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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

News You Can Use! Announcements, Updates, and Views...

Greetings, Readers!
I hope you're enjoying a terrific Tuesday, despite the inclement weather.
Here are a few important announcements, as we usher in March, and end the first quarter of 2015.
A special welcome to my new followers!
Here's the scoop:

  • Join me later this month as I continue the popular Roar Series. Named after Helen Reddy's "I am Woman Hear me Roar" anthem of former decades, the Roar Series highlights the accomplishments and gifts of women worldwide during National Women's History Month. Accordingly, I'll have interviews, guest posts, and features of "fierce" female writers and artists. Find out more about Roar. You don't wanna' miss it!
  •   This just in! Inkitt.com is sponsoring a spooky horror contest from March 3rd-March 31st. The theme is "Running Scared!" Check out their site for more details and related guidelines.
  • Writers seeking to build a more solid author's platform and construct novels that truly resonate with readers, look no further. C.S. Lakin provides the nuts and bolts, as well as "insider's secrets" in her new book, "The 12 Pillars of Novel Construction." It's an engaging, informative read on how to craft stories with authenticity and authority. The book also has a companion workbook that is chock full of practical tips, easy to follow examples, and invaluable information to increase your odds of publishing success. By the way, Lakin's site has been recognized with "Top Blog" Awards for several years consecutively.  She knows her stuff. To learn more, visit, Live, Write, Thrive.
  • Working Writer is a bi-monthly publication that deals with all phases of writing, blogging, and publishing for today's writers. The editor is seeking articles on various topics, from 300-1200 words. And if you hate the wait, I think you'll be happy to know that the response time is typically super fast. To learn more, connect with Maggie at Working Writer.
  • Jen will be "out of the building" for a much needed break. Let's reconnect on or around March 12th. Please feel free to leave comments or questions in the interim. I'll be checking periodically, and you know I always love to hear from you!
Keep warm thoughts!


    Wednesday, February 25, 2015

    5 Things You Must Know to Get Better Clients and Get Paid!

    Many books and popular Ads promise you that “You too can become a freelance writer” and work from home, with just an Internet connection and basic knowledge from high school English.
    If you believe that, I‘ve got some land I‘d like to sell you.

    There are a multitude of skills, talents, and strategies involved in launching and maintaining a profitable freelance writing business.
    As anyone who has made a serious effort can attest.

    Having an Internet connection, “skills to pay the bills,” along with some fancy business cards simply won‘t cut it.
    I learned the hard way.

    Much like a sexy, reduced-for-clearance stiletto, without the proper “fit” with clients, I found myself hobbling along and in more discomfort than I bargained for.
    And you will too. In fact, few things will stunt the growth of your writing business and your bottom line like poor client selection.


    1. Ill-fitted clients can “cramp your style” on various levels.
     Their work ethic may not mesh with yours. Either you feel that they are misrepresenting their products or services to the public, or they may ask you to write something to support a cause for which you’re morally opposed. Although we all have to do things professionally we may not agree with, it comes with a price. And ironically, it takes the “freedom“ out of freelancing.

    2. Ill-fitted clients are time consuming to deal with.
    They demand countless hours in “hand-holding,” damage control, and even collection efforts. Time that can be much better spent pursuing passion projects, updating your blog, marketing, or sending “Tweets” to your Peeps. There’s great validity to the expression, “Time is money.”

    3. They impede progress and hinder communication.
    Going back and forth with a difficult client, having unresolved creative differences, and debating issues can be counterproductive and detrimental. And I should know.
    I once worked with a client who didn’t have much of a business background. A classic “people person,” this free spirit really didn’t want to be bothered much with paperwork and functions like drafting a business plan, setting goals, and strategic marketing; even though I tried to convey its importance. It was no surprise that in less than a year, her “great idea” met with disaster; we both lost out on the potential to expand our business and our bottom line.

    Now that we’ve covered why smart client selection is integral to a thriving business, let’s explore what to look for.

    In the absence of a crystal ball, how can you tell what the future will hold with clients with whom you partner?

    Here are five key factors to consider, (in no particular order):

      Number of years in business---The longer the business has existed, the greater the likelihood that it has garnered a strong customer base, a sizeable share of the market, and benefited from the trial and error that comes with a solid track record.
      A successful business model---If the product or service is one that you would actually patronize, that’s a good start. Does it solve a common problem? Address a pressing need? Save time or money? Enhance consumers’ lives?  Strong branding? If so, the odds are favorable.
      Ability/desire to pay---Is it a start-up? A not for profit? Often, these business structures have inherent risk factors and limitations, in terms of outside funding and emergency ‘reserves.” Not to mention, businesses just starting out typically must operate quite awhile before they see a profit. Translated? You can’t get paid if they’re operating “in the red.”
      Compatible work ethic---Do you have the same sense of urgency and priorities when communicating on projects? Or are you kept waiting for weeks for them to make the simplest of decisions? Are your visions and values similar? Is there mutual professional respect shown?
      Realistic expectations---Do they value your time and talent? Or do they make ridiculous demands…like a thousand-word article for 20 bucks?
      Keep in mind that no matter how talented you are, and how hard you work, if you can't get properly and promptly compensated for services rendered, you're "working harder, not smarter." Choose wisely. Good clients are "the new black!"

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

    Monday, February 23, 2015

    "I Used to Read Books" A Teen's Perspective on Literature, Learning and Life in the Tech Age...


    Noelle Sterne

    In research on a website for an academic client, I came across a poem I can only describe as remarkable. The poem is by Allison Iwaszkiewicz, a recent high school graduate. When I read the poem, I realized this young writer has something important to say that should be heard not only by her peers but also by all adults.

    Allison's poem was part of a high school senior English project in which the students studied Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The focus of study was the intersection of technology and humanity, and in response, Allison wrote the poem “Heroes to Hashtags.”

    I asked Allison to describe the genesis of the poem. Her essay, here after the poem, shows not only her talent but her insights. Admittedly one teen’s (heartfelt) observations, nevertheless what Allison has to say should neutralize that head-shaking declaration that all of today's teenagers are umbilicaled to their iPhones and its clones.

    * * * * * *
    Heroes to Hashtags

    Allison Iwaszkiewicz

    I used to read books

    The words flew off the page

    and took me to Camelot

    where I fought the Saxons' rage

    I became the fifth March sister

    and through the words I shared their sorrow

    as Beth's sickness overtook her

    and stole all her tomorrows

    I went to the wilds of Africa

    where the words introduced me to the Jungle Man

    We swung through the canopy without a care

    and tamed the greatest beasts on land

    But now my pages are faded

    though for years I have not seen

    My waking dreams gave way

    to an endless scrolling screen

    Cherished talk at the Round Table

    has become endless, empty tweets

    The mists have hidden Avalon once more

    My need for adventure sleeps

    Amy's perfect drawings

    Instagram replaces

    Quick sketches of Paris streets

    turn to haunting, smiling faces

    Perhaps most sad of all

    is the loss of dear Lord Greystoke

    The precious Opar Jewels we stole

    have been destroyed by Facebook

    As technology advances

    I beg you hear my words!

    Do not fall into the trap

    as to Apple we flock in herds

    Adventure is still out there

    Do not forget your favorite books

    Feed that hunger you once had

    and to the text just look

    * * * * * * *
    The Origin of
    “Heroes to Hashtags”


    Allison Iwaszkiewicz

    Although the English project was what finally made me write the poem down, the feelings had been building up for quite some time. Specifically, since about the Christmas of my sophomore year in high school. That year's gift from Santa was the black hole where spare time and hobbies go to die—the iPhone. As my poem says, "I used to read books." December 25, 2011, was that line of demarcation.  

    I was slowly changing: the fingers that used to turn the page to the next chapter now type "LOLs” and "OMGs” to people with whom I hardly communicate face-to-face. The mind that once imagined strolling through the bustling streets of London with Sherlock Holmes now focuses on incessantly scrolling through Vines (a Twitter offshoot of short videos instead of 140-character blurbs).  

    Don't get me wrong. I love my latest iPhone just as much as every other teen privileged enough to have one. I text my friends about the night's plans, browse Twitter for some quick laughs, and delete embarrassing posts on my Facebook wall from relatives commenting on how fast I'm growing up. Siri often tells me where the nearest restaurants are, and I burn through many a TV series via the Netflix app.

    The Swiss army knife of cell phones, the iPhone is the ultimate multitasking tool. It is also an amazing piece of technology and an indicator of how far human invention has come. A handful of years ago, one had to find a pay phone to make a call, photos had to be taken somewhere to be developed and seen, and encyclopedias held all the answers.  

    Fast forward to the present day, and we've combined these three items into a pocket-sized device. Let's not forget too the built-in calculator, compass, roadmap, and other innumerable apps.  

    What could be so bad about such a tiny rectangle of plastic and metal? In a perfect world, nothing. The technology we've been given would be used for learning, for communicating ideas and information, for the betterment of society as a whole. When technology is used for those purposes, the results are amazing.  
    But what really grinds my gears is that so many of my generation has decided to use this technology for cyber bullying, posting duck-faced selfies, and skirting around assigned reading by mining SparkNotes. And our
    “social” life has become robotic. More often than not, hanging out with my friends means sitting near them while we all stare at our phones. We laugh together at a funny (or stupid) video or tweet on our Twitter feed, but the chuckles are fleeting and hollow.

    I cringe when I realize how much time I've wasted. Time that could have been spent reading, writing, drawing, or playing the guitar I haven't touched in years. People supposedly spend a third of their lives sleeping. I'd like to see the statistics on cell phone use—or maybe I wouldn’t. What large fraction of my teenage years has been sacrificed to Apple?

    The sad thing is that although I recognize the negative effect my iPhone has had on my life. I do nothing to change it. Instead I imprison myself behind the (connection) bars of social media.  

    I imagine an addict might feel the same way. "I can stop anytime!" a technology-enslaved teen insists to her worried parents. "Just let me finish posting this . . . ." Her thumbs are a blur as she decorates her Instagram caption with unnecessary hashtags: #like4like #hashtag #picoftheday #summer.  
    I'm unsure what momentous day the number of Facebook or Instagram "likes" a person amasses reflects their worth as a human being, but that day is surely a sad one. Social media has made my generation completely reliant on constant peer approval; it
    s our drug. Seeing a post with more “likes” than our own almost always results in animosity. A venomous “I can’t believe she got so many likes. She’s not even pretty!” is the battle cry of many a frenemy cold war.

    Technology and social media have also made it easier than ever before to deride other people. I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count: a Twitter spat erupts out of almost nothing, hateful Facebook comments shoot back and forth over something as trivial as the weather.

    I wrote “Heroes to Hashtags” because I see the insidious coils of technology, like these above, wrapping tighter and tighter around the cell-phone generation, and not only myself, my classmates, and peers, but also increasingly younger kids and tweens. I wrote the poem because my eleven-year-old brother couldn't be bothered to look up from his phone to admire the miles of rolling hills as we drove through Pennsylvania last week. I wrote the poem because at dinner in a restaurant my two-year-old cousin ignored the crayons and kids’ menu and went straight for her mom's iPhone.

    I wrote this poem because, as I was writing this essay, I received seven Facebook notifications, two Twitter updates, four Instagram likes, and six text messages, one of them irate because I hadn’t yet responded to the first one.

    When does it stop?

    # # #

    Noelle Sterne admires Allison Iwaszkiewicz for her sane perspective and wishes that, at Allison’s age, she could have written so well. A writer and dissertation coach and editor, Noelle never left school. Her forthcoming book, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield Education (2015), helps struggling doctoral candidates: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles.

    Allison Iwaszkiewicz lived in Westerville, Ohio, most of her life and is a freshman at Miami University, Ohio, studying biology and environmental science. She was a cheerleader throughout high school and, despite such extroversion, has always enjoyed hiding away with a good book. Her favorite hobbies include writing, drawing, and kayaking with her family.

    Your turn, readers.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    A Tale of Two Movies! How the Cinema Can Help Writers See the "Big Picture" and Enhance Their Work

    The movie business is a multi-billion dollar industry.
    And many of us as writers and lovers of the arts, have invested more than our fair share contributing to its mega-success through movie ticket purchases and in-home rentals.

    But, did you know that movie viewing can also impart important lessons that can enhance your creative process and “pay off” in greater sales?

    This revelation came to me recently, when I had the opportunity to check out two flicks that garnered high ratings at the box-office.

    One was a comedy with Kevin Hart; the other was a drama with Jennifer Lopez.
    To make a long story short, surprisingly, the comedy was a real “snooze fest,” while the drama was so well-crafted that it kept me up way past my bed time.

    The difference? The story development and the approach of the writer.

    Let’s face it: writers are notorious for dissecting weak plots, ineffective dialogue, unbelievable characters, and general “B.S.” on the big screen. It’s how we're wired.

    So, here are a few pointers that will insure that in the future, you exit the theatre with more than some left-over gummy bears and “buyer’s remorse.”

    Use the movie’s mistakes and disconnects to improve your own creative process.

    Here are some timely tips to help you garner rave reviews for your next writing project.

    Keep in mind that even comedy and fictional work should be done smart and realistically.
    Writers should avoid insulting their audience’s intelligence in crafting story lines that are so far-fetched and unrealistic, that they come across as ridiculous and laughable in a bad way. Do your research to make sure that minor details don’t cause major credibility issues. For example, in the comedy I watched, Kevin Hart was hired by a nerd guy, engaged to a woman considered out of his league, to pretend to be his best friend and his best man. For his professional services, Hart would be compensated $50,000.00 to pull it off. There were many flaws in the story line. But even on a basic level, it didn’t make sense. Who would hire a “best friend” for $50,000.00, when they could pick one up through Craigslist? It would merely take the promise of unlimited free booze and the potential to meet single chicks at the wedding. Hello?

    Recognize that proper pacing is important.
    If a story moves along too fast, it feels rushed, and often omits some important background information that allows the audience to form a connection to the characters. If it’s too slow, it becomes boring and laborious.

    Open on a positive note.
     Effective writing begins with an awareness of your audience’s needs and expectations.Whether you’re penning a blog post, a play, or an article for an online publication, it’s crucial to consider the motivation of audience members. Are readers on board to be entertained? Enlightened? Empowered? Does your content deliver on your title’s promise?

    Consider a “pre-screening” before the big debut.
    Extra eyes never hurt.  If possible, have your work reviewed and scrutinized by a professional editor, or someone with the proper skill set to make your work its absolute best.

    Provide proper closure.
    Your ending should be just as powerful as your introduction. Try an element of surprise here, or a thought provoking quote, or an introspective question. The key is to tie things up in such a way as to encourage interest in your next book, or article, or post. Get the idea?
    Even “low budget” projects should offer high entertainment value.

    When it comes to writing, movies can be a great teaching aid. Follow these tips to become a quick study.

    Have you ever used movies or T.V. to improve your writing process or to generate marketable ideas?
    Watched any good movies lately?

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Creative Contests and Calls for Submissions...

    If you're like most serious writers, I'm betting that one of your goals for 2015 is to increase your exposure and your bottom line. If so, you'll love today's post.

    This new year is filled with an array of creative opportunities to get in gear, get published, and get the recognition you desire and deserve. And winning contests is a great way to write a happy ending for all your efforts. As someone who has garnered a few blogging awards and poetry prizes over the years, I can attest that it is rewarding on many different levels.

    Accordingly, I'd like to share a listing of publications and places eager to receive your creative projects.

    Some competitions pay in cash; while others offer other perks like gift cards, free products, mass exposure, a badge and title for your blog, and of course...bragging rights and brownie points with people in the publishing and blogging industries.

    So what are you waiting for?

    Here are a few to get you started on an epic year!
    Good luck, and be sure to read the fine print. :-)

    Bryan Hutchinson is seeking entries for a great topic idea, "How writing has positively influenced my life."
    Contest runs from Feb.1-June 1, 2015.
    Positive Writer for details.


    You happy? Heinz would like to find out the "secret sauce" of your story. In 122 characters or less, share what makes you happy. Or if video entries would be more your style, you have 6 seconds to win them over. Game? Contest details are available at the Heinz site.


    One of the most popular anthology publishers ever, is accepting stories for their "Make Your own Luck" edition. Deadline for submissions is March 15, 2015. Get more "Chicken" and details on other 
    calls at Chicken soup.com


    Jenine Boisits, publisher of Literary Beginnings, is sponsoring a competition for unpublished writers only. First prize is $200.00. Deadline is March 1, 2015. Enter at Literarybeginnings.org.


    Publishes a compilation of ongoing contests  and competitions for poets, visual artists, and others in the creative community. Check out their classified section to get in where you fit in.

    Here's wishing you much success! There's a winner in you.

    Your turn.
    If you found this post useful, or would like to see more in the future, please let me know in the comments.
    Have you ever won a creative contest? Do share.

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    Why Your Blog's "About Me" Page Should be Like a First Date!

    Believe it or not, whether you're trying to "connect" with a cutie, or cultivate a bigger fan base for your blog, your goal is the same: to make the best impression possible in the shortest amount of time, to encourage future interest.

    Think about it.
    It's all about establishing a quality connection and coming across as someone who is cool and interesting to "hang out" with. Someone an acquaintance might like to visit with more, to see where things go.

    Still, far too few bloggers keep this simple objective in mind when constructing this very important blog feature.

    Why am I convinced of this...?

    • They devote more time in their "About Me" Page talking about all their accomplishments, rather than how readers can benefit from what they have to offer, based upon that experience. Ask not what your blog readers can do for you, but what you can do for your readers! You can Tweet that. :-)
    • They don't have a good sharing balance. In other words, they either reveal too much, or too little about themselves in the initial stages.
    • They forget that "appearance" is important. Which means that content should be void of typos, and spelling and grammatical errors. It also means that your A.M.P. should reflect an attractive photo of you. 
    • They forget the importance of humor in putting others at ease.
    • They try too hard. Their blog doesn't have a clear target audience, and it actually seems they're trying to please everybody.

    Accordingly, here are a few important things to consider in drafting or revising your
    "About Me" Page:

    1. Don't bait and switch. Deliver on what you promise. It's one of the cardinal rules to dating and blogging: what it takes to get 'em, it takes to keep 'em. So, if your blog states that you update weekly, you should, darling. Unless of course, you're on vacation, ill, or decide to change your site's direction. When this happens, simply post the specifics for readers to stay in the loop.
    2. Never lie or exaggerate to look good. As in all relationships, trust is important.
    3. Establish what makes you different. Just like in dating, there's always gonna be competition for the other person's time. What do you bring to the table? Perhaps you have an unusual background, or speak multiple languages, or maybe you're related to a celebrity.
    4. Speak in a conversational tone. Talk to your readers, not at them.
    5. Close the deal. Your "About Me" Page should have a clear "call to action." This might include signing up for your newsletter, or ordering your products, or hiring you. Remember, audience members are not mind readers. 
    6. Mind your manners. Don't get too "comfortable" by using profanity, or ranting excessively, or bashing other bloggers.  Keep in mind that what you say about others says a lot about you.
    7. Keep it simple. There's great truth to the expression, "Sometimes less is more."
    8. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Make it count.

    If you'd like to engage your readers and build your base of admirers, follow these practices and principles for the ultimate hook-up.

    Comments? Agree or disagree?

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    3 Lifestyle Issues That Can Compromise Your Writer's Health and Your Bottom Line

    “Health is the greatest wealth.”---Ralph Waldo Emerson

    It was a Wednesday night. I had promised myself that I would retire early to catch up on some much needed rest. Faithful to my word, I did.
    TV. off, lights out, thoughts silenced, all by 9ish .

    But, around 2 a.m., I found my sleep interrupted as visions of future blog posts danced in my head. Is it just me, or do you find that some of your best creative ideas emerge after your head hits the pillow, not before?

    Anyhow, I faded in and out of consciousness waking up multiple times before I finally had to drag myself out of bed to officially begin my day.

    Truth is, for all the smart, magical, creative things we accomplish, writers are notorious for not always being the best guardians of our health.

    We’re sleep deprived.  We lead sedentary lives.
    We “juggle” more than a circus clown. We internalize stress.
    Author Truman Capote got his daily fix through caffeine and nicotine. Hemingway was reported to be a heavy drinker.

    And though many famous writers were actually discovered  after their deaths, I’m guessing you don’t want to be one of them? :-)

    With this in mind, here are a few common issues and ailments that impact today’s writers, along with smart strategies to overcome them, to optimize your health in 2015.


    Sleep needs vary; experts recommend 6 to 8 hours nightly. Though sleep deprivation may appear to be “nothing to lose sleep over,” think again. It can cause or contribute to poor concentration, diabetes, depression, weight gain and stress. Here’s a great piece by WebMD that goes into greater detail.
    Often it’s hard for writers to “disengage” and stop our creative process at the end of the day, but we must. (Think of it as recharging your battery).

    On a personal note…I’ve found that not drinking caffeine too close to bed time, taking warm baths, and clearing the mind, can all contribute to a better night’s rest.
    Some people swear by warm milk as well.


    Let’s face it: one of the best things about being a writer is the ability to work from home in our jammies, and sit in a comfortable, cozy environment as we create. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst things for our overall health and longevity. Like it or not, we need to get up and get active to enjoy a good quality of life. Exercise is beneficial to the heart. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body. And a host of other positive things.
    But I admit that I don't have the time or desire to join the local health club.
    In fact, the last time I found myself going out and shaking it up in the gym, President Bush was in administration. I'm happy to say I found an alternative.  I'm still able to maintain a reasonable level of physical activity through dancing. That’s right. I love dance movement. I have a home library of all sorts of  videos--from belly dancing, to Richard Simmons’ “Sweatin to the oldies,” to Jane Fonda workouts.

    Of course, your exercise of choice may be skating, or golf, or bowling, or jogging, or basketball. Whatever it is, indulge. Commit to stay fit.

    Did you know that even chores around the house, (done properly) can help you to burn calories and stay active? Things like vacuuming the carpet, or doing gardening can surprisingly have favorable results.
    It works if you work it!


    Toxic relationships can come in many forms. A client with unrelenting demands, that refuses to pay fairly for services rendered. A combative relative who takes big stands on small issues.
    A co-worker who gossips and gets on your last nerve.
    “Don’t it make your brown eyes blue?”

    Besides the health-related toll that these situations can potentially bring, (elevated blood pressure, a higher risk of fibroids, obesity due to emotional eating, etc.), is the havoc it wreaks with our creativity.  There’s no escaping that stress can cause writer’s block. No output means no income. No income leads to greater stress. Get where I’m going here?
    The remedy? Take a chill pill. Learn and adopt the serenity prayer.

    Here are some additional tips to consider.

    • All things in moderation. Whether it's alcohol consumption, fried foods, or indulging in sweet treats.
    • Visit your doctor regularly. Particularly for yearly screenings, or if you have certain risk factors.
    • Keep your weight in check. Obesity can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 
    • Yoga and meditation are said to be effective measures to combating stress.
    • Prayer helps. Even the medical community has embraced its therapeutic effects.

    One of the most common resolutions each year is to improve health.
    It's never too late to start.
    Keep these tips in mind, and keep positive thoughts. It's just what the doctor ordered!

    Comments here? What's your health goal for 2015? Do share.

    Note: The content provided is for informational purposes only. It is not to be substituted for medical advice or care. Consult your physician where applicable.

    Additional resources: