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.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April's Announcements...

Happy Sunday!
It's been a busy week with lots of juggling and the promise of better weather here in the Midwest.
How about you?
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I'd like to take this time to share a few things of potential interest to you, as you move forward in your week.

I also welcome you to join me in posting any events, success stories, and items of interest in the comments section.


  • Bryan Hutchinson, over at PositiveWriter.com, is sponsoring a fun contest at his spot on Overcoming Writer's Doubt. Great topic, right? No entry fee is required, and winners will receive Amazon Gift Cards up to $100.00 for their entries. For more details, see: http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-doubt/
  •  Sarah Webb, over at Colorism Healing.org is sponsoring a poetry contest for April on Colorism. Win up to $250.00 and publication on her site. Additional contest info found here: http://colorismhealing.org/colorism-poetry-contest-submissions-u-s-edition/
  • A special thanks to Elizabeth Spann Craig, who featured one of my guest posts on her award-winning site. Just in case you missed it, (Think like an editor, sell like a pro), check it out here: http://elizabethspanncraig.com/1950/freelance-writing-think-like-editor-sell-like-pro/
  • April is National Poetry Month and National Jazz Awareness Month. If you have poems, essays, or creative pieces you'd like featured at Pen & Prosper, I'd love to hear from you.
  • Congrats to my blogging buddy Karen E. Lange, who is celebrating her 5th year Blogoversary, and who has been kind enough to accept one of my guest posts, slated to run tomorrow. Please stop over and say hello, here: http://karenelange.blogspot.com/
  • A special thanks to Marcie Hill, for inclusion in her "15 Most Powerful Women" recognition.
  • Jen will be "out of the building." Pen and Prosper will be on a short vacation break starting April 14th, ending April 28th. Check back in at that time for more guest posts, great ways to blog better and take-away tips to build your bottom line.

Have a great week with loads of writing progress!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

What Feeds the Spirit Feeds our Creativity...

In the online "virtual" world, I am privileged to enjoy and embrace friendships and associations with some awesome individuals.  All sorts of folks from all racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds, from all around the world.
We share stories, useful links, job leads, and collaborate creatively.

Three cheers for the Internet and how it has allowed us to connect and enrich one another, learn and grow together!

But, in the "real" physical world, I find that I prefer the intimacy of a small group of people.
I'm very selective about the people I call "friend."
Even the "Good Book" admonishes us to "guard the heart."

So, each March, in conjunction with Women's History Month, I celebrate the fabulous females that comprise my "inner circle."
Sisters, with whom there is no need to compete.
All accomplished in our own way--
Sisters who accept me with all my flaws and shortcomings. Women who celebrate me, not just tolerate me. :-)

I do this through a "Girls' Night" event sponsored at my home.
We laugh together, break bread together, talk about guys, and enjoy a toast or two to celebrate our bond.
Some of these chicks I've known since college days; others became friends as a result of our love of writing and creativity. Among us are teachers, a retired cop, and other service professionals.

Which brings me to today's topic...  
I find that the things that feed our soul and spirit can also feed our mind and creativity.
How about you?

For me, it's spending time with bright, bodacious friends, and sharing good food and stimulating conversation. The gathering and support seems to make some of the other harsh events experienced in life more palatable.
Perhaps for you it's spending time with nature, or planting your rose garden, or a church service, or cooking in the kitchen.

Whatever the indulgence, in the aftermath, you feel lighter, more optimistic, joyful, inspired, blessed.
The more you are fed, the more you can feed others---through your words, through lessons learned,
through a bigger harvest.

How about you?
What feeds your spirit?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Q & A With Author Wendy Burt Thomas

As the "Roar Series" continues, I hope you'll join me in welcoming Wendy Burt Thomas to Pen and Prosper. Wendy and I go back a bit, and she's one of my favorite online writing connections.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is the author of “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters” and three other books. Her published pieces include more than 2,000 articles, essays, short stories and poems. She works as a full-time freelance writer, editor and PR consultant from her home in Colorado Springs.
1. Do you write everyday? Do you think that it's important for other writers?
I write every weekday. Sometimes I need to work on the weekends, but if I don’t, I do very little writing so I can spend time with my family. I do keep a notepad next to my bed to jot down ideas, but I don’t want to look back someday and think I missed my kids’ childhoods because I was so consumed with writing. I do think it’s vital that writers write—and read—a lot, but it doesn’t have to be every day.
2. Where are you most inspired to write? (at home in tub, local coffee shop, etc.)
I do most of my writing at home on my computer. However, I do still love the feeling of a notepad and great pen! Although I enjoy writing at the park, it’s often hard to stay focused with so much going on around me. As writers, there’s a balance we need to find between our love of writing and letting the world pass us by. It’s the irony of writing a sci fi story without noticing that a spaceship has landed in front of you.
3. If you could receive a 6th sense, what would it be?
Dogs have a special place in my heart and I would love to be able to read their minds and communicate with them. Having a “mental conversation”with animals could change so much in our world. (I can’t even hear Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” song without crying!)
4. If there were a song to describe your life's philosophy, what would it be?
“Anything” by Hedley. It’s a fun, funny song (warning: bad language!) about how “I can do anything.” It’s sort of my philosophy with writing. My degree is in psychology but I’ve been writing all my life. Whenever I see a writing gig that sounds fun or if a client asks me to do something I know nothing about I say, “Why not? I’ll try it!” It’s gotten me very far in my career! I’ve written games, greeting cards, mugs, plaques and countless other fun things that I wouldn’t have done if I’d put my skills in a box based only on experience.
5. What talent do you wish you had?
 I wish I had a gymnast’s flexibility. I am so stiff from sitting at a desk for years that I feel like I’m 43 going on 143! I was an athlete in my high school and college years and I let it all go. Being able to paint my own toenails sounds like a “talent” right now.
6. Who are your favorite authors and why?
I love Anne Lamott and David Sedaris because they both make me laugh out loud. I’ve also read all but the latest of Sue Graftons’ alphabet series, which I enjoy because it’s pre- personal technology (cell phones, email, texting, Internet) so she has to do everything “old school.” And my father, Steve Burt, is also a writer. He’s won numerous awards for his YA paranormal books in the “FreeK” series and I love editing his first drafts.
7. What project are you working on now?
I’ve got three full-time clients and several part-time clients for whom I do a mix of writing, editing, PR and copywriting. But I’m also in the middle of pitching TV ideas and writing a (comedy) screenplay. I love trying new things even if I’m not always “successful” by industry standards.
I think it’s that they don’t learn enough about the business because they think the rules don’t apply to them. They don’t understand that an editor’s job is to help you, that agents can make you more money than you’d get on your own, and that publishing houses have rules (like “no unagented submissions”) for a reason. If you want to make money as a writer, you’ve got to learn the rules so you can figure out how things (generally) work. And don’t rely solely on your mom’s opinion of your writing. She thinks everything you do is wonderful. Get a professional opinion to find out where you can improve your writing.
 Thoughts, readers? Questions on queries for the "Query Queen?" 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Cleaning for Writers

Spring cleaning is on the horizon.
Many of us will be diligently cleaning our closets, purging papers, and releasing the dust bunnies held hostage.
Some things may even be re purposed in the process.

But don't let your efforts for enhanced living end there.
Why not apply it to your creative work as well? I did.

A few of my "orphan" pieces found a home on a relationship site. And the best part is I got paid the same day, without any additional work.
And you can too.

As a way of working "smarter, not harder" this season, take a look at your computer files and file cabinet folders.
Purge, merge; see what you can find.
What can be tweaked, expanded, or reslanted?
A former feature could be updated and given new life with more current statistics or study findings.

What pieces that you've previously sold could you possibly submit to reprint markets as is?
As long as you retain the rights, you're certainly free to do so.

Perhaps a fictional piece could become a poem.

The sky's the limit.

Keep reaching...


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How to Help More Clients "Afford" You and $eal the Deal!

Let's face it.
In a perfect world, writers wouldn't have to haggle over fees at bidding sites that offer bargain basement compensation for our time and talent. Or accept blogging assignments that pay five dollars for five hundred words.
Or settle for free "exposure" for our efforts.

We'd be contracted at the same generous rates as other creative professionals. Think about it.
Rap singers earn millions. Comedians are "laughing their way to the bank."

And actors and screenwriters live "Red Carpet" lifestyles.
Certainly we deserve a bigger piece of the pie comparatively.
But, here are a few things we must contend with until things change...  

First off, there is the misperception that "If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you too can become a writer; anyone can do it."
This myth continues to devalue our profession.

Then there's the economy.
We're living in tough times where many folks are trying to get more for their money.
We've been forced to do more with fewer resources.

But, a writer has got to eat, right?
With this being the case, sometimes it behooves us to be "strategic" as well as creative, when it comes to dealing with clients and negotiating rates for our services.
And need I mention, that depending upon your individual circumstances and your experience in this industry, some money is better than none at all. Hello?

As a veteran freelancer who has had to cut more deals than a hostage negotiator, I offer the following tips to add to your bottom line objectives.

Give yourself the best bargaining power.  Quote a price that's too high, they may seek services elsewhere. Pitch too low, and you may end up cheating yourself.
In the initial stage, talk less--listen more.

If there's no wiggle room with the price, the frequency can be tweaked.
For example, if a client can only afford $100.00 a month for his blog to be updated, instead of updating it weekly, you can counter with updates 2x per month. Make sense?
Some time ago, I met a client who lived in my area, who was just starting her business and needed an array of services. I liked her right away, and wanted to work together.
As a start-up with very limited funds however, she couldn't offer me what I felt I was worth to help build her business. The solution? I provided her the opportunity to have me do the writing and content for her site, while she would be responsible for providing her own research and statistical data for the project. It came out cheaper for her, and translated into less time and mental wear and tear for me. It was a win/win here.
Sometimes being "creative" means offering clients discounted rates for multiple services; or a lower rate if they pay the entire fee upfront, (as opposed to monthly payments); or rewards for repeat business and referrals."It works if you work it." :-)

Sure, you can purchase some of the same items at Wal-Mart as you can at Neiman Marcus; it's the "perceived" value that makes the difference. To increase yours, make sure to mention Case Studies of how you've helped clients to solve a problem in their business, or increased traffic to their site significantly, or saved them time. Discuss how your years of experience and A-list clients would dictate more compensation than the "5 dollar writer."
Having testimonials on your site and any writing-related awards can be effective as well.
People will typically pay more for things they feel will enhance them, make their lives easier, or services that are highly regarded by others.

On a final note here...Once you get your foot in the door, many times it's possible to ask for a raise and more competitive rates. The key is to keep as many doors open as possible; you never know just where it may lead.

Agree or disagree?
Thoughts here? Have you ever had to play "Let's Make a Deal" with clients?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Roar Series Continues! Guest Post by Nina Amir

Attitude Provides the Key to Author Success

I’ve seen the overwhelmed and discouraged look more often than I can count. It usually descends across a face during a writers’ conference or workshop as an aspiring author first discovers the truth about becoming a successful, published author.

I had that look, too, when I learned I couldn’t just be a writer; I had to be much more. I had to be a promoter, speaker, businessperson, social networker, media darling, and PR specialist, for example. Generally, I needed to be a good author-platform builder, because a built-in readership for a book is a necessity for any writer wanting a successful career as an author.

Choose Your Attitude
If you don’t like doing these things, don’t want to do them or don’t have the funds to get help accomplishing them, it’s easy to feel frustrated—especially if your decision to become an author was based on your love of writing. And, let’s face it; most authors love writing. That’s why we write!

When you learn the truth about what’s needed to succeed as an author, therefore, you might just take a defeatist attitude and give up. Or, you might simply say, “I’ll just write and see what happens,” an attitude that basically leaves your career to chance. The better thing to do, as I found, is to change your attitude.

Attitude can mean the difference between success and failure—unpublished or published—for an aspiring author. I know this well. I spent many years trying to get published and to be successful as an author. I self-published a few books that didn’t succeed because I didn’t do any of the things necessary to help them sell; success in the publishing industry is calculated in book sales. I also tried to land a literary agent and to get a traditional publishing deal, but to no avail.

When I made an important decision, everything changed. The decision was simple: I refused to fail. Simply, I was going to become a successful, traditionally published author. Period.

That changed my attitude—and my results.

At that moment, I stopped resisting the things I had to do to succeed, like:

· Social networking
· Promotion
· Speaking
· Business
· Branding
· Radio personality

Instead of fighting against platform building, I wrapped my arms around it. I learned to love it and all other aspects of becoming a successful, published author because they represented ways to help me reach my goal of successful authorship.

Move Faster Toward Your Goal of Successful Authorship
In so doing, I found that I moved much more quickly in that direction, and I accomplished more in less time. Previously I spent eight or more years struggling to get published. After this decision, it took just four years to hold a traditionally published book—and an Amazon bestseller at that—in my hands.

The other day someone at a conference asked me what I did differently after I decided that I refused to fail. I started to say, “I blogged more, spent more time on social networks…” The truth was, I did do those things but only because my attitude changed. The reason I succeed had less to do with what I did from that point forward and more to do with my attitude.

About the Author
You can learn more about “Author Attitude” in Nina Amir’s new book,
The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively (Writer’s Digest Books, March 2014). Amir, who is also the author of How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books), transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. A sought-after author, book, blog-to-book, and results coach, some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. www.ninaamir.com




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stuck on Stats? 4.5 Reasons to Move Beyond Them!

Numbers count.
Few would argue that in our society and culture, numbers serve as a qualifier for success metrics, standards of beauty, levels of excellence, and even taboos that govern how we live.
For example, a woman who is rated a "10" by members of the opposite sex is perceived to be a real "man magnet."  There are "7 deadly sins" we should all strive not to commit, and the age of 21 is considered the entry to adulthood.

So, it stands to reason that we would obsess about figures.
And blogging tends to be no different.
We agonize that our numbers may not be impressive enough.
Or even worse: that they're stagnant.
We fret over our followers or lack thereof.

As a result, we monitor our stats daily. Sometimes multiple times a day.
We check to see if our visitors are increasing. If our bounce rate is good.
We count are comments. We track our traffic.
We peek to see our peak periods of the week.
We ponder why one post was more popular than the others.

Here's a reality check: Stop the madness.
I admit, that I sometimes check my Google Analytics more often than a new mother checks in on a sleeping baby. Crazy, right?
Well, I've gotten better. And you can too.


  1. Numbers don't measure everything.
What I mean here, is that even when your stats are down, you should keep your head up
If you've remained consistent, week after week, month after month, year after year, you should be proud. Blogging is hard, and many folks are falling by the waist side. If you're still at it, there's reason to celebrate!

2. Sometimes, it's not how many people are reading you that's important, it's "who's" reading you that can make the difference.

Here's a case in point. My numbers don't always meet my hopes or expectations when I check my Google Analytics, but even with a modest following, I've garnered some recognition that I'm pretty happy with. Last year I was honored as a "Top 100 Blog for Modern Writers," and in January this year, received "The 25 Top Writing Blogs" designation.  Keep being excellent despite obstacles and disappointments. Your work may matter to more people than your stats capture.

3. Numbers can be fickle.

They fluctuate. Despite our best efforts, readership can decrease during holidays, during the summer months, or any number of variables we can't control.

4. The more we stress over stats, the less time we have to produce quality work that changes lives.

I was listening to an interview recently with Lee Daniels (The Butler)When he was asked if he's sometimes frustrated with the lack of recognition his films receive from the awards industry, he stated that when you create with the wrong reasons, you lose your passion for the work. He also commented that he shares the stories he wants to tell, in his own way...without seeking approval. Not a bad idea for bloggers either.


Because growth takes time. That you can count on.

So, keep in mind that it's okay to look at your numbers to assess and address...just don't stress!

What's your story?