Sunday, July 6, 2014

How to Improve Your Strength, Determination, and Endurance

Image Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards
"How to Improve Your Strength, Determination, and Endurance?" by Joan Y. Edwards

When I taught at Hemby Bridge Elementary School in 1988, a teacher shared with me Bjorn Secher's handout about your attention and how it was the key to your success. This was one of the many helpful statements on that handout. 

Bjorn Secher said, "The secret to your strength, determination, and endurance is your attention."
Copyright © 1988 BSAS  Bjorn Secher Achievement Systems.

To improve your strength, determination, and endurance, control your attention. Ask yourself or your characters these questions.
  • What gives you strength?
  • What makes you more determined than ever to keep on going?
  • What gives you so much encouragement that 50 obstacles do not stop you. Each obstacle seems to make you even more determined not to give up?
  • What keeps you alive and helps you endure when others in your same shoes bit the dust years ago?
Not everyone's answers are the same.

My mother, Ethel Darnell Bruffey Meyer, said many witty things. Here is one thing she used to say: "If all the women in the world liked my Johnny, there would be a lot of hairless women running around."

What sparks a woman to say something like that? Love, jealousy, confidence, and determination plus physical, mental, and emotional strength.

  • Physical strength comes from using your body in exercise or in work using your muscles.
  • Mental strength comes from using your brain to think. 
  • Emotional strength for endurance comes from self-confidence, love, and support of others and successful experiences and accomplishments.

I believe that God is the source of all energy. Energy comes from the sun, from an electrical power plant, and from every cell in your body.

You become what you give your attention to - attention is thoughts, words, and actions.
Where do you focus your thoughts? On your bad experiences or on your good experiences? Choose to focus on what you want as if it is already true now beecause what you focus on will become your reality.

Where do you focus your words? What kind of words come from your mouth? Pay close attention to the words you speak. They are powerful. They speak your present and your future. They let you know your emotional interpretation of people and events.

Where to you focus your actions

Joel Osteen said, "Do what you can and God will do what you can't." 

If the key to reaching your goals is down the street three miles, you might not get it unless you walk, ride, or fly there. Take the action that bubbles up from your heart, your "gut" feeling. Your belief in yourself and your goal will give you physical, mental, and emotional strength to "git her done" as Larry the Cable Guy would say.

Just keep on going, even though your humanity takes you on a few detours along the way, revamp your focus, run a video in your mind of you crossing that three-mile marker to find the key to your goal.

Please leave a comment. It makes me smile to hear from you. Good luck in reaching your goals.

Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Flip Flap Floodle, delightful picture book that teaches children to believe in themselves and Never Give Up - even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck.

Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release December 2014 by 4RV Publishing

Joan's Never Give Up Blog


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Avoiding Common Punctuation Errors Part 2: Dialogue

Commas and Periods in Dialogue

We all love dialogue in books, but your readers will love it less if it’s punctuated awkwardly. Here is the solution to a common error in dialogue punctuation.

First, make the distinction between what I call “dialogue tags” and “action tags.”

A dialogue tag uses said or another similar speaking word.  For example, “he said,” “I asked,” or “she whispered.”  As long as you don’t get carried away with attention-grabbing synonyms like ordered, commiserated, murmured, contradicted, these dialogue tags are good because they’re short and almost invisible.  They let the reader focus on the dialogue itself.  However, you don’t want to use them with every line of dialogue, or you’ll sound repetitive and choppy.

An action tag does not contain a synonym for said.  Instead, it’s simply an action the character performs before, during, or while speaking.  Example: “Magda slammed her fist on the table,” or “Simon carefully untangled the knotted rope.”  These are great because they break up the dialogue while giving either a better insight into the character or a better image of the scene as a whole.  When using an action tag, you don’t have to put in the dialogue tag—and usually should’t—because the reader understands that the person doing the action is the same person speaking.

Magda slammed her fist on the table.  “I’m not going to ignore this any longer.”
“So, you think I’m manipulating you.”  Simon carefully untangled the knotted rope.

In good writing, you use both dialogue and action tags.  But in good writing, you also remember to punctuate them correctly.     

Rule #1:  Use a comma with dialogue tags.

“I love you,” she whispered.
He said, “That’s unfortunate.”

Rule #2:  Use a period with action tags.

“I love you.”  She twined her fingers through his.
He coughed.  “That’s unfortunate.”

Miscellaneous Rules: 

When combining the two types of tags, you’ll usually need the comma.

He rose to his feet and shouted, “Not guilty!”
“Order in the court,” the judge demanded, slamming down his gavel.

If your dialogue ends with a question mark or exclamation point, capitalize as if it were a comma.

“Do you love me?” she asked.
“Absolutely not!” he yelled.

Don’t be fooled by words like smile.

Incorrect:  He smiled, “Welcome to your worst nightmare.” 
Correct:  He smiled.  “Welcome to your worst nightmare.”

Be careful with "said" when it has its own direct object.  That makes it its own sentence, and should be punctuated like an action tag.  
Incorrect:  "I'm tired," she said it with an apologetic smile.
Correct:  "I'm tired."  She said it with an apologetic smile.
OR:  "I'm tired," she said with an apologetic smile.

The Gray Area

There is room for debate here, on some verbs like laugh, sob, spit, etc., which involve the mouth or throat, but aren’t really speaking words.  For example, I think that you can sob out words, so I can use “sob” as a dialogue tag or an action tag.  I also think you can laugh and talk (rather unintelligibly) at the same time, so I sometimes use laugh as a dialogue tag.  When you’re really angry, I think you can spit words.  Others disagree.  I believe, however, that if you make the conscious decision on a gray-area verb, it’s a matter of style, not a mistake.


“I killed him,” she sobbed. (Sounds good to me, as if she’s crying and talking at the same time.)
“I killed him.” She sobbed.  (Sounds awkward to me, like she said it and only then started crying.)
“I killed him.” She sobbed into her bloody hands. (Sounds good.  If I want to use these gray verbs as action tags, adding a little extra detail usually gets rid of the choppiness.)

Punctuation is a guide for your readers.  Make it work for you and for them.

Join me next month for more about the exciting world of punctuation.

Note that these examples and rules are for Standard American English (SAE).  Punctuation in other regions may differ.  If you have any examples of difference, we'd love to see them in the comments below.  Thanks!

Read Melinda Brasher's free short story, "A Learned Man," on Electric Spec's current issue.   It's a bit of a ghost story based on a two-page folk tale she read in a library in small-town El Salvador.  Inspiration will sneak up and whack you on the head if you're not careful.  You can also find more of her work on 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Are Your Writing and Marketing Efforts Really Productive? (2 productivity strategies to keep you moving forward)

By Karen Cioffi

Sometimes the moons and stars align and information that is relevant to your life bombards your week, directing you onto paths you should take.

Well, this happened to me.

Time management is one of my ongoing struggles, as with probably most of you reading this. So, what do you do? How do you create more hours in the day? How do you accomplish all the writing and marketing tasks you must, aside from keeping up with everything else in your life?

Ah, the $25,000 question.

Productivity Strategy Number One – Keep a List and Stick to It

I found a great site ( that offers some very useful content. Interestingly, the post I read on this site pertained to being productive. This was the fourth article I came across within a few days dealing with time management, prioritizing, and productivity.

Part of the content discussed a $25,000 lesson by public relations and efficiency expert Ivy Ledbetter Lee.

The story (true story, just not sure of the exact account) goes that Charles Schwab, steel magnate, wanted to increase his company’s efficiency, so he contacted Lee. Lee requested 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s managers. Schwab asked how much would it cost. Lee told him that after three months, if he saw productivity improvement he could send Lee whatever he thought the training was worth. Three months later, Schwab sent Lee a $25,000 check. This was back around 100 years ago.

So, the $25,000 lesson?

It’s reported that Lee said to write a list of six must-do items that each manager needed to accomplish the next day, in order of importance. Whatever wasn’t completed that day would go over onto the next day’s list of six must-do items.

According to, Lee instructed:

Write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow. Now, number them in the order of their true importance. The first thing tomorrow morning, start working on an item Number 1, and stay with it until completed. Then take item Number 2 the same way. Then Number 3, and so on. Don't worry if you don't complete everything on the schedule. At least you will have completed the most important projects before getting to the less important ones. (2)  

Pretty simple, right?

Simple and powerful. Having a list of what you need to do gives you focus and that focus helps clear your mind, which in turn boosts productivity, allowing you to get the job done.

One thing James Wedmore said that I thought is also a good idea is to have a “brain dump” folder or notebook. If something pops into your head that you don’t want to forget, put in in the ‘brain dump file.’ This too helps keep your mind clear of clutter.

I call my ‘brain dump file’ My To Do List. If anything pops into my head, I open the file and type it in, leaving my mind free of the worry of remembering it.

Productivity Strategy Number Two – Meditate

If you make time for meditation, you’ll have more time. I read this or something like it recently, but forgot where or by who (if you know the author, please let me know, so I can give attribution). A case in point of information overload.

But, how can you have more time if you take time out of your already hectic day to meditate?

According to Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day. Since there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 86,400 seconds, this means you’re having thoughts almost every second of every day. Is it any wonder many of us have trouble focusing?

Meditation is another mind clearing tool that allows the brain to take a breather. It helps create a calmer you, thus leading to a more focused and productive you.

My acupuncturist, who was a neurologist in China and has been practicing Chinese medicine for over 35 years, says that the number one thing you can do for your health is to meditate.

Give it a Shot – Incorporate these two strategies Into your writing and marketing work week.

Every Sunday, make a list of the top six must-do items for Monday. Don’t just breeze through your list of to-dos, take the time to think whether a particular item is REALLY needed. Will it move your goals forward? Will it earn you money?

At the bottom of your to-do list for each day, add: TAKE 15-30 MINUTES TO MEDITATE.

Do this for 90 days, as Lee instructed, and see what happens. Then let us know – leave a comment!

Note: I also read that Lee sought Schwab out to propose he could increase his company’s productivity. Whether Lee sought out Schwab or Schwab sought out Lee, it worked.


Original article source:

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Know Your Audience

Getting to know your target audience can be as fun as it is enlightning. The focus of this post is on children, but the ideas set forth can work for any audience.

General Resources
No matter what your association is with children, a good way to reach them is by keeping a scrapbook-style binder. The binder can be organized in sections. Ideas for topics can be:
  • Articles
  • Research: Three excellent resources are, where interesting facts can be found on major historic events and current issues of many countries and facts on birth rates, child labor information, children under the age of 5 years underweight, found on the home page under "People and Society;" under "Easy Stats" for topics such as Housing, People and Education; and the InfoTrac Periodical and Reference Database at your local library, to research sources such as academic journals, books and magazines.
  • Photos and pictures cut out of magazines and ads to pose as story characters
  • Kids' favorite books and pastimes
  • Notes on snippets of conversation, the way your audience dresses, funny and poignant incidences, etc.
  • Mining your own childhood experiences, the people you have known and your memories: Occasionally when I browse through personal journals that I've kept through the years, I put subject notations on post-its and stick the post-its on the sides, like tabs; this way the information is easily accessible while composing. Also, I created a photoscrapbook of my growing-up years to jog my memory, and have found how true it is that the story is in the pictures.
  • Index on the subjects and locations of data saved on your computer.
Zeroing in on Kids' Needs
An excellent resource for understanding all aspects of writing for children is Writing for Children & Teenagers, by Lee Wyndham. Part of Wyndham's philosophy speaks to those writers who may not be "up" on the latest fads and trends (though many terrific and entertaining writers are). She wrote that writers can focus instead on the the universality of people's basic needs, young and old, and how these needs never change; summarized from Wyndam's book here: 
  •  The need to love and be loved: No one ever outgrows the need for love. Stories of deep and   moving significance can  be woven around this subject.  
  •  The need to belong: Children desperately want to be accepted by one's family and peers.
  •  The need to achieve: Wyndam wrote that, "To do or be something . . . not only gives  one a feeling of personal satisfaction and worth, but also elicits respect from others . . ."
  •  The need for security--materially, emotionally, spiritually: How one faces or does not face anxieties and fears provides innumerable story themes. "The youthful character can be badly warped by . . . tensions, or  tempered and strengthened by adversity, depending on the influences he or she comes under." 
  • The need to know: Tap into children's natural curiosity by satisfying their desire to know the how and why of things.
Addressing Children's Problems
Two resources that are helpful in understanding what children are like at each age are Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development by Frances L. Ilg, Louis Bates Ames, and Signey M. Baker, and Youth: The Years from Ten to Sixteen by Gesell, Ilg and Ames. The two books serve as helpful references when stuck with how a child
might react to certain situations.

Problems common among children are best addressed by age group. Here is a partial list I have put together over the years from various sources:

Ages 3-8
  • Starting school
  • Desire for a pet
  • Learning to share
  • Getting along with siblings
Ages 9-12
  • Friendship: how to make and keep friends
  • Bullying
  • Accepting responsibiity for one's own actions
  • Getting along in social situations
  • Romance: dating, the meaning of love, personal conduct with the opposite sex
  • Acceptance of oneself and those who are "different" in some way
  • Faith/Religion
  • Being goal-directed vs being focused on social situations
  • Plans for the future
In between projects or in the middle of one, your "Audience Binder" will help keep you on track and perhaps give you ideas on how to expand important parts of your story that may not have occurred to you. Because you have taken the time to really get to know your audience you will be rewarded many times over, and continue to have fun adding to your treasure trove of knowledge about some of your favorite people.

Photo: Courtesy of

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, recently completed Joyce Sweeney's  Fiction Essentials online course and is currently taking Sweeney's Picture Book Essentials online course. She has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Follow Linda on Facebook. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer: write or take a break?

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. 

Summer may be a time for writers to play catch-up. I know I've got a few projects I'm tempted to complete since I'm not homeschooling. But I will keep my writing schedule light through June and July in order to rest. In August, I will begin in earnest to get into a good routine. 

Rest has not been in my vocabulary for 30 years. I am a go-getter by nature. But as I get older, I am finding the importance of not just finding time, but allowing myself time.

The last couple of weeks, I regularly drove by a sea of white flowers next to a church. I was drawn to them but never stopped since I was "in a hurry". 

Yesterday, I drove by them again. In my rear view mirror, the vehicle behind me turned around and quickly parked. Out jumped a little girl. She ran over to this enchanting sight, laughing and skipping through the milky-white field.

We all know we're supposed to stop but we don't. We have to do it on purpose.

If you're feeling a tug to take a break, don't be afraid to follow your instincts. 

How about it? Do you have plans to take a break this summer? 


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Writing Prompts

Summer is here! I recently returned from vacation and am writing about the wildlife I saw. I haven’t decided how to use it yet, although it could appear in a future blog post or picture book.

While working at my computer, I thought about summer writing prompts and all the possibilities. I came across some websites for kids, although many of these prompts would also work for adults. Perhaps think about your own childhood. What did you do during your summers?

Journal Buddies has some great prompts for getting kids to write. I like 11, 13 and 22. I might include them in a book or article.

I also like Montgomery Schools’ prompt concerning one’s favorite summer memory. As far as my childhood, there were trips to amusement parks, playing with friends, and riding my bike around town.

Scholastic’s writing prompts look like fun. One in particular made me laugh. Check out the prompt for June 23!

What are you writing about? I hope the prompts on these websites spark some story ideas for you.

Have a great summer!

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Using Bookends to Overcome Procrastination

If and When were planted, and Nothing grew.” ~Proverb
Procrastination………….who me? I know how to get things done; I also know how to procrastinate. As a writer, sometimes procrastination has to do with feeling lost in a project, other times it’s about not being satisfied with a draft.  Personally, I'm pretty disciplined with my writing time, but I can procrastinate for months when it comes to sending a draft off to an agent or editor.  After having my 900 word manuscript accepted by a magazine, the editor sent it back to me asking that I further develop the topic.  I quickly added the info requested and sent it back.  The editor responded with ..."tell me more."  Again, I added another section and resubmitted the manuscript.  I was sure I was done with the manuscript.  The editor responded with highlighting another section  and once again said..."tell me more".  Frustrated and not sure what she wanted, I put the manuscript down for three months.  When I finally finished the manuscript it was almost 3,000 words.  I was sure too much time had elapsed and the editor would no longer be interested, but with the next submission to the editor, I received my contract for publication.   Fortunately, my procrastinating didn't cost me the contract, but it certainly raised my angst about the project.
Now when I find myself procrastinating I apply bookends to the project.   Once I decide what I'm gong to work on, I schedule it and plan a pre and post project incentive. It’s my bookends. I treat myself or do something I enjoy prior to starting the project and again when I finish it. Sometimes, it’s something small like a trip to Starbucks before doing research on a project, other times it’s a day at the zoo or the art institute. Why do bookends work? I think because the first bookend marks it’s time to start and then the last bookend acknowledges the accomplishment. Sometimes the bookend at the end is something that I’m really dying to do or is time sensitive. This gives me the added push to slug through until I’m finished. So if you find yourself procrastinating, try bookends.
Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:  

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