"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

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

Sunday, January 19, 2020

20 Quotes For Enlightened Living This Year...


Forget resolutions. U.S. News & World Report provides that "the failure rate for New Year's resolutions is said to be about 80 percent and most lose their resolve by mid-February."

Still, that doesn't mean we should fail to aspire to reach higher in the new year.
Often, words of wisdom imparted by world leaders, noted scholars, celebrities and even social media influencers can help us to live better, learn more and embolden us.  


Accordingly, here are 20 quotes for greater clarity and better living in 2020




ON LIFE



Poor companions are like buttons on an elevator. They will either take you up or take you down."


"Handle them carefully, for words have more power than an atom bomb."

"When things go wrong, don't go wrong with them."

" If you can learn from hard knocks, you can also learn from soft touches."
--Carolyn Kenmore

"Your capacity to say no determines your capacity to say yes to greater things."
--E. Stanley Jones

"He will not let your foot slip---he who watches over you will not slumber."
--Psalm 121:3

"Being more is better than buying more."

"I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond."
--Mae West

"One person can make a difference and everyone should try."
--John Kennedy

"Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value."

"Sometimes God will shake you up to move you forward."
-- Jennifer Brown Banks

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." 
--Eleanor Roosevelt

"He who rolls up his sleeves never loses his shirt."


ON LOVE


"Do not tell me, for I have heard it all, there is too much to do with hate, but much more to do with love."
--William Shakespeare 

"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved."
--George Sand

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies."
-- Aristotle

ON LITERARY MATTERS


"The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary."

--J.K. Rowling

"Don't just "write for yourself." That type of self-indulgence should be reserved for your personal journal. Great, effective writing takes the readers' needs and expectations into account." 
--Jennifer Brown Banks

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
--Benjamin Franklin  
                                   
"The greatest revenge is to accomplish what others say you cannot do."




Thoughts?
What life quote or philosophy do you live by?



Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, January 10, 2020

7 Freelancing Mistakes to Avoid in 2020 For Success




Whether you're a newbie or a veteran scribe, periodic errors are sometimes inevitable. The key to longevity here is to learn the lesson and move forward.

Listed below are some common mistakes to avoid for optimal success in your career.


Not establishing structure
When I first worked as a freelancer, I’d often stay up all night finishing a piece, then get up in the afternoon. I’d keep irregular hours and sometimes not leave the house for days on end. Eventually, as you can imagine, I started to go a bit crazy…

REMEDY: Just because you are free to set your own schedule, that doesn’t mean you’ll work most effectively with no routine at all. Treat your freelancing career like any other job, with a start and finish time you stick to. As with any writing activity, boundaries and routines are your friend.

Giving up on an idea prematurely
You come up with a story idea you really like, you pitch it to a couple of your regular outlets – but no dice. It’s tempting to become disheartened, especially when it was something you were really excited about.

REMEDY: Remember a good idea can be rejected for many reasons, many unrelated to its quality: perhaps it’s too similar to something already planned. Editors judge ideas on their own merits, even if they’re from their very favorite writers. So persist – I once got a piece accepted at the 27th attempt!

Not following up
You send off a batch of ideas and you hear nothing. You wait and wait, not wanting to seem too pushy, but still nothing. So you leave it.

REMEDY: Follow up! Editors are busy, and often grateful for a nudge; they certainly won’t mind you making a status inquiry. No news is often good news too: ideas that are definite Nos often get rejected very quickly.

Taking rejections personally
You’ve had a couple of rejections recently and it’s knocked your confidence. You feel like you’ve lost your mojo and you just can’t get down to work...

REMEDY: Remember you’re in business here, and there isn’t a business in the world where every pitch results in a sale. And the more you submit – and the more you get rejected – the thicker your skin gets. So get back on that horse, and send your idea elsewhere.



Batching and blasting
You find subbing and querying time-consuming and draining, so you draft a templated message and blast it out to a load of titles. Then you sit and weep as the rejections come rolling in…

REMEDY: By not looking at each market individually, you’re sure to miss the mark. It may take longer, but carefully tailoring each submission to title and editor is sure to pay off in a higher acceptance rate.

Putting too many eggs in one basket
So you have a couple of editors that really like your stuff. But then one is replaced by a new editor – with their own stable of fave freelancers – and the other has their freelance budget slashed. Suddenly your main revenue sources are gone…

REMEDY: Always be networking, sending out material to new markets and building relationships both within and beyond titles you work for. Editors and titles come and go, so you need to keep filling your pipeline with new contacts and opportunities.

Not pursuing payments 
Your piece was published months ago but you still haven’t been paid. But you don’t want  to chase – you worry it might irritate your editor, maybe you’re just not sure if you’re good enough…

REMEDY: If your piece has been accepted you have a right to be paid, and to follow up if payment is late. Period. Remember: it’s just business!



AUTHOR BIO:
Dan Brotzel (@brotzel_fiction) is co-author of a new comic novel, Kitten on a Fatberg (Unbound). As a reader of this blog, you can pre-order Kitten on a Fatberg for a 10% discount – quote KITTEN10


Thoughts? Which are you guilty of?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Sunday, January 5, 2020

How Not to Lose Your Footing in the Freelance Dance


A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of tuning in to a new dating series on the "boob tube." It gave a new "spin" on the reality TV shows purposed to find love for today's singles.
It's appropriately called "Flirty Dancing" and it appears on Channel 32.
The basic premise is that when two people (the ones on this show are pre-screened and matched up according to the individual's profile ) connect on the dance floor, they can find chemistry, attraction and a foundation for a relationship. The men and women on the show are not professional dancers, nor are they allowed to speak at all during their time on the dance floor.
Their bodies must do all the talking.
For those interested, you can learn more here:
https://www.fox.com/flirty-dancing/

It's gotten mixed reviews so far; but I think it's rather entertaining, innovative and interesting. I'm definitely a fan.
After viewing the last episode, I thought about how similar dancing is to freelance writing.
There are many parallels I find in these two pursuits. Read on and see if you agree.

HERE ARE SOME TAKE-AWAYS TO CONSIDER





GOOD FOOTING HELPS


The freelance "dance" typically starts with the initial contact with a potential client. This is where we try to make a good impression, start off on "good footing" and determine our future routine. The dance can either be hectic or graceful. And we must know how to properly exit, if we assess that the partnership will involve a lot of stumbling and injured toes. Here's a case in point. Some time ago, I was contacted by a company that wanted to hire me to write website content for their clothing line (based upon my online portfolio).
To protect their privacy, I won't go into great detail here.
Initially I was very excited; I took a look at their brand, business model and online reviews, and they seemed like a reputable, profitable company.
They asked for a proposal and price quotes. I submitted the requested information shortly thereafter.
Then we transitioned to the "Tango." Whenever I would seemingly move forward, they would take two steps back. They'd ask a question; I would answer. Then they would need more info.
Then they would need guarantees and promises and answers to "what if" scenarios. I would move in one direction, they would go in the opposite.
After exchanging almost twenty emails that caused needless exhaustion and that restricted my movement, I simply retired my dance shoes. I stopped responding to their emails. If it happens to you, I would suggest the same. Remember, "time is money."

ALWAYS KNOW WHEN TO LEAD AND WHEN TO FOLLOW

 
A creative partnership, (much like ones on the dance floor) requires that we have a situational awareness of when to lead and when to follow. I have been blessed in my career to work with an array of clients in myriad industries and levels. They have ranged from aspiring writers to highly credentialed professionals with advanced degrees. I find that the most successful partnerings are typically those where there is a mutual exchange of ideas. A union that allows me to contribute suggestions and strategies based upon my skill set, passion, experience and expertise areas.
Some clients factor this in and some don't. Which is why it's crucial for freelancers to know when to talk and when to listen. When to offer advice and when to simply take direction. Which leads us to the significance of chemistry.

GOOD CHEMISTRY IS CRUCIAL FOR LONG TERM SUCCESS


Have you ever had a client or collaborative project that just felt right? You know: one in which you both had similar "moves". There was a good balance of yin and yang, good rhythm. No doubt, the "dance" was magical.
To assess potential "chemistry" it's always a good idea to do some pre-screening; whether it's in an  onboarding session or a Skype meeting. The more you can find out and filter through the greater the chances to stay in sync.




SLIPS, STUMBLES AND FALLS ARE INEVITABLE


When you slip, (miss a deadline or publish an article with an incorrect stat or attribution) or fall (lose a client or receive a harsh rejection from an editor) don't let it floor you. Learn the lesson and move forward. In the words of singer Gloria Estefan: "Get on your feet and make it happen."


EVEN "NATURAL ABILITY" CAN BE ENHANCED BY PROFESSIONAL TRAINING AND LESSONS


This year, why not sign up for online classes in a new genre or concentration? Or attend a writers' conference with credentialed experts and noted authors? Investing in yourself always yields a future return.


A wise man once said: "Take more chances. Dance more dances."
Words to live by.
Wouldn't you agree?


Image credits: Pixabay.com

Thursday, January 2, 2020

What to Consider When Choosing a Publisher in 2020


Welcome back, readers!
It's a pleasure to reconnect in this new year. 2020 holds the potential for endless opportunities and the manifestation of unrealized dreams.

So grab a cup of your favorite brew and let's explore a topic that many will find relevant and timely.

There's no doubt about it: book publication is a goal for most serious writers in some juncture of their professional careers.
Whether the avenue is through a traditional publisher or the self-publishing route, getting our work into the public arena fulfills our need to connect, inspire and share our expertise with an audience.

Additionally, book publication is a form of validation and accomplishment.
After all, the title "author" is not afforded to everyone.

Different Paths Can Lead to the Same Destination

In my vast career as a writer, I've had many essays, poetry and "how-to" pieces to appear in traditionally published titles and self-published projects as well.
I can attest that they both have their advantages and disadvantages.
About two months ago, after much consideration, I decided to embark upon something different.
On the heels of self-publishing numerous poetry titles, I decided to seek a traditional publisher to expand my horizons, so to speak.

This has been a bit challenging in that poetry as a genre is not (unfortunately) accepted by all publishing houses.
Though I'm no expert in this arena, the experience and information I have garnered during this process can perhaps shorten your learning curve and optimize your efforts.

Accordingly, here are 5 Things to Consider in Your Search for a Publisher This Year (regardless of genre)




READING FEES

To my surprise, my research revealed that some publishers now require a "reading fee" before reviewing your manuscript. The typical range here is between $8.00-$25.00. The fee is non-refundable, but in some instances they will apply the fee toward a book or magazine that they produce, that you may choose from.

SUBMISSION PROCESS

Publishers differ in how they prefer to receive their manuscripts. Some accept work only online; others will only accept work through snail mail; while others require that your manuscript be uploaded and tracked through Submittable Management Software. A caveat here: be sure to read the publisher's guidelines carefully so as not to disqualify yourself due to a simple oversight.

RESPONSE TIME

I'm sure I'm not alone here when I say that I hate "the wait." Through a process of elimination, I will only consider publishing houses with a reasonable time frame for a response (less than six months).
Also worth noting is that some publishers will allow for simultaneous submissions. Which, IMHO  is smart and fair.

COMPENSATION METHOD/MODEL

Depending upon the terms of your contract, the type of publisher you choose, and your "platform" you will receive royalties, free publication of your work, and/or an advance for your creative efforts. Some publishers even sponsor contests whereby there are cash prizes awarded to winning manuscript entries.
To quote a popular song: "You better shop around."

REPUTATION

Be sure to do your homework here. Before signing on the dotted line, "Google" the publishing houses you are considering.

What do you find? Any complaints? Bad reviews? How about the titles and authors they represent?
Is their website user-friendly?  Are they transparent? Is there adequate contact information?

These are all important things to consider in your pursuit.

For those who aspire to publish a poetry book in 2020, here's a link of publishers to put you on the "write" path. Some also accept other genres.

https://www.authorspublish.com/78-poetry-manuscript-publishers-who-do-not-charge-reading-fees/


Thanks for reading!

Thoughts? Comments?


Image Credits: Pixabay.com

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Resources & Best Web Reads-The 3Rs Series Continues




RECOMMENDED READS AROUND THE WEB



DO YOU KNOW WHAT ATTRACTS LITERARY AGENTS?
https://www.writermag.com/get-published/the-publishing-industry/attract-literary-agents/

7 WAYS FREELANCERS CAN USE LINKEDIN TO ATTRACT NEW CLIENTS
https://thewritelife.com/linkedin-marketing-for-freelance-writers/

HOW I FOUND SUCCESS WRITING FOR OTHER WRITERS
https://writersweekly.com/success-stories/make-money-writing-for-writers

TOP 5 THINGS BUSINESSES DESIRE IN A FREELANCE WRITER
https://inkwelleditorial.com/5-things-businesses-want-in-a-freelance-writer

GET CLEAR ON WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR WRITING CAREER
https://writerceo.com/how-to-get-clear-on-what-you-want-from-your-writing-career/


RESOURCES (& CALLS)


FREE E-BOOKS & INFORMATION PRODUCTS

CHICAGO WRITERS ASSOCIATION 3RD ANNUAL WRITERS' CONFERENCE

LIGHT AND DARK MAGAZINE SEEKS SHORT STORIES

MIXED CALLS FOR MULTIPLE GENRES

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL UPCOMING THEMES


REVIEW

It's no secret to most of you that are regular Pen & Prosper readers, that I love music. In fact, it is definitely on my "wish list" for this Christmas.
My new favorite artist for this year is Ella Mai.
I truly dig her vocal skills, original lyrics and style.
Although she is not a "new" artist on the scene, I only recently discovered her.
But as they say, "Better late than never." Right?

Click the link below for a sampling of her lovely, sultry sound.
I give this shining star 4 stars ****.

Image credit Wikipedia


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YNZlXfW6Ho


Well folks, this concludes my posts here @ Pen & Prosper for 2019.
In closing, I'd like to thank each of you for the "gift" of your readership, comments and support.
Wishing you (and yours) a very happy, bountiful holiday season!

... Until next time.

Warmly, 


Jen 


Image credits: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pen & Prosper's 5th Annual Holiday Gift Guide!


Happy Holiday Season!
Today I'm unveiling my picks to add to this year's shopping list, just in time for Christmas. As part of my popular, annual holiday gift series for writers. Yay! Move over, Oprah.
Some of these "faves" have been recommended before. And with good reason: they are consistently recognized and requested from writers around the world as things they value.

Whether you are looking for an item for yourself, or one to bestow to a fellow writer or mate, I've got you covered.

So, let's begin with what Jen recommends...


JOURNALS



You can't go wrong with journals and stationery for writerly folks. Journals help to capture future story ideas; chronicle important events and timelines; pen personal feelings for discovery and growth; and even to make simple "to do" lists. You can order them online at Amazon.com or pick up some pretty and affordable choices at your local Dollar Tree store.

HERBAL TEAS & COFFEES



For most writers, tea or coffee helps to get off to a good start and fuel the day.
May I recommend Teeccino's Chicory Herbal Tea here? It's a great french roast blend that is 100% caffeine free and has a nice robust flavor. To order, visit their lovely site here:
 https://teeccino.com/#

BAKED GOODS


JEN'S BROWNIES
If you like to be "creative," you can express yourself in the kitchen, through thoughtful homemade baked goods.
Trust me; they'll make a lasting impression.

GIFT BASKETS


JEN'S HANDMADE GIFT BASKET
For the special person on your list who enjoys an array of goodies and trinkets, this gift rocks!
I like to make them with various themes. You can too.

THROWS



Recently purchased this item from my local Meijer's store and I love, love, love it! Kudos to Sunbeam for this very well-crafted, comfortable, functional item. It has 3 heat settings and a built in pocket to place your feet. How cool!  I have numerous throws; as I find they are great to decorate and accessorize the home. This one is definitely among my favorites.

SPIRITS



Spirits are one of the quickest ways to get in the holiday spirit! They make great gift items. And you don't have to break the bank to impress. According to Martha Stewart on the DABL network, "You can purchase a nice bottle of wine for about 7 bucks." Don't forget a pretty decanter for that special added touch. I've typically scored some good brands at Aldi's.
Take a look at what they offer at their site:

https://www.aldi.us/en/grocery-goods/wine-beer/wine-awards/


BOOKS


Good writers are avid readers. For this reason, books are always an obvious choice. Here's how to get more bang for your buck. If you enjoy (and benefit from) my blog, you'll dig my ebooks. They teach today's writers how to work "smarter, not harder" and make more money.
To learn more or order, visit Payhip.com here:

https://payhip.com/BankableWriting


PLANTS

JEN'S PLANTS

Plants for me, are the equivalent of pets for others. Though I didn't really cultivate my "green thumb" until later in life, so glad I did! I have plants "residing" in many rooms of my house. Aside from the aesthetic appeal they provide, they have many health properties as well. Read about them in this informative article:

https://www.thesill.com/blogs/care-miscellaneous/why-you-need-plants-in-your-life


CALENDARS/PLANNERS



There's no doubt about it. Calendars help to keep us on track and mindful of those important client deadlines. Everybody uses them. Consider ordering a photo calendar from Vistaprint with a relevant theme for the recipient.

https://www.vistaprint.com/photo-gifts/calendars


MUSIC



As mentioned before, I am a big music lover. And I'm betting I'm in good company here.
Good music is timeless. Wouldn't you agree? Whether it's classical, spiritual or hip-hop, I tune in weekly. Here is a selection from "Feels like home" that is worth listening to and purchasing.





Well, there you have it: Jen's "what to get list" for 2019.
Happy shopping!

Your turn.

What would you choose among suggestions listed?
What would you add?

Monday, November 25, 2019

What Chicago's Teacher Strike Can Teach Writers



There’s no doubt about it. Teaching is one of the oldest and most honorable professions around. And for the most part, unless educators experience burnout and quit, or have serious health challenges, they often enjoy a good deal of job “stability” and tenure, compared to other industries.
Factors that more than likely contribute to why many career seekers opt to pursue this field.

According to the Bureau of labor, “A career in teaching is also projected to have many job opportunities in the coming years. Between 2014 and 2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nearly 1.9 million job openings for teachers of preschool through postsecondary school.”

But here’s the downside: NO job today affords TOTAL job security. Particularly in today’s uncertain economic climate (not to mention, education reform).
As a matter of fact, I gave this very “caveat” to a client of mine who just happens to be a high school teacher. “Jane” loves writing, and for many years, has freelanced on the side for various publications under my coaching and guidance. Since teaching is perceived as her “bread and butter” money, she really doesn’t give writing the serious consideration or time that she should. It’s a recreational hobby, more or less.
This is unfortunate; she is a tremendously talented scribe, who could really go very far if her priorities were different.

THE TEACHERS’ STRIKE AND LESSONS IMPARTED
Earlier this school year, Chicago teachers decided to go on strike unexpectedly, to fight for what they considered important issues: smaller class sizes, more resources and more equitable pay.
Nothing unreasonable, most would agree.

But, something that should have been settled promptly wasn’t.
As it happens, one day turned into one week. One week turned into 10 days, additional delays and time away from the classroom. After 11 days, an agreement was finally reached by both sides.
Teachers won the battle, but not without detriment.
Of the 11 strike days, Chicago teachers would only be compensated for 5 of those days, per the city’s mayor. That’s 6 days without pay for many who were already struggling.


So what can we as writers learn from the teachers’ strike and how it unfolded?

 LEARNING DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN IN THE CONFINES OF A CLASSROOM…HERE ARE 6 TIMELY TIPS THAT WILL APPLY TO WRITERS




1). NEVER PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET.
No matter what your career, it’s wise to have various income streams or side hustles.
As a writer, I find that it’s smart to diversify my creative offerings. And you should too.
As a point of reference here, not only do I professionally blog; I actually set up and design blogs for other writers; teach creative classes; and consult on the side.

2). RECOGNIZE THAT UNLESS YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, YOUR JOB IS NEVER TOTALLY SECURE.
I kid you not; I know of people who lost their jobs shortly before they were scheduled to retire. Which can be scary. With more companies now putting profits before people, anything can happen at any time.

3). KEEP ON LEARNING, TO INCREASE YOUR VALUE.
Take online classes. Read, research and study. “Knowledge is power.“
Whether it’s in the job market, or with your creative clients: the more you learn, the more you’ll earn.

4). NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF SAVING FOR A RAINY DAY.
It's here, folks!  According to Careerbuilder.com 78% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck.
Poor finances can make us vulnerable to emergencies, diminish our quality of life, and contribute to poor decision making. If your computer needed to be repaired or replaced tomorrow, could you afford it? If your furnace in your home broke down during the winter, would it leave you in the cold? These are a few things to consider.

5). THERE ARE “POLITICS” IN EVERY INDUSTRY.
Don’t be fooled. Many folks who are unenlightened believe that “politics” only exist in Corporate America or with the government.  Think again. Being a writer or teacher won’t exempt you from politics. It exists in publishing and even the church, too.

6. SHIFT HAPPENS!
Learn to be flexible. Keep a level head.
Don’t let the loss of a client, a computer virus, a strike, or editors’ rejection keep you from making a difference and moving forward in your creative career.
There is nothing more “liberating” and empowering than being able to write when, where and how you choose.

Master these six timely lessons for a truly “smart” freelancing experience.


A penny for your thoughts here. 
Agree or disagree? 
Any teachers out there?



Image crdits: Pixabay.com