"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

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

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The One Time Management Tip That'll Transform You!

"The unexamined life is not worth living."--Socrates

Do you ever feel that despite your efforts and good intentions, you're not where you should be in your creative career or personal life?
Do you sometimes feel frustrated and depleted?
Would you like to move forward with greater progress and peace?
If so, we're on the same page here.

In fact, today's post serves as a reminder for me, as much as a "caveat" for you.
Let this one practice be a navigational guide for a more productive and positive year...

Be careful what you give your "head space" to.

Allow me to elaborate here. So often we measure and monitor our physical activities, appointments and social obligations in an effort to achieve more, and strive for an enhanced quality of life.
However, in this ongoing pursuit, many times we overlook the things we devote our mental energy and spiritual focus to. Things that can rob us of our peace, sleep and productivity.
Things that can steal our joy and sap our creativity.

Here are a few common culprits:

  • Worry--Worrying about what people think of us; worrying about a lack of clients or finances; worrying about loved ones. 
  • Resentment--Feeling taken advantage of by friends, co-workers, associates, etc.
  • Rejection--Anguish over a failed relationship or the inability to place your work with targeted publications.
  • Regrets--Re-hashing the past, second-guessing your "bad" decisions.
  • Fear--Fear that you won't be successful; fear that you will be successful; fear of what the future holds; fear of not being good enough.
  • Grudges--Anger and bitterness over a perceived wrong or betrayal.
Are you guilty? If so, you'll need to retrain your brain and consider a paradigm shift.

Here are 3 good reasons:

1. A pre-occupation with negative thoughts is a big time waster that prevents you from reaching your full potential and enjoying optimal health.

2. Most times, people that you may hold a grudge against don't really care. You're hurting yourself;  you're not hurting them. Additionally, they may not even be aware that they have offended or harmed you.

3. Karma is an equalizer. Don't keep score, keep the faith. Trust that things will work out in the end in God's way and time.

Quotes to apply and remember...

"The best revenge is a good life."
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."-- Philippians 4:8
"Simply put, when we are frightened, angry, or impatient, we lose our bearings and get in our own way."-- Richard Carlson, Ph.D.
"If you can laugh through it, you can live through it."
"Believe you can and you're halfway there."
"There is great power in letting go, and there is great freedom in moving on."

Thought for the day: "Don't be bitter, be better."

Comments? Agree or disagree?

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Top Tips for Running a Writers' Group This Year

Dan Brotzel is the author of a new comic novel about a very eccentric writers group. In real life, hes also a happy and long-standing member of a local group too. Here he shares his tips on getting your writing circle up and running...

Start small.

Writing groups often just begin with two or three like-minded friends who decide to meet a bit more formally to read their writing out to each other. This is a good way to start because it gives you time to work out the format and way of working thats right for you.

Agree on a format and frequency.
What do you want to do in your group? Read out work and critique it? Set prompts and writing exercises? Or discuss writing-related topics more informally? Agreeing early on about the purpose of the group, and how often you want to meet, will help keep the group going as it develops. For a more informal group, once a month may be enough; for a more serious circle, you might want to aim for every fortnight.

Think about who the group is for.
Are you happy for the group to be open to anyone with an interest in writing? Or do you want the group to be for more committed writers who are looking to get published? Or are you happy with a mixture of experience levels? Thinking about this early on will help you recruit the right people to your group.

Work your network.
If you want to expand your group a little, start by talking to people you now who might be interested. Once the word is out, youll find news quickly spreads there are writers everywhere, secretly beavering away on their words! You could also put flyers in libraries and advertise on local community forums.

Decide on venue(s).
The choice of venue varies according to the type of group you want to be. Informal discussion about writing may be fine in a pub or café, but reading work out loud and discussing it in a more in-depth way can be quite an intimate activity. In our group, we rotate between different homes; other groups we know meet in the same home every time.

Set out a few basic ground rules.
Its a good idea to jot down a few lines about the groups purpose, format, and ways of working. Many of these will be obvious but it will be a useful introduction for new members. You might want to include rules about work having to be original, being respectful when giving feedback, making sure everyone gets roughly the same group time for their work, and so on.

Have a cap on numbers.
Getting the group size right is a delicate balance. Our group meets in the evening, and we work best with around 4-7 attendees. If there are many more, there isnt really time for the group to get round to everyone; which we insist on. Some groups get much bigger, but the danger there is that only the most confident voices get heard. We have a group squad of about 9-10 members, but on any one evening we rarely get more than 5 or 6, so the number works out just right.

Manage feedback.
The way in which feedback is given is a common source of friction in writers groups. Its vital that people share comments in a respectful, constructive way, judging the work on its own terms. As the leader of the group, youll want to keep an eye out to make sure that no one is getting too harsh in their comments, or too discouraged by what they hear. Youll also want to keep an eye on time, to make sure that everyone gets a fair share of group attention.

I love these helpful, actionable tips Dan provided us with here today. But, as a founder and president of my own writers' group for more than a decade, I felt compelled to also share a few recommendations to optimize your efforts.
  • Reserve the right to screen, remove and reject members as you see fit. Unfortunately, some personality types don't work well in group settings. And there's nothing more counter-productive than having conflict, competition and disharmony in a creative group formed with a constructive purpose; particularly for meetings held in your home.
  • Serve refreshments. Good food enhances moods. It doesn't have to be an elaborate spread. Think deviled eggs, chips and dip, take-out pizza, or coffee and cake.
  • Consider charging membership dues or participation fees for your time, effort and shared resources. You deserve it. It also provides for a little extra writing revenue.
  • Write up and distribute formal guidelines and terms for members to accept and sign off on. It ensures that everyone will be "on the same page" and minimizes conflict.
Dan's Final thought: Best thing I ever did!

Before I joined a writing group, I was suspicious and nervous about the whole idea. But within a few weeks, I quickly realized that its the best thing Ive ever done to develop my writing. You learn so much from reading your work out loud, and the many different perspectives that the group offers. If youre thinking of joining or starting a group, go for it!
· Dan Brotzel is co-author of Kitten on a Fatberg, a comic novel about a writers group. As a reader of this blog, you can order Kitten on a Fatberg for a 10% discount quote code KITTEN10

Thoughts? What would you add?
Tell us about your writing groups in the comments.
I'm glad to be back. Let's talk...

Image credits: Pixabay.com

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:

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?



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.


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.

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.


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).


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)

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. :-)


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