How I learned to write like James Chartrand*: A Non-Fiction Writing Course Like No Other

New sessions of this course have been running in early spring and early fall each year, with sign-ups usually in January or early February and August. To be notified when registration is open—and to get lots of great free writing tips between now and then—get your name on the course’s email list HERE. Absolutely no obligation.

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In the beginning I could write.

I was a nuts-and-bolts writer for twenty-five years. I did technical writing for an engineering company and medical writing for physicians. For both, I turned obscure terms and concepts into writing a lay person could understand. Subscribers found my home-business content valuable when I wrote for a home-based entrepreneur website. At a local community foundation, I became the go-to person when a written piece needed just the right touch. On a personal level, I’ve always gotten warm feedback from my handwritten notes of thanks, sympathy, or encouragement. I thought I was a decent writer.

Then the blogging bug bit me.

I started Heartspoken.com and began writing about topics to teach and encourage readers to live their most wholehearted life at any age. To accomplish that, I needed an entirely different result. I wanted to inspire and educate… …but the practical, utilitarian writing of my past was too often flat—and rarely compelling. I hired a proofreader, Karen Sanderson, thinking she would at least save me from embarrassing typos. Her first proofreading job came back covered with comments and red lines. I was horrified! Little did I know she was an accomplished editor who believed in giving extra value by making suggestions beyond correcting mistakes. As I absorbed each comment and saw how her subtle changes added kick and direction to my writing, I came to a startling realization:

I really needed to crank my writing up a few notches!

I thought writing classes were just for imaginative souls who wove characters into fiction plots, so I hadn’t considered there might be a writing course for bloggers or business writers. I found plenty of blogs talking about blogging, though. I signed up for updates from Men with Pens and Copyblogger. I eagerly anticipated posts from James Chartrand, Sonia Simone, Brian Clark, and Jon Morrow. Their writing was strong and compelling; they became my rock stars. It never occurred to me I could learn to write like they do.

Damn fine timing brought me a writing course on steroids.

The next thing I knew (ah, the Universe is a wonderful thing), I received an email from James Chartrand, A-list blogger and founder of Men with Pens, about her writing class called Damn Fine Words.The course description said I would learn how “to create compelling, engaging content… the kind of content that reaches your target market, increases your readership, pulls in new clients, boosts your sales and brings you better success…” Yowzer, this looked good. And that was only the beginning. The course would help me smash writer’s block and teach me how to write quickly and easily on any topic, regardless of my niche. I’d be able to overhaul my website copy, write the ebook that has eluded me, and write marketing copy and newsletters like a pro. But here was the clincher: The course included personal coaching from James Chartrand herself! I couldn’t get to the sign-up form fast enough.

Damn Fine Words delivered!

My classmates included bloggers, entrepreneurs, artists, an attorney, a comedian, a martial arts instructor, and a handwriting analyst. What bound us was a commitment to becoming better communicators, and by course design, we learned from each other as well as from our teacher. Ten weeks and 20 value-packed lessons later, I feel like Superwoman, with a commanding new arsenal of writing weapons that empower me to take charge of my writing. The practical, immediately implementable strategies included learning to:

  • Create a writing space and ritual that makes me much more productive.
  • Be clearer on my goal for each piece before I even start writing.
  • Develop a system for capturing ideas immediately. (I have filled my editorial calendar for months ahead!)
  • Crank out lots of “shitty first drafts” to ensure a supply of pieces that can be quickly whipped into shape when needed.
  • Recognize where breaks and formatting add punch and readability.
  • Spot unsupported statements in my own and others’ writing.
  • Write with the reader’s needs in mind.

There were highs and lows, to be sure. I got behind in a couple of spots, and I still need to practice, practice, practice. But thanks to James Chartrand’s Damn Fine Words, I write with much more confidence and authority. That makes me a Damned Fine Writer, and you can become one too. This university-level class has been offered twice a year, usually in late winter/early spring and late summer/early fall, so Click here right away to start receiving free information and updates, with absolutely no obligation. These emails alone, from course designer James Chartrand, are loaded with writing tips, tricks, and free information.

Aren’t you just a wee bit curious?

Headshot of James Chartrand, founder/owner of Men with Pens

James Chartrand, founder of Men with Pens and creator of Damn Fine Words writing course

This was the best investment I’ve made in myself in years, and if your source of income or your mission in life depends on your ability to communicate clearly and passionately, this could be your best investment too. It costs nothing to learn more about what the course covers, who it’s designed for, and all about James and her staff. Click here NOW. After reading this, you’ll know whether or not the course can help you. All the links to the course here are affiliate links, which means I get a commission if you sign up. If you know me, you know I would never endorse something I didn’t believe in wholeheartedly. I’ll sweeten the pot for you with two offers:

  1. Feel free to call me at 540-436-3969 between 10am and 5pm Eastern Daylight time to ask me any questions you want about my experience with the Damn Fine Words class. Or email me at [email protected]dotcom
  2. Anyone who becomes a paid class member through my affiliate link will get a prize. Just email me your receipt with your name and snail mail address and I’ll send you a gift of personal stationery.

Don’t miss registration for the next session

Don’t wait to find out about this terrific course today. If nothing else, get on the email list and start receiving lots of free writing tips. The class is usually offered twice a year, usually in March and September.

 * James Chartrand founded and owns one of the world’s most respected copywriting and website design companies and its wildly popular blog, Men with Pens.

Top photo credit: “Digital vs Analog” by David Crockett via BigStockPhoto
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Great Resource For Job-Hunting College Students

While I no longer include writing resumés among my business services, I occasionally get calls from former resumé customers or know of young people who ask for help navigating the brave new world of job hunting. There’s so much doom and gloom out there, but someone who is smart and determined and willing to do some groundwork can significantly improve their odds of landing a job that will at least move them in the right direction.

I was recently sent a link to this excellent free guide called “Career Skills You Won’t Learn In School,” written by Teresa Crane, a student researcher for BestCollegesOnline.com. It stood out to me for several reasons:

  • It’s got a no-nonsense practical approach to the job-hunting process, with small steps that are easy to implement.
  • It offers a good balance of high-tech and low-tech resources and tips.
  • It doesn’t forget that job seekers and those who are looking for employees are both human beings, so when you try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you might be more successful in making an authentic connection with them.
  • The job interview tips alone are worth reading the article.
  • There are details not often found in this kind of article, such as what to expect after your interview and what the types of things you’ll have to be ready to negotiate.
  • It includes ways to stay active and avoid discouragement while you’re job hunting.

I know there is a line of thought lately that the resumé is a thing of the past. Possibly, but I’d have one anyway. Being prepared is what will give you the edge over someone who’s not.

Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook business page if you have any other great job-hunting advice to share.

Photo credit: “JOBS” by Svilen Miley from Bulgaria via StockXChng
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6 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Resumé

The Purpose of a Resumé

The purpose of a well-crafted resumé is to secure an interview. Your resume should stand out from other resumés being examined by a prospective employer. Anyone reading it should be able to easily and quickly identify your most important skills and talents and what you would add to the business or organization if you were hired for that position.

Six Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Resumé

  1. Be prepared to have at least three references ready to give a prospective employer if they are requested. It’s good to line these up ahead of time. You should not only have their permission to use their name, but also their complete (and preferred) contact information, including email if they have it.
  2. Be prepared to explain any gaps there might be in the chronology of your work experience — perhaps you were raising children or just doing other things, but it’s good to expect questions about this in an interview — also expect questions about why you left various employments.
  3. In general, you should include a cover letter when you submit a resumé unless you’re hand delivering it. Even then, you should have SOMETHING to go with it in case you are unable to see the person who actually will review it. You should always try to be as specific as possible when you write. If you can find out the name of the Human Resources person, for instance, it’s better to address it directly to that person than to just put Dear Sir or Madam. It shows that you went the extra mile.
  4. Before you go for an interview, do as much research as you can about the company–what they do, what their mission is, what their main products or services are, etc., even who their key officers are. If at all possible, try to formulate some specific way you feel you can make a contribution based on what you’ve learned about the company. They will know you have gone to the trouble to look them up and find out about them and that you have given some thought to how you can complement their team.
  5. If you know the name of the person with whom you have an interview, look them up on LinkedIn.com or otherwise try to find out what you can about their own background. You’ll want to strike a balance between being nosy and being interested, but some knowledge may afford you the opportunity to find some friend or some interest you have in common.
  6. Volunteer activities may be included if they were skill-building (e.g., managing a budget, managing a team, etc.). Include numbers, if possible: “Developed and implemented a $100K budget” or “Supervised a team of 25 volunteers to accomplish our goal.” Don’t include work with organizations that might be considered polarizing. Don’t emphasize parenting skills.
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Looking for Work? Use Your Networks!

Graduation_300“Use Social Networking To Find Your Next Job” by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling Coaches

“How to Use the Social Web to Find Work”  Free e-book by Chris Brogan. Don’t let the old date (2009) on this guide keep you from reaping the valuable information. Chris Brogan is a highly respected and articulate blogger and writer. If you’re looking for work and know your way around the Internet just a bit, this is worth reading.

“10 Smart Ways to Use Social Media in Your Job Search” by Alexis Grant. Tips on several different social media platforms, including recommendations on privacy settings.

“The 10 Best Job-Hunting Secrets of All Time” by Lou Adler. A different take on things that could set you apart.

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Capture The Life Stories That Must Be Told and Remembered

Capture life stories while you can

My 95-year-old father died just two weeks ago, and as friends and family gathered to celebrate his life throughout the week, there were dozens of stories told about him and about the ways, large and small, he touched people’s lives. Born in 1918, a fighter pilot during WWII, he witnessed a remarkable span of world history, and much of his perspective on those things will be lost except those which we had the foresight to preserve on tape or on paper.

I’m so grateful that he recorded some of his memories, and I’m also glad I wrote about him in a blog post last summer called “Life Lessons From A Great Dad.” 

Memories all around us are being lost every second, so I was thrilled to find out that Dennis Becker, a wonderful man whom I met when I attended the NAMS conference last month in Atlanta, has created a remarkable e-course called Writing Life Histories for Fun and Profit and is offering it at the incredible introductory price of $9.95. I have just bought and taken a look at it, and I’m promoting it enthusiastically to anyone who wants to write life histories, either for themselves or for others. If you do nothing more than use his guidelines and interview questions to write your own or a loved one’s family history, you can’t go wrong at this price, especially with Dennis’s 60-day money-back guarantee, but Dennis’s training includes all the material you need to create a business writing life histories for others if you should ever want to do so.

http://www.elizabethrecommends.com/LifeStories

You won’t believe the value in this e-course!

Here’s what you’ll get from this downloadable e-course:

  • Everything you need to get started as a personal historian!
  • Learning how easy it is to turn oral interviews into printed, published gold for pennies on the dollar.
  • Learning how to turn writing simple personal histories into a powerful business for yourself, including the ability to charge hundreds up to thousands or more in some specific situations that you’ll learn inside.
  • By the time you finish this course, you’ll be able to either write personal histories for your own family’s legacy or for others.

For this small investment of under $10 (Dennis says the introductory price will go up soon), you have the tools to quickly and easily capture these incredible life stories all around you. They’re perfect for helping you write your own life story, and there are many more among your family and friends who have their own priceless stories that area begging to be told. And if you want, you can do this for others as a lucrative writing service.

Time is fleeting!

http://www.elizabethrecommends.com/LifeStories

If you’re a freelance writer, helping capture life stories is a natural service to add to your offerings. Even if you’re not a writer yourself, the interview questions in this e-course can be used to record sessions with your loved ones. Or record your own answers to the questions and get them transcribed for your family and friends.

Click the link above, read more about the course and what it includes, and grab this wonderful e-course “Writing Life Histories for Fun and Profit” now. Because NOW is the best time to start preserving your own memories or those of others.

Back on its golden hinges
The gate of Memory swings,
And my heart goes into the garden
And walks with the olden things.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

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Outstanding Online Business Membership Program

You’ve probably heard me raving about the Novice to Advanced Marketing System (NAMS). That’s the workshop David Perdew puts on twice each year in Atlanta. CLICK HERE to see what I wrote about it when I returned from NAMS9 in February, 2013.

Well, he recently launched an online branch of NAMS called MyNams Total Business System (MNTBS), and it’s packed full of incredible training resources. Regardless of where you are in your online business journey, you’ll find help at MyNAMS.com. Click the link below to get details about all the information, videos, training, and tools it includes.

http://elizabethrecommends.com/MNTBS

David has weekly webinars with industry experts, monthly Q & A calls where you can get all your questions answered, private accountability groups, and lots of other things to help ensure your success. While much of the content is for those using affiliate marketing as part of their business model, the resources for ANY small business owner are increasing every day. Just recently, for instance, David had a free speakers talking about website security and another about business legal issues. Other topics have included content creation, e-book writing, publishing on Kindle, and much, much more.

http://elizabethrecommends.com/MNTBS

But the best part is that there are three price levels to support every budget. I’m a lifetime member myself, and I urge you to at least take a look and see what you get.

Let me know if you become a member using my link. I’ll give you a one-time 10% discount on any of my writing, editing, or website critique services. Or a free 30-minute consultation to answer your most pressing social media or website questions.

P.S. Here’s a link to the training that new members get in how to actually use all the features and resources at their disposal.

7-Part Series: How to Use MyNAMS

Without this, you’re getting so much great content that it could be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start unless you use this guide.

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Women Entrepreneurs: Ignite Your Creative Business Spirit

Calling all creative women!

…even those who don’t think they’re creative…

Don’t miss Laura West’s complimentary webinar called “Getting to YESSS! 5 Steps to Ignite Your Creative Business Spirit” on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1pm EST.

Find out exactly what she’ll cover here: http://www.elizabethrecommends.com/ignite

Forget the hype

There’s a lot of hype these days about following your passion. “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

It’s all well and good to be inspired or excited by a business idea, but what is usually missing from those advocating such a pursuit is the HOW. It’s not a business unless you make money, but somewhere along the line we’ve heard conflicting messages making us question whether we can do good and make money at the same time.

Last fall, I signed up for a class called The 30-Day Passion Project with Laura West, founder of The Center for Joyful Business, because I wanted some accountability for a project I was working on. What I gained was so much more: a whole community of women discovering that passion, creativity, and real success are not mutually exclusive! Laura, as I learned from a later session with her and from meeting her at the MyNams conference in February, is a remarkably talented and amazingly intuitive business woman who has helped thousands of women figure out how to make a successful, heart-centered business out of something they feel called to do. I’m a proud affiliate of her programs.

Find your own spark and let it ignite your business

Head shot of Laura West

Laura West , CPCC

Now she’s offering a free webinar called “Getting to YESSS! 5 Steps to Ignite Your Creative Business Spirit” On Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1pm EST.

Learn more and sign up here: http://www.elizabethrecommends.com/ignite

If you feel there are creative juices swirling around but you don’t know how to harness them and turn them into a viable business—or if you just feel you need to crank things up to a higher level—Laura is the person you need to hear. This is a complimentary webinar, and Laura always delivers great insight and value.

Sign up even if you can’t join her live. She almost always records her webinars and makes it available to those who have signed up. That’s what I plan to do since I have a conflict.

P.S. Laura’s next 30-Day Passion Project starts June 3, 2013. Check it out: http://elizabethrecommends.com/passionproject

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Direct Mail + Internet = Modern Marketing

Small business owners used to think of direct mail and the Internet as two distinct marketing channels, but the United States Postal Service (USPS) is trying to bring itself into the 21st century by leveraging the power of mobile technologies and smartphones with direct mail. As reported in the most recent USPS publication MailPro (March/April 2013), “Direct mail marketers are incorporating QR codes, augmented reality, image recognition, and digital watermarks into direct mail pieces, providing consumers with unique experiences, and companies with effective ways to reach them.” CLICK HERE for information on the USPS promotions and incentives.

Registration has closed for the Direct Mail Mobile Coupon/Click-to-Call promotion and the Earned Value Reply Mail Promotion, but click the links below to learn about upcoming promotions and see if they might apply to your business.

For more information, USPS offers a free PDF download called “A Marketer’s How-To-Guide to Using Direct Mail.”

If you’ve used direct mail or other USPS services effectively, let us know in the comments below. Other small business owners would appreciate knowing about your experience.

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Smartphone Pics Post Privacy Risk

I am not usually an alarmist, but this news report was scary about how easy it is to track the location and private information of people (including our children) whose pictures we take with our iPhones or iPads and post to Facebook or other picture-sharing sites. Watch to the end to find out exactly how to turn off the GPS-location function with your photos without losing your desired mapping function.

Thank you to my friend and nurse-midwife Barbara Kirkland for sharing this video.

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Offline Ways To Drive Traffic To Your Facebook Page

Just because you’re marketing online doesn’t mean you should forget about your offline marketing options. In fact, you should absolutely use offline sources to drive traffic to your Facebook Page.

So many local businesses promote their Facebook Page, it has become a new norm.  Ice cream shops paint it on their front display windows.  Bowling alleys feature Facebook promotions on display monitors.  Churches and schools put calls to come to church and Like them on Facebook on their exterior signage and billboards.

Church Sign

Even if you don’t have a physical building or storefront, you can put your Facebook Page URL (website address) and call to action on:

  • Countertop sign
  • Sign on your cash register
  • Business Cards
  • Brochures
  • Letterhead
  • Postcards
  • Workshop handouts
  • Samples
  • Your vehicle
  • Magnets or other advertising specialties

I’m sure you can think of lots of other ways too.

Don’t have a Facebook Page? It’s free and gives you great visibility online, so I highly recommend you consider it. I’ve helped several businesses learn how to manage their Facebook Page. But even if you don’t have a Facebook Page, you can use these same strategies to drive traffic to your website or blog.

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