"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, April 27, 2017

5 Reasons You Can't Afford Not to be Motivated!


I started out with the best of intentions. Woke up bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on the world and unleash my awesomeness!

It was a Monday, the first month in the second quarter, and I was super excited about new projects, as the beautiful spring weather peeked in at me through my corner office window.

At 6:20 a.m., I logged unto my computer to get things cracking.

I checked my email, mentally prepared my to-do list, and then I was good to go.


Three hours in, and I'm frustrated by computer glitches, spam emails, stress, expectations unmet, a migraine, back pain, eye strain, and a partridge in a pair tree!

It’s one of those days when I question whether or not to continue my journey as a writer; whether it’s worth all the disappointments, detours and doubts. Grrrrrrr….

If you’ve been on the scene for awhile, I’m almost certain that you’ve had these days too. Hello?
Immersed in the thick of things, I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel and joining the circus.
I figure I already have a lot of "juggling" experience as a freelance writer.


Seems that Murphy's Law is often in the mix...obstacles to overcome or some set-back to sabotage my efforts: a client who pays late, a computer browser that’s no longer supported, a promising project that gets cancelled unexpectedly, income projections that miss the mark.

I think about quitting. Again.
But, unlike most careers, “true writers” can’t quit; we’re “drafted.“
It’s in our blood. It’s part of our internal wiring. It’s our calling.

Not to mention, too much is at stake for us not to stay motivated and stay in the game!


Whether you’re busted or disgusted, here are 5 reasons you must stay motivated in 2017!

See if you agree.


You don’t have to be a big celebrity to have a big impact. If your words change one person’s life for the better, consider yourself a success. Nobody has the same exact experiences, the same perspective, the same style, the same voice as you do. Keep going. Remember the words of Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not."


It’s simple business math. Stress and lack of motivation can cause writer's block.
No output means no income.

Technically, we don’t have a boss behind us “cracking the whip.” For writers, motivation is a “do-it-yourself” project. Of course we all need and deserve a “pity party” now and again. Perhaps yours is due this week. Host it. Have it.

Then use what you’ve learned in your private time to take personal inventory. What could you do better to insure greater success? What bad habits do you need to eliminate?
What are some small victories that can serve to inspire you in days ahead? Assess and apply.
(Sidenote: I keep a beautiful plaque that I was awarded for my blog, above my desk as a visual reminder of what I have accomplished.)


And your portfolio. When you feel like giving up, instead dig deep. Why not tap into your creative powers? Pen a poem. Write a post about your trials and tribulations to inform others.
Here's an example where I practice what I preach:


It could be someone you mentor, or a family member. They're watching and taking note. They believe in you. You need to accept the challenge. You need to step up, my friend.


Who wants to live with a lifetime of "would haves" and "should haves"?
To quote the lottery commercial here: "You can't win if you don't play."


1. Try a Change of Scenery.

If you’re used to working from home, why not tote your laptop or journal to the local library, coffee shop, or park? Bird watching, star gazing, or simply engaging in conversations with others can often provide information and inspiration for that next chapter of your novel, or next blog post.

2. Color.

Adult coloring books are all the rage. If you’re thinking that they’re just for kids, retrain your brain. According to Craig Sawchuk, a clinical psychologist at Mayo Clinic: “Coloring can help slow down heart rate and respiration, loosen muscles and stimulate the brain.”
In 2015, an estimated 12 million adult coloring books were sold in the United States.

3. Take a Break.

That’s right. Though this may seem counter-productive it actually works. Scheduling some “down time” helps to relax the mind, rejuvenate the spirit, and recover. Make it a part of your regular routine to break the monotony and to break through to new levels in your writing.

4. Read motivational quotes.

I often purchase motivational calendars with daily positive messages to embrace. You can also find them online by simply Google-ing "motivational quotes."

To wrap things up here

A wise person once said: "When you feel like quitting, remember why you started."
Words to live by.

...A penny for your thoughts. :-)

Image credits: https://Pixabay.com/

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Are You Traveling "Economy" With Your Career?

"81% of Bloggers never make a $100.00 from their blogs."

Would you like to take your blogging to new heights in 2017?
Earn money for your writing efforts?  Work smarter, not harder?
Go the distance with fewer "detours"?

Here's the ticket in three words: Stop. Traveling. Economy.
For greater clarity here, please allow me to elaborate...

Most of us folks have had some type of traveling experience in our lives. True?
Perhaps a honeymoon trip to a faraway island. Or a flight during the Xmas holiday to return home to visit family and friends.

Based upon our budget, time availability, travel destination and preferences, there are various options to get from "Point A" to "Point Z".

The experience and expectations, however, will largely be dictated by one simple decision:
Will you travel "economy" or "first class" ?

There's no denying that either category designation will do the job.
But, here are a few differentiators.

The same concept applies to other industries as well.
For example, a 5-star hotel will typically afford more luxuries, better room service, better security measures, more accommodations and a fancier room than a budget  motel.

A university education typically enhances your educational horizons more than a community college.

So what's the moral to the story here?
"You get what you pay for."


Ask the average writer what one goal he/she would like to achieve, and more than likely the answer will be to make more money. And yet, very few scribes invest in the tools and resources needed to earn a living or even meet the costs of operating a website.

A survey of 1000 bloggers by Blogging.com in 2012 found that "17% are able to sustain their lifestyle or support their family with their blogs, while 81% never make even $100 from blogging."

If I had to theorize why, I would say that many of their careers remain "grounded" largely because they fail to buy books, take classes, hire editors, or pay for professional organizations that will enhance them and allow them to optimize their efforts.

Don't let it be you.

Blogging is not as easy as it looks; especially in today's competitive climate.
You must "invest" for greater success.
Of course, this is not to suggest that writers should not avail themselves to the many "free" avenues and resources online to hone their craft.
But, don't stop there.

Level up!


Some time ago, I wanted to publish a professional eBook. After doing some research, I hired a lady to design and format my work who offered "budget basement" prices that could potentially save me a few hundred bucks.

At the time, I thought it was a smart and frugal move. Turns out, it wasn't.
The work was so shoddy, I lost countless hours requesting revisions, hand-holding and trying to resolve our creative differences. "And time is money."

I ended up having to pay extra money to hire someone else, and had to start the whole process over again from scratch. Lesson learned.


A wise man one said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Hello?

Chances are, no matter what level you're on in your writing career, you could probably use help ascending new heights or venturing new paths; we all do.


To advance my swagger this year, here are a few books, strategies and resources I have invested in:

  • In addition to guest posting, I have now paid for Ads on other sites to promote my services and products and expand my reach.
  • I have launched a series of information products to provide greater value to my readers and fan base. You can learn more or order my eBooks designed to help writers "work smarter, not harder" and earn extra income here:

(my books are affordably priced $2.99-$3.99)

  • I have purchased books from fellow writers on marketing, email campaigns and other writing related topics ( authored by Carol Tice, Ed Gandhia, Yuwanda Black).
  • I have researched and am reviewing additional writers' organizations for memberships to join to broaden my network.
  • I was approached, and am considering teaching new business classes online to create more passive income. Stay tuned for details!


If you want to advance, why not take a chance?
Dare to do something different today, for a more progressive career this year!
Remember, "You have to spend money to make money."
Free will only get you so far.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
What will you do differently to "level up" this year?  Do tell.

Image credits: https://Pixabay.com/

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Join me in Celebrating National Poetry Month

Greetings, Readers!
As many of you are aware, April is National Poetry Month. An annual celebration of a beautiful art form that dates back to biblical days. And actually, for me, my first literary love.
I have been penning pieces since I was a young, awkward teen.

In subsequent years, I've won a few awards, published a few books, and have formed my own poetry group with kindred spirits. So today I thought I'd share "Side B" of me through my poetry.

I hope you enjoy! And if you dig it, do share a comment at the end of this post. 


A safety net
A cheerleader
A molder
A knee-kisser
A hand-holder
The author of childhood tales
With many happy endings
And countless lovely things
Sometimes spent
Heaven sent
Like no other,


I don’t know how to rescue you
From the deep valleys of desolation
And frustration,
Of foreign landscapes
Of once familiar things,
Misplaced names
And faces
How do I restore
Your joy
Give you back your footing,
Your smile,
Or provide the safety net
That you need
But won’t most times mention?

I wish that I could make you feel safe,
Help you put back the missing pieces
To your life’s puzzle,
But for now,
All I can do,
Is love you



He gave me his heart
Then without advance notice
Bestowed it to her
(C) 2017 Jennifer Brown Banks

Please note: Pen & Prosper will be on a spring break until April 25, 2017. I look forward to reconnecting then!
Image credit: https: Pixabay.com/
P.S.  For those interested, my poetry books are available at Amazon.com.



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/