The Festival’s Author Expo will feature books by authors of many genres from around the country, as well as indie presses and literacy organizations. The Main Stage will boast several excellent panels like Framing History through Fiction, Middle Grade Magic, and Get Lucky: Romance, featuring authors like Amanda Quick and Simon Van Booy. The Kids’ Stage will feature book readings all day long, while the Poet-tree Stage will explore some spoken word, readings, panels, and more, emceed by Virginia’s first ever…
The Smart Cookie: Shaye, thanks for joining me today. What was the moment you realized you should use poetry to share your story?
S Baker: Thank you. I was in the process of writing a full-length horror novel when my life became its own horror story. I received a world-shattering phone call that my brother died in a car accident. It was sudden, like the snap-of-the-finger. The only platform I had to share my thoughts was, sadly, a journal. I’m an introvert, and don’t do well with a lot of social activity. Poetry allowed me to express everything I was feeling, processing.
The Smart Cookie: What inspires the ideas behind the poems you write?
S.Baker: My brother lived and worked as a musician; he’s a brilliant pianist. He travelled the world, playing for Holland Airlines B. B. King band. When he passed away, I realized how great his impact on this earth was, and wrote my poems to leave my own legacy. He may be physically gone, but his presence, art, photos, memories, are very much alive, fossilized within the people he loved.
The Smart Cookie: Outside of poetry, would you ever consider writing a memoir to share your full story?
I toyed with the idea, in my full-length horror novel there are striking resemblances. I would consider it.
The Smart Cookie: Has writing this collection helped you find peace despite the tragedy?
S. Baker: It has, you couldn’t imagine what this collection has meant to my family and I. So. Yes, it has been cathartic. Great question, by the way
The Smart Cookie: What is a Cerebral Fossil?
S. Baker: Another great question. So. A fossil is any trace or remains of any once living thing. Cerebral Fossil is the memories, art, thoughts, poetry, books, text messages, love notes, social media posts etc. left behind by any once living being. It’s deeper than that, but I’m okay with my concept inspiring personal interpretations for others.
The Smart Cookie: Any advice for anyone who resonates with this collection?
S. Baker: Be vulnerable. Allow yourself to feel and don’t stop yourself from seeing where those feelings take you. If your feelings lead to calling your brother or sister in the middle of night and saying “I love you,” then do it. I’m an introvert, and I don’t always pick up the phone or reach out to people because social settings drain me. Still, I wish I could go back and do more. I am doing more now.
Today, my guest of this new series is Molly S. Hillery Best-Selling Author of Bare Roots and Recently Released Follow-up collection The Medicine That Burns.
The Smart Cookie: Molly, Thank you for joining me today. Any writer would definitely agree that the act and art of writing is in itself very cathartic. What was the moment you realized you should write poetry to share your story?
Molly: That’s a great question! I have always wanted to become an author and I always loved journaling and writing as a child. After what I went through in my teen years, I really felt like sharing my perspective. I didn’t write for fame or fortune, it was just special to me to be able to share my story and fulfill my dream of publishing.
The Smart Cookie: You write about real human struggles related to trauma and mental illness. What inspires your ideas for poems?
Molly: All of my poems come from my own experience and perspective. A lot of the poems I wrote in bare roots were inspired by blogs I had published in early 2015, that I fit together into a cohesive narrative. Many of the poems in The Medicine That Burns were written in first-person perspective from journals and many were written following therapy sessions.
The Smart Cookie: Outside of poetry, would you ever consider writing a memoir to share your full story?
Molly: I think in their own way, both of my collections are a memoir. They are just more stylized and easier to digest, in my opinion. Readers who have read both books will have a pretty solid idea on what I have been through throughout my life!
The Smart Cookie: I think in their own way, both of my collections are a memoir. They are just more stylized and easier to digest, in my opinion. Readers who have read both books will have a pretty solid idea on what I have been through throughout my life!
Molly: On the good days, I feel creative and enjoy writing and being artistic, like painting and collaging. I love to just relax and unwind after a full workday, so the normal Netflix, snuggling with my dog, and talking to friends on the internet works for me! I also spend a lot of time with my family these days, which has been a nice change of pace. My nephew will be three this summer!
The Smart Cookie: Bare Roots and your upcoming release Medicine That Burns share similar truths about the after effects of trauma and traumatic experiences but Bare Roots uses a resilient view while Medicine that Burns is darker, raw, and emotive. What was the writing process like for each book, and which one to you felt like more of a release than anything?
Molly: The writing processes for both books were very, very different. I wrote, edited, and published bare roots in four months. I worked on it almost addictively; my husband and I were going through a rough time and I almost used writing the book as a safe haven/escape. My perspective on life really changed after my divorce; Four years passed between the two books and I lived a lot of life in between then. I started writing The Medicine That Burns in quarantine last year when I was on furlough from work. This process was a lot slower, and I took my time with it.
The Smart Cookie: What are your final words to those who are broken and bruised, and resonate with your poetry?
Molly: It sounds cliche but, that you are not alone, and that there is hope. I also really encourage people with trauma to continue to seek out appropriate treatment, because seeking the wrong kind of care can make things worse. At the end of The Medicine That Burns, I share some modalities of therapy that have helped me– I even had a medical procedure done to aid in symptoms. I want to share these with people in hopes that they can find relief in some of their symptoms, too. Trauma informed care is essential to recovery.
To find out more about Molly and her poetry, visit mollyhillery.com
Being a female to me has always been such a blessing. I have always honored my femininity and relished in surpassing obstacles left and right in order to show myself and the world that a woman of both strength and power is one who doesn’t back down from a challenge, one who looks to break records and defy stereotypes, and always is there to lend a helping hand to any and all, but especially to fellow women.
Releasing my poetry book was a very trying experience for me. Not traumatic as that would have been ironic as my collection is about my traumatic experience working in a toxic workplace, falling in love, and getting my heartbroken, also while discussing my asexuality, my perserverance despite mental illness and struggling with suicidal ideation multiple times in my life, and being unaware that I actually was suffering with symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome since birth.
It took me a bit to wrap my head around this diagnosis following my book release but honestly I didn’t get the fanfare I thought I would have with my release but I think it just takes time and resilience.
Yet, as March is Women’s History Month, I decided I wanted to ride and die alongside 11 other writers that I’ve befriended over years, months, and even weeks before and since releasing my own poetry collection.
Without further ado, let’s celebrate these 12 powerful women and their incredible feats in literature and poetry.
My review for this book is forthcoming but this book is a great mix between Dracula, 1917, and the Vampire Diaries. It’s only 170 pages so it took me a few hours to read, and the battle scenes will have you on the edge of your seat. Sayda Hope’s series Das Herz is a part of a forthcoming series. Read this first installment today so you are ready for the next book’s release.
This book opened doors for me I always believed I would never walk through. It opened up my personal discovery of my mental health which then led me to find out I had Asperger’s so I basically feel very attached to this book but if you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or any other mental health issue, this book has practical entries like a devotional that allow you to read it and apply the tips each and every day. It’s something I plan to re-read often throughout the rest of my life.
This book has yet to be released but the summary looks enticing if you are looking for a Danielle Steel novel with a whodunnit spin. The author, currently resides in Germany, has written several other books that are historical fiction or Christian fiction. Definitely set your alarm for April 3, 2021 and get a copy when it releases exclusively on Amazon.
My review of this book will be available in April but as soon as I found this poet was releasing a poetry collection, I rushed to support her because it’s what you do, and her words were filled with absolute brevity and truth. Plus, I am aiming to support more black voices as well because once again, it’s what you do.
Did you really think I would share about fellow female writers without including myself. This book is broken up into two sections: Sticks and Stones. It is a themed around the overall metaphor that you can and should turn your pain into poetry, whether that pain was from undiagnosed Asperger’s, being bullied and ostracized, bullies in the workplace, falling in love with the wrong person, or falling in love with a twin flame who ran away, and broke your heart.
It is written with the intention to help all those who hurt find healing and strength that resonates no matter what obstacles or giants we face.
So far: It’s been an Amazon India best-seller, nominated for Book of the Year, and turning readers who don’t read poetry into fans.
For me personally, it is the beauty in the ashes of a terribly dark time and I have no shame in sharing it as well as what may come from it being out in the world in book form. I just pray it reaches those who feel stuck or as if they have no way out in time, and reminds them their story, your story, our story is far from over.
I didn’t know of this poet when I published my collection but as someone who is also a fan of poetry, I found this poet recently and found her words to be relatable, timely, and cookie-cut for Instagram-sharability. She’s also from Florida and I’m honored to be among her company as a fellow female poet.
Talk about fierce. This poet announced she was releasing her first poetry collection and I was eager to support it. The other day, March 16, 2021, she did a surprise launch and became #1 best-seller on Amazon. Since her book was released only three days ago, she has remained within the top 5 of all three categories her book fits in on Amazon. That’s definitely what I should have did with my poetry collection but next time, I will be consulting with Shayla to ensure my launch reaches the same heights.
Following moving Instagram accounts due to toxicity on my old one, I was searching for poets to follow to connect with. This poet is very sweet and has actively engaged with anything I’ve commented on her work or story. And she made me feel like I finally belonged in the community which is why I made a new Instagram in the first place. Originally published by Blurb, this collection about heartbreak and healing will help you find the light in the darkest of nights.
Talk about somebody who’s just the kindest despite that she’s got a huge audience and has so many cool book reader photos.
This poet wrote and published this collection in 2017 but it is still charting as a best-seller on Amazon this year even. I happened to spot it on there and reached out to congratulate her because that feels entirely huge for anyone who struggles or suffers with any and all forms of mental illness or also dealt with several traumatic events.
The little wins are the moments when you feel like your strength through your trauma or struggles truly has dug roots and bloomed nicely.
She popped on my IG feed and I was like ok, she’s gorgeous. Then to find out she was a poet too was also inspiring. Then, I learned about her heritage and how she struggles with anxiety and depression. My review of this collection is forthcoming but there isn’t much about Kleio Musa that doesn’t act as a muse for me, as both a female and a writer.
She doesn’t need this feature nor does it makes sense to me that someone so cool follows me on Instagram but ever since I announced that I found out I have Asperger’s, Liane has been so engaging and supportive. Reading this book for me was very cathartic as some of the same struggles also existed with myself but Liane’s story inspires the reader and proves that disability isn’t an inability just a societal label that seeks to limit the beauty and educating that people with autism and asperger’s bring to this world.
There you have it. Please be sure to add some if not all of these women to your TBR, your next book haul, and to your Instagram feed.
Each and every one of these women inspire me to keep at it, push past the disappointments and hurts, and share my empathy and caring poetic soul with the world.
Venture Into the World of The Undead With Das Herz by Sayda Hope
In Das Herz, soldiers who survive a devastating battle to become less than human, must get the help of a woman who makes the heartless army commander recall when his dead heart could feel. Das Herz is a forthcoming series. The first installment is called Buch Eins. Sayda Hope offers a story all humans will resonate with and love to escape to.
About the book: Untoten… Undead. Eber Soldat, a soldier named Soldier.A heartless man who was thought a monster of war, until the day he truly became one. Returning from the dead, he and his men, Captain Mikhail Koza, Lieutenant Johan Thayer, and Lieutenant Adolpho Ermanno, embark on the next assignment, guarding Ambrozij Kasimir, the head of the church, a man whose power rivals even that of King Berin’s. Wanting to keep their new existence a secret to protect themselves, Eber seeks the aid of an old ally, Lorelei Zima, a beautiful woman who makes Koza wonder if she had been more to the heartless Commander at one time in their past. Her nature is playful and her abilities deadly, Lorelei proves to be of great help and at times… a little harm.
With each soldier undergoing his own session of rigor mortis, the men learn the lies and truths of the unique untoten of their homelands as they discover their differing strengths and hungers. Reaching their destination, the soldiers expect peace finally as Kasimir arrives in the tattered village of Hieb, yet it steadily becomes clear there is no rest even for the dead as the village is swarmed by untoten. The starving undead burn at the touch of Hallowed ground, giving salvation for Kasimir, but his sanctuary will be his tomb as the days pass and the untoten do not leave, forcing Kasimir to face his own starvation.
With Eber’s new mission of getting the Holy Man out of the village alive, his heartlessness may prove to be a weakness or what saves him.
About the author: My name is Sayda Hope, and I’m just someone with an imperfect life who loves escapism! I rarely write about things which echo my real life as it’s a pretty boring place. Instead, I’d rather take you to worlds no mortal eyes will ever see except within the pages of my books. Places of mystery and danger, on adventures guided by characters you’ll come to love.
Everything from other planets on outer regions of space, filled with people you connect with as though they’re beside you, to reflections of the world we know in the guise of a Victorian era New York City, morphed into something different by court trials and murder mysteries of folkloric creatures in “monster” versions of crime dramas. In the end, I strive to make unique experiences with each one of my stories because I am the one who wants to go on these adventures, to these places, with these people. I only hope that some of you wish to come along with me.
As most of you know, I love my dogs more than anything. They are my world and basically give my life both meaning and purpose.
Yet, so many dogs and cats are killed in shelters around the USA and I don’t think any furry friend should have to die just because it hasn’t found a home. About 3 or 4 years ago, I came across Best Friends Animal Society. They are a non-profit that advocates entirely for both dogs and cats to be rescued from kill shelters so that they have a chance at a decent and humane life. Every animal has it’s purpose, right?!
In order to help them in their no-kill 2025 initiative, every hoodie and dog bandana will 100% benefit Best Friends Animal Society and their life-saving work for this planet’s most precious and vulnerable creatures.
The Hooman Hoodie is available in a selection of primary colors and runs at $48 with $20 being donated to Best Friends Animal Society.
The dog merchandise has the same “fur-ever friends” design and is available in my new Squad shop but also still benefits Best Friends Animal Society. I will be adding more designs from past squad days in the shop soon but for now get a matching Dog Bandana here. The Dog Bandana is only available in white but is very large to fit any size furbaby. It is priced at $15.97 with 10% of that going to Best Friends Animal Society.
If you or someone you know is an animal advocate, please share this with them.
Until next time, We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
It all started with a dream five years ago…just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was not going to let anything come between me and my dream of helping authors and artists get the right exposure for their project.
Like a fairy dust kiss from above, only one month after launching the site, I got the news that I was selected as a member of Rachel Platten’s Wildfire Tour Crew.
And I will never forget her words before she sang her anthem “Fight Song” the night of the concert. They had me tearing up and I knew without a doubt that this was what I wanted to do, where I belonged, and I wanted others to feel this way too.
So I began by building my audience. I started posting book and music reviews that nobody paid me for. And I launched both my Twitter and Facebook page so I could network with the people in my niche: other writers, musicians, and people who were just looking for a place to express themselves freely without any judgement.
I created a hashtag game to get people aware of my brand messaging without cramming it down their throat.
#ESPRESSOYOURSELF was a trending hashtag on Twitter when the game launched and it was fun for a while.
Yet, it became more of a burden than a blessing and I ended it in 2018. Yet, the site began to get offers for affiliates, brands that wanted to work with us, and even a queue filled to the brim with review requests.
I took a leap of faith the following year and launched my PR firm in hopes that I could be paid to do the work that I earned a college degree in. Turns out, authors were willing to work with me because they knew me to be a genuine supporter of all things creative and especially authors. (I am a bibliophile to my core).
Today, my first ever signed client is still with my firm!
In 2018, I wanted to begin giving back in a new way so I created a merchandise line through Teespring that is 100% cause based. Each design is created with love for a cause that I believe in. And I felt like maybe there were other people who would believe in them too. In 2021, we now have over 19 products currently available and 6 cookie based designs that 100% came from my brain, although I hired an artist to create them for me, and 7 causes that they 100% support.
In 2019, I gained the most clients I ever had at one time in my firm but sadly lost most of them at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Yet, do to supportive donations and an ad campaign featuring my dogs, I was able to withstand the stormy weather and I learned how freeing it is to dance in the rain.
My reviews and marketing services are sought after from traditionally published authors, independent authors, other publicists, and even independent music blogs and musicians. My clientele and brands that we’ve worked with span from small to huge but it hasn’t at all changed the reason why I began this site: if I have a dream and a vision, chances are other people like me do too so why not work together to create a community that is inclusive and welcomes art and projects from people of all walks of life.
This year I am excited to announce that my goal for 2021 was to READ MORE and Worry Less.
With that being said, I am making reading a daily priority this year because books are the world I choose to live in, and I refuse to apologize for that. Yet, this is a business that I truly care about and want to continue to see it succeed which is why I am revamping all my services this year.
First I am launching my review service for a nominal fee and you get a lot for a little chunk of change (As always). And this week only, if you request a review for your book, I will guarantee you I will get it done in 20 days or less or it’s free. For me, I want to be accountable this year and every year to come so this guarantee will allow me to do that to start. The guarantee is only good for this week only. After 1/24/21, it’s $40 regardless of how long it takes me to read your work. Sign up here today! This unfortunately means I will no longer offer free reviews so please let people know that I no longer offer those.
Second, I am re-launching my PR services. There will be two types I offer: freelance and contract.
My freelance services are perfect for artists or authors on a limited budget or local businesses looking for marketing assistance.
Lastly, I am pleased to announce that I am raising my publicist fees. Anyone who now signs with my firm will now be required to sign an annual contract and agree to the monthly retainer fee to secure me as your publicist. Big time agencies charge way more than I am but I am willing to believe the value of my work is worth every single dollar. And besides, every dollar earned is always re-invested in making my services or my brand more curated to fit the needs of any and all clientele, and with these new prices I hope to do that but I honestly also hope to attract clients that value my services 100% and want to grow together, and trust me above anything else.
Before I end this rather long personal statement, I wanted to announce that The Smart Cookie Philes is featured in a Book Promotion Directory for 2021. It includes 180 bloggers who will feature your book as well as 40 companies (mine included) who want to help you promote your work at affordable efficient rates.
As always, you can reach me by email at email@example.com 24 hours a day!
And thank you to everyone who has allowed me the chance to work with you, given you a safe haven to belong to, and supported me and this dream for five years!
I am so glad I took a page out of Dr. King’s book and boldly declared “I HAVE A DREAM…”
To the unicorns, the outcasts, and the dreamers,
We welcome you and I just want to say thank you all so much for sticking around.
2020 was a rough year for everyone for various reasons but I never felt so far away from everyone myself but thankfully within the book community, we always end up meeting people who are both on the same page and also inspire us to share more of our story on blank pages..
Kriti from Armed With a Book is one of those people who I came into connection with through a client but I also really liked her review style as well as her professionalism. She has a unique way of sharing about authors, creators, and even about the people who support them such as myself as a publicist. Honestly, as I come up to my 5th year as a publicist and my own boss, it felt like such a nice way to cement that into being.
You can read her amazing post by clicking my custom creative roulette wheel below.
Bookish and Music Based Gifts for The Smart Cookie in your Life!
It’s the time of the year (although I know 2020 has been one of those years) when you put yourself and all you want out of your mind for a whole month, and think about the people you love and how you could possibly make their lives better with a gift that screams them. Well, I’m not an expert on the best gifts for people who like fashion, home goods or even monster trucks. I am an expert on all things books and music and I have the perfect list of gifts for the Smart Cookie in your life.
In the beginning of the year I began reading this book and found it helped me have something positive and meaningful to reflect on each day. No matter your creed or color, this book is a helpful devotional style book which helps anyone feel lighter and more focused on what they bring to the table instead of what they lack.
This was my 2020 introduction to National Poetry Month and it definitely started the month off on the right note. I found it to be incredibly simple yet so telling which is my favorite reason for reading poetry. Perfect for non-poetry readers and poetry readers alike. My favorite poem would have to be this one right here although more are included in my review piece at the link above.
Sometimes you read a book of poetry and it absolutely hits you right at the center of your pain but instead of placing a band-aid over it, it was salve for the wounds I suffered following a season of double trauma. It was everything I didn’t know I needed post-trauma. And I thank Jaqueline Whitney for putting her words, her heart, her story out into the world because they helped me heal even more.
By far, this was one of my favorite books I read this year. Not only because I am friends with the author but because her writing is so lyrically brilliant. I can’t tell you how powerful this story was. It’s crazy to me that this book took twenty years to come to fruition but wow, it’s absolutely worth all the work that went into writing it, and even more so, worthy of every ounce of buzz and nomination it has gotten since it’s release.
Sometimes you read a novel at the exact right time and it makes you nostalgic when you didn’t have to excuse you actually enjoying Fitzgerald or Murakami or even Garcia Marquez back in high school. If you like any of those writers, please consider Good Brave People as it reads with poetic prose but has the mystique and literary stamina of all three writers combined. It’s hard to believe this is his debut novel.
In preparation for putting out my own book, I began posting some poetry of mine to gain exposure for my collection as any writer does on social media. I connected with this writer and it was apparent right away we both were heartbroken and haunted by our twin flames. A twin flame is a spiritual concept where two people are actually two halves of the same soul so they complete each other, and sometimes the connection can span many lifetimes. They don’t always achieve union every lifetime but every lifetime causes them to cycle karmic cleansings and self-healing to achieve their highest selves until they achieve union or entirely mirror one another.
Opening up the discussion about mental health by sharing her own personal story about her struggles with anxiety, it’s written in a devotional style so it is an easy read and helps people who suffer with anxiety through to defeating it once and for all.
Shameless plug but my brand new poetry book is now available in paperback and ebook format. It’s already gotten 4.6 stars on Goodreads and even resonated with a Bookstagrammer in India. Overall, I hope that by me writing this to heal, it offers you the same no matter what you are going through or have gone through.
2020 was the year my favorite band came back with new music and it gave me purpose yet again. Their Tangerine EP was a blessed fruit in the desolate year that was 2020 but it’s worth a listen and it’s less than $5.
Dare I say it but when I sat down to listen to their third studio album, I actually thought it was going to be sub-par but instead like their two previous works, not one bad song on it. So much strong lyricism and inventive musicality that again changes their sound as a band. Watch out 5SOS are always evolving. Try to stay CALM about it.
If 2020 ever needed a savior it would have to be T. Swift. She showed up with a folk pop album written entirely in 3rd person and it was exactly what our quarantine playlist needed, and our souls needed too.
You ever been given an opportunity just when you were about to give up and you literally wondered why you were picked. Well, the chance to review this album came like to me this year and it’s a wonderful body of work. My favorite song is probably Who I Am? on this album but the entire work takes you back to a youthful viewpoint and you all know how much I love being nostalgic.
Lecrae is my favorite rapper so when I heard he was releasing new music in the year of all years I was restored that God truly is watching over us and is walking with us, no matter how much we wrestle with the Holy Ghost.
You ever fall in love with someone and their potential of being with you was all in your head? Well, if not, if you’ve ever seen the good in goodbye, Thank U Next is Ariana’s most powerful work to date. It shares struggles with mental health, heartbreak, grief, and feeling too needy.
Fine, I’ll admit it. I’m secretly in love with Luke Combs solely because he has a beard, drinks beer, and wears crocs. Haha. Well he’s newly married to the prettiest girl but his artistry sure has stolen my heart. He writes amazing songs. His song Beautiful Crazy stopped me in my tracks and I am still not over it.
Wishing you all an espressive Holiday season! Cheers to 2021!
Since I have no new reviews for you, I am trying to get some booktube videos done and up so you aren’t just consuming Music based content. Overall, I found this tag to be so wonderful as it helps to end the stigma about talking about mental health and also has anyone who does the tag openly talking about books that feature mental health storylines or helped in some way with mental health discussions in the readers life.
It was started by Beautiful Chaos of Books and you can check out the original tag in the description box.