"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, March 27, 2017

How to Rock Your Next Writer's Event or Spring Party!

Last week we had record breaking high temperatures here in the windy city.
A welcome reprieve from the typical back-breaking-snow-shoveling-layered clothes-wearing weather we're often up against.

Yep. Spring has sprung. Albeit briefly--and I can't wait for the sequel. Know why?
Spring is one of my favorite seasons. The smells, colors, energy, warmth, all seem to stimulate and seduce my muse like no other time of the year.

And there's a bonus here: it's the perfect time for social gatherings--both indoors and out.
It's party season, peeps!

I have a few writers' events in the works, (Poetry on the Patio, birthday celebrations) and in preparation, I'd like to share some timely tips today that can help you to host "an affair to remember."

Many of these guidelines will work well for multiple events: backyard bbqs, book club events, book launch parties, or birthdays.

So, if you'd like to become a "party smarty" grab your favorite brew and read on...


Successful party planning begins with your invitations. Be creative. Your invitations, much like music, set the mood. Depending upon my needs, my budget, and the party list, I do a combination of things: send out printed invites from a local stationery store, email flyers that I create online, and make phone calls for a more personal touch.

If you'd like some beautiful, designer made invitation options, PaperlessPost.com will not disappoint!

Here are some other things to consider:
  • Your theme--Is it a costume party? A 60s party? A family reunion? Having a theme simplifies things. It allows you to coordinate your colors and accessories successfully.
  • Method for responding--Should guests return an R.S.V.P. card? Call your home number to keep you in the loop? Send an email? Smoke signals? No matter how it's done, make sure that your guests realize that their confirmation is crucial to an accurate count for menu and seating accommodations. It's one of my biggest pet peeves, folks. :-)
  • Specify whether or not kids are allowed and whether or not your guests can bring others.
  • If the party is associated with a book you've launched, your book cover can even serve as the design for the invitations. How cool is that?

  • Provide an array of tasty options, keeping in mind that some people have dietary restrictions and religious observances to follow.
  • Try new recipes out. But, word to the wise: don't experiment the day of your party. Honey, no! Test out your dishes a day or two before. This enables you to modify and season to taste.
  • Your party's designated theme can also govern your food selections. For example, a Cinco de Mayo might include Mexican dishes, a dessert party would obviously include cakes and various pastries, movie night would have popcorn and hotdogs.
  • For convenience sake, prepare some items in advance and refrigerate. The time you'll save can be spent mingling with your guests and dazzling them with your conversation.
  • As far as drinks go, you'll want to provide both "adult beverages" and those without alcohol content.

  • Games and gifts are always nice party enhancements. With my creative crew, for instance, we may play trivia games or "Name that tune." I give out book markers, decorative pens, trinkets and journals to winners.
  • Consider giving a gift basket of coffee and assorted teas to the first person that arrives.
  • Music can make or break a party; have a mixture from various categories and time periods.
  • Chocolates or mini baked goods to take home are nice added touches as well.

    Follow these timely tips and you'll be considered "the hostess with the mostest!"
    And with any luck, maybe Adam Levine will crash your party, like in the video below.

      Image credit: Banditt the Cat-Randy Richardson
      Party/computers/cake: Https: Pixabay.com/

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    Women's History Month Feature Continues...

    A Nostalgic Look at Life as a Stewardess

    -"You've come a long way, baby!"

    As a 73 year-old woman, I’ve experienced a lot of "frequent flyer miles" in life.
    This Women's History Month essay addresses my flight attendant experiences in the 1960s.

    Once upon a time…

    In 1956 my family relocated and flew to Seattle, Washington. We flew on a DC-6 propeller aircraft and at 10 years old, I met the stewardess on the flight and was enamored with the job.
    Also in 1957, I saw the movie “Julie” starring Doris Day. Her role was flight ‘hostess’ and she ended up flying the plane to a safe landing. I loved Doris Day as well as flying.
    I graduated from high school in 1962. My aspiration was to be a flight attendant and then a journalist.

    Requirements--The nuts and bolts

    In January of 1964, while studying journalism at San Diego State, I celebrated United’s required 20th birthday. United didn’t have a hub in San Diego but they provided interviews locally for the basic requirements; weight, height, academics, no glasses, no physical restrictions, no marriages, no children.

    Additional requirements for airline school included two years of college, above-average grade point average, involvement in clubs and school activities, outgoing personality and “I love to travel and love people attitude.” Also required was enough cash for two month’s rent after graduation assignments to domiciles.

    I boarded a plane to Chicago O’Hare airport and then shuttled to United’s training center. Six weeks later, trainees were tested on topics including emergency exits, all aircraft configurations to teabag placement and liqueur service. Training included simulations through fire, crash and other emergency scenarios.

    We were trained to serve full meals and free cocktail service for 250 passengers in 1-2 hours. We ran trays out and back. We also distributed pillows, blankets, magazines, newspapers, hot wet towels, cigarettes, playing cards, pilot wings for children. Choices of chicken or fish offered in Coach, lobster or filet in First Class.

    Grooming included modeling instructions for walking, sitting and stair climbing, makeup and haircuts (collar length.) We received tailored winter and summer airline uniforms, skirts (no slacks), jackets, hats, blouses, gloves, coats, purses, luggage, inflight aprons, inflight low heeled shoes, Heels were required for walking through airline terminals and boarding and deplaning. Only small earrings and a watch for jewelry. The “sugar scoop” hat had to be worn at all times. Even during the inflight meal services with your inflight smock/apron. The hat was recognizable as a person of authority during an emergency. White gloves were required worn in all airports.

    The 1960’s provided a wonderful time for air travel. Passengers dressed wearing dresses or suits. There was time to complete the cabin service and visit with the passengers.

    Downsides and details...

    Downsides included the weight restriction rules, the requirement to be single, the lesser gender treatment regarding layover hotels with flight attendants two to a room. Many times you met the flight attendants for the first time that day.

    While overnight hotels were paid for by the airlines, male crew members, typically the pilot, first officer or engineer stayed in their own hotel, each in separate room.

    Regardless of how thin or how fit, the rules included wearing a girdle to hold up your nylons. The reason given explained that your backside shouldn’t jiggle as you wiggled up and down the aisles passing out trays, checking seat belts etc. As many of us experienced, elevation on an airplane causes swelling and the girdles were uncomfortable. Many stewardesses preferred to hold their nylons up by other means. Remember, this was pre-pantyhose. This prompted United’s female supervisors in various airports to do a ‘restroom check’ to see if you were wearing a girdle.

    Weight checks were required frequently. If your weight exceeded the allowable range for your height, you were put on weight check and suspended until you were back at your recommended weight.

    Flight attendants were highly regarded as the ideal career woman. Simultaneously they established a large and powerful flight attendant union. There were no male flight attendants or African American flight attendants.

    Title VII. The Civil Right Act of 1964

    “1964 was mostly concerned with addressing racial discrimination, but Title VII of the Act, which concerned employment, also forbade discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex. For flight attendants, Title VII meant new leverage in challenging airline age and marriage rules in labor relations and in the courts...they eventually forced airlines to drop age and marriage restrictions (20-32) entirely by the end of the1960s...maternity restrictions and strict weight monitoring (which, like age and marriage rules, had never applied to other airline employees) took a while longer.” http://femininityinflight.com/laborhistory.html

    Stewardesses were directed illegally to give up their jobs after Title VII passed. This resulted in a 20 year Class action suit to be compensated for lost seniority, cash and/or their jobs. I was directed to give up my job for marriage and was a part of that class action suit. It was finally settled in 1988. Currently there are married women, African American women, moms and male flight attendants.  The Friendly Skies are much friendlier these days! 

    Dixie Shaw, 73, blogger/writer of richlyaged.com. Graduated from University of Texas, summa cum laud, 1981. Marketing Director, Senior Vice President for 20+ years. Retired independent marketing consultant. Wife, mother of two and grandmother to five. Writer, tennis player, and newbie blogger.

    Learn more about Dixie Shaw:

    Comments? Thoughts?

    Image credit, plane: https://Pixabay.com/

    Monday, March 20, 2017

    The 3 R's Series Brings More Writers' Resources























    Finally, a book on productivity that’s useful, smart, easy to follow and does not regurgitate the same information we’ve heard ad nauseum.
    This eBook is a quick read with lasting impact. It provides 12 strategies to help readers to get more from their day by being strategic and focused.

    Here are a few sections you’ll find particularly interesting:
    • The importance of quality sleep
    • How to limit communcations and why you should
    • The benefit of boredom
    • How focus cab help you achieve more
    It also has a Productivity Assessment to determine your current status.
    Note: There must have been a tech glitch as I was not able to fully complete the assessment, however.
    It’s a must-read for those who want to take their productivity to new levels in 2017. I give it 4 stars.
    Learn more at Michael Hyatt.com

     Image credit: https://pixabay.com

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Phenomenal Female Blogger Feature for March!

    Welcome Readers,

    Please join me in welcoming our first featured female for the Women's History Month Contest as she shares some "food for thought" I'm sure you'll find interesting and empowering.


    I was standing in the kitchen at the stove slowly stirring a pot of oatmeal. I had put the raisins in the water to soften them. I added milk, butter and sugar to the oatmeal just as I had watched my mother do when I was a child. Outside of McDonald’s oatmeal, I don’t eat oatmeal or grits without milk (cheese grits being the exception). I can skip the butter, but the milk adds a nice richness to the taste of the oatmeal.

    I had boiled two eggs, sliced and seasoned them with pepper and a smidgen of Kosher salt just to give the eggs some flavor. My mother has hypertension, so I have to monitor her salt intake. I take my time and make her breakfast the way she likes it. I cook for my mother out of love just as she did for me.

    My mother was an excellent cook, and she made most things from scratch. She catered to the wants and desires of her children and grandchildren until she wasn’t able to anymore. My middle sister and I did not like lemon flavoring so, my mother made two pound cakes: one with lemon flavoring and one with vanilla. She cooked sausage and bacon for breakfast. Whatever we wanted, she prepared just the way we liked it.

    I am the youngest of seven: four girls and three boys. Two of my sisters share my mother’s love for cooking. I love good food especially if someone else is doing the cooking. The best thing about living near family is that the cooks in the family will always save me a plate. Since I moved back home to help care for my elderly mother, it’s been a blessing to have family close by because I eat well!

    Cooking has been a "hot" issue in my dating life. It’s not that I can’t cook, it’s that I don’t. At least that’s what I tell the men that I meet. I’m single, so until recently, I never really got into the habit of cooking for myself. In the past, I cooked for some men I dated because I thought that’s what women did. My mother did it. My sisters did it. My nieces do it.

    Contrary to popular belief, not all women cook. And yet whenever I meet a new guy, cooking always finds its way into the conversation.
    One time in particular, I was talking to this guy on the phone on my way to work one morning.
    I stopped at McDonald’s to get oatmeal. Sounding irritated, he asked, “Do you cook?”


    “Don’t you get tired of eating out of a bag?”

    “Sometimes. And when I do, I bring the food home and put it in my dishes.”

    “Don’t you get tired of eating restaurant food?”

    “I don’t always eat restaurant food. My sister and my niece cook.”

    “What if they’re not around?”

    “But they are.”

    “But what if they’re not?”

    “But they are.”

    Then he went on a tirade about career women who don’t know how to take care of their men. This was the same man, mind you, who complained that I didn’t offer to pay half of the Buffalo Wild Wings bill. We had a six piece wing, onion rings, and a beer for him and ice tea for me and he was mad because he paid that whole big ole bill by himself.


    What’s surprising is that many men are traditional in one sense, but so modern in the next. These men want Betty Damn Crocker, and yet can’t even hit a nail with a hammer. Calling Triple A or googling a repairman is the extent of their skill set.

    Newsflash: We can’t Netflix at your place and chill and you get a fully prepared home cooked meal. Hello? I meet men who show up to the table empty handed, but still want to sit down and partake. They believe the hype that there’s a shortage of good men, so I should gratefully do whatever it takes to get their attention.

    I understand that we all have our preferences, and if a man prefers a woman who cooks, that’s fine with me. I’m not the woman for him. I’m not in competition with other women for a man. I’m not going to cook for him to give me an advantage. I’ll cook for a man who proves worthy of the time and effort that it takes to prepare a meal. Let them chew on that.


    Stephanie Gates is an educator by day and writer by night. In her free time she enjoys Kizomba and belly dancing. She is a frequent contributor to anthologies. To read more of her work, please visit her blog at www.stephaniesepiphanies.blogspot.com.

    Thoughts? Agree or disagree?  How does food factor into your relationships?

    Image credit: https://Pixabay.com/


    Saturday, March 11, 2017

    Rejection Reflections...Silence is the Worst

    Rejection is part of being a writer. Most of us have been taught this, and the rest find out soon enough. If you can’t handle rejection, you’ve chosen the wrong profession. Even writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, who could probably get a grocery list published, have faced plenty of rejection in the past.

    It’s difficult at first. You put a fragile part of yourself into something, edit and then edit some more until it’s the best you can possibly do. You take a deep breath and submit, only to receive a form letter a few weeks later saying thank you, but no thanks.
    The first few rejections hurt, no doubt about it. But much as people who work with tools develop protective calluses on their hands, those of us who toil with the pen develop something similar, commonly referred to as a thick skin. Over time, rejection no longer frightens or hurts us. In fact, many writers use rejection as a challenge to produce even better work.
    Unfortunately, with the worldwide domination of the internet has come something even more discouraging than rejection – the no-reply. Many publications no longer reply to a submission unless they’ve decided to publish it. Some will give a timetable – if you don’t hear from us within eight weeks, assume that we have decided not to publish your work. Others do not, leaving you wondering weeks later if they are still looking at your submission, if they lost it, forgot about it, or any other misfortune that the creative mind of a writer can imagine.
    The no-reply seems very disrespectful, with a touch of arrogance. It reminds me of sitting at home, waiting for a first date to arrive. You put time and effort into making yourself look the best you possibly can, full of excitement about the possibilities. Then you sit and wait. As time passes you find yourself looking at the clock, but that excited, optimistic feeling remains. Then, slowly, doubt creeps in, until eventually you admit that she’s probably not coming. And then you wonder, why didn’t she just call? With all the effort put into it, the very least you deserve is a phone call or a text.

    Most publications today accept only online submissions. It’s a fine idea – paperless for the environment and all that – but it makes submitting very, very easy. Submitting a hard copy of an article or short story may cost almost a dollar to submit, when considering the price of ink, paper, envelope and a stamp. That’s for just one submission. Not to mention the time it takes to put this all together.
    With online submissions, you can write one story and submit it to dozens of publications within minutes, absolutely free. And that’s exactly what many writers do – click, submit; click, submit. Doesn’t matter if the story or article is even remotely close to what the writing guidelines ask for, because many writers no longer bother reading them.
    The problem with online submissions is that editors are swamped with so many submissions that they no longer have time to send a reply. This is what they tell us, anyway. Personally, it doesn’t seem that it would take that much effort to at least email a form rejection. Nobody’s favorite, but at least it gives some closure.
    And so we continue to write, celebrating when we get an acceptance letter and continuing to grind away with every rejection.
    As for the publications that don’t reply at all, I say treat them like that no-show date and move on.
    Break free from the "Heartbreak Hotel." 
    There are others out there who will like what we do, if we just keep looking.
    Gary Sprague's fiction and non-fiction have appeared in several publications, including the Raleigh Review, Writers Weekly, Grown and Flown, and Mamalode.

    Thoughts? Agree or disagree? How do you handle rejection?

    Image credit: https://Pixabay.com/

    Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    How I Turned Guest Posting Into Freelancing Gold!

    How many times have you been told that you should never write for free? That doing so diminishes our collective worth and cheapens you.
    Not true. Not always.
    This one-size-fits-all approach can not only stunt your creative growth, but also compromise your future earnings. Be forewarned.

    As with many things in life, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it that counts.
    Strategy matters.
    Here’s how, over the years, I’ve leveraged free work to work my plan and get paid!
    And you can too.

    About a month ago, I accessed my early-morning email to prioritize my day.
    I found one message in particular that caught my barely-opened eyes.

    The subject line read: “Interested in hiring you for writing services.”
    At first I thought it was a scam: like the frequent ones I get about winning the Nigerian Lottery. Upon further scrutiny, I discovered that a guest post I actually wrote and published about six years ago (at Pro Blogger), impressed a business executive so much, he sought me out.

    From six years ago, I remind you. That’s the power of effective guest posting. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! To make a long story short here, over the course of just a few days, and a couple of instructional emails, I landed a 50.00 an hour monthly gig. This without any pitching, pleading or social media madness.

    This recent example is just one of several that I’ve used to help clients “FIND ME” and make more money with less stress and less marketing.



    Back in 2011, I made it my personal goal to change my guest blogging system. Instead of just randomly posting at any site with a shingle that read: “Write for us,” I became more selective. I targeted top-dog blogs like Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Daily Blog Tips and Tiny Buddha. And all my pieces were successfully published. It made a huge difference in my career. For example, the post that was accepted at Pro Blogger garnered hundreds of Tweets, a boat load of comments, and several serious requests for my writing services. (Manifesting within just 72 hours of posting). That post at Pro Blogger alone has paid off more than all the posts I had made years before it. The moral of the story here? Don’t just blog. Blog with specific, deliberate, realistic goals. Would you like to “win friends and influence people?” Sell stuff? Connect with potential clients? Increase awareness of an important social cause? The clearer you are here, the more likely you will discover the path to success with fewer detours.

    Through trial and error I discovered that all experiences in the blogging community are not created equally. Some blogs have a high level of interaction and comments from readers. Some are great places to sell products. While others can increase your traffic levels, help build an impressive portfolio and your self-esteem.

    Think of it this way. Remember college? Though all classes typically carried some value, those that met more frequently, or for longer periods of time, or that carried a “lab” component, helped you accumulate more credits and meet graduation requirements faster.
    Aim high. You’ll advance quicker. Ideally a blog with a Google Page Rank of 3 or above should be your target for optimal results.

    You can check a blog’s GPR here:
    It should also be noted that some blogs are starting to pay monetarily now.

    Compensation may not always be immediate, or with money, but posts landed at uber-popular sites, (Pro Blogger, Tiny Buddha, Men With Pens, Write to Done) will definitely enhance your career and your earnings over the long run. Think futuristically.

    Widen your net. Diversify. Just notice how singers that have “cross-over appeal” tend to have a larger fan base, greater longevity and bigger sales. Though my main blog is on writing and marketing, I have also published periodic guest posts on education, relationships, shopping, and career blogs. You never know where your next client or customer will be. Doing so can also expand your network of online friends and supporters. And you can never have too many, darling.

    You’ll be a lot more successful and effective in your guest posting efforts, (and less frustrated) if you have some sort of system. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that you create on your computer with the name of a targeted guest post site, a tentative post title, a date for submission, and status. Where do you begin? Start with your favorites-- the sites that you read frequently and admire. Or choose from the popular “Top 100” listing recently released from The Write Life:


    Follow these five principles and practices to take the “guess work” out of guest posting, and to leverage free work to build a more profitable career.

    Image credit: https://Pixabay.com/

    Sunday, March 5, 2017

    4 Strategies to Make Tax Time Less "Taxing"

    Jumping into the freelance writing world can be scary for a number of reasons, but taxes shouldn’t be one of them. As long as you keep clear records of all of your spending and income, you will have very little issues when the 1099s start flowing in.
    Stay Organized
    From your very first guest post that brings in a check, track it for your records. Different contractors have different preferred methods for tracking their income. Some use a simple spreadsheet, but when you are pumping out 3-5 articles a day for numerous different clients, things can get a bit messy.

    Try one of the new apps on the market that have been designed to make your life easier when tracking funds coming in and going out, like
    Quickbooks Self Employed app or something similar. These management tools enable you to link the app to your various bank accounts and credit cards that you use for your business and categorize them as they happen.

    Resources: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/

    Deductions, Deductions, Deductions!
    As a freelancer, you have the ability to “write off” many of the costs and expenses that you take on while running your business. By writing these expenses off, it reduces the amount that you owe when taxes are due by claiming them as operating costs.

    These deductions run far and wide from meals and coffee with clients to gas mileage. If you find yourself driving to meet clients to discuss projects, you will want to track your mileage and claim that as one of your major deductions. Don’t be afraid to be the one to pick up the tab at the coffee shop meeting either. Keep your receipts or track them on your app to add it to your deductions.

    If you use an accountant, bring every single receipt that you think can be connected with your business. If you decide to use a DIY tax service such as
    Turbotax, the software will walk you through all of the potential deductions that you may make. Some of these miscellaneous costs include phone bills, advertising costs, health care premiums, website domain fees and more.

    Resources: https://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/self-employment-taxes/

    Home Office
    One of the joys of working as a freelance writer is getting to work from home. If you do the majority of your work from a room in your house that you use solely for writing, you have the ability to write off the mortgage or rental costs of that space.
    You can also write off the home or rental insurance, utilities and wifi.

    Paying Quarterly Taxes 
    This can bring you some relief instead of facing potentially owing a large lump sum right after the holidays. You can utilize one of the many apps or your accountant to pay quarterly taxes based on estimates of your income over the course of the year. Self employment tax is 15.3% of your income that goes towards paying Medicare and Social Security taxes.

    Resources: https://www.mileiq.com/blog/self-employment-tax-basics/

    Leave it to the Pros

    If anything makes you nervous about doing your taxes, just leave it up to those that do it best. Save all your receipts and collect all 1099s to simply hand them over to a tax expert to help you out. They may be costly but it may end up saving you more money down the line by avoiding a tax audit.

    W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and the outdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics.

    Twitter: @wmchandler1212

    Thoughts? Comments?