"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"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.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ask the Expert With Editor and Author Kristin Oakley

Thank you for joining us today, Kristin. We appreciate your time, creative input and expertise here at Pen and Prosper.

Thank you for having me! I’m honored to be a part of Pen and Prosper.

Can you tell us a little about who you are and your background?

Certainly – I am Chicago Writers Association board member, the managing editor of The Write City Magazine and The Write City Review, the past president and a co-founder of In Print (a professional writers organization in the Rockford, IL area), and a UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies adjunct writing instructor. My debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, won the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction, was a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year, and a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition. Its sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was released in 2016.
As managing editor of The Write City Magazine, how many submissions do you review monthly? We receive 8-10 submissions every month, everything from essays and book excerpts to poems and short stories.
Beyond the general guidelines provided at the site, what are you looking for? What increases a writer’s odds of acceptance? For prose, telling a good story. Is there a unique character who’s well developed? Is there a character/story arc? Tension, vivid description, an intriguing voice – all the elements that make a story come alive. For poetry, we look for beautiful imagery and a poem that evokes an emotion or puts a twist on something.

Regarding acceptance, the staff at the The Write City Magazine feels that our online magazine should not only be an opportunity for CWA members (and nonmembers) to be published but also a means of encouragement for new writers. With that in mind, if a piece has potential but needs more work, we’ll give feedback, suggest a re-write, and consider the revision for publication. If we do reject a piece, we always give feedback regarding our reasons why we decided not to publish the piece. 
Do you recommend that scribes write everyday? Can you elaborate here? Daily writing makes sense in many ways – it’s an opportunity to practice the craft, generate new ideas, and complete works in progress. But life gets in the way. Instead, I recommend that writers set a schedule that works best for them, whether it’s daily writing or several times a week, and be flexible. If an hour each day isn’t working, then try larger chunks three days a week.

What would it surprise others to know about you? Writing is a lifelong passion for me (I submitted a short story to The Saturday Evening Post when I was 9, I still have the very nice rejection letter), but I’ve only become a professional writer in the the last few years. Instead, I practiced law and ran a law library in Boston and advocated for unschooling as a stay-at-home mom in both Illinois and Belgium.
If you could have one literary “super power” what would it be? Understanding how to use commas – lol! No really, it would be making writing more of a priority—that whole daily writing thing. Like most writers, I use all kinds of excuses to procrastinate it’s just that my excuses are also writing-related – marketing my books, volunteering for CWA and The Write City Magazine, teaching at UW-Madison. I’m working on this anti-procrastinating super power though and feel like it’s getting stronger every day. 
What was the best writing advice you ever received?  I was privileged to see Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove, this year at Printers Row Lit Fest and his advice was to finish the book. As he pointed out, by doing that you’ve accomplished what 99% of writers never accomplish.

Now, can you return the favor by providing your best advice for writers?
My advice goes along with that – view the first draft as a story you write just for yourself – no one else will see it. Don’t worry about it being perfect or waste time with re-writing. You won’t know how the book begins until you finish it so don’t bother trying to polish that first chapter until you’ve written the very last sentence.

What is your view on blogging and social media? Blessing or burden? Let’s just say I’m getting used to it. It can be overwhelming, but I concentrate on only the things I’m interested in doing. For social media that means Facebook (personal and writer pages), Twitter, and Instagram, but only occasionally. I try not to post things specifically about buying my books but about things people might find worthwhile and I always make sure I post positive things – no politics – which, at times, for me is difficult because I can be very opinionated.
Do you have a blog?  No blog yet, but I recently started my bi-weekly newsletter. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and some wonderful opportunities have come from it so I’m finding it valuable, plus I’m really enjoying it. And it forces me to create something new every two weeks which is terrific writing practice. I know writers who have a newsletter and a blog and I’m considering doing both. I suspect I will have a blog at some point. It took me many years to decide to do the newsletter, so check back with me in a few years and we’ll see if I’m blogging.
I see that you also teach writing. Are courses offered to the general public? How can writers today benefit from taking creative classes, particularly with the plethora of information available on the Internet? The courses I offer are through UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies and are offered to the general public. We provide online and in person classes on a huge variety of topics and registration runs throughout the year.

There is a lot of great information on the internet, but just reading the information isn’t enough; feedback is crucial for writers. I recommend writers find a critique group or critique partner to get that valuable feedback and necessary encouragement. I also urge writers to take at least one workshop on craft whether it’s at UW-Madison, at CWA’s Just Write! Conference, CWA workshops offered throughout the year, or at any of the terrific writing classes offered throughout the Chicago area. Even though I’ve published two books and teach writing, I continue to take courses and attend workshops which I will do throughout my career. It’s one of the things I love most about writing – writers never stop learning how to tell a great story.



Kristin Oakley is a Chicago Writers Association board member, the managing editor of The Write City Magazine, the past president and a co-founder of In Print Professional Writers’ Organization, and a UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies writing instructor. Kristin’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, won the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction, was a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year, and a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition. Its sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was released in 2016.


To learn more about Chicago Writers Association, please visit the CWA website.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Turn up the Heat on Your Writing With Cooking Shows

I was watching the Rachael Ray show this morning featuring Laila Ali.
It was a very interesting segment where the two ladies shared some delicious dishes, while promoting Ali's new cookbook.

Of course I hope to get my hands on this gem soon, to add to my culinary offerings and my growing collection of cooking guides.
I love to cook and entertain friends and loved ones. Which is why cooking shows are typically on my weekly "menu."
You should tune in too, periodically; particularly if becoming a better writer is something you aspire to in days ahead.
There are many commonalities and parallels for writers and cooks. In fact, I've covered some of this "food for thought" before on this blog.  As they say, "repetition reinforces."
If you need some convincing, read on as I share what's cooking, and how food shows can inform and enhance the creative process.


Jen's Corn Salad
First impressions count.

"People eat with their eyes first." In a similar fashion, editors reviewing your work and visitors  discovering your blog through a referenced link, should experience your best. They should be well "fed." If not, their first encounter just might be their very last. Sample before serving.

Good cooking and good writing both involve incorporating many of the basic senses: touch, sight, sound.

Good writing and good cooking call for the right balance.

Have you ever over seasoned something in preparing a meal? If so, you know why too much of a good thing can be bad. The same holds true for writing. Not having a "balanced" perspective and objectivity can cause others to doubt your credibility and your writing ability. For proper balance, (particularly when doing feature pieces, informative posts and interviews) keep an open mind. Consider all the facts. Read different sources. Research.

A clean, organized work area (with both crafts) enhances the creative process and de-clutters thoughts.

I notice whenever I watch Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart, they're never scouting around for a misplaced utensil or ingredient; everything is in view and easily accessed. Does the same hold true for your desk or office?

Both require following directions properly for optimal results.

For cooking it could be a Betty Crocker recipe; while for writing it can come in the form of submission guidelines provided by a targeted publication. Read and heed.

Collaborations create win/win situations.

Celebrity chefs on TV often invite other chefs to their program to provide diversity; share different areas of expertise; and form important alliances. You'd be wise to partner up with fellow bloggers and other writers in your social circle, partner!
Remember, "two heads are better than one."

Keep these practices and principles in mind to "spice up" your writing career and to make more progress in 2018.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
Watch any good cooking shows lately?

Image credits:

Monday, June 4, 2018

Pen & Prosper Enjoys Nine Years in the Blogosphere!

Welcome back, readers!

It's a pleasure to have you join me here in June, as I celebrate nine wonderful years in the blogosphere! (In addition to my birthday month).

It's been a beautiful, enlightening, exhausting, interesting journey...with never a dull moment.
And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your role in Pen and Prosper's longevity and success.

From those who read and comment on my posts on a regular basis; to those who have provided periodic guest posts; to those who share my work within their social media circles; to those who have recognized my site with creative awards--you are truly appreciated!

There are so many "moving parts" to creating and maintaining a successful blog, and contrary to popular opinion, it's a lot of hard work, folks!

To celebrate my 9 years, and hopefully help those of you who may aspire to do the same, I'd like to share 9 important lessons I've learned along the way...


If you don't enjoy your subject matter, (trust me here) you'll bore yourself and your readers silly.
I love writing and helping others. This passion has fueled my efforts amid dark times, computer glitches, writer's block, doubt, uncertainty, and bad hair days.

Consistency helps to build your brand, establish credibility and form virtual bonds.
In fact, some of my blog buddies have become my long-distance friends.

By sharing quality information, resources, reviews, and solutions to your readership's common pain points. Give to receive.

It's easy to give up. Many bloggers have. "When you want to give up, remember why you started."

It's all part of the learning process. I laugh when I look back at some of the things I published initially back in 2009.  Still, I'm proud.

True success is not in having a "huge" following, but in having a major impact on your readers.

The world needs it today. Humor is like seasoning to food; it makes everything a bit better.

Better a break than a "break down." Remember, you can't give from an empty cup.


Wrapping things up here, I'd like to give a shout-out to a few of my most loyal supporters:


You have made all the difference.

Thanks readers, for 9 wonderful years!



Image credits: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Roseanne Barr and the Cost of Freedom of Speech...

What was she thinking...? Or was she thinking at all?

First off, let me just go on record by establishing that this post is not intended to defend or defame Roseanne Barr.

In fact, as my long-term followers can attest, I typically don't devote this forum to political, racial or controversial issues. Simply believing that there are other topics more informative, positive and noteworthy.  But the more I heard on the news, the more I felt compelled to speak out on this trending topic because of the numerous lessons it imparts.

So, here we are.
My purpose is to increase awareness and encourage intelligent dialogue.

Let's rewind to the genesis...

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you've heard that the eagerly anticipated Roseanne Reboot has been unplugged. Grounded. Cancelled abruptly due to a controversial comment she reportedly made on Twitter, concerning Obama's adviser, Valerie Jarrett.
Read more about Roseanne's fiasco.

Though humor (like art) can sometimes be subjective, I'm willing to bet that few folks found her comment or comparison of Jarrett to Planet of the Apes as particularly funny. Not to mention, this is a "sequel" we've seen played out too many times before in our nation's history.

Adding insult to injury, is the fact that I was a former fan (like many Blacks). Besides being funny, this sitcom seemed to be very inclusive in its casting and storyline.
Now, in an "instant rice minute," Roseanne Barr's poor judgment quickly tarnished the sitcom's reputation; deprived ABC's viewing audience (18.2 million), of a well-regarded, entertaining show; and has caused friends and supporters to divorce themselves from her.

One act is seemingly overshadowing her many accomplishments in the entertainment industry.

So what can we learn moving forward?  How can we find teachable moments here? (Particularly for those of us in the public's eye).

Here are my "take-aways" today...

In Roseanne's case the tab could ultimately be millions---in terms of lost endorsements, shows, etc.
The lesson? Just because you CAN say anything as an adult living in a free society, doesn't mean you should. Hello? Everything need not be verbalized or shared in a public forum. What you say at home at the dinner table is a different story.

As bloggers and writers most of us have felt the pressure to say something clever on Facebook, or to post something relevant to update our blogs. But sometimes, when you're at a lack for words, it's best to leave it that way. "Silence is golden".  Really.

Use responsibly. And with maturity.

The career you save might be your own.
In this Internet age your online image can make or break you
Mind your manners.
Don't take big stands on small issues. You are an "example" to someone.

In conclusion...

It's ironic that something that initially started out as an attempted joke by Roseanne Barr has caused such sadness, disappointment and controversy.

A timely reminder that we should choose our words like we would choose our friends.
Carefully. Wisely.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
Do you think that her punishment fit the crime?
Curious here...

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Monday, May 28, 2018

Motivation Monday-Quotes to Inspire & Empower!

Greetings, Readers!
I hope this holiday Monday finds you enjoying great food, great fun and great weather ( in whatever geographic region you reside).
I thought this might be a good time to share words of inspiration and wisdom to get you through the week, as we keep those who died for our collective freedoms in our prayers and thoughts.

So grab a cup of your favorite brew and let's get started...


& Make You Think

"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."
---Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
---Henry David Thoreau
"The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage."
"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations."
"Never say anything which doesn't improve the silence."
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
---Eleanor Roosevelt
"Successful people have big libraries. So read to succeed!"
---Shel Horowitz
It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”
---Tom Brokaw
"The best way out is always through."
---Robert Frost
"Once you choose hope, anything's possible."
---Christopher Reeve
 "Be still. And know that I am God."
---Psalm 46:10
Thoughts? What's your favorite quote?
Any of the ones listed appeal to you?
Image Credits: Pixabay.com


Monday, May 21, 2018

Resources, Reviews & Reads-The 3R's Series!













Some time ago, I attended a poetry event, and while stuffing my face with the assorted goodies, I sought a napkin to clear the evidence    wipe my hands and crumb-filled mouth.
I grabbed a few that were situated nearby.
It's not often that I take notice of paper products; most are not worthy of mention. True?
But something caught my eye.
In addition to the colorful print design, the napkin displayed some text.
Upon closer observation, I realized the words were actually "party prompts."
Conversation starters to help "break the ice" and add a little interest to the evening.
What a cool, innovative idea!
Check out these Conversation Napkins here. There is even a version for educators to use in the classroom.
With the party season upon us, I intend to add them to my shopping list. You should too.
People will be talking about the fun they had days after the party is over.
And remember, good conversations often usher in future relationships.

I give this thoughtful and functional product  ***** 5 stars out of 5.
Pick them up at your local Walmart or online.
This concludes our series for this month.
Thanks for reading.
What's your favorite aspect of the 3Rs series today? Do tell.
Image credit: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Top Tips for Using Writing Time Productively


One of my biggest fears as a writer is being inefficient and wasting my writing time.
After all, time is the only non-renewable resource we have. Making the most of writing time is key to achieving success as an independent writer.
Today, I’d like to share my top tips for using your writing time productively. There are a mixture of ideas and techniques so hopefully you find something that resonates with you.

Experiment Until You Find Your Best Way Of Working

There’s nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed as a writer. It’s an absolute productivity and confidence killer.
One of the best ways to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed is to experiment with your working environment and style until you find a rhythm that works well for you.

Some of the factors to experiment with include -

Your writing location. Sometimes, changing environment can increase your output. This could involve writing in a totally different location, such as a coffee shop or coworking space, or simply switching to a different room in your house.
The time of day you write. If you have flexibility regarding the time of day you write, consider seeing if making a change helps your productivity. Some people assume they work better at a particular time of day, but when they actually test this, they find it to be untrue.
The ratio of writing/resting time and your total writing time. Some people are sprinters, others are more slow and steady. Experimenting with your writing pattern can help unlock extra productivity.

Use Apps To Maximize Your Productivity

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything, and writer productivity is no exception.
Consider using the following tools to help increase your output and focus -

 Forest - Are you often distracted by your smartphone? We all know that apps are designed to monopolize our attention through irresistible notifications and other forms of manipulation. Forest is a cool way of staying off your smartphone by growing a tree during the period you stay focused. If you cave in and check your phone, the tree dies!

Ommwriter - One of the hazards of writing is staying on track regarding word count and not getting distracted by the myriad possibilities your computer offers. Ommwriter is a minimalist writing interface which pairs visual and audio content to enhance your focus and keep you in the zone.

Focus - Human willpower is a finite thing. Thankfully, Focus takes the choice to be productive out of your hands. You can set Focus to prevent access to certain websites and apps for a defined period of time, forcing you to write.

These three apps are the tip of the iceberg. No matter your struggle or challenge with focus and time management, there’s an app for that!

Track Your Time

“What gets measured gets managed” - Peter Drucker

Do you ever have the feeling that time has flown by, but you have nothing to show for it?
Often, knowing precisely where our time is spent is the key to using it in a more productive way.
Rescue Time tracks everything you do and presents it to you in an impossible to ignore report. You can then use this as a basis for altering the time you spend on any particular task in order to focus on your priorities rather than procrastination.

It’s important to not go overboard with this. Just as diets need cheat days, and bodybuilders need periods of rest, you need to allow time for your brain to rest and recharge. This is essential to avoiding creative burnout.

Time Management Takeaways

I trust that this article has been a productive use of your time!

To recap -
Experiment with your working pattern
● Find apps designed to overcome your personal challenges
● Track your time and make sure you’re spending it wisely

Your turn.

If you have any time management tips you think your fellow writers would love, it would be wonderful to hear from you in the comments.


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 credit: Pixabay.com