Welcome to Pen & Prosper

Welcome to Pen & Prosper
"Required reading" for today's smart writer. As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Daily Blog Tips, Write to Done, Technorati, WOW! and other popular sites.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vacation Manifestations and Revelations...

Happy Friday, folks!
It's good to be back on the Blog scene, and to reconnect.
A special "thanks" today to all my regular readers for returning.
And a "shout-out" to my new followers as well; I'm so happy to have you join us.
Please feel free to introduce yourself, or to respond to the "conversations" that are on-going, by way of comments.

Now, on with the message of the day...

Like most Blog breaks, no matter how I try to "chill" and vow to take time to smell the proverbial roses, I find myself immersed in some kind of creative endeavor.
Hey, what can I say? It's a work related hazard.

So even though I spent less time comparatively at the computer while I was "away" this time, I did do a bit of writing and surfing the Net for submission opportunities.

Anyway, without boring you with all the details, here's a quick
run-down to catch up on the month's events.

  •  I decided to submit a "success story" to Writer's Weekly. And it sold! Which was great. And here's another bonus: it pays on "acceptance" as opposed to upon publication. $40.00 for approx. 300 to 400 words. Perhaps you have a story to share that would inspire others as well? For more details, check it out here:  http://writersweekly.com

  • I rejoined Twitter! Let me keep it real here. I'm not a big fan of social media. Still, I recognize that it is a useful tool to help build platforms and relationships; if it's used wisely.  "All things in moderation." Which is why I have opted to "engage" with just 2 or 3 forums at the max. If you'd like to "follow" me, my Twitter Getter is @Penprosper1. The plan is to share useful links, contests, and insider's tips that you may not find here at the Pen and Prosper site. Get in where you fit in. Hope to see you there.

  •  I was pleasantly surprised by an unexpected email. I've always maintained that you don't have to have a big Blog "following" to have a big impact on your readers. Sometimes it's not how many people are reading your stuff, but "whom" that matters. This previously mentioned email underscores this point. It was a Sunday, and I was going through my inbox, when I noticed a subject line that read: "Pen and Prosper Guest Post by Acclaimed Author." I was immediately intrigued, and hurried to click on to find out more.

 You won't believe what happened next. It turns out that the email came from a representative of Warren Adler. Anybody out there remember the huge hit, "The War of the Roses?" Sure you do, it was with Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito. Anyway, it seems that the author of the novel reads my Blog and wanted to know if I would be receptive to a guest post. Are you kidding? That would be like Keanu Reeves wondering if I'd like to go out on a date. Uh, heck yes! Well, first I was elated. Then I got frustrated...convinced that this was one of those Internet scams, like the ones widely circulated. You know: the ones that tell you you've won the Nigerian Lottery, or have a huge inheritance left by a distant relative. So not wanting to be taken in, I did my homework. I searched online through Snopes. Nothing listed there. Then I decided to call the phone number provided with the email. I spoke to a nice guy named Steven. It turns out it's legit. Yay! So, his people contacted my people, (you know how we do it in show biz). :-) And I'm delighted to report that I will be publishing an entertaining and informative interview that we conducted, in days to follow. So stay tuned...
That's the 4-1-1- for now.
Have a Fab Friday!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Happy August, everyone!
It won't be long before my favorite season is ushered in--with a slower pace, more tranquil times, and an array of herbal teas and assorted hot chocolates to round out my writing routine. Yay!

This post will be short and sweet today.

Here is Tuesday's 4-1-1.

I recently discovered, (by a random Google) that I am featured in this year's 2014 Writer's Market. Yep. On pages 57 and 58, there is an interview where I provide my advice and experience on marketing reprints. I was doing the "happy dance" over here on this one! A special thanks to Sue Bradford Edwards, for conducting the interview.

Congratulations to my blogging buddy, Sue Sundwall, for the release of her new mystery, "The Super bar Incident."  See what the "buzz" is about by visiting Amazon.com.

Working Writers, a publication "For people who write, by people who write" is seeking submissions. And here's a bonus: they even accept reprints. Check out their guidelines here

August is Art Appreciation Month. For bloggers and writers, this provides a great opportunity to do a profile piece on an artist whose work has inspired you, or a poem that captures a significant piece of art or style of expression you enjoy. Or why not visit a local art gallery and report on your observations? Be creative!

Jen will be "out of the building" from August 6th-August 22nd for a blog vacation.
Feel free to peruse the archives and leave comments; I'll be checking in periodically, and always love to know that you've stopped by.

Have a great week, and thanks for reading! You're the best!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Written and Sittin'? 5 Ways to find a home for "orphan" articles...

No matter how talented you are as a writer, chances are your acceptance and placement rate is not 100%.
There always seems to be those " labored" over babies we can't seem to quite find a home for.

...An interview with a local entrepreneur, a poem about nature, a relationship piece penned after a bad break-up, a travel article from a past vacation. True?

As a matter of fact, the inspiration for this post came about when I was trying to identify and target some new markets, and in the process, found some folders with articles I had written long ago that have yet to find a suitable home.
Truth be told, I had forgotten all about them, in my weekly efforts to pitch new people, break into new markets, and maintain momentum.

Perhaps you have too.
If so, let's look at a few ways to turn past pieces into future sales. Shall we?

First things first...
As Dr. Phil often says, "You can't fix what you don't acknowledge first!"
So, it's important to examine WHY those articles remain in your pending files instead of your paid files.

  1. It's a piece that requires a very special and specific market that you have yet to identify. For example, an article written about your pet rock collection.
  2. It's controversial, and you're trying to work up the courage to publish it, or decide whether or not to do so under a pen name. I have two such articles that I'm sittin' on now. 
  3. Though it's well written, it's outdated or no longer "news-worthy." Like helpful hair tips on how to maintain your Jherri Curl.
  4. It's finished but it doesn't feel "complete." You have that gut feeling that it's missing that "secret sauce."  
  5. Time is a factor. In other words, you're too busy trying to keep up with new projects to handle old ones.
Any of these sound familiar?

  1. In an effort to work "smarter, not harder" it sometimes makes more sense to work on projects from the past that require minor "tweaks," than to start from scratch with brand new ideas and new directions. If you don't want to take time from your usual routine and regular assignments, devote just one day a month to look at old pieces with new eyes. I have done this with some of my former personal essays, and as a result, was able to "find homes" for them as submissions for anthologies for women. Some were even paying markets.
  2. Give your pieces a "make-over." Add current stats or studies to old findings, to make pieces news-worthy or relevant. This works well for articles on education, travel, the economy, social media, technology, and even political issues. 
  3. Consider sending them out as guest posts to blogs outside of your niche. The benefit here is that it can help to build your following, and also build relationships with other bloggers that can sometimes lead to paying assignments in the future.
  4. If it's a controversial piece, sleep on it for awhile. Remember that in the age of the Internet, once it's published, it's pretty permanent. Many of us have issues that we are passionate about, but we need to weigh whether writing about them in a public forum is worth the potential backlash. To quote a famous expression: "Choose your battles wisely."
  5. If it's a piece that feels unfinished, have someone else read it and render their opinion.  It could be that you're being too perfectionistic, or simply over analyzing things. Perhaps an editor will still find it perfectly marketable; you'll never know if you don't try. Send that baby packin'.

Follow these timely tips to give new life to old work, and to increase the odds of publication.

Your turn.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Images: Freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interview With Author Victoria Grossack

Please join me in welcoming author, columnist and instructor, Victoria Grossack to Pen and Prosper today. Here she shares helpful tips for writers, as well as strategies for success.  

Can you tell Pen and Prosper readers a little about who you are and your professional background?

I’m the solo author of two mysteries: The Highbury Murders: A Mystery Set in the Village of Jane Austen’s Emma and Academic Assassination (a Zofia Martin Mystery). Together with my collaborator Alice Underwood, we have written five novels based on Greek mythology, including Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus; Antigone & Creon: Guardians of Thebes and a trilogy about Niobe that starts with Children of Tantalus.

I always spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a story great, which started me down the path of working out issues that I was not seeing addressed in other books and articles. That got me writing my own column at Writing-world.com, and I have now pulled my ideas to create the book, Crafting Fabulous Fiction.

As for the rest of my background: I have a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature from Dartmouth College, an MBA from Indiana University, and I am also a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society. That means I understand quite a lot about insurance and mathematics.

Describe your writing process. Do you have any rituals? Do you write every day, or when your muse inspires?

These days, I write nearly every day, because I have the interest, the time and the energy. When I had a full-time job, I discovered that Mondays and Tuesdays were more intense at the office and so I was too tired to write on those days. Instead I dedicated time to my writing on Wednesdays through Sundays. I tend to write in the mornings, often very early, because I am a morning person. I think people who want to write should determine when they have time and when they have the energy, both physical and emotional, to write.

As for rituals, I find Bach very soothing, and I occasionally light a candle to summon my muse, but I often write without any music or flames.

I see that you are widely traveled and have homes in Switzerland and Arizona. Is travel writing a part of your portfolio as well?

Actually, yes – I have sold quite a few travel articles through Constant Content. I’m not trying to establish myself as a travel writer, so I usually sell all rights. That means you may never find my byline.

I don’t care much for traveling myself, but my husband does a lot for his work and so I occasionally find myself in some out-of-the-way places. Not everything goes as planned, of course, and so while we’re having problems with a hotel room or difficulties driving around Peru, I start thinking up an article. It’s a way to make lemonade out of lemons.
Your column at Writing World, and your new book both provide timely tips on “Crafting Fabulous Fiction.” What would you say is the most common mistake in creating quality fiction for new authors?

Many new authors assume that because they know how to read that they also know how to write. This is like someone saying that because he has been in a lot of different houses that he knows how to build one.

In my new book, Crafting Fabulous Fiction: Levels of Structure, Characters and More, I take people through a tour of the levels of structure in fiction. We begin with words, then move on to phrases, sentences, paragraphs and even up through series and even the world of literature. I believe that a writer who understands what is going on at each level of structure in his or her book is much better-equipped to write a fabulous story. Of course, there’s more than just structure to creating a novel, so Crafting Fabulous Fiction has a section dedicated to characters and another section covering miscellaneous topics such as dialogue and description.

A reason for pulling together the book is because my columns can’t go far enough. In an article of 1500 to 2000 words, you cannot see the big picture; you can only cover one corner of it.

Tell us a little about your Tapestry of Bronze series and what it was like to collaborate on that project. 

The Tapestry of Bronze series started when Alice Underwood and I decided to collaborate on Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus together. Many people think that trying to write with another person is nuts, and I had my own doubts when we started. But Alice and I discovered that our strengths were complementary.

When we were writing Jocasta, we did a lot of research into myths that overlapped with the myths of the characters of the Oedipus story, including Niobe, who was queen of Thebes just before Jocasta and Laius (Laius was the father of Oedipus). The main myth associated with Niobe is the story that her many children one day were killed by Apollo and Artemis. However, when we put all the myths together, the name of real, mortal person behind the mass murder became clear. That is why we wrote the Niobe trilogy: because we had the solution to a three-thousand-year-old crime. We felt as if we had to write it in order to clear the names of those who have been falsely accused.

Our most recently finished book in the Tapestry of Bronze series was Antigone & Creon: Guardians of Thebes – some reviewers are calling it the best – and we’re deep into the next one.

Working with Alice is great fun. There’s someone else in the world who understands my preoccupation with chariot races and siege warfare in the Late Bronze Age. On the other hand, the books, at the end, don’t really sound much like either of us, which is kind of peculiar.

I see you haven’t joined the “blogging bandwagon.” Any particular reason? Has it hindered you in terms of promoting your work?

It’s possible that not blogging has kept me from getting the word out about my work. But I write a column twice a month for writing-world and have done many guest articles for other sites. I don’t have the time or the inspiration for a blog; if I blogged, I don’t even know what I would say. I do maintain a website.

How did you find your current agent? What do you recommend to other authors seeking representation?

Actually, she found me, quite recently. She does not accept queries so I will not give out her name. It was always my dream for an agent to contact me instead of the other way around, so that’s pretty cool. We’ll see if it leads to big things.

For authors seeking representation, besides the usual process of preparing manuscripts and sending out query letters, I recommend (a) working on your writing; (b) getting your name out there; and (c) active networking. Meet people, and always be pleasant and professional. I would also warn that agents are not miracle workers; many manuscripts, even though they are agented, do not get picked up by publishing houses.

What would it surprise others to know about you?

I enjoy tutoring high school mathematics. After five or six hours of concentrated creativity, I find it relaxing to talk about simultaneous equations.

Columnist, author, instructor, editor…What would you identify as being your favorite creative role?

Author. It’s by far the most challenging, but it is also the most satisfying when a story really comes together.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Not today. Thanks for the opportunity, Jennifer!


To Kindle version of Crafting Fabulous Fiction: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LGBX3OC

Also available for the Nook and in hard copy.

To Victoria’s website:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Word to the Wise! Motivational Quotes to Inspire, Enlighten, & Empower

I love quotes. For me they're thought provoking, wise and reflective, and pack a powerful punch succinctly. Wouldn't you agree?

Like seasonings that enhance food, quotes can be used to make for a more pleasurable experience for those who "consume" our work. Use them to tie in the message of a story, emphasize a point, or as an introductory line for an article or interview. They're very multi-functional that way. :-)

In fact, without truly recognizing it, many of us have quotes that we live by...almost like a life's motto or philosophy.
So today my goal is to share a few to motivate your creativity, mellow your mood, or make you smile.


                                             ON WRITING...

"You don't write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say."
---F. Scott Fitzgerald

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you."
---Maya Angelou

"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent, he would be wise to develop a thick hide."
---Harper Lee

"Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."
---Rudyard Kipling
                                         ON LIFE...

"What a wonderful life I've had. I only wish I'd realized it sooner!"

"Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: "I am with you kid. Let's go."
---Maya Angelou

"My mother is a travel agent for guilt trips."

"Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener."

"And this too shall pass."

"A day without sunshine...is like night."

"Sometimes God will shake you up to move you forward."
---Jennifer Brown Banks

"Old age comes at a bad time."

"The greatest wealth is health."
---Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results."
---Albert Einstein

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
---Eleanor Roosevelt

"Enjoy yourself; it's later than you think."

Got quotes?
Any of these resonate with you? What's your favorite quote?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Why it "Pays" to Keep an Open Mind About Low Paying Writing Gigs...

Forget what you've been told.
You know: the conventional wisdom that contends that taking on low paying writing jobs devalues you and brands you as desperate.
Not true. Not always.
As someone who has had more than my share, before paying my dues, I'm here to give you the 4-1-1.

There are many factors that should be considered in assessing whether or not a client or creative gig merits your time and talent.
Today we'll take a look at a few of them.


  • Is it a "passion project" or for a worthy cause?
  • Is it a start-up publication with limited funds?
  • Is it time consuming or laborious in nature?
  • How about the pay? Is it weekly? Monthly? By PayPal or based upon satisfying a certain "click rate" before compensation? 
  • Can you choose your own topics and titles?
  • Do you receive a byline for work and a generous Bio?
  • Is it a project that will give you a sense of pride or feeling of making a difference?
  • Does it require research?
Here's a case in point. Some time ago, I responded to a call for writers posted at a popular writers' job board. The position called for 2-3 articles per week, with weekly compensation via PayPal.
It sounded like fun, and to top it off, it was in my "specialty area."
So I threw my hat in the ring, and hoped for the best.

Fast forward...
I advanced in the screening, to the final candidates. At this point, there was "full disclosure."
In other words, the payrate was finally mentioned. I admit that I was a bit disappointed initially; it was considerably less than I was used to making at this stage of the game.
But, after some deliberation, I decided to take it.


  • The current work reflected on the company's site was top-notch.
  • It had a beautifully designed site with a Google Page Rank of 5.
  • Writers had their own individual "page" on the site, with a generous Bio and link to their respective sites.
  • The articles could be written on 6 different subject areas, with low word counts ranging between 400-600.
  • Pay was via PayPal weekly.
  • There were no "firm" deadlines imposed.
  • No images were required with submissions, nor was loading work into content management systems.
  • I could buy more chocolates.

The verdict is in.
It was a smart decision on my part. The "client" is easy to work with and interesting.
The position fits very nicely within the frame of other projects, (in that it doesn't take a lot of time).
And it adds to my bottom line and my portfolio.

Here's what I've also found to happen in the past, with these jobs.
Rates change.
That's right. Sometimes a low paying job can "pay off" later down the line.

  • The client recognizes your value to the project and adjusts your rate.
  • A start-up business begins to make a profit and is able to subsequently pay more.
  • Your prayers are answered. 

It's important to keep in mind too that "pay" is not always monetary; it can be in perks, or satisfaction, or important connections.

Word to the wise: before you pass over a low-paying gig, make sure you've looked over all the factors, to make an informed decision that suits your goals, lifestyle, financial needs, and creative path.
Only you can decide.

Your turn.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
What has your experience been in this area?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 Tips to Increase Your Guest Posting I.Q. (and your bottom line)!

It’s certainly no secret to today’s writers that guest blogging provides a great way to build their platform and amplify their “voice.” Top bloggers like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and Darren Rowse, in fact, highly recommend it.

Still, very few writers reap the potential benefits of guest blogging, due to their approach and a lack of awareness of how to “work smarter, not harder.”

With this in mind, today I’ll share a few ways to increase your blogging I.Q. and ultimately your bottom line.

First things first…


As an award-winning blogger, I have had my share of hits and misses when it comes to guest blogging. I’m happy to say I’ve been rejected by some of the best in the industry.

But to my credit, rejection didn’t discourage me, or make me doubt the importance of my message. I kept trying. And you should too.

When editors/bloggers noted something that they felt needed improvement in my work, I addressed it. When I wanted to increase my success rate, I read and studied the works of top bloggers I admired. Eventually, what I learned and applied enhanced my efforts.

What I will share with you here is based upon several years of guest blogging at sites such as: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Daily Blog Tips, and Technorati (to name a few).