Is Bullet Journaling for You?

Just one example of many from Celeste Bradley Designs
Bullet journaling can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. It’s up to you. According to Ryder Carroll, author of The Bullet Journal Method, available in sixteen countries and counting, and creator of his unique take on bullet journaling; keeping track of daily, monthly, annual to-do’s, can steer you away from living a busy life wrought with distractions to an “intentional and meaningful” life. You become more productive. You reach your goals and even surpass them. As one woman once said to me, “I’ve stopped allowing my life to manage me. I manage my life now.”

Don’t want to stop at a Task Journal? Go a step further and create a Book Log, a Travel Log, a Finance Log . . . you name it.

Carroll’s Method in a Nutshell
Begin with a blank journal, either one you’ve purchased from the Bullet Journal website or any journal of your choice.
  • Index: Open to the first two-page spread and label it, Index, and number the pages as you go.
  • Future Log: Label the next spread “Future Log.” Divide the page in three sections, label the sections by the months of the year. Add log to the index.
  • Monthly Log: On the left page, list down the left side the dates and days of the month;                  On the right page, list tasks in bullets. Add log to the index.
  • Daily Log: On the left page, list the date and day of the week; On the right page, lists the tasks in short bulleted sentences; Events; Notes; Asterisk on important tasks
At the end of each month, set up a new Daily Log; x out completed tasks; migrate incomplete tasks to next month or to the Future Log.

Hooked on Bullet Journaling
At a recent ShopTalk session with the SCBWI-NM chapter (Society of Book Writers and Illustrators), we discussed how Bullet Journaling has helped many of our authors who have been journaling for years. Here are highlights from that meeting:
  • Most if not all of the Bullet Journaling authors have done away with the Index.
  • A helpful article can be found on Kate Messner’s blog by typing in “Bullet Journal.” The article is dated 1/8/2015, and captures how Kate journals in detail.
  • One author journals extensively as a “catchall” for information, keeping track of writing hours spent (with SlimTimer); a collection of meaningful quotes and sayings; her To Do list for life and work; a record of revisions and time spent, which helps her see her progress; gives herself stickers while working on a first draft, the most difficult for her; makes goals of 500/700/1000 words; and even keeps track of family meals so she doesn’t serve the same meal too often.
  • For the more artistic minded of us, search “Celeste Bradley Designs” on Amazon and you will find the most colorful and heartwarming designs for Bullet Journals, and many different types of journals as well. A romance author of many books up until now, Celeste has just completed her first children’s book.
My own journey into Bullet Journaling consisted of what you might call a Day-Timeresque experience. Before we retired, my husband followed the Day-Timer method of keeping track of his To-Do’s, business meetings, etc., and he taught me how to do it. We both kept Day-Timers until almost the very day we galloped off on our new nonworking adventures.

Though Ryder Carroll’s method is similar to Day-Timer, his springs from a different place. He had attention deficit disorder as a youth and created his method to declutter his life and to become more productive.

If you're wondering whatever became of me, you'll be happy to know that I didn't drop off the wagon completely. Once officially retired, I replaced my Day-Timer with a simple calendar and have used one ever since.

However . . . it never crossed my mind that I would need to continue Bullet Journaling. That is, not until I attended our ShopTalk meeting. As the information unfolded that those of use who jot down little bits and pieces of information on post-it notes (you know who you are);okay, and napkins, gum wrappers, whatever paper is available at the time, I began to slide little-by-little down in my seat until I disappeared altogether under the table. No one even noticed my slippery decline. I’m just kidding about that, but I was chagrined to realize that I was one of those itty-bitty note takers! Me, of all people!

So, I came home and gathered the notes strewn all over my desk and put them in piles. I got out my over-sized sketchbook and began to make lists: To Do’s, Books to be Read, etc. I only have two piles to go! But my office is soooo much cleaner and my information is in a place where I can actually find it!

If Bullet Journaling is for you, there is no wrong way to do it. As a retired person I didn’t want to do the cross-outs, arrows, migrating, etc. But I did begin to make lists and when I complete tasks, I cross them out. And believe it or not even though my method is simple, it has already made me a more productive person.

If your interest is piqued, give yourself about 20-30 minutes and visit Carroll’s website:
Image Courtesy of: Celeste Bradley Designs

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.

Content Curation & Aggregation

Content Curation & Aggregation  

by Deborah Lyn Stanley

What does it take to promote your writing, be it articles, stories or books?  How do you tell your readers or a prospective publisher what you are about?  What is of benefit to your audience?  Your Platform, your Branding, and your Website. 

Let’s talk about growing engagement by diving a bit deeper through Content Curation and Aggregation.
  • Content Curation is not creating new content; it is the process of searching out, discovering, compiling and sharing existing content for your readership relevant to a specific topic or subject.
  • Content Curation’s purpose is to add the value of a broader view and understanding.
  • Introduce the content with your own perspective and ideas, then provide a link to the source article via “To read the original article go to: …”
  • Archive, catalog and store curated content for future use.

Adding value is the best path to growing your readership and promoting your work.

  • Content Aggregation is the collection of information for a particular topic with one or more related keywords.
  • Content Aggregation can grow value by linking to supporting information, to a broader perspective, to hot topics or news worthy content.
  • Aggregation is gathering content from various feeds into one easy to access, informative location—your website.

Both Content Curation and Content Aggregation are marketing strategies to grow the reach of your work.

  • Pingbacks and Trackbacking are useful tools for notifying the post owner that you have linked to their post as the original source. Pingbacks and Trackbacking can increase web traffic, and provide a connection to influential blogs. By using links to the original source post or article, attention is brought from that site to yours.
Additional links for more on Content Curation and Aggregation:

Grow Content = Successful Marketing


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 website:

Perseverance Pays Off

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Whether they know it or not, many book authors are doing aimless marketing. These authors have no plans or goals and are almost certain to fail.

Yes, I understand I’ve made a sweeping statement which is a bit harsh. Yet from my years of experience watching authors and working with them, I know it’s true. I encourage you to keep reading because I’m going to provide a series of steps so you can change from aimless marketing to a targeted effort for your books. If you take action, then you will move forward with your dreams of reaching others with your books.

The old saying goes “If you aim at nothing you will be sure to hit it.” The first question you need to answer is who is your target reader? Please don’t say “everyone” because no book is for everyone. While some books achieve a broad spectrum of readers, every book has a specific target audience. Write to a specific group of people and you will have your target clearly in front of you. Next write down a secondary group of people who would be your target.

Create what Mark Victor Hansen calls a “Big Hairy Goal.” What is your overall plan to reach your target audience? Set aside anything that your publisher or anyone else is going to do for your book and focus on yourself and your efforts. Do you plan to sell 5,000 books over the next 12 months? Write down your specific goal on the back of a business card, and then stick that card in your wallet or someplace where you will visually see it often. It can serve as consistent reminder of your goal. 

For your next step, break down your large goal into incremental steps. How are you going to take the tiny steps to achieve those book sales? Maybe it means taking an hour a week to focus on having a more active role in an online forum (where you include mention of your book). Or maybe it means you will create a postcard about your book then send it to 1,000 names and addresses. Each goal should be definable and specific. The successful Internet marketer, Dan Kennedy, wrote about the most important component of success in business boils down to “one thing.” Implementation was the “one thing” which means to take action and complete the most important activities in your business. I encourage you to take small steps yet also make consistent action to complete those goals.

If you are going to take consistent action, you need perseverance. Consider the perseverance in the story of Andy Andrews, author of The Traveler’s Gift. A popular speaker, Andy wrote a manuscript which he tried to get published. It was rejected 54 times. How many of us can handle this level of rejection? He continued in his popular speaking work but did not have a book for his audience. One day Gail Hyatt was in Andy Andrews’ audience. She came up to him afterwards and suggested that he write a book.

Looking a bit sheepish, Andy told Gail, “Your husband’s company (Thomas Nelson) has already rejected my manuscript.” Gail asked for a copy of his manuscript and promised to read it. Andy sent her the manuscript. She showed it to her husband (Michael Hyatt,  at the time he was the president of Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher) and the book was published.

Notice the perseverance in what happened next. When Andy got his new book, he gave away 12,000 copies of the book. Most of those review copies didn’t make much of a difference. But one of those copies got in the hands of Robin Roberts, who at the time was a producer of ABC’s Good Morning America. Roberts selected The Traveler’s Gift as their Book of the Month. The Traveler’s Gift sold 850,000 copies and the rest is history.

From my study of publishing, there is no formula to make a bestseller or achieve success with your book. Each author has a different definition of success. For some it is simply creating their book and getting it into the market. For other authors, they want to get on a particular bestseller list. A range of answers lies between these two extremes. What is your goal and how are you going to reach it? Consistent action is the key. Michael Hyatt wrote about The Power of Incremental Change Over Time. I encourage you to take action and turn aimless marketing into consistent marketing. Productive authors have a commitment to marketing their books on a personal and consistent basis.

Have you seen perseverance pay off? Let me know in the comments below.


How can perseverance pay off? Get insights and encouragement in this article. (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

Writers: How to Handle Feedback about Your Work

We all will need to handle feedback at one time or another in our careers.

For the writer, this feedback is usually the critique of either an unpublished manuscript (from an editor or members of a critique group) or a published piece (a review, for example).

Feedback can be both positive and negative.

Some people are bad at giving feedback and some people are talented at doing it.

But, even if someone who is bad at it gives you feedback about a piece of your writing, you can learn to handle both positive and negative feedback appropriately.

Let’s go over some tips for handling both positive and negative feedback.

Let’s start with negative feedback.

Avoid Acting Defensive

One thing that sometimes happens when we're given feedback is we become defensive when we hear something negative and we immediately want to defend ourselves and our work.

But when we do this, we usually turn off our ability to listen, which is not a good way to react.

If you get like this, take a step back and watch yourself getting the feedback from afar in your mind.

Focus only on what they’re saying, and don’t put your own feelings into it at all.

You can ask questions about how they think you can improve your work, but don’t argue with them about it.

After all, unless they’re your editor, you don’t need to take their advice to heart, but you can probably learn something from it if you can avoid being defensive.

Inform the person that you appreciate what they’re saying and you will consider their suggestions, and leave it at that.

Ask For Clarification

When someone is giving you negative feedback, take the time to hear what they’re saying, then repeat back to them what you thought they said to ensure you really understood.

Sometimes (especially if we have low self-esteem or are new to writing) we can over-interpret something as negative when it’s not.

Ask for understanding and take the time to let it sink in so you’re sure you really do get it.

Negative feedback should actually be constructive criticism as far as manuscripts go.

It shouldn’t be someone simply slamming your work.

Instead, they should be offering you feedback you can use to improve your work.

Sadly, though, many people—especially beginning writers in critique groups—find it difficult to offer constructive criticism (probably because they don’t that much about writing themselves), so they tear a manuscript to shreds.

If you’re in a critique group that operates like that, you might look for a different group with more experienced writers who know how to offer constructive criticism instead of just negative feedback.

Now, let’s talk a bit about handling positive feedback.

As much as handling negative feedback makes people squirm, so does positive feedback, and sometimes we react incorrectly to it.

There really is only one right way to handle positive feedback.

Say, "thank you very much."

Saying thank you is an important way to handle positive feedback and will make the other person feel satisfied that you heard them.

If you react negatively to positive feedback, you could set yourself up to never receiving it even when you deserve it.

Don’t do that.

Say thank you.

Mean it.

Move on.

The truth is, you’ll get both negative and positive feedback any time you let someone read something you have written.

It’s important to put this feedback into perspective and not dwell on it either way.

For example, one day several years ago, I went online to amazon and found a bad review of one of my books.

The review was so bad, I felt terrible about the book.

But later that day, my editor called to tell me that the same book had just won an award.

Right then I realized that feedback, either positive or negative, is really only someone’s opinion.

And that both types of feedback can be learned from.

So just learn from the feedback you get, move on, and keep writing.

Try it!

For more tips and resources to help you become a better writer, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a writing coach, and editor at

The Perfect Perfection Test

One of my favorite phrases is, "Done is better than perfect." 

There's also, "Perfect is the enemy of good." 

And, another fav, "Art is never finished, it's abandoned."

Whatever your perfection philosophy, you have to agree. There comes a point in any project - whether it's a book, screenplay, essay, article, or pitch - where it's time to release it into the world, ready or not. 

But how do you know when you're ready to hit, "send," "post," or "publish?"

Here are five things to think about before pressing that magic button:

1. Does it have a beginning, middle, and an end? Does it need them? Most things do. Know your work well enough to know whether it has all the necessary parts?

2. Did you run it through spellcheck? An editor? For smaller pieces, and even emails, you should always look for those spellcheck and grammar-check squiggles. Larger works often require a second set of eyes. Don't skimp on professionalism.

3. Have you read it out loud? That's the easiest way to catch mistakes.

4. Did you set it aside for a day? A week? If you have time to walk away and read it fresh, before it goes out, that's ideal. And, whereas sometimes it's difficult to step away from an important project, that fresh perspective is invaluable.

5. Are you happy with it? Or are you at least happy enough? Are you excited and ready for it to make it's debut? You'll know when it's time. Just trust yourself.

While it's important to take pride on your work, it's also essential to know when to let your words to speak for themselves. As long as your work is professional and the passion for your project shows through, remember it's all good. And sometimes good is perfect!

For more on Perfection, read the #GoalChat recap on the topic.

* * *

How important is perfection? And how do you decide when something is ready for the world to see? 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.  Debra is the author of Your Goal Guide, being released by Mango in January 2020, as well as Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She is host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and the Guided Goals Podcast, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Borrowing From Superheroes

My husband—sweetie that he is—brought me a copy of The Smithsonian from his dermatologist's office. So thanks to Lance and Dr. Mantel, I am now a diehard fan of the magazine.

One of the articles was inspired by the new movie, Man of Steel. They take up how "superhero origin stories inspire us to cope with adversity."

The elements that make superheroes so popular can work with characters in any kind of fiction you may write (or read). Here are the ones that Smithsonian writer Robin Rosenberg found in several of the most popular superhero tales. Check your stories and novels to see how these themes (or "life-altering experiences") might be capitalized on to further pique the interest of your readers.

~Destiny—is your character "chosen" in some way?

~Trauma—has your character suffered trauma that increased his strengths or weaknesses?

~Sheer chance—Sheer chance is usually not as compelling as an action that has been caused or motivated, but sometimes a writer just has to resort to it. If an author makes that choice, he or she should put more emphasis on how the character deals with it.

~Choosing "altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power."
My own takeaway from Rosenberg’s piece is that literary criticism of the last decade has relegated backstory in novels as pretty undesirable, something that should be minimized at all costs. In my gut, I've always disagreed. Of course, we can't let backstory get in the way of momentum, but backstory is often part of your hero’s path to character building so they very well may deserve more attention.  I’m also reading Wally Lamb’s new novel and I’m pretty sure from the evidence that he agrees with me—at least in regard to literary fiction.

Backstory helps your readers relate and find meaning in loss, and it provides models for coping. If you are a write of nonfiction, you may find ways to use superheroes' themes anecdotally in your work.

In either case, understanding the psychological underpinnings of why we are so affected may benefit us all by "tapping into our capacity for empathy, one of the greatest [super?] powers of all."

There’s one more that Rosenberg missed. I think we're all searching for connection—human to human. If that happens to be human-to-alien or human-to-superhero, so be it. It's part of what we all need as readers.

Note: Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist, has written several books about the psychology of superheroes. Search for her on Google.

This is republished from a January 4, 2014 post on this site.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .


Market with Content

The Necessity of Simple Follow-up

Freelance Writers: How to Schedule Your Work Days

How Authors Can Get Books into Campus Libraries

Q&A a la Ann Landers

Getting Your Book into Campus Libraries and More!

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I occasionally run a Q&A based on the Ann Landers columns in my SharingwithWriters newsletters. I grew to love Landers’ wisdom when I edited the originals way back when I was a staff writer for The Salt Lake Tribune. This is one that received the most feedback since I published my first e-newsletter back in 2003. 


Regarding university bookstores: I know that Random House had my book in their catalog targeting educational sellers. Is there more than that I can do? How would I 
1. identify them and
 2. approach them?


I'm going to use my husband's experience with his What Foreigners Need to Know About America from A to Z as an example because he was so successful with it. 

He put together a form letter (which he tweaks) depending on who it's going to. He goes online and finds areas on campus that could use his book. Great possibilities on campuses include: 
1. College acquisition librarians
2. International student programs and clubs 
3. Campus career centers
4. International studies professors
5. Professors who teach American  literature, history, etc., especially the ones who teach ESL (English as Second Language) students
4. Campus bookstore buyers  

He spends about thirty minutes a day finding all the resources available on one or two campuses. He sends query letters to each of those resources, always trying to address the specific person in charge (and spell his or her name correctly!). Sometimes that's only one contact a day. Some days, when research goes well, it's three or four.  

Lance has had some amazing successes like having his book chosen as gifts/recommendations by the university that hosts the Fulbright Scholars in the US each summer. His book is also been accepted by imore than 300 university libraries and some of those ordered more than one copy. 

He offers a free book to those influencers who show an interest (i.e. those who answer his e-mail) with a “yes!” response. I am “The Frugal Book Promoter,” so I love this approach. It costs less than just sending a book with a cover letter to each contact.  Of course, there is also a cost to sending books when requested, but otherwise using this method doesn’t cost an author anything out of pocket. I love it because the results of one’s efforts are easily traceable. You know, as an example, a professor has recommended it to a class when suddenly you sell thirty-five books all being shipped to the same place! 

I also love it because the dollar-and-cents results have proven to outweigh the expense. 

When Lance gets a perfunctory positive response, he sometimes worries he will be wasting a book. But that response usually results in many more than the sale of one book. He has had requests to use excerpts for professors’ classroom assignments or handouts. (He always provides those who ask for permission to reprint with an extensive bio and sales pitch that he asks them to include as part of the assignment.) The top sale we could trace to his letters (it's sometimes easier for self-published authors to trace sales to a specific effort) was fifty-nine copies. 

One more secret. He is persistent.

One more big benefit: I’s apparent that word travels among universities.  

Here’s an alternative that he tried. It isn't as frugal and not as effective because the contact is not personal, but it’s a lot less time-consuming than his one-on-one method: 

IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) has a catalog that they send out to selected resources. One goes to libraries. A separate one goes to university libraries and another to reviewers.  I've used that service for my books in my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books,too, and a couple of my poetry books. It can be good...or not. Depending on the title. 

Be aware that if you find an instructor who recommends your book or uses it as class reading, the bookstore often stocks the book automatically. But not always. It doesn’t hurt to mention in your query letter that your book was ordered by X university or that Professor X showed an interest in your book in a followup letter to the library’s buyer.

PS: The recommendations and endorsements from many of these contacts also resulted in a request from a Ukrainian press to publish his work in translation. It was also published in Simplified Chinese, apparently through his contact with a Chinese studies program at one of these universities.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning novelist and poet who started her writing career in journalism, PR, and marketing. Her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers has been helping authors since the publication of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; now in its second edition. The multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; is also in its second edition, and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers and The Great First Impression Book Proposal are her inexpensive booklets for writers. Her Getting Great Reviews . She loves to tweet because it is a social network that understands the value of marketing. 

What Is More Valuable Than Fame

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) Many writers believe writing a book will make them famous. They believe getting their book into the market wi...