"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

Monday, April 1, 2019

Boost Your Visibility & Your Bucks With Anthologies!



Like most writers, being published by a “traditional publisher” had been a goal of mine for a number of years. But, most major publishers today are typically seeking big-name celebrities or writers with cult-like followings to assign contracts, for a greater return on their investment and resources.

Heck, even writers with Pulitzer Prize potential can go “undiscovered” and unpublished in the current writing climate; if their platforms are not big or solid enough.

So, I tried the backdoor approach to gain entry. To get around this, I have opted to participate in various anthology projects. These are creative collaborations of short stories and poems by different authors usually on a common theme. The most popular one of which you may be familiar is “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

Here’s the back story to today’s story. A few years ago, there was a call for submissions for stories for inclusion in Simon and Schuster’s “Chocolate for a Woman’s Heart” Series. I sent my work, crossed my fingers and ended up being published in about a half a dozen different titles. It was a great experience that yielded the following:

  • Free copies of the books that included my work
  • Pay (for some of the books)
  • Travel and networking opportunities
  • Book signings at the Borders Bookstore in my local area
  • A publishing credit from a “major” publisher
And you can too.
Chicken Soup for the Soul has several ongoing themes.
See them here:
https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

And wait...it gets even better. In 2016, my success was duplicated when my “how-to” on branding was chosen by Adams Media for inclusion in “The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook” by Yuwanda Black, along with some other publishing big wigs.



I have yet to sell an entire manuscript to a traditional publisher, but until I do, I still have the “bragging rights” and benefits afforded big time authors. And I am proud as a peacock.

Autograph, anyone?


Please note: Pen and Prosper will be on a brief spring break until May 1, 2019.
I look forward to reconnecting then (as I count down to my 10 yr. blog anniversary)!
See you soon.


Thoughts? Have you participated in any of these anthology projects?
Would you recommend it?
Do tell.

Image credit autographed books: Pixabay.com

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

What I'm Reading...And You Should Too!


As we bring a close to Women's History Month, I thought it might be a great time to share with you some awesome reads authored by or for women. Most writers are avid readers, and these titles will engage, enlighten and empower you in 2019.
Many of which will likely resonate with my male readers as well. Some have been referenced previously here at the site; while others have not.

In the spirit of reciprocity, feel free to offer up your own recommendations at the end of this post. Deal?


RECOMMENDED READS


HOW TO MAKE MONEY BY WRITING CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
MARIECLAIRE COLLINS

I'm proud to say that I scored this gem at a bookstore for less than a buck. Of all the different avenues for earning a living as a writer, corporate communications is one of the most profitable. It is what helped to make the hugely popular author, Peter Bowerman, a "well-fed" writer. And this book explains why, and more importantly, how you too can get in on the action. Chapters include: the art of working at home, the question of fees, and the necessity of networking.

PRACTICAL GENIUS
GINA AMARO RUDAN

I was immediately intrigued by the title. And this book does not disappoint.
Solid lessons found on branding, building a business, the importance of identifying one's creative strengths and more.

 
DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF FOR WOMEN
KRISTINE CARLSON
 
Anybody out there remember the hugely popular "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" series by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.? This one was written by his wife. I can't say enough good things about this book.
It's insightful, inspiring and full of wisdom for modern times. It's cheaper than a therapist and as intoxicating as a bottle of wine.



THE ULTIMATE FREELANCER'S GUIDEBOOK
YUWANDA BLACK

This "how-to" manual addresses an array of topics, resources and tools for today's writers. Everything from working with clients, to branding your business, to taxes, to having the proper mindset for success.
Be sure to read my expert tips on branding (as a contributing author).

SMART WOMEN FINISH RICH  
DAVID BACH

In today's tough economic times, becoming more financially literate can be the ticket to survival. This book goes beyond the basics like "saving for a rainy day" and "pay yourself first". It helps women to recognize how their values, perceptions, and habits influence their wealth, and what can be done to make the most of what they make.

CINEMATHERAPY (The Girl's Guide to Movies for Every Mood)
 NANCY PESKE & BEVERLY WEST

Movies move me. So this book was fun and informative. It gives a whole new meaning to "chick flicks." Grab a cup of your favorite brew and discover must-see movies for every mood.
Got mayhem with men? Dealing with the blues from a bad hair day? Need to believe in the magic of love again? Well these female versions of Siskel and Ebert will point you to the perfect selection for whatever ails you. Slightly over 200 pages, you can read it a little at a time, or in its entirety.
Popcorn optional. :-)

IN THE SPIRIT
SUSAN L. TAYLOR

You'll love this guide to better living from a holistic approach, offered up by the Editor in Chief of Essence Magazine. Chapters include: living from within, the power of love, living your faith and choosing longevity.


Many of the above titles can be found and purchased online through Amazon.com or your local library. Happy reading!

Your turn.
What are you reading these days?  Thoughts on these listed?

Flower & book image credit: Pixabay.com

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

How to Finally Juggle With Less Struggle in 2019



 For a more progressive writing career


Like most writers, my days are filled with endless demands and limited resources.
From D.I.Y. projects around the house, to clients’ creative projects, to family needs, to weekly blog obligations to my growing readership.

Despite my never-ending to do list, I manage to get a lot accomplished, stay profitable, and experience a good feeling of satisfaction along the way.
And you can too, with these tips for better time management and smart life strategies.

In 2019 the goal should be to “work smarter, not harder.” Are you with me here?
In keeping, below are a few practices and principles to put in place for optimal success. Lessons that I have mastered to stay in the game and ahead of the competition.

(6 Tips for greater success)


1). Get organized.

Consider the following statistics:
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates that 80 percent of filed papers are never looked at again.
  • The National Soap and Detergent Association believes getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home.
  • Harris Interactive reports that 23% of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them.
Clutter can compromise your efficiency, cause stress, and keep you from moving forward in your goals.
 
 

2). Limit time spent on social media.

Social media is undoubtedly a great way to stay in the loop, pitch clients and promote our projects and books. But moderation is the key here. Have a plan. Will you do it daily? Weekly? For how long? Ideally, you should devote one day a week for an hour or two.
To enhance your efforts here, buy a kitchen timer and use it often.
 
 

3). Rise early.

There’s great validity to the expression: “The early bird catches the worm.” I’m usually up and on my computer at 6 a.m.-ish on most days. Doing so allows for fewer distractions and a fresher perspective. I also apply this to running errands in the morning. You’ll typically encounter shorter lines and shorter wait times. Try it, you’ll like it!
 
 

4). Prioritize properly.

I work before play. Tackle paying projects before I work on my blog. And I keep a weekly running calendar that allows me to examine “the big picture of things” before making any time-related decisions. I would highly recommend the same for you.
 
 

5). Don’t let emails pile up.

Address important things in a timely manner; be courteous but brief; set up online folders through your Yahoo mail account for easier reference and follow-up.
 
 

6). Learn to say “no” and set appropriate boundaries.


Besides being very liberating, used properly this can be a great time saving device and minimize angst.


Follow these six timely tips for greater gains and less strain in 2019.








Image credit: Pixabay.com

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Tribute to Toni Preckwinkle & Lori Lightfoot

FOR WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH



Note: On April 2, 2019 Chicago will elect its 1st Black female mayor into office (out of 14 potential candidates).
This duel between this duo inspired the following poem.



Dear Future Mayor

(For Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot)



Dear future mayor,

You silenced all the naysayers,

Win or lose,

Individually or collectively,

Stand tall and claim the “victory,”

For re-writing the windy city’s history

And changing the status quo

Of century-old politics

Here in Chicago,


By advancing in the mayoral race,

You have given power

A different face,

Inspiring women,

Inspiring women of color,

Baby boomers,

And future generations,

Changing the trajectory

Of their life station,

Instigating

New conversations,

And your story

Becomes our glory,

And in its unfolding

You confirm that our voices deserve

To be heard,




So no matter what the outcome,

When all is said and done,

After April one,

It remains resoundingly clear,

That there are no “losers” here!

 
© 2019 Jennifer Brown Banks


Thoughts? Comments?
 

 
 
Image credits: Pixabay.com




Friday, March 8, 2019

The 3Rs Series Brings Writers' Resources & More...


Greetings, readers!
I hope you have had a positive and productive month thus far. In today's post I'll share a few recommended reads and resources to enhance your writing and marketing efforts.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and leads as well, in the comments section.

Recommended Reads Across the Web


TAX TIME TIPS FOR FREELANCERS
https://thewritelife.com/tax-time-for-freelance-writers/

WHY YOU NEED AN AUTHOR PLATFORM
https://writerceo.com/why-you-need-an-author-platform-no-matter-what-kind-of-writer-you-are/

IGNITE YOUR WRITING CAREER AT THE LIBRARY
https://writersweekly.com/success-stories/ignite-your-writing-career-at-the-library-by-wendy-hobday-haugh

WHY YOU SHOULD CLEAN UP YOUR WRITING OFFICE
https://writerceo.com/the-benefits-of-cleaning-up-your-writing-office/

GET PRODUCT REVIEWS ON YOUR BLOG
https://problogger.com/get-products-to-review/

OUTSMART THE STARTING BLUES
https://twodropsofink.com/2019/02/07/outsmart-the-starting-blues/


 

RESOURCES

Tools, Contests, calls, etc.

 
6 AUTOMATIC EDITING TOOLS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING
 
 
WRITING PROMPT CONTEST
 
WRITING SUCCESS STORIES WANTED
 
CHICKEN SOUP SUBMISSIONS

REEDSY CREATIVE WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
 
CHICAGO WRITERS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
 

REVIEW

 
COOKBOOK PREGO 30 MINUTE RECIPES
 

Word to the wise: meal preparation doesn't have to be time consuming or labor intensive. This mini but "meaty" cookbook offers an array of quick dishes sure to please your palate. From party starters, to pastas, to Italian sauces. There are over 40 recipes to choose from, with beautiful photos to round out the presentation. Additionally, you'll discover recipes of varying levels of difficulty.
Metric chart included.
 
Overall, I give it *** stars
 
 
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.
 
Thoughts? Comments? 
 
Image credit: Pixabay.com


 

Friday, March 1, 2019

4 Reasons Today's Writers Need Passion Projects...

AND OTHER INTERESTS



At the time of this writing, it's a Sunday. So, I've decided to make it "confession time" along with a pseudo-sermon. So read on for today's two-fer, folks.
Frustrated from frantically checking my emails all week and a lack of progress with some of my queries, creative submissions and computer glitches, I did something really stupid.

Don't judge me, just love me. :-)  I through a brief pity party.
In the process, I actually scoffed down an entire pizza by myself (insert violins here).
In my own defense though, at least it was the thin-crust version.
To remedy the situation, shortly thereafter, I put on my exercise video and attempted to burn some of those unwanted calories. Not a good idea either. Besides the shock to my system, it aggravated my left knee.

The "parable" and lesson here for today?
Don't make your WRITING LIFE your life.
Don't let it consume you with guilt, or fear, or doubt, or a sense of failure, or cause you to over eat to feel better.

Here’s a quote from a fellow writer and blogger (Dan Burns) that I read recently that really hit home for me on this topic:

These days, our world is enmeshed in technological connectivity— twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week—and many people spend the majority of their days searching and texting and updating their networks of people on every minute detail of their existence.
I think we need to be forced away from our devices every once in a while to relish the simple pleasures in life: reading a book, taking a walk, or just looking around and taking in all that is happening around us. For without the break, we might get so distracted that we’ll miss out on what is really important.”


I couldn't agree more.

ACCORDINGLY, HERE ARE 3 TOP REASONS WRITERS NEED PASSION PROJECTS AND OTHER INTERESTS:


1). Passion projects provide for a more balanced life. You know what they say about "all work and no play." 
2). Passion projects can often contribute to additional writing ideas and a broader overall knowledge base.
3). Passion projects can increase your joy potential and your bottom line!


For example, when I'm away from the keyboard and clients' projects, I love to get "creative" in the kitchen. I dig the culinary arts and it allows me to be "the hostess with the mostess" when entertaining friends and fellow artists at home. I also enjoy making themed gift baskets that I sometimes sell or donate to charitable causes.

Blogger Marcie Hill enjoys roller skating and presents workshops and events on roller skating and its history as it relates to Chicago and/or people of color.

Other than writing, what excites and inspires you? Make those passion projects a priority this year and keep me posted here.


HERE ARE A FEW PASSION PROJECTS I RECOMMEND FOR 2019, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MAY BE IN SEARCH:


  • Start a garden for spring
  • Build a book nook
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter
  • Sign up for Karaoke at a local bar or restaurant
  • Expand your horizons through travel
  • Take up photography
  • Take a dance class to improve your health
  • Participate in writers' conferences 
  • Enter a few creative contests, earn some extra cash and get a little exposure for your efforts 
These are just a few ideas to get you started in months to come.
Remember, that no matter how much we love writing, we need other outlets and interests to keep us satisfied and sane.



Have a "passion filled" weekend.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Can Your Business Survive a Crisis? A Reality Check


 

"Houston, we have a problem."


This winter has been a mess in the Midwest. We’ve been hit with frigid temperatures, snow up to our eyeballs and weather record-breakers.
But it’s to be expected, given the geography, history and climate of our area.
Which is why I was sort of surprised that so many businesses were caught with “their pants down” and operating so poorly, (if at all) this year.

Earlier this week, for example, I had to wait an hour after a store’s designated hour to open, because the bad weather “caused an outage” and prevented the electronic cash registers from operating properly.
In the time I waited outside the store, I counted close to 10 people (potential customers) who walked away and took their business elsewhere, due to frustration and time constraints.


According to the National Federation of Independent Business:

  • A quarter of small business owners experience significant crises each year
  • Forty percent of owners who experience crises close up shop
  • Disasters happen.

    A similar scenario happens with freelancers who are not “equipped” for unexpected emergencies: a computer virus, loss of a major client or vendor, an illness, a tax audit.

    • Are you prepared for potential “storms”?
    • Do you have a “plan B” for your business?
    • A worse case scenario strategy to protect your bottom line?

    Of course it would be totally unrealistic to expect to protect and provide for all types of emergencies and acts of God. But that doesn't mean that we should not have a contingency plan in place, think strategically and operate from a greater position of strength in 2019.


    1). Have a back-up for important information stored on your cell phone.


    So many folks today practically "live" on their phones. They store credit card information, passwords, clients' phone numbers, security codes, intimate photos, etc.
    What happens if your Smart Phone is stolen? Or compromised? Or gets in the wrong hands? That's not a "smart" idea.
    Believe it or not, I still keep and use the old-fashioned address books where you actually write down names, addresses, birthdays. I also take zerox copies of my credit cards and keep them in my financial file folders, just in case. This is not a bad idea for you to do as well.

    2). Have an emergency fund set aside to cushion the blows of the freelance life.


    You know the script: one month you're drinking champagne and "ballin'," the next month you're eating Ramen Noodles and searching for loose change under the couch cushions.
    Whether it's an unexpected government shutdown, the loss of a major client, or an illness that prevents you from working for a week or two, you've got to cover your asset$.
    Consider this alarming statistic. Careerbuilder.com reports that about 78% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck.

    3). Never wait until the last minute to complete important tasks.


    Sometimes we create our own "fires" by not using our time wisely, not prioritizing properly, or simply procrastinating. Then situations and expectations can quickly go into "emergency mode."  You have a looming deadline with a client; or a deadline with an editor; or you have to work late on your 9 to 5 gig, without much advance notice. To be on the safe side, always work ahead of your deadlines and leave "wiggle room" for assignment turn in dates.
    Rushing can cause needless errors, diminish the quality of your work and your reputation.

    4). Have supportive alliances and trusted relationships.


    My computer guy, Emmanuel, has been a blessing over the years. I can count on him to fix my computer on the spot; troubleshoot technical issues; and give me flexible payment plans in an emergency. You'll find that your long-term survival may depend on help from other freelance writers, or tech support people, or book store owners. To quote a popular song: "I get by with a little help from my friends."

    5). Consider Legal Pre-Paid Services.


    Having the legal support of qualified attorneys is priceless. Depending upon your legal plan, your geographic location, your budget and your desired coverage, these attorneys can help you: secure copyrights; pursue clients that fail to pay you for your work; and evaluate publishing contracts to ensure that you don't lose your shirt. Read more at Legal Shield. Note: results may vary.

    6). Have adequate insurance.


    Whether it's health insurance, home owner's insurance or car insurance. A lack of coverage can be detrimental to your finances and the future of your freelance business. Did you know that many writing organizations offer different types of insurance through your membership benefits?
    Here's a relevant listing for informational purposes:

    https://pen.org/health-insurance-for-writers/

    7). Preserve your health.


    It's your most important "commodity" and resource. "Health is the greatest wealth."
     --Ralph Waldo Emerson


    WRAPPING THINGS UP HERE...

    In the words of actor and entreprenuer Will Smith: "If you stay ready you don't have to get ready."
    Ready, set, grow!


    Ready to hear your thoughts today.
    Agree or disagree?  In which category are you lacking?


    Image credit: Pixabay.com