 
  • Send a copy of The Best of Brevity to a writer, teacher, or friend (This will earn you four tickets.)


Creative Nonfiction

“At Creative Nonfiction, we believe that crafting and sharing true stories based on real-world experience is one of the most powerful tools humans have for communicating information, fostering empathy, and changing ourselves, our culture, and the world.”  Lee Gutkind, Founding Editor

Your donations and subscriptions to Creative Nonfiction support:

Their diverse range of publishing and educational projects and programs that help writers develop their craft, achieve their goals, reach audiences, and make an impact. Your donations support their ability to pay their instructors and their authors.

To make a ten dollar donation to Creative Nonfiction, click here

Other ways you can support Creative Nonfiction:

· Subscribe to their quarterly magazine (This will earn you four tickets!)
· Join their email list, especially the Sunday Short Reads
· Share their calls for submissions (or submit your own work)  


James River Writers

James River Writers offers connection, support, and inspiration for writers and lovers of the written word. Through year-round programs, our annual signature writers conference, and regular opportunities for networking and idea-sharing, we provide everything writers need to thrive, regardless of where you are on your writing journey. During the pandemic, it has become abundantly clear how essential the arts, and especially literature, is to a thriving society. Books enable us to escape and feel like we are understood. Writers make books happen. James River Writers creates a community that helps produce successful and supported writers. We are proud to continue our efforts, with great feedback, throughout the difficulties that we have all experienced during 2020.” Katharine Herndon, Executive Director of James River Writers 

Your donations and membership support:

  • Professional development for writers at all levels of expertise
  • Scholarships awarded to aspiring writers
  • A platform for writers to share their work and expand their audiences
  • Vital opportunities for connection within the writing community

To make a ten-dollar donation to JRW or become a member, click here

And, if you’re planning on purchasing books as gifts this holiday season (or treating yourself!), consider doing so via their JRW Bookshop storefront. Proceeds support indie bookstores as well as JRW. You can shop their featured titles from their JRW community of writers, or search for any other titles you may be looking for! (This will earn you four tickets!)

Other ways you can support James River Writers: 

  • Following them on Facebook and Twitter,
  • Subscribe to their  e-newsletter
  • When you see them sharing their programs and the accomplishments of their writing family through their communications, you can then turn around and share them with your sphere of influence, helping us all reach a wider audience. 

Whether you’re a fledgling writer or a pro, literary nonprofits are an essential part of your writing life. 

They inspire you, educate you, and publish your work.

And, they need you. 

For the next week, supporting these organizations can enter you in a drawing for some fabulous prizes. 

Support your favorite literary organization, then send a email to lisa.cooper.ellison@gmail.com.

Giveaway4Good Challenge Week Two: How Supporting Authors of Color Can Increase Your Empathy

Giveaway4Good Challenge Week Two: How Supporting Authors of Color Can Increase Your Empathy

During week two of my #Giveaway4Good Challenge, I’m supporting independent bookstores and the writers whose books grace their shelves.


In case you missed my last email, let me remind you of this week’s challenge.

  1. Purchase something from an independent bookstore, and I’ll give you one ticket for this week’s drawing.
  2. Purchase something from a Black-owned bookstore, and I’ll give you three tickets for this week’s drawing.
  3. Write a review on Amazon AND Goodreads for a book you recently read and I’ll give you one ticket into this week’s drawing. You can earn two tickets if the book was published in 2020, and three tickets if your review is for an author of color.


All emails should be sent to lisa.cooper.ellison@gmail.com.


Your week two prize is a 45-minute coaching session with me. You’ll also be entered in my grand prize drawing for a one-hour coaching session with me (includes 10-page manuscript review) PLUS a spot in Jane Friedman’s self-study course How to Write a Book Proposal.


Now, let’s talk about why I’m offering additional incentives for Black-owned bookstores and reviews for books written by authors of color.


George Floyd’s death sparked a worldwide outcry around the treatment of Black people by the police.

The problem wasn’t new, but for many in the white community, the outrage was either new or intensified by George’s brutal murder.

Many donated to causes that support people of color or started reading books by authors of color so they could better understand the oppression of Black people living in America.


Studies have shown that reading, and in particular reading stories, helps us build our empathy—that storehouse of feeling that allows us to be with another person’s experience.

This is the way I think about it.


With textbooks, I learn with my head.

With stories, I learn with my heart.

Personally, what I learn with my heart is what actually sticks.


While I can never truly understand the experiences of a person of color, reading stories written by Black authors helps me better understand their experiences and feel alongside them as best I’m able.


My heart connections to their stories help me see the world with clearer eyes and live in a more wholehearted way.


When Ta’Nehisi Coates shared his experience in Between the World and Me, I could better understand both the fears and hopes he has for his Black son.


Toni Morrison’s Beloved reveals how the brutality of slavery impacted the way Black mothers loved and cared for their children during a time of enslavement.


Krystal Sital’s book Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad opened my eyes to how the island’s caste system, tolerance of cruelty, and rigid gender roles allows domestic violence to pass from generation to generation.


Jesmyn Ward’s Sing Unburied Sing helped me better understand the complicated journey some children with parents of more than one races face.


Athena Dixon’s essay collection The Incredible Shrinking Woman gives voice to the ways Black women are socialized to shrink as a way to avoid negative stereotypes. Incidentally, her book was published in 2020.


While many of these titles can be found in independent bookstores, Black-owned bookstores are more likely to prominently display them. They also support equally important and well-written titles that don’t get as much attention in the press.


This support is vital for many Black authors and authors of color because they often receive smaller advances than their white counterparts. For some, their books are unfairly labeled as niche or they are pigeon-holed as “Black authors,” which can limit their reach. To learn more about this, click here.


My #Giveaway4Good Challenge is about finding all of the ways we can generate good in our literary community.


That is one of the reasons why I’m offering extra tickets to those of you who support Black-owned bookstores and those who write reviews for authors of color.


Books by people of color help us learn with our hearts.


The more our hearts understand, the better our world will be.


So, here’s your week two challenge recap:

  1. Support any independent bookstore (ten-dollar minimum) and I’ll give you one ticket for this week’s drawing.
  2. Support Black-owned bookstores like Books and Crannies in my home state of Virginia, or one of these 125 Black-owned bookstores, and I’ll give you three tickets into this week’s drawing.
  3. While I’m offering tickets for this week’s drawing for any review you write, I will give you 3 tickets for reviews written on behalf of an author of color. To learn more about why these reviews matter, click here.
  4. Reply to this email with the following information:
    1. The item you purchased at the independent bookstore
    2. A screenshot of any social media posts you made on behalf of the Black-owned bookstore as a way to boost their online presence.
    3. The name of the book you reviewed and why you liked the book (or a screenshot of your actual review).

Last week’s challenge brought in $20, 279 on behalf of families.


Let’s knock this week’s challenge out of the park and help Black-owned independent bookstores and the authors of color whose voices need to be heard.

#Giveaway4Good Challenge Week 2: Why Writing Amazon and Goodreads Reviews is Good for Your Writing Career and Your Karma

#Giveaway4Good Challenge Week 2: Why Writing Amazon and Goodreads Reviews is Good for Your Writing Career and Your Karma

If you read my last post, you’ll notice that I encouraged you to support independent bookstores and then told you I’d give you tickets for writing Amazon reviews. You might be wondering what I’m up to.

First, let me remind you of this week’s challenge.

  1. Purchase something from an independent bookstore, and I’ll give you one ticket for this week’s drawing.
  2. Purchase something from a Black-owned bookstore, and I’ll give you three tickets for this week’s drawing. 
  3. Write a review on Amazon AND Goodreads for a book you recently read, and I’ll give you one ticket for this week’s drawing. You can earn two tickets if the book was published in 2020, and three tickets if your review is for an author of color

Tickets are for this week’s drawing of a 45-minute coaching session with me.  During this session, we can talk about anything from how to begin a writing project to book proposals and query letters. 

You’ll also be entered into my grand-prize drawing of a one-hour coaching session (includes 10-page manuscript review) PLUS a spot in Jane Friedman’s self-study course How to Write a Book Proposal

For complete details, click here

To report your purchase or review, send an email to lisa.cooper.ellison@gmail.com.

So, let me explain why this challenge isn’t hypocritical. 

NOw that you have the 411 on how supporting independent bookstores is an investment in your writing career, I know where you’ll be spending your book-buying dollars. 

But I also know how the publishing industry works. While independent bookstores help writers connect with the hearts of readers, Amazon is the biggest retailer in this industry. 

For authors to get noticed, Amazon and Goodreads reviews are essential for three very important reasons: 

  • Reviews early in a book’s publication cycle create buzz and help build momentum during a launch that can catch the attention of Amazon’s mysterious algorithm. Please the algorithm, and Amazon will refer the book to readers. It can also help authors qualify for price drops and promotions that can boost sales. Most authors hope to have at least ten reader reviews on the first day of their book launch. Now that you know this, you can make this a future writing goal.
  • Reviews at any time boost a book’s credibility. While you’re a savvy writer/reader who learns about books in many different ways, there’s a trove of readers out there who rely on the “books you might like” section of every Amazon page. When they click on those selections, the choice to purchase—or not—comes down to the number and quality of reader reviews. Your support can increase the author’s sales. 
  • And, in case you don’t already know this, there are a number of trolls, “so-called literary critics,” and bots who write negative reviews either to seem smart or gain attention.  Not every negative review belongs in this category, but reviews by trolls and disgruntled family members are not uncommon. These negative reviews can affect an author’s overall rating. Help the authors you love combat this problem by writing positive, supportive reviews.


Here’s why this benefits you (Hint: it’s a karma thing.)

You know that saying—what goes around comes around? 

One day, you might be preparing for a book launch. And, while creating reviews for an author should never be a quid pro quo, authors are more likely to review your book if you’ve supported theirs. 

Even if those you’ve reviewed don’t return the favor, regularly writing reviews for the books you love will give you the confidence to ask for reviews when the time comes

Writing reviews can help you even if you never plan to write a book. 

You’ll feel good about your standing as a good literary citizen. 

The act can also broaden your writing community. 

And, writing thoughtfully about another writer’s work will help you understand how books are organized, what works, and how you can improve your own writing

Like I said, it’s a karma thing.  

While lengthy reviews can be a gift to the author, this challenge doesn’t need to take a ton of your time. 

If you’ve never written an Amazon or Goodreads review, here’s an easy formula you can use. It follows what I call my three Ss—simple, short, and supportive. 

  1. Write 1 – 3 sentences that tell the reader what the book is about. 
  2. Write 3 or 4 sentences about why you enjoyed reading the book. 
  3. Upload your reviews to Goodreads and Amazon.

So, now that you understand how this benefits authors and your karma, get writing, and then send me an email with the name of the book you reviewed and one thing you liked about the book. 

And, if you missed it, last week’s challenge brought in a whopping $20,279 for organizations that support families in need. Independent bookstore purchases and reviews are beginning to come in. Let’s see what good karma we can generate in week two.

#Giveaway4Good Week 2 Challenge: Why Supporting Independent Bookstores is an Investment in Your Writing Career

#Giveaway4Good Week 2 Challenge: Why Supporting Independent Bookstores is an Investment in Your Writing Career

During week one of my #GIveaway4Good Challenge, writers reported donations of $20,279 across 41 different charities  that support families in need. To see a complete list of organizations that were supported, click here


So, now let’s talk about the challenge for week two. 


OMG, you won’t believe how inspired I was by that reading on Amazon. 

Remember that question I had about my manuscript? I met someone on Amazon who had the perfect solution to my story’s problem. We’re going to form a writing group.

Amazon is hosting my launch party. Want to attend? 

These are just a few things said by no writer ever

I know, Amazon is cheap, convenient, and well, getting packages in the mail is a little like year-round Christmas. 

While Amazon might be a necessary part of your publishing career, this retail giant only cares about one thing:  your sales numbers. 

Fortunately, there are places where both bibliophiles and writers make the above comments. Let me introduce you to the independent bookstore. 

Independent bookstore owners and their staff are champions of their local writing communities. Their programs bring creative people together. 

They give debut and established authors places to host readings and do book signings. 

You might not know this, but supporting independent bookstores is an investment in your writing career. Building relationships with independent bookstore owners increases the odds they will say yes to your event request when your book is published.

If publication feels like a far-fetched dream, think about the authors you care about. Supporting local independent bookstores ensures they have venues for book signings and readings. 

At these readings and signings, you’ll have the opportunity to develop connections with the author and learn the stories behind the story on the page. This can make your reading of their work even richer. 

So, I’ve decided to make my Week 2 Challenge all about independent bookstores and the writers who grace their shelves.  

Here’s your challenge: 

  1. Buy something at an independent bookstore (ten-dollar minimum) and I’ll give you one ticket for this week’s drawing. You can buy anything from a book to a gift card. 
  2. Buy from a Black-owned bookstore and I will give you three tickets for this week’s drawing. 

Later this week, I’m going to send you an entire post on the importance of Black-owned bookstores, but for now, I want to share a quote from DeShanta Hairston at Books and Crannies, a Black-owned bookstore in Martinsville, Va. 

“Books and Crannies offers a community space for writers to engage and share a love for the craft. As a black-owned bookstore, we make efforts to upsell Black authors and book titles to help readers gain perspective of our stories and livelihood. My belief is that reading about Black culture helps bridge the gap to the understanding of blackness as a whole.” 

Black-owned bookstores provide a valuable service to all of us by lifting up voices that aren’t always heard. Often, these are the very voices we need to be listening to. 

If you’re thinking, but Lisa, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m doing all my shopping online.

Did you know you can order on the web or call in your order to most bookstores? Many deliver or offer curbside pickup. They’d love to receive your web order or call. 

Or maybe you don’t know the name of the independent bookstore in your area. 

That’s what Google is for. 

But here are a few links to help get you started. 
The Best Independent Bookstores in the United States
50 Best Indie Bookstores in America
125 Black-owned Bookstores

This week’s prize is a 45-minute coaching session with me. Whether you’re just rolling an idea around in your head, struggling with the messy middle, or preparing to submit your work, I am ready to support you. Wondering what others have to say about my work? Check out my testimonials

You will also be entered into my grand-prize drawing for a one-hour coaching session (includes a 10-page manuscript review) with yours truly PLUS a spot in Jane Friedman’s self-study course How to Write a Book Proposal

How to Write a Book Proposal is a must-have for memoir and nonfiction writers. For fiction writers, the course’s exercises can be used to develop a marketing plan for your book. Or you can be the coolest writer around and gift this to your favorite CNF pal. 

If you’re struggling financially, or you’re looking for a second way to play, I’ve got some literary-citizenship options for you. 

  1. Share events or information about your favorite independent bookstore on social media and I’ll give you one ticket into this week’s drawing. 
  2. Write a review for a book you recently purchased and post it to Amazon AND Goodreads and you’ll earn one ticket into this week’s drawing.
  3. Post a review to Amazon AND Goodreads for a book published in 2020 and I’ll give you two tickets in this week’s drawing. 
  4. Post a review to Amazon AND Goodreads for a book by an author of color that was published in 2020 and I’ll give you three tickets into this week’s drawing. 

To enter this week’s drawing here’s what you need to do: 

  1. If you’re supporting an independent bookstore send me an email, with the name of the bookstore and the amount of your purchase. If you were able to pick your purchase up locally, send me a picture of the item for a photo collage I’ll create for my week three newsletter. 
  2. If you’re sharing independent bookstore information on social media, send me a screenshot. 
  3. If you’re writing a review, send me the name of the book and either a screenshot of the review or a link to it. 

 Send all questions and entries to lisa.cooper.ellison@gmail.com.

That’s it. 

Easy peasy, right? 

Wondering why in the world I’m going on a generosity tour right now?  

It’s all about the dopamine. You can read about that right here

 Keep writing and keep sharing your abundance with the world. 

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