"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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Resources, Reviews & Recommended Reads* 3Rs Series

Happy Friday, folks!
I hope you've had a good, positive, productive week.
In my ongoing efforts to help you "hone your craft and increase your cash," I'm publishing another edition of the 3Rs series!
You're sure to find some resources and reads to enhance your writing and marketing efforts moving forward.

Please feel free to share any leads and reads of your own in the comments section.
And if you find this information useful, perhaps consider sharing it within your social media circles.
Pencils ready?













If you're in search of an attractive, affordable, thoughtful gift item for a fellow writer, friend or relative, look no further than My Thirty One!
I actually discovered this gem by accident.
Long story short... my buddy from Kentucky sent me a lovely teal-green journal/carrying pouch as a gift item for my birthday and I was over the moon! What a great surprise!

My Thirty One offers a beautiful selection of accessories, stylish gear to keep you organized, and trinkets you'll love too.

Learn more at their site here:

Help me to help you.
What would you like to see more of here? Which resource or lead provided the greatest value for you?
Anything else you'd recommend? Do tell.

Image Credits: Pixabay.com

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Feels like Heaven! Pen & Prosper Turns Eleven

Welcome back, readers!
Thank you for including Pen & Prosper in your weekly blog stop hops.
I am honored to have you here.
Particularly in that June, 2020 marks eleven years in the blogosphere for this blogger. Yay!
And let me tell you, that's no small feat, folks.

With so many negatives manifesting this year, I believe that it becomes even more important to celebrate small victories; to stay the course; to be intentional in our efforts; to uplift one another; to keep striving for excellence. Wouldn't you agree?

This year has unfolded like no other. It's been as tough as a cheap steak.
Yesterday, (as a point of reference) I found out that a dear friend of mine had died unexpectedly.
We had been writing buddies since the '90's.

More than the loss of a good pal, his death holds for me a cautionary tale. You see, my friend Mike was a talented and gifted poet/writer. He was also somewhat of a procrastinator. We talked many times about compiling and "officially" publishing his work to share with larger audiences. He kept delaying it. Now, it saddens me to know that his eloquent and insightful pieces will never be viewed.
Please, don't let this be you. Tomorrow is not promised.

So, rather than be consumed by all the disappointments and disasters this year, I have decided to focus on the good. Which brings us here.


Here are some fun facts as it relates to this blog 

and the creator:

  • There have been approx. 816 posts published on this site. On everything ranging from marketing, to client retention, to book reviews, to food and fun. And I'm proud to say that other than a few breaks over the summer and major holidays, I have blogged consistently, without interruption.
  • Total collective page views for Pen & Prosper to date is 671,622.
  • Pen and Prosper has been recognized as a "top blog" for writers for 8 consecutive years.
  • One of my favorite books on blogging is 62 Blog Posts to Overcome Bloggers Block, Marcie Hill.
  • My favorite time to post is around 6:00 a.m.
  • Though my passion is writing, my college degrees are actually in business.
  • My celebrity crushes are: Keanu Reeves, LaRoyce Hawkins (of Chicago P.D.), Michael Ealy and Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane). 
  • My favorite color is black.
  • If I weren't a writer, I would love to be a celebrity chef.
  • My mom guilted me into becoming a "published" writer.
  • Beethoven brings me to tears.
  • I have a fear of flying.
  • My current works in progress are a poetry book and recipe book for creatives.
I hope this brings all my readers up to speed and helps you to know the "woman behind the words" a bit better.

In closing 

I would like to thank each of you for your time, readership, confidence, friendship, suggestions and many contributions to the success of this blog.
I couldn't do it without you!

Until next time...


 Image credits:

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Food 4 Thought On George Floyd and Where We Are

As a general rule, I typically don't address controversial topics on Pen and Prosper. And with good reason. I figure there's enough "noise" on the Net. Why amplify it. True?
Still, as writers and bloggers, sometimes it becomes important for us to use our platforms to teach, transform, share important stories, eradicate ignorance and enrich others. Not to mention, when we are silent on crucial issues we miss the opportunity to make a difference.
This is one of 'dem times.

The other day, I walked endlessly, to the point where my feet ached, in an effort to search for something simple. I had a taste for some meat loaf, but was out of ground beef. (And humbly speaking, my meatloaf is "to die for".)

I walked from store to store, corner to corner, block to block. They all had one thing in common.
They were all closed due to recent looting and chaos associated with the George Floyd incident.
Many were boarded up. It was nothing like the beautiful, busy streets I usually encounter in my middle-class neighborhood.

I found myself fighting back the tears out of frustration. How did we get here?
It seems that "the more things change the more they stay the same."  Truth is, a lot of folks believe that in this post-Obama era that discrimination, racial injustice and police brutality against people of color are a thing of the past.
If you're one of them, I have some land I'd like to sell you. :-)

To process the pain and vent, I wrote this poem.

Feel free to comment (respectfully) or to share your own thoughts as well.
No judgement here.


Nobody wins,
When the injustice
We seek to avenge
Is overshadowed
With a victory that’s

A war waged
With looting,
Senseless violence 
And civil unrest,
With scores
Of stores
In boards,
As havoc

Nobody wins,

Nobody wins,
When history’s former lessons
Go unheeded
And progress impeded--

By ghosts
Of yesteryears,
unresolved fears,
And a
 broken system,
With a pathology
Yet to be 

Nobody wins,
 With hatred 
And an 
“Eye for an eye” mentality,

For the inescapable reality
Is violence 
Begets violence
And simply, 

in the end,


On a final note here, I am proud to announce my contribution to an upcoming anthology on activism, slated for publication in September.

Learn more here.


Have a great week ahead.

P.S. Please excuse any typos. I have not had my caffeine yet today.

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Top Take-Aways I Gained From Losses This Year

Life is often compared to a classroom.
And our ability to assess important information, heed timely lessons and learn from our myriad experiences greatly determines whether we will ultimately "graduate" to new levels of enhanced living and become our optimal selves.

Like it or not painful events, dysfunctional relationships and loss can impart valuable, developmental lessons along the way. I can attest. This year has been a perfect example. With only about 6 months in, I have already had to contend with freedom losses due to restrictions imposed by the current pandemic, income losses and sadly with a parent's earthly transition.

Still, these losses have provided some gains that shall remain with me-- in terms of wisdom, appreciation for everyday blessings, the beauty of friendships and more.

In no particular order, I share these "take-aways" gained to perhaps shorten your learning curve.
Feel free to add your own at the conclusion of this post, in the comments section.

1. You get what you give.

After I lost my mom, I got calls from various friends to check up on me and see if I needed any assistance in my time of grief. In all honesty, I could barely think straight at the time.
In sharing with one of my pals  how truly touched I was in terms of the great support and unselfish acts of my many friends, she said to me: "Jen, you get what you give."

The take-away

Karma is real, folks. What you put out in the universe will come back to you. Sometimes when you least expect it.

2. Give people their roses while they are living. 

Death is always inconvenient, no matter when we encounter it. Though I do regret that I didn't have more time with my mom, I definitely showed her in numerous ways how cherished she was in my life. Some might even say I spoiled her.
I would recommend that you do the same, when possible.

The take-away

Don't assume people know how you feel. Even if they do, you can never express sentiments of love too much. Take the time to spend quality time with your kids; tell your mate that he/she is appreciated; write a corny poem for a pal. Tomorrow is not promised.

3. Preserve your health.  

Whether it's the need to self-quarantine to protect from the Corona virus; making appointments for important health screenings; or deciding to finally quit smoking. Do it now. Don't procrasti-wait.

The take-away

"At risk" behaviors can greatly compromise our quality of life and shorten life spans.
The life you save may be your own.

4. Learn to be selectively selfish.

Like many women, I saw my mom, throughout her life make great sacrifices for her family, friends and those in need. And it wasn't always reciprocated, unfortunately.
It's good to extend ourselves to others, but  there's great validity to the expression:"You can't give from an empty cup."

The take-away

Sometimes we must put ourselves first...to last.

5. Say goodbye to grudges!

Grudges can steal valuable time, rob you of peace and add heaviness to your heart. Don't add to the drama. Don't let your happiness be held hostage. Sometimes people get us. Sometimes they don't.
The funny thing about death and loss is that it can cause relatives and friends to communicate and come together out of forced circumstances and the need for solidarity and support.

The take-away

For every loss there is a gain. Embrace it.

6. And "this too shall pass."

Unlike many people, the stay at home mandates imposed as a result of the pandemic, have not greatly bothered me. What has been more of an issue is not having things that I can specifically look forward to. Before Corona, my social calendar was filled with upcoming authors' events, summer barbecues and karaoke nights. Now, it's all on hold, indefinitely. 
In difficult times, it helps to remember that these days won't last forever. And who knows, some things may even improve in months to come. At least we can hope, right?

The take-away

Cherish each day. Celebrate small victories. Keep a positive mindset. Pray for better times.

Your turn.

Agree or disagree? 
What "take-away" did you get from my take-aways?  Do tell.

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Monday, May 18, 2020

To a Beautiful & Bearable Home Between Quarantine!


Welcome back, readers,
It's good to reconnect.
As I navigate a very difficult chapter of my life, I debated and deliberated as to whether I would post anything else pertaining to Covid-19, at an already tough time for me.
Not to mention, we're collectively and constantly bombarded with daily stories and deadly stats.

Then I realized that like it or not, Corona Virus will always be embedded in the fabric of world history from 2020 on. And part of our roles as writers and bloggers is to report and examine the happenings of our times. Good and bad.

This blog piece, (though it addresses the Corona Virus), will however, have a positive spin, fun tips and useful information to enhance your environment and hopefully empower you.

If you're on board, grab your favorite brew and let's get started....


“If this pandemic doesn't kill me, cabin fever will" wrote a blogger I follow weekly, in an April blog post. Turns out, he's not alone in his feelings of imprisonment and isolation.

Recent news coverage revealed that despite numerous "stay at home" mandates across the country to prevent Covid-19 transmission and provide for curve-flattening, flocks of folks are flirting with potential death, ignoring CDC warnings and risking legal penalties just to escape the "confines" of home. With the onset of warmer weather, people were spotted by reporters, having picnics, playing basketball and assembling carefree at beaches.
In learning of this “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” activity on TV a few weeks ago, I wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or cry.

(Word to the wise: If the thought of being at home for an extended period of time is the equivalent of a death sentence for you, "Houston, we have a problem.”)


A home, at a very basic level is a true blessing. Trust me here, those among the homeless population would gladly trade places with you (be it ever so humble) seven days a week.
And if you’re a freelance writer that gets to escape the rat race and work from home
Well, just know that many wannabes consider you as “privileged” as the royal family.
Still not sold on the idea?

Remember Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz? How despite her extensive, magical travels, cool friends encountered along the way, and obstacles faced, at the end of her journey finally concludes:
“There’s no place like home.” She was on to something.

Consider all the sage quotes that place a high premium on your quarters as well.

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”
“Your home is your castle.”
“Home is where the heart is.”
“Home is a feeling.”


If your home doesn’t give you a “warm, fuzzy, feeling” of comfort and safety, it’s time to change your mindset or your space. Particularly for writers that write from home and need to have the proper stimuli to be productive, positive and creatively inspired.



“Your home and work environment are an important influence on your sense of
well-being, but they are often overlooked,” according to UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain. “These are the environments we spend the most time in, so it’s only natural they would have an impact on us.”
Talkspace.com further offers: “Physical environments directly impact our psychological health. Adjusting your surroundings can dramatically improve your mental health.”


Now, more than ever before, our homes need to be a place of peace, joy, safety, beauty and a soft place to land. Though there are many speculations as to when this quarantine will officially end, we could be in for the long haul. I’m preparing accordingly.
You should too.


Truth is, my home has always been one of my favorite places. Though nothing fancy, it’s clean, relatively spacious (three floors) and speaks to my spiritual and mental needs.
Still, I’m taking things up a notch during these tumultuous times.


Did you know that studies show that clutter contributes to greater stress levels and lower productivity?
I have been going beyond “spring cleaning” to create a space for grace. I’m donating a bunch of movies, books and miscellaneous items to Goodwill and other charities.





I often have clients’ appointments at my home, so now is the time to spruce it up a bit more, since I have more time on my hands. (Additionally, I consider my home’s appearance as important in conveying a “successful” image to my clients, when doing business here). I just got a big screen TV mounted on the wall and added more plants and accessories.

For greater balance, harmony and prosperity.

For enhanced mood setting and mental clarity.

For on-site, periodic “happy hours” to mellow out the madness.


  • Movie marathons with favorite snacks
  • Family game night
  • Catching up on reading books on your night stand
  • Starting a reading garden this summer
  • Working on passion projects
  • Launching/re-launching a blog
  • Guest posting on other prominent blogs

If and when this pandemic becomes a thing of the past, and you’ve incorporated some of these strategies shared, you’ll have a home that serves as an “inviting” place to entertain family and friends, and a great source of pride.

Comments? Agree or disagree?

Image credits (except where otherwise noted)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tips to Maintain Sanity During Covid-19 Quarantine

Like many of you, I freelance at home, so my everyday life hasn’t been turned upside down quite like those employed elsewhere. I’m an introvert, a homebody, and I relish alone time to work and recharge. Still, I was feeling rather hemmed in amid "stay at home" mandates. Finding myself mentally scattered and having issues concentrating as well.  
I knew that I needed to come to grips with the current situation. Though it’s temporary, the uncertainty of the timeline for the pandemic is frustrating, and something I cannot control. So, on a day when I was particularly aggravated, I made a list of things that I CAN control. It’s my choice to choose to focus on positive action steps rather than the negative. And you can too. 
I call it my “Give and Take” action plan. It looks like this:
Give Your Mind a Rest
If you’re like me, your mind can go nearly 24/7. It’s good to take a mental break from work, family and other obligations, and the pressures of life. I love to read, so I chill by immersing myself in a book by a favorite author. It’s nice to get swept up into a story for a reprieve from current events. I’ve found that reading helps redirect my thoughts and clear confusion out of my head. It’s a mini vacation, of sorts.
Another thing that offers a break from the norm is playing games. Nothing too heady, of course, just a diversion for a different kind of mental recreation. For example, I’m a Tetris fan, and enjoy games of that nature. I’ve an app on my tablet that’s fun and just challenging enough to keep me on my toes. In a good way.
Take a Class
Do you like to learn new things? Me too! Learning something new or improving a skill helps one feel productive and purposeful. It’s energizing – lending a bigger scope of possibilities for the future. I’ve been taking advantage of the many offerings available such as free webinars, classes, and subscriptions that are popping up in every field.
Though we’re largely stuck at home, it’s a wonderful time to build or stretch skills, start a new side gig, and keep our brains sharp. We’re missing out if we don’t check out at least one or two. At the very least, it’ll complement our resumes and help offer increased value to our business and future clients. Here's a resource to get you started: https://www.lifehack.org/free-classes
Give unto Others
I don’t know about you, but working at home keeps me in my head. Too much. Especially now. So I make a conscious effort to reach out to others, especially in times like these. I have a running list of people I write to, ones who are shut in, or in a nursing home, or who otherwise come to mind through the week. A letter writer from the time I was young, I keep note cards on hand anyway, so I jot a few lines saying hello and that I’m thinking of them.
A quick phone call or text to touch base with family or friends is another way I stay connected. It’s always nice when someone reaches out to me, so I figure we can all use a little encouragement, especially on a tough day. Everyone is feeling the effects of this situation and can use a bit of properly social distanced TLC.

Take Time to Count Your Blessings
In late January, I started a thankful journal. I’d seen the idea online, encouraging people to daily record a list of things for which they are thankful. It suggested keeping the journal for at least 21 days to build a habit of gratitude. You know what? It works. I have a better consciousness of the blessings in my life big and small. So I’ve made sure to keep this habit going now, even if I skip a day here and there. It slows down my thinking processes, helping to regroup mentally and find a fresh perspective.
Along these lines, I aim to be more joyful. I find strength from my faith, and make a conscious choice each day to focus on a positive mindset. I also keep a mental log of things that bring me joy, like the funny things my grandsons say, and the love from my husband and adult kids. Choosing to dwell on these things boosts and refreshes my outlook.

Give Yourself Fresh Air, Sunshine, & Exercise
There’s nothing like a good dose of the outdoors to clear out the mental cobwebs. Getting fresh air and sunshine reaps big benefits. Fresh air increases the body’s oxygen levels and cell efficiency, contributing to better health and mental clarity. Vitamin D from the sun helps the body convert calcium into healthy, strong bones and aids in resistance to harmful germs and bacteria. Exercise, such as walking, boosts the immune system, relieves stress, improves neurological function, and improves sleep.
I get outside and walk as much as possible, for exercise and to enjoy the evidence of spring that’s popping out everywhere. It’s invigorating! It reminds me that there is life beyond the walls of my home. Even if your outside space is small, there are creative ways to get out and move. Short laps in the yard, a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or a trek across a deserted parking lot offer safe and refreshing opportunities to stretch and soak up the sun.
This “Give and Take’ plan has empowered and encouraged me in these challenging times. It keeps my head in the game, lending sanity and perspective, and enables me to be there for others. May you be strong, productive, and safe in the days ahead. 

Karen Lange is a freelance writer, editor, and virtual assistant. She’s a big fan of dark chocolate, ice hockey, and her two fabulous grandsons. 
Stop by and see her on LinkedIn or visit her blog at https://karenelange.blogspot. com/.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Comments? Any Corona coping tips? Do tell. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Up Side of Having my Life Turned Upside Down...

Welcome back, readers:
This is not the post I planned. But as Woody Allen formerly noted: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

Spoiler alert here: Before we embark upon today's journey, you may want to grab a cup of your favorite brew and maybe some Kleenex too.
This is gonna' get a little deep moving forward.


When I published my last entry here and set out to go on a break of sorts, I was in a pretty good place in my life. Though everyone had been adversely impacted by Covid-19, I was still embracing my blessings.
After all, I had more than my share of creature comforts; a loving family; food and shelter; my health; and a creative life that provides a great deal of joy and reasonable income.

As much as one could be during these uncertain times, I was looking forward to an array of things: my mom's birthday was right around the corner; spring was on the horizon with backyard projects; I was working on publishing a new poetry book; my work had been accepted for a few anthologies; etc.

Then it all changed. My life was turned upside down.
I got a call from my sister that my mom had been rushed to the hospital one Tuesday evening in an ambulance. And seemingly out of the blue.
My mom and I spoke nearly everyday. Sometimes multiple times a day.
I would visit her regularly, cook, clean and keep her company. 
In fact, I called her on this particular Tuesday and checked in to see how she was feeling before I left the house to see a client. She assured me she was doing fine.

I never heard from her again.
The details are still very cloudy to me.
But, my mom unexpectedly suffered a massive stroke and died from related complications, according to the hospital.
Talking about a world-changing moment....wow!
Words can not express the pain and loss I am feeling.

My mom was funny, fierce, fabulous and my friend. So much of who I am as a woman today was inspired, instilled and influenced by her. In fact, she's the reason I became a writer.



Even amid the dark days that followed her death, thankfully there was a proverbial "silver lining" to emerge in all this. During this very difficult time, as I navigate my way, I have been reminded of how truly blessed I am to have such fantastic friends across the country.
I am humbled, honored, touched and warmed by the outpouring of support and sympathy over the last few weeks.


  • A friend from Kentucky, who I met online years ago, offered to take over any of my creative projects and keep my blog updated so I could continue to grieve and come to terms with things (for as long as it reasonably takes).
  • A poetry buddy gave me a check for $500.00 to assist my family with funeral expenses.
  • A college buddy drove me around to handle burial arrangements, while waiting in her car for what seemed like an eternity. Never complaining.
  • I have gotten an array of cards, calls and financial contributions from folks near and far.
  • Even though I didn't expect my friends to come to the service (due to fears of the Corona Virus and related "stay at home" mandates), they came out anyway, to offer moral support and pay their last respects. In fact, when I arrived to the funeral service, some of my friends were there even before my family. 

I can't tell you how much this means to me (and my family as well) during this difficult time.

In closing, I would like to share a poem I wrote for my mom. I read this at her funeral.


 (In tribute to my mother)

We were
Debbie Reynolds
Carrie Fischer
Kind of close,
A bond
To most--

She was my biggest 
My most loyal 
“Right hand,”

We spoke 
Nearly everyday,
Over silly
Girl’s stuff,
And troubles
Along life’s way,

Little did she know
For me
She was the equivalent
Of a 
Super hero,
My role model,
My foe,

It still
Remains a mystery, 
How she raised 5 kids
And kept her sanity,

Later down the road
Returning to college

To complete 
A 4-year degree

Battling health challenges

She was kind,
But never failed
To speak 
 Her mind,

No bigger inspiration
Could I ever find,

In this final chapter,
Through death
And living,

Her legacy
Is the gift
That keeps
On giving…

Thanks for reading. 
B/T/W---If your mom is still living, be sure to give her a call and share your love. Tomorrow is not promised.

Last, but not least...
Please excuse any typos, formatting or grammatical errors. As you might imagine, I'm not fully recovered yet. :-)
Have a great weekend, folks.


Image credits: