Monday, March 31, 2014

Chocolate Giveaway & Blogoversary Recap

It's been a wonderful 5th Blogoversary Month. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to help me celebrate. I appreciate you all so much! Without you, my blog would be boring.

It's been a busy month! Here is a summary:

On March 3, aka National Grammar Day, we discussed Active versus Passive writing.

The fabulous Robyn Campbell stopped by on March 10 for a fun interview.

Fellow Helping Hands Press author Jen Cudmore shared her thoughts on professional correspondence on March 17. Here's the link if you missed it.

Find March 24th's interview with my writing mentor and friend Dr. MaryAnn Diorio here.

I also made a few appearances:

Celebrating Women's History Month with a post at the Coffeehouse for Writers' Blog.

Stopped by the Wednesday's Writer's Workspace at The Writing Nut.

Visited Gelati's Scoop to discuss The Blogging Code.

Shared poetry writing tips for kids at Carol J. Alexander's Lessons From the Homestead.

The Chocolate Giveaway

What blogoversary is complete without chocolate, right? I knew you'd agree! :)

I will assemble a little custom chocolate package for one follower according to their preference (milk or dark chocolate). Kindly follow the instructions below.

  • You must be a GFC (Google Friend Connect follower) and leave your email address with your comment.
  • Gain bonus entries (+1 each) by posting this on Facebook, your blog, and/or Twitter. Please total your entries and include links with your comment.
  • Open to residents of the United States.
  • Deadline to enter is midnight EST Thursday, April 3, 2014. Winner will be chosen by, notified via email, and will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

Join me next week when Jennifer Brown Banks stops by to share her timeless wisdom. Carol J. Alexander visits in April too to discuss her journey to publication.

What have you been celebrating lately? Have a great week!

Happy writing,

Karen :)

Congrats to Medeia Sharif, Robyn Campbell, and Janette Dolores - they are last week's giveaway winners of MaryAnn Diorio's books!

Photo credit #1: Stock Exchange
Photo credit #2: Stock Exchange

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts

How do you feel about writing prompts? They intimidate some writers and engage others. Still others have never tried them.

I think there's a common misconception about prompts - that when you use one, it has to be just so. Unless it's an assignment for a class or for a specific project, I say there are no rules. Just an opportunity to write and perhaps build better writing habits.

Prompts help stretch writing muscles in other directions. For example, I don't write poetry. Writing it never appealed to me, so I don't include it in my lineup. But when tutoring a young student required writing limericks, I found the exercise stretched me. And that was a good thing. Writing practice (of any type) can produce growth and generate interesting ideas for other projects too.

One of the simplest prompts is a sentence. It acts as a brainstorming tool, a story starter, headline, or a hook to draw the reader in.

Try this:

She should have listened to her grandmother.


He stared at the marigolds in the garden.


"How much is a pint of strawberries?"

One of my favorite prompts is Hemingway's Challenge. Someone challenged Hemingway to write a six word story. This is what he wrote:

For sale, baby shoes. Never used. 

Not only does this illustrate the six word story concept, it provides great word economy practice.

Want to try a few more? Check out these links:

Writing Prompts 

Writer's Digest Prompts

Daily Blog Tips

Special Note

This Friday post is part of the Blogtastic weekend event from my publisher, Helping Hands Press. Hop over to their Facebook page for more posts from the HHP authors.

Have you ever used writing prompts? How do you stretch your writing muscles? 

Happy weekend,
P.S. I'm sharing tips for writing poetry with kids over at Carol J. Alexander's Homestead blog. Hop over if you are so inclined!

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with Author MaryAnn Diorio

I am thrilled to host Dr. MaryAnn Diorio for my Good Friends Old and New themed 5th Blogoversary celebration. MaryAnn is an award winning author, novelist, and poet. Her works include A Christmas Homecoming, Selling Yourself on You, and Enslow Publisher's The Student's Guide series that include Herman Melville,  Mark Twain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

MaryAnn was the first writer I connected with in person through the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. For this super newbie writer back in the 1990's, this was quite exciting. After all, MaryAnn was a real writer, and she was talking to me! She became a wonderful friend, mentor, and a huge influence on my writing. 

MaryAnn has graciously offered to give away three paperback copies of her novel A Christmas Homecoming. Be sure and check out the details after the interview.

Welcome MaryAnn! So glad you could join us. Tell us, when did you know you were a writer? 

Thank you for having me, Karen! I was 30 years old when I knew God had called me to write for Him. Prior to that time, I had been working as a professor of foreign languages, a career I loved. During high school, I had very briefly considered becoming a journalist, but that idea didn’t last long.

When I turned 30, however, I began to have a desire to write. I wasn’t sure if the desire was from God or from my flesh. So I asked God to increase the desire if it was, indeed, from Him or to remove it if it was not from Him. 

Well, the desire increased and became a burning desire to write. So, in faith, I signed up for a workshop at the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference. At the time, I had a six-year-old and a two-year-old. Because of a babysitting challenge, I could get away only for one morning of the conference. When I arrived as a “walk-in,” I discovered that there was only one workshop with an opening: the Writing Light Verse workshop taught by Sonia Fries. Since my husband is the funny one in the family, I was not too excited about attending this workshop. But since I had paid to come and since I had traveled two hours, I decided to sit in on the workshop and to make the best of it. While I did enjoy the workshop and learned a few things, I left thinking that I had probably wasted my time since I would never write light verse. I made a good “straight man” by laughing at all of my husband’s jokes, but as for writing something funny myself, it just wasn’t in me.

But God had other plans.

About a week after the workshop, my two little girls got into a big fight. They were in the playroom, and I was in the kitchen washing dishes and trying to decide how to handle the fight. I had just read a parenting book about allowing one’s children to resolve their own conflicts. So I waited a few moments to see how they fared. When the shouting escalated to the highest decibels, I decided to trash the parenting book and pick up my little wooden Italian spaghetti spoon. Armed with my “rod of correction,” I marched toward the playroom.

I carefully listened to each of my daughters’ side of the argument and determined that they both needed a little spanking. So I picked up my younger one first and placed her across my knee. As I raised my hand a few inches to give her a gentle paddling on the bottom, my older daughter began wailing. “Please don’t spank her, Mom. Please don’t spank her.” With hand raised in mid-air, I began to laugh. The child who, five minutes earlier, wanted to kill her baby sister now wanted to protect her from a spanking.

As I laughed I thought, there is a funny poem in all of this. So I dispensed with the spankings, got the situation resolved, and wrote a poem about it.

Novice that I was, I sent the poem to The Saturday Evening Post, the only magazine I knew of that published funny poems. I had no clue that it was nearly impossible for a newbie to get published in this magazine, considered one of the top slicks at the time. But, like the bumble bee who, aerodynamically, cannot fly but flies anyway, I sent the poem with full confidence that it could be published in The Saturday Evening Post. After all, no one ever told me it couldn’t be.

A short while later, I received a letter from The Saturday Evening Post stating that the editor wanted to publish my poem in the magazine’s “Lighter Side” section.

In that moment, I knew God had called me to write. 

Wow, that's exciting! You've written fiction and non fiction - do you prefer one over the other?

I definitely prefer writing fiction over writing non-fiction. I find it to be lots more fun yet more challenging. Also, whereas non-fiction appeals to the intellect, fiction touches the heart and transforms it. Jesus taught in parables for a reason.  

Good point. I hadn't thought about it much but this is true. What aspects of each do you enjoy most?

When writing fiction, I love creating a cast of characters living in a world of my own choosing and who struggle with a faith problem whose resolution will point readers to Christ.

When writing non-fiction, I enjoy conveying Biblical truths that will help set people free. 

How did the NJSCW come about?

The New Jersey Society of Christian Writers (NJSCW) came about as the result of a directive our Lord gave me back in 1992 to start a writers’ organization to educate, equip, and encourage Christian writers living in New Jersey. I headed up NJSCW for 10 years then passed the baton to another director. After a couple of years, she had to step down, so I took over again. We are now in the process of rebuilding our base and expanding throughout the State. 

Once upon a time you shared a piece of advice with me. You said, "Call yourself a writer." Though it was hard, from that time on I did and it did wonders for my confidence and writing journey. What's the best writing advice you've been given?

The advice I gave you is the best advice I’ve been given. I got the advice from Romans 4:17: “God calls those things that are not as though they were.” When I discerned I was called to write, I began calling myself a writer even though, at first, I nearly choked on the words, LOL! But God’s Word is true, and as we decree it, we create the future He has destined for us. 

I am grateful that you encouraged me in that way. It was and still is a blessing. Is there any other advice you'd like to share with us?

Yes. There are many things we could write, but there are only certain things we MUST write. The “must” items are those works God has ordained for us to write. In order, therefore, to know what we must write, we must remain closely connected to Jesus Christ. Our writing will flow out of our abiding in Him. BEING precedes DOING. 

Wonderful and wise words, MaryAnn. Thank you for sharing with us today! :)

Thank you for having me over, Karen!

Find MaryAnn: 

Her website 
Her blog 
Facebook Author Page  

A Sampling of MaryAnn's books:

A Christmas Homecoming - Kindle 

A Christmas Homecoming - Audio version

You Were Made for Greatness

A Student's Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Student's Guide to Mark Twain

A Student's Guide to Herman Melville

Giveaway Info

What:  Three paperback copies of A Christmas Homecoming

  • You must be a GFC (Google Friend Connect) follower and leave your email address with your comment.
  • Gain bonus entries (+1 each) by posting this on Facebook, your blog, and/or Twitter. Please total your entries and include links with your comment.
  • Open to residents of the United States.
  • Deadline to enter is midnight EST Thursday, March 27, 2014. Winner will be chosen by, notified via email, and will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. 

Who had an influence on your writing? Do you have any questions for MaryAnn?

Happy writing,


P.S. Congratulations to Susan J. Reinhardt, the winner of last week's giveaway!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Professional Correspondence by Jen Cudmore

The theme for my 5th Blogoversary month (in case you hadn't heard) is Good Friends Old and New. It's a blessing to introduce a newer friend and fellow author at Helping Hands Press, Jen Cudmore.  Jen is the author of numerous books including The Lawmen of Clayton County series and The San Francisco Wedding Planner collection.  She has a lovely and friendly writing style. I like that! :) I suspect she is just as lovely and friendly in person. 

Speaking of lovely, Jen's offered to give away a copy of her ebook, The Whispers of Angels. Check out the details below.

Have you considered the importance of good correspondence habits? Jen has, and shares her thoughts here today.

6 Tips for Professional Correspondence 

By Jen Cudmore

Credibility is often determined by how polished a person's written correspondence is. 

For more than ten years, I’ve worked in the back office of a medical clinic. In that time I’ve seen some very well written letters, emails and policies. I’ve also seen some not-so-good ones. By the way people write, they set a level of professionalism, and thus earn an element of trust over how effectively they can do their job.

For example, I was amazed at the difference in a series of emails I received from two ladies at the state medical board. One wrote in complete sentences and I never saw a typo. The other had either a spelling or grammar error in every sentence. For future questions, I began turning to the first woman for help, certain her professionalism would transfer into every other aspect of her job.

When I have a lot to do, I tend to move quickly. Years ago at work, I used to swiftly type up what I wanted to say and hit 'send', not bothering with the little things like capitalization or punctuation. My manager had a discussion with me about how the person on the receiving end cannot see expressions or hear tone, so it's important to be careful how each sentence is worded. I didn't realize I appeared lazy and unprofessional to my coworkers. They didn't expect much out of my work performance. 

If you want people  to take you seriously, follow these tips when you send any type of correspondence:

1. Know the rules of grammar and spelling. Find a good grammar guide and familiarize yourself with the concepts. Since my manager now handles most of the note-taking during board meetings, the surgeons in my office provided her with a book I'm sure you already know about, The Elements of Style. I told her it was the perfect gift; now she doesn't bother me with so many questions! 

2. Open with a proper greeting. Saying “hey” or “what’s up” is too friendly for business. Use the person’s name whenever possible. In emails, I often omitted a greeting, but this is considered unprofessional. Now I use a greeting of some kind in all my emails, on my day job and my writing correspondence. 

3. Close with a polite salutation and your full contact information. 'Sincerely' seems to be out of fashion. I often see professionals closing with “Thanks,” or “Regards,”. I like to use “Blessings,” at the end most of my emails. The recipient also needs to know your full name and your business title, as well as your phone and social media connections. A logo or brand is also essential so they know exactly who you are. 

4. Proofread before sending. Typos happen to all of us, so review everything! Better yet, get a second opinion. At the office we used to send appeal letters to insurance companies without proofreading, and once I wrote the wrong patient name on a letter. I was mortified when I discovered my mistake! Now we proofread every letter that goes out. 

5. Slow down and take your time. I can't tell you how many times I rushed through a note and ended up with typos. Just the other day I misspelled a word in the subject line of an email, and it was quite embarrassing. I seem to get into all sorts of trouble when I rush. 

6. Sometimes you have to take a break. On bigger projects, walk away and find something else to do for a few minutes. Every time I sent a query about my novel, I got tense and anxious because I wanted to make it perfect. In order to relax, I often stepped away from my desk and took a few deep breaths, or even slept on it. I found when I returned I could focus easier.

You want to leave a positive, professional impression on those reading your correspondence, so be careful what you write! What are some writing techniques you would recommend to someone who wants to establish credibility?


Jen grew up on the Columbia River Gorge and currently lives in Alaska with her husband, two children, two boxers, and two cats. Her goal is to write novels that encourage women to look for positive qualities in a life partner, and to foster an environment of real romance, rather than fantasy, as they grow old with their spouse. For more, visit her website at You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. She also contributes to 3 sites: Under the Cover of Prayer, Moms of Faith and Real Christian Wives.

Giveaway Info

What: The Whispers of Angels ebook by Jen Cudmore   

Don't forget, if you don't have an ereader, you can download a free Kindle for PC. This feature allows you to download a free Kindle reading app for your computer and other mobile devices. Click here for details. 

  • You must be a GFC (Google Friend Connect) follower and leave your email address with your comment.
  • Gain bonus entries (+1 each) by posting this on Facebook, your blog, and/or Twitter. Please total your entries and include links with your comment.
  • Open to residents of the United States.
  • Deadline to enter is midnight EST Thursday, March 20, 2014. Winner will be chosen by, notified via email and will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Winner will be announced Monday, March 24, 2014. 

Do you agree with Jen? What do you do to ensure professional correspondence?

Happy writing,


P.S. The winner of last week's giveaway is Jessica Haight. Congratulations Jess!  Thanks to everyone who entered.

Photo credit: Stock Exchange