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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.


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 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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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.

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!

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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Vote For Your Favorite Self-Publishing Blog

Contest Finalists

Here, straight from an announcement by  on The Future of Ink website, are the finalists for The Future of Ink’s “Top 10 Self-Publishing Blogs 2012” Contest. Their Judges include founder Guy Kawasaki, Smashwords founder Mark Coker and Internet marketing veteran Jim Edwards.

Head shots of Guy Kawasaki, Mark Coker, and Jim Edwards

How the Winners will be Selected:

All finalists will be judged on:

1) the quality of their content
2) the frequency of their posts
3) reader involvement and…
4) their blog’s ranking (in that order).

The judges will decide the final winners.

The Future of Ink will announce the winners soon, so head on over and subscribe to their blog so you won’t miss the announcement.

In the meantime, please look for your favorite self-publishing blog among the finalists below and give it a “thumbs up.” Of course your comments are welcome too, either here or on The Future of Ink site.

Headline for Top 10 Self-Publishing Blogs 2012 - Finalists
29 items   247 followers   323 votes   9.06k views

Top 10 Self-Publishing Blogs 2012 - Finalists

List of finalists for Top Ten Self-Publishing Blogs 2012 contest sponsored by The Future of Ink - digital publishing for online entrepreneurs. [List is in alphabetical order.] Please comment, share and check out each of these terrific finalists for the Top 10 Self-Publishing Blogs Award.


Nov 22, 2012 - - 1396
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
Nov 22, 2012 - - 1449

Self Publishing Blog

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1711
Book Marketing Made Easy

Simple Strategies for Selling Your Nonfiction Book Online

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1274
Catherine, Caffeinated

Writer, astronaut, skinny - Catherine Ryan Howard wouldn't mind being any of those things.

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1501
C h a z z W r i t e s | Cracking the Indie Author Code Every Day

Cracking the Indie Author Code Every Day

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1484
David Gaughran | Let's Get Digital

Let's Get Digital

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1658
How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for Free

sell ebooks, market ebook, self publish, ebook business

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1326

Dean Wesley Smith - The writing of Dean Wesley Smith

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1623
Indies Unlimited

It is the mission of Indies Unlimited to celebrate independent authors; to help them build their followings; to provide a platform for members of the independent author community to share and exchange ideas, knowledge, expertise and frustrations; and, for readers and reviewers to become exposed to the amazing depth and array of talent in the indie community.

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1501
Lindsay Buroker -- Fantasy Author

Steampunk, high fantasy, and other adventures. Official blog of indie fantasy author Lindsay Buroker

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1501
On Living and Writing Well -

On Living and Writing Well

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1588
Self-Publishing Blog | Indie Author Book Marketing Help | Duolit

Helping passionate writers become empowered authors by promoting the awesomeness of self-publishing.

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1309
Self-Publishing | Publishing Talk
Nov 22, 2012 - - 1309
Self-Publishing Resources Guides Authors to Success

From 'The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing' to our free online resources, we are committed to providing authors the information and support they need to successfully self-publish. Self-Publishing Resources answers the 'how to self publish for success' question.

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1466
S.R. Johannes
Nov 22, 2012 - - 1623
Stories To Tell Books

Stories To Tell Book Publishing Services

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1309
The Book Designer — Practical Advice to Help Self-Publishers Build Better Books

Book design and production, cover design, consulting and book services for independent publishers, self publishers and authors

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1379
The Creative Penn Blog: Helping you write, publish and market your book | The Creative Penn

Discovering Scrivener really did change my writing life. It helped me to organize my writing by scenes and also enables me to publish in Kin

Nov 28, 2012 - - 1728
The Future of Ink: Get Our Articles Free via Email

Get original Future of Ink articles sent straight to your email inbox for free. Don't miss the moment when we announce the winners of the Top 10 Best Self-Publishing Blogs.

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1693
The Savvy Book Marketer

Book marketing blog packed with free book marketing tips and resources for promoting your book.

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1449
The World's Greatest Book - The Professional's Resource for Self-Publishing

The Professional's Resource for Self-Publishing

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1431
The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing

Tips, Resources, Real Numbers, and What's New in E-Publishing

Nov 22, 2012 - - 1501
Ultimate Ebook Coach: How to get published: avoid scams with independent publishing

Publishing options are confusing. Learn how to get published under your own label, effectively market your book, increase your credibility and boost book sales.

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Learn to Think Like a Spam Filter

This post is for:

…anyone who sends out email blasts, email newsletters, or large-group emails of any kind.

Does your content (or subject line) sound spammy?

Since email is inexpensive, it’s used extensively by small businesses to get information out to their clients and prospects. It’s very effective when done correctly, and most people are still more likely to read an email than to read a message in some other electronic feed.

Sadly, many small business folks don’t write very well. They forget to concentrate on providing value to their readers and opt instead for using pushy language like SALE ENDS AT MIDNIGHT! or BUY NOW! (often accompanied by multiple exclamation points). If you’re wincing because you’ve been guilty of this, just resolve to mend your ways…now. Spam filters will view this kind of language very negatively and your message could end up in the receiver’s trash instead of their inbox.

How Do Spam Filters Think?

MailChimp is a terrific email service I use, and they have a helpful list of mistakes commonly made by email marketing rookies. Here’s what they say about what spam filters are looking for:

Spam filters look at a long list of criteria to decide whether or not an email is junk. These items are almost always on their lists of spammy criteria:

  • Going crazy with exclamation points!!!!!!
  • Coding sloppy HTML (usually from converting a Microsoft Word file to HTML)
  • Coloring fonts bright red or green
  • Using the word “test” in the subject line
  • Creating an HTML email that’s nothing but one big image, with little or no text

The next time you’re sending an email to your mailing list, step back from it before you press SEND. Pretend it’s coming to you from another business. Make sure you’re not making one of the above mistakes. Also ask yourself:

  • Is it eye-catching? Have you given the recipient a reason to open your email?
  • Does it provide value (information, interest, etc.) to your readers?
  • Is there a compelling call to action?
  • If a reader has her image-viewing function turned off or is not set up to receive HTML format, will your email make any sense?

Don’t waste your energy writing emails that your recipients might never see.

What are your pet peeves for emails sent to you by other businesses? Please share in the comment section below or join the conversation at RiverwoodWriter’s Facebook Page.

Photo Credit: “Blue Website Buttons” by Legends Web Design via StockXChng
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Learn how to publish an ebook to Kindle in 48 hours!

Boost your visibility and add an income stream

There’s nothing like having an ebook on Amazon’s Kindle program to establish your expertise and create an additional income stream (small, perhaps, but it adds up). I just listened to an amazing webinar on how to do this and I want to share it with you.

If you have a blog, or if you’ve written articles or columns in the past, you already have lots of great content. Now how do you get it in front of a huge audience that will actually pay for it? is the biggest ecommerce site on the Web with millions of customers EVERY DAY. Why not get your best content in front of a slew of new eyeballs who are looking for the solutions you provide? Adapting your blog posts into a Kindle ebook is a fast and easy way to leverage your expertise and get paid for it!

Positioning yourself as an author is one of the best ways to build credibility and visibility on the Web. Turning blog content into a Kindle ebook may seem daunting and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be.

Learn from Blogging/Social Media Guru Denise Wakeman

My colleague Denise Wakeman, has presented a one-time, live 90-minute training webinar called “From Blog to eBook: How to Create New Revenue Streams with Amazon’s Kindle Ebook Program.” I have been a long-time affiliate of Denise’s products because she always delivers practical, useful, and easy-to-understand information at a great price. Since the webinar is recorded, you can listen to it at your convenience, and you’ll get access to bonus links and downloads.

Registration Details Here:


What you’ll learn:

  • The difference between repurposing and syndication
  • Why you should repurpose your blog content
  • A simple 13 step process to create an ebook from your blog
  • How to build your list with a Kindle ebook
  • 3 ways to promote your ebook on Amazon, the largest ecommerce site on the Web

Plus much more…

This is NOT a preview webinar with a pitch for a big ticket product at the end. This is a training webinar. Denise is frequently asked to share this information. This is info she usually only shares privately with her clients and now you can benefit too.

The webinar was recorded on July 18, 2012. When you purchase,  you will get the video and audio replays plus a transcript and a pdf of the slides.

Get webinar details HERE.

Whether you’re ready now or plan later to publish an ebook from your exisiting content, this webinar will give you the steps for getting started so you can see how simple it can be, stop procrastinating, stop waiting for perfection, and take immediate action! 🙂

Register here today.

Don’t worry that the webinar live date is past. You’ll still get everything the live attendees got.

If you still need help after listening to this webinar, call me at 540-436-3969. I’ve helped several authors self-publish their books, and I’d love to help you too.

 Photo Credit: Woman holding Kindle by Dmitry Lobanov via 


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