Category Archives: Women Writers

Fifteen Dos and Don’ts when Writing for Children- Recap of Jesse Florea’s Session at Write-to-Publish 2014

Some have a heart for children- others a heart for writing.  Marry the two and the world will change.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Clubhouse Magazine’s editor, Jesse Florea, at Write-to-Publish in Wheaton, IL.  He was at the conference looking for great stories for Focus on the Family and he presented a session on how to write for children. He’s also the author of several books for kids and their parents.

Who Is Generation Z, The Homeland Generation?

Copyright My Web Writers

Copyright My Web Writers

Generation Z was born between 1995 and 2005.  They’re known as the “Silent Generation”, “Homeland Generation,” or the “Net Generation” because they’ve grown up with the Internet. They were born after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when many felt safer staying at home. William Strauss and Neil Howe describe this group as “highly connected” and media technology savvy because they are “digital natives.”  During a naming contest sponsored by Neil Howe’s company website, Homeland Generation was the name chosen by the site’s voters to represent this generation.

Florea says,

“They’re self-directed. Parents no longer over-schedule their children like they did five years ago.  There’s a little more free time for this generation, which is good because they have time to be creative, but the bad part is that they have this technology and when you have technology and time, they can get into trouble with the technology rather easily.”

According to NC State University:

“Such connectedness has a dark side, however, contributing to a sedentary lifestyle and skyrocketing rates of obesity. This generation may live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents despite the medical advances of the last twenty years. Of 100 Generation Z kids, 47 will be obese by the time they reach adulthood.”

Florea says,

“Basically, that’s because they don’t have to go outside to be entertained. All the entertainment they need is at their fingertips with a gaming console or they can talk to their friends through any different type of social media. They don’t need to get outside to get together.”

In 2011, Grail Research provided a fascinating look into this next generation by comparing the relationship of Boomer parents to their children verses Generation X parents to their Generation Z children.  Fundamentally the differences lie in the comfort with technology that Generation X shares with its children. There is an increasing overlap between Generations X, Y, and Z and their channels of entertainment, technology, brand experiences, and family values.

“Generation X is raising Generation Z with a high involvement parenting style. Generation X saw a social trend of divorces and is expected to instill stronger family values, along with ‘old’ notions such as work ethic, etiquette, and resilience. This, along with better education, will make Generation Z more tolerant, respectful, and responsible.”

The Homeland Generation might be more financially conservative, too. Florea says,

“Generation Z is saving their money.” Also, “This generation identifies itself more as individuals, than as a team…Sort of like Generation X…They believe in their own character and they believe they have their own persona.  Generation Z doesn’t believe in getting agreement or living by social norms.  Their society exists on the Internet where they speak out their minds and express their opinions.”


15 Dos and Don’ts When Writing for Kids

To kick off his session, Florea asked, “How would you describe children?”  Words like “rambunctious”, “messy”, “innocent”, and “smart” quickly filled the room from the audience.

Florea mentioned, “We want all of that in your writing. I’ve been at Focus on the Family for twenty-one years.  You know of Dr. Dobson.  He wrote a lot of books.  A lot of dos and don’ts.  Having boundaries, having parameters can really help, so that’s how this workshop started. I’m going to share about 15 or 16 dos and don’ts” when writing for kids.

  1. Don’t underestimate your audience. 

    “Kids are thinking, feeling and smart human beings.  They just lack life experience and the wisdom we can share with them as writers. Don’t doubt a child’s ability to understand concepts and accomplish great things. Generation Z is a smart generation because they have at their fingertips, all the information in the world.”

    Clubhouse Magazine particularly likes to feature ordinary kids performing extraordinary feats. Challenge kids with your writing. Kids know that things aren’t always perfect. You can’t shelter these kids, there’s just too much readily accessible information. Don’t shy away from writing stories about kids in single parent homes, with special needs, or whose families are in financial duress.

  1. Challenge kids spiritually. Years ago, Clubhouse Magazine received a letter saying that it was “boring.” Florea took the letter, published it, and asked, “Okay, readers are we boring?” He received close to 500 responses.  One of the common threads through all of them was that kids want to be spiritually challenged. They don’t just want to hear a Bible story.  They want to see its application.
  1. Do get into a child’s mind. Know their interests.  What makes them tick?  What do their parents want them to learn? This is important because parents are the ones buying the magazines.  Spend time with kids and know what they’re studying in school.
  1. Do work on a gripping opening. Capture their attention within the first three sentences.  You have to have a good hook.
  1. Do use vibrant, active verbs.  Kids need action.  The story needs to move. Show the action, don’t tell it. A Wheaton professor of Florea’s used to say, “There’s always a better way to start a story than with ‘it’ or ‘there’.” As soon as you start with it or there, you’re using passive voice. When editing copy, Florea seeks out and circles it, there, was, is, and were and reconsiders what these words add to each sentence.
  1.  Don’t go adjective crazy. “One well-chosen adjective is better than three adjectives strung together. Adjectives slow down your writing, while verbs keep up the pacing and make everything go faster.” Also, when using dialogue, just use said. “Said” is an invisible word that people read through.  If you go for fancier words like “chortle” or “mused”, you’ll stop the narrative. The person reading will stop and think, “Oh, why are they using that word?”
  1. Do use interesting and realistic dialogue.  Don’t try to use the cute catch phrases that the kids are using today because those words may be out of style by the time the article or book is published.  Florea looks for stories with active verbs, compelling dialogue, and believable characters.
  1. Show the action. 
  1. Do use humor. People retain 80% more when they’re laughing. To achieve humor you can use repetition, switches, exaggeration, extremes, and word plays.
  1. Don’t wrap up your story in a nice, little bow. Kids know that’s not how the world works. Be honest.  Former IU professor, Peter Jacobi, once said “The ending should leave the reader with satisfaction tinged with dissatisfaction.” Do leave readers with a nugget of truth. From age five on, children are able to relate to stories in characters just like adults. A value development specialist, who once visited Focus on the Family, said that “by age ten, right and wrong are locked in for a child.”
  1. Edit your copy.  Some professional writers work through up to thirty revisions before sending in a story. Cut the fat. Stay away from clichés.
  1. Do be creative. Don’t copy the world.
  1. Know industry trends. Go for “edu-tainment” (educate and entertain), which is like writing a chocolate bar packed with a vitamin. Watch movie trailers to see what will be big when each movie comes out the next year.
  1. Do write compelling characters. Write characters that are going through a lot of things. Also, don’t have the adults solve the problems.  Let the kids solve the issues without preaching from the adult characters.
  1. Do be yourself.  Kids can spot a phony a mile away.


Next June, make a point of visiting the Write-to-Publish conference in Wheaton.  The people are welcoming and you may soon find that you’ve developed relationships with mentors and fellow writers who will guide you throughout your career.  Meet one-on-one with acquisition editors and publishers, while also absorbing valuable insights and industry trends.  We especially thank Jesse Florea for sharing his expertise in children’s publishing with My Web Writers’ readers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Conferences, Editors, Education Strategy, School Websites, Women Writers, Writing Careers, Writing for Children

Appointments with Heaven – a Worthwhile Read

Choosy Writers Choose Good Books

Are you choosy about the books you read?  I am.

My high school English teacher used to scold me when I found excuses not to read. She’d blink her eyes, sigh, and pinch her nose, “Good writers make time to read.”

Well, she’d be proud.

I read a book over spring break that was worth my time and attention. It was edifying, truthful, and inspiring and there’s a back story on how I received the book, which I’ll share in a moment.

Appointments with Heaven bills itself as “the true story of a country doctor’s healing encounters with the hereafter.” At first, I thought.  Boy. Do I really want to read a bunch of creepy stories about people dying?  (The book was given to me shortly after my mother’s death in 2013.)

I’d seen a lot of death and well, eh.

But, my sister-in-law raved about the book and she’d experienced loss, too, so I figured it had potential.

Heaven’s Southern Setting & Faith Theme

heaven coverMy family packed up our van and headed south to Florida. Dr. Reggie Anderson’s story is set in the rural South.  So literally, my journey included representations out the window of the places described in the story – Alabama on the way down and Tennessee on the route back up. What I discovered is that the story isn’t really a book about death — it is about finding faith in life.

Soak in that statement for a moment.

It’s a book about faith. Your life has purpose and it affects eternity.

Do you believe that? Like I said.  It’s a book about faith.

There are times, even if you believe there’s a higher purpose, when truthfully, you’re just not seeing how the dots connect. You lost a friend, a job, or an opportunity.  You’re stuck in what seems to be a mindless and pointless routine.  You’re disillusioned because of awful events or situations. This book addresses whys.  Does anyone even know we’re here?  Is God real?  Why do bad things happen?

Even if you have answers worked out for yourself, Dr. Reggie Anderson’s perspective, because of his scientific expertise in medicine and his own early disillusionment, is unique. This book find has the potential to be a future workbook and video series for small groups.  The Kendrick Brothers or some other producer ought to take a good look at it.

About Heaven’s Ghost Writer

If you’re a writer, it’s a study on the art of ghost writing.  Truly, the story’s organization, running motifs, theme, voice, and flow were so well constructed that I beamed for Jennifer Schuchmann, the book’s ghost writer. And herein is how I received the book.

Jennifer and I met at a conference in 2010.  She was already a published writer, managing a young family, and at the start of a promising career.  We became Linkedin and Twitter contacts. In September 2013, I was in the midst of managing a big work project, while organizing household moving details for my family, when my mother passed away. With those plates spinning, I accidentally sent an email to Jennifer that was intended for someone else. When I realized my mistake, I sent Jennifer a note asking her to disregard and delete the email.  She did, and then we quickly caught up. I asked her about her current projects and she shared.

“I’m primarily doing collaborative books with people who have stories to tell but don’t have the time or ability to tell them. I’m either hired by them or by their publishers. I’ve released two new books this year.

“Taylor’s Gift” is the story of parents who lost their 14 year old daughter in a skiing accident, donated her organs, and then met the organ recipients.

“Appointments with Heaven” is the story of a country doctor who lost his faith, found it in a dream of heaven and now catches glimpses of heaven when his patients die (he can feel their soul leave their body, smell the scents of heaven, and feel a warmth in the room). Both are good books.

Good to hear from you even if it was a mistake!”

I then confided that my mother had passed away two weeks earlier and that her Heaven book sounded relevant.  She wrote,

  Oh, I’m so sorry!  Send me your address and I’ll send you a copy of “Appointments with Heaven.” Writing that book changed the way I view death. Maybe that’s the whole reason we reconnected was so I could give you a copy of this book.

When my copy arrived, she’d personalized it with a note, “I hope this brings comfort in your loss.”

If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the cards you receive in the following weeks are thoroughly appreciated.  This was the first time anyone had sent a book.

I read a few pages and stopped. I felt called to send a copy to each of my siblings, but I personally wasn’t ready to digest the book.

By spring 2014, I was ready.

Let’s be clear, I’m not getting paid to write this post for Appointments with Heaven nor am I doing it because I know Jennifer.  I know plenty of authors.  I just like the book and feel it’s worth my time.

I hope it’s worth yours, too.

Yesterday, I interviewed Jennifer about her ghost writing techniques.  Read Tips for Collaborative and Ghost Writing Success, for the back story on how Dr. Anderson’s Appointments with Heaven was written.

1 Comment

Filed under Authoring Books, Conferences, Favorite Websites, Reviews, Women Writers

Make a Living Writing Website Content for Companies

Tired of commuting? Don’t like that 9-5 schedule? Wondering if you can make it on your own? If you’re a writer, have you considered writing website content for companies? Here are some things to consider on whether you can make it a go on your own.

Make connections. To get started, you need a network. You can network at your own job, with previous employers, at industry events, alma mater activities, and even in line at your favorite coffee shop. Getting that first, resume-building client can happen anywhere. Be ready by having a stack of business cards on hand and writing examples to share. If you haven’t had your work published yet, get started. With sites like WordPress and Blogger, you can create your own web presence and develop your own writing style without a paid job. After you’ve developed your business and created a cache of clients, you’ll need to keep making connections—this time with other writers because before you know it, you’ll be too busy to do all the work on your own.

Get your back office in order. Sure, you can work from the local coffee shop, perhaps even the one where you met your new client. But make sure you are organized with your work projects, whether it’s through paper files or online. If you’re a contractor, you’ll be working with contracts. Some clients will sign your contracts, others will make you sign theirs. Get a standard contract in order, look into your state’s tax requirements for freelance work, and be ready to answer these questions when you get the call, because companies will ask. Hire an attorney to create a contract template for you. Learn what is and is not a business expense and what you can write off each year on your taxes. Having your ducks in a row in advance makes tax preparation season that much easier.

Be deadline driven. When working on your own, you have to meet your clients’ deadlines. The second you don’t, they’ll find someone else who will. It sounds cutthroat, but it’s just the way work gets done. If the deadline is too tight or you’re overwhelmed with other work projects, be upfront and honest. Ask if you can push the deadline back a few days or see if there is another writer who can handle that project, then let them know when your load lightens up and you’re available again.

 Add some sparkle. You don’t have to throw around pixie dust, but your work does have to stand out from all the rest. Depending on the project, add a creative twist to your writing, show your wit, and constantly remind your clients why they hire you.

 Understand search engine optimization. You don’t have to be an expert at it, you just have to know it exists and how it affects your client. Get input from them on what keywords they need and how frequently they need to appear in your copy. Understand that those keywords change frequently, so you’ll have to ask that question again and again.

Know your client. Yes, keep your sparkle, and yes, know the SEO rules, but you also have to know what your client wants. Maybe one day you’ll be highlighting a client success story on how they set up an international tax agreement, and the next day you’ll author a feature story on the company’s pro bono program. You’ll have to adapt your voice and style to meet the client’s needs.

Ready to try it? Good luck!


Read These Posts, Too:

What Should Web Writers Know about Content Creation in 2014?

What is Google Authorship and What do Writers Need to Know About It?

Niche Blogs with Quality Content

Leave a comment

Filed under Disabled Writers, Web Writers, Women Writers, Writing Careers

Your Part-Time Writing Career versus your Full-Time Household: Tips for Managing Chaos

By My Web Writers

Flexible hours with no commute, pajama-clad meetings, and no corporate rules are just the beginning of the perks when you write from home.  Of course, you still have a full-time household that isn’t going to run itself.   Consider the following tips for developing a successful part-time writing career while maintaining a chaos-free home.

Prepare for Success

  • Create A Home Office   Set up a work space that works for you. This will keep you from finding yourself on the sofa with a laptop, work splayed across the coffee table, watching cartoons while attempting to craft a profound piece.  Let’s face it.  You’re probably not going to complete your best writing there.
  • Mind The Children    If minors are in the picture, don’t forget them!  Younger children may benefit if you arrange for child care while you are working.  Older kids should be occupied and given a protocol for interruptions during work time.

Establish Boundaries

  • Define Chaos   Each family has a threshold for Chaos.  Some say it’s when a child is involved in two activities simultaneously.  Others think it’s the first incident of no clean underwear!   Sit down with your family and decide what chaos looks like to you, and create boundaries to avoid it.
  • Determine your Work Load    Chart your week onto paper to reveal where your time is spent.  Look at the white space, or margin, and reserve space for writing.  Set your hours and stick to them.   Don’t be afraid to turn down work if it exceeds your limit.
  • Spend your time wisely   Don’t procrastinate.  When it’s time to work, turn off the phone, go to your quiet place, and do just that.  Conversely, when it’s time to scrub the toilet, scrub the toilet.  Don’t be sidetracked by Twitter or Pinterest!

Streamline Your Life

  • Simplify your Calendar    Keep one communal family calendar to avoid confusion. Tune into the great Calendar: Paper vs. Electronic planner debate, and determine your preference.  Cozi is a smart electronic option, which includes an app for your smart phone as well as a website.  Features include real-time syncing for each family member.
  • Enforce A Single Inbox Policy   David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, suggests limiting the number of inboxes in your life.  Designate one spot for every incoming paper to land, and train each family member to use it.

Plan Ahead

  • Conduct a Weekly Meeting   Sounds nerdy, I know, but the time spent preparing for and holding a weekly family meeting is time well-invested.  Touch on upcoming events, solve problems, analyze time management, sing Kumbaya.
  • Live One Step Ahead   Always be mindful of upcoming events; diligently try to be one step ahead.  Spend a day off preparing food for an entire month.  Lay out clothing and supplies needed for the week.  Set up a house that cleans itself.  Utilize downtime wisely, and you daily life will run smoothly.

 Recruit Help

  • Create a Babysitting Co-Op   Put some effort into a babysitting co-op for friends or neighbors, and you’ll reap the benefits of quality care at no cost.
  • Accept an Offer for Help   There are many friends and family members who willingly lend a hand, and oftentimes we turn down help for whatever reason.  Your mother-in-law offers to fold your laundry when she stops in?  Let her!  You’ll be thanking her later when you’re meeting a deadline instead of folding laundry.
  • Hire Extra Hands Don’t be afraid to spend some dough on assistance if you absolutely are feeling chaos at home and have tried everything else.  Pay a friend or relative to watch the little ones or find child care online for those times you need absolute peace.  Hire a cleaning company to take over the cleaning that never seems to get crossed off the to-do list, or splurge, and have your meals delivered to your home daily.


Other Posts:

How do I write content based on buyer personas?

Ten Tips for Starting a Social Media Conversation

Twenty-five Effective, Call-to-Action Phrases for E-commerce Content

Guidelines for Writing E-Tail Category Content


Filed under Web Writers, Women Writers, Writing Careers