"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 and other award-winning sites.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Announcements-This Just in...!

Greetings, Pen and Prosper readers,

As with many of you, the ushering in of spring has also "ushered" in an array of things to be added to my "to-do" list.  Clients' projects, yard work, spring cleaning and purging, yada, yada, yada. :-)
With this being the case, I'll keep today's post brief but substantive.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments section, to get your thoughts, as always.

Now, here's the 4-1-1...

  • A special thanks to each of you for your readership and ongoing support. I am happy to announce that Pen and Prosper has now reached over a quarter of a million pageviews! Yay! If you've been checking out the goods here, I hope you'll become a valued member of my "community" by joining through Google's Friend Connect, or subscribing to my email updates.  A special "shout out" to all my new followers! Welcome! It's great to have you here.
  • It's not too late to participate in this month's National Poetry Celebration. For more info and opportunities, be sure to check out  www.Poets.org.
  • There's an interesting Call for Submissions for an anthology about music. Do you have a story, poem, or creative piece that addresses how music sings to your soul? Or an engaging tale about the role music has played in an important life's event? Stories of Music will pay $200.00 to  selected contributors for a book project that is slated to be published in fall of 2015.  Sounds like "music to my ears!" Here's the scoop at Stories of Music
  • On April 17th, I am happy to announce that I am being featured in a guest post at Women on Writing. If time permits, please stop by and check it out. Have a short piece of 500 words or less, that deals with the writing life? W.O.W. would love to share your wisdom, creative experience, techniques and helpful tips with their reading audience. Each Friday, they publish writers from various genres in their "Speak Out" section. Visit W.O.W. for additional details.
  • I'm "Tweet on you!" I have re-joined Twitter, after a brief hiatus. If you enjoy my work here, I hope you'll continue to "follow" me on my writing journey via Twitter, where I'll share great links on writing, food, fun projects, creative gigs, and my various passions. Connect @Penandprosper1. Hope to see you there!
  • Jen will be "out of the building" for a brief break. I'll see you back here on or around April 27th. Please feel free to leave comments in the interim. It's always good to hear from you!
...Until next time, have a blessed time!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 Surprising Facts About Guest Posting at "Top-Tier" Sites! And What You Can Learn...

Experts contend that guest blogging is a smart way for today’s blogger to garner greater visibility, establish their expertise, build their fan base, and ultimately their bottom line.
In fact, according to Leo Babauta, creator of the hugely successful blog, Zen Habits, “Guest posting is by far the best way to grow an audience.”
Want to go one better? Score a guest post on “top-tier” sites like ProBlogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, or other sites with cult-like followings, and you become a member of an elite group.
After all, we are judged by the company we keep.
It’s “social proof” at its best.

And I should know. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to have my work accepted at Pro Blogger, Daily Blog Tips, Men With Pens, Technorati and Tiny Buddha, to name a few.

But with all the prestige guest posting at prominent sites affords, there are many myths and misconceptions that prevent bloggers from approaching it strategically and yielding optimal results.
In order for guest blogging at these sites to “advance your swagger“ and take you to new levels, you should know what to expect, and how to align your blogging goals accordingly.

With this in mind, here’s what I’ve discovered and you will too:

Guest blogging at top sites offers great pay.

Even though these “rock-star” blog hosts boast six-figure incomes, rarely do they compensate for guest posting. Writers like Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli have championed bloggers getting “pay for their say” (and have led by example), but they are in the minority here. Hundreds of other top sites consider your pay to be the exposure you get from appearing before their audiences.

Don’t do it solely to seek money. Do it to make a difference, or to “make friends and influence people.” Use the opportunity to hone your craft and develop your writer‘s voice into a fine instrument. You just never know what could unfold in the process. For example, recently, I “closed the deal” with a popular blogger for whom I had guest posted a few times. It turns out that he was having difficulty in coming up with future topics to keep his blog afloat. I was able to “sell” him on the idea of creating an Editorial Calendar for him, since I was already familiar with his blog audience and tone.

Guest blogging at top sites brings tons of traffic, that translates into more followers and more sales for your time and efforts.

Not necessarily. Not always. I recently had a guest post published at a site that advertises over 1 million Twitter followers. I was expecting to have traffic at my spot that would rival the Eisenhower expressway during rush hour! Wrong. What I got, according to my Google stats, were two new followers and about 100 more page views in the process.

Sometimes the popularity and size of a blog does not guarantee that you‘ll be a big hit. Truth be told, I have gained more followers and friends with small, intimate blogs than big, successful ones. A lot depends on the blog culture, how many other blog posts are appearing on that same site on the day of your debut, and how active the blog community is. Here’s a case in point. A few years ago, when I guest posted at Pro Blogger, it surpassed my expectations and my previous efforts with other blogs. Not only did I experience almost double the page views at my site, within 72 hours, I had three businesses to contact me with offers of future work. One hired me subsequently.

“Big name bloggers” are difficult to connect with, very busy, and unapproachable.

Categorically speaking, most that I have come in to contact with have been very kind, helpful, knowledgeable, and eager to see other bloggers succeed. James Chartrand, for example, (though demanding), has a good, playful sense of humor. No matter how busy, most of the top bloggers will minimally issue a rejection and note of thanks.

You just never know until you try! Don’t let fear keep you from forging forward in 2015. Guest blogging has mutual benefits; so there’s no need to feel as if you’re imposing when you make your pitch. The best strategy is to research blogs that align with your creative strengths and writing style. Then go for it.

You have to be “well-connected” or in the “inner circle” to land a guest post at
top-dog sites.

Though some site owners now require that you be a member of their “tribe,” subscribe to their blog, or take their online classes to guest post, most don’t.

As long as you submit a blog post that is well-written, applicable to their blog audience, consistent with their guidelines, and provides great take-away value, your odds for publication are just as good as anyone else’s.
Now that I have shared with you a few “insider’s secrets” to guest blogging at
award-winning sites, hopefully it won’t seem so mysterious, intimidating, or unattainable.

Seize the opportunity to elevate your visibility, your confidence, and potentially your Google Rank too. Carpe diem!

Your turn.
Any surprises here? Have you ever landed a guest post on a top site?
Is it one of your blogging goals?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

7 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is designated as National Poetry Month. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!" Though I have contributed my writing talents and expressions to an array of literary genres, poetry is my first love. I was "romanced" by it since way back in my teen years. Some of my poetic pieces have actually won contests and found their way into books and anthology projects. 
Which is why I'm excited to share my love of poetry during National Poetry Month.
Here's what I really dig about poetry: it's powerful, succinct and unique. Poetry has "swagger!"
I also appreciate that it' s free from some of the dictates, rules and conditions as other types of writing.
Here are 7 Simple, but fun ways you can embrace its magic and get in on the celebration!
1. Pen a romantic poem for your significant other.
2. Participate in or support a "spoken word" event in your area.
3. Visit your local library and pick up a few titles from noted poets and check out their "vibe." Some good choices are: Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Peter McWilliams, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning.
4. If you're a poet, share some of your work here at Pen and Prosper. Interested in being featured? Please get in touch.
5. Post your favorite poet's work on your blog with a Bio.
6. If you're a teacher, or parent of young ones, expose them to different forms of poetry such as Acrostic Poems, Couplets, Limericks, or even a Haiku or two.
7. Sponsor a Poetry Contest on your blog with a give-away for selected winners. 

Want to learn more about events and opportunities for National Poetry Month?
Check out "the buzz" at Poets.org.
How about you? Does poetry "speak" to you? Do tell.
Who's your favorite poet?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

See Your Possibilities Differently! An Interview With Writer Maribel Steel


Welcome Maribel Steel. As Pen & Prosper concludes its popular "Roar Series" honoring women of achievement, I bring to you today, a fierce female who is the embodiment of courage, strength, beauty and wisdom.

Prepare to be "wowed" as she shares how she is "mastering the art of blindness" as a writer and creative artist.

Q. Can you tell us a little about who you are and how you began writing?
I’m a bit like a butterfly – having darted around life doing many things. After raising four children and practised as an Aromatherapist & Masseur, vocalist & teaching artist, these days, I’ve settled on being a writer and inspirational speaker.
It was when I began to write my autobiography in 2010 that I was reminded of my passion for writing memoir stories. I asked a writing mentor to look over my book and when she sent me her comment, ”It’s OK for a first draft” - I nearly fainted. I thought I had finished it!
In reviewing the structure of my story, I realised I had a lot to learn so I set about finding anything and everything I could on the craft of writing. Pretty soon I was gobbling up as much advice as I could, both in print books and on the Internet. Each week, my inbox spilled over with advice from the many website subscriptions I had eagerly joined. This boosted my confidence as a writer as I plodded away at revisions of my book.
Yet as I tried to refine each paragraph and chapter, the book itself didn’t seem to be progressing. A whole year went by and I still had nothing to show my family. So to prove I was actually doing something worthwhile at my computer, I decided to start a simple blog where I would post stories from the unpublished manuscript.
Gateway to Blindness made its d├ębut in the blogosphere in 2011 and this career move has been one of the best things I could have done to establish my own niche within the marketplace of freelance writers and bloggers.

Q. What quote would best embody your philosophy on life?
As a person who has been gradually losing my eyesight to an eye condition since my teen years, my thoughts (and the stories I write) focus on lifting one’s gaze above the challenges of life by seeing possibility rather than disability. Our attitude is the key to how we approach any obstacle in our life.
One quotation that really embodies my personal philosophy is:
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”
Richard Bach.

Q. How would you describe your writing style?
When I am writing non-fiction, I try to be honest and upbeat. I like to think I am giving my reader a gift through the posts I craft, offering little gems in the form of insights they may not have considered before.
Losing our eyesight is a frightening concept for anyone but what I can share is my life experience of a different perspective. There truly is a way to master the‘ART of being blind’ and this is the message I share, both in writing and in giving presentations.
From time to time, I do write some fiction pieces and although these are much harder for me to craft, I love to use fictional characters and scenes to tell a true story!

Q. What advice would you give to others dealing with physical limitations and life's challenges?
Accept the challenge life has dealt you and find ways you can be supported to continue the journey. Accepting doesn’t mean you have to like the ‘disability’ it means embrace who you are and understand your limitations. Life doesn’t end with a challenge, it takes you in a different direction than the one you had planned – so be kind to yourself and use all the talents you already possess to help you move step by step along a new pathway of discovery. And don’t go alone! Enrol help whenever you can. This is powerfully delegating to others where you will both experience a beautiful win-win situation.
Oh, and do take your sense of humour everywhere you go – it’s a life saver! If you can let go of frustration and calm down to see the ‘funny side’, this will help you get out of embarrassing moments with your dignity still intact. Believe me –I’ve been there, done that. Many times.

Q. What keeps you inspired without giving up?
The amazing support I receive from my loving family, dear friends and loyal readers encourages my heart to keep pushing onwards. My family is like my fan club, my blind friends are my life-colleagues. I am also inspired when I meet people who need a little extra help to embrace the ‘see-change’in their own life.
On my not-so-good days, I have to observe the inner critic who tries hard to destroy my confidence and demand I just give up. Two things work best for me: I either re-read some of my work to prove to the inner critic I have actually written some worthwhile prose or I take a break and treat myself to doing something completely different from writing.
One recollection that helps me every time to keep my heart engaged in life is the time when I was trying to read my four-year-old son a book at bedtime while peering at the page with a huge magnifying glass. I almost burst into tears. I just couldn’t do it and had to put the book down and apologise to my little boy. My son jumped up from the bed, his blue eyes sparkling with empathy. With his little arms around my neck, he said, “Please Mummy, don’t ever give up. You can tell me one of your stories instead.”
Q. What would it surprise others to know about you? Do you have any hobbies?
People may not know that I have a total love for horses. Being around these divine creatures lights up my life. The magnificent horse is my totem animal. Whenever I travel with my partner, he has to stop the car if he has seen a horse so I can whinny to the horse in the field and wait for it to trot up to the fence where I can pat and chat some more.
Q. How do you define "success"?
I’m going to include another quote here which beautifully embodies my feelings on this thought. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“What is success?
To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children:
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends:
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition:
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded.”

 Q. What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am so very proud to have raised four children as a visually-impaired parent (three were born as planned home-births and one in an ambulance). The lessons and gifts we have exchanged by adapting to each other’s different ways of being – blind parent, sighted child – has been an incredible experience for me and one that continues to inspire and delight me every day.
Maribel Steel is a mother, author, blogger, inspirational speakerand peer advisor for VisionAware (AFB). She lives in Melbourne, Australia and has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). She has been published in several print journals in Australia and has contributed over forty guest posts for overseas blogs. To learn more about her philosophy in ‘The ART of Being Blind’ visit:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Are You Suffering From the Cinderella Syndrome? Women's History Month Guest Post

As Pen and Prosper continues to honor women of achievement during National Women's History Month, I proudly present this timely commentary provided by one of my readers.


The recent release of the full length Cinderella movie has me thinking about women and our relationship to Cinderella. Like many girls growing up, I loved fairy tales. I checked out volumes of books from the public library, and imagined myself one day being rescued by a handsome, rich prince and living happily ever after, forever. I liked Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and all the rest, but Cinderella was my favorite. It is the one fairytale that has been told and retold.

There are countless versions of this classic tale, and every culture seems to have its own retelling-- the Egyptian Cinderella, the Korean Cinderella, and the Persian Cinderella just to name a few. No matter what version we read, the same thing happens in the end. Cinderella is delivered from her dreadful life through her marriage to a handsome prince. What girl--or woman, even--doesn’t want the ultimate come up? It is the dream that many of us expend time and energy trying to turn into reality. Cinderella resonates with us because she embodies what we believe to be the perfect life.

I wanted to be Cinderella, too. I wanted to slide my foot into that glass slipper and find the perfect fit. The shoe is supposed to fit, right? It always does in the story? So, if it doesn’t, there must be something wrong with me, right?

Wrong! It has taken me a while to understand that I may not be that Cinderella, and it’s ok not to be her because I am my own da*n Cinderella! And you should be, too. It’s time to take our head out of the clouds and plant our feet on the ground and claim what’s ours.

Are you suffering from Cinderella Syndrome? How many times have you settled for less than what you wanted, and less than you deserved because you thought the ticking clock meant that time was up?

How many of you have (and still do) squeeze your feet into relationships that mash the life out of you? How many of your hearts are callused? How many of you have stuffed your feet into spaces that are so small that they shattered and pierced a piece of your heart? How many of you have (and still do) flop around in relationships that rub you raw? How many times have you bought into the hype only to find out it’s all a hoax?

We spend our life getting ready for the ball because this is the ticket we’ve been sold—no refunds, no exchanges. And when the clock strikes midnight we find ourselves stripped down to our nakedness looking into the mirror not knowing the face that looks back at us. We think, Is this it? Even if we think we “have it all”—the dream job, the house, the husband and the children, there’s a void. Sometimes our prince turns out to be more harming than charming. We’re trying to figure out, how will this story end?

Instead of Cinderella, we’ve become the ugly stepsisters. We’re mean; jaded; cynical. We don’t believe that we deserve better. We compare our lives to others forgetting that we’ve never walked in their shoes and we don’t know how they fit, if they fit.

Who said Cinderella’s life was all that great? How many women do you know still steadfastly praying for and patiently waiting for their prince to come? Is that who you want to be? Is that all there is to life? What happens if a) he doesn’t show or b)he’s the wrong guy?

It’s time for an attitude adjustment. A paradigm shift. We have to decide who we want to be and what we want out of life. We have to rescue ourselves. We have to be the Cinderella that we need to be and not the one in the fairytale. We are bursting out of this one-size-fits-all model because we are so much bigger than that.

When we find the perfect fit for the life we want to live, we can most definitely live in the kingdom of happily ever after.

Your turn, readers...

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Stephanie Gates is a freelance writer, blogger, editor and educator in Chicago. Her articles, interviews and essays have been published in several anthologies, and in online and print publications including: Mahogany, Being Single Magazine, For Harriet.com and N'Digo. She blogs at Stephanie's Epiphanies.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Why Writers Should be Forward Thinking About Having a Back-up Plan!

A wise man once said, "If you wanna' make God laugh, tell him about your plans."
And when it comes to the writing life?
Well, I imagine we keep him quite giddy.

No matter how much we think we have a "handle" on things, that handle sometimes breaks.
It seems there are so many detours on the path to our well laid-out plans.
I recently got word that a major project with one of my biggest clients required a “change of directions,” derailing my cash flow, my summer vacation, and the allocation of my time for the next four months.

And this morning's post?
Well, it was "scheduled" to be an awesome addition to my "Roar Series" with an interview. But computer glitches dictated something different, as I was unable to open the related files.
All of which underscores the importance of having a back-up plan as writers.
Shift happens!

The reality here? To forge forward and go the distance, a "Plan B" is crucial for today's writer.

Accordingly, here are a few things to consider.


  • Do you have an Editorial Calendar, or a few months of ideas for future posts, in the event that life becomes hectic?
  • Do you have physical files and/or Cloud Storage back-up in the event of a computer virus, hacking, or lost files?
  • Are you adding a "cushion" to your schedule to make sure that clients' projects are completed on time? Keep in mind "Murphy's Law." 
  • What about an extra pair of reading glasses?
  • Do you have an address book or journal for important contact numbers and emails? I learned this the hard way. Never depend solely on technology. Some time ago, I had almost 200 numbers programmed in my cell phone, available at the touch of a button. I was so proud of my organization and efficiency here. Then my phone got damaged, and most of that data was unable to be retrieved. Gone forever.  Don't let it be you.
  • Do you keep extra chocolate on hand, in case of a crisis? Or an "adult beverage" when applicable? :-)

  • Do you have multiple income streams and various clients? Just in case a business relationship is terminated, or your favorite editor leaves a publication for which you are a frequent contributor.
  • How about additional income in a bank account for that "rainy day"?
  • Are you working with contracts to insure a greater likelihood of being able to collect for  services rendered?
  • Are you keeping your debt down to deal with an uncertain economy?

These are important issues to address in order to keep your business "in the black" and maintain your sanity.
There's great validity to the expression, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

How are you doing in these areas? Anything you'd like to add?

Image Credit: Jennifer Brown Banks-Jen's Office 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

10 Commandments to Better Time Management for Writers...

Time. It's a small word with humongous impact.
Few realize that how we "spend" it contributes as much to our quality of life as money.
For writers, it's a scarce commodity; as many of us find ourselves juggling the daily demands of work, clients, family, and personal obligations.

Like chocolate, we never seem to have enough.
But, as a wise man once stated, "Time is money."

With this is mind, here are some strategic tips to help you govern your days better, get more accomplished, and achieve greater progress in 2015.


1. Recognize the difference between being busy and being productive.
Some folks are always "busy." And yet they're always broke and cluelessly "stuck" trying to accomplish the same resolutions from last year and the year before. Don't be one of them.
If you'd like to get closer to achieving your creative goals, then you've got to scrutinize your time more wisely. Look at your activities and their related R.O.I. (return on investment). In other words, if you're spending 20 hours a week on Facebook and other social media, with nothing to show for it, you might want to shift gears here. Hello? "If it don't make dollars, it don't make cents." :-)

2. Phone first.
I'm a firm believer that something as simple as a basic phone call can save time, gas, and wasted trips. Here's a perfect example. A few weeks ago, I needed to go to my local post office to purchase one of their business products. Saturdays are usually busy, and their hours of operation are typically shorter.  So, I decided to call before I ventured out. Good thing I did. It turns out that what I needed to do could be transacted over the Internet quicker. Not to mention, they didn't even have the required forms I needed at this particular branch.  I saved an estimated hour here and unneeded frustration.

3. Rise early.
The early bird does more than "catches the worm."  He gets a lot more accomplished in less time.
In fact, if you wake up an hour or two earlier in the morning, it will generally allow you to have the solitude of a quiet house, fewer interruptions, a clear mind, and less hustle and bustle. All of which can contribute to greater creativity and a more cooperative muse.

4. Work smarter, not harder.
Consider submitting your work to reprint markets, instead of constantly devoting time to creating new pieces. This will give you more bang for your buck and add to your bottom line. Another time-saver is to use templates for repetitious tasks.

5. Delegate when the situation dictates.
Whether this means assigning "kitchen duty" to the kids, or having a freelancer to provide research on a client's project. Know when you need help, and don't be afraid to seek it.

6. Say "no" when it feels right.
Attending to the endless needs of others can be draining, conflicting, and overwhelming. Sometimes saying no to family, friends or co-workers, means saying yes to better health, greater peace, more personal comfort, and greater productivity. It's okay to be accommodating to a point, but  you deserve a life too. And there's a bonus: the more you truly live, the more you have to write about.

7. Stop procrastinating.
Just think of all the things you can accomplish in the time it takes to make up excuses. Check out the Procrastiwriter site for helpful tips to forge forward.

8. Get organized.
Raise your hand if you've lost countless hours searching for lost keys, important receipts, cell phones, wallets and glasses. Most of us are guilty here. Time, unlike money, can never be recovered. For this reason, it behooves us to put systems and practices in place that will help us to have more structure, more order, and enhanced efficiency. With spring here, there's no better time to purge paperwork, donate items we no longer need, and start fresh. Clutter contributes to chaos.

9.  Set Goals.
Like a roadmap, they provide greater direction and fewer detours on the path to success. Be specific.
Make sure to write your goals down and revisit them often. Experts state that individuals that write their goals down are three times more likely to achieve them.

10. Use "down time" wisely.
You can use the time you're waiting to be seen in the doctor's office, or your lunch break at work to jot down blog ideas, respond to your emails, or catch up on your reading. The possibilities are endless.

If time management is an issue for you in your freelance career, bust a move!
Follow these creative tips for greater heights and less stress.

Your turn.
What's your take on this topic? Which tip do you "vow" to apply?
Any time management tip you'd like to add?