"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, 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

    Sunday, February 17, 2019

    Ask the Expert With Mystery Writer Susan Sundwall

    Welcome, readers!
    I'm so excited to have you join me as I share an interview with my pal and prolific writer, Susan Sundwall.
    I hope you'll make her feel welcome with your questions and comments today. So let's get started here.


    HI, SUE. CAN YOU TELL READERS A LITTLE ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AND YOUR BACKGROUND?

    I’m a writer who came to the game later in life. I was fifty when I finally decided to start chasing my dream of writing for love and profit. I’ve done so without any formal training in the craft. I did have enthusiastic English teachers all through school who encouraged, or demanded, that we read. I’ve read and loved it for most of my life. And what writer, and avid reader hasn’t finished a book, essay or article and thought, I could write something like that? So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last twenty years.

     WHAT WRITING/PROFESSIONAL RESOLUTIONS TOP YOUR LIST FOR 2019?


    At the very top of my list is targeting more high paying markets for my writing. I’ve had some success with this already in 2019. I look at writing opportunities as one would observe a giant oak tree. Many branches reaching for the sun. Out on the tips of those branches are some interesting opportunities. In January I sold an essay to Woods Reader, a Minnesota magazine I found it through market research. I like to surprise myself by “going out on a limb” every now and then. This time it paid off. 

    YOUR FAVORITE TYPE OF WRITING?


    At the top of that list is essay writing – which I never liked in school – but which eventually became a great love. I tend to write short anyway so I frequently gather my random thoughts and fashion them into an essay with a common thread running through. I often throw in a big dose of humor. I get a lot of positive feedback from this type of writing which only encourages the rascal in me.

    WHAT CHALLENGES YOU THE MOST ABOUT BEING A SCRIBE?


    Like many writers I let myself get distracted way too often. Let’s see what’s going on over on Facebook or Twitter. I think it’s time for a cuppa Joe. Is it my turn to play on Words With Friends? I think I promised to make chocolate chip cookies for somebody today. Let me just run and check the mailbox. Sound familiar?

    HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE?


    With my novel writing I’m a pants-er. I write by the seat of my pants. Free writing and then go back and edit. For me it doesn’t flow otherwise. For essays, poems and other forms it’s all as inspiration strikes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come dripping out of the shower with just the right word or phrase I need that day. I sit right down wrapped in my towel and put it where it belongs while it’s still burning in my brain.

    WHAT’S YOUR BEST WRITING ADVICE FOR THOSE SEEKING TO GO THE DISTANCE?


    Learn how to fail with grace and keep feeding the low fire in your belly for getting your work out there. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Never.

    WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO? CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST WRITING PROJECT?




    The third installment of my Minnie Markwood mystery series, The White Pizza Caper, will be out in November from Speaking Volumes Publishing. I’m very excited about that. This is a new publisher for me that will also feature my first two mysteries as e-books. I’m also putting the finishing touches on a new series, or what I hope will be a series, for a large market that not only buys romance and mystery, but may also turn the story into a television movie. I might have to fail with grace for this one, but that won’t keep me from trying.



    WHAT WORDS OF WISDOM CAN YOU PROVIDE FOR WRITERS WHO MAY BE “PLATFORM CHALLENGED” IN LANDING A TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING CONTRACT TODAY? 


    First, find out what a platform is and begin to build one. Write, submit, fail and succeed, then do it some more. You begin building street cred by putting your name and your work where others can see it. Check out what the big names have done. Everybody was a nobody once. Make an earnest effort to change that for yourself.

    WHAT WOULD IT SURPRISE OTHERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?


    I’m older than I look and smarter than I talk.

    AS A FAN OF YOUR BLOG, CAN YOU TELL ME IF/WHEN YOU’LL RETURN IN 2019?

    I’ve been asking myself the same question. My blog following is very small and I wonder how effective it is. You’ll be one of the first to know if I fire it up again. Thank you for asking, Jennifer and thank you for having me!
    It's always a pleasure, Sue!

    Learn more about Susan at her blog, Sundwall Says:

    http://sundwallsays.blogspot.com/


    Thoughts? Comments here?

    Sunday, February 10, 2019

    6 Bodacious Bloggers* A Black History Month Feature

    "SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND."


    February marks Black History Month. A time to honor the historical contributions and traditions of people of color.
    BHM evolved from “Negro History Week,” initiated by noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Every U.S. president, (since 1976) has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

    Being Black is not a pre-requisite for celebrating Black History.
    Black History is deeply entrenched in American History, and thus has significance that surpasses color or geographical boundaries.

    To honor this month and expand your literary horizons, today's post features 6 Black Bloggers you'll want to add to your blog roll this year.

    'Cause that's how I roll. ;-)
    If time permits, I hope you'll visit their sites, sample what they have to offer and be enriched in the process.


    HERE ARE THESE BODACIOUS BLOGGERS FOR 2019,

    IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:


    MONIQUE @ DIVAS CAN COOK
    https://divascancook.com/meet-monique/


    Monique is "cooking" literally and figuratively! Her site has beautiful, delicious recipes, (photos and videos) to please almost any palate. Monique is on a mission to show today's progressive woman that it's okay to be "liberated" and love being in the kitchen too.
    Stop by and say hi!

    SYBIL CHAVIS @ POSSIBILITY OF TODAY
    http://www.possibilityoftoday.com/


    She's a combination of brains, beauty and heart. Sybil is a Harvard graduate who knows her stuff. Through her popular site she shares tips and strategies to overcome obstacles and enhance the quality of life.
    Chavis and her husband decided to engage in a simple act that had major impact. They vowed to give up complaining for 40 days. This ushered in a new way of thinking and a new way of life. Read how having a paradigm shift and a positive mental state can transform your relationships, your career, and your overall perspective. You'll find a lot of interesting topics, resources, and posts worth pondering here. Imagine the possibilities!

    MEGAN @ BLACKFREELANCE.COM
    https://blackfreelance.com/

     
    As the title reflects, Megan educates, advocates and advances writers of color through tips, tools, strategies and industry related info on her site. Actually, color aside,  her blog is a great space for ANY scribe seeking to "end employer dependence" and make a difference with words. 
     
    KELLY SANTANA BANKS@ REVIEWS BY THE BANKS
    https://www.reviewsbythebanks.com/

    Kelly is a children’s author, freelance writer, educator, and yogi. When she is not “on duty,” she loves to indulge in the next best reading, hit the gym, and spend time with family and friends exploring unbeknownst locations.  The Reviews By the Banks blog has some really helpful, engaging reads and reviews for writers of all genres. Kelly and I were "introduced" initially by way of an interview she conducted with me last year; I became a regular reader from there.
    You can get the 4-1-1 here:
    https://www.reviewsbythebanks.com/you-gotta-love-this-writing-with-jennifer-brown-banks-pen-prosper/


    DR. JANE NANNONO
    https://apagefrommunakusbook.wordpress.com/

    "The doctor's in!" Providing written prescriptions for elevated thinking and a better quality of life, through her monthly motivational blog messages. Visit her site and you'll discover a woman who is a "teacher," life-long learner, activist, philosopher and do-gooder. Additionally, she is a published author and accomplished writer. If you can only read one post here, I highly recommend this one: https://apagefrommunakusbook.wordpress.com/2018/10/07/finding-your-sense-of-safety/


    ONEIKA RAYMOND@ ONEIKA THE TRAVELLER
    http://www.oneikathetraveller.com/category/life-and-style


    Oneika is on a mission to see the world. And she invites us to join her. Oneika is an educator, travel expert and real life "Dora the explorer." She's been featured in Forbes and a host of other print and digital publications. Her popular blog combines travel, fashion, relationships and practical life tips to a broad readership.
    Here's a post from the traveler you'll find interesting:
    http://www.oneikathetraveller.com/how-to-make-100k-a-year-teaching-overseas.html

    THOUGHT FOR THE DAY...

    "Variety is the spice of life." Check out these diverse, dynamic bloggers to broaden your perspective, your world view, and perhaps even your writing topics.


    Comments? Which blogger interests you the most here?
    Anyone you would add to the list?

    Image Credits: https://pixabay.com/