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, September 21, 2014

4 Reasons Cooking Shows Make the Perfect Recipe For Writing Success...Part 2



Jen's Deviled eggs
Would you like to "turn up the heat" on your writing career?Improve your "presentation" skills? Enhance your creativity?
Here's the ticket, in two words: cooking shows.

I've said it before, but it merits repeating.
So, here's a refresher...
Cooking shows are a great way to learn more about the craft of writing and how to approach your projects with greater purpose, passion, and vision.

And I should know. As a culinary cutie, I'm often glued to the tube, watching weekly shows to get new ideas on old recipes; I love to cook for family and friends, and I find it rather relaxing.


Jen's Homemade Cole Slaw
But even if you don't dig the idea of "slaving in front of a hot stove," you may enjoy the TV cooking competitions, for their entertainment factor and the teachable moments they provide in the way of writing lessons.

Here are a few of them. See if you'll agree.

4. Poor time management can have disastrous results.  
I've witnessed more than a time or two when talented cooks on various shows have mis-managed their time, (due to disorganization, improper planning, or not accounting for "Murphy's Law").  As a result, they served up raw meat that wasn't allowed to sufficiently cook, or literally threw their dishes together (to finish within the allotted time), and lost points for poor presentation. They ended up being ousted from the competition. And lost a lot of money in the process!  Writers sometimes suffer similar perils, when serving up "half-baked" pitches to editors,  missing important deadlines with clients, or not taking the time to proofread their work before publishing. Don't be one of them.

3.  You have to be able to successfully handle the "heat."
Hell's Kitchen is one of my favorite programs. And though I've never had to cook in a professional capacity, I have worked with people, who like Chef Ramsey have the sensitivity of Howard Stern.
And you will too. Sometimes editors' critiques can be brutal. Readers may not always agree with our position on a particular issue, or we may get a book review that is embarrassing.
Word to the wise: If you don't develop a thick skin, you'll never be able to go the distance. Don't be bitter, be better.

2. Making the best of the situation will ultimately make you a better writer.
Let's face it. We all have encountered professional situations that have been less than "ideal." Being assigned a story that we don't like, getting last minute requests that prove challenging, or having the parameters of a project changed. But, as they say, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish" that matters. For example, on a recent episode of Master Chef, the cooks were dealt a difficult task.
The mission? They had to make appetizing dishes out of the brains, heart, and testicles of selected animals. Not your usual cooking ingredients, right? Though some were initially repulsed by the idea, they were able to work through it and advance in the competition. Learn to "craft" something beautiful from raw, "unrefined" materials, when necessary.


Jen's Homemade Cheese Cake


 1. Don't let fear limit your horizons.
By nature, I'm not a person who likes to take a lot of risks. I don't consider myself bold or particularly experimental. But, as a creative artist, I often find that I have to be. How else will I challenge myself and reach new heights? Or learn from trial and error? Or develop new skills? I remember when computers first came out, I was really intimidated. Technology was something I didn't think I could successfully master. But, once I got over it, I increased my skill set and my bottom line.
The same thing applies to my cooking. Many times, I had to toss my "experiments" in the garbage and start over again. (And no one ever knew). :-) With some trial and error and tweaking, I can now serve things that I'm proud of, and that appeal to the tastes of many. Yay!
What fear do you need to conquer to move forward?
Perhaps it's a book that you lack the courage to release. Or addressing a controversial topic on your blog. Or starting the first step of a writing career.  Take inventory. Take baby steps. But do it.
"There's no time like the present."


Thoughts?
Agree or disagree? What "ingredients" would you add here?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Announcements & Updates...

September has only recently been ushered in, and it's off to a busy start for me!
I'm working on a few new book ideas, editing for other authors, and some other fun and engaging stuff.

With this being the case, Pen and Prosper will likely be updated once weekly, (until further notice)- unless there's something "news breaking" or exciting that I would like to share with you.

Not to worry...you can still count on quality posts, periodic job opportunities and creative leads, contests, reviews, and advice on how to hone your craft and increase your cash.
So, stay tuned...
Do me a favor? If you find anything that I provide to be particularly useful or even encouraging, please drop a comment to the site to let me know.

This helps to navigate the future direction of this Blog; not to mention, it keeps a girl motivated and feeling appreciated! :-)

Here's the 4-1-1 on news and views for this week...

  • Many of you may remember some time ago, that several "big name" blogs stopped accepting guest posts, due to the lack of quality of submissions. Well, I'm happy to report that Daily Blog Tips has now revised its policy to accept guest posts again. It's a great site with a large following, and I have been fortunate to have my work featured in the past. So, if guest posting is one of your goals for 2014, I would suggest that you check it out. See it here.  
  • Do you have a frustration with punctuation? If so, you'll find "PUNCTUATION...?" to be a very helpful and engaging reference guide to assist you in becoming a better communicator. It's brief, but substantive, and easy to follow. For more info, visit the site at Userdesign.co.uk
  • If you are an author or a business with products of interest to writers, teachers, thought leaders, and those within the creative community, why not consider an Ad here at Pen and Prosper? It's well received, has won numerous industry awards, and the rates are reasonable. Get in where you fit in! Your products and services will be viewed by a diverse (and growing) readership, in more than a half dozen countries! For consideration, please email me at Gemsjen@yahoo.com
  • September is Friendship Month. Make sure to connect with those special individuals that have enhanced your quality of life by saying "thanks" through a card, email, or phone call.
  • I have been alerted that there is a problem with signing up for updates here at the site. I am investigating this, and hope to have it corrected soon. Thanks for your patience.
Have a Super Saturday!

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Muhammad Ali Can Teach Us About Being Better Writers!

Today's post is sure to pose some skepticism at first glance.
To tell the truth, its ideation and evolution even surprised me.
I'll pull no punches here. I have never been a big fan of boxing.

In fact, the few times I have viewed it, was through slightly-covered eyes. On an intellectual level, I find this "sport" to be a bit frantic and stressful to watch, for my particular taste.
Yet, ironically, I am a recent fan of the former heavy weight champ, Ali.

Let me rewind here before we move forward, (for clarity sake)...

Over the last few months, various TV channels in my area have aired some pretty interesting documentaries, movies and tributes on the "Champ". Though I've always known who he was, I never knew what he stood for.

Few would disagree that he's an intriguing character indeed. Not to mention, he was a real "hunk" back in the day.  Certainly not your typical rough looking, intimidating, bruised boxer type. Anyhow, I found the more I was exposed to of his life and legacy, the more I admired him.
Ali was more than a boxer; here was an entertainer, an athlete, an activist, a strategist, a philosopher, poet, and more; "boasting" many followers and fans.

You can too, if you apply the following practices and principles that helped shape his career.
There's a winner in you too!

HERE'S WHAT I LEARNED FROM HIS LEGACY...

1. When you fall, have the courage to get back up.
Whether it's due to the crushing blows delivered by an editor's rejection, a financial hardship caused by the loss of a key client, or simply feeling as if your burdens are too heavy to bear. Get back in the game! Contrary to popular opinion, writing is not easy. It can be grueling, sweaty, painful and exhausting, just like being in the ring. But don't throw in the towel if there's some fight left in you.

2. Walk the talk.
Ali always told us he was "the greatest" and he lived up to it--winning numerous championships and titles before retiring. Before you apply to jobs, approach editors, or work with clients, make sure you can deliver upon your promises, and that you are who you present yourself to be.

3.  Apply humor whenever applicable.
Though Ali was considered a "serious" contender, he was well known for his sense of humor and charm. Many of us can remember how he would often take humorous "jabs" at sportscaster Howard Cossell. This quality made him likeable and unique in his profession. Along the same lines,
best-selling author and pastor, Joel Osteen, begins each sermon with a joke. In these serious times, the ability to make others laugh is a true commodity. Just be sure that it's in good taste and not mean-spirited.

4. Speak your own personal truths.
Stand up for what you believe in. For him, it was opposition to the war. For you, it might be refusing to take on free writing assignments, or choosing not to write for sites that conflict with your moral code, or taking a controversial stand on your Blog. "The truth shall set you free."

5. Discipline and training can help to go the distance.
Ali once shared, "I hated every minute of training , but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."

6. Strategy is just as important as skill.
Ali was able to advance his career by studying the "moves" and weaknesses of his opponents. He would also "get inside their heads" by taunting them and targeting their "Achilles heel."
Learn how to get inside the heads of your readers. What are their needs? Their challenges? Their interests? A way to find out is to conduct periodic surveys through services like Survey Monkey. Or examine the analytics at your site to identify the most popular topics.
Assess then deliver!

In closing, I'll leave you with an Ali quote that sums things up pretty well here.
"Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong."

Share a comment, if you're "up to it." :-)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Meet "The War of the Roses" Author, Warren Adler





Greetings, readers!
Have I got a treat for you here today. As previously mentioned, I had the pleasure of connecting with acclaimed author, Warren Adler recently (who reads my Blog). Yay! Great guy, by the way.

Accordingly, I am proud to present the following interview conducted, as Pen & Prosper readers get a "behind the scenes" look at his success story and his creative process.

I hope you'll join me in extending a warm welcome!
We look forward to your comments and questions.
Now...onto the good part.


Can you tell Pen and Prosper readers a little about your background and how you got started?

I wanted to be a novelist since I was fifteen years old…. Throughout my early career, I would write from five to ten in the morning every day before going to my office, a habit that has stayed with me since. It took me twenty-five years to get my first novel published, at the age of forty-seven. Perhaps it took that long because I write only what inspires me, which is often counter to the market place of the moment. I can’t write formula genre fiction. I need to write in many fictional voices. I write because I must, and believe my books to be a contribution to literature.

Describe your creative process. Do you write every day? Have any weird writing rituals?

Yes, I write every day, especially from five to ten in the morning. My theory about writing novels is that if I knew the ending, I wouldn’t write them. I sort of work it out with my characters and they control their own destiny. When writing novels, you have to imagine the scenario and then the characters begin to develop themselves. A fiction writer understands this and it’s very difficult, because most people are literal about how books are made, but that is the spark and the inspiration. My characters are created from whole cloth, out of my imagination.

 
What's the "story" behind publishing your own E-books? How did that come about?

The motivation for my own authorial decision to turn my back on traditional publishers was both psychological and entrepreneurial. The psychological was purely personal. I am a Depression baby. My father was hard hit during the Depression and it was difficult for him to get and hold a job. He was always at the mercy of others, and I vowed early on never to be beholden to others to make my living. Controlling my own destiny has always been one of my principal obsessions.My mission is to make sure my works endure beyond my lifetime. I did not want to be subjected to the demand and supply of traditional publishing houses. In the traditional business model, the life of a backlist title languishes and fades after just the first year of its release. Because I had been evangelizing e-books, it was the perfect opportunity to bring my backlist titles to the forefront and keep them alive.

Having e-books is like having a second wind, having a whole new life. Today, publishers would not as easily give back rights to authors.


What would surprise others to know about you?
 
I named Watergate. Really. At the time I owned an advertising agency that specialized in real-estate promotion and
politics (for both parties). The builders who worked for the Italian firm that owned the land were my clients. I was an original small investor in the company that had bought the land from the Washington gas company. For years there was a restaurant named Watergate on the property, hence my suggested choice of the name.

My novel, The Henderson Equation, was based on my unique relationship to the national trauma that was the Watergate scandal. I had actually been a consultant to the Republican National Committee and the Nixon White House and knew many of the players that were involved in the Watergate scandal. I was an advisor during Nixon's campaign in 1969 and continued months after his inauguration. 
 
Tell us a little about your current W.I.P. (Work in progress).

I currently have a lot of work in progress on a few different fronts including novels, films, and a TV series. My newest thriller, Treadmill, is slated to be released in September and Currently in development is the Hollywood sequel to The War of the Roses - The War of the Roses: The Children, along with other projects including Capitol Crimes, a television series based on Warren Adler’s Fiona Fitzgerald mystery novels(Bo Derek as Co-Executive Producer), as well as a feature film based on Warren Adler and James Humes’ WWII thriller, Target Churchill, in association with Myles Nestel and Lisa Wilson of The Solution Entertainment Group. The most exciting recent bit of news is that The War of the Roses is heading to Broadway and will be produced by Tony-Award winning veterans Jay and Cindy Gutterman.
 
When you're not creating, who is your favorite author to read?
 
There is always a story going on in my mind, but when I’m not actively writing my favorite book to read is The Red & the Black by Stendhal.
 
What advice would you give others seeking to follow in your footsteps? Do you find formal training or experience to be a better "teacher?"

It’s important to surround yourself with others who are equally as passionate as you are about reading and writing, those are the people who oftentimes become your best teachers. Formal training is not a bad idea either though I wouldn’t necessarily call it “better.” If writing is not the work priority of your life, if the need to write is not paramount, and if it is the main source of your joy and bliss, you know you are made to be a writer. In my opinion, writers are born, not concocted. Stick with it. Keep writing. Believe in yourself and pay no attention to rejection.
 
 
What was the "pivotal point" in your career? 

I yearned to be a writer since my freshman days in college, but various obstacles prevented a full time effort. I married young and was faced with supporting my growing family. I was entrepreneurial and from working on newspapers, I went to founding my own advertising agency. During that period a man walked into my office wanting my agency to promote his book. When he asked for our charges, I told him that his only fee would be if he could get his publisher to publish my first novel. The publisher read the novel which had been written and proceeded to publish it. Of course, I was thrilled and by the time my second novel was published, I was already beginning to unwind my full time businesses to concentrate on my writing full time. I have always had an absolute abiding faith and belief in my talent as a writer. Those who originally rejected me are long gone, faded into the mist. I am still writing and publishing.

Do you have any favorite Blogs? Do tell.

Every blog I come across offers something different and unique so I honestly find it hard to choose. I am a fan of Pen and Prosper, though!


BIO: Warren Adler is best known for
The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring
Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In addition to the success of the stage adaptation of his iconic novel on the perils of divorce, Adler has optioned and sold film rights to more than a dozen of his novels and short stories to Hollywood and major television networks. In recent development are the Broadway Production of The War of the Roses, to be produced by Jay and Cindy Gutterman, The War of the Roses – The Children (Permut Presentations), a feature film adaptation of the sequel to Adler’s iconic divorce story, and Capitol Crimes(Sennett Entertainment), a television series based on his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series. Adler’s forthcoming thriller Treadmill, is slated to be released in September. Learn more about Warren Adler at www.Warrenadler.com

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vacation Manifestations and Revelations...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts?







Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Announcements...


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

This post will be short and sweet today.

Here is Tuesday's 4-1-1.

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

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

Working Writers, a publication "For people who write, by people who write" is seeking submissions. And here's a bonus: they even accept reprints. Check out their guidelines here
 http://www.workingwriter1.com/guidelines.html.

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



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

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








Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your turn.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Images: Freedigitalphotos.net