"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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Coming in September...






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Monday, June 10, 2019

The 3R's Series Continues With Need to Know Info!


























Burning Palms* Christopher Landon, Director

As most of my regular readers are aware, I'm a big movie buff. It's in fact one of my favorite past-times. But I must admit; this movie was different than the hundreds I've watched before.
Initially, I didn't really know how to process what I saw. I wasn't quite sure where the writer was coming from, the message or the motivation for this film.

What I can attest to is that it was dark, funny, sick, thought-provoking, insensitive, entertaining and hugely controversial. There are five short stories "that will mess you up for life" about various people and places in California that address a myriad of issues, perversions, dysfunctions, relationships and just plain strange situations. Expect the unexpected.

In the end, I would recommend it for its entertainment value.
But, if shock value or dark humor offends you, this one won't be your cup of tea. You've been warned. :-) I'd give it ***1/2 stars.

Wrapping things up here...

This concludes the 3Rs series for June. And more importantly, my posts for the next few months.
Practicing what I preach, Pen & Prosper will take a much-needed summer break.

Look for more exciting posts, leads and topics to help you know more and grow more, around the 1st week in September.
Feel free to leave comments and to connect in the interim. I'll be checking periodically.  

Have a safe, fun summer, folks!


Parting thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Image credits: Pixabay.com
Burning Palms- Amazon.com

Monday, June 3, 2019

This Just in...Pen & Prosper Turns 10! Let's celebrate

Welcome, readers!
It's June. And what a joy! Summer is on the horizon; it's my birthday month; and Pen and Prosper celebrates 10 years in the blogosphere.
Indeed three is a charm!

In 2009, I began this blog as a way to build my platform and share my love of all things literary.
And I must admit, it has exceeded my expectations.
My journey, (though challenging) has been very rewarding.
For those of you who blog, I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much work is involved to pull this off for a decade.

Blogging has allowed me to connect, reflect, teach, grow, learn and cultivate friendships with fellow writers across the globe.
It has enabled me to speak my own personal truths, champion important causes, instruct and inspire others.

I have published over 770 posts and have been blessed to have my efforts recognized with numerous awards in the evolving years. I've even made some money along the way.

None of this would be possible without you, the reader.
My heart-felt appreciation to those of you who read my work faithfully; who comment on my blog posts; who "Tweet" to your "peeps"; who purchase my products; who contribute guest blog posts; who make me laugh; who offer encouragement (week after week, month after month, year after year).
And those who send me chocolate via snail mail. :-)

In the words of a popular song: "Yes, it's true. I'm so happy to be stuck with you!"

Thanks for reading Pen & Prosper.
Have a great week ahead!



P.S. If you've been reading my work regularly over the years and enjoy it, (particularly those who may not typically comment), I'd love for you to say "hi" in the comments section.
It would add to my joy.
I promise, I don't bite. Unless you're a steak. :-)

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Friday, May 31, 2019

How to Rebound & Reboot From a Bad Writing Day!

Have you ever had one of those days when you get up early, energized and committed to moving forward in your creative career and the universe seems to conspire to sabotage your efforts?
You know the script: your computer malfunctions; there are constant distractions; you experience a power outage; writer's block grounds you; a client changes the deadline or direction of your project; or you receive a really negative comment from a blog reader or editor.

Like it or not, it comes with the territory. The next time you have a day from hell, don't lose perspective or give up your peace.

Keep pushing forward, with the following timely tips...

1. Don't concentrate on the problem, concentrate on alternatives.

For example, if you're trying to work on your computer to type up a few creative articles or blog posts, and you encounter glitches or a dreaded virus, pen your ideas on paper and save them for a later date. The key here is not to lose momentum or risk forgetting your original inspiration.

2. Make progress in other creative areas.

Make a few "cold calls" to cultivate new business, or clean out your home office. Remember, every little bit helps. Consider the following stats provided by the National Association of Professional Organizers:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that the average U.S. executive wastes six weeks annually searching for important documents lost in clutter.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that 80 percent of filed papers are never looked at again.

3. Catch up on your reading.

If your goal is to become the best writer possible, reading is a must. Chances are, you have a stack of mags and books on your nightstand that you haven't gotten around to reading this month. Or books that are on your list to purchase soon. Why not start making a dent in that list?
My next intended read? "Becoming" by Michelle Obama.
Have any of you had the opportunity to check it out yet?

4. Step away from your computer.

While this may seem counter-productive at first, "there's a method to my madness."
Sometimes we need to go out and spend time with other people and things in order to replenish our creative juices. I've written on writing breaks before here at Pen and Prosper. For greater gains, don't strain the brain!

5. Have a back-up plan.

To minimize the effects of “Murphy's Law” and to "reboot" faster, make sure that you have systems and procedures in place for the worst case scenarios. For example, some time ago, I had the misfortune of having my cell phone go kaput on me. Somehow the numbers that I had stored in my phone's database were completely gone somewhere to cell phone heaven. Many of those numbers were to key clients I had communicated with over the years. But, since I hadn't tossed out my little pink address book from pre-cell phone days, I was able to stay connected. Hello?

Wrapping things up here...
Keep these five tips in mind to navigate difficult times ahead and stay the course.
May they serve like a "G.P.S." on the path to success!

Your turn.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Success Strategies For School Visits For Authors

 For children’s authors, a school visit is a great way to make a direct connection with your young readers and boost your personal brand, and theres often a modest fee too. Children in turn get a thrill in meeting a real author, especially one whose books they may have read. Here are some tips on how to get the most out the experience…

Be realistic about money

School visits rarely attract a big fee, so its best to accept that fact up front and find other ways to make the best of the opportunity. Schools can help you promote your books ahead of the visit and organize sales on the day for children and parents too.

Plan ahead

Check with the school beforehand that they have any kit you will need for you workshop or talk, such as projector and PowerPoint. If you want a classroom or hall organized in a certain way, be very specific about what you want and who will be doing it. Do you want children to work in groups or pairs? Will they need pens and paper? The more detail, the better.

Get ahead with your books

To make the most of the selling opportunity on the day, let the school know well in advance a fortnight beforehand, at least about the titles that youll have to sell, along with details of reading age, price and so on. Confirm that the school will send out advance information to parents, so that children are more likely to bring money to buy your books on the day.

See to the basics

When you arrive, find out where the staff toilets are. Check where you get some refreshments too. Teachers are not always used to hosting visitors and youll need a drink at least to get you through the visit.

Do an early technical check
On the day, check that all the equipment is as you need it, and that chairs and tables are arranged right. Lighting and sound need to be checked too, as well as clickers and screen resolution. Make sure you arrive in good time to check all these things.

Tailor your talk to your audience

Make your talk interactive, snappy and attention-grabbing. Half an hour is usually as long as childrens attention will last, often shorter. Leave lots of time for questions, of which there will be many. Talking about ideas and inspiration and a few relevant details of your life is fine, but be selective. Keep it light and fun, and avoiding running through your whole CV.

Get teachers to help with discipline in workshops
Teachers are the experts when it comes to keeping a class under control so that you can get on with running your workshop. Dont be shy about asking a teacher to help if theres an issue with maintaining discipline in the classroom.

Make time for every child

While its tempting to focus on a handful of children who are the keenest and speak the loudest, do your best to include as many children as possible in conversation and activities. Walk around, take an interest, gently encourage shyer children to take part. Often children are under-confident, but they only need a little nudge to get involved.

Come up with new answers to old questions

Children love to ask questions, and this is often the most fun part of a school visit, so always leave lots of time for them as part of your talk or workshop. Inevitably you will get a lot of the same questions coming up, so to keep things fresh try to think of something different to say each time. You dont have to give a straight answer, and you can always a question with a question…

Finish well
Even if youve had a tough day, with dodgy tech, few sales and unruly classes, always make a point of finishing well. Thank everyone, praise the school and leave with a smile. As with any networking opportunity, you just never know what else might come of your visit.

Dan Brotzel (@brotzel_fiction) is co-author of a new comic novel,

Kitten on a Fatberg (Unbound). As a reader of this newsletter, you can pre-order Kitten on a Fatberg for a 10% discount simply quote promo code KITTEN10

Agree or disagree, readers? Anything you'd like to add here?

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Kevin Hart Hoopla*Why we Need to Stand up for Stand-up Comedians!

Today's post is a departure from the usual. I decided to take a break from sharing advice on how to advance in your creative career, to a topic that is also important for creative artists.
Though I typically try not to address controversial topics on my blog, as a writer, I recognize that we each have a "platform" that allows us to enlighten, empower and eradicate certain injustices.

Accordingly, this commentary piece reflects my views on artistic expression and freedom of speech.
Feel free to agree or disagree, (respectfully) in the comments section.
As always, thanks for your readership!

Some folks are fitness nuts; my mom is a sports fanatic; and I am a stand up comedy connoisseur. My media library has a boatload of DVD’s and VHS tapes reflecting different styles, generations and cultural observations. From old school acts like Richard Pryor, Red Foxx, Andrew Dice Clay to modern-day funny men including D.L. Hughley, Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart, Deon Cole, Chris Rock and Lavelle Crawford (to name a few).

In a day and age of rampant violence, political mayhem, economic uncertainty, and moral decay, we need to laugh. Seriously!
Besides the comedic relief it provides, there are health benefits as well, according to the
Mayo Clinic and the medical community.
Watching comedy is how I kick back and unwind after a long day and mellow out the madness. Unlike other vices, this “fix” is not fattening, addictive, expensive or detrimental to my health.

Over the decades, I’ve watched, reviewed, compared and analyzed scores of routines; noting the good, the bad and the ugly.
Acquiring the 10,000 hours of experience author Malcolm Gladwell contends to qualify as an arm chair “expert” in this popular genre of entertainment.
Which is why I feel compelled to add my two cents to the Kevin Hart Hoopla regarding his former potential role in hosting the Oscars.

Don’t’ get it twisted: my goal is not to justify his actions or speak out on the impact of his past comedy routines or Tweets. That’s not my place. Not to mention, I’m not getting paid to be his publicist or attorney. Let them deal with his reputation management issues.

What I can attest to is the “culture” of comedy, as an informed spectator over the years.
Comedy at its best is an “equal opportunity offender.” Very few things are deemed “off limits” or sacred. Not even the Catholic Church. It’s not personal; it’s just business.

For example, the late Bernie MAC used to have audiences in stitches as he joked about his role of taking care of his drug-addicted sister’s kids and his belief in corporal punishment.
D.L. Hughley, in a recent Netflix special makes fun of his son who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. And who can forget Chris Rock’s common use of the word “nigger” in his acts?
What about Saturday Night Live’s parodies of the president and other pop culture icons?

My point here? Comedians are supposed to be funny.
Often they allow us to see the absurdity of our fears, stereotypes, idiosyncrasies and irrational behaviors. They give it to us straight--no chaser.
Sure sometimes they miss the mark, alienate folks unintentionally, or target the wrong people. It’s a work-related hazard.
But, if we censor what they say; penalize them for not always being
“politically correct;” or vilify them for their opines, observations and off-color remarks, we all lose.

Just because their views and values don’t necessarily mirror our own does not make them less entitled to share them. As a writer, it’s important to defend first amendment rights.

If I‘m being real here, I for one, don’t particularly enjoy when comedians appear misogynistic and frequently refer to women as the “B” word.
Still, on the rare occasion where I find a comedian’s routine as too offensive or harboring hatred and vitriol, I simply stop buying their material or tuning in to them.

And you should too.

But to expect them to “sanitize” their routines to prevent offending others would be a “dirty shame” equivalent to book banning.
And we’re better than that.

“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie

Thoughts here? Who's your favorite stand-up comedian?

Image credit:

Mic: Pixabay.com

Monday, May 13, 2019

Think That Writing is a Matter of Luck? Think again...

Greetings, readers!
Thanks for joining me for another week here at Pen & Prosper.
A special "shout-out" to my new readers and followers. 
This morning I'll be sharing a guest post provided by veteran freelance writer, Steve Sears.
Please make him feel welcome with your questions and comments.
Now, on to today's feature...

As I type these words from my basement library in New Jersey, my “Current Assignments\Articles 2019” folder is laying next to my right elbow. The folder contains assignment sheets which I log when I receive an assignment from my many editors.
For the month of April, I have 20 magazine and newspaper deadlines, and that’s just half of the folder-fill. The other is the same amounts of sheets reflecting assignments that have May through December deadline dates. Bear in mind, too, that many like sheets have been removed to my “Awaiting Payment” folder when I’ve submitted completed articles.

I state the above to prove a point: there’s plenty of freelance writing work out there for the right individuals. They key to getting that work is being assertive – marketing and following up -- and writing daily. One minus the other equals a doomed writing career.
How to keep busy and ensure continued work?

Here are a few timely tips (as pertains to article writers):

1. Always – ALWAYS – be on the lookout for publications, and let the editorial team know when you read something you can relate to and enjoy. Then, let them know you are a freelancer and contribute a stellar article idea or a few.

2. When an editor offers you an assignment and you accept, note the deadline date and then create your own for a few days earlier. Turning in well-written assignments prior to an editorial deadline will allow for rewrite time (if needed), but it also aids the editor and publication as they prep for layout.

3. Be an idea person. Depending on the publication(s) you are writing for, always scour other publications and see what’s happening in certain realms. Three of my current 20 assignments are ideas I found in a local community newspaper, a medical center publication, and an Archdiocese magazine. Editors love ideas, especially usable ones.

4. Be in contact. Editors not only like but need to hear from their writers. I send my editors weekly updates on all my assignments on Wednesday. One editor who phone interviewed me a few years back, when I told her of my procedure, “Oh my God – no one does that. Thank you!” One of my current editors tells me that my weekly emails helps her out significantly. On the flip side, don’t disappear. Make sure you’re available if your editor needs you; if not, work gets shipped to another freelancer. *Note: I have happily been the recipient of additional assignments when certain writers have been non-communicative. Be the former, not the latter.

A freelance writing career is not easy. It’s work. However, following certain methods can prove beneficial. The before-mentioned has always worked for me. Perhaps they will for you, too.


Steve Sears is a New Jersey-based freelance writer. He has been writing professionally since 1996, and his niches include business, hospitality and technology. Please visit his website and blogs at

Thoughts, readers? Any of these tips resonate with you?

Image credit: Pixabay.com