Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to Drink Craft Beer: A Beginner's Guide is Available on Amazon!

My second book, How to Drink Craft Beer: A Beginner's Guide, is now available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions! 

Please enjoy this excerpt:

For anyone who thinks they might enjoy beer culture but can't get past that "Beer" flavor I suggest trying different styles when you’re at bars and restaurants. Start with local beer if you can. When beer is brewed in the place where you are drinking it the flavors and the ingredients are higher quality.

If you don't like the bitter flavor many associate with beer, start with a malty brown or an amber.  If you like light refreshing beer, try a kolsch or a pilsner.

Try draft over bottle any time you can, but if bottle is the only option ask them to put it in a glass.  The physical act of pouring the beer opens up the flavors and aromas and gives you the full experience. It's also interesting to note that many breweries are canning their beer now and this method is great for preserving the flavors.

When you try something new consider the things you like about it and the things you don't. I have a friend who keeps a small notebook in her purse where she can write down every new beer. She includes the name of the beer, the brewery, the style, and anything she wants to remember about it. She also indicates if she liked it or not.

The next time you are out try to articulate the things you like and don’t like to your server. A bartender at a good craft beer bar is usually knowledgeable about the beers they have and are happy to share their expertise.  Tell them what you like and they can help you with a few choices.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What "Mentor" Means to Me

When I first started learning the ropes to become a freelance writer several places suggested finding a mentor. This would be someone who has been where you are and done what you do. They could give you an idea of what happens next, what works, and what doesn't.

It was a brilliant piece of advice and one I took to heart. I forged relationships with several people in this arena. Some were peers, some were professionals, and some were just individuals I admired. It really helped get me started and has kept me on track.

But there was something that no one told me about the "mentor" process. What happens when the tables are turned?

I didn't do it on purpose. I didn't set out to find other writers just starting out. It happened with a simple Facebook message. A friend was looking to get started in freelance writing and asked how I did it. I shared my methods, my ideas, how to write letters, what to send to whom, and anything else that came to mind. 

I am proud of what I have accomplished working for myself so I was happy to share what I knew with someone else. It felt good o share this with someone else.

A few months ago, a client was looking for additional writers. I suggested my friend. She also writes for them now.

So today, delivered to my door, was the most thoughtful and sweetest gesture I could have imagined.

The card reads:

Because you are the reason when people ask what I do for a living I can say, "I'm a writer."

In that moment when I opened the box and read the card I really realized what kind of impact just one person can have. I am so grateful for all the help people gave me when I was getting started and I am grateful again that I can pay it forward just a little bit.

Thank you, Suzannah, for making me remember why I do what I do.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On Fiction...

My primary writing style is non-fiction. At least that is what I get paid to write so I tend to focus on it. However, like many writers, I read a lot and most of that tends to be fiction.

I recently started reading the popular Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Many other readers have compared it to the Hunger Games most likely because of the post-apocalyptic landscape and teenage female lead. These sorts of books are very popular and seem to transcend their young adult category. There are many other similar books on the market. My favorites are actually Rampant and Ascendent by Diana Peterfreund. These buck the system by being a series of only two books and they feature some awesome Unicorns, for which I am a sucker.

As I said, though, I write mostly non-fiction but occasionally I find myself playing around with fiction. Recently I wrote a short story called The Bell Curve. It too takes place in a future where things aren't precisely ideal and there is the spark of a strong, young female lead.

The story wasn't born out of the idea of writing a copy-cat novel. I was just genuinely thinking what a world would look like where only the smartest people were allowed to advance in society. Then I thought about what would happen when average and below-average people were taken out of the equation. What would that do to the "bell curve?" Where would that lead our society?

While reading Divergent I got to wondering about this story a little more. If I were to try my hand at some world building exercises, character profiles, and outlining, could I create a compelling story about Margery and a world where people are only judged based on an ever-shrinking idea of intelligence?

January is a perfect time for new beginnings and to start new projects. I think I will add these exercises to my schedule and see what I can develop.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

120 Ideas for Tiny Living is Now Available

I am so excited that my first book has been released. It is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions. Here is an excerpt from 120 Ideas for Tiny Living.

83. Autumn at the Tiny House

Wherever you live, this time of year is blazing with reds and golds and it is as spectacular as you can imagine in the North Carolina Mountains. While spring is a time of action and rebirth, autumn is a time of reflection. For us, because we chose to leave the tiny house to travel for the winter, we considered the previous six months and how much we loved living in this way. It was bittersweet to leave, but exciting to know that we would be coming back as spring blooms on the mountain again. When you’re engaged in the simple life the crisp autumn air and the explosion of color in the trees can give you a whole new perspective. Take this time to think about where you’ve been and where you want to go.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Time for Your Own Projects

Most of my income comes from my blogging clients. These are marketing companies or small business owners for whom I create, primarily, web content.

I love working for these companies and am always excited when I can add new clients to my business.

However, on some level, I became a writer to be able to pursue my own projects. It is a creative spark I have had since I was a small child and as much as I love to write content for my business clients I also need to make time to focus on my own projects.

For a while, much of my time was spent focusing on current business and adding new clients. I would only write for my own blogs when I felt like I had the time. This led to the near-abandonment of one pet project and burn out on the other.

I needed to change my perspective or I would lose the drive to create my own work all together.

Like many writers, I keep a calendar of deadlines in order to stay organized. Each week I also write down my weekly schedule which includes every due date and when I need to work on those projects to have them completed in time. I realized that I was making one simple error.

I was not including any time for my own writing.

I decided to challenge myself to contribute to my beer blog as much as possible this fall. It was a perfect challenge for me as I set out to write about as many Autumn Seasonal beers as possible. Simply by adding this task to my weekly calendar I have been able to keep up with it. I treat the deadline with the same importance as the deadlines for my client companies.

Because of this I have been able to finish a project that I had hoped to be completed in March of this year. My first book, 120 Ideas for Tiny Living, is almost complete and will be available both in print and eBook editions. I am expecting that it will be available by the end of the month. I'll provide more details as soon as I have them.

If you have been wondering how to make time to tackle your own creative project, try scheduling them in your daily calendar. Just an hour or two should give you enough time to make a satisfying dent into the project and not take much time away from your other jobs. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How to Write Content for Your Blog

The single best way to attract new readers, and ultimately customers, to your website to is to update it consistently with quality content. 

My job is to provide this content for my clients – both marketing companies and small businesses. I thought I might share some insider tips that can help you with your content creation.  
There was a time when all you needed to do was pepper your website with all the relevant keywords for your business, but Google and other search engines have gotten smarter. Now quality content is key for reaching the top spot on any given search term.  

Your content should always be relevant to your business, educational for the reader, and entertaining. There are two general rules when it comes to blogging: the 80/20 rule and creating “evergreen” content. 

The 80/20 Rule. Your blog needs to be 80% informative, educational, and entertaining. The remaining 20% of content can be used for self-promotion. Of course you want to promote your new products or events where you will be speaking but these shouldn’t be the only content on your blog. Let me use temporary staffing as an example since it is one that I am most familiar with. A good blog for a temporary staffing company will provide lots of information about job hunting, resume writing, interviewing techniques, and anything else that can help someone find a new job. While the goal is to encourage the readers to contact you to see about placement services don’t be aggressive. Make them want to reach out to you because you are an expert in your field. 

Evergreen Content. In terms of the Internet “evergreen” means information that will not expire. Continuing to use the example of the temporary staffing company the writer will want to make sure that the resume advice will be just as applicable to someone who stumbles upon the website six months from now as it is to someone reading the day it was published. Even better will be information that is still relevant 3 years from now. Not everything can fall into this category, of course, because events end and promotions end but you can make sure the majority of your content (80%) will be useful for a long time. 

Now that you know what kind of content to provide, how exactly do you craft a blog post? There are Internet etiquette rules and even legal issues that you need to keep in mind. 

1. Fair Use. 

In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and 'transformative' purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement.” 
See what I did there? I have taken a short quote from this website to provide an example of how to take quotes from other sources. If you are interested in commenting on another blog, a book, a newspaper article or anything else it is okay to use a short snippet on your blog in this manner. 
2. Photos and licensing. Photos are a great way to keep people interested in your blog and to help with visual appeal. However, the rules are pretty strict when it comes to using other people’s work on your blog. Many bloggers have been slapped with lawsuits or have had their websites taken down because they have published photos incorrectly. You can always use you own photos but it is a good idea to create a watermark to protect yourself. Otherwise, you best resource is Creative Commons. This is a license that allows you to use someone’s photograph in your work without permission by providing the right attribution. YouTube works similarly. If a video has the ability to embed you have permission to use it in your blog post. 
3. Links. Lots of links in your blog are great for SEO and to help provide additional resources for your readers. However, you want to keep the audience on your blog rather then send them away down a never ending rabbit hole. The best way to do this is to make sure that you set your links to open in a new window or tab. This way when they click on them they don’t leave your site to get to another. Your blogging platform should allow this with one click as you enter the link information. 
I write blog content both for myself and for my clients. Using these simple tips I am able to create quality content that invites readers back to the site and engages new readers. It is important for a small business blog to attract an audience that will convert to a customer base. If you create evergreen content and provide useful information you can begin to see results. 

photo credit: Search Engine People Blog via photopin cc