Learn more. Earn more.

Learn more. Earn more.
Learn more. Earn more. "Required reading" for today's smart writer! As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weekend Update-Resources, Courses and More!

Greetings, Readers!
As we bring closure to another week, I wanted to share a few resources, courses, and info of potential interest, to move you forward in your creative goals. Please share anything that you have going on in the comments section as well.

  • COFFEEHOUSE FOR WRITERS---Is slated to re-open its doors, the 1st week of May. Whether your goal is to start a Blog, finish a novel, pen your memoir, or make the transition to full-time freelancing, you'll find an array of affordable, quality online offerings. Since 1999, Coffeehouse for Writers has helped writers of all levels and genres to earn more and learn more. And here's a bonus: Pen and Prosper readers who register for classes by April 27th, can save $10.00 on one class, $20.00 on two or more classes total.  The site is still under construction, but early-bird registrations are being accepted. Act soon, as some classes limit the number of students accepted for each session.
Here's how to get in where you fit in.

1. Visit Coffeehouse for Writers and check out the line-up of fun, information-packed courses scheduled for our upcoming session.

2. Select your choices.

3. Send your PayPal payment to: Gemsjen@yahoo.com
deduct $10.00 or $20.00 (as applicable).

4. In the narrative indicate the title and starting date you would like. Since the classes are online, you can take them at your pace, in your place. It's flexible.  Easy peasy. If you have questions, feel free to connect with me at Gemsjen@yahoo.com.

  • WRITERS WEEKLY---Is seeking your success stories of around 400 words, on writing tips, marketing strategies, how you landed a client, a book deal, etc. payment is $40.00 upon acceptance. See details here: http://writersweekly.com/writersweekly-com-writers-guidelines
  • VERBOLATRY---Is sponsoring a fun contest that could have you laughing all the way to the bank.

Here's the 4-1-1:
Verbolatry Laugh-a-Riot Contest 2016*

Send us your funnies about writing, and win £100!
Entries are now being accepted for the Verbolatry Laugh-a-Riot
Contest. Humorous essays and cartoons about writing/publishing.
Deadline 31 August 2016. Two categories, free and paid, with cash
prizes and publication. Results announced October 2016. Sponsored by
Anam Cara Writer's and Artist's Retreat. Details at

  • THE WORK ONLINE BLOG---Accepts guest posts related to career advice for entrepreneurs and listicles on business and marketing. For more details, check out their guidelines below:

  • IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO CELEBRATE---National Poetry Month ends in another week, but there's still time to get in on the activities.  Why not post a poem on your blog? Or review a poetry book and post it on Amazon. You could even do a profile piece on your favorite poet and how his/her work has impacted you. Use your imagination here.

  • PEN AND PROSPER---Will be on a brief break until May 9th. Join me when I return, for more opportunities to learn more, earn more, and enhance your writing life! 

Have a great week ahead, folks.


Friday, April 22, 2016

A Tribute to Music Legend Prince...

Needless to say, this was not the post intended for today. In fact, the situation really shouldn't exist. And yet, here we are. Left with such loss. A void that time will never heal.
I was a HUGE fan of music legend, Prince. His music served as the backdrop to a lot of good times,  happy celebrations, and creative release.
I penned this poem last night in his honor. I hope you dig it.
                                           4 PRINCE...
He left the party early,
In purple wings and glitter,
Causing time to stand still,
Like 1999...
Then the music stopped
For all of us,
Leaving hearts
Of purple tears,
Purple Rain
Purple Rain...
(C) 2016 Jennifer Brown Banks
May you rest in peace.
And celebrate a new "cross-over" status in your transition.
From a forever fan, with love.
Any prince fans out there...? What's your favorite Prince song? 
Please share your thoughts and memories in the comments.
Image credit: Nikola

Monday, April 18, 2016

Could a Crisis Cripple Your Freelance Business?

Survival tips for Today's Savvy Entrepreneur
After waiting about a month for a client to pay me on a (5 day net) creative project, the check came in the mail. I did the “happy dance” ‘til I was dizzy!
Getting paid would allow me to catch up on some of my obligations as I was already struggling in a struggling economy.

I began to figure out my bills and hope for a few left over dollars to do a
mini-splurge at the local thrift store.
My joy was short-lived.

Before the ink could dry on the check, the client contacted me. She asked me not to cash it, because the funds would not “officially” be available for another week due to an unanticipated emergency. Needless to say, I was shocked and a little rattled.

Mind you, the check was already late, and based upon my income projections, I promised to pay several of my vendors. Her not honoring her word prevented me from honoring mine. And...well, you get the point.

A few weeks before that, a publisher with whom I had enjoyed a long-term business relationship, came down with a bad bout of the flu; as a result, he extended his apologies for not being able to issue checks because he was bed-ridden for two weeks.

Life happens.
That goes without saying. But just because you’re a “small” business owner doesn’t mean you should operate “small time” in the way you conduct your business or handle crisis management. In fact, you should be more
prepared for mishaps due to fewer resources. The buck stops with you!

Not providing for “the worst case scenario” can cause irreparable damage and affect your ability to compete with larger businesses; ultimately costing you in terms of client confidence and bottom line objectives.

After all, folks figure if you can’t handle your business challenges, why should they trust you with theirs? Which I'm sure you'd agree is a valid point.

Whether you manage a staff of one or 101, here are a few business practices you should employ to cover your assets and protect your bottom line.


Do you have a back up if your files are destroyed on your hard drive? Systems and people in place if you become ill or need to take a vacation? Are your records well kept if someone needs to temporarily assume your duties, or establish a paper trail of your activities? Could your business recover if you lost a key client? Could you independently update your site if your "tech guy" took a walk? These are all points to consider in your strategic planning. Always have a plan B.

"Save for a rainy day” has become more than a cliché; in today’s economic climate it’s as crucial as a commandment! Experts differ in the exact amount an “emergency fund” constitutes---some say the equivalent of three months salary, others advise six months. Apply it to your individual lifestyle and circumstances, then act accordingly. Today.

Hire competent contractors and staff and give them the training and resources to act independently in resolving small issues. It can help them to develop personally and professionally, and improve the efficiency of your organization. Funds tight? Hire an intern.

Don’t perceive all your peers as a competitive threat. Seek out owners with whom you have a compatible work ethic and similar visions and values, and find ways to enhance each other. This can be accomplished through online groups or networking associations dedicated to your particular field or trade. LinkeDin is a good starting point. 

Many small blog owners and freelance operations go to great lengths to overcome perception issues and convey a professional image. They invest in elaborate web sites, purchase fancy business cards, and go the whole nine yards to recruit clients and impress associates. But all these measures can be in vain if they establish a reputation of repeatedly not honoring their word-- whether it’s to a client, a vendor, a business partner, or employee. Never over promise and under deliver. Don’t say one thing and do another. Always strive to keep your end of the bargain because ultimately your livelihood affects others.

Trust me on this one. Missing files and missing payment records can cause your sanity to go M.I.A., waste valuable time, and hinder your future progress.

Follow these six savvy tips and you’ll successfully navigate the various “obstacle courses” that come with operating your freelance business, and you’ll breathe easier too.

Thoughts? Other recommendations here?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Slices of Life...More Writing Lessons from the Kitchen


Jen's Homemade Pork Roast

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you already know that I'm a big "foodie."
So, I thought I'd give you something to "chew on" today, to help you become a hotter, more efficient writer, using a common practice of which we all can relate.

A wise man once said: "Food is a universal language we all speak."
How true! So, I'll start the conversation by sharing some of my most valuable creative lessons garnered from the kitchen.

Feel free to share your own personal "seasonings" by leaving a comment at the conclusion of this post.

See if you agree with these lessons and analogies...

Determine the best use of your time.
Often I view shows where the TV cooks go through elaborate measures to prepare home-made pasta, or pizza crust, or pie shells from scratch. Don't get me wrong: I love to cook and bake, but I would rarely indulge in these particular activities. Why?
Because there are perfectly fine store bought items in these categories that can save time and effort, and yield a similar result in terms of taste quality.
If you're juggling the writer's life, along with a family and a full-time gig, you definitely can appreciate that "time is money."

It's all about working "smarter, not harder." Could the countless hours you spend on connecting via social media be better spent pitching clients? Writing a guest post for pay? Could some of your business tasks, (like researching, ordering more office supplies, and looking for blog images) be better handled through the help of an intern or admin assistant? Assess and respond accordingly.

For flavor enhancement, let your food sit awhile before serving.
Whether it's baked goods, barbeque, or a hearty stew, Martha Stewart often instructs us to let it rest before we serve to our guests. This in an effort to let juices settle and other "magical" processes to take root.

A similar concept applies here. After an article, post, or poem is completed, before you hit "publish" or "send," set it aside...for a few hours, or a day or two. The reason? When we revisit it and review it with "fresh eyes," often we can detect mistakes that we may have initially overlooked in our excited  or tired state.
Or we are able to infuse an extra added ingredient that would provide greater depth and "flavor" to elevate our readers' experience.

No matter who does the cooking, everybody ain't eatin'.  
People have different palates.
The other day, I got into a discussion with a friend of mine who loves okra in his beans and Collard greens. I don't know why, but okra? Well...it kind of repulses me. Sorry, okra fans. There's something about the texture that's a turn-off.

As many of you know, every year, different sites produce a "Top" listing compilation of their favorite blogs. It's always interesting to see how widely this list varies. Truth is, no matter how well we write, not everyone will want to "consume" what we have to offer.  Don't agonize over it.
Cater to those that do.

Jen's Sweet Potatoe Soup

Left-overs should never be over-looked.
Sunday's Baked Chicken becomes Monday's Chicken Tacos or Chicken Salad for me. It gives me more bang for my buck!

For greater efficiency and greater earning potential, always "re-purpose" your content.
Be resourceful.
Suzanne Lieurance, author of  "The Morning Nudge" and writing coach shares:

"You don't need to be a well-known speaker or writer to repurpose your content.
You just have to think like a marketer.
Today, take a look at how (and if) you are repurposing your content to make the most of everything you create."

When it comes to writing, lessons abound. Look around you. Particularly in your everyday environment. And keep these "morsels" of advice in mind, to bring more to the writing table.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? What would you add?

Monday, April 4, 2016

5 Reasons you Should Read Outside Your Blog Niche


The other day, while coaching one of my blog clients, I asked her to share the blogs she reads on a weekly basis. This in an effort to assess her interests and her level of exposure.
She responded: "I don't really. I typically read whatever appears in my news feed."
Her response had me scratching my head in disbelief.

This blogger is an educator by profession. She's bright, cultured, and usually well-informed.
I suppose if I were to evaluate things a bit further, I would probably conclude that the lack of reading other blogs is merely a time issue.

It's highly likely that she's up to her eyeballs reading and grading essays, homework assignments, and mounds of paperwork, for the successful execution of many of her job-related duties.
I can dig that.

There's only one problem.
It's stunting her creative growth. And perhaps yours too.
"Reading is fundamental."

And the more blogs, the better. So I gave her some recommendations as an "extra credit" project.
Now, here's my recommendation to you...

If you're seeking to take your blog game to the next level in 2016, here are 5 crucial reasons you should read outside your blog niche.

1.  It enhances your creativity and broadens your knowledge base. It's a must for combating writer's block.

2.  Read other blogs because writing is not just a career; it's a lifestyle. The more you read, examine, and experience, the richer your writing can become. This allows you to reach broader audiences.

3. You meet and connect with so many other bloggers who can become mentors, creative partners, friends, and supportive allies.

4.  It enables you to become a more resourceful writer for your readership. When you visit other sites, you learn about different contests, link parties, book reviews, fun recipes and helpful tools. True?

5. Even reading "bad blogs" helps you to develop a critical eye and avoid common mistakes.

To further illustrate my point here, I'd like to share the different types of blogs I read on a regular basis (other than writing) that I feel help me to become a more well-rounded blogger: 

  • Cooking Blogs---These sites are great for examining photography, design, layout and following steps. Not to mention, I'm a big "foodie" myself. Here's one I think you'll enjoy: http://therecipecritic.com/
  • Personal Development Blogs---I love these blogs for life hacks, improving relationships, and becoming more self-aware. Here's one I think you'll enjoy: https://www.personalgrowth.com/
  • Business Blogs---These impart crucial lessons on time management, operating "in the black," and client relations. All of which can enhance your freelance writing business. Here's one I think you'll enjoy: http://smallbiztrends.com/
  • Frugal Living Blogs--- Help to deal with the "feast or famine" cycle and how to survive on a shoe-string budget. Here's one I think you'll enjoy: http://www.thepennyhoarder.com/
  • Yoga Blogs---These are a personal choice for their emphasis on mindfulness, discipline, and "stretching" our limits. Here's one I think you'll enjoy: http://blog.sivanaspirit.com/

Remember the more you know, the more you grow.
For optimal blogging success, read broadly, read often.
And keep reading Pen and Prosper. :-)

Disclosure: I'm also a contributing writer to the personal development and yoga blogs mentioned above.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
What's your favorite non-writing blog to read?

Image credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Food for Thought...Motivational Quotes to Inspire and Enlighten


Greetings, readers!
I hope you've had a wonderful week--writing and otherwise.
As for me? The weather is really a bummer here. Would you believe it's snowing?
But, I'm keeping "warm" thoughts.
Until there's a temperature boost, I'll just have to uplift myself with positive words.
In this spirit, I share some of my favorite motivational quotes.
Enjoy! And have a great week ahead.
"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."
--Leroy "Satchel" Paige
"Nothing is impossible to a willing heart."
--John Heywood
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."
--Richard Steele
"No legacy is as rich as honesty."
--William Shakespeare
"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way."
--Dale Carnegie
"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig."
--Paul Dickson
"Your legacy should be that you made it better than it was when you got it."
--Lee Iacocca
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of it."
--Mark Twain
"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."
--Thomas Jefferson
"Procrastination is opportunity's natural assassin."
--Victor Kiam

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think."
--Benjamin Spock
Thoughts? Any favorites here?
Which might you use as a clever writing prompt?

Monday, March 28, 2016

5 Ways to Add More Value to Your Blog Posts

Think of your blog as you would any other "investment property."
It involves time, maintenance, attention, upkeep.
The more you put into it, the greater R.O.I. (return on investment).
One way to do this, is to create blog posts that have value, substance, visual appeal, and that fellow writers like to share.

In this post-holiday post, we'll look at a few ways to enhance your current offerings.

5 Tips, tools and techniques to consider:
  • Humor--- Bloggers, you don't have to always be "stuffy" to show you know your stuff! In addition to addressing serious topics, timely issues, and ways for writers to improve their writing techniques, why not take a humorous approach, or share a funny story when applicable?  My blogging buddy Linda O. at "Write From the Heart" and Susan Sundwall at "Sundwall Says" are perfect examples. Even best-selling author and Pastor Joel Osteen starts each weekly sermon with a joke. 
  • Statistics---Stats give your pieces credibility and show that you've done your homework. Instead of saying "A lot of Americans get divorced" say: "According to statistics 50% of marriages end in divorce." Stats are to a story what condiments are to a hotdog.
  • Writers' markets and resource links---Though writing for many of us is a labor of love, the opportunity to earn an income is definitely a plus. For this reason, Calls for submissions, ongoing markets and anthology projects are popular with writers of all genres. To practice what I preach, below I've included a few worth checking out:


Call for Queries: Short & Sweet
WOW! Women On Writing welcomes queries for their upcoming e-zine issue (issue 69) on the theme of "Short & Sweet."

Deadline for Queries: April 10, 2016

This issue is all about short word count, tight writing, and having fun doing it!

Ideas include:
  • Market Profiles - Interviews with editors/publishers of paying markets with a small word count (literary magazines/e-zines, contest markets, etc.)
  • How-tos on the craft of writing for a particular short word count market or genre (picture books, devotionals, poetry, flash, fillers, reviews, greeting cards, gift books, recipes, etc.)
  • Quick tips on craft of writing/revision/editing
  • How to do something faster and easier (faster article writing, marketing, audience building, collaborating, blog building, book publishing, etc.)
  • and more!
    Get more details at Women on Writing: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/


    Provides a weekly listing of positions and paid opportunities for writers each Wednesday.
    See this week's listings here:


    Effective as of winter 2015, I now pay for blog posts! It's a small amount, but hey, it will keep you "rich" in chocolates. Blog posts of 250-700 words accepted and published at this site, pay $10.00 upon publication. Send completed pieces to Gemsjen@yahoo.com with short Bio and one link.

  •  Anecdotes---Sharing short stories that speak to your experiences as a writer or that have a universal message, draw readers in and help keep them engaged.
  • Quizzes---"Test your knowledge" quizzes are fun, revealing, and add variety to your posts. Here's a site that provides quizzes on a wide array of topics and categories: http://www.quibblo.com/blogger-quizzes-surveys  quizzes can also serve in conjunction with theme-based contests and give-aways.

Use these five timely strategies to add value to the blogosphere and take your blogging efforts to new heights in 2016.

Thoughts? Any other ways you've added value to your blog posts not mentioned?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net