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Learn more. Earn more.
Learn more. Earn more. "Required reading" for today's smart writer! As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Motivational Monday-Black Quotes to Live & Learn by

Good Morning, Pen & Prosper Readers!
As many of you are aware, February is designated as National Black History Month-a time to honor and acknowledge the collective contributions of people of color.

With this in mind, I thought you'd appreciate the following African-American quotes to live by, learn, and elevate your thoughts.

     Famous Black Quotes

"Without struggle, there is no progress."
--Frederick Douglass
"Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher."
--Oprah Winfrey
"Next to God, we are indebted to women, first for life itself, and then for making it worth living."
--Mary Mcleod Bethune
"You're either part of the solution or part of the problem."
--Leroy Eldridge Cleaver
Image Credit: Henry L. Jones
"Our nation is a rainbow: red, yellow, brown, black, and white--and we're all precious in God's sight."
--Jesse Jackson
"I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying."
--Michael Jordan
"Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face."--Carol Moseley-Braun

"When people show you who they are, believe them."
--Maya Angelou

"God will sometimes shake you up to move you forward."
--Jennifer Brown Banks
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."
--Booker T. Washington

Have a Happy Black History Month.

Image credit: Hand, Freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

For Valentine's Month* Books You'll Fall in Love With!


Finding a writer who doesn't love books is akin to finding a kid with a disdain for cookies. Which is why I am truly excited to share with you today, a few titles that will elevate your thoughts, lift your spirits, and enhance your quality of life. And since "caring is sharing," please feel free to provide your "recommended reading" in the comments section. 
There is definitely a nexus between good writers and a love of reading.
Because good writers recognize that reading is crucial to understanding the needs of an audience, firing the imagination, and enhancing communication skills.

With this in mind, here are a few books worth a look in 2016...

The Law of Success--by Paramahania Yogananda
This tiny pocket book packs a big punch. It's a blueprint for better living through spiritual laws, self-analysis, and lessons for reflections. It imparts tips and techniques to help unleash health, prosperity and well-being. And the bonus here? It has less than fifty pages. It's a quick read with a lasting impact. Here's one of my favorite quotes: "He is the wisest who seeks God. He is the most successful who has found God." Deep stuff here. 
A Step in the Write Direction--by Donna Clark Goodrich
Okay, so I admit that there may be a slight bias, in that I have a chapter I’ve authored included in this comprehensive guide. But, I’m convinced that you’ll love it too, because of its thorough treatment of an array of topics that will resonate with writers of all levels and genres.

Longevity in writing requires a systematic approach and a business mindset. Between the many chapters, you’ll learn how to prepare your manuscript, time management tips, Microsoft Word shortcuts, and income tax for writers. Reading this book is like taking a course; you’ll learn many valuable lessons without the fear of test-anxiety.

Don’t Worry, Make Money--by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.
Famous for his best-selling book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” Carlson does it again with this engaging and enlightening read. Although it’s not solely about the “craft” of writing, as some of my previous mentions, it’s just as crucial to your prosperity and success. What writer couldn’t benefit from wise counsel on how to stress less and make more money?

Let's face it: Most writers are intimately familiar with the feast and famine cycle; so we worry.
But in this book, Carlson reminds us that fear and stress are counterproductive and can sabotage your clarity, focus, and peace of mind.

Practical Genius--by Gina Amaro Rudan 
I'm pleased as punch, first off, because I scored this gem at my local Dollar Store!
Great lessons found on branding, building a business, the importance of identifying one's creative strengths and more.
We all have the "power" and duty to use our strengths and gifts to make a difference. Genius is not exclusively about being "book smart." It also contains tests and actionable tips that are interesting and useful. Learn more about your "Practical Genius" at Gina's site, Practical Genius.

To order a copy of these selections to add to your own personal library, visit Amazon.com.

What book is keeping you up late at night? Do tell.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Can Adult Coloring Books Enhance Your Creativity?

Adult coloring books seem to be the rage these days. They're on TV shopping networks, commercials, and just last month, when I received my monthly catalog promotions in my junk mail, I was surprised to find them advertised among the offerings of household items and gifts. Needless to say, it got my attention. For about 20 bucks with shipping and handling, these coloring books came equipped with dozens of images and shapes, and an array of colors that would rival a rainbow. Everything needed to indulge one's artistic desires.
Shortly thereafter, when my mom mentioned getting one, I was concerned that she might be in some regressive state.
Despite all the buzz, I didn't buy it. Because I wasn't sold.
To me, it seemed a little silly in nature.
Turns out, I could be wrong. 
Studies show that adult coloring books can be therapeutic, reduce stress, and encourage creativity.
Who knew?
But upon reflection, I guess it's possible.
There are many non-related writing activities that enhance my creative process, are simplistic in nature, and reduce stress. Like listening to music, watching movies and cooking.
One writer even shares: "Coloring offers relief and mindfulness without the paralysis that a blank page can cause." 
Hype or help?
What do you think? Anyone out there a fan of adult coloring books?
If not, would you consider buying one in the near future?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Show Your Shine! 16 Ways to be" Intentionally" Awesome in 2016

"I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work."---Plato

Aside from the frigid weather in the big city, I love January.
The beginning of the year holds so much potential. It's new, unexplored, and magical. Like a budding relationship, it fills us with renewed hope.

Still, with all its allure, the best way to position ourselves for success, and stay positive in the months ahead, is to plan early on to be awesome!
To be intentional in our efforts.
You do realize that "Lady Luck" can be fickle, right?
With this in mind, strategy becomes integral.

Whether your goal is to build a better blog, increase your reach, publish that book that's been hiding  under your bed, or ascend greater heights, here are some timely tips to make it happen!

 Explore these 16 tips to "one-up" last year, for a bigger, better year in 2016!

  1. Speak your own personal truths. Lately there's been a big buzz around Hollywood and the Oscars. Will and Jada Pinkett are reportedly boycotting the event this year, due to a lack of diversity. How will you use your "platform" to highlight an important social cause or passion project? Decide. Then deliver. You don't have to be a "star" to shed some light.
  2. Recognize that consistency counts. Remember the "Rule of 72."
  3. Learn a new skill. For bloggers, often photography and content management systems knowledge rounds out a resume and adds real value.
  4. Build your brand. Consider getting a professional logo for your site.
  5. Read outside your niche to expand your knowledge base.
  6. Study the competition.
  7. Identify your U.S.P. (Unique selling proposition).
  8. Develop systems to support your goals.
  9. Guest post on prominent Blogs.
  10. Get a Blog Audit. It will help you to view your Blog from a more objective, realistic perspective. And you'll make more money.  Contact me at Gemsjen@yahoo.com for details.
  11. Enter contests to stretch your creative muscles and garner greater exposure. Fanstory.com offers dozens of fun, monthly contests for writers of different levels and genres.
  12. "Feel the fear and do it anyway."
  13. Treat your Blog like a business.
  14. Find a mentor.
  15. Stay focused.
  16. Don't let your ego get in the way of your excellence.

Thoughts? How will you be more awesome in 2016?

Image credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Writer's Motivation for the Dark Days...

Guest Post by Michael Priebe

This past May I finally pulled the proverbial trigger on pursuing my writing dreams full-time. After spending most of my adult life making respectable money in education but feeling creatively unsatisfied, I’d begun looking in the mirror and noticing how time was going forward for me and not the other way around.

“Now or never,” said a voice in my head that would barely shut up long enough for me to sleep soundly. So after searching my soul, checking my gut, saving a little money, and rallying the support of my wife, I replied to that voice representing the phantom of my latent aspirations.

“Now it is,” I said last spring, and I quit my day job, downsized my living arrangement, and got behind the controls of my true dreams.

So what has happened in my life since that dramatic period? Have I secured a big-time agent? Have I inked back-to-back book contracts for both of my in-progress manuscripts? Have I enjoyed the appearance of a cult-like following for my blog? On all counts the answer is not quite yet, but I’m hopeful that a blog post from me in a year or two might boast such accomplishments.

In the meantime, I’m resigned to doing the real work of any up-and-coming writer, which is keeping my own motivation (and productivity) inflated while refusing to wither away in the valleys of the inevitable disappointments. And there have been disappointments.

Although my days as a full-time writer have barely just begun, I’ve already experienced the following heartaches:

* Short-fiction rejections from respected literary magazines

* “Not interested” responses and disappointing non-responses from literary agents

* Technical frustrations with the creation of my author website

* Technical complications with the functionality of my new blog

* Sleepless blocks of time spent wondering about the financial future of my family

Notice I referred to the above disappointments as inevitable, because I’m pretty sure that, save a few miraculous exceptions, any writer who is determined to enjoy publication and cheers from an audience will experience them.

So how can writers fight through the emotional lows of the dark days? Where should we direct our minds to stay motivated despite the lows?

What follows is a short list of things that I think about to (hopefully) ensure that my disappointments will someday become footnotes to a successful writing career. I encourage you to take what you can from my “dark day” list and to create one of your own.


1. The pain of the alternative

There were a number of years when I didn’t write all that much, and I can tell you from experience that there are few heavier burdens to carry than that of trying to deny your dreams. In my mid-twenties, I took the first of several non-writing positions I would hold at a large technical college, and for a year or so I worked on a novel after work. However, life got busy and I never saw that manuscript through to publication.

Over the next dozen years, I wrote occasional sports and political articles online, but my non-writing periods got longer as deep down I became convinced that my day job of “office worker” was the real me. Those periods of not writing were depressing, and that depression is the alternative to not pushing through any current rejections or disappointments.

Whenever I’m starting to spend too much time questioning my decision to pursue writing now—in my late thirties—I think about my last cubicle, and I think about the countless hours spent wondering if that cubicle was the end of the line for me: that’s how I get my motivation back.

When you’re feeling down, you should think about how low or confused you’ve felt if you’ve temporarily abandoned your writing efforts (or even thought about it for too long), and I bet you’ll quickly get back on track, too.

2. The creations that didn’t exist prior to their conception by me

Over the course of the past year and a half, I’ve imagined and then put together some pretty awesome stuff (note how my motivational voice added pretty awesome to that last sentence).

I’ve authored a short story about Facebook addiction, one about the emotionally unstable life of a football superfan, and one about the health hazards of cubicle life titled Sick Building Syndrome (I know, where in the world did the idea for that last one come from?). I’ve also put together a respectable website to showcase my work, I’ve started a blog that has (hopefully) inspired others to reflect on life experiences and laugh, and I’ve continued to finalize the 260 spiritual inspirations that make up my in-progress manuscript of daily motivations for stressed workers.

These works of mine are products of the creative process! Reflecting on these finished products reminds me of exactly why I love writing.

Writing is an opportunity to create, and it is an opportunity to leave the world a richer place than it was when you found it. Writing is leaving your mark on the world. If you are ever feeling too discouraged about any aspect of the writing life this year, just take a look at something you’ve already written (maybe even print it out and hold it) and think about the ideas and the energy that went into that piece. Remember, without your talent and determination, that piece would not exist! That line of thinking always proves motivational for me, and I suspect it will for you as well.

3. The external bits of encouragement, no matter how tiny

A compliment from a friend, a social media like or a retweet from a stranger, or a nice online comment from anyone at the end of blog post: these things really do matter. These things really can keep a writer going. This year, meditate on any bits of encouragement you’ve received regarding your writing instead of dwelling on any negativity. I think you’ll find that those pieces of encouragement can be potent fuel for your creativity.


Upon packing up my desk and exiting the office of my day job last May, I was faced with intoxicating liberation: my life was finally a blank page! I was also faced with trepidation—my life was now a blank page. The writing life can be a touch unstable (for example, opening a rejection e-mail first thing in the morning can suddenly invite discouragement to settle over the entire day), but thankfully, the stability can be regained for us when we fill our heads with the right thoughts and fill our blank pages with great writing.
Here’s to living our writing dreams in 2016. Keep positive and keep working!

What thoughts and reflections get you through the valleys of your writer’s life? What does your motivational list look like?

Author Bio: Michael Priebe is an American writer who is currently working on manuscripts of short fiction and spiritual inspirations for workdays. His fiction has recently been shortlisted at MASH Stories, and you can find his blog, Awkward Observations, and more of his writing at www.michaelpriebewriter.com


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Are you Really Ready for 2016? A Cautionary Tale...

Let's face it: for many of us, 2016 snuck up on us like a thief in the night. Like weight gain after Christmas. 2015 seems to have come and gone in the blinking of an eye.

Its departure left us unbalanced, uncertain, and with a fair share of unfinished business. To optimize our efforts this year, we now know we have to be more strategic and forward thinking.
As they say, "Hindsight is always 20/20."
But where do we begin?

See if any of these scenarios seem familiar:
  •   You attend a literary event, or meet someone by chance while at the supermarket. You hit it off. You want to keep in touch. Perhaps for potential business or collaborative purposes. After you chit chat, you reach in your purse or pocket for your business card. But before you hand it to them, you have to scratch out that old phone number that no longer exists, or that P.O. Box that's been closed, to pen in your current info.
  • You apply for an online job. You' re selected to advance to the next stage from the initial pool of applicants. The publication requests that you provide a link to your blog. There's only one problem. It hasn't been updated in six months.
  • An editor requests a photo for your Bio for an accepted piece. The last professional headshot you took was for your college yearbook.
  • A long-distance client wants to hire you. You seal the deal. They only do transactions via PayPal. But, you still don't have an account. 
  • Your printer breaks. Or a client fails to pay as promised. That emergency fund that you said you would have in place has yet to be established.
See where I'm going here?
I certainly admit that as a "seasoned" scribe, I pride myself in being prepared for the writer's life in all its myriad forms. But, in retrospect, I have had a few of the above scenarios happen to me, when I least expected it. Ouch.

In fact, one such incident served as the inspiration for today's post.
Here's the story in a nutshell...

Last month, I submitted a short essay for inclusion in a very important online anthology, created by a famous author. Notification of its acceptance had me doing the happy dance here.
"Twerking" aside, of course!

When the publication rep requested a recent photo to accompany my piece, there was a bit of a problem. Many of my "professional" images were no longer accessible to me, as they had been stored on a former broken computer that had to be put out to pasture a few years ago.

I had been meaning to take more pictures; I just hadn't gotten around to it.
My submission was subsequently "placed on ice"---leaving me a bit "stirred and shaken." :-)

Even though it's not the end of the world, I can't help but think that I really dropped the ball on this one.
Not being adequately prepared can cause missed opportunities and income.

Still, all has not been lost. It helped me to gain clarity on things that I need to do this year to reach  greater heights.
In the words of Will Smith: "If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready!"
With this in mind, here's my "GET READY" list.
Are you ready?

See if you're prepared for success, according to this list.
  • Business cards with current contact info and a valid email address reflected
  • A professional headshot
  •  A ready to go brief Bio
  • An emergency savings fund
  • A professional Blog that's updated at least once a month
  • A functional PayPal account
  • Anchor clients
  • Templates for frequently performed tasks (queries, contracts, form letters, etc.) to save time
  • A portable journal
  • An editorial calendar for your Blog
  • A "can-do" attitude
  • A supply of chocolates
  • Music to create by
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • A marketing plan
  • A logo
  • Cheerleaders, or a support system

2016 holds awesome potential. So do you.
Ready, set, grow! :-)

Thoughts? What do you plan to do differently this year? Do tell.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Announcements & Links-Here's What's Cookin'...

Jen's Homemade Beef Stew & Cornbread 

Happy New Year, folks!
Fancy meeting you here. :-)
What a blessing and a pleasure to have you join me for another year of learning, earning, literature, and laughter, as it relates to the writing life.

Beyond resolutions, I continue in my commitment to help you know more and grow more in 2016.
I really value your readership, friendship, feedback and support.

Please feel free to reach out to me through the comments section, or via personal email, to pose any questions or suggestions you might have, as we move forward.

Here's the 4-1-1 for this week...

  • Pen and Prosper is now a paying market! Effective December of 2015, guest posts accepted will be compensated. It's not enough to pay your cable bill, but you can replenish your chocolate stash, or treat yourself to your local Starbucks! I'm seeking quality, original submissions of 250-800 words--on blogging, social media, marketing, or any timely topic related to writing. If chosen, you will receive 10.00 by PayPal upon publication and one link with Bio. Please submit to: Gemsjen@yahoo.com.  I look forward to reading your work.

  • My new poetry book has been released. Yay! "7 Wide" is now available for your reading pleasure, through Amazon.com. If you enjoy my blog, I think you'll dig my poetry too. It has over 40 poems on love, life, and social issues (from my perspective). Get a "behind the scenes" look at the lady behind the blog. Here's a link to order, if you are so inclined. :-) http://www.amazon.com/7-Wide-Jennifer-Brown-Banks/dp/1682299783

  • National Storytelling week is officially celebrated January 30-February 6, 2016. This marks the 16th annual National Storytelling Week, which celebrates the power of stories; whether it's the ones shared through bedtime rituals with your children, or those that shape the steamy romance novels you enjoy. For more info on events and activities that you can participate in, or promote on your blog, contact the Society for Storytelling at their website .

  • Seeking to earn pay for your say? Blogger Jobs has a database of opportunities to explore, based upon your preferences and areas of interest. Search by keywords or location. See what you can find here: http://www.bloggerjobs.biz/

  • The Muffin is seeking your submissions for their "Speak out" section. A feature published every Friday on writing, inspiration, tips for authors, book reviews, etc. Brief, but substantive is the key here. To learn more, visit the Muffin for specific guidelines.

  • Writers Weekly will pay writers $40.00 upon acceptance for tips, tools and techniques published through success stories shared.

That's it from my end today.
Feel free to share your news, success stories, calls for submission, or comments.
Have a great week ahead!

I'm looking forward to an awesome year!