"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

Deciding What Type of Blogger You'd Like to Be...

These days, many of us are on "information overload."
Let's face it. Blogging experts and how-to gurus bombard us with daily emails with things we must do and measures we must take to achieve success and optimize our online efforts.

Their guidance is purposed to help us:

  • Garner more traffic
  • Become more social media savvy
  • Master SEO
  • Build a more solid platform
  • Win friends and influence people
  • Make money
  • Establish authority

In the process, they advise us to:

  • Write long-form posts of 2000 words or more for greater social media shares.
  • Design our sites so that they are compatible with multiple mobile devices.
  • Use SEO to increase our visibility and Google ranking.
  • Sign up for Google+, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social media channels.
  • Blog on self-hosted platforms as opposed to free sites.
  • Build a mailing list.

Maybe it's me, but it seems like every week there's some new technique, platform, gadget, or practice to master, incorporate, try, buy, choose.

Some of it is useful and applicable. Some of it ain't.
Who decides? Ultimately you.
It all boils down to who you want to be as a blogger and writer.

In a "blog fog"?

Here are some factors to consider to inform your decisions moving forward:

  • Your target audience
  • Your goals
  • Whether your blog is professional or recreational
  • Your lifestyle
  • Your value system
  • Your brand
  • Your time
  • Your strengths
Here's the reality.
You can't do it all, my friend. And you certainly can't do it all equally well.
Not to mention, you can't please everybody. It's the quickest route to burn-out.

A better approach?
Align your efforts to your goals, your vision, your values, your time and your brand.
Don't blog blindly, or on "auto-pilot."
Dare to be different. Chart your own course.

Uber-popular blogger Seth Godin did. For example, his short, savvy, thought-provoking posts pack a punch typically in less than 250 words.


Additionally, he blogs on the platform Type Pad (not Wordpress) .

Don't get me wrong. This is not to suggest that you should not incorporate the advice of experts in your blogging journey: most have built solid careers from having the right strategy and making smart decisions.
But be prudent in the path you choose to follow. Go with your gut. Go with what makes sense.
Assess and apply.

At a recent college graduation ceremony, Judge Judy shared some words of wisdom we all should consider: "You should listen to many. But only take advice from those whose track record you admire."

The verdict's in: that Judge Judy is a pretty smart cookie.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
Have you ever taken the "road less traveled " in your blogging journey?

Image: Https://Pixabay.com/

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Joys of Journaling!

I love how words give shape and permanence to our thoughts.
How they mirror our moods, capture our experiences, make us assess and reflect.

Particularly as it relates to journal writing. And there's a bonus here,
journals are our secret keepers; they guard and preserve our most intimate stories without judgment or disclosure. Better than a best friend, at times.

Which is why I have kept a journal since my teen years...in every size, color and theme.
And the good news is you're never too young or old to start one or maintain one.

As the years have evolved, here are some benefits I have observed from this age-old practice.
See if you agree.


  • Journaling can be cathartic. Potentially saving thousands of dollars in professional therapy. :-)
  • It can help enhance creativity.
  • It can bring closure to plaguing issues or painful relationships. Your words can help "close the chapter" to unresolved issues, or write your own "happy ending" as you see fit.
  • Journaling can assist us to chronicle, witness and understand our spectrum of emotions and our personal growth. Remember that guy or girl who broke your heart, that you thought you'd never get over? When you read your journal entries years later in retrospect, you'll get quite a laugh and even confirmation of your inner-strength.
  • Journals can be used for an array of projects and purposes.

  • A Blessings Journal
  • A Recipes/Food Journal
  • An Exercise/Diet Journal
  • A Shopping Journal
  • A Financial Journal
  • A Work life Journal
  • A Creative Journal
  • A Relationship Journal
  • A Bucket List Journal

If you're on board, here are a few places to score cute, inexpensive diaries and journals:

  • Online @ Amazon.com
  • At a local Dollar Store
  • At thrift shops
  • At Stationery stores

Get creative here.
Add photos, stickers, pressed flowers, post cards to places you've been or would like to visit, for a more personalized experience.

There's really no wrong way to pen your life story, for memories that live a life time. 

Curious here. Do you keep a journal? What kind? Do tell.

Image credits: https://Pixabay.com/

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Ask the Expert" With Editor Susan Maccarelli

Greetings, Readers!
Today I have the pleasure of continuing Pen & Prosper's popular "Ask the Expert" series with Susan Maccarelli, founder and editor over at Beyond Your Blog.

Here she provides us with success strategies to increase the odds for publication at other sites, as well as the 4-1-1 on her own personal blogging journey.
I hope you'll make her feel welcome with your comments and questions here.

First, a little intro:

Susan Maccarelli is the Founder of BeyondYourBlog.com, and a recognized expert on transitioning from personal blogger to published writer. Beyond Your Blog offers tips for getting published, directories of writing opportunities, interviews with editors, the Submission Savvy e-course and more. Susan’s interviews include editors from the New York Times, Chicken Soup For The Soul, The Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. She has been published on many websites and anthologies, and spoken at conferences including BlogHer, ASJA, and Bloggers at Midlife.
Now, on with the interview...

Hi, Susan. Thanks for joining us today.

Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your background in writing?

Sure! I started a personal blog in 2013 and after figuring out (slowly) that other sites would publish my work, I found that I loved that method for building my audience and getting eyes on my writing. I started BeyondYourBlog.com in 2014 to help other bloggers with the process of getting published outside of their personal blogs. Before ‘retiring’ to raise 2 kids in 2010, I worked in the corporate world in account management, training, and customer service. My writing background is slim to none! I hated writing assignments in high school and college and only started my blog to appease my husband, who thought it would be cool. I like to write now when I have inspiration or great info to share with my readers, but I don’t consider myself someone who has to write in order to be fulfilled.

What was the inspiration and motivation behind starting BYB in 2014?

As I mentioned, I wanted to help other bloggers who were confused about the process of getting published and were asking questions like Will anyone publish me since I am not a professional writer?, Where do you find opportunities to submit your writing?, and How do I get paid to do this? I decided to interview editors at various publications who would share what they were looking for, how to submit to them, how much/if they paid etc. I also include articles on the site that share tips and tricks for bloggers and freelancers submitting their articles and posts for consideration, inspiration for writers, and directories of places to submit writing.

Describe your brand.

Good question! Do I get deductions for having to think about this? I’d say that Beyond Your Blog is a helpful place that aims to give bloggers and other writers information that will help them reach their publishing goals. I want visitors to the site, the Facebook Group, my course, and my newsletter to come away with something practical that they can go and use to get a little closer to their publication goals.

As an editor, what’s the most common mistake you observe with guest post submissions received at BYB?

Easy! I get TONS of submissions that are clearly from people who have not read the site and are not a good fit. I’ve gotten posts about unclogging toilets, divorce, hair plugs and more. Every day I get at least 5 emails that start out telling me how much they love my site and proceed to pitch me an idea that has nothing to do with writing, blogging, or publishing. I delete most of these. If you send me something even remotely related to what I publish, I don’t care how good it is, I will read it and respond, and I am flattered that you sent it.

How many monthly submissions do you receive?

Usually around 20 serious submissions that relate to our topic. More if I promote the opportunity to submit (and the payment) heavily. We select about 2 each month to publish, so it is pretty competitive even though we don’t get hundreds of submissions.

What advice can you offer to writers seeking to increase their odds of publication in top-tier sites like Huffington Post or Write to Done?

With Huffington Post, it is a persistence game. If you keep submitting, you’ll get in eventually. Try smaller sections, pitching editors or section emails directly (vs. the blog pitch form) and make sure your submissions are Huff-y – catchy titles, not too long, timely etc. With any site, studying the formula of other successful posts can be very helpful in helping you craft something your editor will love. Do they have a typical format (length, but also list/personal essay/reported or some combination of things)? Do their pieces tend to have a timely angle referencing current trends or news? Have you followed all of their submission guidelines? Sometimes it is a matter of taking what you have written and molding it just a little for a target site.

Tell us a little about your class “Submission Savvy”. Why should writers take the class?

I am planning to re-open Submission Savvy in the fall. It is for writers who are new to having their work published online and want to understand how to go about it. I basically thought about all the things I had to stumble around and figure out for myself (making mistakes along the way) and packaged it into a course for other bloggers. The course is self-paced and covers everything from the benefits of being published online to how to find the right fit publication for your work, what you need to know about re-publishing something that has already been on your blog or another website, interpreting submission guidelines, paying opportunities, rejection and lots more. If someone is interested, they can go
here to sign up and be notified when I re-open it for new registrants.

If memory serves me correctly, you shut your blog down awhile back ago and then decided to re-launch it. What did that experience teach you?

I took a hiatus last summer after experiencing some major burn out. After a couple of months, I realized that there were a lot of things I could cut out or scale back on and still accomplish what I wanted. I came back with a much more focused agenda, and I have found it to be much more enjoyable! The most interesting thing I learned is that your fans and readers won’t desert you if you leave for 3 months. My page views stayed about the same, my Facebook Group was still active, and when I came back, I still had an audience. I convinced myself that if I didn’t work hours each day, everything would grind to a hault, and that was not the case at all.

Congrats on BYB being chosen as a “Top 101 Websites for Writers” for 2017 with Writer’s Digest. How has that changed your blogging career?

I shared the call for nomination with my readers months ago and didn’t think anything else of it until one of my readers tagged me on a post where there was a photo of the print magazine with BYB listed. I am so flattered to be in there among some of my favorite sites like ProBlogger, The Creative Penn, and Brain Pickings! I definitely saw traffic pick up considerably when the issue came out!

If you could offer one piece of advice to bloggers who are new to the scene, or those seeking to build a more “solid” platform, what would it be?

I’d actually tell them what NOT to do. Don’t try to do it all. You can spend all day reading articles about what you SHOULD do as a new blogger. You can burn out pretty quickly if you try to do it all. You have plenty of time! Pick one (maybe 2) social platforms to focus on and focus on your writing. Go from there adding and trying things you come across for promotion, monetizing, publishing etc. Do one thing well and then decide if it is even working before you decide whether or not to keep doing it. Slowly add on and try not to measure yourself against every other blogger. If you are making strides (even baby steps), then you are doing the right thing.

Thanks, Susan. Wishing you much continued success!

Image credit: Red pen






Monday, May 15, 2017

4 Things Writers Can Learn From Today's Rap Singers!

Forbes Magazine recently released their list of the top earning rap singers for 2017.
Let me tell you folks, that the figures were more impressive than a swim suit model's!

Reigning supreme, was Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, with over 800 million large.
Also among the ranks were hip-hop royalty Jay-Z, Dre and Drake.
Read more here:

Who knew that having a gift for putting words to a clever beat could be so lucrative?


Whether you dig hip hop or not, you'd do well to emulate some of the practices and principles of today's successful rappers, if you too wanna' "live large," command a cult-like following, stay in the game, and cultivate skills to pay the bills.

If you can get past their sometimes profanity-laced lyrics and legal issues, there is something to be learned.


Categorically speaking, rappers have "swagger."  They believe in themselves and their ability.
They don't shy away from controversy, and often express themselves without apology or need for approval. Something we all should consider.

"I got cash to blow, raps that flow,"says P.Diddy in a popular song.
Perhaps your accomplishment is a best-selling book on Amazon, or a listing in a "Top Blog for Writers" compilation, or the release of a new Ebook. Bravo, baby.
Now do your part. Share it. Shout it. Strut your stuff. If not you, then who?

Make the most of your creative license. Remember what your English teacher taught you... and take it even further.
Experiment with literary devices like hyperbole, imagery, alliteration, parallels and metaphors.
No matter what genre you dabble in, these techniques can make your writing more interesting, colorful and engaging, yo!

Did you know that most well-paid rappers become rich not just from their music sales, but also from product endorsements, clothing lines, restaurants and other savvy business ventures?  Cast a wide net.
If you're a blogger, why not dabble in multiple genres? Start a membership club? 
Write books for others? Coach? Teach online?
The possibilities are endless.

If your goal this year is to take your writing game to the next level, take these timely tips into consideration to optimize your efforts.
There can indeed be rapture in rap.

Your turn.

Anything you would add here?
Agree or disagree? Holla' if you feel me. :-)

Image credits: https://Pixabay.com/

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mother's Day Thoughts...

Greetings, Readers!
Like many of you, this weekend's actvities will be devoted to honoring and celebrating Mother's Day.
Where would any of us be without them?

They are our first teachers, our biggest cheerleaders. They give us roots and wings.
Accordingly, here are a few poems I have written for moms.

Thank you
For the gift of life,
But more importantly,
For giving my life meaning.

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,

(c) Jennifer Brown Banks
May your Mother's Day be filled with good food, good moods, and memories to cherish for many years.

Image credit: Https://Pixabay.com/

Thursday, May 4, 2017

THE 3Rs Series Continues Helping Writers Score More!









Writer's Digest will provide an array of resources, events and services via its annual conference to be held August 18-20th in New York.
Pen & Prosper readers can receive a $25.00 discount by using code PAP17.

Learn more here at the Writers Digest Conference: 







In an effort to increase potential Ebook sales and provide various avenues for readers to find my books, I did a little online research. I was happy to discover that there are several platforms and service providers that will allow authors to promote and sell their work outside of their own blogs, (typically for a small fee).
Fees are either monthly based, or a percentage per transaction.
Each platform has associated advantages and disadvantages. Over the course of a few months, I tried out several.
The verdict?
Payhip leads the pack.
Here are a few reasons why:
  • It's user friendly; you don't need to know coding, or jump through hoops, or decipher technical jargon to successfully set up your merchandise.
  • Payments are super easy to establish and manage through PayPal.
  • In addition to selling Ebooks, users can sell music, spreadsheets and other downloadable products.
  • The owner/site manager was very responsive. I had a tech problem that was responded to within 24 hours of sending an email.  ( I later found out it was due to a problem with my computer browser.)
  • Payhip provides analytics to capture your sales activity.
  • It's low risk; if you don't sell anything, you don't owe anything.
Based upon my experience, I give it **** stars out of 5.
Please note: I have not been compensated in any way for today's review.
Learn more at: www.payhip.com/
Disclaimer: Results may vary.

Image: https://Pixabay.com/

 Comments? Thoughts?



Monday, May 1, 2017

Food For Thought**May is National Salad Month

Did you know that May is National Salad Month?
Well, it is. What does that have to do with writing, you ask?
Since I believe that a holistic approach to having a successful writing career encompasses our mental, physical, emotional and financial health, I thought this would be a fun, informative topic to share today.

So if you're on board, let's explore more.

Here's the 4-1-1...

"The Association for Dressings & Sauces launched National Salad Month in May of 1992, in response to a 1991 Gallup Poll that revealed that three out of four people eat a tossed salad at least every other day."

Remember when your mom used to tell you to "eat your salad"?
She was right. Salads are good for your health and provide an array of benefits.

Here are some to consider:

  • Salads are a good source of fiber. Which can help lower cholestrol and prevent constipation.
  • They are a smart and easy way to add the recommended fruits and vegetables to your daily diet.
  • Salads are easy to prepare; especially for those who are cooking challenged.
  • Salads can incentivize you to finally start your herb garden this summer.
  • Salads can contain ingredients that serve as Antioxidants; thereby potentially lowering the risk of Cancer.
  • They can help in weight loss. Which is great for writers who often maintain sedentary lifestyles and a fondness for chocolate. :-)

You can check out more benefits here:


And here's a bonus: many fast food and take out restaurants now offer salads as part of their healthy alternative menu options...like McDonalds, Subway and Wendy's, to name a few. 

To help you to eat smarter and lighter, here are a few recipes to try:







Hopefully I've given you a few ideas to chew on today.

Curious here...Do you eat salads regularly? 
What's your recommendation for a good fast food restaurant salad?

Please feel free to share any recipe links as well.

Image credits: https://Pixabay.com/