"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Resources, Reviews & Reads-The 3R's Series!













Some time ago, I attended a poetry event, and while stuffing my face with the assorted goodies, I sought a napkin to clear the evidence    wipe my hands and crumb-filled mouth.
I grabbed a few that were situated nearby.
It's not often that I take notice of paper products; most are not worthy of mention. True?
But something caught my eye.
In addition to the colorful print design, the napkin displayed some text.
Upon closer observation, I realized the words were actually "party prompts."
Conversation starters to help "break the ice" and add a little interest to the evening.
What a cool, innovative idea!
Check out these Conversation Napkins here. There is even a version for educators to use in the classroom.
With the party season upon us, I intend to add them to my shopping list. You should too.
People will be talking about the fun they had days after the party is over.
And remember, good conversations often usher in future relationships.

I give this thoughtful and functional product  ***** 5 stars out of 5.
Pick them up at your local Walmart or online.
This concludes our series for this month.
Thanks for reading.
What's your favorite aspect of the 3Rs series today? Do tell.
Image credit: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Top Tips for Using Writing Time Productively


One of my biggest fears as a writer is being inefficient and wasting my writing time.
After all, time is the only non-renewable resource we have. Making the most of writing time is key to achieving success as an independent writer.
Today, I’d like to share my top tips for using your writing time productively. There are a mixture of ideas and techniques so hopefully you find something that resonates with you.

Experiment Until You Find Your Best Way Of Working

There’s nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed as a writer. It’s an absolute productivity and confidence killer.
One of the best ways to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed is to experiment with your working environment and style until you find a rhythm that works well for you.

Some of the factors to experiment with include -

Your writing location. Sometimes, changing environment can increase your output. This could involve writing in a totally different location, such as a coffee shop or coworking space, or simply switching to a different room in your house.
The time of day you write. If you have flexibility regarding the time of day you write, consider seeing if making a change helps your productivity. Some people assume they work better at a particular time of day, but when they actually test this, they find it to be untrue.
The ratio of writing/resting time and your total writing time. Some people are sprinters, others are more slow and steady. Experimenting with your writing pattern can help unlock extra productivity.

Use Apps To Maximize Your Productivity

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything, and writer productivity is no exception.
Consider using the following tools to help increase your output and focus -

 Forest - Are you often distracted by your smartphone? We all know that apps are designed to monopolize our attention through irresistible notifications and other forms of manipulation. Forest is a cool way of staying off your smartphone by growing a tree during the period you stay focused. If you cave in and check your phone, the tree dies!

Ommwriter - One of the hazards of writing is staying on track regarding word count and not getting distracted by the myriad possibilities your computer offers. Ommwriter is a minimalist writing interface which pairs visual and audio content to enhance your focus and keep you in the zone.

Focus - Human willpower is a finite thing. Thankfully, Focus takes the choice to be productive out of your hands. You can set Focus to prevent access to certain websites and apps for a defined period of time, forcing you to write.

These three apps are the tip of the iceberg. No matter your struggle or challenge with focus and time management, there’s an app for that!

Track Your Time

“What gets measured gets managed” - Peter Drucker

Do you ever have the feeling that time has flown by, but you have nothing to show for it?
Often, knowing precisely where our time is spent is the key to using it in a more productive way.
Rescue Time tracks everything you do and presents it to you in an impossible to ignore report. You can then use this as a basis for altering the time you spend on any particular task in order to focus on your priorities rather than procrastination.

It’s important to not go overboard with this. Just as diets need cheat days, and bodybuilders need periods of rest, you need to allow time for your brain to rest and recharge. This is essential to avoiding creative burnout.

Time Management Takeaways

I trust that this article has been a productive use of your time!

To recap -
Experiment with your working pattern
● Find apps designed to overcome your personal challenges
● Track your time and make sure you’re spending it wisely

Your turn.

If you have any time management tips you think your fellow writers would love, it would be wonderful to hear from you in the comments.


Dave Chesson is the book marketing Super-Nerd behind Kindlepreneur.com. His focus is on providing in-depth, actionable information for indie authors, such as his recent guide to book writing software. His free time is spent reading, immersing himself in sci-fi culture, and spending time with his family in Tennessee.


Image credit: Pixabay.com


Friday, May 11, 2018

How Dispelling Common "Myths" Earns me Money


 There’s so much information available on the Internet for writers today, it sometimes becomes difficult to filter it all and find the real truth. But, there’s a “tab” we pay for not doing our homework and accepting everything at face value.

Misinformation, scams, and half-truths can rob us of time, money and energy, and sabotage our success. Simply put, what you believe shapes what you will achieve.
It took some trial and error, but eventually I was able to detect the B.S. to become my own “expert.” And you can too.

Accordingly, here are a few common writing myths that prevent many writers from making money and reaping the long-term benefits of a freelance career (and how I overcame them).




Though writing everyday is a great way to make writing a solid habit, and can help to hone writing skills, it’s not a MUST. From my experience, “forced” writing is rarely quality writing. Author, counselor and writing coach Noelle Sterne in How to re-connect with your writing core states: "Stop trying to write. Stop telling yourself you have to. If you miss a few days, you won't be destroyed or condemned to eternal block."
Instead of writing everyday, here are some other productive alternatives: study writing markets, read books in your genre, promote your work, make cold calls, update your resume.
Every little bit counts.


Not true. Not always. I have written and sold hundreds of articles without the benefit of queries. Here’s how: study (and follow) a publication’s guidelines carefully; check the archives to prevent duplication; and craft quality, useful content. This increases the odds for success.


“Experts” contend that setting up a blog on platforms like Wordpress and Blogger will brand writers as unprofessional and put off potential clients. Hogwash. Though it’s categorically better to own vs. “rent” someone else’s space (even in the virtual world), a well-designed, well-received site can indeed be achieved through these free platforms. And I should know. My award-winning site here has allowed me to earn thousands of dollars in ads, job offers and collaborative projects, and connect with some great people along the way. As a matter of record, I have owned and blogged on self-hosted sites too, that did not garner as much money comparatively.


If only it were that easy! Anybody who’s been a writer for any significant length of time will attest--it ain’t as easy as it looks. Long-term success requires discipline, ingenuity, time managements skills, creativity, and business smarts. If you go into it with the wrong mindset, you’ll be doomed from the start.  
Leave the myths and fairy tales to children’s story books. Abandon these four common falsehoods to make real money, and to make the most of your freelance career. I did.

Your turn.
What blogging myths have you had to overcome to move forward in your career?
Do you agree or disagree with the ones mentioned in this post?

Image credits: Pixabay.com


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Book Look With Writer Noelle Sterne

Book Review
of Margaret Rode’s Storytelling for Small Business:
Creating and Growing a Small Business Through the Power of Story
An EBook for Good

Many of us entrepreneurs and freelancers dislike, avoid, fear, even hate marketing ourselves. We love doing our work but put off actually broadcasting it.

In this book, Margaret Rode helps us get over our avoidance and resistant attitudes about marketing our work and ourselves. How? With an underlying premise that is generous, broad, passionate, and giving rather than getting: sharing. We are sharing our stories of what we love, what gives us great satisfaction, and what in turn we can share with others. In Margaret’s words about her own business, “Websites for Good,” “I help [people] to gather and tell their stories so they can build a business that makes a difference” (p. 6) One might say, this is the mission also of this e-book for good.

Unflinchingly sharing her own, story, Margaret addresses us as a compatriot and friend. She eases us into telling our stories, pointing out, in case we fear we are not creative, that we are all natural storytellers. She continues to insist that her approach is not “marketing”: Rather, “Storytelling . . . [is] the most valuable traveling companion you can have in your business journey” (p. 6). Not the traditional marketing approach of getting people to buy—with all kinds of tactics that many see through—Margaret’s outlook is one of sharing our stories and listening to others’ stories.” This is how we are authentic, caring, and build “a contented community of readers, buyers, clients, and fans” (p. 9).

Margaret fulfills these promises. She keeps reminding us that we want to help people with what we offer. What makes our businesses worthwhile is not being bottom-line oriented (although nothin’ wrong with makin’ money) but people- and heart-oriented. People want us, as Margaret says, to be on their side; and we want them to be on ours. “People want to interact with somebody who gives a damn about them” (p. 19).

From personal experience with Margaret, I know she does what she instructs. After I avoided a website for months in conjunction with publication of my first book, she designed my website to share my story. With great patience, understanding, appreciation of my message, tough questions, constant feedback, and relentless attention to detail for what I really wanted, Margaret fashioned a site that I still get compliments on, and she has become a cherished friend. And continues to be generous with her time and expertise whenever I beg for untangling of website mysteries.

So, I highly and heartily recommend this book for novice entrepreneurs and those more experienced (the book has reminded me of my own purposes and mission). I recommend too the companion, an ample workbook with a lot of those tough questions. With or without Margaret’s personal help, you will find many, many explanations, excellent examples, and techniques for designing and building your small business.

“What if,” she asks rhetorically, “we built as many mutually beneficial relationships with as many good people as possible, by learning and sharing one another's stories?” (p. 23). A worthy question to ponder for our businesses, our relationships, and our world. When you commit to mutually beneficial relationships, you will feel good about your business, gain clients and great satisfaction, and even make some wonderful friends through sharing your story.

© 2018 Noelle Sterne


Thoughts, readers? What are you reading these days?

Image credits: Pixabay.com


Friday, May 4, 2018

Are You Feeding Your Mind Junk Food...?

According to a New York Times article (based upon a Nielsen Research Study), Americans spend over five hours daily watching TV.

And much like the body and food, what you "consume" on a regular basis mentally will dictate your state of  health and general well-being. It can make or break you.
All the more reason to diversify your daily menu with "nourishing choices" that feed the mind, soul and spirit. Programs that can inform, entertain and enhance you.
Quality options that can lead to a better quality of life.

For example, have you ever noticed how you feel after watching the evening news? More than likely you feel vulnerable, sad for the plight of others, unsafe, confused, frustrated, heavy-hearted. True?

Here's my issue, folks. Lately I've been re-thinking some of my weekly favorites in an effort to make more "value based" selections. The reason?
It seems that in an effort to gain and retain ratings, many stations have strayed waaayyy too far.
And frankly, I'm fed up.
Kids can turn on the tube just about any given hour of the day and see things that used to be reserved for adults and late night viewing.
There's moral decay; increasing violence; profanity and insanity; dysfunctional lifestyles; recreational drug use; and general chaos. I think as a viewing audience in general, we are all "starving" for smart, creative, positive programs that inspire us; that make us think; that move us to expand our view of the world; that allow us to "escape" in a good way.
Am I alone here?
Don't get me wrong, I'm no prude. I am as guilty as the next person in sometimes getting drawn into the drama of "soap-opera" type programs.  For instance, I watch Fox 32's Empire each Wednesday and Bounce's Saints & Sinners religiously, (no pun intended).
And truth be told? If the men starring in the show serve as "eye candy" I sometimes don't even care about the storyline.  I like to think of it as "art appreciation." :-)
Now back to my original issue here... 
each week the episodes from some of the most popular shows seem to get more devious, more dysfunctional, more damaging. There are no boundaries.
What ever happened to shows like Andy Griffith? Green Acres? Leave it to Beaver? Friends? Sanford & Son?  The Jeffersons? I Love Lucy?
(Many programs that were before my time, but luckily aired reruns).
What happened to Family Friendly TV?  Where are our Super Heroes?
Some of you are probably thinking that if I don't like a particular show, heck, I can simply change the channel.  And I do.
But, that doesn't really solve the problem, considering there's not much in place to replace it. Hello?

So, what does all this have to do with writing...?

There's a computer acronym that sums things up nicely: "G.I.G.O."
It means Garbage in Garbage out. Need I say more?
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there are some good shows being currently aired; all is not lost. And there are many benefits that writers gain when using this medium for creativity.
A previous post here at Pen & Prosper shares more specifics on smart TV viewing.  

For greater entertainment balance and better "brain food," here are some healthy alternative options. 

My favorites? Jeopardy, Password, Family Feud
My favorites? King of Queens, Grown Folks, Comedy.TV, Family Time
My favorites? Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer
My favorites? Anna Olson, Martha Stewart, Simply Ming, Chef Irie
My favorites? The Voice, Showtime at the Apollo

Essentially, it's all about proper balance and discernment.
Choose wisely.
To quote a popular slogan: "The mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
What's your favorite "quality" program? Do tell.

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Monday, April 30, 2018

How to Plan a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

Email might not be the most exciting topic in the grand scheme of digital marketing, but there is one thing that helps it maintain its spot at the top of the marketing world: it offers solid results without a huge investment. Just last year, analysis from DMA showed that the average email campaign could expect a $30 return for every dollar spent.
While the numbers are impressive, you can’t expect to achieve these big returns without planning for success. Here are a few tips to help companies that want to maximize their gains from email marketing.

Define Your Goals

So many businesses start email campaigns without knowing what they want to achieve. It’s not enough to know that you want to make contact with customers or that you are trying to alert people to a new product or service. You have to envision what you want the recipient to do when they receive the email.
Are you trying to get them to buy a new product? Is your goal to upsell? Do you want to get more people to download your app? When you know what you want the recipient to do, it is much easier to craft email content that will move them in the right direction.

Track Your Progress

Beyond having a goal for each and every campaign, you should also establish a means to track your success towards reaching that milestone. Along with that, you should record a number of different metrics to make it easier to see where you are succeeding and where you are coming up short.
Track your open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates and even the number of emails that are actually making it to customers’ inboxes. A simple tool for verifying email addresses can make sure you send out emails that actually make it to the consumer, and thereby avoid negatively skewing your metrics.

Write Good Subject Lines

Subject lines are a critical part of achieving a good open rate. In a survey from CMB, 47% of consumers said that the subject line was an important factor in the decision to open emails from businesses and nonprofits.
Writing compelling subject lines is important, but you want to be sure they ring true. If a customer opens your email only to feel like the subject line was not an honest representation of what to expect, they are unlikely to read on or further engage.

Optimize the First Lines of Text

When your email pops up in a customer’s inbox, they see more than just the subject line; they can also see a few words of text. This offers an additional opportunity to attract readers to your email, and it could almost be used like a second subject line. Try to optimize the first sentence in a way that increases readers’ incentive to click on your email.

Mobile Friendly Email Design

If you are not already optimizing your emails for mobile, you need to start. In a 2017 report, Litmus found that 54% of all emails were opened on mobile devices. If your emails are not designed to adapt to devices like smartphones and tablets, you are not making the best impression on this segment of your email list.
This isn’t too difficult to change, luckily. It just means using templates that are designed to look good on mobile screens, making sure the content is easy to read and interact with on mobile. Go even further by developing content that is easy to consume on a mobile device.

Edit Your Content

You want to develop email content that is short and to the point. If your email content is too long, there is a good chance that most recipients will click out before the end.
Once you have an initial draft of your content, go back and edit it down to remove any unnecessary text. You may even want to have a friend or colleague read through it as well. It is usually easier for a second person to identify additional ways that you could improve your email content.

Why Email Marketing is Invaluable

Email marketing is essential for online brands looking to grow awareness and increase sales. The tool can be used throughout all stages of the sales funnel, keeping customers familiar with your brand and building a more personal connection.
It’s important to customize email content for each client. Something as simple as addressing them by name in the subject line can boost open rates by as much as 50%. This tactic can be used in multiple stages of the consumer life cycle, from welcome emails to thank you pages. It can also be leveraged when sending out abandoned cart emails.
Imagine that a customer visits your page and adds multiple items to their shopping cart, then leaves without completing the purchase. Without using email, your company can only hope that the customer will return. With an abandoned cart email strategy, however, you can gently remind the consumer of the products they abandoned.

Timing Your Emails for Ecommerce

You should send the first email within an hour of a customer leaving your site, and if necessary, send the second as a way to create a sense of urgency. The initial reminder shouldn’t come across as pushy, which could alienate the potential buyer. It should simply remind them of what they left behind, and give them a direct option to return to their cart.
The second should be sent 24 hours after the first email and make customers eager to purchase your product. Include information about discounts which will run out soon, or products that are low in stock to build on the sense of importance.

By following these simple email best practices, your online brand can rise to the top. Email marketing is a cost-effective, highly persuasive method of obtaining and retaining customers. Through building connections and addressing them personally, consumers will be more likely to remain loyal to your brand, increasing your ROI and conversion rate.

This is a guest post by Camille Moore, an email marketing specialist.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Monday, April 23, 2018

Frugal Freelancing for Tough Times! Ideas for Success

"Tough times don't last. Tough people do."

In many ways, I am truly my mother's daughter- both cut from the same cloth.
She values and instilled in me a love for learning, an appreciation for education, and a curiosity for life.
We both believe in speaking our minds--we call a spade a spade.
And like her, I really dig spending time in the kitchen cooking for friends and guests. Feeding their appetites, hearts and their spirits.

But here's where we are polar opposites and often at odds...
My mom is what the young folks call a "baller."
I kid you not: if she and I are out shopping and she sees a TV she likes for a thousand bucks, she'll buy it right on the spot.

As for me? No way, Jose!
This diva cuts coupons, comparison shops, checks online reviews, and will do whatever I need to, to stretch and bend my dollars like a skilled contortionist.
In these challenging times, a girl's gotta' do what a girl's gotta' do.

Factoring into the financial equation is the fact that freelancers often must contend with feast or famine cycles. True? One month I may be rolling in dough and the next month, searching for loose change under the couch cushions to make ends meet.

You know the script!

With the increased cost of living, everybody’s feeling the pinch. So what does this mean for today’s freelancer? It makes it even more important to be good stewards of our sporadic income, and to save for that “rainy day” now. It means being more strategic and governing our time and money more wisely.

Accordingly, here are seven fool-proof ways to hold on to your writing dollars and your freelancing freedom.

Take care of your health.

This may sound simplistic, but it’s crucial in its implications. Poor health can often lead to the need for frequent, costly doctor’s visits, prescribed medications, less productivity and/or a modified lifestyle. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated it best “Health is the greatest wealth.”

Reinvest in your career.

Take a few bucks from paid articles or writing assignments to put money back in your business. For less than a week’s worth of Starbucks, you can: purchase ebooks with markets for your work, pay membership dues to a writers’ organization, buy supplies, or get a subscription to a literary magazine. You reap what you sow.

Create multiple streams of income.

If you write articles, try your hand at greeting cards. Edit other writers' works. Sell products in addition to providing services.

Work smarter, not harder.

Retain as many of your writer’s rights as possible for resale purposes. Slant. Send simultaneous submissions. Opt to submit your work via email rather than snail mail. Keep in mind that time is money.

Keep a financial journal.

Record expenses, sale dates, spending habits, expected income, and other information to help you to make prudent decisions regarding your money. And most importantly, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Shop at local Dollar Tree outlets.

My mom often states: "You get what you pay for." Not true. Not always.
Over the years, I have saved thousands of dollars by scoring quality merchandise at Dollar Tree Stores and select thrift store outlets. And you can too. The key is to become an educated consumer.
Do your homework. Experiment.
Here are a few of my suggested favorites from the Dollar Tree chain stores:

  •     Hardcover Books
  •     Movies
  •     Kitchen Items
  •     Cleaning Supplies
  •     Party Decorations
  •     Mugs & Glasses
Additionally, the Pennyhoarder.com has tips on best buys from dollar stores as well.

Cut the cord on cable.

When people learn that I have NEVER had cable, they sometimes treat me like an alien life form. But the truth is, I have just never found it necessary. I have a variety of interests and hobbies that cost less and yield more value.  For example, instead of paying a monthly cable bill, I can rent up to 10 movies at my local library each visit for free! I also use my library to "sample" music before I go out and buy CDs  or add new books to my collection. Not a bad idea for you either. :-)
Cutting cable can translate into hundreds or thousands of dollars saved each year. Trust me here.

Contrary to popular opinion, there's a difference between being "cheap" and being "frugal."
You can cut corners without "short-changing" your quality of life. Follow these timely tips for optimal results. And remember, the more cash you can stash, the more money you'll have to buy  chocolate.

Thoughts? Any penny pinchers out there?

Image credits: