"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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

6 Tips for Designing a Home Office You'll Love!


Home offices are all the rage these days. And with good reason: in this Internet age, with changing dynamics, more professionals are choosing positions that allow flexibility, convenience, the opportunity to design their own “perks,” and the option to work from home.

According to the Freelancer’s Union, “53 million U.S. workers are now freelancing” from the comforts of their own space.

Working from home affords many benefits for today’s workers--- less stress, less travel time, fewer travel-related expenses, and more quality time spent with family members.


To make the most of working from home, a dedicated space is important.
It can increase productivity, allow for greater organization, accommodate clients, and provide an environment that contributes to greater success. An added bonus here is that a home office has certain tax benefits.

So, if you’re in the market for one, or have been setting up shop at your local Starbucks or the nearest coffeehouse, it’s time for a change.



A home office can be as small as a corner attic space or as big as a master bedroom.
It all depends upon your spacial considerations, your business needs, and your personal preferences. For optimal results, choose a room that offers a good degree of privacy, minimal noise, and space for basic equipment like a copier, fax machine, desk and chair.


Did you know that certain colors have a psychological affect on our thoughts and moods?
For example, green is associated with growth, wealth and vitality. Red is associated with energy. White depicts faith and purity. Get the picture here? Choose a color that resonates with your personality and reflects an image you’d like to portray.


Mix business with pleasure. Combine quality furniture with bold, unique artwork, fun lamps, personal trinkets, awards of achievement, pretty framed photos of your family or favorite places you’ve traveled.

If you’re an avid reader, books provide a nice “scholarly” touch as well.



Bringing a bit of nature indoors adds warmth to your d├ęcor. Plants also improve the air quality in your home. Choose a low maintenance variety like Spider Plants and Lucky Bamboo.


Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of aligning your home’s design with the correct placement of furniture to achieve proper balance and energy flow.

Read more about the various techniques and practices here:





Don’t be intimidated by the process. Take the time to try on “different looks” before you arrive at a final decision. Take pictures at various stages, take note, reflect and assess. What colors work well together? Does your new office look crowded? Can you find things easily? Does the look inspire you? Is it suitable for clients? Comfortable?
Is it a positive reflection of your personal identity?
These are things to consider.


Follow these timely tips to create a home office that “works” and that’s attractive, functional and uniquely you.
Because “there’s no place like home.”

Unless otherwise noted...
Image credits: Pixabay.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Should Writers Blog Today? Points to Consider

Guest Post by Cynthia Clampitt
Much of the discussion about blogs these days is about monetizing them. Pity—because monetizing a blog is not only difficult, it’s also (somewhat) unlikely. When people run into this reality, many give up on the idea of blogging. But money is not the only, or even the main reason to blog. Even without creating an income stream, blogs have virtue and value.

First and foremost for many is that key element of writing success: building a platform. If you have a good blog, people will become interested in your writing and may start “following” you. Of course, this means you need to put some serious thought into your blog. It should reflect the quality of the writing you want to promote. Plus you need to decide what your blog will include: all your random thoughts, information on the writers life, your travels and research, your personal insights or struggles. The goal and focus of the blog should be defined on the About page, to let people know what they can expect from you.

Word to the wise: don’t make it so narrow you can’t keep the blog going long term, but make it clear and diverse enough that it helps your readers.

Make the most of the promotional opportunities of the blog. The About page, of course, can include a link to a website, an Amazon listing, your LinkedIn profile, or other places that make it clear you are a working writer. (I see so many “About” pages where the sample text “this is an example of an About page” is left in place. You definitely shouldn’t do that.)

Be aware that you can add other pages to inform and engage readers. For example, a page for awards and/or reviews of your writing.

Possibly more important than promotion, though rarely mentioned, is discipline. If you are going to succeed as a writer, you have to write pretty consistently. Sure, you’ll have days off, but if there are months and years off, you’re not going to succeed. A blog gives you a place to “stay in shape” as a writer. You have a reason to write even when you don’t have an assignment. (Another bonus I’ve found is that, when you have to cut a passage from something you’ve written, and you simply love that passage, you can put it on the blog. You can keep your word count to what has been assigned but still have an outlet for those extra details or delightful vignettes.)

A blog gives people a place to connect with you. There are, of course, the “like” buttons and comment sections. While a lot of comments tend toward “nice post,” sometimes important information is included. (I’ve heard from ad agencies and schools in Australia that wanted to use my photos, colleges asking if students reading my book could contact me, and even the National Library of Australia, requesting permission to archive my Waltzing Australia blog.)
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

A bit of planning is involved. Whenever possible, have a few posts planned out in advance, so if you get busy, you still have something to put out there. But don’t panic about it. You don’t have to post every day, unless you have a topic that requires daily updates. Once you get followers, they will be notified when you post something. And most host sites work hard at promoting every post of their users. (I use WordPress, and they are very good about making blog posts visible.)

Also, link whatever you can to your blog. Goodreads, Amazon, and LinkedIn all offer the option of having your posts appear on your profiles, but even sites that won’t show your posts still generally allow you to post the URL for your blog.

Visit blogs that are related to what you write, and leave comments. That leads people back to your blog. Because building platform only happens if you work at it one layer at a time.

Bio:  Cynthia Clampitt is a writer, speaker, traveler, and food historian. She is the author of Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland and Waltzing Australia. Midwest Maize and Waltzing Australia also happen to be the names of two of her three blogs (the third is The World’s Fare, which covers culture, food, history, and travel to places other than Australia and the Midwest). She has been blogging for more than ten years.

Why do you blog? What aspect do you consider to be a benefit to your writing career?

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

Food 4 Thought Friday-A New Monthly Feature!

Greetings, Pen & Prosper Readers,

In my ongoing efforts to inspire, inform and entertain, I have opted to add a new monthly feature here. Food 4 Thought Friday will be an array of different opinions, essays, motivational quotes, quips by my mom and poetic pieces that I hope will enhance your reading experience, inspire you to view things from a different perspective, or simply make you smile in the midst of life's madness (especially the writing life).
As many of you are aware, I have been blogging at Pen & Prosper for over eight years now. And as with all "relationships" it's important to add a little variety to keep things interesting.

Some posts may be long-form; others may be short and sweet.
It all depends on my mood and the topic being covered.
I also invite you to share your own commentary pieces and "thoughts" to add to the mix here.
I'm sure you'll agree that this is how we learn and grow as creative artists and as people in general.

Just a few guidelines here, before we get started.

  • This is in its "testing" phase. Your comments, (or lack thereof) will determine if this new feature continues. So, if you like it, be sure to leave a comment to keep it going.
  • Let's agree to disagree in a polite, professional manner. Please show the respect you would like to receive. Remember, we don't have to be like-minded to like each other. :-)
Now, cop a squat, grab your favorite brew, and let's get on to Friday's thoughts...shall we?


Let’s face it: bloggers are considered lightweights in the literary world: “children of a lesser God.”
We often garner the same response as “domestic engineers” when people in social gatherings ask us what we do.

In fact, there’s a certain smugness and subtle disregard that occurs whenever I discuss my blog work and associated awards even amongst writing peers.

It’s not much different than when our kid comes home with the “opus” created in his art class at school. We smile and pat him on the head for not coloring outside the lines, and then send him off to play.
The prevailing mindset that blogging is not “serious writing” is even echoed when suggesting to novelists, authors and columnists who are friends and associates of mine, to hop on the blogging bandwagon and start their own site. They usually express how they are much too busy to devote time to something they perceive to be a form of "trivial pursuit". To each his own.

But, don’t get it twisted. Blogging may not require a college degree or formal training to break into; and it’s definitely not rocket science. Still it’s a genre of writing that merits respect-- no different than screenwriting, journalism, poetry or plays.

Consider the following stats and studies:
  • There are over 152,000,000 blogs on the Internet (and counting).
  • Bloggers are considered the third most trustworthy source of information, behind friends and family, according to an independent
survey of UK consumers commissioned by affiliate network, affilinet.
  • 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.
(Source: BlogHer)

Gone are the days when blogs are primarily used as a forum to vent about bad bosses or showcase poorly written work that can‘t make the cut elsewhere. This “art form” has resulted in major book deals by traditional publishers, syndicated columns, and an income source for those who do it well. For example, Yuwanda Black, a blogger over at Inkwell Editorial, was approached in 2016 by Adams Media to pen a book titled “The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guide.”
She states on her blog that she never even pitched or queried them. They discovered her randomly through her blog and information products, (and the rest as they say is history.)

Though many are called, few are chosen. Blogging is extremely competitive and requires a strategic approach to stand out and stay relevant. Not everyone can pull it off or do it well. It’s the reason that so many sites actually end up folding within the first few years. It’s much harder than it appears.

Blogging requires discipline, commitment, creativity, time management, effective communication, technical skills and consistency.

That’s a tall order.

So, if you’re a blogger reading this, hold your head up high.
Your work may not lead to a cure for Cancer, or result in world domination.
You may not even have “the moves like Jagger.”

But your work inspires, informs, empowers and educates the masses.
And that’s not too shabby either.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree here?

Image credit: Diamond--Pixabay.com

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ask the Expert-With Ghostwriter Dawn Josephson

Meet Dawn Josephson.
She's a ghostwriter and author who has shared some useful insider's tips and strategies on this very lucrative field for Pen & Prosper readers today, as part of my ongoing "Ask the Expert" series.
Please make her feel welcome with your questions and comments.
As always, thanks for your time and readership.
Q. Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your background?

I’ve been a freelance ghostwriter and editor since 1998. I have been in the writing and publishing industry since 1993. But I have been writing since childhood and got my first piece published in the New York Newsday when I was just 8 years old (I won’t give an exact year, but let’s just say it was back in an era when Carter was President).

I worked for book and magazine publishers prior to freelancing. I started ghostwriting quite by accident. My boss at the magazine I worked for wanted to write a book. Since I was the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, he asked if I would “help” him. Little did I know at the time that “help” meant, “write it for me.” But that’s what happened. It was my first ghostwriting project.

While my boss was promoting the book, a PR rep I worked with and who saw the book asked me (in private) if he really wrote the book by himself or if I had a hand in it. I told her what had happened since there was no confidentially agreement in place. She said, “Great! I have some clients who need books and articles ghostwritten. Can you help?”
And so the journey began.
Q. What is your writing routine? Do you write every day?

I write most days, but not every day. A lot depends on my workload. I try to take at least two days off per week so I can recharge.

As for a routine, I’m a bit of an ADD writer. I don’t sit for long chunks of time and write. I need frequent breaks. So I may write a few pages and then go for a walk. Write a few more pages and then break to fold some laundry. I write better with frequent breaks.

It’s funny because 15-20 years ago I used to be one of those writers who had to write in complete silence and could not be interrupted for anything. I’d write all day without stopping. But as I’ve gotten older, my ways have changed. I’ve always viewed change as a good thing though.

Q. I see you’ve been ghostwriting since 1998. How has the publishing landscape changed in the evolving years?

Oh my! Where do I start???? So much has changed. I’ve been ghostwriting since 1998 but in the publishing industry since 1993. When I first started writing and ghostwriting, email was in its infancy. People sent me manuscripts via floppy disk. Revisions were often faxed. Looking back, it’s amazing we got anything done at all.

Self-publishing was a dirty word you said in private. These days it’s a thriving industry with high quality products. Talk about a night and day difference!

While publishing something has gotten easier, gaining attention for your work has not. There is so much more competition for books now that many great titles never get discovered. Today, marketing your book is more important than the actual publishing process. I’ve seen too many wonderful books never get the readership they deserve simply because of poor book marketing.
Q. Since many ghostwriting jobs are not published on traditional job boards, can you share a few tips on how you garner clients?

To secure ghostwriting gigs, you need to find your niche and immerse yourself in that. This isn’t a profession where you can be successful scanning job boards. You need face-to-face networking. People need to trust you with their ideas. They need to feel comfortable paying you a large sum of money for your work. In many respects, ghostwriting for someone is like a marriage. It must be a good fit between the client and the ghostwriter. The only way to nurture that relationship and ensure you will have a successful project is to really get to know your clients. But realize that it goes beyond a single project. When you have a successful relationship with someone, they refer you to others. And that’s where the gold is!

My niche is professional speakers. When I was developing, cultivating, and nurturing my niche, I was an active member of the National Speakers Association (NSA). I held leadership positions in the NSA as the Writers and Publishers PEG (Professional Expert Group) Chairperson for several years. I went to all the meetings, hosted monthly teleseminars, did the group’s newsletter, etc. I traveled around the country and spoke at regional NSA meetings. I sponsored meetings. I advertised in publications my niche market read. It was essentially another job, but it got me incredible exposure in my niche.

Today, I am so established in my niche that I no longer have to do those things. All my business now comes from word-of-mouth, and I have no shortage of work. Getting to this point did not happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication. But it will happen if you stick with it.
Q. What are some important qualities one must have to be a good ghost writer?

You need to really listen to your clients—not just for their information and ideas, but also to their style. Remember, as a ghostwriter, whatever you’re writing is not yours. It can’t have your voice. You must be able to mimic your client’s voice. This is easier said than done.

You also must have a small ego. This isn’t a profession for someone who wants fame and to be in the limelight. Some clients may not want others to know they used a ghostwriter, so it’s common that no one but you and your client know of your participation in a given work. You must be okay with that.

Finally, you must be tight-lipped and trustworthy. Depending on your clients, you will be hearing information that no one else has ever heard before. You can’t blab about it before the book comes out (and often even after the book comes out—you can’t admit your involvement with it).
Q. I see you’ve also produced a number of books. Are you a traditionally published author or self-published?

My clients have done a mix of traditional publishing and self-publishing. The exact publishing venue always depends on the client’s goals. Sometimes it makes more sense to self-publish, and vice-versa.

I self-published my books through my own publishing company. Because I did so much speaking at NSA events and writer’s conferences across the country, I had a direct link to my target audience. I didn’t need a publisher to connect me to bookstores, distributors, and potential buyers. I could reach all these outlets myself, so I did and didn’t have to share my profits with a publisher. It was a wise decision.
Q. You provide coaching to authors as well. Can you tell readers what that entails and why it’s beneficial to today’s freelancers?

I provide two types of coaching. The first is for business professionals who want to improve their business writing skills. Because writing is vital in business success, sometimes people need a boost in their writing skills. Some people have said to me, “My boss told me if I want a promotion, I need to improve my written communications.” Coaching is a great option for these people.

The second type of coaching is for freelance writers who want to break into the business. Many freelancers come to me because they’re scanning writing job boards and earning peanuts—barely enough to pay their monthly electric bill. With coaching, they learn a better way to grow their business that harnesses their unique strengths. As I tell my clients, “It takes work and it takes a commitment to getting out of your comfort zone, but if you commit to the process and actually do the work, success will come.” Coaching often can shave years off your learning curve.
Q. Do you have a blog? Why or why not?

No, I don’t have a blog. I have never had one, believe it or not! I write a lot of blog posts for others though. I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing a blog, but in the end I have enough business through word-of-mouth that I don’t feel it’s necessary in my situation. I do see it as an important aspect for someone just starting out though.
Q. Since ghostwriting clients typically like to remain anonymous, how can a writer use those associated projects to gain additional work in the field?

Well, you would never use a “clip” to get a ghostwriting gig. I’ve ghostwritten for some major people, but due to our contract specifics, I can’t name them. But that’s okay. Because this isn’t about name dropping. It’s about developing a relationship with your prospects and clients. Let’s put it this way: Think of the biggest name person in your field or someone famous you greatly admire. Even though you can’t say you do work for that person, imagine that person telling their friends, family, or associates, “Hey, if you need someone to help you with that writing project, I can refer you to someone.” That’s where the money is! That’s how you get the big projects! You focus on the relationship and then those big players tell others about you.

Realize, too, that I do ask all my clients if I can use them as a reference. Many, even those who stipulate that I can’t advertise myself as being their ghostwriter, will agree to be a reference in specific situations. This way it’s up to the client to say what they are comfortable with. Some will just give a general reference, as in “Dawn is great!” while others will be much more specific if asked on their terms. 
Q. How important is “platform” in attracting publishers and clients today?

Platform has been and always will be important when attracting publishers and clients. What industry or audience do you want to be known in? What makes you stand out in that industry or audience? You must make yourself stand out in some way to get noticed. Again, scanning job boards won’t get you far. You must roll up your sleeves, get out there, and make yourself known to attract the high paying ghostwriting gigs.


Q. What’s the most you’ve ever earned on one ghostwriting project?

Let’s put it this way … I’m currently easing into semi-retirement. I’m still working, but I’m definitely cutting back so I can pursue other things in life that are important to me. When I was ghostwriting full-time, I consistently earned a six-figure income. It is possible.

Q. Is there a ghostwriting organization/association that you would recommend for training, networking, and/or job leads?

There is a ghostwriting association:

As for job leads, again, it doesn’t work like that. I hope I can stress this enough. To get the high paying clients, it’s about immersing yourself in your niche industry or client base, talking to people, and building relationships. That’s what makes for a successful ghostwriting career.


Questions or comments, readers? Any ghostwriters "lurking" here?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Swoon Reads Editor Shares Tips on Trendsetting

Let’s face it—trends exist.
As much as we may try to ignore them, there are genres and book covers and types of protagonists that sweep through the publishing world like wildfire. On Swoon Reads, we definitely see trends reflected in the types of manuscripts writers submit to our site. No matter what’s trendy, we’re always looking for manuscripts that reflect the passion and drive of the writer behind them—not the manuscript that feels the most “of the moment.” So how do you take trends into account while you write without letting them dictate your work in progress?

These dos and don’ts should help you navigate the

ever-changing world of trends.

DO Know What’s Hot:
Instead of denying trends completely, arm yourself with the knowledge of what's working in the marketplace. More information is always good; we love to work with authors who know the YA world like the back of their hands. Take a trip to your local bookstore and see what’s dominating the shelves. It’s important to know what’s popular in the YA universe, whether you’re writing in these genres or not, so that you can know how to talk about your manuscript and make it stand out in the current environment.

DON’T Be a Copycat:
Even if every big book seems to be following a certain trend, resist the urge to write something just because it feels trendy. Why? By the time that book hits the shelves, the trend may be over! In addition, writing something just because it feels trendy often results in a not-great book. You're better off writing something you're passionate about—it'll show in your work!

DO Analyze Why a Trend is Popular:
Many trendy books have a few elements in common. Dystopian novels, for example, often feature strong female characters, rebellion against an oppressive government, and strict social classes. As a writer, it’s always useful to think about what themes readers are drawn to at a specific time and why (do they reflect the world around them? Do they push back against a previous YA trend?) so you can decide whether to incorporate (or disregard!) these elements in your own work.

DON’T Be Afraid to be a Trendsetter:
It can feel like the only way to get published is to follow the trends that are already popular with readers. But don’t be a trend-follower—be a trendsetter! So what if no one else has written a book about were-penguins or psychic ghost girls or Indiana Jones-wannabes. Every trend has to start somewhere, and as long as you’re writing a book that you love, you have just as good of a chance of starting a trend as anyone else out there. Bring on the were-penguins; we’re excited about whatever trend you’re about to set.
Want to read more about trends and the importance of paving your own path? We’ve covered this topic on our blog at https://www.swoonreads.com/blog/pave-your-own-path-why-you-shouldnt-write-trends/.

Kat Brzozowski is an editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel & Friends. She has edited a wide range of young adult fiction, including Anna-Marie McLemore's When the Moon was Ours, which received a Stonewall Honor and was longlisted for a National Book Award, and new Fear Street books in R.L. Stine’s bestselling series, which has sold over eighty million copies worldwide. Kat is drawn to young adult fiction across a wide range of genres, especially contemporary, realistic YA with a strong hook; dark, contemporary fiction, mysteries, suspense and thrillers; and sci-fi and fantasy that’s mostly rooted in this world. She is especially interested in YA novels with crossover appeal and diverse characters.

Readers, how do you feel about trends? Is your writing dictated by them?
Do tell.

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The 3Rs Series Brings More Writers' Reads & Leads!



Top Writing Blogs You Should Follow

Best Laptops for Writers

Photography Tips for Bloggers

8 Paying Spiritual Markets

How to Make Money Guest Blogging

Land Guest Posts On Top-Tier Sites!

The Courage to Keep Writing



Affordable online classes for writers
 of all levels and genres

Free E-book
Learn how to Charge What You're Worth

Creative Writing Prompts



The Write City Magazine


Chicken Soup for the Soul


20 Free Writing Contests that Pay Cash



The quiet way to "happily ever after"
                                                      By: Sophia Dembling

I am an avid reader. Something that I can thank (and blame) my mom for.
It's the reason that my home rivals a real library.
It's also why, no matter what store I enter and what's on my shopping list, I always make a mad dash to the book aisle.

This time it was at my local Dollar Tree store.
(Which, by the way, is a great spot to score best-selling books for the price of a cup of coffee).
But, I digress a bit here...
The title immediately appealed to me from the display table and I had to pick it up. Once I did, I had to take it home.
And lucky for you. 'Cause I think you'll love this book too.

Here's why, folks.
  • It's well-written.
  • It's an engaging read.
  • It's thoughtful and thorough.
  • The chapters are short, but substantive.
  • It's published in an easy to read font style.
  • It's an interesting exploration of human relations.
Here's what you'll discover:

Chapters include
  • How to manage 1st dates and 1st impressions
  • Identifying relationship red flags
  • Ways we sabotage relationships
  • Tips for extroverts and introverts
  • Dating in cyberspace
And more!

According to Psychology Today: "16 - 50 percent of the population consists of introverts."
Many writers fall in this category. So, this guide may even resonate with you on a very personal level.

On a scale of 1-10, I give this read an "8".
Find out more or order @ Amazon.com.

That's it for this month's 3Rs series. Enjoy!

Thoughts? Favorite reads or leads here?

Image credits: Pixabay.com

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Million Excuses Not to Write-Guest Post

For years I struggled to put pen to paper. How to say what was so perfect in my heart and mind? I'd write it this way and that. But it would be no good.
Then the baby would cry and I'd put the writing aside. I'd tell myself that time was the problem; my excuse for not writing. Because time wasn't something I was going to have with a baby at home. I'd traded my time, my words, for motherhood.

That's what I told myself when the words wouldn't come. And I waited for time. Enough time to write.
When I thought about having time to write I imagined this clean white space: a block of time large enough for that creative spark to take hold. The one that would light a fire under my inner writer. But I both yearned for and feared time. Because sometimes I told myself the truth: that time was my excuse. That I didn't really know if I could write.

And then time arrived. My youngest turned six and started school. With almost no warning, suddenly there were blocks of time, scads of time. Time to think. Time to write.

I had only to begin.
I stared at the white space on the screen. A space large enough for words to form. A blinking cursor showing me where to begin.

I tapped a key and a letter appeared on the screen, in the center of that wide open white field. I let out a breath I hadn't known I'd been holding in. Here it was: time to be a writer.

There were no more excuses. Just me and enough time and the words.
It was time to get to work.
And so I typed another letter and soon there was a word staring at me there on the screen.

It was both easier and harder than I'd thought it would be. Easier because I had a lot to say after all those years of excuses. Harder because of that second voice, in addition to the one that liked to blame time.

The second voice was the one that said I was the problem. That I didn't have it in me to be a writer, that if I kept having babies, I wouldn't have to prove myself as a writer. That I could keep on blaming time.

It was tempting to give in to that voice. It was frightening to be sitting here typing on a keyboard after years of not knowing whether I was good enough. But I'd learned from having babies that life is about letting go, about getting free from the fear that keeps us from taking that first step.

And so I took a deep breath and typed some more, knowing that with each word I was setting myself free. Free from self-doubt and fear. And that getting free was the main reason I was sitting here in front of a keyboard.

Putting in the time.

Varda Meyers Epstein is a mother of 12 children and a parenting expert and writer at the Kars4Kids Educational Blog for Parents. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Image Credit: https://Pixabay.com/

Thoughts? Do you find excuses not to write? Do tell.