"Learn more. Earn more." Required reading for today's smart writer! As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati and other award-winning sites.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

See Your Possibilities Differently! An Interview With Writer Maribel Steel


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

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

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doing something worthwhile at my computer, I decided to start a simple blog where I would post stories from the unpublished manuscript.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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your turn, readers...

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

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


Friday, March 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Accordingly, here are a few things to consider.


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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Jennifer Brown Banks-Jen's Office 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

10 Commandments to Better Time Management for Writers...

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, March 19, 2015

The "Roar Series" Continues the Salute to Women of Achievement- With Noelle Sterne, Ph.D.

Guest Post
Trying too Hard to Write

I usually know when I’m trying too hard. The first sign is quiet giggling to myself at my puns and murmuring admiration of my turns of phrase. The second is imagining readers’ gasps of delight at my ingenuity. The third, and most important, is a warning flare—Oh, oh, ego’s rising.

If I don’t heed that yellow-red flare, I know it heralds disaster. I’m trying too hard. The work cannot help reflect this overconscious effort. Somehow, the technique, wordplay, and resplendent diction overpower whatever message I want to convey.

In The Writer’s Book of Wisdom: 101 Rules for Mastering Your Craft, Stephen Taylor Goldsberry’s Number 36 admonishes, “Try not to overdo it. . . . Beware of contrived lyrical embellishment and fluffy metaphors” (p. 87). And, I would add, of eloquent, balanced rhetoric. And repetition for effect. And overly ripe similes. And too- intricate expositions and too-pithy observations.

After reading Eat Pray Love, I saw a transcript somewhere of an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert. Working on her next book, she said, she produced 500 pages trying to imitate that first bestseller in a similar breezy, flippant, and pseudo-deep style. Gilbert eventually realized what she was doing and admitted to junking—courageously—the whole new manuscript.

Once she no longer overconsciously tried to duplicate that success with all its rhetorical garnishes, she wrote a completely different book. Although Committed was not as successful as Eat Pray Love, its style and Gilbert’s reflections are honest and wholly appropriate to its subject, her misgivings about marriage.

Like Gilbert in her post E-P-L foray, when we try to write impressively, even with all our might, we end up failing or at least falling short. A friend tells about his father, who came from Italy, settled in New Jersey, and founded an automotive products store. As a twelve-year-old, my friend helped after school in the store. One day, his father instructed him to unpack a shipment of tires and stack them in a certain corner for maximum display. The boy answered, “I’ll try.”

In his limited but effective English, his father bellowed, “No try! You do!” And my friend did. And never forgot the lesson.

Our writing lesson? We don’t try. We do, or don’t. Maybe it means not writing at all for a while. Or writing a lot of nonsense first, accompanied by that horrid hollow feeling. Or using the slash/option method incessantly (one of my favorites/best practices/most helpful methods/greatest techniques for skirting stuckness and continuing to slog). Maybe it means going back countless times to excise, refine, replace, restructure, or even, like Gilbert, pitch it all out.

Trying means we’re writing too self-consciously, usually to impress or force. In contrast, doing, like my friend’s immigrant father knew, means total immersion. However many drafts we need, however many dunks in the uncertain creative mud we can dare, our success rests not in trying but doing.

So, I tell myself, Stop trying to be clever and knowing. Stop trying to beat out your writing colleagues. Stop trying to show off your wit. Stop trying to replicate your just-success. All these tryings cut off your talent and expressive truth. Especially, they all choke off your honesty as a writer.

When you let yourself stop trying, watch your writing flow. 
Your turn readers. Can you relate to this? Anything that resonates here?

Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne publishes writing craft, spiritual articles, and essays in print and online publications. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle assists doctoral candidates to completion of their dissertations (finally). Based on her practice, her new handbook addresses these students’ largely overlooked but equally important nonacademic difficulties. Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2015). In Noelle's Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she helps readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Brain Food for Bloggers-Thoughts and Lessons on Writing, Cooked up from my Kitchen


To some folks, the notion may seem a little bit "half-baked." That spending time in the kitchen could conceivably help to enhance the creative process. But it has for me, and it can for you too.
As a writer and a proud "foodie," I find that expressing myself in the kitchen is just an extension of my overall creativity.

Much like writing, cooking appeals to the senses. It's visually stimulating. It feeds the soul and the spirit. It calls for following directions and steps. And successful execution requires just the "write" balance and blend.
Accordingly, here are a few things I've learned from my culinary experiences to date.
See if you agree with the correlations here.

Jen's Homemade Brownies

1. Tastes differ.
You can't please everybody all the time. Here's a case in point. Years ago, I made a pasta salad that met with "rave reviews" when I unveiled it at a backyard barbeque at my place. I was tickled pink. Weeks later, I excitedly decided to share it with my honey. After sampling it, he made one simple suggestion. His recommendation? That I remove it from his future menu options. He hated it. Oh well. Who woulda' knew?!
Writing can be that way too. You receive a bad book review on something you've published. A Blog reader lashes out at you through comments. An editor is critical of your ability. Don't let it define or diminish you. Keep cookin', baby!

2. Mastery requires practice.
Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Becoming a "hot" writer, much like being a good cook, takes time, patience, experimentation, a willingness to improve, and an adventurous spirit. Keep at it. Try new things. Laugh at your mistakes. Modify as you learn. Season to taste.
Jen's Fruit Tray

3. Passion produces "sizzling" results.
Without "passion," your writing is missing a key ingredient. And it shows. If you don't enjoy what you do, quite often your blog will come across as bland, unoriginal, and perfunctory in nature.
Which is why it's crucial that bloggers choose a topic that they feel connected to and inspired by.
To maintain the momentum, and provide quality posts, some background knowledge in the subject matter helps as well. I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. I also dig helping people.
This has definitely fueled my efforts here at Pen & Prosper.

4. Left-overs can be "re-purposed" for those seeking to "work smarter, not harder." 
For me, Friday night's baked chicken often becomes Saturday's Macaroni Salad, or chicken sandwiches. The same principle applies to creative projects.
Revisit and revise pieces that are tucked away in your old files. Give them some new flava'.
Take a "retired" poem, add a little historical information, and submit it for National Poetry Month, for April. Reslant an old article for a new market.  The possibilities are endless.

5. Organization leads to greater efficiency.
Too much clutter can cloud thinking and waste time. Have you ever eagerly sat at your desk to create an article, interview, or book chapter and been frustrated because you couldn't locate important notes? Or find a needed phone number? Most of us have. Whether it's in the kitchen or in your office, being orderly and having good systems in place enhances your efforts. Since Spring cleaning is on the horizon, don't forget to tidy up your office area and files, along with your kitchen.

Jen's Peanut Butter Cookies
To sum things up here, for me, cooking has provided the "secret sauce" to a better writing experience.

...Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a breakfast platter.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Your turn.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? What would you add?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Welcome to the "Roar" Series-Featuring Prolific Author & Award-winning Blogger, C.S. Lakin

As many of you are aware, March is nationally recognized as Women's History Month.
In conjunction, for the last few years, I have produced a popular series ("Roar"), that seeks to highlight, honor and support the collective contributions of successful women worldwide.
Today's interview continues the tradition with author C.S. Lakin. Please join me in welcoming her to Pen and Prosper.

Q. Welcome, Susanne! Can you share a little about who you are and your professional background, with Pen and Prosper readers?

A. Sure. I’ve been writing novels for about thirty years, on and off, and have had a long and challenging writing journey. After writing six novels and going through three literary agents, I finally landed a publishing contract after 23 years. It was quite disheartening, for I spent years really working on my craft and trying to be the best novelist I could be. I got into editing and then critiquing manuscripts about five years ago, then realized how much I loved teaching writing and mentoring writers. So my focus shifted to working full-time as a copyeditor and writing coach, teaching workshops, and providing free instruction and encouragement via my blog Live Write Thrive. I went on writing, and now have sixteen novels and four writing craft books out (my Writer’s Toolbox Series), and although I’ve had six agents and nine books traditionally published, I had landed all my contracts myself via conferences and contests, and now solely self-publish (and love it).

Growing up, I was immersed in the world of television, with a mother screenwriter/producer and stepfather director/producer, so I grew up on sets and around actors, which greatly influenced both my writing style and teaching methods.
Q. What is a typical day like? Do you write every day?

A. Nope. I hardly find time to write. Usually I just set aside two months of the year and tell my clients I’m busy writing and just burn out a book or two. I do write my writing craft material via my blog and in short bursts, but I rarely write. Next week I plan to take one day off to plot out my next novella and will take four days off later this month to write it (and plan to publish in April).
Q. I see you’ve recently released another book. Congratulations! With all the craft books saturating the market, what makes “The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction” different? What one thing do you want readers to take away from it?

A. This book is greatly different from anything out there. It’s the product of all my years of editing and thousands of critiques. Meaning, I see the same issues, problems, mistakes, and challenges over and over with novice writers, and two of the hardest challenges for writers is to get novel and scene structure and to go from idea to fleshed-out novel. So my method really tackles a holistic way of building a story, as well as showing how brainstorming and mind mapping will take you there. My workbook actually includes sample mind maps and an idea I came up with and show developed using the questions and prompts in the workbook.
Q. What would it surprise others to know about you? Any guilty pleasures?

A. I’m proud to admit my chocolate addiction. No guilt.
Q. Your blog, Live, Write, Thrive has been recognized with “Top Blog” honors for several years consecutively. What‘s the secret to becoming a blogging rock star?

A. Wow, I don’t feel like a star, but I’m honored by the recognition. I strive to put a ton of quality time into the content I give away on my blog and fully believe in giving away lots of free instruction and helping other writers find joy and success in their journey. This has been such a great joy for me—getting to know so many other bloggers who have the same love of teaching and helping other writers. All these top bloggers who help writers are doing this as a labor of love—for others and for writing—and it’s fantastic. I benefit just as much by reading others’ blogs and material as I hope my readers glean from my blog. We all give and it goes around. We live in a new era where writers are helping one another instead of competing for those few coveted publishing spots with traditional publishers. Now, everyone can publish, have best sellers, grow their fan base, and enjoy success (whatever that means to you).

Q. You’re trapped on a desert island with only two books in your possession for your reading enjoyment. What are they? And why?

A. Well, the Bible is a given, since it’s my life and my faith. But . . . if you said fiction . . . I would choose my novels The Map across Time and Intended for Harm. Self-centered? Maybe. But those books are so deep and close to my heart, and speak to my core and all that I struggle with, need, and embrace. I need to read those books every year but I don’t have the time. If I had to choose some other author’s book, that would be tough. I love so many novels. I really couldn’t choose. Here are some: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman), The God Hater (Bill Myers), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), The Book of Atrix Wolf (Patricia McKilip).
Q. What are your thoughts on the importance of social media for today’s writer? Blessing or burden?

A. Good question. Too many choices, too much time wasted, yet great ways to connect. Easy to get addicted and waste time. So it’s mixed.

Q. As a writer, what’s the biggest challenge you face?

A. To stay off the Internet. I’m getting more and more easily distracted and ADD due to all the ways I can not work or write. Sometimes I go to the mountains and use a yellow pad and pen to plot out novels where there is no phone reception or Internet. Seriously, my self-control has been slipping, as if I’m dying of a terminal illness. Maybe there is a ghost in those machines that is taking over. So my fight is always with my attention span and determination to focus without distraction. Writing is never hard or a problem once I’m doing it.
Q. Of all the creative “hats” you wear, which is your favorite?

A. Great question. I would say editing and helping writers is the most fulfilling. It’s always more blessed and joyful to give than to receive. I love to teach in person and via my blog and with my individual clients. If you hire me to help you with your project, I’m there 110%. I love seeing so many of my clients write awesome books and become best-selling authors (not everyone does, but watching that process is exciting, and seeing their joy and success makes me feel all warm and fuzzy all over!).
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

A. If you are striving to become a great writer, and particularly a novelist, know it’s a long haul and a huge learning curve. Get professional help (no, not a therapist, although we writers do need that!), hire a writing coach, get a professional critique. Don’t go too far without that help. Writers waste years of their life writing badly structured books and not knowing it. Buy all my books and subscribe to my blog! (seriously, they will help you and spare you a lot of wasted time and heartache!).

Thanks for having me here!
You're quite welcome.

To learn more about C.S. Lakin, her books, products, or services, visit  Live, write, Thrive.

Questions or feedback readers?