Twist on National Novel Writing Month

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResNext year I may be ready for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This year, I’m focused on a rewrite of a non-fiction book, writing blog posts and writing copy for my website. It’s a lot of writing, and I admit I’ve been procrastinating.

The other week at a conference I attended, Michele Cook challenged members to participate in NaNoWriMo, even if it was to simply write each day of the month, which is exactly what I’m going to do. I’m clearing my calendar as I’m able. Some days I will write during my lunch hour. Other days, I’ll write in the evening. On a few days, I’m going to have to set my alarm clock to rise early and write. I’ve scheduled it all and noted what I plan to write. If I don’t do that, I’ll find a way to avoid writing.

Michele said she threw out the challenge to get some personal accountability. “Having someone else to answer to helps me stay motivated.” With a 7,000-word novel underway, Michele hopes to get a “solid first draft finished or close to it.” She expects she will need to keep writing past the Nov. 30 deadline to reach her 70,000- to 80,000-word goal.

Julie Campbell, who wrote “The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History,” isn’t focused on writing a novel. But she is going to use the month to write and polish an essay and then read it at a local event where she lives.

Diane S. Thieke, whom I met at a writer’s conference, is attempting to write a novel. She said, “I’ve attempted to NaNoWriMo five out of the last six years and failed to write my novel each time! Not an auspicious track record. In fact, my lifetime word count is abysmal — just under 6,000 words. But I keep coming back because I find it inspiring, and I’m convinced that one November, I will write 50,000 words. I’m a terribly inconsistent writer, and I’d like to change that. So this year, my goal is simple: to develop the habit of writing for myself every day. Even if I write just 50 words a day in November, I’ll consider it a success.”

I am inspired about NaNoWriMo, which began in 1999. On November 1, participants begin working toward the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Last year more than 384,000 people worked on their novels. Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl are among the NaNoWriMo novels that have been traditionally published, according to the NaNoWriMo website.

Please post in the comment section whether you plan to participate and what your goals are. We can all use the encouragement and cheer for each other.


Spreading the Gospel of Blogging


Javacia Harris Bowser spreads the gospel of blogging. (Photo by Cynthia Price) 

Javacia Harris Bowser is always trying to spread the gospel of blogging.

She’s an ideal person to do that given her success with the platform. Southern Living named her one of the “Innovators Changing the South.”

Blogging, she says, can help you find

  • Your people
  • Your platform
  • Your practice.

She is the founder of See Jane Write, an organization for women writers and bloggers.

Bloggers can expand the reach of their blogs through email marketing, social media marketing and networking marketing.

When asking readers for their email addresses, it’s important for bloggers to give their readers a reason to share. She suggests creating something such as a guide for time management. When the person provides his email address, she provides the guide. Email marketing should be more about giving than taking. “You want to give your readers inspiration and valuable information,” she said.

As part of social media marketing, she recommends identifying one to two social media platforms on which to share the blog content.

Network marketing includes making smart talk, not small talk. One way to do this is to ask others about their passions. Always bring business cards that include the blog’s URL.

Bloggers also should focus on the 3 Cs: clarity, content and consistency. Javacia says bloggers should be clear about why they are starting a blog. Reasons may include for visibility and credibility or to share their work’s mission.

She suggests that bloggers produce content at least once a week. She also recommends using photos, videos and podcasts within blogs.

To consistently post, Javacia urged her audience to plan and produce content a month in advance.

Bloggers also must promote their posts through social media and email. She noted, “If you write it, they will come” simply won’t work.

Fall: The Perfect Time To Review Goals

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

Scott Fitzgerald

In the last week, I’ve written a few thousand words, shredded documents, organized a room and decluttered a space.

20171007_110421Fitzgerald was right about the crispness of fall. It gives me both energy and a desire to ready my space for hibernating in the winter. That’s why now is the perfect time of year to look at your goals and see what progress you have made. Maybe you haven’t looked at your goals since you made them in January. Oops!

That’s okay, you have three months to either begin them and carry forward into 2018 or to finish them in 2017.

I’m on track with a few goals, but one has all but derailed. That’s my goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. A knee injury had limited me to almost no movement. I finally saw a doctor, who prescribed a treatment plan. I’m up to 5,000 steps a day, which is progress. Rather than berate myself for not making the other 5,000 steps, I’ve adjusted my goal and continue to monitor my progress.

My financial goals are on track, but this is the time of year I have to be careful. Sweaters entice me as do holiday sales. As a result, I aim to finish my holiday shopping by Nov. 1. I find it to be the only way to keep myself from being drawn into sales for things I don’t need to buy for me or others. While others search for parking spaces and fight the crowds, I’m hoping to be reading books from my book list.

As you think about what is important to you, think about how you might set a goal in that area. One of my friends said she wants to start giving back and is exploring where she might put in some volunteer hours.

As you review or set your goals make sure they are SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound (or trackable)

Another good tip is to set performance goals, not outcome goals. It’s important to have control over the goals. For example, my goal can be that I want to publish a novel. Unless I am self publishing, I’m not going to have much control over the publication of the novel. What I can control is how many pages or words I write each week and the steps I will take to find an agent and publisher.

Here’s to crisp fall days and meetings goals. I know I’ll reach one of my play goals – to jump in a pile of leaves!

Remembering a Faithful Reader

Not many people comment on my blog posts. One reader, though, was great about writing a short comment every now and then.

I met this reader years ago at the annual communications conference for NFPW. I was thinking I might see her at this year’s conference. Sadly, that was not the case.

At this year’s In Memoriam service her name appeared on the screen. Mary Lou Hinrichsen of Iowa was 90 years old when she died on Feb. 5, 2017. She embraced her roles as a journalist, farmer and musician. She was a former Iowa Press Women president and Communicator of Achievement.

I didn’t know she had passed away until her name was read at the service. I didn’t know her well, but when I heard her name, I realized I had lost a friend.

We always said hello at conferences and had brief conversations. I looked forward to her occasional comments on the blog.

She made my day when she did that. I doubt she knew that often she would leave her comment on the day I needed encouragement about continuing my blog.

We may not always know when or how we touch each other’s lives. Mary Lou Hinrichsen and I touched each other’s lives thousands of miles apart through a blog.

“You do a great job of keeping me up to date out here in the cornfields of Iowa on what’s going on.”

~ Mary Lou Hinrichsen

Here’s one of her comments: “Count me as a faithful reader, even when I don’t comment. You do a great job of keeping me up to date out here in the cornfields of Iowa on what’s going on.”

I always keep that image of Mary Lou out in the cornfields of Iowa in my mind as I write a post for my blog. I’ll continue to do that in her memory.

When You Are the Speaker

When I first started speaking to groups, I always assumed the organizer would have everything I needed. Keep in mind, this was long before we had laptop computers. In fact, I know I presented a few times using an overhead projector. Later, I would bring my presentation on a thumb drive. Sometimes, though, my file was a much newer version of the software program and the organizer’s computer couldn’t handle my presentation.

One time I was dinged because I had to stand near the laptop so I could advance my slides. Yep, the organizers didn’t have a wireless remote. And then there was the time, the organizers didn’t provide a glass of water.

By now, you probably have figured out where I’m going with this. I’m fully prepared as a speaker to be self-sufficient with the exception of the projector. Here’s what I take with me when I am presenting:

  1. Personal laptop with my presentation stored on the desktop and in the cloud (just in case!).
  2. Cables to connect my laptop to a projector. It seems that more and more every computer has a cable that is a slightly different size than what you need to plug into. I now have a few combinations to ensure that I can connect.
  3. Thumb drive. On the off-chance that I can’t connect to the projector and the organizer has provided a laptop or has a smart classroom, I can simple insert my thumb drive with my presentation, and I’m ready to go.
  4. The cloud. Technically, I don’t take this with me, but I always store a copy of my presentation in the cloud. If all else fails, I can access it via the web.
  5. Wireless clicker that allows me to advance my slides from most anywhere within the room. I don’t like to stand behind a podium because I prefer to engage with my audience. That means I need to move around the room.
  6. Bottled water so I can clear a tickle in my throat before it becomes a full-on coughing fit.
  7. Hard copy of my presentation. Sometimes technology doesn’t work no matter what you do. I’m always prepared to give a presentation without any technology.

Creative Take on Conference

When I go to conferences, I fill a notebook with key points I want to remember. I slip in the business cards of people I’ve met. Sometimes, I even go back and review my notes.

About a year ago, though, I was inspired to be a bit more creative. It came about when I took Shonali Burke’s Social PR Quiz. That was followed by three helpful webinars and homework assignments.  I decided it was time to see if I had learned anything.

At the recent NFPW conference, I summarized the week by creating a document with photos, inspiring quotes and key takeaways.

What do you think of my creative conference summary?



How to Respond to a Reporter Query

Finding subject matter experts can be a challenge for journalists working on tight deadlines and multiple stories. When a reporter needs an expert for a quote or background material they may tweet a request for such an expert or use a resource such as HARO or ProfNet.

Journalists list what they are seeking and by when. The information is shared with those who subscribe.

If you are an expert or the public relations practitioner pitching an expert what’s the best way to respond to such queries?

Confirm availability. Your expert likely needs a bit of time to write her response to the reporter’s query. That’s fine. But do let the reporter know you have an expert available along with her credentials. The reporter then knows to expect a response, and may provide additional questions.

Keep it short and direct. Provide a few sentences outlining what the expert will share. Then include the expert’s credentials and contact details for the expert and yourself as you will likely serve as the facilitator. Stay on topic. Don’t try to pitch a different story.

Be specific in the subject line. Reporters often work on multiple stories. Let the reporter know you are responding to her query and which one.

Explain the fit. Experts abound so explain what makes your expert the right fit for this story. Provide the information the reporter seeks. If you can’t do that, don’t waste the reporter’s time.

Provide the materials. Your expert should provide a succinct response written in simple language. This is typically three to five sentences. Send the material along with the expert’s availability and contact details.

Track the reporter and publication. Some reporters will reach out and do a more in-depth interview. Others will at least acknowledge receipt of the information. From some you will hear nothing. It will be your responsibility to find the story placement. If you don’t use a media tracking service, it’s often easiest to Google the reporter and find the story that way.