Wednesday, October 24, 2018

3 Things I've Learned From Freelance Writing

If you've been writing for any length of time, you know that it has its ups and downs. One day your inbox might hold an acceptance letter for a magazine article query, the next, a rejection letter from that client you'd hoped to gain. One thing remains consistent; there's always something to learn. From sharpening our research or marketing skills to polishing our fiction writing, we can always improve. Every portion of this writing journey has value, for it brings us to where we are today and beyond.

Reflecting on my recent freelance work, it occurred to me how much I've gained. Three things stand out:

  • Greater Writing Efficiency - In the early days, I wrote copious amounts of beautiful prose. Or so I thought. Actually, much of it was okay, just sorely in need of tightening and prudent editing. It was hard to cut those precious words until I saw the value of crisp writing and editing. Practicing word economy yielded more efficient work, with less to edit. This means higher quality writing, faster results, and greater productivity.
  • An Expanded Skill Set - Freelancing has offered opportunities to write on various topics and in different formats. From lesson plans for K-adult to articles, ads, and web content, I've learned much. Recent freelance pursuits include the home improvement industry and drug addiction programs. This experience offers knowledge and skills I can offer to future students, clients, and publications.
  • People Skills - If we're writing for publication, we must deal with people, whether in person, by phone, or email. As writers, you'd think we'd be naturally good at communicating like this. But that's not always true. Even sales and other business experience didn't fully prepare me for the freelance world. What I've gained through freelancing provides valuable insight for communication in other areas of life as well.  

We all know how to cultivate these results - by doing what we're likely already doing, but perhaps with more focus, awareness, and purpose toward our goals. I've hardly arrived into the famous writers' arena, but here are the things that have facilitated my progress in these three areas.

Greater writing efficiency takes time and practice. This doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen in a writer who has a heart for gaining knowledge and growth. Keep learning, always. It's helped me to take classes, webinars, read books, blog posts, and articles, observe others' work, and utilize all the great resources available. Further pursuits include getting a few critique partners, learning to self edit, developing a sharp eye for flaws and cluttered prose.

Expanding a skill set comes in many forms, and ties in with writing efficiency above. I continue to stretch through reading, research, continuing education, and practice. Other things that have helped are writing in other genres, ones that aren't as comfortable. I started a blog and experimented with Blogger and Wordpress. Writing lessons for my teen students offers opportunities to write examples, like mock ads, fiction, and news stories. I keep an informal log of interesting words, phrases, and quotes. I'm often thinking about writing ideas, and am an observer of people, events, and good books, both fiction and nonfiction.

As time allows, it's also helped to stay current with marketing and freelancing trends. Though it's not essential to know all the practices and jargon, it can be an asset to your writing journey. For example, I learned recently what onboarding is and how it'll help with freelance clients. To better target customers and editors, it's also important to know your USP. And all freelancers can save time and money knowing how to avoid scope creep.

People skills are shaped and influenced by our background, experience, and personality type. Good interaction with clients, editors, publishers, and fellow writers is often contingent on how knowledgeable and confident we feel about our skills. How do we improve and stay sharp? Practice good etiquette and common sense. Observe others (what to and not to do). Talk to other writers and business owners.  Read. Research. Learn by doing.

As an introvert, public relations can be a stretch. You might recall this post that discusses things this shy writer has learned about social media interaction. Extroverts, too, experience their challenges building these skills, as I've observed those who've come on too strong or directed energy in the wrong direction. No matter where we might fall in that regard, it's important to enhance our skills and find a good balance that works for us.

Writing is a grand adventure, isn't it? It cultivates valuable growth and wonderful potential for all of life's future pursuits.

What stands out among the things you've learned on your writing journey? 

Time for a Change 

After more than nine years, I've decided to step away from my blog. This decision comes as I pursue new projects and commitments that require more time. I may return someday, and will still be out there writing guest posts and all that good stuff.

Blogging here has offered blessings beyond what I'd imagined. Thank you for offering your wisdom, kindness, and friendship. Will do my best to visit your blogs as I can. Love you all! :)

Happy writing,

Image credit: Pexels

Monday, September 24, 2018

Book Spotlight with Jeanette Levellie

Jeanette Levellie is here to celebrate the second edition release of The Heart of Humor: Sixty Helpings of Hilarity to Nourish Your Soul. It's a wonderful book, full of insight and humor that does exactly what it says, nourishes the soul. (Check out my review below.)

As you might have guessed, Jen and I met through blogging, and she's since become a good friend. So I'm excited to help her spread the word about this wonderful book.

Welcome Jen! Can you give us an overview of The Heart of Humor?

By all means! Here is the back cover copy, which took almost as much time and thought to write than the entire book:

Welcome to a vacation from stress, worry, and global whining. Learn the secrets of how laughter can help you:

  • Live healthier & longer
  • Deepen your relationships
  • Trust a God with the sense of humor that gives a 90-year-old lady a baby

In her sassy yet down-to-earth style, award-wining author and speaker Jeanette Levellie takes readers on fun trip through 45 short stories with titles like An Outhouse to Celebrate, Confessions of a Jailbird, and Swimsuit Shopping Stress. Accompanying the stories are comical drawings by a professional animator, articles, and lists revealing the superpowers of humor such as Got Pain? Laugh it Away, Everybody Loves Dummies, and Ten Ways to Help Yourself Laugh.

I can vouch for the fact that Heart of Humor is a fun and encouraging read. How did the idea for it come about?

I’d been writing humor columns for a Christian magazine for five years. I had so many on file, I decided to compile the best ones into a book. After writing articles about the benefits of humor and compiling lists of humor quotes and the best funny movies, The Heart of Humor was born. In this second edition, we’ve added 8 cartoons and a new cover, which has a laughing redhead who looks suspiciously like me!

Yes...I noticed that - the cover does somehow resemble you. :) What other books have you written? Can you share a bit about them?

Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, my best seller, is a humorous devotional focusing on God’s bottomless heart of grace. Comical drawings from my son accompany nine of the chapters.

Shock the Clock is a fun time management system that focuses on different personality types. A great feature of this book is the list of time management tips by well-known Christian authors, agents, and editors.

Touchable God, features 25 personal stories about how I developed friendship with God through talking to him. The final 20 chapters are actual prayers for friends in crisis.

Thanks for stopping by, Jen! I know others will be blessed by your books. May you enjoy much success through every facet of your life and writing.

Thank you, Karen!

Find Jeanette 

Jeanette's Books 

The Heart of Humor  
Shock the Clock 
Touchable God

My Review of The Heart of Humor

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Jeanette Levellie’s gift for humor is evident, and shines through every chapter. Readers will appreciate her down to earth style, and will laugh (maybe cry, too) as she shares personal anecdotes and lessons learned. For example, one of my favorite chapters, “I Love My Hips”, reminds us that our worth goes beyond physical features. Ms. Levellie is the real deal; she understands how important it is to laugh at ourselves and keep a good perspective. I am sure that her wit and wisdom will entertain and lift you up.


Congratulations to Cecelia Lester! She's the winner of a copy of River to Redemption by Ann Gabhart. Thanks to everyone who stopped by for last week's post and interview

Do you think that humor helps us through the hard times? What questions do you have for Jeanette? What are you reading this week?

Happy writing, 

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Visit with Ann Gabhart

Ann Gabhart is back! It's always a pleasure to have this sweet, talented author and fellow Kentucky resident drop by the blog. Ann and I live just a few counties apart, so that makes us almost neighbors, right? I did get to see her again in person last spring when she visited with readers and talked about her books. That was fun, and ever interesting to see how her stories come about. 

This week's theme is Ann's latest book, River to Redemption. We're featuring an interview with Louis, one of River to Redemption's main characters. But first, here's a little about the story: 

Orphaned in the cholera epidemic of 1833, Adria Starr was cared for by a slave named Louis, a man who stayed in Springfield, Kentucky, when anyone with means had fled. A man who passed up the opportunity to escape his bondage and instead tended to the sick and buried the dead. A man who, twelve years later, is being sold by his owners despite his heroic actions. Now nineteen, Adria has never forgotten what Louis did for her. She's determined to find a way to buy Louis's freedom. But in 1840s Kentucky, she'll face an uphill battle.

Based partly on a true story, Ann H. Gabhart's latest historical novel is a tour de force. The vividly rendered town of Springfield and its citizens immerse readers in a story of courage, betrayal, and honor that will stick with them long after they turn the last page. 

Welcome back, Ann. Congratulations on A River to Redemption! I appreciate you sharing this character interview with us. 

Thank you, Karen! It's always fun to stop by! 

Louis, why did you stay in Springfield and care for the sick during the cholera epidemic? 

Well, ma’am, I didn’t feel like I had much choice, being a slave and all. I ain’t never thought about running off. Well, maybe I have thought about it, but I don’t have it so bad working for Master George and who knows what might happen to me if I were to run off and get caught. Most likely I’d get dragged back down here to be sold downriver. Things is worse than bad down there in the south. Besides, once I knew that the old cholera wasn’t gonna carry me off to glory, I could feel the Lord tellin’ me I should stay put and help them. Plenty there was I couldn’t help except by givin’ them a proper burial. I reckon that’s the last service any man can do for another person. I did say words over every single grave and I don’t have no doubts about the Lord listenin’ in. I did hope all of them that died were folks that knowed the Lord. 

You did the community a wonderful service. I admire that. What was your greatest personal challenge during this time? 

The soul weary sadness of it all was heavy on my heart. If’n all them that sickened and died had been old folks or even folks my own age that had had time to live a while, it might not have been so sorrowful. But there was younguns who hadn’t hardly lived no time at all that got the sickness and died. And color didn’t matter none either. It was like a wicked wind swept that bad air through our town and some breathed it in worse than the others. Those worse ones passed on to glory. Some fast like. Sick in the sun comin’ up time. Dead by the time the sun went down. I’m prayin’ the good Lord finds a way to stop the cholera from killing folks. 

I do tell you one thing for sure, ma’am, I was glad as I could be to find the little missy, that Adria child, still breathin’ when I went to her house after the doctor’s wife told me there was some sick ones there. Course all the rest of her family had done been took by the cholera. But Matilda and me, we pulled that child through. I don’t reckon I’ve ever been blessed more by any single human being than I was by that little missy. It was like as how the Lord give me that child to help me hang onto hope whilst burying all those folks. I know she’s white and I’m black, but back when she was a little thing there was times I felt like I was her uncle or something. Related by heart anyhow. I best not be sayin’ that where any white folks can hear. True or not, that wouldn’t be acceptable talk at all. Get me in awful trouble for certain. 

Well, I won't tell, alright? ;) What did you learn from this experience? What would you share with others about dealing with hardship?
That’s not no easy question, ma’am. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve got too many answers. First off, as I done told you, I found out the cholera disease wasn’t no respecter of person. It took whoever it wanted to take, rich or poor, young or old. Fifty-five of them in that first epidemic in 1833. Another epidemic in 1849 carried off thirty-three more. I learned that a man keeps digging, he can get a bunch of graves dug, but he does have to keep digging. I know I couldn’t a done any of it without the good Lord’s hands holding me up when the wearies were ready to overtake me. 

I guess that’s what I’d share with you folks about hardship. The Lord, he went through some hard times. He knows about them kind of bad times and he’s ready to step right up beside you to somehow get you through yours. When things get hard, think on that. Depend on the Lord and when you pray, pray believin’. The Lord can get you through them bad times. Even if he can’t make them go away, he be right there with you every livelong step of the way. 

Yes, ma’am, that’s what I would share with them ready to listen. 

Thank you, Louis! That's good advice. :) Now here's a question for you, Ann. What prompted you to write this story? 

A few years ago when I was trying to think up a new story, I came across this story about Louis in a book about little known Kentucky heroes. Reading about Louis and what he’d done for the town of Springfield and then what the town of Springfield later did for him fired up my imagination. What kind of man was this who could do what he did? Who in the town led the campaign to free him for what he’d done? 

I couldn’t find much information about Louis other than what I read in that first article. So my story surrounding that true bit of history is completely what I imagined might have happened. I’ve written often about true historical events, but I always dropped my fictional characters down into those times and let them live out their stories. But writing this was different since I needed to bring Louis back to life to play an important role in my story. I think readers have been touched and inspired by his character just as I was when I first read that piece about him. 

It sounds like an inspiring story and I'm looking forward to reading it soon. Thanks so much for coming by this week. It's always great to have you visit!

Thank you, Karen!

About Ann Gabhart 

Ann Gabhart, who is the bestselling author of over thirty novels, has been called a storyteller. That’s not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. Ann’s historical novels, including her popular Shaker series, have Kentucky backgrounds. Recently she headed to the Appalachian Mountains for These Healing Hills while her new release, River to Redemption, was inspired by a true story that happened in a small Kentucky town. Ann also writes about family life, love and sometimes mystery (as A.H. Gabhart). She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and enjoy life out on their Kentucky farm. 

Connect with Ann

Twitter - @AnnHGabhart
Find River to Redemption at Amazon and other booksellers

Giveaway Info 

Ann is giving away a print copy of River to Redemption to one of my followers. Here are the details:

  • Open to U.S. residents only.
  • Please leave a comment and your email address.
  • Giveaway ends Thursday, September 20 at midnight EDT.
  • Winner will be notified and must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.

Do you have any questions for Ann? How is September going? What are you reading this month?

Happy writing,

Monday, April 2, 2018

Three Ways Shy Writers Can Boost Social Media Presence

Here is a post from the archives, slightly updated of course, because the inner editor thinks her job is to constantly tweak things. It's been extra busy around here, so thought I'd share this favorite bit of advice. :)

Social Media: Love it or Hate it? 

Do you enjoy using social media? Those close to me know I'm a reluctant social media participant. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy meeting new people and interacting with family and friends. There are great benefits, from blogging and Facebook to Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and more, I've connected and shared with great people all over the globe.

Social media is an excellent marketing tool, one that's necessary for freelancing, writing books, business, and all things related. There are dozens of potential benefits, many of which I've tapped into.

So despite these great benefits, why am I still not a big fan? The two main issues I have are:

1) The constant perceived demand on one's time. We've become a society, as a whole, that thinks everyone should be available 24/7. This translates into pressure for many people. And while it's our choice to partake, the draw and demand are still there. It takes personal discipline and sometimes a steel will to avoid getting drawn in, buckling under the pressure, and spending too much time meeting the demands, whether real or perceived. (See more on the importance of saying no in this post.)

2) The "TMI - ATT" syndrome. Too Much Information - All. The. Time. While not everyone is prone to sharing too much personal info, social media offers the perfect forum to do so. Call me old fashioned, but I think that there are details of one's life that aren't meant to be spread about everywhere. Certain conversations are best left one to one, with family or a close friend. In many ways too, I think this hinders a quality social media experience.

If you are a big proponent of social media, please don't be offended by my thoughts here. That's not my intent. I value and understand the benefits, and realize that some people are more wired for social media than I am. They're outgoing and enjoy and often need that interaction with others. I get that, and mean no disrespect to those who feel that way.

So this is where I'm coming from - I'm a shy writer who's never been a social butterfly, ever. One who's happier with her nose in a book than at a party of a thousand of her closest friends. My conscientious self wants to help everyone I can, but social media can set me on overload.

That said, what can one such as I do to better engage on social media? Where does the balance lie? It's different for everyone, depending on whether promoting books, freelance writing services, or simply to engage in a little socialization.

What's a Shy Writer to Do?

No matter what kind of social media fan (or not) you are, perhaps these three tips will lend a hand.

1) Spread the love by sharing. If I enjoy the content of a blog or website, I usually share it with others by sharing on Twitter, posting on Facebook or Google+, or pinning on Pinterest. Most sites have share buttons somewhere on the screen, and it only takes a few seconds to do so. It boosts your visibility on social media while sharing good info with others.

2) Schedule posts in advance. Social media management sites provide free tools to schedule and manage tweets, posts, etc. on your most used outlets. My favorite is Hootsuite. I take a little time each month there, scheduling tweets and posts in advance. It's a big time saver, and provides exposure for whatever I wish to promote, whether it's friends' or my own work/services or other links and items worth sharing. Other sites, such as Facebook now have scheduling options as well.

3) Make it do double duty. Many social media outlets allow you to post through them onto other sites. For instance, I set up my Facebook author page's posts to automatically appear on Twitter too. Others, such as Pinterest and Instagram provide the same options. Check the settings to see what options are available. One word of caution - if you are, for example, a frequent pinner on Pinterest, and it's linked to Facebook, your feed can be flooded with posts. So check the settings and see how much you want to share, or not.

Whether you're a shy or outgoing writer or other creative, there are dozens of handy tools available to strike your right social media balance.

A Break

It's time for me to take a break. There are new things happening here, old things that need attention, and a heart that needs quiet space to focus on some spiritual things. As much as I dislike placing a temporary hold on blogging, it's necessary. Lest you think otherwise, all is well. Just realized recently that I'm close to going from the "want to blog" to the "have to blog", and that's not good. So it's time for a hiatus. Please know that I love you all and appreciate your support more than I can say. See you in September. :) 

Your Thoughts 

Do you enjoy social media? Why or why not? What helps you balance social media time with other parts of life? What's on your writing schedule this month?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Pixabay