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Thursday, April 30, 2015

How My Addiction to Celebrity Gossip Has Helped My Writing (Really!)

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I was cleaning up the bathrooms in our home a few weekends ago, and started sorting through the pile of magazines on the floor for recycling.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. “There’s a whole lot of InTouch and Life & Style in this pile. No wonder Noah (my 9-year-old) was asking me the other day why Teresa was in prison.” I used to try and hide the magazines under more respectable publications like House Beautiful and The Writer but I guess I’ve been getting sloppy lately.

When it came time to brainstorm ideas for this post, I thought it might be fun to see if I could come up with some ways my addiction to celebrity gossip has actually helped me in my day job as a freelance writer and magazine editor. Pitiful, I know, but believe it or not, it wasn’t as hard as I originally expected. Here's what I discovered:

Cover blurbs really are important. Part of me groans when the time comes to put cover blurbs on the parenting magazine I edit. After working for the magazine for three plus years, I sometimes struggle with new ways to come up with teasers for evergreen topics like “back to school,” “summer fun,” and “summer camps/birthday parties.” But if I want readers to pick up our magazine, every word on the cover counts. Because let’s face it, I’m not sure I would have picked up the April 6 issue of a certain gossip magazine if the headline “540 Days Without Daddy: Why Tom Has Stayed Away From Suri” hadn’t screamed out at me.

Longer is not always better. I’ve been known to stress myself out when trying to come up with original content pertinent to our magazine. But when I flip through many magazines (and not just the celebrity ones) I find I enjoy the short “filler” pieces just as much as the in-depth articles. A few months ago I was reading a Facebook status from one of our local television news anchors, who often posts cute anecdotes about her kids. She had just picked up an Emmy, and I thought, “I should e-mail her and see if I can interview her for the magazine! I’ll bet our readers would love it.” I sent her a note that day, she responded immediately, and I sent her a few questions. We ran her interview with some snapshots of her kids and titled the short piece “Motherhood Musings.” She was thrilled, our readers enjoyed it, and the whole thing took hardly any time at all. So as silly as the “Night at Home with a Celebrity” column can look at first glance, it’s fun and entertaining for those of us who like to read about “lighter” topics from time to time.

Certain subjects can find a home in almost any magazine. Flipping through any one of my celebrity or women’s magazines, I find multiple articles focusing on nutrition, books, movies, fashion and exercise. Looking over the latest editorial budget for our magazine, we’ve got an article planned on “How to Make a Salad Your Kids Will Eat,” a picture book review, a column on maternity wear from our mommy fashion blogger, and a regular section on “Fit Fun,” which announces local races and sporting events families and kids.

So the next time I’m stumped on article ideas, this means I can head to the grocery store for my celebrity gossip fix and writing research, right? Are you addicted to any specific types of magazines? Do you ever use them to get ideas for your own writing?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who once got to interview celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, and believes that never would have happened if not for her hopeless addiction to celebrity gossip. She blogs about pop culture, writing, books, and everything else in between at Renee's Pages.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (American Civil War Adventure) By Margo Dill

Five Star Review by Carmen Jeanne Otto (eight-years-old)

Anna was a really good character and she is trustworthy and thoughtful. She was always worried about her sister and brother. I thought a lot about journaling after reading Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg. If my mom died at a young age and had us, I would write down all the stuff I usually talk to her about and I would be really sad. I think it must have been hard for Anna. She is really strong; I admire her.

This book really kept my interest and I enjoyed reading it. Sometimes it was happy and sometimes sad, I really enjoyed the ups and downs. If I could ask the author, Margo Dill, any questions at all, I Would ask how she picked the title and then I would tell her how pretty the cover is. I would definitely tell my friends they should read Finding My Place.

Book Summary:

The civilian side of the war is shown from a young girl's viewpoint.

Thirteen-year-old Anna Green can hardly remember life before the War Between the States touched her hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. for 47 days in May, June, and July 1863, the Union army bombs Vicksburg day and night, attempting to overtake the city. Anna longs for the days before Yankee bombs screeched above her, before her family was torn apart, and before they moved to a dark, damp cave to protect themselves from falling shells. During one terrible bombing, a tragedy strikes Anna and her siblings and changes their lives forever. Can Anna find the strength to keep her family together in the midst of war?

Paperback: 202 pages
Publisher: White Mane Publishing Co. (October 2012)
ISBN-10: 1572494085
ISBN-13: 978-1572494084

About the author:

Hi! I’m Margo L. Dill, a children’s author, freelance editor, speaker, and writing teacher and coach. I am so happy you made it to my site! Here’s a little bit about me:

I am the author of three books for kids 3 to 18. They are:

Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies (Guardian Angel Publishing, August 2014): Picture book about a young girl who solves her grandma’s missing cookies case by finding clues, interviewing suspects & setting a trap.

Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kinds, October 2012): Middle-grade novel about a 13-year-old girl who survives with her family during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863 (Mississippi).

Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, March 2014): Young adult novel about 17-year-old Julie Nigelson who is caught between a deadly curse on her family and the curse on the Chicago Cubs.

Besides these books, I’ve also been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and I continue to write a weekly review column for The News-Gazette in Champaign, IL. I also blog on Tuesdays at The Lit Ladies blog and about three times a month at The Muffin at WOW! Women On Writing.

I am also a writing teacher for WOW! Women On Writing, where I teach novel writing and writing for children. You can check out those classes here. If you are in the St. Louis/St. Charles, Missouri area, I teach adult education novel writing courses for St. Charles School District Adult Education, which you can check out here. (Click on WRITING, and these classes are listed under my married name, Balinski.) I’ve done numerous workshops and reading nights around Missouri and Illinois for students, teachers, writers and community groups. To find out more about my speaking, please click on the speaking link above.

Besides speaking and writing, I am also an editor with my own business, Editor 911. I do work for both businesses and individual authors, focusing on copy editing, copy writing, proofreading and ghost writing.

This all keeps me pretty busy, but I also enjoy being a mom, the Missouri SCBWI webmaster, and a member of a MOPS Steering Team in St. Louis. I love reading, walking, playing with my dog, touring around St. Louis with my family, eating out, going to the movies and playing outside.

Find out more by visiting Margo online at:

Photo Courtesy of Olivia Brey of Oh! Photography
Today's Reviewer Bio:

Carmen just turned eight years old and lives on a dairy farm. She has over 200 animals on her farm. She has three siblings in her house: Andre (7), Breccan (1), and Delphine (2 months). Her parents are Mark and Crystal Otto. Carmen helps her mom with book and product reviews and you can find her blogging at Bring On Lemons (she would also like to add that the money her mom is paying her to write this book review will go directly into her savings account).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Meet Flash Fiction First Place Winner, Carla Girtman

Carla Girtman was born in California, raised in West Virginia, and lives Florida with her husband, her adult daughter, and three cats (Majick, Tygur, and Nibbles who all claim they are the real writers of the family!). She is dabbling in copywriting which challenges her writing skills, but she would love to write full time for money. But alas, there are bills to pay and she works full time at an international airport. Writing fiction captured her attention in sixth grade, but sometimes she just plays too much Bejeweled than is good for her. However, Carla has joined the craziness of National Novel Writing Month since 2005, where she claimed success four times, and this spurs her to write longer fiction.

Her favorite genre is speculative fiction, and flash fiction challenges have honed her writing skills. Her first published story, “Me? I’m No Writer” appeared in the community college magazine. Carla’s flash stories have also appeared in Clockwise Cat, Flashshot, Demonic Tome, Flashes in the Dark, Short Humor Site, Blink Ink,and Luna Station Quarterly, as well as in three anthologies: The Zombie Cookbook, Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes, and The Drabbler.

Carla is currently working on two books: Tarot at Midnight and Mermaids andZombies, and Vampires – O My!. In addition to flash fiction, her poems, “When God Awakens” appeared in The Corner Club Press and the poem “The Ring” found a home in Dark and Dreary Magazine. Oh, yes. There’s the church cookbook she is helping organize too. Due to come out in May!

When she’s not writing, thinking about writing, reading at work or critiquing stories in her writing groups, she enjoys watching movies and collecting antique books (especially those relating to language).

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Fall 2014 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Carla: Thank you! I was fully expecting to be just in the top 10! It’s weird about what inspired me to write for the WOW contest. I just had a good feeling about this particular contest and I had a perfect story in mind. Since it was open prompt, the contest allowed me to use one of my favorite published stories. But it wasn’t like I could just submit it! I had to cut nearly 400 words out. It took over two weeks to cut it down to size to meet WOW’s word requirements. And I was doing those edits while working on my 50,000 word story for National Novel Writing Month!

WOW: Following your instincts paid off for you, well done! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Swamp Music? It seems like it might fit under the category of supernatural fiction.

Carla: I belong to several writing groups. Swamp Music started out as a story prompt to “I need more time” in 2013 and was originally entitled The Price. Most of my stories do belong to the speculative fiction genre which can included supernatural fiction. I’ve always been drawn to “different” genres like fantasy, supernatural, slipstream, and science fiction. With the speculative fiction, often you can make your written world match what you want your world to be, not the other way around. This is not to say there are no rules when it comes to world building. The key is to make that world believable to the reader. That’s the real challenge!

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Carla: I have written novels, screenplays, and poetry. But there is nothing like the challenge of writing flash fiction and being able to tell a short story that lets the reader decide who and where the story is. In Swamp Music, there is no description about what any of the characters look like nor is there an exact swamp location. Yet everyone who has commented on my story tells me they have vivid impressions on who the characters are and state they are transported to the swamp whether they think it is in Louisiana or Florida. Flash is all about story and letting the reader fill in the blanks.

WOW: Yes, I did have a a strong sense of place and people while reading your story. You mention in your bio that you’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for many years, completing the challenge several times. How have you learned to make NaNoWriMo work for you?

Carla: The best thing about Nano I learned about Nano is you free your inner writer. There’s no room for the speller checker, the editor, or the critic to tell you how bad it is. There’s no time to really edit or even think about the story other than moving on to the next scene. Sometimes I can be writing furiously and suddenly, there’s a character there that just shows up with his/her own story to tell! Other times the story I thought I was going to write goes in an entirely different direction. There’s a certain amount of freedom when you aren’t chained to perfection and allow yourself to write badly. As a writer, you have to listen to the story to see where it wants to go.

WOW: Good advice! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Carla. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Carla: It’s been my pleasure to share some of my thoughts on writing with you and your readers! Some tips on entering writing contests? Write what you like writing. Do your best work. Enter the contest. Follow the rules. And don’t be afraid to lose. Good writing is still good writing whether or not you win. But you definitely can’t win if you don’t enter!


Our Spring 2015 Flash Fiction Contest is currently OPEN
For details and entry, visit our contest page!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Give 'Em What They Want

Tomorrow, I’m hosting one of our WOW! blog-touring authors and I hope you’ll jump over and give a read to the post—it’s good stuff!

But…um…I almost didn’t sign on for this tour. You see, authors often have a handful of prepared posts for tours, and when I checked the author’s available posts, I didn’t see what I wanted. That is, I didn’t see a post having anything to do with writing, and that’s the topic (besides me) that I cover on my blog.

So I contacted the tour manager and asked if the author could provide something about his publisher, or something about his writing journey and helpful tips for my readers. Not a problem, said the tour manager. And by golly, the author wrote exactly what I wanted—and I was delighted. I’m sure my blog readers will be, too.

It seems easy enough, doesn’t it, to give an editor or a publisher or even a lowly little blog host like me what they want? But you would be surprised how often writers push back, and in doing so, hurt their chances for success.

Take, for instance, a magazine that accepts personal essays. Imagine you are the editor and three different, well-written essays come across your desk.

Essay #1 is 372 words over the word count limit. (That writer was sure she couldn’t possibly cut one single word without ruining her grand opus, and besides, that’s what editors are for, right?)

Essay #2 takes the month’s theme and veers so far off the tracks that it’s a train wreck. (That writer takes writing-outside-the-box to writing-outside-the-ozone-layer.)

But Essay #3 rests squarely in the word count limitations, and hits the topic in a fresh and amusing way. (That writer is getting a nice, juicy contract and doing quite the amusing Happy Dance in her pajamas.)

It doesn’t matter what you’re submitting. It can be a book manuscript to an agent, or a poem for an anthology call-out, or an essay or article to a magazine. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to writing or consider yourself an old pro. What matters, if you want to succeed in this business, is remembering a simple caveat: give the people who are buying what they want. So here’s my Top Three when submitting:

*Strictly follow the submission guidelines provided.

*Be professional, friendly, and courteous.

*Deliver on what’s promised.

There’s a world full of skilled writers out there, but you can jump the line pretty easily. Just give the industry professionals what they want and watch your successes stack up!

~Cathy C. Hall

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Creative Nonfiction Writing Process

Writer’s writing processes fascinate me, and this includes my own process. Much of what I do comes naturally now that I have experience writing and publishing in multiple genres, but I recently had the opportunity to examine my process for creating a piece of creative nonfiction. I want to share this with you so you can use it to think about your own writing process.

Consider how you start a piece of writing and how you progress from there. What works well? Where do you often get stuck? How does your process end?

Writing Process: Magazine Profile

I wrote a profile piece for a local magazine’s women-in-business issue. To begin the writing process, I researched the business owner by reading her company’s Web site. I knew her specialty was in nonsurgical hair-replacement technology, so I researched that, too.

I spoke with mutual acquaintances to get a sense of the business owner’s personality. This preliminary research helped me create effective interview questions. When I scheduled the interview, I asked if we could meet in her salon so I could observe her and her staff in action.

I do not have a copy of my roughest draft because as part of my process, I usually rewrite over previous drafts. If I decide to cut a large portion of a draft, then I will save multiple drafts in case I change my mind about the cuts. I audio recorded the interview, but I also took a lot of hand-written notes while interviewing and observing.

After I typed the interview and observation notes, I reread them to find intriguing themes, ideas and quotes and used them to make a rough outline of the story. The outline helped me get started, but I rarely stick to outlines because as I start writing, the story often takes on a life of its own and leads me in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. This discovery process is what I love most about writing.

I copied and pasted notes and quotes in roughly the order I thought they should appear, then I created sentences from the notes and used connecting words or sentences to pull the piece together. Once I had a complete rough draft, I sculpted it into a better piece of writing by examining its organization and its line-by-line writing. I focused on creating scenes to help the audience navigate the story.

Some classmates read a draft and gave me feedback, and I revised again. Then I called the business owner to fact check before sending the story to the magazine. The original “final” draft was 1,000 words, but the magazine asked me to cut it to 750 or less, so I did by removing some descriptive details about the salon, side notes about celebrities who wear hairpieces, and other bits that weren’t crucial to the story.

What is your creative nonfiction process like?

Written by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What Makes a Good Writer and a GoodEditor?

Words by Elizabeth. Photo |
I read a discussion on a forum about whether an editor needs to be a good writer. The conversation then moved into whether a writer needs to be a good editor.

As a writer and an editor and someone who teaches editing (and sometimes teaches writing), I thought about that discussion throughout this week. Even though I thought I'd write a different post, this is what stuck with me.

For the most part, I think that writing and editing are skills that must be practiced. In exercising those muscles, I’m not sure if that makes you good at either. But it does give you fluidity and confidence in those skills. Does the fluidity and confidence make me good? It may.

During times that I am more of an editor than writer, I find myself doubting my writing skills. When that happens, I pull out my journal and focus on writing more. The same is true for my editing. If I’m away from editing for too long, I find myself with a bumpy re-entry patch.

In my teaching, I find the more confident students are with a skill, the better they are with that skill. Although they may be exercising relatively new “muscles,” the more these students practice, the better they become. The better they become, the more confident they are. They become good editors or writers.

And their passions grow from there.

What I don’t see in discussions about whether someone is good at one thing or another is: What are their passions? Because I am a much better writer when I am focused on my writing, then I am more likely to feel that I am a good writer during those times. But I’m passionate about words and I’m passionate about communicating ideas.

When I’m editing, I balance my writer’s feelings and am sensitive to how a writer will accept the changes I am suggesting. When I’m writing, I try to provide clean copy so that the editor down the line will focus on what I’m saying and not mechanics. In these ways, I believe a good writer and good editor can interweave.

I do think that good editors can be sensitive to writers, even without necessarily having a writer’s sensibilities or a good writer. And some writers, who may edit, aren’t always adept to the skills of a trained editor.

I started writing and studied it because I enjoy working with words. When I had an opportunity to learn to edit from one of my mentors, I took it. I love both of them and, hopefully, I’m at least decent (if not good!) at one or the other of them.

I know for a fact that I’m passionate about both.

Elizabeth King Humphrey, editor and writer, lives in coastal North Carolina. She's going to go indulge in her passions for a little while. See you soon!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Speak Out!: Fight Back Against Stalled Brain Syndrome (SBS)

by Terry Cobb

Stalled brain syndrome, or SBS, will kill a writer’s career. SBS occurs when a writer opens a new, blank document on her computer only to find her mind is just as blank as that new document. The harder she tries to think of a subject, a sentence, or even a single word, the more despair she feels. Instead of writing, she checks Facebook or watches YouTube cat videos. An opportunity to write, to publish, is wasted.

I had fallen victim to SBS too many times before I decided to fight back. I bought a dirt-cheap spiral notebook and divided it into two categories: Fiction and Non-Fiction. I wrote a story, article, or blog idea in one of those sections every day for the past year. At the end of 2014, I had created my own remedy for SBS, a notebook with 365 customized story ideas and prompts.

This is not a revolutionary idea. Throughout history, writers such as Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Virginia Wolf have kept notebooks. But why not just Google “daily writing prompts” and find a website to provide inspiration? Although that works for many writers, my brain remains stalled until I find a prompt that is customized to my interests and experiences.

By investing less than two minutes every day to write in my notebook, I created my own muse. My notes weren’t lengthy, just enough to let my imagination fly. For the fiction list, I jotted down snippets of conversation I’d heard in the grocery store, weird news I’d heard on the radio, and old wives’ tales my hair stylist loves to share. Childhood memories, gardening issues, and insights from Bible readings filled my non-fiction section. I soon discovered that my writing prompts didn’t stay locked in their respective sections, they jumped around and even multiplied. Many of the non-fiction prompts that I had planned to write as memoir pieces worked better as flash fiction or as scenes in my novel or both.

Beside many of my entries, I scribbled notations such as “blog” or “devotional” to make them easy to locate later. To an outsider, my notebook looks as messy as my desk (okay, not that messy) but that’s the beauty of it: personalization.

Now that I have over 365 writing ideas, have I stopped? No way. This notebook has provided inspiration for far too many published stories and articles for me to kick the habit. John Steinbeck, another notebook user, said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” I respectfully disagree, Mr. Steinbeck. Pretty soon you’ll have hundreds.

Stalled brain syndrome never stops stalking me. At least now when it threatens, I’m not a victim. I know how to fight back. When my mind goes blank, instead of opening Facebook, I open my notebook and scan its pages for writing ideas customized just for me. No more wasted opportunities to write. No more stalled brain.

* * *
Terry Cobb resides with her husband on a farm in north central Missouri where she writes short stories, devotionals, and novels. She also blogs about gardening, her other love and challenge, at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How My Life Improved After 14 Days of Saying “No”

By M. Shannon Hernandez

I had always been a “yes” woman. You know, that woman who wants to make everyone happy, not ruffle any feathers, and above all, lend a helping hand.

You must be able to relate?

Well, at the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to become a “no” woman...unless the things or opportunities being asked of me were a “hell yes.” That means that I had to almost jump up and down with excitement in order for someone to get a “yes” from me.

There were a few events that prompted me to change my mind from being a “yes” woman to a “hell yes”...or in other words, a mostly “no” woman.

First, I realized that my time is the most precious asset I have going for me. And with that realization came the insight that I wanted to start protecting my time for things I truly loved, rather than give it away to people and things that made me feel “lukewarm.”

Second, I realized that I was spending waaaayyyy more time with other people...great people like my friends and business colleagues, and not-so-much time with the most important person in my life: my husband.

Third, I wanted to ensure that I had time in my schedule to work on hobbies and crafts that I truly enjoy—like scrapbooking, calligraphy, reading, etc. Because of all the “yeses” I had been dishing out over the years, I didn’t have time in my schedule for the activities that fueled my spirit.

Now, there was just one problem with becoming a “no” woman, after a lifetime of being a “yes” woman: I had to get over the feeling of letting others down and/or feeling guilty. This took courage! I actually set out to say “no” 14 days in a row to things that I didn’t feel deserved my time.

I kept a log to help me stay accountable to myself:

Day 1: “No” to working on Fridays. In fact, I have declared 3 out of 4 of the Fridays each month as FunFridays. These are days that I go out exploring, get a massage, or just lay low and do things I love to do.

Day 2: When my husband complained about not having any laundry today, I lost it. You see, he had been stepping over the pile for 3 days—this is the part that made me upset. Today I told him that not only was I not doing that pile of laundry, as I was swamped with work and deadlines, but that he was now responsible for the laundry. The best news? The laundry is now dropped off at a laundry service where it is washed, dried, and folded. Bliss!

Day 3: I was asked today to be a guest on somebody’s podcast show. Now, this happens often, and most times it is a “hell yes” but this particular individual hasn’t produced an episode if over 2 years. This means there is no audience even listening anymore, and she wanted to “use me to bring her podcast back to life.” Nope, that’s a big fat no—my time is more valuable than that. I politely declined and told her to be in touch once she rebranded it and released a few new episodes.

Day 4: Today I fired a client. Now, this may sound funny to some of you, but when you work for yourself, you have to do this from time to time. It is never fun, nor easy. But this particular client was sucking the life out of me. She wasn’t holding up her end of the deal in the writing coaching, and then was blaming me for lack of progress. I ain’t got time nor energy for that!

Day 5: I had to say “no” to the 4th chocolate chip peanut butter cookie I wanted to stuff in my mouth today!

Day 6: An email arrived in my inbox today. Someone wanted me to free up space on my calendar to speak with her. The problem? She had stood me up two times prior. Saying no this time meant that I could protect my time in the future.

Day 7: I resigned today from a dysfunctional board I was sitting on today. When the volunteer commitments are more drama than fun, it’s time for a change.

Day 8: I had to remind a client today that I don’t work on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday on client work. This infuriated her—namely because she had waited until the last minute to submit work for my review. I politely reminded her of my standards and processes.

Day 9: I’m taking a break from social media today. I’m on overload mode.

Day 10: A new client was upset because I didn’t take checks via mail for payment. I politely offered 3 alternative ways to pay me, all online. I thought for sure I had lost that sale, but taking checks is risky, and not how I operate! In the end, she figured out PayPal and made the payment!

Day 11: Today someone tried to “bargain-down” my copywriting prices. I told her that the prices on the site were non-negotiable. I have a business to run here! I lost that sale, but 2 more came in with people willing to pay the fair price.

Day 12: As a college professor, sometimes I have to dish out tough love. Tonight was one of those nights. I told my students that if they arrived to class late, they would be penalized. Well, tonight I had to stick to my words. When one student asked if I would reconsider, I politely said “no” and went on about class. (He didn’t have a valid excuse, I checked.)

Day 13: My friend called today and asked if I wanted to go grab a drink at the beer garden. I wasn’t in a position to get up and go at the moment, and she was already there. I said “no” and felt strong for not feeling guilty about it!

Day 14: I submitted a talk for an education conference in Chicago. I got the word that it had been approved, but the organizers could only fit me in during lunch time. This meant that people would be walking in and out, because lunch wasn’t provided, and they would be not fully engaged with the topic. I gave a response of “no” to the invitation, knowing that those 3 days spent in Brooklyn with my husband and cat, rather than in Chicago, would be more rewarding.

After 14 days of saying “no,” I learned some key things about myself and others:

• Most people are perfectly fine with the “no.” I was the one who had to get over the feelings of guilt and letting others down.

• Saying “no” allowed me more time for myself, my husband, and spontaneous things that popped up along the way!

• I became a happier person, because I wasn’t stressed out and “booked to the max.” I also wasn’t trying to make everyone else happy, which in turn, made me a happier individual.

• I made more money in my business by saying “no” to clients who weren’t a good fit, didn’t see my value, or wouldn’t follow my processes. This was a huge breakthrough for me!

• Every time I said “no,” it got easier the next time. I wish I would have started this initiative a long time ago.

If you are feeling stressed, overcommitted, and worn down, I am going to encourage you to take a look at your schedule and, more importantly, how often you are saying “yes” to things out of obligation, guilt, or fear. Life is short, our time is precious, and I believe we should spend every moment doing things that light us up with passion, creativity, and love. Won’t you join me on the journey from “no” to ‘hell yes”?


Learn more about maintaining a healthy work/life balance, increasing your productivity, and making more money in M. Shannon Hernandez's upcoming course, Copywriting with Heart: Learn How to Jumpstart Your Copywriting Career, Write Authentic Marketing Messages, Craft Powerful Sales Pages…and More! starting April 30.

M. Shannon Hernandez is the founder of The Writing Whisperer, and her mission is to help heart-centered entrepreneurs and heart-centered authors find their brand voices, share their unique stories, gain more visibility, establish themselves as experts, and create authentic marketing messages, all through the use of smart content strategy and engaging copywriting. The Writing Whisperer was named one of Top 100 Websites for Writers by The Write Life in both 2014 and 2015. As a content strategist and copywriter, Shannon continues to educate and inspire others through her blog, guest blogs, and podcast appearances. In addition to business writing, Shannon writes passionately about heart-centered education reform, and is a regular contributor to the The Huffington Post. Shannon’s memoir, Breaking the Silence, chronicles her exit out of public education, after 15 years, and provides readers an intimate view of her journey to business ownership, finding happiness, and reinvention.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Don't Be a Starving Writer

As a freelancer, you've probably experienced the "feast-or-famine cycle." It's when one month you have plenty of work and are eating [insert your favorite, most-expensive meal here], while the next you're watching the dust settle on your computer and using your credit card to buy ramen noodles. (And while ramen noodles taste pretty good, they are extremely bad for you!)

So what do you do if your income is all over the place?

That's what I'm talking about today over at in my article, How Freelancers Can Budget with a Feast-or-Famine Income. Check it out and cycle back!

To further expand on that idea, I'd like to share a sample budget that wasn't included in the article because I was way over word count.

Example Budget for a Fluctuating Income

Have you heard of the 50/20/30 rule? Well, this is a slight variation we'll call the 50/30/20 budget. The emphasis of this budget is paying down debt and putting money into your emergency and retirement funds.

Let's say in the past year you made: $5400, $300, $1700, $900, $3600, $6800, $300, $4100, $8000, $500, $3600, and $5900. Average all those numbers out to create a monthly budget of $3425, and remember to subtract taxes. In this case, the tax bracket would be 25%, so you'd subtract $856 each month, which comes to a monthly budget of $2569 per month.

So with the 50/30/20 budget, your budget of $2569 per month might look like:

Fixed Costs:
Rent: $700
Utilities: $45
Health insurance: $150
Internet, Cable, Phone bundle: $90
Cell Phone: $90
Car insurance: $40
Gas: $150
Subscriptions: $20
Total: $1285, which is around 50% of your net pay.

Financial Goals:
Debt: $170
Emergency fund: $400
Roth IRA: $200
Total: $770, which is around 30% of your net pay.

Flexible Spending:
Groceries: $350
Shopping: $100
Day spa: $64
Total: $514, which is around 20% of your net pay.

Of course, your budget would vary. And yes, this budget is tighter than a frog's you-know-what, but the idea is to create enough of a cushion in your emergency fund to provide you with three to six months of income.

The rest of the article at Mint talks about streamlining your expenses and changing your business model, because the budget above is almost impossible to live on unless you have a roommate or significant other. I don't know about you, but where I live in Southern California, you can't find a rental for $700!

Okay, your turn. If you have any budgeting ideas for a feast-or-famine income, we'd love to hear them!

Book Review of Judith Oritz Cofer's The Cruel Country

Five Star Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto:

The Cruel Country is a beautifully written memoir about the illness and death of the author's mother. Author, Judith Ortiz Cofer writes even the most painful scenes with such eloquence you can't help but be drawn in. I am all too familiar with the loss of a parent, and I can say that Cofer does a fabulous job working through the many stages of grief as she helps the reader understand. What makes The Cruel Country unique is not only Cofer's perspective but in the way she ties in psychology, history, and poetry as well. I learned quite a bit while reading this well written memoir. Thank you to Cofer for braving her way into the land of bereavement and allowing readers to join her in such a personal journey. The Cruel Country is well written, well edited, and is a book I can definitely give five stars!

I’ve learned a lot about Puerto Rico, the culture, and the language. Cofer is a brilliant writer and teacher. I was somewhat fearful about becoming too submerged in Cofer’s grief. I didn’t want to finish reading Cruel Country and feel overwhelmingly sad. Thanks to Cofer’s compelling writing, I closed the book feeling an overwhelming amount of gratitude. Cofer’s bravery in sharing her journey can help those with similar experiences feel less isolated and lonely. Instead of feeling sad, I felt kindred and peaceful as I closed the cover on this lovely memoir.

Book Summary:

“I am learning the alchemy of grief—how it must be carefully measured and doled out, inflicted—but I have not yet mastered this art,” writes Judith Ortiz Cofer in The Cruel Country. This richly textured, deeply moving, lyrical memoir centers on Cofer’s return to her native Puerto Rico after her mother has been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.

Cofer’s work has always drawn strength from her life’s contradictions and dualities, such as the necessities and demands of both English and Spanish, her travels between and within various mainland and island subcultures, and the challenges of being a Latina living in the U.S. South. Interlaced with these far-from-common tensions are dualities we all share: our lives as both sacred and profane, our negotiation of both child and adult roles, our desires to be the person who belongs and also the person who is different.

What we discover in The Cruel Country is how much Cofer has heretofore held back in her vivid and compelling writing. This journey to her mother’s deathbed has released her to tell the truth within the truth. She arrives at her mother’s bedside as a daughter overcome by grief, but she navigates this cruel country as a writer—an acute observer of detail, a relentless and insistent questioner.

Author Biography:

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, a small town in Puerto Rico. When she was a young child her father’s military career took the family to Paterson, New Jersey, but she often spent her childhood traveling back and forth between Puerto Rico and the U.S. At 15, her family moved again, this time to Augusta, Georgia, where she eventually earned a BA in English from Augusta College. She later earned an MA in English from Florida Atlantic University and did graduate work at Oxford University.

Although Ortiz Cofer is best known for her works of creative nonfiction, she began her writing career with poetry, which she feels “contains the essence of language.” Her early chapbook Peregrina (1986) won the Riverstone International Chapbook Competition, and she has published various other collections of poetry since, including Terms of Survival (1987), Reaching for the Mainland (1995), and A Love Story Beginning in Spanish (2005).

Ortiz Cofer’s work explores the rifts and gaps that arise between her split cultural heritages. Her early immersion in both Puerto Rican and American culture has shaped her multi-genre approach, which includes works of fiction, prose, poetry, and sometimes a combination of the three. Her work The Latin Deli, which was nominated for a Pulitzer-Prize, explores various genres, combining poetry, short fiction, and personal narrative. She is also an author of children’s books.

In 2010, Ortiz Cofer was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her awards include grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Georgia Council for the Arts, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for poetry, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Florida Fine Arts Council.

Ortiz Cofer teaches at the University of Georgia as the Regents' and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing.

Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 8, Andre 6, Breccan 19 months, and Delphine 7 weeks), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top 4 Power Tips for Blogging Success

By Karen Cioffi

Blogging is a competitive arena. According to VP Virtuoso, in November 2013, there were 152,000,000 blogs. And, a new blog was published every half a second.

Blogging isn’t an arena you can enter into lightly, hoping for the best. If you’re blogging to be successful in your niche, it takes work. It takes dedication. It takes a plan.

Here are 4 power tips to help you move ahead of the crowd.

1. Know your audience and what they need.

Every niche has something the audience desires, needs, or wants. It’s up to you to determine what that is and give it to them.

One strategy to find out what your audience needs is to ask them in a survey or poll. You can also monitor your blog posts to see get the most views and clicks. It’s those topics that your audience is interested in.

2. Know what your focus is.

One important aspect of this tip is to keep your website and content focused on a particular niche.

As an example, my niche is inbound marketing, which includes website optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing. All my articles, freebies, and ebooks are highly focused on that niche.

If I posted an article on baking a cake, I’d confuse my audience and diminish my authority.

3. Take action steps to blog smart.

The first step here is to set up a blogging schedule that will work for you. In other words, a schedule that you’ll be able to keep up with. Consistency matters.

Along with your schedule, you’ll need to include all the needed elements to create an informative, engaging, and shareable article. Your posts may include:

• Text
• Images
• Video
• Podcasts
• And, so on

You don’t need to include every element within one post, but you should vary your posts. And, be sure your article is packed with quality information that has at least one ‘actionable’ tip.

Power tip: It’s about quality, not quantity.

4. Engage with your readers.

Engagement is a key marketing factor. You want to create content valuable enough that readers will want to share it. This boosts your authority.

Making this factor more important, the search engines pay attention to who’s paying attention to your content. Your content’s shareability will affect your search ranking.

While there are other power tips, these are the top four that you should include in your blogging strategy.


Karen Cioffi is a former accountant who is now a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

In addition to this, Karen’s website, Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing, was named Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012.

Join Karen Cioffi's upcoming online class, GET TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE WITH INBOUND MARKETING: Website Optimization, Blogging Smart, Email Marketing, and Social Media Marketing. Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting Out of a Writing Funk

A couple weekends ago, I attended a leadership and strategic planning meeting for the Missouri Writers Guild, in honor of its 100-year anniversary. If you are unfamiliar with the MWG, it was founded in 1915 by Walter Williams who was the dean of the Journalism School at the University of Missouri Columbia at that time. Over the years, the organization has encompassed writers of fiction and nonfiction who are professional writers, however you want to define the term "professional."

One hundred years is a long time for any organization, which will surely have its ups and downs during its history, and MWG has had some of those. It seems in recent years, volunteers were few, and the work was plenty. Besides this, with all the changes in the publishing industry and the need for writers to connect with one another and improve their craft, the MWG has to realign its goals to the needs of its members and create a sense of passion and enthusiasm for writing, too.

But what does any of this have to do with you if you don't live in the Midwest? (which by the way ANYONE can be a member of the MWG) I started thinking of my own career of 15 years, which isn't as long as 100 obviously, but it also has had its ups and downs, and I'm currently in some sort of a writing funk. So what can I learn from my weekend of planning with the MWG? Here are a few things:

1. People do still care about books and writing! When the market becomes saturated with authors and new books, it's hard to remember that each writer and each book makes a difference to someone. Even if you are not on the bestsellers list or receiving a movie contract, your book can still touch the lives of your readers. If you have a story in you, write it--no matter what happens with it. Big success is great, but so are the little ones!

2. It's important to take some time to look at what works and what doesn't for me. Just because my writing buddy can sit at the computer on a Sunday and churn out 5000 words doesn't mean I can. I have a beautiful four-year-old daughter and freelance work, so I have to fit in creative writing when I can. I shouldn't get down on myself because I have a self-publishing idea with a friend, but we haven't written a word of it yet. I am making goals and seeing what works for me, and what I need to change, so I shouldn't compare myself with anyone but myself. 

3. Whatever makes me feel enthusiastic, stay with it! What project is calling to me at this time? The self-publishing one and another Maggie Mae picture book. I tried to force myself to work on a novel, which I do like, but it just wasn't flowing. It will eventually, and in the mean time, I need to stick with what is working.

Although the MWG conference wasn't a usual one with editors, agents, and workshops, it was still motivating--it was a group of writers, brainstorming together to make a strong, professional, and helpful organization for its members. And it showed me that I can do the same for my own career!

Margo L. Dill is the author of the picture book, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies, to which she wants to write a sequel soon. To check out more about Margo and her two novels, please see her website at or the novel writing classes she teaches for WOW! at

keyboard photo by orangeacid on

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Frugal Book Editor

You've written the book. Your job is done. Time for the agents, editors and publishers to do their job. Oh, wishful thinking. Because the fact is, with the many changes in the publishing world the responsibility for editing (and by editing I mean revisions, grammatical fixes and checks for typos and formatting problems) is falling more heavily on the shoulders of writers. So what's a writer to do? Carolyn Howard-Johnson has compiled her plan of attack in the second edition of The Frugal Book Editor.

The Frugal Book Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: from your query letter to
final manuscript to the marketing of your bestseller (second edition)


Author: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Pages: 288
Publisher: CreateSpace (2015)
ISBN-10: 0978515870
ISBN-13: 9778-0978515874

Book Description:
There are gremlins out there determined to keep your work from being published, your book from being promoted. They -- resolved to embarrass you before the gatekeepers who can turn the key to success for you -- lurk in your subconscious and the depths of your computer programs. Whether you are a new or experiences author, The Frugal Book Editor will help you present whistle-clean copy (whether it's a one-page cover letter or your entire manuscript) to those who have the power to say "Yea" or "Nay." It won several awards including a USA Book News award.

The Frugal Book Editor is available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon.

About Carolyn Howard-Johnson

In addition to her How to Do It Frugally Series of Books for Writers, Howard-Johnson has written novels. creative nonfiction poetry chapbooks and screenplays. She began her career as a staff writer at the Salt Lake Tribune before becoming an editorial assistant at Good Housekeeping Magazine. She has also written columns and reviews for a variety of newspapers and is an instructor for UCLA Extension Writers' Program. Her dedication to studying writing has taken her around the world: Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia and Charles University in Prague

 Connect with Carolyn online:




Review by Jodi Webb

Like most writers I dream of the editor who is going to take my manuscript, wave a magic wand and make it perfect. Too bad that mythical editor doesn't exist.

The Frugal Book Editor is crammed full of information that every writer can use in a publishing world where writers must also have (or hire) editing skills. Perhaps the most important tidbit author Carolyn Howard-Johnson shares is that, even if you or your publisher will be hiring a professional editor for your manuscript, you still need to know as much as possible about editing for two reasons:

  1. An edited manuscript has a better chance of being accepted by an agent or editor.
  2. A professional editor will do a better job if you've already edited the manuscript. If obvious mistakes have been corrected, a professional editor can concentrate on more subtle (but still important) problems.
In addition to providing a refresher course on grammar concepts such as split infinitives, apostrophes, gerunds, The Frugal Book Editor also reintroduces you to the magic of computers. For instance, Howard-Johnson will explain the problem of excessive adverbs and then take you step by step through using the functions of your computer to bring adverbs to your attention so you can do a little editing. I learned about many tools my computer has that I never knew about. Her book is generously illustrated with funny examples as well as pet peeves and advice from professionals in the publishing world. Howard-Johnson also offers her readers extras: free information and advice she'll provide for the cost of an email and several appendices that gather lists of information, reference books and sources. Although this book is full of the nitpicky details writers like to avoid when in a creative frenzy, she manages to make the book fun with her humorous voice.

As you read this book the first time, you might feel you can never absorb everything you need to know (that's how I felt). But it is the type of book you will find yourself returning to again and again for writing projects of all lengths and genres. The Frugal Book Editor will earn a coveted spot on your shelf of reference books.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Never-Ending To-Be-Read Pile and Other Book Nerd Problems

If you’re reading this post, I’m sure you know that I use the term “book nerd” in the most loving way possible. I’ve recently started posting some of my observations on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag “booknerdproblems,” and figured it might also make a fun topic for a blog post.

As part of my research, I spent some time perusing Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr and found plenty of material to pull from, which some might consider a book nerd problem in itself. Read on to see if you’ve ever experienced any of the “problems” below:

The book hangover.
A few weekends ago, I desperately felt liked I needed a mental health break. Even though I had a zillion things to do around the house, I made the choice to download a book from one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, that I hadn’t read yet. I parked myself on the couch until I finished the book several hours later, and after my kids had wandered through the room a few times and even brought me a box of tissues at one point. The result was that I had what I like to call a “book hangover” for the next two days. It’s a cross between a headache and eyestrain, and simply not being able to stop thinking about what you just read. It’s awesome.

When you take a letter written by a fictional character personally. Have you ever read a letter in a novel or memoir that either takes your breath away or leaves you wide-eyed and clutching one hand over your chest? It’s happened to me several times. One that stands out in my mind vividly is the letter Will writes to Lou at the end of “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. I won’t give any spoilers if you haven’t read the book, but wow.

When your TBR pile is taller than you, but you keep buying new/used books and checking them out from the library. Ah, yes. I know this one well. I have a slight problem with entering book giveaways (I swear I get a rush of adrenaline every time I come across a Rafflecopter form!) and I’ve been blessed with good luck. I have so many copies of books that haven’t even been read on my bookshelves. I've never met a book section of a thrift store that I didn't love. Also--when authors find out you like to review books, they often reach out to you and offer you free copies in exchange for reviews. And who wants to turn down a free book?

You feel guilty if you watch a movie without first reading the book.
I’m not sure why this is, but I feel dishonest if I make plans to see a movie without first reading the book. There have been so many cases where I didn’t read a book when it first came out, only to break down and read it a few years later after the movie trailer had been released. I did this with John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, One Day by David Nicholls, and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, to name a few.

So now I'd love to hear about your own book nerd issues. Share in the comments below!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is also obsessed with books new, old, and digital. At any given time you can find her reading three to four books simultaneously. When she’s not reading, she also writes fiction, articles for regional magazines, and works as a blog tour manager at WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her website at

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Speak Out!: How to Handle “Writing Snags” Without Coming Unraveled!

by Jennifer Brown Banks

Shift happens.

It’s the one certainty of the writing life. I recently got word that a major project with one of my biggest clients required a “change of directions,” derailing my cash flow, my summer vacation, and the allocation of my time for the next four months.

Earlier this year, in another detour on the path to my well-laid-out plans, a client violated our contractual agreement by establishing his OWN payment schedule for services rendered; leaving me to be "creative" in how to meet my mortgage.

And did I mention that I’m still awaiting funds for an article, (a month later) from a publisher that previously promised “payment upon acceptance?”

As a veteran freelance writer who has worked with a variety of clients worldwide, for over a decade, I’ve seen it all. And if you’re in this industry long enough, it’s very likely you will too.

Clients flake out on you. Your favorite editor changes magazines. Your book’s big “debut” gets pushed back. Your computer gets infected with a virus and destroys important files for your next novel.
The plot thickens…

Word to the wise: you’ll encounter many “snags” in your writing business. But, that doesn’t mean you should become unraveled in the process. You can write a “happy ending” for your efforts, maintain your sanity, and go the distance.

Accordingly, I offer the following practices and principles to help you succeed.

1. Don’t be bitter, be better.

When the client mentioned above failed to pay on time, I took matters into my own hands. Instead of begrudgingly accepting it, I built in a late charge for future payments.

You should too. Without an incentive to pay on time, some clients opt to pay the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker before they pay their writers. In the sage words of Dr. Phil, “We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.”

2. Diversify.

The feast or famine cycle is a reality for most of us. Here’s some food for thought: we shouldn’t have to starve for the sake of our art. If for instance, you’re a copywriter, moonlight. Consider blogging, or editing, or speaking, or teaching creative writing. The more income streams, the better. I earn extra cash by consulting and providing editorial calendars for busy bloggers and small businesses.

3. Adopt the Serenity Prayer.

A creative career can sometimes produce as much internal conflict as the characters we create. We’re often plagued by uncertainty, doubt, moral dilemmas, and indecision. Shakespeare wasn’t the only one to question… “To be or not to be?”

Stay centered. Learn to accept the things you can’t control, and have courage to change what you can. Feeling stressed and out of control can cause writer’s block. And writer‘s block can block cash flow. Get my drift here?

Consider these timely tips for greater longevity in your writing career. Most of all, “Never let em’ see you sweat!”

* * *
Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, relationship columnist, and award-winning blogger. In her spare time, she enjoys karaoke, cooking, and connecting with other creatives.
Visit her "Top 25" writing blog at Pen & Pro$per.


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Content Marketing

By Mridu Khullar Relph

In 2008, Steve Goedeker, who runs an appliance retail company in the US, was trying to save his family’s business and so, as a first step, he took it online. Profits soared, according to the New York Times story in which Goedeker was featured.

But then something more exciting happened. Goedeker decided to replace his Google ad spend with content marketing. According to the New York Times story, they hired two full-time writers and now spend between $100,000 and $150,000 a year on content marketing efforts.

Did you sniff the opportunity yet?

If not, the NYT story goes on to talk about Marcus Sheridan, owner of River Pools and Spas who published a post about how much it cost to install a fiberglass pool on their blog, and—pay attention to this bit—made $2.5 million in sales from just that one single article. Another business owner in the same Times story, attributes 1 to 3 percent of their business growth ($120,000 to $360,000) directly to content marketing.

Who does all this writing that content marketing requires? Freelance writers and more specifically, if industry chatter is to be believed, freelance journalists with years of experience covering these topics.

Because businesses expecting hundreds of thousands of dollars return for their content don’t hire writers off oDesk to do the work, they hire writers with proven storytelling, publishing, and writing skills.

People like you and me.

Why Freelance Journalists Should Consider Content Marketing Writing

I introduced content marketing into my freelancing business last year. And when I did my yearly sums in December, I found—much to my amazement—that my income had doubled from the year before. This extra income was all from the content marketing work. Even better? I’d only spent 20% of my time doing it.

The work was the same. I was still writing news, profiles, and trend pieces, so why was content marketing paying more while my journalism income continued to stay stagnant?

And the answers to that question are why content marketing writing has become such an amazing opportunity for freelance journalists.

I found that:

  1. I was being paid, on average, more than I was paid for my journalism work. (Between $1-2 a word is what I’m typically paid.)
  2. The revisions are almost non-existent. Both clients and agencies are eager to get the work out the door as soon as they can because they can’t afford to create inefficiencies in their business. This means that if you submit publishable content right off the bat, you will never have to endure the four to five revisions that are typical of national (US) publications.
  3. Payment is immediate. I’m often paid within seven days of submission. (That’s right, submission, not acceptance.)
  4. The client or agency ends up generating a lot of the ideas, which cuts down on my work time.

All these things ensure that not only am I paid more (I average $300 to $400 an hour on my content marketing assignments) but that the lack of endless revisions and follow-ups regarding payment mean that I’m enjoying much more job satisfaction and joy with my writing than I have in years.

More money, less aggravation, same work. That’s why I think freelance journalists should consider content marketing.

Are You Already a Content Marketing Writer Without Realizing It?

Ever written a guest post for a blog that sells products (e-books, for instance)? An article for a non-profit organization that they sent out to their donors? Posted social media updates for a local restaurant chain? Written health stories for the online newsletter of a medical association?

You’re a content marketing writer.

In fact, content marketing writing is so prevalent that it’s very likely that you’ve done it as a freelancer without even realizing it. It often comes packaged as straightforward article writing, after all, so you’d have no reason to suspect otherwise. But if it’s for a business, and the business has customers, it’s content marketing. This blog post is content marketing and if you’ve ever written for The International Freelancer, you’ve done content marketing writing.

What actively learning about content marketing will help you do is two things:

  1. It will help you proactively find work that you enjoy in the space and make more money doing so, and
  2. It will help you know when you’re engaging in it so that you don’t unintentionally or unknowingly cross any ethical lines that will hinder your journalism work or credibility.

How is Content Marketing Writing Different From Other Types of Writing?

All that said, there are pros and cons to everything and content marketing is no different.

We’ve discussed the pros. Now let’s talk about some of the cons.

  1. You can’t be an investigative journalist if you’re also doing content marketing writing. You can’t take money from large banks to write their content and then publish articles in the New York Times about the banking crisis or offshore accounts facilitated by large banks. So yes, you will be shutting yourself off to certain kinds of work. You should be aware of this before you move forward.
  2. Some editors—and they’re increasingly rare—may not want to hire you as a journalist if you’ve done content marketing (consider that both The New York Times and TIME have content marketing arms.) This is usually also going to fall in the realm of investigative journalism, but it’s worth being aware of all the same.
  3. You’re likely going to have two areas of specialty if you want to keep your content marketing and your journalism lives separate. 

So, by this point, you probably know whether content marketing is a good fit for you or not.


If you think content marketing might be for you, you're in for a treat!

Mridu Khullar Relph, who’s been published in NYT, Time, CNN, ABC News, The Independent, and other publications, and now runs The International Freelancer, found that her income doubled once she introduced content marketing into the mix. Now she’s teaching other writers how to do the same. Check out her new course.