Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guest Post by Carol Roth

7 Ways to Mentor a Future Businesswoman

by Carol Roth

Adapted from her new book The Entrepreneur Equation

For girls, Barbie has been a good role model, showing them that attractive females can be astronauts, diplomats, and doctors. But when Ken launched his aggressive social media campaign to get Barbie to take him back by Valentine's Day (she did) after their 7-year breakup, Barbie's work-life balance seems to have gone out of kilter.

Message to Barbie: Ken's great, but don't let him distract you from your serious career goals. Like many young professional gals, Barbie has been successful working for others. But she's also occasionally worked for herself and been entrepreneurial, as an aerobics instructor, veterinarian, wedding stylist, photographer, pediatrician, and makeup artist, to name a few.

If, like Barbie, your girl has a nose for business and dreams of owning her own company one day, here are some ways you can help her grow into the role. If a girl can learn these skills while she's still playing with dolls, she'll be well on her way to success in any future profession.

Tell her she's good enough. Even the young businesswomen I coach hit a brick wall of fear. Can I do it? Can I learn it? Will I succeed? Yes, yes, and yes. Remind your girl often that she's got what it takes.

Stop her when she's self-critical. There's a difference between having high standards and beating yourself up. Women and girls tend to be hard on themselves. Teach your girl to do the opposite.

Don't discourage her inner Barbie. These days, I see lots of beautiful, successful women in business who have embraced their femininity. It's okay to be a girlie-girl. In fact, I've found it has some real business advantages.

Help her be honest, not nice. Our mothers taught us to be nice all the time, which was not always to our advantage. In business and in life, your girl needs to learn how to be polite, but honest. She'll garner more respect that way.

Tell her not to wait to be called on. Girls raise their hands and then wait for their cue to talk. Successful businesswomen speak up and contribute their ideas before they're asked to.

Help her think big. No goal is too big for a young girl to believe. When girls create an ambitious vision for their future, it will shape everything they do -- in school, extracurricular activities, and socially.

Encourage her to fear not. The fear of going after something and being rejected is often stronger in girls and women because they are taught to be safe, while males are taught to be risk takers.

* * *

Carol Roth ( has been helping businesses grow for over 15 years, ranging from solopreneurs to multinational corporations. A popular media personality on Fox News, MSNBC, and WGN-TV Chicago, among others, she is author of a new book, The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business (BenBella, March 22, 2011). Because she aims to be a role model for girls and young women, she created the Carol Roth special edition doll -- sporting a smart black dress, leather computer bag, and hot-pink heels -- to show girls it's okay to be beautiful, successful, and powerful when they grow up. Carol Roth is on the cover of February's Doll's Magazine (

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Opportunities for Young Writers

  • The Stories for Children Magazine is in need of poetry and craft submissions for our May, Summer and Back-to-School issues. We are also always looking for submissions from youth authors ages 17 and under. If you have any wonderful ideas you would like to share with us or know of a talented writer who might be interested, please pass this info on. The Stories for Children Magazine guidelines can be found at
  • Call for Scripts, VSA Playwright Discovery (Washington, D.C.) VSA invites middle and high school students to take a closer look at the world around them, examine how disability affects their lives and the lives of others, and express their views through the art of playwriting. Playwrights may write from their own experience or about an experience in the life of another person or fictional character. Scripts can be comedies, dramas, or even musicals - be creative! Deadline to submit is April 15, 2011. For more information, please visit
  • The Etheridge Knight Poetry Contest for Young People was established in conjunction with the annual Etheridge Knight Festival that honors the work of the acclaimed African American poet Etheridge Knight and to further as established to honor the work of acclaimed African American poet Etheridge Knight and to encourage understanding of the things in life that troubled him and that he held dear. Deadline: March 18, 2011. For guidelines and writing exercises visit
  • Night of Vonnegut Writing Contest: The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is holding our second writing contest. We are asking you to tell us why you think that Kurt Vonnegut's writing is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. The first place winner will receive two tickets to "Night of Vonnegut" on April 16. First, second, and third place winners will have their essays posted on the KVML blog. Please keep your entries under 1000 words and include a cover sheet with your contact information. Winners will be contacted April 8. Thank you for your participation and continued support. We look forward to reading your entries!
  • Send your essay by March 25th to Rebeccah Glass Lowe, Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, The Emelie Building, 340 N. Senate Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46204 or to Corey Dalton at
  • Norman Mailer High School Writing Awards: Free contest for currently enrolled high school students; offers $5,000 and a trip to NYC for the award ceremony. 2011 genre is creative nonfiction. Submit one or more essays, maximum 10 single-spaced pages total, through their online form.
  • Sylvia Burack Writing Award: Recommended free contest for personal essays by 11th and 12th grade students in the US or Canada. Prize is $500 and publication in The Writer, a monthly magazine with advice and markets for creative writers. Submit a 600- to 800-word personal essay in English on the theme of a "work of fiction, poem or play that has influenced you. Discuss the work and explain how it affected you."


    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Interview with Barbara Forte Abate

    I'm delighted to have Barbara Forte Abate, author of the new novel The Secret of Lies, as my guest today! 

    What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

    I’m pretty certain that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It seems the yearning was just always there swirling around in my head. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, a middle child who spent an ordinate amount of time daydreaming. I aspired to great things in my mind, but was never so confident as to actually share my ambitions out loud, convinced that no one would believe an ordinary girl like me capable of accomplishing something as exceptional as writing books.

    Although it would be years after graduating high school before I would actually sit down with my blank yellow pad, held to the chair by my determination to launch head-first into the still simmering dream to write, once I got started – that first sentence, paragraph, page – the love of creating stories was fully returned and off at a gallop.

    The Secret of Lies is my first published novel, but it isn’t the first one I’ve written. That first book lives a quiet existence on a dark shelf in the closet. It’s not very good, but I hold onto it for what it represents – because those finished pages were so effective in pushing me past the barrier erected between the desire of wanting to write and actually doing it.

    Tell us about The Secret of Lies. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

    It amazes me really, how clearly I recall the precise moment when the idea for this book came skidding into my mind – not because it was so extraordinary or profound, but because once it arrived, it stayed to become a twenty-year obsession. I’d just finished writing my first novel, and although it felt like a sing-from-the-mountain-tops-milestone-accomplishment, I recognized that it wasn’t the book I wanted to write. I was absolutely primed and ready for something bigger and so when this seed of an idea arrived – the thought of someone stepping out the door and simply walking away from their life for reasons yet unknown – it felt exciting and potentially very important.

    Because I married young and had three of my four children at the time, life was forever busy and full to the point of overflowing. The only opportunity I had for attempting to write was when my two little girls were at school and the baby was taking her afternoon nap. This was to be my routine for years, writing on my yellow pads over the span of a bazillion afternoons – eternally thankful that baby Chelsea was a marathon napper!

    When I started this story I didn’t so much have a plan as I had abundant passion. No fleshed out characters, plot, or destination -- it truly unfolded as I poured words onto the pages. And once I began to understand and fully care about my characters they returned the favor by telling me their story.

    What have you learned through writing this book?

    The most obvious answer would be that I learned what it takes to write a book – not any book, but one I’m proud of. Because I pretty much jumped directly into marriage and family only a few years after graduating high school, I wasn’t armed with an abundance of writing skills when I first sat down with the intention to write a book. I was intimidated enough by the reality of how little I knew about the writing process that I was careful not to look at that particular fact too close or for too long. I bought stacks of used books: grammar, writing technique, a dictionary that weighed as much as a cinder block, punctuation and sentence structure, The Elements of Style – pretty much everything I didn’t pay enough attention to while I was in school. Dig-in and forge ahead was my plan and I stuck with it – for twenty years. It truly was a learning process like no other, and by the time I realized exactly what I was up against and the reserves required for the journey, I was in far too deep to shut the door and walk away.

    Not only did I learn that getting the words right would take years (there came a point when I simply had to stop counting rewrites and edits, as the numbers had climbed high enough to be nearly frightening), but then came the most emotionally brutal portion of the challenge – the years and years of rejections and insistent knocking on closed doors that no one intended to answer anytime soon.

    It was around this time when I fully came to understand just how important writing was to me – the fact that I refused to give up when by every indication it was time to hang up my pen. Every returned manuscript landed like a punch in the stomach, but once I recovered it only made me dig in deeper. Only then, when I was pushing so determinedly to find a place for my novel in the world did I realize my own strength, and the determined faith I was wielding like a weapon and a shield at the same time.

    I love that -- the idea that faith can be both a weapon and shield. Your words are inspirational to anyone following their dreams! Tell us, how did you get started writing?

    I’ve always been crazy in love with books, and so writing my own felt like something just waiting to happen. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I started composing stories in grade school and it wasn’t long until one of my classmates and I got the idea to compose an “underground” newspaper that consequently ended up getting us into a good deal of trouble when our teacher found copies stashed in our desks.

    Even then, it was my little pink diary that contained my best fiction. I had an enormous fear that my sisters would find my hiding place at the back of our shared closet, so whenever I wrote anything I invented names, characters and a random scene or two in an effort to camouflage the passages of truth. Even now a bajillion years later, I employ that same technique when journaling, not because of snooping sisters, but more because I tend to journal only when I’m angry, disappointed, or disillusioned. Venting in written form has always been medicinal for me, but it’s generally very exposed and ugly to look back on once the moment has passed. By putting it all down in my peculiar code of fictitious names and lingo, it later reads back as mostly ridiculous and amusing, rather than the ramblings of a tyrant.

    What is your writing process like?

    I’ve always written my first drafts in longhand on big yellow legal pads. There’s something that feels so authentically creative about filling those stark blank pages with thoughts, words, and scribbles. We didn’t own a computer when I completed my first draft of The Secret of Lies, which looking back now I can’t even imagine, but once I’d finished I knew I couldn’t send it out to agents and publishers as it was – scribbled out on yellow pads – so I asked a friend to borrow her typewriter.

    Coincidently, having the loaner typewriter parked on the kitchen table for the next several months was the not-so-difficult-to-decipher clue that tipped my husband and children to the fact that I’d been clandestinely penning a novel. I was so insecure over my abilities, and had been holding to the fear that everyone would consider my writing a self-absorbed and egotistical pursuit, that I only wrote in the afternoons while my children were napping. As it turned out, it was a very misplaced assumption on my part, because my family has been nothing other than supportive, encouraging, and glowingly proud of my writerly accomplishments.

    How do you get ideas for what you write?

    The most inspiring ideas seem to come from those things I find unfolding right around me – not necessarily up-close and personal, but within reach if I’m paying attention. If I merely pass the time loitering in the space my own life occupies, my writing can become stale, and really, the world at large is positively rich with ingredients to season any writers stew. Startling or unusual news stories have provided useable hints and clues for current and future stories. Overheard conversations passed between strangers can lend themselves to characters or scenes in development – most recently a young woman in the grocery store berating her “selfish and inconsiderate” boyfriend over her cell phone at the same time she calmly examined a box of Fruity Pebbles Cereal. I’ve also discovered more than a few striking characteristics for characters in development while flipping through a magazine and finding myself captivated by an intriguing photograph.

    Even then, the ideas I find most durable over the course of writing a story are those that seem to come up from nowhere in particular. I can’t say I understand how it works really, and even after years of chasing my imagination I’m still unsure how it is that our thoughts can so consistently wander off into places we don’t always recognize or even know we possess, diving deep and returning time and again with the components essential for creating memorable stories.

    What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

    First and foremost you have to trust the internal plug-in that gave you the dream to begin with, and then you have to be willing to invest in yourself. I will never be convinced otherwise that the desires of our heart are not random. They are in fact eternal and altogether necessary. It’s far too easy when the path turns rocky to convince ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to go the distance and grasp the prize – or worse, allow others to tell us what we’re capable of, where we fit, and what we should be doing. Trust in your abilities and love what you create. It all begins and ends with the faith you pack-up and carry along on the journey. Dare to be unique, aspire to be remarkable.

    What are some of your favorite books?

    My first favorite book was The Secret Garden, but my favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only do I love everything about the story and characters, but I remember reading it for the first time when I was in middle school and thinking how desperately I wished I could write like Harper Lee. Another favorite is The Great Gatsby, and most books by Augusten Burroughs. A Girl Named Zippy is a funny, touching, beautifully written memoir. And I recently read and loved both Water for Elephants and Mockingjay.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The goals we create for ourselves and the dreams we aspire too are the difference between a life lived and one truly fulfilled. Being sidetracked by chance or circumstance, not having the necessary education, name tag, or street address, are movable roadblocks and absolutely not cause to abandon those things we’ve set out to accomplish.

    And it does help considerably, if like me, you find that you really don’t like taking ‘no’ for an answer. So that when a door refuses to open to your polite knocking, you know to just go around back and slip-in through that crack in the window. If you’re put in the time, done the work, followed the rules and still haven’t gotten an invitation, then maybe it’s time to put on your best outfit and crash the party.

    Connect with Barbara

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Interview with Anjuelle Floyd, author of "The House"

    Anjuelle Floyd is the author of Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident, a collection of interconnected short stories, and a novel, The House, published in October 2010. She is a wife of twenty-eight years, mother of three, and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in mother-daughter relations and dream work.

    A graduate of Duke University, she received her MA in Counseling Psychology from The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and she has attended the Dominican Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, California. Anjuelle received a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Port Townsend, Washington. She has also received certificates of participation from The Hurston-Wright Writers’ Week and The Voices of Our Nations Writing Workshops.

    A student of Process Painting for the last decade, Anjuelle has participated in The Art of Living Black Exhibitions 2004-2011 held at the Richmond Art Center in California. Anjuelle facilitates writing groups and provides individual consultation of fiction projects. She also gives talks on The Need for Family, The Writing Process as a Path Toward Self-Discovery and Healing. Anjuelle hosts Book Talk, Creativity and Family Matters, a blog talk radio show at

    Tell us about The House. What was your inspiration behind this book?

    I wrote The House as a result of taking a writing class entitled, Story Basics. Having earned my MFA in Creative Writing I was scheduled to teach the class in a masters level writing programs. My experience as a student in the class served as training for me to teach it.

    The main primer for the class, Story Basics, is Writing for Story by Jon Franklin, a Pulitzer Prize Winning Essayist. In Writing for Story, Franklin addresses the importance of career writers learning to develop an outline or blueprint for writing their fiction.

    Upon graduating my MFA program I began exploring various ways and methods for planning out my stories and novels, but that also left enough undiscovered territory that I gained even more excitement to write the story. I wanted to develop or find an outline that fueled my desire to write, not take it away with planning to point of leaving no mystery.

    The Franklin Outline as explained in Writing For Story did that for me. A requirement of the class is to use Franklin’s Outline or some variation thereof to plan a story or novel and then write the story or beginning of the novel, about 10,000 words. I had intended to write a short story. Focusing on craft allowed me to enter that gray area of life that I love to explore.

    What have you learned through writing this book?

    I learned much about the art and skill of crafting novels during the process of The House. My first publication, Keeper of Secrets...Translations of an Incident, is a collection of short stories. The short stories served as my thesis in earning my MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College.

    Unlike with Keeper of Secrets...Translations of an Incident, that was traditionally published, I formed my own company and published The House. I wore both the hat of the artist and writer and the cap of the publisher, entrepreneur. I worked with the graphic artist who developed my cover, I worked with the editor who helped me revise The House, I started my website, and began writing and posting blogs on a consistent basis. I opened accounts at Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc. I joined Twitter and began tweeting, though I am yet to understand how it works. Then again writing requires the author to become comfortable with hanging out in the unknown.

    I hired a person to format my book. And I purchased a computer program that would allow me to begin learning how to lay out a book for print. Much like the central character of The House, Anna, I became a businesswoman along with being an artist. I have learned that the two fit quite nicely hand-in-hand.

    I also learned that while recent developments in computer and Internet technology allow us as publishers to print a book in a matter of 30 minutes or less, the human creativity which sits at the very center of crafting a story works on a time that is all its own. The human imagination cannot be rushed. Stories take time. Every story holds the parallel plots--that of the protagonist in the story, and the writer crafting the story. Both are intricately bound, one no more important than the other.

    For our stories to move and transform readers, nudge and shift their perspectives and consciousness the words we write must affect and change us. In short I learned patience and perseverance. “Bird by bird,” as Annie Lamott says. Chop wood. Carry water. Plant flowers along the way, as a Jesuit priest urged, “One daffodil at a time.”

    How did you get started writing?
    Studying psychology and becoming a licensed and practicing psychotherapist has given me a strong background for developing characters. That I also studied various spiritualities and religions gave me the understanding of how a person’s spirituality and religious beliefs, or lack thereof, reveal another important aspect of personality and character that provides the basis for plot.

    My postgraduate internship took me to the counseling center at a local college. By the end of the fall semester, Thanksgiving, I knew I needed to take some time off. I had been in school for four years straight. My children were ages 8-years-old and 5-years-old. I was tired.

    On returning to work after Thanksgiving, I announced I would be ending my internship when the college closed for Christmas break. The director of the counseling center was very upset. He acted like a jilted lover, a lonely and bereft husband. His behavior was quite strange.

    In an effort to gain some clarity as to what was going in my relationship with the director I sought an astrology reading from my former astrology teacher. The astrologer explained that I had been married to the director in a past life and that my choosing to leave the center was a replay of my having left him in a past life. A day or two later, in early December, I sat down to write an essay about the experience of my choosing to leave -- a way of clearing my head. I’d been to the hair salon and returned home with a splitting headache, not normally the case when I’d visited my hair stylist.

    The situation at the college was weighing on me. I went to the computer with an intent to write about the situation, clear my head. I set my fingers onto the computer keys with plans to write an essay. Instead and began writing the opening pages to a novel, set in 1892. Astonished, I kept writing mainly to see what was going to happen next. This continued for four years.

    I left the college counseling center but continued writing. A year later I began another internship at a correctional facility. I also joined a collective where I built a private practice internship.

    During this time I learned of the practice of process painting. I continued working as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, while writing on my novel, and painting. The novel I began, Subtle Incantations, which I now realize is a trilogy, is set in 1892, and chronicles the life of Lilah Montgomery Bearden, who while married to a Britishman and living in England, falls in love with the surgeon who saves her life from a gunshot wound. Born in 1865 while the Battle of Antietam was taking place, Lilah was the daughter of African American slaves.

    On gaining licensure in 1999, three months after giving birth to our third child, I began painting more often, 2-3 3-hour sessions each week. During July of 2000 I wrote my second novel in 2 weeks. I have been told this is a common pattern. A writer will work on their first novel for several years and then write a second one in half or much less the time. My second novel is entitled The Road to Ibadan.
    In 2001 I attended the Hurston-Wright Writers’ Week. I returned in the summer of 2002, but after I had also attended The Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing workshops here in San Francisco. From 2001-2004 I studied under Clive Matson, a local poet, and writer who facilitates weekly writing groups. Three years ago, a local paper, The Express, voted Clive as the Bay Area’s Best Writing Teacher. Having earned a MFA in Writing from Columbia, Clive received the 2003 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award for An Eye for An Eye Makes the Whole World Blind, an anthology of 911 poems that he and the late Allen Cohen compiled.

    In the summer of 2004 I entered Goddard College MFA Program in Creative Writing. Upon graduation in 2006, Three Muses Press, an imprint of Ink and Paper Group, published what had been my MFA thesis, and is entitled, Keeper of Secrets...Translations of an Incident, a collection of 8 interconnected short stories. My novel, The House, debuted in October 2010

    What is your writing process like?

    While I am an abstract painter I have never used any of my work in my writings. I write my stories on a desktop computer at the desk in our study. Everyone knows this is my place. Interestingly enough I sketch my outlines, in a spiral notebook. I am forever buying spiral notebooks. I especially like the thick ones with 200 pages when I am beginning a story. With 200 pages I can not only refine my outline, I can make notes about scenes, how I want to change, them. I have the space to even sketch some scenes that I then type in full presentation on the computer. Once I’ve made a preliminary
    outline according to Jon Franklin’s plan, I then brainstorm about scenes. This inevitably leads to writing out 60-66 scenes in order or occurrence and stating in 1-2 sentences what takes place in each scene and ultimate climax.

    Novels either come together or crumble during the middle. And middle of a book is the hardest to write. And since plot is not my strong suit, I give a lot of attention to organizing and list out the domino effect of cause-and-effect actions my protagonist takes to address their dilemma once they have reached the point in the story where she or he cannot turn back. This point usually signals the end of the beginning and the start of the middle.

    Nothing is set in stone, but each day when I sit down to write I have a map. And yet a map is not the terrain. So many things can and do happen when I actually write out the scene. This is the fun part, when discoveries are made and I experience aha moments. Planning and outlining my stories allows me the freedom to just write a scene without worry of getting off track. This allows my imagination to play even more and takes my stories to greater depths.

    My routine is to write one novel a year. I usually do this in the fall around October and November. I am usually finished in December. I lay aside the rough draft of that novel and then start on revising the novel I have written from the previous year. I take a novel through several revisions. I wrote The House in January 2007, laid it aside and returned to it in fall of 2008. From October 2008 to May 2010 I took through 3-4 revisions. When I am writing a novel I try to write something each day. Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo that asks that you write 1600 words a day.

    I’m finding that can be a bit much to expect from yourself. This year I have started my novel at the outset of October with a goal of 800 words a day. That’s about 4 pages a day. I should have the rough draft finished by mid-December. When I’m revising novel I print out the entire novel, and read each page while making edits as I go. I usually read about 50 to 100 pages and then take those pages with my notations made in red, blue, green or purple and go and insert changes based on my notes
    onto the computer draft.

    How do you get ideas for what you write?

    As a psychotherapist I naturally love observing people in the world. I am also drawn to introspection. And then there is my family and most of all my spirituality which is intricately connected to and that forms the cornerstone of my interactions with my family.

    Islam teaches that we, particularly as mothers, serve God by and when we are caring for our families. Hinduism says, “Blessed is the householder.” It sees the years we spend caring for our families as a time of spiritual development. The ashram serves as our home. Through giving ourselves over to our families, we take on the opportunity to access and become aware of facets of ourselves that without the presence and relationships with our children we would otherwise ignore or never realize.

    I have met so many people in my work as a stay at home mother. Interactions with teachers, parents of my children’s fellow schoolmates, have taught me so much about psychology, long after I earned my MA in Psychology and attained licensure to practice. Our children ages 23, 18, and 11 share a much about their lives with us. My husband and are very fortunate in that the depths of our relationships and interactions with our children has grown as they have drawn near adulthood.

    With all this I have many people to observe, many people to mirror facets of myself yet discovered and revealed. The intersection of my inner experience with those I encounter through my work as a wife, mother and psychotherapist raise and uncover many conflicts common to families and individuals. Those conflicts with which I identify and stir my fascination inspire me to write.

    Barbara Kingsolver said that ever story or novel seeks to answer a question. Psychotherapists are forever asking questions, encouraging and facilitating our clients to probe the plumb their imaginations for ways to access their true nature, and strength, in an effort to address their life conflicts.

    As I observe the life of others while mindful of what I bring to each encounter more questions arise. And let us not forget, children are forever asking questions. Sometimes it is in response or our attempts to address the inquisitions of my children that I descend to even more questions. When this happens either through interaction with my children or simply myself, the thought, “What if...” takes hold in my mind. From there comes an idea, a map of possibilities, the sum of which won’t let me go. If it sticks around long enough, this gnawing and pondering, wondering and thinking some a story usually forms in my head. The next thing I do is sketch a light outline, one that clarifies my ideas for the story and helps me figure out whether I have enough to write a story.

    What is your biggest advice for other young people reaching for their dreams?

    Listen to your heart.
    Follow your passion.
    Lay down a plan.
    Plant one daffodil at a time.
    Once they’ve blossomed stop and smell them.
    Chop wood. Carry water.

    What are some of your favorite books?
    • A Sin of Color by Sunetra Gupta
    • Black Boy: American Hunger by Richard Wright
    • Passing and Quicksand by Nella Larsen
    • Bangalore Stories: The Red Carpet by Lavanya Sankaran
    • The Inheritance of Loss by Kirin Desai
    • The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar
    • The Doctor and The Diva by Adrienne McDonnell
    • The William Monk Series by Anne Perry
    • Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you, Dallas, for this interview opportunity, and for your patience in getting it to you. Life is forever crazy with us writers. And sometimes we have to stop and attend to family. It is always because of them that we write. I appreciate all the support from reviewers, people who have purchased copies of The House, and fans.

    I will be doing a series of Facebook, Twitter and Book Chats in April 2011. Visit and sign up for my blog to get the dates.

    Imagination is the key to freedom. The artist’s job is to cultivate and nurture her or his imagination and that of others. Peace and Blessings.

    Purchase The House:

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Guest Post by Brian Jenkins

    Thoughts on Getting an MFA Degree in Creative Writing
    by Brian Jenkins

    Should aspiring writers go for a Master's in Fine Arts degree in creative writing? It depends who you ask. Gail Hochman, a New York agent at Brandt & Hochman, stated in an article in The Atlantic, "We look favorably on anyone who has an MFA, simply because it shows they're serious about their writing." She also said, "but perhaps more important than which program the student attended is which writers that student studied with."

    MFA programs in creative writing provide young writers with the distinct opportunity to connect with more accomplished writers. They receive advice from experts on craft, technique, and other important aspects of writing and also get feedback on their works-in-progress. Students typically read authors of classic literature and become aware of their styles so they can try to integrate these into their own writing.

    Some programs also provide opportunities to meet agents, editors, and publishers. Many graduates from highly regarded MFA programs get their work published soon after obtaining their degrees.

    According to the same article in The Atlantic, Ethan Canin, a University of Iowa faculty member and an alum of its Writers' Workshop, believes that a student's competitiveness can be "humiliating and degrading" but also sobering in useful ways. However, many professors and program directors report that their programs are places where writers can find some sanctuary from judgement. They feel as though writing students are surrounded by supporters and mentors. Chuck Wachtel, program director at New York University, said, "I see it as not so much teaching students as helping them learn."

    Many of the writers who are teaching at top programs teach infrequently. They typically teach only one class every year and a half. This is because many schools believe published works do more to enhance the program's image than the amount of time instructors teach classes.

    Getting Accepted to an MFA Program

    Most program directors report that a short writing sample is the primary factor in determining who gets admitted into the program. Typically, the four vital elements program directors look for in candidates are talent, teachability, ambition, and collegiality.

    Full-Residency Programs

    In full-residency programs, students get immediate feedback on their writing and feel like part of a community of writers. These programs usually take two to three years to complete.

    Low-Residency Programs

    In these programs, writers don't need to spend a lot of time on-campus. Low residency programs are appealing to people who have full-time careers. Many programs emphasize close, directed reading of books every semester. Students correspond with a faculty advisor online, and in some programs they also correspond with other students. They usually attend 7 to 10 day residency periods in the summer and winter. The residency periods place an emphasis on workshops and provide contact with faculty members. Low-residency programs can usually be completed in four semesters.

    Writers interested in getting an MFA degree can check out the Poets & Writers website to review low- and full-residency MFA creative writing programs in the United States and in other English-speaking countries.

    MFA Program Workshops

    It's vital to find out how a program's workshops are operated. Regarding less effective workshops, Michael Cunningham, Brooklyn College's director and a Pulitzer Prize winner, stated, "you typically show up with work in hand, and people tell you what's wrong with it." He also thinks that another problem is the consensus nature of the workshop process, which may lead young writers to validate work that seems similar to other generally acclaimed work.

    If you're considering enrolling in an MFA degree program in creative writing, it's important to get familiar with the faculty members' work to see if they'll be suitable mentors for you.

    Brian Jenkins writes feature articles primarily on career topics for, where he has contributed content to the website's guide to career planning.

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Book Promotion Tips: Guest Post by Karen Cioffi

    Book Promotion: Creating an Informational Funnel
    By Karen Cioffi

    When thinking of book marketing, there are a number of rungs on the marketing ladder. The first involves creating a quality product, in this case a book. You want a book that you’ll be proud to offer for sale, and a book that customers will want to buy.

    Once you have a finished product/book, you need to move onto the promotion basics. This rung on the ladder involves establishing a presence - you’ll need to create visibility and a platform. To do this, the first step is to get a website or blog. Next, you will need to join writing groups in your genre, groups in your target market, and other social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook.

    After you’ve established a presence, the next step is to create an informational funnel leading back to your website. The purpose of this funnel is to bring traffic and inbound links, to your site.

    The more traffic to your site the greater your visibility in the search engines. More traffic also means a greater chance of visitors purchasing what you’re offering.

    When it comes to an informational funnel, content rules. Here are three strategies to increase traffic to your site.

    1. Add Content to Your Blog

    Make your presence known by offering information in the form of content on your blog. Content is what will make you an expert in your niche, genre, or area. But, just posting the content to your site will not create the traffic you need. Each time you publish content to your site, you need to let your social networks know about it.

    Tweet it and post about it to Facebook and your other social networks. Be sure to always include a clickable url link that goes directly to the article. This is a part of inbound marketing – it leads visitors back to your site through an information funnel.

    In addition, using effective keywords in your posts and the post titles, related to your site’s platform, will help the search engines index your content.

    2. Article Marketing

    Once you feel comfortable with adding content to your blog, you can now venture out into the article marketing arena to capture a larger audience. While most article directories have guidelines, they are fairly lenient. Follow the guidelines and post an article to one, ten, or a hundred different directories. Most of them don’t require original articles, so you can use articles you’ve posted on your blog.

    Usually you will be allowed to include a brief bio in the form of a resource box. Make it short and sweet. Be sure it links back to your website or blog, whichever you want the traffic to go to (if you have more than one site).

    Those who click on the link will be creating inbound links to your site which is a feature Google and the other search engines like. In fact, quality inbound links are an important aspect of search engine optimization (SEO).

    3. Offer to be a Guest on Other Quality Sites

    Another avenue of inbound marketing is offering your articles to other quality blogs or sites; you become a featured writer on the site by providing a guest article. It might be viewed as visiting another neighborhood. The particular site you are featured on has its own set of visitors, thereby broadening your visibility.

    Do your research though, before you approach bloggers. Make sure the fit is right by checking prior posts on the site. In addition, when you approach the blog owner to ask about a guest post, let him know that you are familiar with his site.

    And, be sure to always make it a win-win situation. Let the blog owner know that you will promote your feature post, and you might mention that you’ll include his site in your newsletter.

    Finally, self-edit all your articles before you post them or send them off.

    Tip: Using content to draw visitors back to your site is inbound or organic marketing. It is free, and it works by creating an informational funnel leading back to your site. In order for inbound marketing to work effectively, you need to provide valuable content on a regular basis.


    Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. For writing and marketing information visit ( and sign up for her FREE newsletter, A Writer’s World. You’ll get TWO free e-books on writing and marketing in the process, and two more free e-books just for stopping by.


    Stop by my friend Maggie Ball's website tomorrow, March 13, for a wonderful post featuring acclaimed writer Nancy Famolari!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    UNFEAR: A guest post by Karlin Sloan

    Today I am pleased to be part of a virtual blog tour for a new book titled UNFEAR: Facing Change In an Era of Uncertainty by Karlin Sloan. This book investigates individual, team, and organizational strategies to reduce fear and inspire performance in the face of change, introducing powerful techniques to unlock the fear and begin to make decisions out of hope and purpose, rather than out of fear.

    Karlin was kind enough to offer us an excerpt from UNFEAR. Enjoy!

    UNFEAR: Facing Change In an Era of Uncertainty By Karlin Sloan

    The Beautiful Truth 

    The amazing possibility that lies in this incredible time of turmoil is inside each one of us. It is the possibility for true, pure transformation. When we are confronted with chaos and the push to change, we have the option of seeing our world with new eyes. We have the option of asking ourselves questions that can move us to new realities: Who am I? What am I a part of? What are my gifts and talents? How can I contribute to bringing about the future that I want, rather than passively accepting a future that is handed to me? What kind of leader can I be? What is within me, waiting to be unleashed, that would come forward if I had no fear?

    This is a time for leaders in organizations of all types to ask challenging questions: How will we be viable now and in the future? How can we build anew, and build the kind of culture, the kind of impact that we want to have? How will our organization contribute to a better world? What is my role in all of this, and what do I need to stand for, to fight for? What are my opportunities to use my strengths and talents to contribute? 
    When we stop our own mental churn, when we can tolerate ambiguity and assume that there is learning and opportunity inherent in all of our experiences, we can turn the lead of present circumstance into the gold of the future. We are starting to see the opportunity to make our work meaningful and rewarding on a level beyond our paychecks.

    The beautiful truth is that organizations worldwide are changing and becoming more focused on the long term, on how they impact the environment and the community of people that buy their products, populate their offices, and live near their factories. The beautiful truth is that every day people are waking up to the idea that we can each make a difference, and when we organize ourselves into communities of contribution, we can change the world for the better. We are beginning to align the needs of humanity with the work of our organizations.

    Why Do You Need This Book?

    You may be looking to develop your own ability to practice Unfear, you could be leading a team in turmoil, or it may be that you’re looking for a few examples of leaders who have survived and even broken through to great new thinking, through challenging circumstances. You may be going through change—asking yourself questions about who you are and what you want for the future of your work, your company, and your life. You’ve come to the right place.

    We all go through changes at work; from the moment we’re hired into a new role to the first time we have to give someone else performance feedback, we’re constantly changing and developing. We also all face normal human challenges like juggling work and family, getting laid off, or even coping with illness and reinventing ourselves. We may survive a crisis on our team, be acquired, restructured, downsized, or outsourced.

    In this book, we’ll explore both organizational and individual Unfear, and how you can proactively engage your own capacity to let go of what is blocking you from your best work. We’ll look at how to move beyond fear-based behaviors and activate confidence in yourself, your work team, and your organization no matter what the circumstance. We’ll share stories, practical exercises, and inspiration.


    Learn more about how to overcome fear-based reactions through the practices outlined in in Karlin Sloan’s new book, UNFEAR: Facing Change In an Era of Uncertainty. Tomorrow’s blog stop will be at the Writers In The Sky Podcast. See the tour schedule at