Sonya G. Elliott is a writer, basketball coach, fashion model, wife and mom. I was lucky enough to meet her in a recent writing workshop class at the Hugo House. Her memoir, Back on the Court: A Young Woman’s Triumphant Return to Life, Love and Basketball, is her story of surviving and thriving after tragedy. Sonya blogs about writing, basketball and life, and she is currently working on a young adult novel and a book about coaching basketball. She also designs PeaceLoveBasketball gear to share with others her love of the game and love of life.
Tell me about publishing your memoir with Tigress Publishing in Seattle.
I was happy to get my story published, and glad that Tigress Publishing helped me do that, but as with most publishing companies, I was pretty much on my own with marketing after my book was in print.
What type of marketing have you done for Back on the Court?
Back on the Court was released at the beginning of basketball season, which made it a little more difficult for me because my time was limited, but I did as many book readings as possible. Because of the grief and recovery content of my book, and my desire to reach out and share my experience with others, I found the readings to be the most satisfying and often the most successful as far as direct sales. For book readings though, you have to be prepared that some days you might be reading to three people.
I also have a Facebook page, a Goodreads page, and I blog consistently these days.
Tell us more about doing book readings.
Before my book came out, I once drove an hour through traffic to see an author at Barnes & Noble. I remember sitting down with about seven other people, patiently waiting for the author to arrive. Forty minutes later she showed up, looked at the crowd, said that she was tired from being at events all day, apologized, and explained that she was just going to sign books. No reading. I didn’t buy a book, and I told myself that when my book was published, and I was lucky enough to do a reading, it wouldn’t matter if there was just one person at my reading, I would give that one person every bit of my energy.
And I have had a of couple readings where there were just three or four people, and honestly they ended up being some of the best readings because I got the chance to really connect. I’ve also talked to college basketball teams, grief support groups, and now, about once every other month, I talk to a massage/trauma class. Sometimes I sell books, sometimes I don’t, but I always meet some great people.
What writing projects are you working on these days?
My heart is in YA right now, and my current novel is a story of a young woman’s journey through a post-apocalyptic world: Dylan wakes in a post-apocalyptic world where a majority of the human species have died. With no friends or family left alive in her small town in central Washington, Dylan embarks on a challenging journey across the state in search of her sister, her strength and ultimately her future.
What are your writing goals for the next five years?
Wow, five years. Well, I would like to have my YA novel published by then, and my book on coaching well underway. I’m also co-authoring a book with friend of mine, so I would like to be ready to pitch that as well. And I plan to keep blogging and start submitting magazine articles.
How do you make time for your writing?
I’m a high school girls basketball coach, and I have two kids, so it’s difficult, but I carve out time whenever I can. I meet with my friend Jenny to write every Thursday; we make it a priority. The rest of the time, I pull out my computer or journal for a few hours at home, or sneak off to a coffee shop. If my husband is out of town, I’m known to stay up and write all night, but my kids come first, and after that I take what I can get. I also love to take writing classes to learn and give me deadlines. That always helps move my writing along.
Recently you and your teenage daughter took a writing class together. What was that like?
I LOVED IT!!! She is such an amazing writer, and it’s so fun to watch her learn and grow and be excited about writing. She is seventeen years old, so I feel so fortunate to have a strong relationship where we can talk about almost anything, write together, play basketball together, and enjoy one another. I am mom, and I’m sure I annoy her from time to time, but something would be wrong if I didn’t, so I just feel pretty damn lucky.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
“Show, don’t tell” is a must. But just as important, or more important in my mind, is to believe in yourself. It is so easy to question our own writing, wonder if what we scribble down on paper is good enough. Sometimes we might wonder why we do it all, or if anyone even cares about what we write. We might have others critique our writing harshly or find it inconceivable that we waste our time putting pen to paper. You have to ignore it all, go with your gut, believe in yourself, and write.