A Blog designed with you in mind. Whether you're a new writer seeking to learn the ropes, or a vet in search of ideas for a more lucrative career, you'll find needed resources here. Pen and Prosper is devoted to supporting and advancing you in your creative journey. You're in the "write" place.
If you’ve ever searched for creative opportunities online you know how frustrating finding real work for decent pay can be. The competition is fierce. Many markets have folded. All offers are not fair or even legitimate. Which means to optimize your efforts, you need to learn to “work smarter, not harder.” The writing job market is very similar to the housing market. Being clueless about the inner-workings of the industry can expose you to potential scams and leave you out in the cold.
Not to mention, you could waste valuable time in the process. “And time is money.” With this in mind, provided here are some key practices and principles that have helped me earn a consistent income, and make the job hunting process a little more manageable. These strategies can help you too.
Just like in real estate, there is validity to the expression, “location, location, location!” Start your search with reputable job boards to increase your odds for success. A few to consider are WritersWeekly.com, Problogger.net and Bloggingpro.com.
Know your U.S.P. (Unique Selling Position). Concentrate your efforts on gigs that reflect your true passions and professional strengths. It saves time and headache for everyone in the long run, with fewer detours.
Remember to always read the fine print.
Avoid applying for positions that have “sketchy” information. For instance, no physical address listed, or no specified pay rate. Good job ads should typically answer the 5 W’s: who, what when, where, why.
Don’t apply for jobs that require an “application fee” or a lengthy writing sample for consideration.
Steer clear of job offers with typos or grammatical errors in the posting. It could be a reflection on the lack of attention to details, and/or the quality of their offerings or services.
Follow these timely tips to give you a competitive edge in the job arena and an array of opportunities to earn more for your creative work.
PLEASE NOTE: PEN AND PROSPER WILL BE ON SUMMER BREAK UNTIL AUGUST 21ST. I look forward to re-connecting! Have a safe summer.
Thank you for joining us today, Kristin. We appreciate your time, creative input and expertise here at Pen and Prosper.
Thank you for having me! I’m honored to be a part of Pen and Prosper.
Can you tell us a little about who you are and your background?
Certainly – I am Chicago Writers Association board member, the managing editor of The Write City Magazine and The Write City Review, the past president and a co-founder of In Print (a professional writers organization in the Rockford, IL area), and a UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies adjunct writing instructor. My debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, won the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction, was a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year, and a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition. Its sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was released in 2016.
As managing editor of The Write City Magazine, how many submissions do you review monthly? We receive 8-10 submissions every month, everything from essays and book excerpts to poems and short stories.
Beyond the general guidelines provided at the site, what are you looking for? What increases a writer’s odds of acceptance? For prose, telling a good story. Is there a unique character who’s well developed? Is there a character/story arc? Tension, vivid description, an intriguing voice – all the elements that make a story come alive. For poetry, we look for beautiful imagery and a poem that evokes an emotion or puts a twist on something.
Regarding acceptance, the staff at the The Write City Magazine feels that our online magazine should not only be an opportunity for CWA members (and nonmembers) to be published but also a means of encouragement for new writers. With that in mind, if a piece has potential but needs more work, we’ll give feedback, suggest a re-write, and consider the revision for publication. If we do reject a piece, we always give feedback regarding our reasons why we decided not to publish the piece.
Do you recommend that scribes write everyday? Can you elaborate here? Daily writing makes sense in many ways – it’s an opportunity to practice the craft, generate new ideas, and complete works in progress. But life gets in the way. Instead, I recommend that writers set a schedule that works best for them, whether it’s daily writing or several times a week, and be flexible. If an hour each day isn’t working, then try larger chunks three days a week.
What would it surprise others to know about you? Writing is a lifelong passion for me (I submitted a short story to The Saturday Evening Post when I was 9, I still have the very nice rejection letter), but I’ve only become a professional writer in the the last few years. Instead, I practiced law and ran a law library in Boston and advocated for unschooling as a stay-at-home mom in both Illinois and Belgium.
If you could have one literary “super power” what would it be? Understanding how to use commas – lol! No really, it would be making writing more of a priority—that whole daily writing thing. Like most writers, I use all kinds of excuses to procrastinate it’s just that my excuses are also writing-related – marketing my books, volunteering for CWA and The Write City Magazine, teaching at UW-Madison. I’m working on this anti-procrastinating super power though and feel like it’s getting stronger every day.
What was the best writing advice you ever received? Now, can you return the favor by providing your best advice for writers? I was privileged to see Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove, this year at Printers Row Lit Fest and his advice was to finish the book. As he pointed out, by doing that you’ve accomplished what 99% of writers never accomplish.
My advice goes along with that – view the first draft as a story you write just for yourself – no one else will see it. Don’t worry about it being perfect or waste time with re-writing. You won’t know how the book begins until you finish it so don’t bother trying to polish that first chapter until you’ve written the very last sentence.
What is your view on blogging and social media? Blessing or burden? Let’s just say I’m getting used to it. It can be overwhelming, but I concentrate on only the things I’m interested in doing. For social media that means Facebook (personal and writer pages), Twitter, and Instagram, but only occasionally. I try not to post things specifically about buying my books but about things people might find worthwhile and I always make sure I post positive things – no politics – which, at times, for me is difficult because I can be very opinionated.
Do you have a blog? No blog yet, but I recently started my bi-weekly newsletter. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and some wonderful opportunities have come from it so I’m finding it valuable, plus I’m really enjoying it. And it forces me to create something new every two weeks which is terrific writing practice. I know writers who have a newsletter and a blog and I’m considering doing both. I suspect I will have a blog at some point. It took me many years to decide to do the newsletter, so check back with me in a few years and we’ll see if I’m blogging.
I see that you also teach writing. Are courses offered to the general public? How can writers today benefit from taking creative classes, particularly with the plethora of information available on the Internet? The courses I offer are through UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies and are offered to the general public. We provide online and in person classes on a huge variety of topics and registration runs throughout the year.
There is a lot of great information on the internet, but just reading the information isn’t enough; feedback is crucial for writers. I recommend writers find a critique group or critique partner to get that valuable feedback and necessary encouragement. I also urge writers to take at least one workshop on craft whether it’s at UW-Madison, at CWA’s Just Write! Conference, CWA workshops offered throughout the year, or at any of the terrific writing classes offered throughout the Chicago area. Even though I’ve published two books and teach writing, I continue to take courses and attend workshops which I will do throughout my career. It’s one of the things I love most about writing – writers never stop learning how to tell a great story.
Kristin Oakley is a Chicago Writers Association board member, the managing editor of The Write City Magazine, the past president and a co-founder of In Print Professional Writers’ Organization, and a UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies writing instructor. Kristin’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, won the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction, was a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year, and a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition. Its sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was released in 2016.
To learn more about Chicago Writers Association, please visit the CWA website.
Of course I hope to get my hands on this gem soon, to add to my culinary offerings and my growing collection of cooking guides. I love to cook and entertain friends and loved ones. Which is why cooking shows are typically on my weekly "menu." You should tune in too, periodically; particularly if becoming a better writer is what you aspire to in days ahead. There are many commonalities and parallels for writers and cooks. In fact, I've covered some of this "food for thought" before on this blog. As they say, "repetition reinforces." If you need some convincing, read on as I share what's cooking, and how food shows can inform and enhance the creative process.
HERE'S WHAT'S COOKING...
Jen's Corn Salad
First impressions count. "People eat with their eyes first." In a similar fashion, editors reviewing your work and visitors discovering your blog through a referenced link, should experience your best. They should be well "fed." If not their first encounter might be their very last. Sample before serving.
Good cooking and good writing both involve incorporating many of the basic senses: touch, sight, sound.
Good writing and good cooking call for the right balance. Have you ever over seasoned something in preparing a meal? If so, you know why too much of a good thing can be bad. The same holds true for writing. Not having a "balanced" perspective and objectivity can cause others to doubt your credibility and your writing ability. For proper balance, (particularly when doing feature pieces, informative posts and interviews) keep an open mind. Consider all the facts. Read different sources. Research.
A clean, organized work area (with both crafts) enhances the creative process and de-clutters thoughts. I notice whenever I watch Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart,they're never scouting around for a misplaced utensil or ingredient; everything is in view and easily accessed. Does the same hold true for your desk or office?
Both require following directions properly for optimal results. For cooking it could be a Betty Crocker recipe; while for writing it can come in the form of submission guidelines provided by a targeted publication. Read and heed.
Collaborations create win/win situations. Celebrity chefs on TV often invite other chefs to their program to provide diversity; share different areas of expertise; and form important alliances. You'd be wise to do the same with fellow bloggers and other writers in your social circle. Remember, "two heads are better than one."
Keep these practices and principles in mind to "spice up" your writing career and to make more progress in 2018.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? Image credits: Pixabay.com
What was she thinking...? Or was she thinking at all? First off, let me just go on record by establishing that this post is not intended to defend or defame Roseanne Barr.
In fact, as my long-term followers can attest, I typically don't devote this forum to political, racial or controversial issues. Simply believing that there are other topics more informative, positive and noteworthy. But the more I heard on the news, the more I felt compelled to speak out on this trending topic because of the numerous lessons it imparts.
So, here we are. My purpose is to increase awareness and encourage intelligent dialogue.
Let's rewind to the genesis...
Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you've heard that the eagerly anticipated Roseanne Reboot has been unplugged. Grounded. Cancelled abruptly due to a controversial comment she reportedly made on Twitter, concerning Obama's adviser, Valerie Jarrett. Read more about Roseanne's fiasco.
Though humor (like art) can sometimes be subjective, I'm willing to bet that few folks found her comment or comparison of Jarrett to Planet of the Apes as particularly funny. Not to mention, this is a "sequel" we've seen played out too many times before in our nation's history.
Adding insult to injury, is the fact that I was a former fan (like many Blacks). Besides being funny, this sitcom seemed to be very inclusive in its casting and storyline. Now, in an "instant rice minute," Roseanne Barr's poor judgment quickly tarnished the sitcom's reputation; deprived ABC's viewing audience (18.2 million), of a well-regarded, entertaining show; and has caused friends and supporters to divorce themselves from her.
One act is seemingly overshadowing her many accomplishments in the entertainment industry.
So what can we learn moving forward? How can we find teachable moments here? (Particularly for those of us in the public's eye)
Here are my "take-aways" today... 1. FREEDOM OF SPEECH AIN'T TOTALLY FREE In Roseanne's case the tab could ultimately be millions---in terms of lost endorsements, shows, etc. The lesson? Just because you CAN say anything as an adult living in a free society, doesn't mean you should. Hello? Everything need not be verbalized or shared in a public forum. What you say at home at the dinner table is a different story.
2. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK As bloggers and writers most of us have felt the pressure to say something clever on Facebook, or to post something relevant to update our blogs. But sometimes, when you're at a lack for words, it's usually best to leave it that way. "Silence is golden". Really.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE WRONG HANDS CAN BE DANGEROUS Use responsibly. Use finesse.
4. REPUTATION MANAGEMENT IS CRUCIAL The hide you save might be your own. In this Internet age your online image can make or break you. Mind your manners. Choose your battles wisely.
It's ironic that something that initially started out as an attempted joke by Roseanne Barr has caused such sadness, disappointment and divisiveness.
A timely reminder that we should choose our words like we would choose our friends. Carefully. Wisely.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? Do you think that her punishment fit the crime? Curious here...
Greetings, Readers! I hope this holiday Monday finds you enjoying great food, great fun and great weather ( in whatever geographic region you reside). I thought this might be a good time to share words of inspiration and wisdom to get you through the week, as we keep those who died for our collective freedoms in our prayers and thoughts.
So grab a cup of your favorite brew and let's get started...
MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES TO MOVE YOU FORWARD & Make You Think
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."
---Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
---Henry David Thoreau
"The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage."
"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations."
"Never say anything which doesn't improve the silence."
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
"Successful people have big libraries. So read to succeed!"
It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”
"The best way out is always through."
"Once you choose hope, anything's possible."
"Be still. And know that I am God." ---Psalm 46:10
Thoughts? What's your favorite quote? Any of the ones listed appeal to you?
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. Bio
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.
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-truthscan 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). IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER OF IMPORTANCE:
1. YOU MUST WRITE EVERYDAY TO BE SUCCESSFUL 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.
2. YOU CAN’T BREAK INTO PAYING PUBLICATIONS WITHOUT QUERYING 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.
3. BLOGGING ON A FREE PLATFORM WILL BRAND YOU AS AN AMATEUR “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.
4. WRITING IS EASY--ALL YOU NEED IS AN INTERNET CONNECTION AND BASIC ENGLISH 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
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 or 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 to 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.
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?
(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
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.
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