10 Questions to Ask Your Marketing Team

10-questionsTomorrow I get to sit down, ask questions and simply listen to a fellow leader. This is one of my favorite things to do, sipping a second cup of coffee and building into another person’s potential.

As I was looking on the web for some helpful questions to ask tomorrow, I came across this wonderful list of 20 questions to ask leaders via Michael Hyatt’s. Hyatt was asked these very questions by Pastor Michael H. Smith, whom he credits with creating this great list of questions.

As I looked through the list, I soon discovered that many of these questions could be adapted for small businesses (and even large organizations) who are looking to focus and fortify their marketing strategy and content.

So I got to work and came up with my own list of questions, adapted from Smith’s, and geared towards marketing teams and even small business owners.  I think you’ll find these 10 questions to ask your marketing team help you re-focus and re-vamp the message you’re sending to you current and future clients. Ask away!

10 Questions to Ask Your Marketing Team

  1.  How do you/we encourage creative thinking within our organization?
  2. Where do the great ideas come from in our organization?
  3. What is most important to our organization—mission, core values or vision?
  4. How does our marketing strategy/operations communicate what is important to us?
  5. How can this improve?
  6. What is the biggest challenge facing our organization today?
  7. How can our marketing team help offer solutions?
  8. Can you explain the impact you’ve seen social networking and Web 2.0 make on our organization?
  9. How can we better utilize these resources?
  10. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a ‘story-teller’ for our organization?

I hope these questions are just the beginning, serving as a catalyst for your organization to create a memorable message and achieve your marketing goals.

Need help crafting your new message? Reach out to me for a free consult!

Common Website Mistakes

FREE  15 was such a fun experience, I might just do it again sometime! It was both informative and inspiring to work with other entrepreneurs/creatives on their language, and I realized (again) my passion for helping small businesses communicate their vision.

For those of you who didn’t hear about FREE 15, I decided to write up a little post on some of the common mistakes I saw/suggestions I made for the website owners I worked with.

Common website mistakes_2

image via unsplash: Matthew Wiebe

Watch your sentence length

Sentences should have a variety of lengths in order to keep the reader engaged in what she is reading. Short, choppy sentences can create a disjointed feeling, while longer sentences can make the reader forget the subject altogether.

Know when to use a comma

Commas are confusing, and the rules are broken all the time. However, as my advanced grammar professor used to say, “you’ve got to know the rules to break them.” So before you throw commas out the door, at least try to understand some basic guidelines.

Some basic comma guidelines:

  • Use a comma to separate part of a sentence that is non-essential to making it a sentence

    e.g. Henry, the brains behind this business, is our beloved founder.

    “Henry is our beloved founder” is a sentence on its own, so you need to set apart the phrase “the brains behind this business” with two commas.

  • Use a comma to link two full sentences connected by a conjunction.

    e.g. We love to help others capture their day in photos, and we’re passionate about doing this at a professional level.

  • Do NOT use a comma to link a sentence with a fragment.

    e.g. We want our photos to help you capture your day and create memories to last a lifetime .

Avoid Clichés

If you’re not sure if something is a cliche, ask yourself if you’ve heard it before. If the answer is yes, try to steer clear (hint “steer clear” is a cliche!) People want to know you have your own unique voice, tastes and passions. Give them something new, even if it takes you a while to think up how you’re different, you definitely are!


I hope this helps you with your journey, and as always, feel free to reach out to me to learn more about what a full website-refresh would look like.

6 Tips: How to Find Inspiration For Your Writing

Back in my college days, I noticed a trend in my fellow English major. Many, many (far too many) of them spent the majority of their free time reading. It got to the point where I felt weird for not gobbling up the latest Twilight book on Friday night. I had a lot of other things going on in life! When I got over the fact that I wasn’t the typical book-worm writer, I began to see how these other things informed my writing in a very real way.

Okay book-lover-writers, hear me when I say NOTHING is wrong with reading, in fact, there is a lot right with it. But I’m pretty certain that if you want to be a writer who can create a believable character, do justice to your dialogue and keep a reader hooked, you’ve got to find inspiration from more than just someone else’s stories.

So how do you find inspiration for your writing? The answer will look different every time.  However, I think these tips might help you along the way.

 6 quick tips

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found on one of my walks: Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

With all of these tips, I recommend bringing along a little (or big) notebook.

1. Take a walk. There is nothing quite so slow as walking. Yes, I mean slow. We are not used to being slow, to paying attention. Talk a walk and you are having an experience with the sounds, sights and smells of the world around you. What better way to ground yourself and refresh your writing with accurate sensory descriptions?

2. People watch. I’ve done some pretty great people watching while in hospital waiting rooms, on restaurant patios or mall benches. Put yourself in a public space and then pay attention to body language, to facial expressions and to how conversations begin, escalate and end.

3. Go somewhere new. This might be hard for those recluse-writer-types out there, but it can do wonders for your words. This new place could be a different coffee shop, park or unfamiliar city (even country)! Get out of your comfort zone, and I’ll bet your descriptions of places and cultures will find a refreshing zest.

4. Listen to soundtracks. Nix the lyrical stuff, just let the raw complexity of these tunes light your imagination on fire. These sounds are meant to be paired with stories, so see what your mind weaves as you listen.

5. Start a conversation with a stranger. I realize this could be terrifying for an introvert,  but it doesn’t have to be as crazy as you think. Simply go beyond pleasantries with your barista or sales clerk. Ask a question about the weather or a sports team, give someone a compliment and see where it leads. You could just be chatting with the person who inspires your next main character.

6. Read something you wouldn’t normally read. I realize that I kind of gave reading a hard time in this post, but past literature will always be a part of what informs new writing. This time though, instead of sticking to what you’re comfortable with,  pick up something new. Try  local newspapers, scientific studies, travel brochures, opinion pieces. Branch out and you might just be surprised at how the tid-bits of information you pick up can become part of your novel, character  or poem.

I hope my 6 tips will help you find inspiration for your writing, and I hope you comment with a few of your own!

Freshen up Your Website in 15 Minutes

Free 15

I’ve learned that creatives usually only have one or two gifts.

For example, I’m a word-junkie. I like to squeeze the goodness out of words and phrases, massage a passage till it shines. BUT. I am not a photographer, painter or dancer. My clay class in high school taught me that I can’t throw, so I stick with what I know!

Which is why, for the next 15 days, I want to collaborate with  you and other creatives–photographers, artists, designers, welders and all those in between. For 15 minutes, I want to sit with your words and leave you with a few fresh ideas for FREE. My hope is to see new friendships, partnerships and other ships can set sail from this idea and leave us all feeling a new kind of inspired.

How it works

Contact me sometime in the next 15 days saying you want a “Free 15.” I will draw one person each day. If you win, I sit with your website (or even just a specific page of your choosing) and then send you grammatical advice, word-changes and flow ideas. Completely free.

All I ask for is, if you like my work, spread the word. Social media love via Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest is all appreciated!

Looking forward to these next 15!

8 Great Gift Ideas for Writers

The holidays are upon us, and if you’re like me, you’re scrambling to get a few ideas for the friends, in-laws and loved-ones on your list. On the flip side, when someone asks you for your wishes and wants, it can feel somewhat awkward to give them a list.

Whether you need a few Christmas gift ideas for writers in your life, or you’re the writer looking to give someone a few ideas, this post is for you.

8 Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers

Some of these ideas are perfect stocking stuffers or secret santa presents, while some are “I’ve-forgotten-the-last-3-birthdays-and anniversarys-and-I’m-making-up-for-it.” Hopefully you can find at least one or two that fit your budget!


  1. A packet of really great pens. These make easy, practical stocking stuffers. My fav is the Pilot Precise V7, but there are a lot of great pens out there. Pay attention to how your friend or loved-one signs their receipts or writes in their planner; if they tend to favor one pen, that’s your go-to gift.
  2. ‘Novel-Teas’ tea packets. For the tea-lover writer in your life, this is a perfect literary gift that can actually be consumed. Put it in a mug, and you’ve got a great little gift. (Pictured above)
  3. A vintage typewriter. Cuz pretty much every writer wants one. Actual vintage can be expensive and might not work. So a hybrid between the two might be what you’re going for. This qwerkywriter keyboard looks vintage but can actually connect to a smart tablet!
  4. A really great pocket notebook. Again, there are so many options out there. This Rite in the Rain pocket notebook is just one, but is pretty unique in that it’s waterproof–perfect for the writer inspired by nature or while in the bathtub.
  5. A personalized leather journal. Not all writers like to journal, but the ones who do tend to cherish their journals and appreciate the kind of paper and quality of cover. To get started with your search, check out these personalized leather journals on etsy.
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$50 off on Cyber Monday!

I can’t believe it’s that time of year already! The shopping spazters come out to play, and the rest of us huddle at home, trying to do as much shopping from behind-the-screen as humanly possible.

cyber monday! (1)

This year I want to treat you diligent writer/shoppers (and loved-ones of) to a special Cyber Monday deal. $50 big ones off of any one writing or editing project you throw my way.*

For some of you, this might mean your newsletter project or short story is nearly half off!

All you have to do is subscribe to my blog by midnight on Monday, and I will reach out to get the process started! Additionally, if you would like to gift this to someone else, just shoot me an email letting me know, and I will create a voucher for your writer friend or loved-one.

Happiest of Holidays!


*I don’t work with erotica, rape or explicit sex scenes cuz let’s be real I don’t like that stuff.

5 Ways to Stay Sane During NaNoWriMo

MS Editors

image via nanowrimo.org

It’s everywhere. NaNoWriMo has begun. Something about this month makes me both excited and terrified. Excited, because I could write  anything; someone I know could write anything! Terrified, because it’s yet another commitment, another possibility to fail.

But  NaNoWriMo is meant to be a time of inspiration and opportunity! Instead, it’s sometimes the beginning of that slippery slope into slight insanity.  So, whether you decide to participate or not, here are just a few ways to stay sane this November.

1. Do an hours assessment
Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or not, it’s still so helpful to know where your hours are going. It’s simple. Add up the hours you spend on work, other commitments and daily activities, then see what’s left.  If you’re participating and you’re left with just a few hours before bed, you may want to consider waking up an hour earlier to write or dropping a commitment for a month…

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Beta Reader, Editor or Agent: What You Need Next

As an aspiring writer, it can be quite confusing to know what it actually takes to get your writing on someone else’s bookshelf (besides your Mom’s).

If you want to see your MS become a book someday, your scribbles a website or your jumbled thoughts a zine, you have to give it a chance instead of just leaving it to chance.

What you need next

Giving your work a chance means going through all the necessary steps. But maybe you’re just not sure what your next step should be. This quick guide is meant to help you discover what you need next–  beta reader, editor or agent– to help get your writing where you want it to go.

Find a beta reader when…

You’ve written something up. Abandoned it. Re-visited and re-vamped. Hemmed, hawed, edited and proofread. But not another set of eyes (besides maybe your mother’s) have seen what you’ve written. It’s time for some beta readers. Whether you ask for volunteers, offer some sort of incentive, or join a writing group, you’ll want some feedback even before your writing hits the editor’s desk.

Practical tips: Beta readers should be just the right mix of critical and encouraging, the people you can trust to be honest and objective. They should also be at least somewhat versed in the genre you’re writing in and excited about giving their input.

Hire an editor when…

You’ve gone through the beta-reader stage and done at least one revision on your own.  Keep in mind, that not all editors are created equal. Some are well-versed in helping develop your novel, some may be better at combing through and improving it line-by-line. A good editor, says Ashley of Brooks Editorial, will help you figure out just what it is that you need.

Practical tips: Ask for referrals from the editor your querying, or maybe even a free/ discounted 5-page edit to see there skills at work. If you don’t feel like the editor is working with you, then move on. Improving your MS should be a team effort and a positive experience.

Attract an agent when…

Well, this one can be tricky.  Even if you’ve been through the previous steps, you still might not be ready. When you’re looking for an agent, not only does your writing have to be edited, polished and attractive, but you need your ‘poop in a group.’

What is the ‘poop’ to which I refer? For starters, a query letter, synopsis of your story and probably a few example chapters ready to go. Make sure not to let this other stuff slip by without an editor’s eye as well!

Practical tips: Research agents to see what they look for to determine which agent might accept your MS. Know your MS. If it’s not mainstream, don’t go from the mainstream agents. Also, check out the fees. Most agents are paid on commission from your books sales (typically 15 percent) so upfront costs are usually  a red flag.

Obviously, this is not all there is to it. If you’re published or about to be, what did it take you to get there? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Unlocking Your Creative Process

Recently I wrote an article for a client on how creatives get their ‘ creative juices flowing.’ (It’s in the editing queue or I would totally link to it). In order to get some insights, I posed a question on HARO, and within a day my inbox was flooded. Writers, designers, illustrators, and craftspeople were all full of ideas on how to make ideas happen and get creative.

As I began to leaf through their responses, something struck me: each of these individuals has their own creative process.

All of them have a way in which they go about starting, sustaining and finishing a project. A few people even described their creative process to me, with others just highlighting a phase or step they take when creating.

Then I realized something else: I was not familiar with my own creative process.

As someone who’s been writing and drawing since learning how to hold a pencil, you’d think I’d have a hint by now. Nope. Thinking about how I create feels like closing my eyes and trying to picture my face. Strange.

If you’re like me, your creative process may be a bit of a mystery to you; it may feel strange to try and capture it and duplicate it later. But I’m convinced that unlocking my (your) process is the key to understanding how to improve both the process and the final result.

The first step to unlocking your creative process is to simply understand the components of creating. I’ve listed what I believe to be the four main phases of the creative process. (I’m sure there’s zillions of opinions and ideas about what the creative process actually includes, so keep in mind, that this is just my take.)

With each phase, I’ve listed a few questions you can ask yourself to better understand your personal process and start thinking about ways to improve it.

1. Ideation
 Everything starts with an idea. Ideation may happen when you’re lying awake in bed, going for a long walk outside or taking a shower. It’s different for everyone, so the key to this step is finding out what starts your idea engine and making time for that activity.

Ask yourself: where and when does ideation happen for me? * Do I carve out (enough) time to do the activities that bring me ideas?

*If you can’t think of any specific times/places that ideas happen, you may want to start trying some different brainstorming techniques to see which works for you

For me, spending time riding my bike or walking in nature is what inspires ideation.

For me, spending time riding my bike or walking in nature is what inspires ideation.

2. Invention (Creating)
This is the phase when you actually start to put the pen to paper, fingers in the clay, a brush to canvas. Actually starting can be the most difficult (and longest) step in the process. As you think through your creative process, you may have several sub-steps* that fall under invention in order to get you all the way through to the next phase.

Ask yourself: what holds me back from starting to invent/create? Where do I do my best inventing/creating? Do I have (enough) time carved out to invent/create?

*planning, organizing, outlining…

3. Reflection
This is the phase in your process when you look back at your work to reflect and evaluate. For writers, this is asking someone to read your work, going to a beta-reader or hiring an editor. This is also self-reflection, thinking through and assessing your creative process and your finished project. This step is often ignored and can be the scariest part of the creative process. It’s hard to think about our work objectively and face the flaws, but ignoring the reflecting phase is as silly as denying the fact you have a hammer in your house. This phase is a powerful tool that allows us to hone our craft and improve our process.

Ask yourself: do I actually reflect? If so, do I use reflecting to improve my finished product? Do I have (enough) time carved out for reflecting?

4. Re-inventing
The final* phase in the creative process is reinventing (re-crafting, or recreating). Often after reflecting, we can feel overwhelmed or sick of our project and give up on or ignore it for a time. Getting to the point where we are actually willing to reinvent can be difficult, but is absolutely key to accomplishing our creative process. Reinventing is the place where we take what we learned in reflection and improve upon what we’ve created. Though the name I chose for this phase might suggest a total over-haul, that is not the intent. The reinventing stage is to simply re-visit what you’ve made and make improvements.

Ask yourself: Do I allow myself to reach this step? What is hard for me about this step and how can I remove these barriers? Do I have (enough) time carved out to recreate?

*We may go through several rounds of reflection and reinventing before we finally “finish” with a final round of reflecting.

Now what
Now that you know the components of most creative processes, it’s time to map out what it takes you to make and carve out time for each phase. More on how to map out time to create in posts to come…

For the comments: How do you create? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about your own creative process and what makes it work!

The Language That Won The Super Bowl

By now, we all know the Super Bowl isn’t really about the football anymore. It’s about the food, commercials and onslaught of social commentary on everything. The real winners and losers are the companies that put 4.5 MILLION on the line to either win our country’s heart or feel the wrath of our criticism with their 30 second ads.

So what really wins us over?

Is it puppies loving horsies or Daddies loving kiddos? I think the cute stuff helps, but it’s more than that. The videography and music are big parts, but it’s more than them too. It’s language. You can bet those companies willing to shell out 4 and a half million spent days and months pouring over their language—shaping it until they felt it was precise, perfectly placed and persuasive.

So let’s take a look at some Super Bowl commercial language that can teach us a thing or two.

Example 1 Always #LikeAGirl

The ad starts out giving us a behind-the-scenes shot, so we feel instantly like we’re part of the making of the commercial, not just watching it. The screen changes to read: What does it mean to do something “like a girl?” Notice it’s an open-ended question, both open to us and to those being interviewed in the commercial. The answer is not yes, no or multiple choice; the interviewer does not answer the question for you. So as the viewer, we begin to answer the question in our heads, becoming more vested in the moment, even picturing ourselves acting-out “like a girl.” We wonder, as we watch the interviewees acting out the phrase, would we do the same things?

Then the words: We asked young girls the same question. This intrigues us more. How will the young girls respond in comparison to the older girls and young men? Our question is answered as we watch young girl after young girl in inspirational pantomime. After we are inspired by their responses, the words appear When did doing something “like a girl” become an insult? At that moment, what we had been wondering subconsciously is put to words on the screen before us. In a Google-esque way, the creators of this ad read our minds and gave us the words we didn’t quite have yet.  Brilliant.

Finally, the words A girl’s confidence plummets during puberty appear on the screen.  Yep, we think, makes sense. But who’s going to change that? Then the words: Always wants to change that. In my opinion they could have been more subtle with their branding and left even more of the selfless, heroic image they were working to portray. But still— powerful right? And such simple, simple words.

The strategy of their words is what helped guide our minds into exactly the place they wanted us to go: seeing Always as one of the heroes, along with ourselves, who can change “like a girl” from being an insult into meaning something strong and inspirational.

Example 2: Chevy Super Bowl Commercial 4G LTE WiFi

First, the trickery. We think the big game is finally on and then out of nowhere our TV cuts out.

Or does it? Then the simple words: What would you do if your TV went out? We think on that, and the commercial actually gives us a few seconds to do so, before giving us an option but not necessarily the answer: The all-new Chevy Colorado offer built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi.  (pause) You could stream the game in it. “Duh.” We think. In fact, the language so far may have annoyed us a bit, even making us feel like an outcast if we don’t have that truck option. But then the ad becomes so much more relatable again with the next words:  just sayin’.  (pause) You know you want a truck. Again, they do the Google thing and tell us what we’re thinking in the back of our minds. We are validated in our materialism and brought back into the ‘insiders’ group because, yeah, we all kind of want a truck.

Though it wasn’t the highest ranking commercial, you’ve got to admit that it was attention-getting and even climbed into your mind a bit with its conversational cocky message: You know you want a truck.