"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

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Pen & Prosper's 7th Annual Holiday Gift Guide!

"Tis the season to be jolly!" And I'm tickled pink to have you join me here again in 2022. Like many of you I'm sure, Xmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I must admit that this year will be bittersweet without my mom.  Still, there is much to be thankful for and embrace. 

I love the spirit, the food, the music, the Xmas movies, the holiday gatherings and the simple joy. I've been listening to the soulful sounds of Luther Vandross; singing along to Gwen Stefani's "Santa Baby"; and bouncing around to Mariah Carey's "All I want for Xmas is you."  Which I'm hoping will count as exercise, to burn off some of these season-related calories.

I've also indulged in a little shopping for gifts and goodies for friends. But, let's face it. Sometimes it becomes challenging to decide what to give to whom. Year after year. Particularly for the writer friends that exist on our lists. True?  

Not to worry; I've got you covered. In Pen & Prosper's 7th Annual Holiday Gift Guide, you'll get the input and suggestions of writers and creative folks from around the country. 

Pencils ready? Let's get started.

Oh yeah, please feel free to contribute your gift ideas (or wish list) in the comments section. Deal?


Jennifer Dotson shares: "I love my grid page notebook with the elastic strap over the cover for my poem drafts. There's nothing like paper for initial poem scribbling; more connected than typing on the computer."

Larry Mitchum
offers that a Stress Ball is the perfect gift during these difficult times. He recommends them for writers and folks in general. They can be purchased on Amazon in an array of colors and price points, he adds.

Karen Lange from Kentucky likes Amazon gift cards, journals, nice pens, chocolate, and teas for writers.

Jen here @ Pen & Prosper is convinced that today's writer would be thrilled with the recently released "I Love to Write Day" Journal. It's an enriching read with loads of creative prompts, motivational tips, and money-making ideas. Check out my tip # 17, as one of the contributors. 

Marcie @ Marciewrites.com recommends a chair massager and foot soaker for relaxation and rejuvenation. 


"Topping my list would be blank notebooks for journaling and a writer's desk lamp."


"A pocket dictionary, designer pens and small notebooks for jotting down ideas."

Courtney Sholar from Chicago has a poetry book on her wish list. Maybe you do too. If so, may I suggest my new poetry collection "Ode to Toni Morrison?" 

Here's what a recent reviewer stated in a write up at Highland Park Poetry's website: "There is no dross in the poetry of Jennifer Brown Banks.  Direct, to-the-point, intelligent, and often witty, her poems speak to her experience and ours." 

Available at Amazon.com.



Wrapping things up here...
Hopefully these collective suggestions and ideas will inspire and inform your next shopping trip for the holiday. 
Be safe and most importantly, be sure to be an educated consumer. Avoid online scams. Comparison shop. Research. Read reviews.

Have a great Xmas celebration! And be well.
I look forward to reconnecting In February, 2023 (God willing).



Monday, November 14, 2022

I Love to Write Day is November 15th* Let's Celebrate!


Did you know that November 15th is recognized as the official I Love to Write Day?

Indeed it is. 2022 marks the 20th anniversary for this special day created by writer John Riddle.

John shares: "My goal for I Love to Write Day is simple: people of all ages are encouraged to write something: a poem, a letter, an essay, start a novel, finish a novel...the possibilities are endless!"

In honor of this occasion, Mr. Riddle published a creative journal that is both interesting and informative. Garnering many positive reviews via Amazon.

Read Karen Lange's guest post today to get the details on this exciting project.

I love to Write Day Journal is a wonderful collection of inspiration and motivation for writers and other creative professionals. John Riddle’s down to earth, conversational style engages readers from the first page, offering not only info about how I Love to Write Day evolved, but interesting, fun tidbits and tips to make us think and get us writing.  

In addition to the Creative Challenges (or writing prompts, if you prefer), there’s a collection of Creative Tips from 87 contributors from around the world. This talented bunch includes writers and authors, editors, artists, musicians, and photographers who share about their journey and/or how they put their creativity into motion.  

This book is a wonderful resource for writers of any age, genre, and skill level. Intended for individual use, with space among the pages to pen your own musings. 

The Creative Challenges provided would also be a great catalyst to use with a writing group, teens and upper elementary students, homeschool co-ops, or even for a fun and different party game. 

The I Love to Write Day Creative Journal is not only an exciting and fitting way to celebrate ILTWD’s 20th anniversary, it’s a great resource for years to come. Even if you don’t need a creative boost at the moment, you’ll find great, savvy advice and wisdom within the pages. 

It’s a wonderful read and will be a helpful addition to every writer’s bookshelf.

PERSONAL NOTE: I’m proud to be among the contributors to this great resource for writers! ( See Tip # 17 by Jennifer Brown Banks.) 

ILTWD Journal also makes a great holiday gift for the writers on your list for Xmas. 

For additional I Love to Write Day details, history, and fun facts visit the I Love to Write Day site.


How will you celebrate ILTWD? Were you aware that it existed?


Karen Lange is a writer, editor, and author who resides in Kentucky.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

6 Things I'm Grateful For As a Writer This Thanksgiving

"Taste and see the goodness of the Lord."

It's been a challenging year for many of us in many ways. From horrific acts of violence witnessed on the news, to political chaos, to natural disasters, to upheaval caused by the pandemic.

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

Sometimes when we're mired down and buried under the rubble of life, it's hard to remember the good things, our blessings---to see the hope and promise in tomorrow. And yet we must. 

Gratitude counts. So count your blessings. 

According to Harvardhealth.Edu: “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

With the Thanksgiving holiday on our heels, there’s no better time than now to express the many things I am thankful for as a professional writer and blogger.

I invite you to share your thoughts and “thanks” as well, in the comments section.



From the advent of the Internet, to Google search capabilities, to digital submissions, our work life as writers has been greatly simplified and enhanced by the technological era. No more frequent trips to the local library to check out tons of books to assist our research and inform our writing projects. Despite its periodic drawbacks and glitches, computers and modern technology have been a God send.


  • The advantages are abundant. 
Here are a few:
  • A flexible work schedule
  • Reporting to work in bunny slippers and P.J.'s
  • Avoiding office politics and disruptive gossip
  • No commute
Being a writer today enables many of us to work from the confines of home and achieve a greater work/life balance and less stress.


The Internet "connects" us in more ways than one. Truly.
I have made friends for life as a result of my online relationships and global reach. I'm also thankful to have each of you as readers. These affiliations would have been unheard of when I first became a writer many moons ago. A shout-out to my blogging "bestie in Kentucky."


Although writers are yet to hold the place in society that we should, our work matters. It molds minds; touches hearts; educates; entertains; and empowers. Art is eternal. Whether it's literature, music or artwork. John Keats said it best: " A thing of beauty is a joy forever."


I've never been a salad eating, calorie counting chick. Never will be. I am a proud "foodie".  If you like to munch (before and sometimes after lunch) as I do, having designated meal and break times on a regular gig can be well...a bit of a bummer.  
At home, I sometimes keep a stash of snacks within reach to feed the beast and fuel my muse as well. Allowing me to pig out in privacy. 


On a corporate gig, income is often dictated by an hourly wage or one's job title. This can make it difficult to earn enough for big ticket items; unexpected emergencies; a dream vacation; or desired luxuries. Conversely, there's no limit to what is possible in the day of a writer. It is conceivable to earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars in twenty- four hours, depending on the client or project. 
I have.

Additional blessings include:
continued health, Celestial Seasonings herbal teas, Cheryl's cookies, music by Tears For Fears, and the divinity of nature.

And today, I am thankful for your time.
Wishing you and yours a safe, bountiful, beautiful Thanksgiving holiday!

What are you thankful for as a writer or in general? Do tell.

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Secrets to Making Your E-query Stand Out With Editors

By: Nikola Hartmann

Email queries are fast replacing those sent by snail mail.  While some editors still prefer the traditional approach, many publications, especially those online, only accept digital.


It’s easy, cheap, and convenient for you to instantly send your submissions to just about any editor’s desk. A process that use to take what seemed like an eternity, now takes mere seconds. Editors like it too because they quickly determine if you have potential to deliver.

The good news is that writing a first rate query is not difficult. Especially once you know the winning format…  


Think of your query like a sales letter. You’re selling yourself and your work. Use these tips to make sure your first impression isn’t a disaster!

  • Check the Writer’s Guidelines.  This may seem silly to mention, but … then again, maybe not.  Remember, not all publications accept e-queries; those that do post where to send them. It won’t do much good to send your proposal to Mary Clark in sales, if Mary Clarkson is in charge of submissions. 
  • Subject Matters.  Don’t leave this section blank!  Your email will be deleted, unread.  It’s best to lead with the word, “Query” followed by a three to four word description of your proposal; e.g. Query: New Skin Cancer Threat.
  • Keep it Classy. Got to love those bouncy emoticons and phonetic spellings.  But this is not the time to show your “fun” side.   The number one complaint of editors is that writers submit work riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. Make your spell checker your BFF.   Also, stick with time honored greetings and closings:  Mr., Ms., Sincerely, Respectfully. You’re a professional.  Make sure your work shows it.
  • Editor’s Choice.  Again, this is not the place to show your personality nor write your dissertation. Editors like short, simple, and tight. Grab their attention with a killer hook, tell how you’re going to write the article, and what it covers.  Seal the deal with two links to your work, then close with your signature block (name, address, phone, Email address, website).

Cyberspace makes it super easy to send your queries all over the globe. Just remember to check, check, and re-check your work before you click “send.”


What are your thoughts on e-queries? Love them, like them, or hate them?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, October 21, 2022

Why You Should Become a Triple Threat as a Writer!

                                               “Three is a charm!”

We are living in a “value added” era. It's 2022. People are seeking to “super-size” their meals; to buy one widget and get one free; to shop at places that are multi-purposed; to acquire more for less money and time. More and more, consumers are cash-strapped and seeking options that give them greater “bang for their buck.”

Clients are no different. The more value you can offer them with your services and products, the more valuable you become. 

Which is why becoming a “triple threat” makes great business sense.

 Not convinced?

Just look at some of the icons in the entertainment industry; those who are filthy rich or those that have experienced great longevity in their careers: Jennifer Lopez sings, dances and acts. Danielle Steel  in her many decades-long career, has written 179 books, pens poetry and has created the basis for various TV movie scripts. Steve Harvey does comedy; authors books; and hosts several radio and game shows.  The nexus here? 

Writers, in a sense are “entertainers” too.

Before we examine a few ways you too can become a “triple-threat“, let’s address some of the advantages to you and your clients:

1. The more value you create for clients, the greater the chance for retention.

2. The greater the level of retention, the less money you have to spend in marketing and cultivating new clients.

3. The more services and skill sets you have, the more financial security you will typically create for yourself through different revenue streams. There’s great validity to the expression: “Never put all your eggs in one basket.” 

4. Being a triple threat combats boredom. You can work on multiple projects at any given time.



In this time of “social distancing” and demanding schedules for many adults, providing online classes is a wise option. Chances are, if you write articles or publish a blog, you  already have tips, techniques and strategies you can share with other aspiring writers to enable them to become more successful, or those who simply may be in a “blog fog.”  TEACHABLE.COM is a popular platform that you can check out to get started. Teach to provide greater reach!


According to Stefan James, entrepreneur and life coach: “An information product can be anything from an e-book, audio program or video program.” 

The need to know has never been greater. People are looking for solutions to live better, earn more, parent better, and have their “pain points” addressed. Turn your know-how into net worth. Life coach James offers a very thorough guide to navigate selling information products at his site. Visit Project Life Mastery for specific details.



Statista.com reveals that by 2020, 31.7 million blogs will have been launched. Which presents the perfect opportunity to provide content for busy bloggers or to help them set-up and operate their own sites. I did. In fact, since 2009, it’s been one of my most consistent sources of writing-related income. This can be sold separately or as part of a package deal, depending upon the needs and budget considerations of the client.

To enhance your efforts, here are some additional suggestions and services to consider providing existing and future clients:


Get the idea here? Now get busy!

Just remember, that adding to your professional offerings offers more income earning potential for your business.  Seeking long-term success as a freelancer? 

Count to three!

Thoughts? Agree or disagree here?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Monday, September 26, 2022

Motivation Monday! Quotes to Live & Evolve By...

 Good Morning and Happy Monday!

Whether you're dealing with writer's block, are challenged in your finances, lack  inspiration, or are simply having a "manic Monday", today's quotes will help to broaden your horizons and your perspective.

Read, heed and enjoy! And as always...thanks for spending your time at Pen @ Prosper.

Have a great week ahead. Feel free to leave your own comments or favorite quotes.  


"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." ---Walt Disney
" One person can make a difference, and everyone should try." ---John F. Kennedy
"It's not what critics say. It's what God says that counts." ---Steven Furtick
"To get what you want, STOP doing what isn't working." ---Earl Warren
"Failure is not final."---Steve Harvey

"Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life's a great balancing act." 
---Dr. Seuss
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." ---Alan Kay

" The best way to get on your feet is to stand up." ---Jennifer Brown Banks
" When a person shows you who they are...believe them." Maya Angelou

" Poor companions are like the buttons on an elevator. They will either take you up or take you down."

"Handle them carefully, for words have more power than an atom bomb."

"When things go wrong, don't go wrong with them."

"People who gossip with you will gossip about you."

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."--Eleanor Roosevelt 

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."--Dr. Seuss

"Why fit in, when you were born to stand out."--Dr. Seuss

Your turn.

Comments? Thoughts here? What quote do you live by?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Thursday, September 15, 2022

5 Compelling Reasons to Continue Blogging in 2022!


Are you conflicted about whether or not to continue to blog in 2022? Concerned that there might be a better use of your creative time? Wondering if blogging is still relevant these days? 

Perhaps you've been on a hiatus and are contemplating a blog relaunch?

Whatever your status or mindset, today's post will help to provide greater clarity and better inform your decision moving forward.  

Read on...

Since blogging first surfaced on the Internet scene in the 1990’s, it has experienced a considerable transformation. Gone are the days when these “online diaries” were solely used for personal venting about bad bosses or sharing good gossip with friends.

Blogs have evolved into an important medium that serves a multitude of purposes; depending upon the needs of the user.

Still, with an array of social media platforms emerging with great frequency, some writers question whether blogging remains relevant and worth the effort these days. With all the time, energy and creativity that goes into blogging, getting a good R.O.I. (return on investment) becomes a valid concern. 

According to blogging expert and content strategist Konrad Sanders: “Blogging will always be worth it especially if you find a niche you are passionate about. Whether it be for a brand, business, or for personal reasons, blogging will always give you results. Blogging is a great outlet for bloggers who want to educate, give advice, share personal experiences and thought, and advertise their brand/business.” 


  • Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trustworthy source for gathering online information.
  • 77% of internet users read blogs.
  • Each month, approximately 409 million people view more than 20 billion pages.

If you’re on the fence as to whether to start a blog or to continue one that you previously launched, here are a few things to factor in.

1. Maintaining a Blog helps writers to hone their craft.

Writing on a regular basis helps writers to improve their communication skills, develop confidence, and learn more about the needs of an audience. In fact, just about anything that is done routinely helps to build skill through repetition and practice. "Practice makes perfect."   

2. In 2022 Bloggers have an array of timely topics and political issues to address. The sky’s the limit. 

We are living in interesting times. To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

Today’s headlines and trending topics are vast and historical in nature: from  immigration issues; to the breaking news surrounding the pandemic; to mass shootings around the country; to legislation on gender equality and gay rights. Real life events are starting to rival science fiction and romance novels. Through blogging, writers can inform readers, share their views, support a cause, or initiate dialogue around important issues. Your input matters.

3. Blogging can help writers to earn additional income.

To increase their income and to help build a nest egg for emergencies, writers can monetize their blogs. This can be achieved through various means: allowing ad placements on their site, affiliate programs, or selling their own products.

Bonus tip: Make sure that ads placed on your site are quality oriented and related to your niche and readership.

4. Blogging builds relationships.

Unlike other platforms, the very regular and interactive nature of blogging helps to form friendships and supportive alliances over time. Blogging done right builds  global bonds. In my many years of blogging, my followers and loyal readers have often supported me professionally and personally. 

5. Blogging can be used to build your brand.

Having a blog is useful in establishing your online identity, communicating what you stand for as a writer or entrepreneur, and creating a central body of work that displays your talents and versatility. Think of it as your calling card.

Final Thought

Blogs, much like relationships require periodic re-evaluating and a renewal of your commitment. There will likely be pros and cons.
Consider the words of this timely quote: "When you think about quitting, remember why you started." 


If you are a business, busy author, or the owner of a website in need of quality content, please get in touch. As an award-winning, veteran blogger I know first-hand how challenging it can be to keep a blog frequently updated and to keep readers engaged and entertained. 
I can save you time, money and energy.
Would love the opportunity to work with you.
Contact me @ Gemsjen@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading.

Image credits: Pixabay.com