"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, June 22, 2021

Interview With Author and Ghostwriter Laura Sherman

Hi, Laura. Thanks for your time today.  Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your educational background?

Sure! I’ve been a ghostwriter for twenty years now. I love to write and am happiest when I’m working on multiple projects at the same time. Right now I am in the middle of three memoirs and one how-to book about parenting. Plus, I’m working on a new sci-fi series that I’m authoring with a partner. I’m excited to be branching into self-publishing.

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, but that vocation didn’t really suit me. I began ghostwriting when my first client was introduced to me one day, out of the blue. He hired me to write a novel, then paid for three more. That launched my career. To this day, I’m grateful to him for taking a chance on me.

Q. Describe your creative process. Do you write every day?

Yes, I do! Writing is not just a job for me; it’s my favorite creative outlet. I couldn’t imagine not writing every day.

I usually prefer to write in the morning when it is very quiet in our home, but sometimes I will get a burst of creative energy later in the day. I homeschool three children, so I’m always juggling tasks. I thrive on the excitement and challenge.

When ghostwriting, my relationship with each author is unique; no two projects are the same. Since my creative process includes my client, it can vary widely. However, with twenty years under my belt, I know how to adjust the course to suit the author. I’m flexible and always do my best to make the experience enjoyable for my client.

When working on my own novels, my creative process is pretty straightforward. I always outline the story. However, lately I’ve taken to a looser approach. It’s said that there are “plotters” and “pantsers” (the latter being people who write by the seat of their pants). I will say that I have gone from being a dyed-in-the-wool plotter to more of a pantser as I gain experience.

Q. The literary landscape has changed much over the years. How has this impacted your business or your writing approach?

To be honest, it hasn’t really. Of course writing conventions and grammar rules change over time, but that doesn’t affect me much. I work with clients to accomplish their goals and achieve their writing dreams. I love that part of the business. When someone has the dream of seeing their book in print at Barnes and Noble, I am energized to make that happen.

I will say that I had a hiccup in my business this last year. At the beginning of 2020, I was set for a stellar year, and then our world turned upside down. I lost a couple of contracts and had to scramble. That was tough. However, by September I was back on track and now I’m booked through the rest of the year and into 2022.

Q. What’s the “story” behind how you actually got into ghostwriting?

The way I landed my first book deal was incredible. I received a lead from an acquaintance. He knew someone who needed help writing a book. The acquaintance who vouched for me really believed in me. That amazed me because he hadn’t seen much of my work (just a few pieces) and I didn’t have much of a portfolio. His faith in me gave me the confidence to pursue this new avenue. And as I said earlier, that first client hired me to write four books!

Q. What are some important qualities one must have to be a professional ghostwriter?

To be a good ghostwriter, you need to be an excellent writer, have great communications skills, and be a good businessperson.

To become an excellent writer, most authors I’ve spoken to agree that you must write hundreds of thousands of words to find your own written voice. This takes a while; it’s not an overnight process. In fact, another theory I recently heard is that anyone can become expert in a craft after practicing the skill for 10,000 hours. That sounds about right to me.

You also must be willing to give up all the rights and credit for your work when you ghostwrite. There are a lot of talented writers who can’t wrap their wits around this. For me, I really don’t mind. Truly! I’m paid well and enjoy each project I ghostwrite. Since I write in a variety of genres, I also learn about a wide range of topics, which is a bonus.

On the business side, you really need to be good at sales. Most writers hate that side of things, but I actually like it. The fact is, I think sales is where a lot of ghostwriters fail. They simply don’t want to talk about money. But to be successful, you must lead with the subject of cost, or you’ll waste days, weeks, or months chasing after a client who can’t afford your fee.

Q. Since many ghostwriting jobs are not published on traditional job boards, can you share a few tips on how you garner clients?

I created a powerful blog and all my leads come from that. I continue to expand on that blog, writing about ghostwriting and sharing advice about writing in general. Most people can’t afford a ghostwriter, so I have written dozens of articles answering basic and advanced questions about how to write a book.

I focus on helping people through my blog and, as a result, people find me through search engines and reach out to me. Today, all my clients come through my website.

Q. What tips can you share on successfully hiring a ghostwriter? What should one look for?

I wrote an article called How to Hire a Ghostwriter that might interest your readers. I give a lot of tips in this article.

If your readers are interested in hiring a ghostwriter, I’d suggest that they research all prospective writers thoroughly before reaching out to them. Check out books they have written or ghostwritten. Although most ghostwritten titles can’t be divulged, experienced writers will have at least a couple of books that bear their names. Some clients gift a ghostwriter with a cover credit.

Once you find a ghostwriter you like, take the time to really talk to him or her. Make sure the chemistry is there. Great communication is key for any ghostwriting relationship. After all, you’ll become a partner with your ghost for the next eight to eighteen months!

Q. From your website, I see you write in different genres. What’s your favorite and why?

To be honest, I love all genres as long as the subject is uplifting and/or educational. Over half of what I ghostwrite are memoirs, but I love writing fiction and business books as well.

My favorite memoir genre is a rags-to-riches story, or one where someone overcame unbelievable odds to achieve success. Those stories are so inspiring, and I know they will help many, many readers.

I’m especially partial to entrepreneurs and artists. If I can help them share their story with the world, I feel honored and privileged.

Q. What’s your U.S.P.?  In other words, what would you say separates you from the many ghostwriters currently on the writing scene?

That’s a great question! I think it may be that I try to help everyone who writes to me. I’m aware that most people can’t afford my price, and that’s OK. I understand. However, I do my best to set as many authors as I can on a path that will help them get their books written one way or another.

To that end, my blog probably sets me apart, as what I have to say seems to resonate with people. I like to think that anyone who reaches out to me will be helped in some way.

Q. How much has your most profitable “ghost” project yielded?

I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite, so the word count always dictates my fee. I recently completed a 400-page book that yielded $100,000. And just prior to that, I ghostwrote a series of short stories that brought in $75,000.

My average contract is for a 200-page book at $50,000, but I will sometimes write shorter books for people.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

I love what I do! As a ghostwriter I can help breathe new life into projects that sometimes have been shelved half-written or have only existed in the imagination of the author for years. Some of my clients want to self-publish their books, while others have a publisher waiting for the manuscript. Some simply want to write their life story so their family and friends can learn about their experiences. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to help each client fulfil their personal goals and dreams.


Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “The Friendly Ghostwriter,” has authored and ghostwritten over thirty books in the last twenty years. She specializes in writing stories that uplift, educate, and inspire her readers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Pen & Prosper Celebrates 12 Yrs. in the Blogosphere!

Welcome back, Readers!

I hope that everyone had a fun and fulfilling holiday weekend, with many memories to cherish. I can hardly believe that as of this week, we're mid-way through the year. Where has the time gone?

This June there is much to celebrate: encouraging Covid-19 stats and declining cases; justice for George Floyd; warmer weather and the re-opening of many businesses in our respective areas.

Though today's news here may pale in comparison, I think it merits celebration just the same. This June Pen and Prosper turns 12 years old. Yay! For those of you who have been bloggers/or are bloggers currently, I don't have to tell you how much time, creativity, energy and commitment is required to pull this off for an extended period of time. Hello?


  • To date, there have been over 850 posts published
  • According to Google Analytics 8,387 comments have been made
  • Pen & Prosper was first launched in June, 2009
  • I thought about quitting about 100 times in the interim (lol)
  • The top 4 viewing countries/areas are:
  1. United States
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden
  4. Germany
  • In dog years, Pen and Prosper would be 84 years old
  • In human years she would be a pre-teen
  • Pen & Prosper has been honored/recognized as a "top blog for writers" every year since 2013.
  • One of my favorite posts here was a guest interview with celebrity/writer Warren Adler. In case you missed it, read it here:

Final Thought

In closing, I would just like to take this opportunity to gratefully thank all of my readers, guest post contributors, clients, partnering brands and supporters for your collective efforts, engagement and ongoing encouragement.

I couldn't (wouldn't) do this without you!

Wishing you many blessings,


Image credits: Pixabay.com

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The 3Rs Series Returns With More Reads and Leads!


Whether your goal is to get in the writing groove, get paid for your blogging efforts this year or simply increase your knowledge base, today’s edition of the 3Rs series has got you covered.

So, if you're on board, let's get busy.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback on helpful links or recommended reads.



















TOOLS FOR WRITERS (to hone your craft and increase your cash)




In today's uncertain economic times, it "pays" to enhance and advance ourselves through professional development courses. Whether it's for your 9 to 5 gig or your freelance business.
As writers, it not only allows us to maintain a competitive edge; it also enables us to provide greater value to our clients. Thereby creating a win/win situation for all.
Accordingly, Udemy.com offers an array of online classes at affordable prices.

I've taken a few classes over the years that have been very beneficial.
Hopefully, you will too.

Check out their site for more details here:

Have a great, safe holiday.
...Until next time.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Could a Digital Detox Be "Just What the Dr. Ordered"?


There’s no doubt about it. Living in the Digital Age has enhanced and advanced us unlike any generations before.

The Internet and social media apps have allowed us to increase efficiency levels; save time; research without going to the library; work from the confines of home; date and mate; and a host of other awesome things.

And let’s face it: amid the pandemic of 2020/21, it has been crucial in helping us to stay connected and communicate with loved ones near and far, through virtual meetings and themed parties. (Thank God for small blessings.)

Still, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its drawbacks.

Which is why a Digital Detox may be "just what the doctor ordered."
But, before we examine what this entails, a definition here helps to provide greater clarity.


Simply put, a digital detox is when a person commits to going offline and eliminating smart phones, social media apps, etc. for a specified period of time. Often for health, relational and/or quality of life reasons.

According to itstimetologoff.com: “A digital detox is a temporary period of fully disconnecting from all digital devices to focus on social interaction, reduce stress, and be fully present in the world ‘offline’.
The term ‘digital detox’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, just six years after the launch of the first iphone (which kicked off the smartphone revolution).”


1. Being connected online for extended periods of time can often cause a "disconnect" in our personal relationships at home.

Excessive usage of Facebook and screen time can contribute to our partners and children feeling neglected and less of a priority. Wikipedia reports that " A 2015 survey conducted by Deloitte found that around 59% of smartphone users check a social media platform in the five minutes prior to going to bed, and within 30 minutes of waking up."

2. "Moderation is key with all things."

Many folks find that daily Internet activities can become somewhat "addictive" and distract from other
important responsibilities and goals. In the words of Dr. Phil. "You can't fix what you don't acknowledge first."

3. To recover and rediscover our social skills.

Being on our cell phones and in front of computer screens excessively can contribute to eye strain, back pain and migraines. It can also cause many of us to feel overwhelmed and constantly "on call", if we're not prudent about how we devote our attention and our limited hours. Not to mention, what it does to diminish our in-person social skills and the art of conversation.


Sometimes, in this fast-paced world we need to "disconnect" to reconnect with greater priorities, things that matter and simple pleasures.

Thoughts here? Have you ever done a digital detox?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, April 30, 2021

Meet Highland Park Poetry's Founder Jennifer Dotson


Hi, Jennifer.

Thank you so much for joining us here today. Happy National Poetry Month.

Q. Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your professional background?

A. I earned a B.A. in English Literature/Theatre Arts from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an M.F.A. in Drama from the University of Virginia. I moved from the DC area to Chicago expressly for the vibrant storefront theatre scene. My trajectory in my youth was clear – I wanted to perform on the stage. It wasn’t until marriage and family that my creative direction detoured to writing and poetry.

Q. How long have you been penning poetry?

A. I credit my visual artist friend, Cathi Schwalbe, for nudging me towards poetry in the late 90’s. She was organizing an outdoor art exhibit in the small park across from her home and was inviting poets to write responses to the art work. She contacted me because she knew that I wrote plays. When I explained that I’d never written poetry before, she said, “That’s alright, it’s just word art.” Her invitation and permission to play were just the push I needed. Not long after, there was a horrifying case in the news about a mother who smothered her children. I was a new mother at the time and was very upset by this story. Writing a poem about it helped me process this painful narrative.

Q. How would you describe your writing style?

A. My friend Arlyn Miller is the founder of Poetic License Press and she says that she looks for work that is accessible, honest and engaging. I’ve always liked that statement and hope that my work is all those things with a tendency towards humor.

Q. What prompted you to launch HIGHLAND PARK POETRY? Do you publish the works of non-residents as well?

A. Writing poetry can be a very personal and isolating experience. I started Highland Park Poetry as a way of creating a poetry community.  I launched the website in January 2007 and invited poets I found published in a local journal and by word of mouth to a small series of readings and events for April’s Poetry Month. Since then, it has grown and expanded to a year-round endeavor with events, contests, workshop, publication opportunities and more. Writers from all over the United States and the world are welcome to share poetry. Our recent 2021 Poetry Challenge included many submissions from the United Kingdom, even Australia and Korea.

Q. How would you define good poetry?

A. Someone close to me once took a graduate course in poetry where the professor said that some of the best poetry is when you read it, you feel as though you could have written it yourself. I like that idea that the reader so strongly connects to the words and images that the experience is as if the poem emerged from reader’s own brain. 

Q. What inspires you to write? Do you tend to be more prolific in times of grief or joy?

A. I’m not a particularly prolific poet – I don’t wake up every morning and write a poem. Prompts and deadlines are my biggest motivators. I facilitate poetry writing workshops through the Highland Park Public Library’s Library U! program. I choose exercises, forms and sparks that I would like to try myself. This on-the-spot writing with others and a timer is good generator for me. Later after the session, typing out my handwritten notes is where my work gets polished or set aside.

I know many writers found inspiration during the pandemic – that writing poetry about the experience was enormously helpful and cathartic for them. Oddly enough, I felt rather blocked. Perhaps the fear and anxiety felt too large and too close.  I couldn’t wrap my arms around it.

Q. Do you have a favorite piece or collection of your work thus far? 

A. I have two collections of poetry – Clever Gretel received the Journal of Modern Poetry Book Award and was published by Chicago Poetry Press in 2013. Late Night Talk Show Fantasy and Other Poems was published by Kelsay Books in 2020 – not a very good year to launch a book.  There are pieces in both collections that I feel strongly about but no favorites. I’ve also got poems that are telling me they need their own book, too.

Q. How do you know when a poem is really “finished”?

A. At some point, it feels right. And you take a chance and send it off to a literary journal or online zine.  Even then, you might look at it many months (or more) later and see something that you want to fix or change to make it better.

Q. Who are some of your literary influences?

A. I’m a big fan of Denise Duhamel’s work. I think first stumbling onto her book Kinky Barbie opened my eyes to what was permissible in poetry. Also, I’ve long been an admirer of Kay Ryan. She is definitely the master of creating impact in a compact package. Her poems are like Faberge eggs.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share?

A. Highland Park Poetry is currently accepting poems for our Summer Muses’ Gallery on Shoes. The deadline is May 17. Poems should not exceed 30 lines; previously published is okay with acknowledgment. Send up to 5 poems in an email text to Jennifer @highlandparkpoetry.org. 


With the pandemic, Highland Park Poetry publishes daily poem posts on our Facebook page – these later appear on the website as well. Since last March, we’ve posted poems about the pandemic or poems about endurance or that inspire calm or joy. Send up to 5 poems in an email text to Jennifer @highlandparkpoetry.org. Shorter poems preferred.

Lastly, Highland Park Poetry is always seeking volunteers to read and review poetry books. Reviews are short, 500 – 750 words. Likewise, if you have a collection published within the past two years, I will add your title to my list of books in search of a volunteer reviewer.

Be sure to check out www.HighlandParkPoetry.org. We typically announce our annual poetry challenge contest in October.

It‘s been a pleasure.

Image credit: 

Author photo/Martha Abelson Photography

Book cover: 

Sue Cargill


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Jen's Pandemic Playlist...


Last week, while out shopping for yard landscaping items for spring projects, I ended up picking up a music CD that reminded me of music's "magical" elements and the joy of simple pleasures.

How music can temporarily make bad moods disappear and lift the spirits. How it can transport listeners to different times and past loves. How it can cause us to stop and sing or sway or dance. Forget our worries.

That $7.00 purchase of the Bee Gees' greatest hits definitely hit the spot. In fact "Staying Alive" is blaring in the background as I compose this piece. (No pun intended). 

Lately, with so much tragedy, violence, political upheaval and health issues, being able to find a form of escape that keeps us sane and safe is a definite blessing. Wouldn't you agree?  

But, don't just take my word for it. Here's what the experts and related studies show:

According to Verywellmind.com: " If you like music you probably already know it can affect your mood. Maybe you put on your favorite song to pump yourself up for an important meeting or listen to soothing music when you’re relaxing at home before bed.  Research has demonstrated the benefits of music therapy for people with depression and anxiety. While music therapy is often used to promote mental and emotional health, it may also improve the quality of life for people with physical health problems."

While Harvard healthedu. shares: "How might music enhance cognitive performance? It's not clear, but the researchers speculated that listening to music helps organize the firing of nerve cells in the right half of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher functions. According to this construct, music — or at least some forms of music — acts as an "exercise" that warms up selected brain cells, allowing them to process information more efficiently."  


(You can thank me later.)












What's on your playlist these days? Who did I miss?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Thursday, April 22, 2021

National Poetry Month Tribute Continues


Levels Of A Cafe Window

Inside the narrow hall I perceive an opening wall

like a 2-D painting with scattered shapes and shadow

real as bricks or a Lasgaux cave

or icons glittering gold mosaic shards across a frieze

atop tall columns Gothic, Romanesque now seized

by black and white Art Deco mirrors, 

vased and architected


Original seeing before the depth of understanding

before the holographic rendering…

where all sides are one,

I face the trunk, then see the tail and convex gut.

All seeing, all knowing in retrospect.

Ah vision, blind illusion is photographically still.

Outside the windowglass, my ears protected

from the sound of sky and wind

and passing flights of geese,

just then, a man walks left to right.

Halfway through the sun’s light he splits in two,

and one beam bounces off his chest

one part hides from view

like a magic trick magician’s use to fool me and you.

But motion makes him more than flat, in fact

he becomes a silent film,

a replication of belief 

in substance

in light

where petty algorithms of slight 



It is a pity that the knowledge came at last

as I gaze upon my distant past.

Earth’s young lined up to come and prosper from the time

when nine-tenths of the population

solidify the lessons learned in half the time.

Like a train from Penn Station’s underground

exiting the tunnel at the speed of sound

they found the key, the we, the profound seeing,

the moving stats from A to B.

What happened to me?

I see a woman sitting in her seat

she seems complete, slender,

tall if on her feet.

Yet as she stands her torso widens

at her hips and thighs,

her legs are shortened and her gait was

forward-leaning from her waistband.

What happened to her?

How did she get to be composite,

not personality, but body parts that seemed as one

but came instead as three?

I marvel at the disarrangement knowing all I see

is just the play of energy for my fun amusement.

Copyright Mary LaForge


Thoughts, readers? 

What's your favorite line, stanza or poem?

Image credits: Pixabay.com