"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tips to Advance Your SEO Game in 2018

Image Via Pixabay.com

There’s so much information on the internet nowadays about SEO that it’s hard to know what’s right and what isn’t. If you want your website to be successful in 2018, you simply can’t afford to ignore SEO. You don’t need to be a computer genius to understand the basics of SEO and how it can help your website. Even simple changes can have a major impact on your website performance! Here are tips to advance your SEO game!

Custom Page URLsOne of the easiest changes you can make to your website SEO is page URLs. If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, your website will automatically be set up to include page URLs with the date or another jumble of numbers. This jumble of numbers doesn’t mean much to search engines, and it’s better to include that actual title of the page or the keyword.

Luckily, this is an easy thing to change. Click here for a guide to customizing this format so you don’t have to think about it the next time you create a blog post! If you’ve already created several pages or posts with the previous format, be cautious about changing your URL. This might affect your links on social media or other websites.

Link Building
Link building is an essential part of website SEO. Every time your link appears on another website, it sends a message to Google and other search engines that you have quality content. The more, the better, particularly if your link is on high-profile websites. You can create an outreach plan for link building with the right anchor texts or use a tool like Linkio. Link building is something that takes time, but a proactive approach has a big payoff.

Image via Pixabay.com

Nobody wants to waste time trying to figure out their way around your website. If your website isn’t easily readable, people won’t stick around long. This is important because the lower your bounce rate, the better your page ranking. If your homepage is nothing but a block of giant text with no subheadings or clear navigation, your SEO is going to suffer the consequences.

Make readability a top priority in your SEO strategy. Use heading tags and subheading tags whenever possible to break up large blocks of text, and include things like images and videos which have shown to keep users on web pages longer. Limit your navigation to a few key links, and don’t encourage users to click off your website.

Quality Content
You can edit your page name and build your link strategy all you want, but without quality content, you still won’t see an improvement. Having high-quality content is by far the best SEO strategy. Creating quality content is about more than writing blog posts of a certain length. It’s about creating things users actually want. This could be written guides or even videos, as long as they answer user questions and fill a need. Great content gets more links and builds stronger relationships with users. This is how you actually get people coming back to your website again and again!

The Importance of SEO
SEO is more than things you check off a list for your website. It’s about creating a website worth visiting and encouraging users to link to your engaging content. Great SEO goes beyond keywords and page tags to actually help users navigate a site clearly. Ignoring SEO is no longer an option in 2018, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated! If you follow the tips above, your SEO game will improve in no time!

Author Bio:

Wendy's marketing journey started seven years ago as a marketing student in Chicago, IL where she currently lives.
Her first Marketing position was doing website copy for the local restaurant.
Currently, she works as a super-connector who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.
She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.
Thoughts? Questions, readers?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pen & Prosper Honors National Poetry Month

"How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways..."

There are many reasons to love poetry. From the depths and heights that we experience from reading the works of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, to the powerful thoughts penned by Maya Angelou.
Poetry feeds the mind, soul and spirit.
As a wise man once wrote: "

"I believe the world is beautiful, and poetry, like bread, is for everyone."

-Roque Dalton

But for me, there's even more. Poetry was my "first love."
Long before I became a blogger, decades before I began my career as a relationship columnist for both online and print publications, I wrote poems.
As a teenager, poetry helped me to cope during an awkward and confusing period; it allowed me to have a "voice."  An added bonus here, is that I have also met and made many lovely friends as a result of our mutual interest in this ancient art form.
In the evolving years, I've even published several poetry books and won various writing awards along the way. 
Today, in honor of National Poetry Month, (read more here): 
I'd like to share a few personal pieces that I have written.
I hope that you enjoy them. Feel free to share your thoughts by way of the comments section.
Have a great week ahead! Thanks for reading.


Despite the crime,
Despite the grit and grime,
Despite the rhetoric
Challenging his citizenship,
Let the records show
For all the nation to know
For future generations,
And history’s preservation,
That the 1st Black President lived here,
The home of Home Run Inn Pizza,
Buildings tall enough to kiss God,
Frigid winters,
And hot Jazz spots,
Notorious politicians,
The backdrop of fabulously famous writers,
Oprah’s former stomping ground,
More than a “toddlin’ town”
It’s called home for millions,
Where greatness hangs its hat,
A mecca for movers and shakers,
A great source of pride…


Don’t think twice,

Love yourself


Confidence breeds


Never settle for less,

You deserve the best.

Life is long,

Marry smart,

Pray strong,

Life is short,

Cherish the moments…


(4 the Singer formerly known as Prince Rogers Nelson)

He left the party early,
In purple wings and glitter,
Causing time to stand still,
Like 1999...
Then the music stopped
For all of us,
Leaving hearts
Of purple tears,
Purple Rain
Purple Rain…

(C) Jennifer Brown Banks

Thoughts? Comments?

Image Credits: Pixabay.com

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Spring into Success! The 3Rs Series Continues

Spring has sprung. And with it comes the realization that the 1st quarter of the year is nearly gone, while many of your New Year's resolutions still remain. True?
Never fear.
To help you meet your goals and move forward, today's post provides reads and leads to enhance your efforts (and hopefully your bottom line).











The Accidental Husband

With an intriguing title, I couldn't wait to take this flick home and explore it.
It did not disappoint. It was definitely a different take on your typical "girl meets boy" story.
Here's the scoop in a nutshell...
A sexy firefighter finds his life turned inside out when his fiancee ends the relationship upon the recommendation of a radio love show "Dr."
His plot to take revenge on the love show host backfires when he ends up falling for her. 
The movie stars: Uma Thurman, Colin Firth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
It's funny, warm, romantic and engaging. 
It's no "accident" that I really enjoyed this movie. You will too.
I give it **** 4 stars out of 5.
Seen any good movies lately? Do tell.
NOTE: Pen & Prosper will be on Spring Break until April 10th.
Have a beautiful Easter.  See you soon.
Image credits: Pixabay.com


Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Tisket, A Tasket a Doctor and a Basket!

Last December, after much consideration, I decided to do something nice for my doctor.
I know, I know...it sounds kind of strange; especially when many are already overpaid and sometimes have questionable practices. But hear me out here.

While most folks dread going to the doctor due to all the prodding, probing, pain and impersonal treatment, my experience over the last few years has been different.

Besides being "easy on the eyes" my physician is funny, warm, patient and compassionate.
Dr. "P" has a great bedside manner and a very calming effect.
In many ways, he is his own form of medicine.

Because of this, I wanted to convey my respect and regard for him.
But, allow me to digress a bit here.
Last year, when my brother died it hit me like a ton of bricks.  His unexpected and untimely death left an emptiness I can't explain.
It also taught me to give folks their flowers while they are living.

I never really got the opportunity to tell my brother how much of an impact he had on me in my development as a woman and now I never will.
But I CAN do better in sharing warm, wonderful thoughts and gestures with others (in the spirit of what his death taught me).

Fast forward...

90 days after my initial doctor's visit, I needed to come in again for a routine screening.
Busy, as usual, he was training two of his assistants and sharing some procedural info.
Then all of a sudden he pulled out his cell phone. Which was strange for him.
With a wide grin he said to them: "Guess what someone did for me for Christmas?"

Dr. "P" then went on to show images of the Xmas basket I had given him with his colleagues.
He told me that he was so excited he took pictures and shared it with just about everybody!
He let me know that in 10 years of being there, no one had ever given him a gift before.
He was clearly touched.
Go figure.
Here's a man who earns a six-figure salary who was moved by my small gesture of kindness.

The moral of the story here?
Small acts, kind words matter.
In a day and age where we have so many horrific things happening (many of which we have no control) we can CHOOSE kindness.

Truth is, we just never know what issues, insecurities or burdens somebody is dealing with, that  perhaps could be ameliorated simply by something positive we say or do.
And it takes so little to mean so much.

As writers there's even more.
We have the opportunity and platforms to promote good; inspire change; combat stereotypes; champion worthy causes; to widen the "lens" by which others see the world.
We can and we must use our "powers" for good.

In fact, there's an organization and a movement dedicated to random acts of Kindness.
Read more here:


If you're on board, here are some


  • Give a compliment.

  • Volunteer.

  • Donate to a charity.

  • Make a blog comment.

  • Forgive a grudge.

  • Refrain from gossip.

  • Share the gospel to give hope.

  • Start a "GO FUND ME" page for someone in need.

  • Run errands for someone elderly.

  • Be a mentor.

  • Give benefit of the doubt.

  • Be a beacon.

  • Attend a book signing for a local author.

  • Listen attentively.

  • Spend more time with friends and family.

  • Let someone else have the spotlight.

  • Make someone a meal.

  • Be less critical of others.

  • Share laughter.

Get the idea here?
Here's my small part, a starting point.

Won't you join me?

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

NOTE: I'm releasing this post early so I can "pencil" in a possible vacation soon.:-)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

5 Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference this Year

As a writer, one of the things that I love the most is the sense of community and shared experiences of those who are similarly wired. I dig that though we're all different, hail from different geographic regions, have different ideologies, are of varying races, religions and backgrounds, there is a commonality in our goals, struggles and even the way in which we "process" the world.

Online or off,  no matter where you are in your creative journey, or the obstacles you encounter, a fellow writer "gets it" like no one else. Which is why attending a writers' conference is a great way to stay motivated, receive support and achieve some of those new year's resolutions made in January.
Remember? :-)

This weekend, Chicago Writers Association sponsored its first conference, for writers of all levels and genres. This exciting and informative forum was held at the beautiful Whitehall Hotel and featured some literary heavy-weights which included: David Fisher, Joe Meno, Fred Mitchell, Kathryn Craft and Ann Garvin (to name a few). Read more here:

"What do you write?" was the ice breaker that served as the opening line for many "getting to know you" conversations throughout the weekend.

 The great conversations added warmth to this chilly winter season, and represented just one benefit of attending this conference for me.




1. Information and Inspiration

Writers conferences offer an array of resources, tips and strategies to help you to "work smarter, not harder."  Remember that knowledge is power.

2. Networking Opportunities

Sometimes these gatherings can present the right people and circumstances to fill in information gaps; introduce you to others for future collaborative projects; or provide leads to your "dream job."

3. Access to Industry Experts


One of my favorite sessions of the conference was the "Pick the brain" forum where writers were allowed to ask specific questions of the professional panel to address individual pain points and challenges. Things like marketing recommendations, how to craft a query letter, platform building, dialogue dos and don'ts, and how to successfully navigate relationships with editors.

4. Goodies and Freebies!

Who doesn't love "swag bags" filled with decorative pens, journals, bookmarks and other useful items? Winner winner chicken dinner!

5. Feedback and Guidance for your W.I. P. (Works in Progress)

Depending upon what type of conference you attend and the format, you may be able to receive  a critique session from an editor, have peers evaluate your ideas and approach, or simply benefit from Q & A sessions that broaden your knowledge base and help to move the needle on your career.
Trust me; you can't "Google" the quality of information received via these types of forums, folks.

This year's conference was a great success! A special thanks to all of those who made it possible.

Though I hope to have Pen & Prosper readers join us for our next conference here in the "windy city," I'm also providing a listing of other conferences across the globe, that may be of potential interest.


"There is strength is numbers."

Your turn.
Thoughts? Have you ever attended a writer's conference? How was it?
What did you learn?

Typewriter image: Pixabay.com

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Get Hired, Be Inspired-the 3Rs Series Continues!

Greetings Readers,
In my ongoing efforts to advance and enhance your writing career, you'll find an array of diverse reads, leads and resources in today's post.
I hope you enjoy.
Feel free to let me know what resonated the most with you here, or to offer suggestions for future inclusion.
Here's to your success!


5 Non-writing Ways Writers Can Make Money

What you Really Get When Hiring Writers for Projects

Say "no" to these Freelance Writing Jobs

7 Ways Meditation can Transform Your Life

Google's Push for a More Secure Internet

11 Habits of Successful Freelance Writers

3 Signs that Your Book Cover Misses the Mark


2018 Writing Contests

Jobs for Bloggers

Free Writing E-Books to Hone Your Craft

What Would Life be Like Without the Arts?


On a Stick! Cookbook 80 Party-Perfect Recipes
By: Matt Armendariz
As many of you are aware, I am a big foodie!
I'm always trying out new recipes to entertain and "wow" family and friends.
Which is why I was so excited to score this clever and creative guide (from my local Dollar Tree Store) with appetizers and desserts essentially presented on a stick. It's a fun read filled with beautiful images and an innovative approach to both new and old recipes.
I'll be trying these treasures out soon. I'll keep you posted...
On a scale of 1-5, I give it 4****  stars.

Image Credits: Pixabay.com 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Become a "Thought Leader" to Enhance Your Blogging Career & Your Bottom Line

“The world is a stage.” ---Shakespeare

Everybody’s got an opinion.
But, unfortunately not everyone will have the opportunity to be “heard.” Particularly in the virtual world; where there is so much noise, clamor and folks seeking 15 minutes of fame.

Here’s a crucial statistic to consider: according to Statista.com, the number of bloggers is expected to reach 31.7 million in 2020. Which means that competition for the time, engagement and attention of today’s busy readers is becoming increasingly fierce.

All the more reason you’ll need to STAND OUT and stay relevant, to “stay in the black.”
One way to do so is to become a thought leader or influencer in your respective niche.
Before we cover how to accomplish this, I’ll address what an influencer or thought leader is, and why it benefits bloggers to become one.


Simply put, a thought leader or influencer is a blogger/writer who has earned the reputation of being someone who is informed, interesting, credible, respected and popular among peers.
Another way to think of it is the slogan: “When E.F. Hutton speaks everybody listens.”


Thought leaders and influencers typically garner:

  • Greater traffic levels to their sites and a higher level of engagement and comments
  • Greater credibility; which translates into more sales of information products and creative services
  • More opps to partner with major brands and publishers as a brand ambassador and spokesperson
  • More avenues to make money through affiliate programs and ad revenue
A good example would be bloggers that often grace your annual "Top Blogs for..." listings.
Here are a few:

Get the idea here?
Don’t get it twisted. Your blog does not have to have a cult like following to qualify. Though it indeed helps.
Now that you know what a thought leader is, you’ll need to know how to become one.

Accordingly, here are the 3 key traits that determine who typically becomes an influencer in the blog community and publishing industry.
I like to call it the 3Rs:

Reputation refers to your brand, your online image, your overall public perception.
It takes into account these major contributing factors: your website design, your social media activities, your writer’s voice, your logo, your slogan, writing awards, and even your guest posts. A solid reputation helps increase your visibility and your social media impact. It also helps to potentially cut down on your marketing efforts considerably. For example, in being recognized as an influencer via my “Top Blog for Writers” designation (for the past few years), I’ve garnered numerous requests to review merchants’ products; invitations to participate in collaborative projects; job offers; and some affiliate offers from major brands. And you can too.
Simply put, a good writing reputation better positions you to be a “go-to-guru,” stand out from the crowd, build your fan base and your bottom line.

Quality trumps quantity. Always put forth your best work. Though ideally, you want to publish on a very regular and consistent basis, it’s better to wait until you have something of substance to share, as opposed to publishing mediocre posts that merely help you meet your weekly quota. If generating ideas is a problem, check out this post to motivate your muse:

Reach simply refers to your collective following. It encompasses your Twitter peeps; your blog subscriber numbers; your Facebook fans; and other social media supporters. Advertisers, publishers, agents and investors crunch the numbers to determine whether there’s a likelihood that partnering with you will be profitable, based upon the size of your social circle. It’s also referred to as your “platform.”

In the absence of massively large numbers, it helps if your blog contributes real value to the blogging community. Bonus points if it’s very unique and/or funny as well.
Strive to be recognized as a resource; as someone who helps and supports other writers and bloggers; who is professional and “plays nicely” with others.
Your work does not have to be Pulitzer Prize level to be popular and well-received.  Perish the thought. It just needs to be quality oriented. Write from the heart. "Speak" from an informed position. Have your own style. Take the time to proof your writing for typos and careless errors.

To become the best writer possible, read as much as possible. Read the blogs of respected authors; read outside of your niche; read books in different genres. Reading helps you to build your vocabulary, understand the needs of your audience, and hone your craft.

Becoming a thought leader is within your reach. Consider today's tips as "food for thought" for a more successful blogging career in 2018.

Comments? Questions?

Image credit: Pixabay.com