"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, January 19, 2017

Bouncing Back From Rejection-Michael Alvear

I’ve been making a living as a writer for about 14 years and have experienced just about every kind of rejection imaginable—as a freelance writer/consultant, I got stiffed for payments owed; as a newbie, I couldn’t get an agent, let alone a publisher; as a published author my last book tanked so bad, I was advised to write under a different name for my next one; as a “new author” (ha!) I was about to have my breakout moment on a national afternoon TV show when I was suddenly and unceremoniously cancelled.
There hasn’t been a single stage in my writing career where I thought with confidence, “Whew, I made it.” Even when it looked—from the outside—like I was doing well, I was always just one more rejection away from slamming my computer shut and walking away for good.
After a number of big setbacks, I knew I had to learn to manage the constant frustration and fear that dogged me as a writer. I began studying what psychologists and experts said about building resiliency and applied them to the writing life. The changes were subtle but strong—I no longer felt like an abject failure when a client passed me over for a project or my book sales fell flat.

I detailed the practices that have worked best for my writing friends and me in The Bullet Proof Writer: How to Overcome Constant Rejection to Become an Unstoppable Author. My favorite techniques are the ones that either made me laugh, or seemed so counter-intuitive, I couldn’t believe they worked—until they did.

For example, I laughed with both recognition and relief the first time I came across a study by a psychologist studying resiliency that advised to “never think positive.”

Thank you! I’d always bristled at being told to pretend something is good or positive when it’s clearly not. And there it was: study after study showed that using positive thinking as a way to move past emotional setbacks actually makes things worse. That’s partly because it prevents you from processing natural feelings of anger and grief, which in turn, leave you more centered. Instead, experts recommend learning how to “drain” away the value judgments that keep you spinning in despair and hopelessness.

On the “wait, how could this possibly work?” side, the use of “counterfactual reasoning” surprised me the most for its sheer power and effectiveness. It’s a technique for practicing gratitude that shows you how to view your situation in unexpected ways—to “unadapt” your habitual ways of thinking so that you can truly be grateful for what you have.

Gratitude is an important aspect of a rejection coping strategy because it focuses your mind on the good not the bad. The problem is that it often doesn’t work. At least not the typical way we practice it. That’s not just my opinion; it’s the conclusion of many studies on using gratitude to improve mood.

Fortunately, some researchers hit on a particular method for practicing gratitude—counterfactual reasoning—that shows great results in the lab.

Here’s the basic premise: Instead of being grateful for the good you have, spend a few minutes pretending you never received that good. For example, if you feel rejected that Publisher’s Weekly gave you a good but not STARRED review (a common feeling of rejection that best sellers experience) then spend a few minutes visualizing what would happen if PW never reviewed your book in the first place. That pull-out quote in PW that your editor put on the cover of your book? POOF! Gone! The congratulatory emails and phone calls? POOF! Gone!

Suddenly, you become far more grateful for the good that you have (a solid review from PW) than the rejection you perceived (an unstarred one).

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t have to employ one or more of the techniques outlined in The Bulletproof Writer. The nature of the business means I’m always looking over the edge of the cliff. I like to think of the book as the harness, rope, and clips that keep me from spinning off into the abyss, even when both my feet slip on the crags. 

I encourage you to develop your own personal brand of coping as it can mean the difference between success and failure. Check out some of the ones I found particularly powerful: Alex Lickerman’s The Undefeated Mind, Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness and Guy Winch’s Emotional First Aid.

Michael Alvear is the author of The Bulletproof Writer: How To Overcome Constant Rejection To Become An Unstoppable Author (Woodpecker Media January 2017). LINK:
He’s been a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and his work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions, readers.



Monday, January 16, 2017

Motivation Monday! Quotes to Move You Forward

It's the beginning of the week and the middle of the month. Do you know where your muse is? Is your year starting off with passion and promise? Are you maintaining your resolutions? Or are your goals getting lost in the day-to-day madness of it all?

Well, today's post will hopefully encourage, inspire and enlighten you as you ascend greater heights this month, this year, in your writing journey.

And I'd like to dedicate these thoughts on positive thinking and progress to a man who was the perfect embodiment of both: Dr. Martin Luther King, JR.



"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
--Eleanor Roosevelt
" Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
-- Martin Luther King
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."
--Richard Bach
"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."
--Proverbs 14:23

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."
--Zig Ziglar

"Only you can control your future."
-- Dr. Seuss
"Take another bite of chocolate. It’ll help."
--Anna Marie Gire
"Successful people have big libraries. So read to succeed!"
--Shel Horowitz

"If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."
--Thomas Edison
"It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
--John Templeton
Your turn.

Thoughts? Any favorites you'd like to add?
Image Credit: https://Pixabay.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The 3R'S SERIES Delivers More Writers' Resources!







My new Ebook is just what you need to start the new year off with a bang!
Here's what it includes:
  •  How to brand your blog to increase your fan base and your bottom line
  • Branding profiles on successful celebrities like Martha Stewart and Steve Harvey, and what you can learn from them
  • How to avoid the social media "time sap" and market your blog "smarter, not harder"
  • 5 Mistakes you're making in branding your blog
  • And more!

If you like my blog, you'll love my books! They provide insider's tips not always revealed within weekly blog posts.
To order your copy today, send $3.99 to PayPal: Gemsjen@yahoo.com.
Same day processing.


THE BUTCH BAKERY COOKBOOK-By David Arrick/Janice Kollar 

Who doesn't dig cupcakes? But this sweet read is different. This cleverly crafted cookbook contains recipes from Butch Bakery that includes interesting ingredients and variations. 
You'll find sections on cupcakes infused with liquor; how to take quality shortcuts with pre-made cake mixes, and even cupcakes for couples. Additionally, there are blank sections devoted to taking notes, tips on tools to stock your kitchen, and the photography is simply gorgeous.   

That concludes this month's shares for the 3R's Series.
Feel free to share a comment.
Image Credits: https://Pixabay.com/


Friday, January 6, 2017

8 Tips to Maintain Your Blogging Appetite


Are you finding it hard to maintain your "mo-jo"? Has your taste for blogging turned bland? Is it difficult to keep up the pace? Running out of ideas and steam?
Then you'll definitely benefit from the tips provided in today's post.
Truth is, no matter how much we love it, blogging requires a little motivation and inspiration to go the distance. Wouldn't you agree?

With this in mind, I'd like to share my story, to help you continue to share yours.

I remember when I first began blogging many moons ago. Ah… it was magical. The excitement, the novelty, the interaction, was reminiscent of a romantic relationship.
It was a groovy kinda’ thing.
Seven years later and 700 blog posts down the pipeline, and I’ve got the "7 year itch".

That I'm hoping won't become the 7 year ditch.
There are days when I’m confused, restless, overwhelmed, and barren of useful, new ideas.

Don’t get me wrong; I still dig what we've got going on. I love the bonding experience of connecting with old friends and new readers. But, honestly, on some days when I’m slated to update my site, well...I feel like saying: “Not now, I have a headache.”
Romantic notions aside, it’s hard work, folks.
And I’m betting for many of you, the same situation holds true.

Adding to the mix  is the fact that life can get in the way.
"Riddle me this."
How are we supposed to remain motivated with work woes? Health challenges? Family obligations? Money issues? Fierce competition? Relationship issues? Bad weather blues, and other obstacles that threaten to sap our energy and sabotage our efforts. Hello?

Here's the good news: we can and we must.

Accordingly, here are a few "tried and true" strategies you'll definitely want to consider to go from frustrated to fearless in 2017, (in no particular order). 

1. "Don't retreat, reload."--  Sarah Palin.

Sometimes when our traffic numbers are low and our bank accounts are at rock bottom, we feel uninspired, frazzled and frustrated. When this happens, it behooves us to remember why we started our journey in the first place. Maybe blogging was a way to share your love of cooking. Or to connect with people of different cultures. Or to entertain others through your unique sense of humor.
Has that changed? Perhaps a little soul searching and re-visiting past successes will rekindle the flames and re-ignite your passion. Try it and see where it takes you.

2. Choose a blog topic that you truly enjoy.

It's a common mistake I see being made by many bloggers. They launch a blog based upon a popular topic, or a trend, or a whim. Though they may have the best of intentions, it won't last.
The thing that keeps me going week after week, month after month, year after year, is the simple fact that writing is what turns me on. I live it. I sleep it. I eat it. I enjoy it.
Fun is a great motivator.

3. Choose a topic that you have a broad knowledge base in.

Aside from passion, wisdom and experience will help you go the distance and make it much easier to generate topics and content. There's great validity to one of the cardinal rules of writing, "Write what you know." Like Santa, you should make a list and check it twice.

4. Have a plan. And work it.

What is your purpose? How often will you post? Who will you target? How will you measure your success?
The clearer you are here, the easier it will be to "work smarter, not harder" and prevent

5. Get help.

Who says you have to do everything alone? Request and accept guest posters. Interview experts.
Seek ideas, inspiration and information from books on writing and blogging. One that I highly suggest is Marcie Hill's "62 Blog Posts to Overcome Blogger's Block." You can find additional ordering information here:   http://www.marciewrites.com/books
Every little bit helps. 

6. Don't be afraid to take a detour.

Okay, so maybe you started your blog based upon your love of birds, but the idea is not "flying." You lack the following you desire, rarely get comments, and you feel defeated. Don't stay stuck there; just re-evaluate and redirect your efforts. Don't let your ego get in the way of excellence.

7. Be realistic about your goals. 

For example, is it wise to post every day of the week if you have a 9 to 5 gig with kids?
Should you aim for 2000 word posts if they are not substantive and quality oriented?
If the longest commitment you have ever had is with your cell phone carrier, do you think that you will be able to remain faithful to followers and consistent in your updates long term?

8. Pause for the cause.

Build in periodic breaks to prevent a "break down." I personally take routine breaks around summer vacation, the Christmas season, or whenever my work schedule or health dictates that I really need one. You should too.

2017 has the potential of being your biggest year ever; but you'll never know if you quit too soon. Keep a positive perspective and keep these eight tips in mind, to go from frazzled to fearless!

Your turn.
Thoughts?  What do you plan to do differently in 2017 to reach new heights and old goals?
To stay on the blogging path? Do tell.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Writer's Courage! How to Cultivate More in 2017

“Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
---Ernest Hemingway

Welcome, Readers!
Thanks so much for your continued support and readership, as we embark upon a new year full of promise and unlimited possibilities. I'm delighted to have you here. Whether you're an old fan or a new friend here, I value your time, feedback and interaction. It's a pleasure to connect with you and share my love of the written word and my desire to help you "learn more and earn more," at Pen & Prosper.

If you're on board, let's get busy with today's post. As always, I welcome your questions and comments. It helps us all to learn and grow. In the words of Clint Eastwood: "Go ahead and make my day." :-)


When most folks think about “bravery,” they typically associate it with careers like firefighters, police, or professionals that sacrifice their well-being through heroic efforts and life-saving rescue.
Which is true by standard definition. But those of us who carve a living from words know all too well how courageous this way of life is too. It’s not for the feint of heart.

In fact, truth be told, I never envisioned myself as a writer growing up.

Though I have always loved the act of writing creatively, I only pursued it professionally because my mom “guilted” me into it. I was afraid.
More on that story at another day and time…



Writing makes us vulnerable. Sharing our thoughts, experiences, family dysfunctions, inner-demons, mistakes, and neuroses leaves us as “exposed” as a hospital examination gown.

Writers must withstand judgment, criticism, controversy, rejection, and even “haters“.
And yet, we enter the proverbial “ring” each day and find the courage to battle doubt, slay personal fears, defeat procrastination and move forward.

Not to mention that many of us are introverts and have to contend with the awkwardness of sharing a certain “intimacy” and honesty in expressing ourselves in public arenas; if we are to make a real impact with readers.


A few weeks ago, I received my first book review (which is how this issue with courage initially manifested). When the email arrived in my inbox, I was afraid to open it. I was so nervous, I felt the need for a cigarette. And I don’t even smoke.

After reading it, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel; the review was both positive and negative. Would I submit to one again? Probably. And here’s why: as uncomfortable as it was to open myself and my work up to scrutiny, the review was helpful and insightful. No matter what the reviewer felt or thought, my ebook was STILL a career accomplishment. Good or bad, it represented a finished, marketable product and another “chapter” in my writing journey.


Writers, let’s face it: you’ll never receive a “Purple Badge of Honor” for your efforts, courage and resilience. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feel empowered and proud, just the same. In fact, we don’t have to look to characters in the novels that we read to be inspired or to embrace it.

Celebrate the courage you show each time you:

  • Write and publish a blog post
  • Continue to blog without consistent comments from readers
  •  Survive a negative book review
  • Submit to a publisher who has rejected your work previously
  • Seek agent representation
  • Take a new class to develop your skills
  • Send out a pitch letter
  • Refuse to allow writer's block to put you in a state of panic
Courage is as necessary an ingredient to a writer’s career survival as food is to a chef.
Without it, there’s no growth, progress or gain.

So, if you’re good to go, here’s how to cultivate more of it in 2017:
Come out of your comfort zone. If you have always wanted to write a children’s book, or a memoir, or dabble in a different genre, go for it! Research. Read successful authors in your targeted category. Set goals. Make a game plan. As they say, “There’s no time like the present.”

Have the chutzpah to define success on your own terms.

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson did. It’s not always about bottom line figures or social media numbers; success can be about honoring your own personal truths, or overcoming obstacles.

Connect with other scribes by leaving comments on blogs you read, or via social media platforms you engage with weekly.

Don't be afraid of grammatical errors, language barriers, or being potentially embarrassed by mistakes.
We're not here to judge; we're not your English teacher.

Read. Explore. Print. Embrace.

The following quotes on courage:

Take more calculated risks.

If you're writing part-time, for instance, determine what it would take to go full-time.
Apply for gigs you would not have in the past. Make this your year to take your efforts to the next level and advance your swagger!

Do you!
In other words, be yourself. Don't try to follow every fad, "expert" recommendation, or path navigated by other bloggers. Instead, learn from the best; but don't ignore your own inner-guidance, individual style, or personal goals.

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."
---Walt Disney

Happy New Year!

Your turn.
Be fearless. Leave a comment. :-)

         Image credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pen & Prosper's 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Guide


Perhaps now more than ever before, we need to celebrate and embrace the good in life.
This year has been a challenging one for many people.
A struggling economy, weather-related disasters, police brutality, political upheaval, personal battles, pandemonium. True?

The good thing about the holiday season is that it offers us peace, goodwill toward mankind, generosity of spirit, and a celebration of Christ and our year-long blessings.
Good grub, family and friends, and a sharing of gifts simply serve as the proverbial "frosting on the cake."

There's no better time to shift our gears and focus our thoughts and actions on uplifting things. To put away the past and shelve our worries.
What better way than shopping... Hello?

With this as our goal, I present to you Pen & Prosper's 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Guide.
These suggestions make perfect selections for you, a loved one, or perhaps a fellow writer friend (hint, hint). :-)



You'll never go wrong with teas for writers. And there are so many options from which to choose. Black tea, Green tea, Chamomile, Earl Grey, to name a few.  And check this out: if you have a dollar store in your nearby area, you can get more bang for your buck! Many carry an assortment of delicious brands and flavors you'll enjoy.


Books are to writers what fuel is to cars. They keeps us "running." They entertain, inspire and inform us. If you haven't already had an opportunity to purchase it yet, may I suggest my new E-book to add to your virtual library? This title goes beyond the lessons I share here on the blog, and is guaranteed to provide a few insider's tips that can save you time and money. To order, simply send $3.99 to PayPal address: Gemsjen@yahoo.com.  And here's the bonus: you won't have to pay any shipping and handling, my friends.  Easy peasy.


For the "wine snob" on your list. Pair it with some nice cheese, or with some lovely, decorative glasses or decanter.


Would you like to take your writing to new levels? Finish a novel? Start a blog? Banish writer's block? Coffeehouse for Writers classes can help you to learn more and earn more! Register today for a better writing future. Visit the C4W site at : www.coffeehouseforwriters.com


The Portable Muse Writing Cards

Saw these recently through the Women on Writing Blog and thought they were a neat idea for stimulating creativity. 30 Creative writing prompts to enhance your productivity.
Get ordering information here:



Simply put: "Nothin' spells lovin' like somethin' from the oven." If this holiday season finds you with a little time to spare, why not "throw down" in the kitchen? For me it's therapeutic and affords another way to express my creativity.
An alternative to making baked goods as gifts, of course, is to purchase some of the nicer store brand versions and put them in a basket with other thoughtful items like a decorative mug, kitchen pot holders, fruit and/or a gift certificate to a coffee shop. My personal favorites are Aldi's Loven Fresh baked goods and Jewel's apple pie. How about you?


I'm a big music lover. And I'm betting that many of you "creatives" are too.
In fact, music serves as the "backdrop" to many of my writing and blogging sessions and helps to set the tone for the day. The above video features a young, talented diva that delivers! Add Andra Day to your playlist for the holidays and beyond. Let me know what you think here.
B/T/W/ Sioux, this one's for you. :-) One good recommendation deserves another.


This concludes today's post and this year's blog pennings for 2016.
At this time, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for the "gift" of your readership, friendship and support.
This would not be possible without you.

Your turn.
Thoughts? What's on your Xmas wish list?
Any ideas you like here? Any that you would add?

Please note:
Pen and Prosper will be on holiday break, while Jen spreads a little cheer, until around January 9, 2017. Have a happy, safe, joyous holiday season.

...Until we meet again.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Ask the Expert" With Designer David Lange

Image Credit: David Lange

Hi, David. Welcome! Can you share with my readers a little about who you are and your professional background?

I am a self taught graphic designer, artist & illustrator. I've always gravitated towards creative pastimes ever since I was young, but have been working professionally as a designer for the past 7 years both as a freelancer and for various agencies.

Describe a typical day.

Having just taken the position of Senior Graphic Designer at a marketing agency, my responsibilities as both designer and creative director include designing collateral and web pages as well as developing and refining our design and development process. A typical day consists of a little of both. There are usually a handful of design projects in my queue, but my focus right now is facilitating the web design process across various compartmentalized departments.

I see on your site that you also specialize in branding. What are some of the most common mistakes you witness with creative artists and entrepreneurs, when it comes to branding efforts?

A lack of consistency in brand strategy and presentation is probably the biggest. It's tempting and easy to follow impulse but erratic branding dilutes your message and the unique value of your offering. It also hinders brand retention and trust among your audience. This usually occurs because there are no brand standards in place, because they haven't walked the company in question through some type of branding process.

How would you describe your approach to working with writers and businesses seeking graphic design services? In other words, what's your U.S.P.?

My USP is the cross section between my passion as an artist and my hyper analytical instincts. I'm obsessed with making brands beautiful and am an advocate of being truly passionate about your personal brand, but I also appreciate the need to understand the "pain" driving the interest and desire for a particular product or service. I like to at least consider whatever data is available to understand the mindset of the customer and the particular buying process they go through.

Do you charge by the hour or by the project?

I try to stay as flexible as possible to avoid the creative process feeling restricted by cost. I usually quote most anything, but smaller projects are more typically the ones I'm comfortable working on for a flat fee. Larger projects are usually looking at a quoted range with just enough room to accommodate all the various unforeseeables.

A lot of writers are opting to publish ebooks these days. Are covers for ebooks different than hardcopy versions? Or are the design elements pretty much the same? 

The principle would be roughly the same but print is more demanding and restrictive. Print typically has more specifications involved that relate to the output (margin, bleed, print-marks, preferred format, color...). Anything that stays in the digital space is typically a little easier to deal with.

What should freelancers look for in terms of hiring a graphic designer or illustrator?

A portfolio of quality work, relevant to the type of design you're hiring them for. The freelance market is mostly driven by cost though. Design is a complex discipline that's cheapened in the eyes of the average consumer by a lot of temptingly cheap options. Good designers know their worth so be prepared to pay for quality. Going the cheap route can be okay for some things but there are a lot of unseen pitfalls for those basing their decisions on price alone.

Any other special talent or unusual hobby?

I enjoy the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.

What quote or expression do you live by?

I have quite a few that I like, maybe not one in particular. If I had to choose one for the moment: "Work hard in silence, let success be your noise."

Nice. I like that one, David.

How can we reach you?