Exposing your work, on #LisaBurtonRadio

If you are an author looking for ways to promote your books – for free – check out Lisa Burton’s interview with a number of prolific bloggers who provide lots of promotional opportunities for writers.

Entertaining Stories

Lisa Burton

Hi, all, and welcome to another edition of Lisa Burton Radio. This week is a special edition, because it’s geared to all you authors out there. It might give some good ideas to bloggers who want to host guests too.

Today, I’ve collected a group of power bloggers who host authors on their sites. This gives an author a way to reach a larger audience than they might if they were simply posting about date-night or something. This means when you have a new book to promote, or maybe to give an older title a secondary push.

We’re going to start by addressing the three-hundred-pound gorilla in the room, and I mean that literally. Chris The Storyreading Ape, hosts one of the largest author blogs around. “Did you get my fruit basket, Chris?”

“Yes I did thanks, Lisa – very thoughtful of you to use edible leaves to weave the…

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MarySmith’sPlace – Sunset poetry walk update

Yesterday afternoon/evening, Keith Kirk and I led a dozen participants (the event was limited to 12 people so it was actually a sell-out) on the sunset poetry walk organised as part of CatStrand’s Inspiring Writers project, Ken Words.

CatStrand is a multi-arts centre in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway, which offers an amazing programme of music, theatre, cinema, dance and visual arts as well as being a venue for all manner of classes and workshops. They draw a wonderful and eclectic list of performers: Judie Tzuke who headlines Glastonbury, The Unthanks and pop icon Kiki Dee – all this in a village with a population of less than 350.

Inspiring Words brings all CatStrand’s literature-focused events and activities under one umbrella. Events include writers Margaret Elphinstone and James Robertson in conversation about their historical fiction; film and poetry workshops, and events such as the sunset poetry walk.

Our sunset poetry walk took place on the Threave Estate and it was fabulous. It was cold – very cold – but crucially, it was a clear evening, didn’t rain and we did get to see the sun setting.

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You can tell this is my photo and not one of Keith’s. Sigh.

We also saw starlings gathering before they flew off to join the great murmuration which takes place just outside the town. Keith has uploaded some fantastic photos and videos  on Facebook of the starlings. Keith pointed out a badger sett. We saw roe deer, heard – some of us – geese, listened to the River Dee.

We stood opposite the great bulk of Threave Castle while I gave a very brief potted history – a full account of the castle’s history, and more importantly, the stories of the Black Douglas dynasty would take up the entire time of the event. Threave walk (Custom)

We took longer than anticipated on the walk because everyone was so fascinated and had so many questions. Going for a walk in the countryside with Keith is a wonderful thing, especially as he is so happy to share his knowledge.

I have to say I found standing in silence in the deepening dark with a dozen people, all our senses tuning into the falling night, quite a moving experience.

A moving experience of a different kind occurred as we walked back to the visitor centre and encountered a herd of young cows which was not there when we set out. They had wandered onto our path – for some reason they were in a field with no gate – and had to be moved to allow us to continue.

Back at the visitor centre tea and shortbread were produced by the event organiser, Jane McBeth and Andrew Mellor while the serious work of translating the experiences into words.

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I will never wear this jacket again! That’s all padding, honest. Jacket padding!

What was really special was that everyone – new writers, established poets, artists – enthusiastically took part in the workshop and everyone shared what they’d written with the group. Keith was astonished at how twelve people on the same walk together produced twelve very different accounts of their experiences.

At the end Jane handed out specially produced postcards of Keith’s sunset at Threave Castle photo,

Threave Castle on the River Dee near Castle Douglas at sunset

Threave Castle on the River Dee near Castle Douglas at sunset, photo by Keith Kirk Photographer

with an envelope and stamp so that people can send in their edited work so that it is not lost – perhaps displayed on the walls at CatStrand or perhaps a poetry pamphlet?

We are already talking about repeating the event next year – in the summer.

MarySmith’sPlace – Sunset Poetry Walk

My collaborator on Secret Dumfries, Keith Kirk and I are teaming up to take people on a sunset poetry walk at Threave Castle near Castle Douglas.  It’s on Sunday, November 25.

With Threave Castle as a backdrop, we will lead a twilight walk along the banks of the River Dee.

Wildlife expert and photographer Keith Kirk will talk about the wildlife which inhabits the area and once the sun has set and it is dark he will enable participants to see the night in a completely different light with the aid of thermal and night vision cameras.

We will pause from time to time to simply listen and absorb the evening sounds and scents. Opposite the castle, I’ll talk briefly about its fascinating history and maybe share a poem or two. And we’ll watch the sun go down – or banks of grey clouds gathering above the castle. Either way, it’s sure to be atmospheric.

Threave Castle on the River Dee near Castle Douglas at sunset

Sunset at Threave Castle. Picture Credit: Keith Kirk


When we return to the visitor centre, I’ll be encouraging participants to think about the sensory experiences they’ve shared on the walk and write their own response to the landscape and season in poetry or prose.

It is a short walk on a well-defined, fairly level path from the carpark to the Castle Hide. A short stretch can flood if we’ve had lots of rain – like today – so sturdy, waterproof footwear is required as well as warm waterproof clothing.

Anyone coming on the poetry walk should also bring a notebook and pencil. We’ll meet indoors at the National Trust Visitor Centre (by Threave Castle carpark) from 3.15, ready to start walking at 3.30.

Booking a place (£5) can be done online at http://www.catstrand.com (no booking fee) or by phone: 01644 420 374

I think we might be ever so slightly mad to think this is a good idea – but it should be fun.DSCF0989 (Custom)

MarySmith’sPlace – Cold Callers – don’t we love to hate them?

For some reason our caller display has given up showing the number of whoever is calling. Instead it shows this less than helpful message: ‘Incoming call’ so I don’t know if it’s my sister wanting to go for a walk or someone wanting to sell me something or offer to fix my computer.  DSC01004 (Custom)

Once I’ve picked up. I’m usually pretty quick at identifying if it’s someone trying a scam or a sales pitch. I adopt my best telephone voice and tell them, very politely, that we don’t take cold calls. One caller last week was too quick for me. Even before I could put the phone down Michelle was telling me she was not a cold caller (I don’t remember ever giving her my number and asking her call me, therefore in my book she’s a cold caller), wasn’t selling anything and, in fact, was able to offer ways to save money on our heating bills – if she could just ask a couple of questions.

‘There’s no point,’ I said. ‘Don’t let’s waste my time and yours – you could be making another, possibly more successful, call.’

‘But, don’t you want to save money?’

‘I already know we are not eligible for any of these schemes.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because we’ve been through all this before – we’re not eligible for grants for new boilers or windows and our roof faces the wrong way for solar panels.’

‘Well, I don’t know which company told you this. We’ve never called you before. Please, can I just ask a couple of quick questions?’

I sigh. Why hadn’t I put the phone down?  Why don’t I just hang up now? It feels rude, somehow. ‘Okay, quick questions,’ I said.

I can almost hear her smile down the line.

‘Are your windows five, ten of fifteen years old?’

‘Five.’ This time I can definitely hear her sigh.

‘Ok, okay. What about your doors – are they five, ten…’

‘One’s about a hundred and seventy years old.’

‘Oh, do you live in a listed building or conservation area?’

‘No.’ but, now I know how to reply to future cold callers – sorry; we live in a listed building.

‘Is it your back door?’


‘Front door?’


‘Well, we can definitely help with that,’ she says triumphantly. ‘Is your front door made from wood, aluminium or pvc?’

‘It’s about one hundred and seventy years old.’

‘Oh, right, they wouldn’t have pvc doors then.’ She giggles. Nor aluminium, I think, but don’t say. ‘Well, I know we can help on this. You’ll definitely be eligible for help with a new door.’

‘But, I don’t want a new door. I like my front door.’

She’s not listening. ‘I have Kevin here beside me and he can talk you through the options. I’ll just put him on.’

A new voice booms in my ear – so horrendously cheerful and upbeat I know he can’t possibly have heard our conversation. ‘Delighted to speak to you, Mrs Smith. How are you today?’

‘A bit ticked off, actually. I told your colleague we’d be wasting our time pursuing this but she insisted and I wasn’t quick enough to put the phone down politely.’

Kevin sighs, ‘Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I can cut this call immediately.’

‘Oh, thank you, please do.’ He already has. Sensible man, Kevin, knows when it’s a lost cause. I fear he might be having words with Michelle, though, about wasting time.