"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Q & A With Publisher of Journal of Expressive Writing

Jennifer Minotti

Welcome back, readers. It's a pleasure to reconnect.
Today I'd like to share a fun and inspiring "chat" with Jennifer Minotti, publisher of a new, popular online literary journal.
And here's a bonus: read on and you'll also find out how you can submit your work for inclusion in this quality, weekly-updated site.

"Founded in 2020, The Journal of Expressive Writing is the first online literary journal to publish expressive writing, free writing, non-fiction, personal essay, memoir, reflective essay, poetry, prose, contemplative discourse, and creative non-fiction—all that originate from a writing prompt—by both established and emerging writers."

Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for joining us.


I live in Cambridge, MA with my husband and two teenage children. Currently, I am an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University, where I have been facilitating Women's Writing Circles for the past five years. 
I’ve always considered myself to be a creative person. However, as a young person, I also had to figure out a way to put myself through college and support myself. I have always wanted to be a writer, but I could never conceive of how I would pay my bills. Perhaps I didn’t have enough belief in myself as a writer at a young age. Perhaps I was scared. Mostly, I think I have always been a very practical person. For example, when I was in graduate school at Columbia University, I fell even deeper in love with photography as I was exposed to the darkroom and so on. Yet, I knew that I would graduate with a lot of student loans and therefore felt I should take a safer route to work and apply for positions that would provide a stable income with health benefits. 
Fortunately, that decision ended up being a good one! I was lucky to land a job right out of school at Education Development Center (EDC)—a global non-profit working to improve education, health, and economic opportunities worldwide—and ended up working there, in a variety of technology, research, writing, and leadership roles, for 17 years. While there, I grew to have a lot of autonomy creatively. As a website developer, online course designer, information architect, and content writer, I was apply to integrate my artistic background to everything I did. Looking back, I am so grateful for the many years I spent at EDC and for my bosses who recognized my ingenuity and trusted me to use my inventiveness to benefit our work. 

In 2011, I left EDC to be a full-time, stay at home mom. That transition was difficult, as I felt a loss of my professional and creative identity. But an amazing thing ended up happening. As I journaled regularly to process my feelings, something I have done since middle school, I developed a passion for the power that expressive writing holds. And I knew I wanted to share this newfound knowledge with others. A year later, I founded the Women's Writing Circle, which I view as another vehicle for limitless creativity and imagination.


I’ve learned over the years not to rush creativity. I often get great ideas while exercising and journaling. But if I wish to execute them too soon, I often find myself stuck. I have found that when I am able to pause and let the universe guide the timing of my work, I find myself in perfect flow and people show up to offer help. When this first started happening, I was suspicious. I thought, “Why are these people wanting to help me?” But over time, I came to realize that this is what it means to be in synchronicity. 

In terms of rituals, I habitually use writing prompts as an entry point to figuring out what I’m thinking. I also use meditation as a guide to my writing, often sitting in meditation before I write. And as I mentioned before, I often get some of my best ideas running or doing other forms of exercise. 


I think the biggest challenge for me is being able to acknowledge my gifts as a creative artist and silence the inner critic that keeps showing up to tell me that I’m not “good enough.” It’s funny, because after all of these yeas, I still have never once been able to call myself an artist … even though it’s actually my current work title! I have also grappled for a long time with the concept that earning an income is the measure of an artist’s success, or any success. I fundamentally do not accept that narrative and yet, it’s a difficult storyline that permeates our culture. 


I’m most proud of my creation of The Journal of Expressive Writing, which I spent years conceptualizing. I long had the idea to establish an online literary journal dedicated specifically to publishing the stories that were inspired in my Women’s Writing Circles. These stories were amazing and for those who wanted to get their voices out into the world, it wasn’t always easy. I wanted to facilitate that process for them, as well as others. And then, I realized amid COVID-19 that there was no better time to begin than right then. Many of us not on the front lines were asked how we could best be in service to others. I quickly realized that publishing this online journal was the best way I could use my strengths to make a difference in the world. You can read my essay as Editor-in-Chief on May 15, 2020, the day I launched the Journal of Expressive Writing. It is entitled, “Belly Flopping in my Evening Gown.”


In the expressive writing and journaling fields, hands down I have been influenced the most by the research and writing of James W. Pennebaker and Kathleen Adams. They are visionaries in their respective fields whom I admire very much. In fact, I am currently exceedingly fortunate to be training to be a Certified Journal Facilitator under Kathleen’s mentorship, which is a huge honor. I have also been heavily influenced by many experts in the fields of positive psychology and Buddhism such as Martin Seligman, Tal Ben-Shahar, Barbara Fredrickson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, and others who help me to see the world in new and exhilarating ways. In terms of writers and poets, there are so very many whom I love and draw inspiration from. It wouldn’t do justice to the field if I named just a few!  


I love sports, both playing them and watching them. I also love the water! Right now, I am in love with paddle boarding, which I did every day this summer at a nearby lake while we were in Vermont. I also love walking. Now that I’m not doing as much strenuous activity as I used to do, I love going for long walks. It clears my head, calms my emotions, and it’s another place where my creative juices seem to flow.


I went to Boston University on a full athletic scholarship for swimming. After college, I was a triathlete for 12 years, completing two Ironman triathlons and many marathons. I also hiked with my husband to Everest Base Camp!


My most recent project ,The Journal of Expressive Writing, mentioned earlier, was an aspiration of mine for many years and it emerged over time out of my passions for expressive writing, positive psychology, education, community organizing, mental health, mindful communication, and social activism. It may sound corny, but it may be my most important work to date. Giving writers and poets a platform to express their voices, especially at this time in history, I believe is a fundamental, human need. Whatever we might be feeling is a link to what others may be feeling across the planet. Love, belongingness, security … These are essentials right now. Each one of us is a necessary part of the whole world and I want people to really believe that. I believe we can only do that by sharing our truths, our voices, and our creativity.

The Journal of Expressive Writing is the very first online literary journal to publish expressive writing, free writing, non-fiction, personal essay, memoir, reflective essay, poetry, prose, contemplative discourse, and creative non-fiction—all that originates from a writing prompt—by both established and emerging writers and poets. This is what I’m most excited about right now!


Write for the love of writing! 
For years, I told myself that I could not write poetry. Only in the last year have I allowed myself to write poetry just for the pleasure of it. And I’ve been having so much fun! In fact, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself loving to write poetry with others. It started by giving myself creative permission to participate in the May Day Pandemic Poem project. Developed by the Poetry Society of New York, they partnered random writers and poets from around the world to co-create a poem together. The experience was phenomenal and we wound up writing a great poem together (ours is #5 on the list)!  

I loved doing this so much that I recruited my husband and children to start writing collaborative poetry with me. During the pandemic, we wrote a dozen or more poems that captured how we were feeling during that time and it was amazing! The more poetry we wrote together, the more fun we had! It was such an intimate and bonding experience! So I guess my advice is: If you enjoy writing poetry, just do it. “Success” might not even mean publishing your poetry. It might mean something else—something as simple as bringing people together as we’re sheltering in place—or another journey not tied to any outcome. The discovery and natural unfolding of things is something I have grown to really appreciate in life!   

Submission Guidelines can be found here:


Comments? Questions?


Jennifer Minotti is Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University and a PhD student at Lesley University in Educational Studies. For the past 25 years, she has dedicated her professional life toward working for the betterment of society. For 17 years, Ms. Minotti worked at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)—a global non-profit working to improve education, health, and economic opportunities worldwide—in a variety of technology, research, writing, and leadership roles. She is Founder of the Women’s Writing Circle and the Journal of Expressive Writing, Co-Creator of The World's Very First Gratitude Parade, and helped establish Gratitude Day in the City of Cambridge, MA. Ms. Minotti is a graduate of Boston University (B.S.) and Columbia University (M.A., M.Ed.) and holds certificates in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, Transformational Language Arts, Distance Education, and Herbal Studies. Jen’s writing has appeared in numerous refereed journals and literary publication.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Why Bloggers Deserve To Celebrate More Than Ever!

Let’s face it: bloggers are often considered lightweights in the literary world: “children of a lesser God.” We often garner the same response as “domestic engineers” when people in social gatherings ask us what we do. 

In fact, there’s a certain smugness and subtle disregard that occurs whenever I discuss my blog work and associated awards even among writing peers. 
It’s not much different than when our kid comes home with the “opus” created in his art class at school. We smile and pat him on the head for not coloring outside the lines, and then send him off to play. Still not convinced?

The prevailing mindset that blogging is not seen as “serious writing” is echoed by Hubspot blogger, Lindsay Kolowich Cox. In a recent post she shares: 
"Sometimes, when I tell people that I blog for a living, they roll their eyes. "That's so easy," they say. "You get a paycheck for sitting on the internet all day and writing. A monkey could do your job!"That's when I roll my eyes. See, people are quick to deem blogging as a no-brainer job. But when they actually sit down to write their first couple of posts, it hits them: This is way harder than I thought." 
Word to the wise: Blogging may not require a college degree or formal training to break into and it’s definitely not rocket science. 
Still, it’s a genre of writing that merits respect; no different than screenwriting, journalism, poetry or technical writing.

Consider the following stats and studies:

  • ** In the U.S. alone the number of bloggers is expected to reach 31.7 million in 2020.
  • ** Over 77% of the internet users read blogs regularly (i.e., at least once per month).
  • ** Bloggers are considered the third most trustworthy source of information, behind friends and family, according to an independent survey of UK consumers commissioned by affiliate network, affilinet.
  • ** 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (Source: BlogHer)
Gone are the days when blogs were primarily used as a forum to vent about bad bosses or showcase poorly written work that could not make the cut elsewhere. This “art form” has resulted in major book deals by traditional publishers, syndicated columns, and a lucrative income source for those who do it well. 

For example, Yuwanda Black, a blogger over at Inkwell Editorial, was approached in 2016 by Adams Media to pen a book titled “The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guide.” 
She shares in an interview at Pen & Prosper, that she never even pitched or queried them. 
Adams Media discovered her randomly through her blog and information products, (and the rest as they say is history.) 


Though many are called, few are chosen.  Blogging is extremely competitive and requires a strategic approach to stand out and stay relevant. Not everyone can pull it off or do it well. It’s the reason that so many sites actually end up folding within the first few years. It’s much harder than it appears, Charlie Brown.  :-) 

Blogging requires discipline, commitment, creativity, time management, effective communication skills, technical skills, courage, the ability to engage and consistency. 
And blogging during a pandemic? 
It demands laser-like focus and a real sense of purpose.
Now, that’s a tall order!

So, if you’re a blogger reading this blog, hold your head up high. 
Your work may not lead to a cure for Cancer or the Corona Virus, or result in world domination.
You may not even have “the moves like Jagger.”

But your work inspires, informs, empowers, entertains and educates the masses. 
And that’s not too shabby either! 

Cheers to you!

Agree or disagree?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Announcements and Items of Interest for July...

Greetings Readers,

Today's post will be brief so that I can adequately prepare for the massive heat wave slated to hit my area in the next few days, not to mention navigating a hectic summer schedule here.

Feel free to add your own announcements, good news or writerly requests in the comments section.
As always, thanks for reading.


I am proud to announce my participation in an upcoming anthology due to be released in September 2020. IMPACT is a collection of short stories and poems from various authors who have in some form or another become activists, opting to make a positive difference in the world in their own small way. 
The book is co-edited and compiled by the great granddaughter of Ida B. Wells.

Read more here:


Chicago Writers Association is now accepting submissions for its 10th Annual Book of the Year Awards through August, 2020.

Details available at their website:


POARTMO seeks creative expressions for an upcoming digital anthology promoting positivity.
Submit your entries by August 23, 2020.


Do you have tips on how to sell more self-published books?  Cultivate a bigger client base and bottom line?
Writers Weekly wants to hear from you. They pay $60.00 upon acceptance.
Visit their site for more information:


Please be advised that Pen & Prosper will be on a summer hiatus until (or around) September 18, 2020.
I look forward to joining you again for more informative posts, author interviews, and fun tips & tools to enhance your writing career and quality of life!

In the meantime and in between time...stay safe and keep writing!

"Parting is such sweet sorrow..."


Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, July 10, 2020

How to Stay Focused on Writing During a Pandemic

We’re living in unprecedented times and many of us authors and writers are still in lockdown or are practicing social distancing at home. Whether or not you’re stuck inside, there’s still an undertone of anxiety that can make it super difficult to stay focused on your writing.

Not spending your time at home writing might induce feelings of guilt or FOFB (Fear of Falling Behind)--especially when you check into Facebook and see your friends posting about how much they’ve gotten done.

So, let’s talk about how you can stay focused on your writing during the pandemic and alleviate some mental pressure. 

Staying Focused on Writing… DO

Staying focused doesn’t necessarily equate to sitting down at the keyboard, writing and never getting up. Here are some of the dos for achieving your writing goals

Write up a Schedule 

It can be pretty tempting to join the pajama crew and stay in bed all day. The first step toward focused writing is creating a schedule that works for you. Structure has gone out the window for a lot of people, and it's exactly what you’ll need if you plan on getting words on the page without distraction.

Be realistic about when you’re going to wake up and go to bed, and what your most active times of the day are. Set aside times for your writing and guard them--close the door, switch off your phone, block websites that are time sucks so you can better focus on your work-in-progress.

Remember, though, taking breaks is an important part of every schedule. You’ll feel more peaceful and creative in your writing if you set realistic daily goals for yourself — instead of deciding that you’re going to write 10,000 words in the few hours you have to write.

Take Breaks

As I mentioned above, taking breaks is an important part of being productive. Your mind needs time to mentally reset after intense focus sessions. Do set aside time to take a break, and during them, spend time doing things that will keep you calm or enrich your life, rather than scrolling through your newsfeed.

A few great break ideas include:
Desk exercises
Having a healthy snack
Adult coloring books or pages

Have Mental Health Days 

When you get overwhelmed, there is no shame in taking a day to reset. This means getting away from your computer completely and spending time doing things that enrich your life. What that looks like is up to you, but spending time with family (even on a Zoom call) is a great idea.

Relaxing in bed, reading, or catching up on your Netflix ‘must-watch’ series are a few things you can do to unwind and take a break from thinking about all the stuff that’s going on outside of your control. Once you’ve had a day like this to reset, you’ll likely find that returning to your schedule and staying focused is much easier.

Or, if you can’t bear the thought of not making progress towards your writing goals for a whole day, spend some time working on your author website instead of focusing on your book.

Manage Your Exposure to the News/Social Media 

This is a big one.

During times like these, it’s important to be intentional about the way you use the news and social media feeds. There are horrible things happening and bad news is often addictive. It’s easy to fall into the trap of consuming it and doing nothing else. Dwelling on the ‘what ifs’ is human nature.

If you find yourself getting too worn down and need to take a break, here are some tools to help you:


With Freedom, you can block distracting apps and websites that drain your productivity.


This app shows you how much screen time you have on your devices and coaches you to use them less.


This app doesn’t block or measure anything, but it does provide amazing focused music to play while you work. It’s pretty cool!

Try the Pomodoro Technique

This is a great method for increasing your productivity. It’s a technique that involves focused sets of time, intersected by smaller breaks. Basically, you shut off everything around you, write for a full 15 or 20 minutes, and then you take a quick break. After four or five of these focused sessions, you reward yourself with a longer break of 30 or 45 minutes before getting back to work.

Challenging yourself to beat your own score (word count) per session, is a great way to stay focused and increase the word count of your work in progress.

Staying Focused on Writing… DON’T

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the things you definitely should do to increase your productivity, let’s discuss what you shouldn’t do. 

Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself 

We’re already going through a pretty tough time, so bullying yourself about how little you’ve written will only make you feel less motivated and more guilty. And guilt is not a great motivator when it comes to writing. As I mentioned previously, taking breaks and mental health days is a good thing — it will help you regain clarity and focus. If you don’t hit your word count or other goals, think about adjustments you could make instead of beating yourself up.

Don't Burn Yourself Out 

This goes hand in hand with being too hard on yourself. If you’re forcing yourself to stay at your writing computer without taking breaks, you’re going to burn yourself out. And that could sabotage your long-term productivity. Don’t force yourself to write when you’re already tired or in need of a break.

Final Thoughts 

You don’t have to spend energy worrying about the future or things that are out of your control. Focusing on your writing rather than the craziness this pandemic has brought on will help you regain control, push you toward your goal, and become a healthier, happier person in the long run.
Just remember to take breaks and take care of your mental health!



Dave Chesson is the book marketing Super-Nerd behind Kindlepreneur.com. His focus is on providing in-depth, actionable information for indie authors, such as his recent guide to book writing software. His free time is spent reading, immersing himself in sci-fi culture, and spending time with his family in Tennessee.


Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, June 26, 2020

Resources, Reviews & Recommended Reads* 3Rs Series

Happy Friday, folks!
I hope you've had a good, positive, productive week.
In my ongoing efforts to help you "hone your craft and increase your cash," I'm publishing another edition of the 3Rs series!
You're sure to find some resources and reads to enhance your writing and marketing efforts moving forward.

Please feel free to share any leads and reads of your own in the comments section.
And if you find this information useful, perhaps consider sharing it within your social media circles.
Pencils ready?













If you're in search of an attractive, affordable, thoughtful gift item for a fellow writer, friend or relative, look no further than My Thirty One!
I actually discovered this gem by accident.
Long story short... my buddy from Kentucky sent me a lovely teal-green journal/carrying pouch as a gift item for my birthday and I was over the moon! What a great surprise!

My Thirty One offers a beautiful selection of accessories, stylish gear to keep you organized, and trinkets you'll love too.

Learn more at their site here:

Help me to help you.
What would you like to see more of here? Which resource or lead provided the greatest value for you?
Anything else you'd recommend? Do tell.

Image Credits: Pixabay.com

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Feels like Heaven! Pen & Prosper Turns Eleven

Welcome back, readers!
Thank you for including Pen & Prosper in your weekly blog stop hops.
I am honored to have you here.
Particularly in that June, 2020 marks eleven years in the blogosphere for this blogger. Yay!
And let me tell you, that's no small feat, folks.

With so many negatives manifesting this year, I believe that it becomes even more important to celebrate small victories; to stay the course; to be intentional in our efforts; to uplift one another; to keep striving for excellence. Wouldn't you agree?

This year has unfolded like no other. It's been as tough as a cheap steak.
Yesterday, (as a point of reference) I found out that a dear friend of mine had died unexpectedly.
We had been writing buddies since the '90's.

More than the loss of a good pal, his death holds for me a cautionary tale. You see, my friend Mike was a talented and gifted poet/writer. He was also somewhat of a procrastinator. We talked many times about compiling and "officially" publishing his work to share with larger audiences. He kept delaying it. Now, it saddens me to know that his eloquent and insightful pieces will never be viewed.
Please, don't let this be you. Tomorrow is not promised.

So, rather than be consumed by all the disappointments and disasters this year, I have decided to focus on the good. Which brings us here.


Here are some fun facts as it relates to this blog 

and the creator:

  • There have been approx. 816 posts published on this site. On everything ranging from marketing, to client retention, to book reviews, to food and fun. And I'm proud to say that other than a few breaks over the summer and major holidays, I have blogged consistently, without interruption.
  • Total collective page views for Pen & Prosper to date is 671,622.
  • Pen and Prosper has been recognized as a "top blog" for writers for 8 consecutive years.
  • One of my favorite books on blogging is 62 Blog Posts to Overcome Bloggers Block, Marcie Hill.
  • My favorite time to post is around 6:00 a.m.
  • Though my passion is writing, my college degrees are actually in business.
  • My celebrity crushes are: Keanu Reeves, LaRoyce Hawkins (of Chicago P.D.), Michael Ealy and Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane). 
  • My favorite color is black.
  • If I weren't a writer, I would love to be a celebrity chef.
  • My mom guilted me into becoming a "published" writer.
  • Beethoven brings me to tears.
  • I have a fear of flying.
  • My current works in progress are a poetry book and recipe book for creatives.
I hope this brings all my readers up to speed and helps you to know the "woman behind the words" a bit better.

In closing 

I would like to thank each of you for your time, readership, confidence, friendship, suggestions and many contributions to the success of this blog.
I couldn't do it without you!

Until next time...


 Image credits:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Food 4 Thought On George Floyd and Where We Are

As a general rule, I typically don't address controversial topics on Pen and Prosper. And with good reason. I figure there's enough "noise" on the Net. Why amplify it. True?
Still, as writers and bloggers, sometimes it becomes important for us to use our platforms to teach, transform, share important stories, eradicate ignorance and enrich others. Not to mention, when we are silent on crucial issues we miss the opportunity to make a difference.
This is one of 'dem times.

The other day, I walked endlessly, to the point where my feet ached, in an effort to search for something simple. I had a taste for some meat loaf, but was out of ground beef. (And humbly speaking, my meatloaf is "to die for".)

I walked from store to store, corner to corner, block to block. They all had one thing in common.
They were all closed due to recent looting and chaos associated with the George Floyd incident.
Many were boarded up. It was nothing like the beautiful, busy streets I usually encounter in my middle-class neighborhood.

I found myself fighting back the tears out of frustration. How did we get here?
It seems that "the more things change the more they stay the same."  Truth is, a lot of folks believe that in this post-Obama era that discrimination, racial injustice and police brutality against people of color are a thing of the past.
If you're one of them, I have some land I'd like to sell you. :-)

To process the pain and vent, I wrote this poem.

Feel free to comment (respectfully) or to share your own thoughts as well.
No judgement here.


Nobody wins,
When the injustice
We seek to avenge
Is overshadowed
With a victory that’s

A war waged
With looting,
Senseless violence 
And civil unrest,
With scores
Of stores
In boards,
As havoc

Nobody wins,

Nobody wins,
When history’s former lessons
Go unheeded
And progress impeded--

By ghosts
Of yesteryears,
unresolved fears,
And a
 broken system,
With a pathology
Yet to be 

Nobody wins,
 With hatred 
And an 
“Eye for an eye” mentality,

For the inescapable reality
Is violence 
Begets violence
And simply, 

in the end,


On a final note here, I am proud to announce my contribution to an upcoming anthology on activism, slated for publication in September.

Learn more here.


Have a great week ahead.

P.S. Please excuse any typos. I have not had my caffeine yet today.

Image credits: Pixabay.com