An Evening with Kwame Alexander

"If you don't stand for something,
you'll fall for everything."

                                            --from "swing," by Kwame Alexander
                                             with Mary Rand Hess
Anyone who has had the good fortune to see poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of thirty-two books Kwame Alexander in person, will come away changed. On a rare rainy night at the University of New Mexico, Kwame and guitarist Randy Preston, the terrific musician who accompanies him for many presentations, made a stop in Albuquerque on their 16-city tour. It is obvious in his books and in person that his poems come from his heart; in person memorized and recited with vigor and finesse; and punctuated by soft background guitar music, poignant popular songs chosen to go with the poems, and original songs.

Words have Power. Words can Transform our Life.
Daycare at three years old.  Living on the Upper Westside of New York City, a kid knocked over Kwame’s blocks. The only weapon Kwame could conjure up were his words. He used a few choice ones and made the kid cry. That’s when Kwame learned the power of words. From then on words transformed his life. Who else at that age would immerse himself in the Dr. Seuss book, Fox in Sox, and know it backwards and forwards? That marked the beginning of Kwame’s love of words.

Speak Out. Your Voice Matters.
A man in the audience pointed out that he could hear empowerment in Kwame’s books, and asked how Kwame’s empowerment came about. Kwame’s dad, headmaster of his school in Brooklyn, dragged him to a march—a protest against police brutality after the killing of a black man. He didn’t want to go. He was scared. Then teachers and kids started singing. He sang too, and the tears dried up. That’s when Kwame realized he has a voice. And his voice matters. He says, “You have to speak out to make wrong things right.”

The Road from Twenty-two Rejections to the Newbery Medal
The Crossover. The best book Kwame felt he has written. The book he wrote from his heart, written at Panera Bread, winner of the Newbery award, garnered twenty-two rejections before it found a home. Upon publication, no one wanted to read it. A book about basketball? Girls don’t read books about basketball. Boys don’t read poetry books. Then boys tried it. Then girls. Then they asked for more. The rest is, as they say, history.

How did Kwame begin his journey?  At a booth in Reston, Virginia. Kwame set up a card table, wore a T-shirt with Miles Davis on it—he listens to jazz while he’s writing—laid out 100 books, and sold them all in about an hour.

The evening ended with Kwame’s reading of his new book, Undefeated, while displayed on a large screen. The reading cut me to the core. I came away in awe of how Kwame’s words dig deep into the soul. Bring out feelings about how we as inhabitants of this Earth interact with each other. And how beautiful it is when we celebrate each other. Read Undefeated for yourself and you’ll see what I mean. There is so much to learn about Kwame Alexander. Please visit his website: Like me, you will never be the same.
Clipart courtesy of:

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Market with Content

What Does It Take To Market Your Writing? Great Content

What does it take to Market your writing? It takes spotlight effort on your Author Platform, Branding, Identifying your audience, an Author Website, and building Connection with your readers. Overwhelming? Yep, it is for all of us. Let’s break it down: this week we’ll talk about Great Content.

We use the internet to research concepts, compare topics and glean information for our work, discover fresh ideas, and to find the best, consistent resources to build our writing without wasting time or money. 

Likewise, we must deliver informative, strategic, and timely content.
Five Tips:
  1. Since we are not entitled to our reader’s attention, deliver content that grabs their interest through text, imagery, podcasts and video, and make it snappy for the scanners
  2. If it grabs, it’s likely to spread
  3. Use proven structures such as:
    • Headlines, and sub-headlines, that command attention (see Heading Styles in Word)
    • Focused introductory sentences
    • Information that solves a problem
    • Limit the message to one central point
    • Lists stand out and are a quick read
    • Use relevant links, and test them
  4. The Result? Great Content = Successful Marketing for your business
  5. Build your audience now and grow your business
Helpful Resources:
Our own Writers On The Move Series of Content Articles found here:

Copy Blogger:

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog: Deborah Lyn Stanley : MyWriter's Life .

Write clear & concise, personable yet professional

The Necessity of Simple Follow-up

By W. Terry Whalin

Good and clear communication is a critical element in the business of publishing. Otherwise authors and editors have wrong expectations.

Recently I was at Wheaton College for Write to Publish. During the question and answer portion of a workshop, a woman asked, “I sent my manuscript to an editor who asked for it at the last conference. I never heard and checked on it about six months later. When I called, the editor said she had not received it and could I send it again. I sent it a second time. Now it is six months later and I’ve heard nothing. What do I do?”

See the challenge for the author? She has been waiting for a response to a requested submission and hearing nothing. This new writer is too timid to email or call and check with the editor about it. I understand the reluctance because sometimes when you check, it gets rejected—and no one wants to be rejected.

Here’s what the writer isn’t thinking about. As editors, we receive a lot of material. For example, at Morgan James, we receive over 5,000 submissions a year and only publish about 150 books. Did you see those numbers? A massive amount of material is floating through our system at any single time period. I’m constantly putting submissions into our system and sorting through my acquisitions files.

To be transparent, other editors are not as careful with their submissions. It is not uncommon for me to receive several hundred emails a day. If I’m traveling or at a conference, and then I can’t be as conscious of my email and the submissions. Manuscripts, proposals and submissions are misplaced and sometimes the editor doesn’t receive them. Or maybe they have moved into a new computer or their computer has crashed or any number of other possibilities.

Here’s what I suggested to the writer asking about her manuscript: follow-up with the editor. Don’t wait weeks yet at the same time give it at least a week so you don’t seem overly anxious. Then you can email or put in a quick phone call to the editor asking, “Did you receive my submission?”

Notice the question. You are not asking if the editor has read it or reached a decision—which if you ask is pushing them to say, “no.” Instead you are simply asking if they received it.
You avoid waiting months for a response, hearing nothing and then asking only to learn the editor never received it. I never mind an author checking with me to see if I received their material and this simple follow-up is professional and appreciated.

Other authors are extreme in the other direction of follow-up. They follow-up too frequently. I have a children’s author who submitted their material three weeks ago. I got their material into our submission system and they received an acknowledgement from me in the mail. In addition, I emailed the author to tell him I received his submission. Yet, in the last several weeks, I’ve been in Seattle, New York City and last week Chicago. With my travel, I have not been processing manuscripts. Yet this author has called multiple times—essentially making himself a nuisance. In my last email to him, I leveled with him and asked for patience—and no more calls or checking—or I would be rejecting his submission. I’ve not heard from him in the last few days so hopefully he is following my last instructions or I will follow through with the rejection letter (whether I’ve read his material or not).

Why take such a direct response with this eager author? Because if he is eager with his submission then he is showing that he will be eager throughout the entire publication process. You can substitute my use of the word “eager” with the word “high maintenance.” No publisher wants high maintenance authors. Every publisher wants to work with professionals and not with eager authors who simply waste volumes of time and energy over nothing.

If you are submitting your work, that is excellent. Many writers never get published because of this simple fact: they never submit their material. As a professional writer, you also need to use this simple follow-up method to make sure that your material was received. It will help your work be considered and move forward through the publication process. This follow-up work is critical.

How do you follow-up? Do you have some insights or tips for other writers. Let me know in the comments below.


Writers have to follow-up their submissions—yet need to do this work carefully or risk immediate rejection. Get insights from a seasoned editor here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers.  

Libraries: A Thing of the Past?

People sometimes hear that I work in a library and say, "That's a dying professions, isn't it?" or  "Libraries will all be gone within ten years."  or "Who goes to libraries anymore?"

Well, today was the grand opening of our new local library.  We had to stand in line for nearly an hour to even get in the building because there were so many people.  When we left, there was still a big line:  all sorts of ages, races, family configurations.  They were all so excited that this library we've been waiting for has finally opened.

Libraries aren't going out of style.  They're not just a place to check out books.  There are so many more resources:  culture passes, nature exploration kits, DVDs, seeds, study rooms, storytimes, book clubs, ESL classes, job hunting assistance, refuge from the elements, computer access, color printing, e-resources, writing classes, social events, cultural events, author appearances, safe spaces for teens, literacy support, etc. etc.

But...they're also a place to check out books.  And people DO check out books.  A lot of books. So, keep writing.  And keep supporting your local libraries.

Melinda Brasher's fiction appears most recently in Leading Edge (Volume 73) and Deep Magic (Spring 2019).  Her newest non-fiction book, Hiking Alaska from Cruise Ports is available on Amazon.    

She loves hiking and taking photographs of nature's small miracles.  

Visit her online at

Freelance Writers: How to Schedule Your Work Days

If you're a freelance writer who wants to be more productive, take a look at how you currently structure your work day.

Do you schedule your most pressing projects for early in the day (so you work on them while you're fresh and alert) or do you get up in the morning and read your email first thing or check to see what's happening on Facebook?

Are you scheduling marketing activities—to look for new work—on specific days and times, or do you neglect the marketing altogether, which means you have few or no new projects?

As freelance writers, every week you should be looking for new work (marketing yourself) and working on your current assignments and projects.

To be more productive, set aside specific blocks of time (or even specific days each week) for marketing and specific blocks of time for writing— instead of switching back and forth between these two different types of activities all day every day.

You'll be able to "work in flow" when you set aside specific blocks of time for writing because you'll be more focused on the work instead of thinking about all the things you should be doing to market yourself.

On the flip side, you won't feel guilty when you're marketing because you'll know you aren't doing it during your writing time.

Look at your to-do list for today and determine how you could best schedule your time.

A few changes in your usual schedule might easily increase your productivity.

You might schedule your workday according to 3 separate sessions, like this:

Session #1

Spend one session of your day working on your current work-in-progress.

That might be a novel, a nonfiction book, or an article for a magazine, or even a grant proposal, for example.

I like to schedule this first thing in the morning, before my mind gets filled with so much other stuff.

But you might find that you like to save late afternoons for working on your novel or other writing projects.

Session #2

Spend another part of your day on affiliate marketing.

Search for new products that would appeal to your target market.

Find out about these products, then promote the good ones to the people on your mailing list and visitors to the site you have created specifically for this target market.

I like to do this later in the day because my mind doesn’t need to be so fresh.

Plus, it’s fun, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m working.

Session #3

Spend the third section of your day on marketing and promotion of your own products and services.

This is when you might guest blog for someone or write posts for your own site(s), or you look for new writing assignments.

Note: you might want to look for new writing assignments early in the day if you’ll be checking online job boards and newsletters since “the early bird gets the worm” and you’ll want to apply for something as soon as you find an opportunity that looks interesting.

Decide how much time you want to spend on activities during each of these 3 sessions.

For example, you might want to devote 3 hours to writing (session 1) and just 1 hour on affiliate marketing (session 2) and then 2 hours on marketing your own products and services (session 3).

When you first start dividing your time like this, don't worry about how much you accomplish during each session.

Just stay focused on the work at hand during each of the different sessions and it won’t be long till you realize you’re much more productive.

Try it!

Suzanne Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Visit her blog at and sign up for her emails with writing tips and resources for writers at

The Power of Saying No

The Power of Saying No
One of the biggest challenges people have is saying, "No."

Has this ever happened to you?

Scenario 1: 

Can you help with the school committee? "Well, I have a huge deadline at the end of the month, so I can't really devote the time." But you are so good at promotion. It'll only be a few hours a week. "A few hours?" Well, less than 20 total, but you are speedy, so it will probably won't take you that long. 

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: You dedicate more than 40 hours, because when she said help she meant lead the committee, and everyone else shirked their responsibilities. You are not happy with the work you have done for either project. Plus, you are frustrated, sleep deprived, and mad at yourself for not sticking to your instincts.

What you should have said: I understand that volunteering is part of my responsibilities as a parent at the school. However, the timing is not great. Let's take a look at the calendar and pick something I can contribute in the near future. I will be less stressed, won't have to split my focus, and will do a better job on both projects.

Scenario 2: 

Mom, will you pick up grandchild from school this afternoon and take him over to the dentist? "I'd love to help you out, but you know this is my designated writing day." I know it's short notice, but I have a meeting for work that I can't reschedule. "Why did you double-book?" The work thing was last minute. You'd really be helping me out. And I know how much you two enjoy spending time together.

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: You do it. It's fine. But you get the same request a week later. Then, when you try to say, "no," you get, But you did it last time and didn't you two have the best time? 

What you should have said: I understand it's last minute, and I will help you out this time. But, in the future, I'd appreciate it if you would find an alternative. Even though it's work on spec, it's still my work schedule; I cannot skip all the time. Optional: I take Fridays off, so if you need me to pick him up on a Friday, that's much easier.

Scenario 3: 

Do you want to be on a panel for this cool - but not related at all to your business goals - event? We had a last-minute cancellation and we'd love to bring you on board.

What you want to say: No.

What you say: Yes.

What happens: This could go either way. 

1. You do the event, you make some new friends. You don't really get work out of it, but make some nice connections. 

2. You do the event. It went okay, but definitely not a topic you would speak on in the future. It felt strained, but you pulled it off. To top it off, you discover the topic that is your forte is on the schedule for three months from now; and you are not eligible since they have a rule against repeating speakers within a year.   

What you should have said: I'd love to help out. But just so you know this is more on the cusp of my niche. My true expertise is XXX. Whether or not I am still a fit for this event, I'd appreciate it if you would think of me the next time my topic comes up, regardless of the timing.

* * *

To avoid - or at least lessen - regret, wasted time, and frustration, before you commit to anything, ask yourself three questions:

1. What is the benefit? Will it help me professionally, personally, or both? Does it reflect my mission? 

2. What is the commitment? Do I have the time and bandwidth to take this on?

3. Do you want to do it? When it comes right down to it, this is really the only answer that matters. 

When making a decision to do - or not do - something, consider yourself first. Granted, emergencies happen and sometimes the choice is a clear Yes. However, if your answer is No, meant it, stick to it, and keep any (necessary) explanation short and firm. 

Think of Saying No as giving yourself the gift of time. And it's likely something you should give yourself more often.

For more on the power of saying "no," join on Twitter this Sunday, May 13, at 7pm PT for our #GoalChat on this topic.

* * *

How do you say No? Do you say No? Or is it a skill you need to improve? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  She is author of Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages, and host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat. Debra is an editor at Social Media Examiner and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Writing Secret to Getting Ahead

Probably everyone has heard one adage or another about the first step. Well, that first step certainly applies to your writing too.

Having a desire to write a novel or children story is something, but taking the first step to bringing that desire to fruition is impressive.

Having an idea for a story is something. Taking that first step and bring that idea through to the end of a completed manuscript is impressive.

Here are a couple of tips to get started:

Your idea must be put into writing or a computer file. From there you need to add notes as to what your story will be about. Do you know what the setting will be? Do you have a main character in mind? Will it be a novel? Will it be a children’s middle grade book or possibly a picture book? Do you know how you want the story to start and where you’d like it to end up? Do you know what the conflict will be?

Once you have your notes down, turn them into an outline. You might add character sheets at this point. Or, if you’re a panster, just get started on the story and watch the characters unveil themselves.

Below are a few other quotes on that first step that I hope will inspire you to get your story started today:

“Without that first step, there is no journey. Without that first step, there can be no creation, no story.”
~ Karen Cioffi

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
~ Chauncey Depew

They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited ‘first chapters’. I have indeed written many. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

“Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is started, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance.
~ Robert Collier

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” ~ Indira Gandhi

And, of course the quote in the image above:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~ Mark Twain

So, if you have a desire to write a book or have an idea for a story, get started today – take that first step and bring it to life.

Maybe you have some notes on a story or an outline – take that first step to turn your notes, outline, or even your draft into a complete manuscript.


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

To get monthly writing and book marketing tips, sign up for The Writing World – it’s free!

And, you can follow Karen at:



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