Don’t Ruin Good Marketing With a Bad Attitude

Recently a friend of mine forwarded me an e-newsletter she subscribes to. She saw an entry that might interest me. She was right, I was interested. The newsletter talked about hiring writers if you need help developing content to keep your business visible.

The person whose newsletter it is, works locally so I went ahead and sent them an email introducing myself. I told them that I’m a local writer and would be happy to meet with them sometime.

Their response back was a conversation stopper. They had no need for a writer, their marketing department develops the newsletters, and my invitation to meet in person was ignored.
So in other words, this person is sabotaging their business’s marketing efforts.

I question: Why bother sending out newsletters if this is the response you give when someone reaches out to you?

What Went Right

The newsletter itself did what it was supposed to do. Someone on the mailing list received it and forwarded it to someone else – extending the reach of the original marketing piece.

The newsletter elicited a response from the reader. The reader actually sent an email to the person who sent out the newsletter.

This is the response that you want from a newsletter. You want your readers to reach out to you with comments, feedback, questions, even an invite to grab a cup of coffee. Your newsletter is helping you build relationships.

What Went Wrong and Why

I’ve touched on what went wrong. The “sender” of the newsletter cut short any potential for a relationship.

It seemed like the person didn’t know what was talked about in the newsletter.

They were not ready to respond thoughtfully to any interest the newsletter might create.

Instead of taking a grateful appreciative approach, they took the “don’t bother me” one.

It’s all too easy to take them up on that sentiment.

The lesson here is to be gracious and engaged when new contacts reach out to you. Make your goal nurturing relationships instead of stomping on the seed.

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Writers on a Boat: Eireene Nealand and Eva Barrows Talk Writing (Part 2)

Eireene Amongst Boats
Part 2 of 2 Part Series

The sun pours in from the cabin windows and from the open hatch above. A cooling breeze wafts into the cozy space smelling of salt and seaweed. The bark of harbor seals, the “ting ting” clang of various ropes hitting against wrapped sails, and the ever-present seagulls squawk overhead. Eireene and I share our thoughts on writing tucked inside the boat docked at Half Moon Bay California’s Pillar Point Harbor.

The Nest: Tales from Bela Rechka, book written by Eireene Nealand, Photographs by Megan Lueneburg, available on for download

Uncommon Approaches to Structure

Eva: I like to base my writing around dialogue. Just focusing on what people would say and then tightening it up and trying to make it sound funnier. I don’t really have jokes, it’s just the situation that’s humorous.

Eireene: Did your family go back and forth a lot?

Eva: Sometimes we’d have a banter.

Eireene: I don’t think I ever learned that.

Eva: You didn’t banter?

Eva Writing in a Boat

Eireene: Yeah, I’m too serious. (laughs)

Eva: But you had music? All of your family members know how to play instruments?

Eireene: Yes. I think it helps to have that. I really write by the sounds of language a lot. So I think I paid a lot of attention to songs. As I write I’m hearing the tones and the sounds. A lot derived from poetry. I love overhearing conversations.

Eva: Right I saw some of your snippets.

Eireene: I’m trying to figure out what to do with the snippets.

Eva: So are you going to take those and make a story?

Eireene: I need to figure it out but I think that’s actually going to be my style. It’s going to have to do with how many conversations I’ve ever heard. Cause I’ve been doing it for years. I have giant files of people’s conversations.

Eva: Do you go back and look at them?

Eireene: Every now and then and I’ll modify them a little bit. And I’ve also learned a lot about storytelling. People are so good at telling stories out loud to each other like in coffee shops. I’m amazed people just visualize the whole landscape and they have a good sense of pacing.

Eireene: Nothing happens in the one little snippet but then you put another snippet next to it…

Eva: It’s like a collage.

Eireene: I like that one little story will connect to another story and deepen it. One sort of becomes a metaphor for the other one.

Eva: You’re kind of like a reporter.

I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.

Eireene: I’m more of an arranger. Same with the historical stuff. I just get open to facts and mash them together. I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.

Eva: I think of structure as beginning-middle-end, if it flows, if it makes sense, but you have a different scope of structure.

Eireene: I like the detours.

Eva: Do you usually know what the meaning is when you start or does it appear?

Eireene: By the time I’m done writing it’s totally something else. I usually have the beginning and the ending and I stick with those things pretty strongly. Then I spend years writing the middle.

I like the detours.

Eva: So what do you want to get that down to? A couple of months?

Eireene: I’m learning so much. There’s a structural thing about how the beginning and ending are related that you just have to figure out. You can actually, hopefully, this is how I plan to save time in the future —you can sit and think about that a lot then know.

Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Chicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, Catamaran, Sidebrow, WHR, elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.

Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.

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Writers on a Boat: Eireene Nealand and Eva Barrows Talk Writing

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, CA
Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

The bay sparkles. Clear blue skies overhead and fishing boats flit across the calm water. Eireene Nealand and I take over her sister’s green sail boat docked at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA.

We tell ourselves that we’re actually going to do some writing once we get inside. Eireene takes my bag of crab cake sandwich and fries so I can keep my balance stepping onto the back of the boat. She assures me I won’t fall in the water.

Eva Getting Used to Boat

She unlocks the cabin hatch, slides it back and moves the ceiling panel so we can make our way inside. We sit across from each other on padded benches with a multi-use pop-up table between us. Eireene heats up water in the micro kitchen lining one side of the cabin. She sips tea and I eat my lunch.

The boat gently sways back and forth. I take out my digital voice recorder. She agrees to an impromptu interview. For a little context, Eireene is a poet, short story writer, European language translator and holds a Ph.D in Literature and MFA in Creative Writing. So, I have lots of questions for her as I’m in awe of her resume.

I start with the basics.

Siege of Leningrad and the Office Breakroom

Eva: What’s your favorite type of project to write?

Eireene: I like writing weird connections with history. I wrote a story about Lake Ladoga the Siege of Leningrad. It was about a girl in California who felt she was suffering then she learned about the Siege of Leningrad and was like “Wow my life’s not so bad!”

I like writing weird connections with history.

Eva: Do you fantasize about Eastern Europe?

Eireene: I did fantasize about the Communist Revolution when I was younger. But then I went and visited and found it wasn’t so romantic.

I did a whole story about that. It was really great that people had a big dream and the big dream had a lot of awful things to it. But how much worse would it be if there was no big dream and there was just awfulness?

Eireene: What do you write about?

Eva: I try to write about something that’s happened to me. I blow it out of proportion like a Seinfeld episode.

Eireene: Do you stay away from politics?

Eva: I keep it casual. In, The Birthday Committee, which is a funny story, I have a character in the office breakroom and she’s watching CNN and it shows a bomb going off in Syria. It’s not really a comment on Syria it’s a comment to the story. It’s a war zone in the breakroom.

Eireene: What kind of settings do you like to write about?

Eva: Things I’m familiar with. A lot of my writing has been about things that’ve made me mad. I want to go back and reinvent the moment. Become empowered in some way. It’s never a big deal. It’s just something that’s bothered me. The settings are small and familiar, the breakroom at work, the college campus out in the back fields, a coffee shop confrontation.

Eireene Not Reading

A Family of Characters

Eireene: It’s interesting a lot of other people have written about my family but they do it in a completely different way than I would do it. They draw on all of these hippie stereo types.

Eva: How many articles have there been?

Eireene: There’s been two major ones about the idea of a hippie family. I think they do a really good job. A better one than I could do. I can’t get at real life directly. It seems like you’re closer to real life.

Eva: I write about my husband a lot. Like things he does that influence me. He’s usually like “oh god you’re writing about that?” I’m not writing deeply about myself, kind of expressing myself.

He’s the other character in my life.

Eireene: I notice a lot of writers have this break-through moment when they fall in love and write about the other person.

Eva: But I’m not even gushing about him though.

Eireene: Yeah you’re just tracking his behavior. You’re noticing him a lot because you’re happy. One day I aspire to write that kind of story.

Eva: He’s the other character in my life.

**More of our discussion will be posted on the blog next week. Come back to find out how two different writers approach structure in writing.

Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVAChicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, CatamaranSidebrowWHR elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.

Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.

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Write in the New Year: 3 Content Marketing Assessments You Need to Make

The end of the year is a great time to look back and find out if you’ve hit your online marketing goals.
If your attempts to grab attention fizzled out, read on for suggestions about how to stay on track in the New Year.
No matter what type of content marketing you choose to do, present your business in a professional consistent manner. Make a genuine effort to stay in touch with your prospects through valuable content, not fluff!

Case of The Pseudo Blog

Publishing a vibrant blog on your website can produce huge benefits. One of the biggest rewards of having fresh content rolling in on your blog is growing a loyal audience.

But a blog can go wrong in one huge way – abandonment.
If blog posts are infrequent and outdated, your blog is not building a following.
The solution to blog abandonment is creating a publication schedule that you can stick to. The more often there’s an excuse for people to look at your website the better.
Start thinking about how you can stick to a publication schedule in the New Year.

Case of The Old News Website

While you’re reflecting on your business goals, check your website to see if anything needs to be updated.
In a previous post, “Don’t Stink Like a Fish: 6 Ways to Keep Your Web Content Fresh” I outline common website categories that need attention from time to time.
Close out the year by adding new client testimonials, links to company mentions in the press, and check to see if the “About” tab needs a refresh.
Get ready for the New Year by making announcements for upcoming product releases and adding appearances and events to the calendar page.
Make it easy for your followers to know where you’ll be – online and off – so they can plan on joining you!

Case of The On-Again Off-Again Newsletter

People subscribe to your newsletter because they want to hear from you. Keep your fans happy by showing up in their inbox once a month with useful content.
Stay top of mind with a consistent publishing schedule.
Putting together a mini-magazine for your business can be a daunting task. For best results keep your newsletter simple – for your own sanity and to respect your reader’s time.
Combine links to your blog or other websites with some original newsletter content to hold your reader’s attention.
What marketing methods have worked for you over the year?
Make a plan to keep them going strong in the New Year. If you need some help keeping up with your content marketing schedule, contact me to strategize with you!
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10 Things I Love About Freelance Writing


San Mateo County Fair where I took home three honorable mentions in writing this year.

This month I’m celebrating one year in business as a freelance writer! Here’s a peek into why writing is my passion.

Learn New Things

In order to write about a person, subject or organization I have to know what I’m talking about. I love to educate myself and expand my knowledge. A trip to the library, internet search, or firsthand interviews are just some of the ways I get the info I need to start writing.

Interview People

Often I get to write about interesting people who do interesting things. One of my favorite interviews so far has been with a Hawaiian musician who belts out a killer falsetto. I learned about his music and got a Hawaiian history lesson sprinkled in for context.

Craft of Writing

With the research in front of me, I sift through it all and make a story out of it. I’m in control of where the quotes go, how to weave the facts in, and I set the tone – funny, serious, melodic.

Being Published!

In the past year, I’ve had writing published in a book, blogs, and newsletters. It’s always exciting to see my words shuttled out for people to read. And I have a few fans! I recently went to a ball (yes, a costume Regency era soiree) where at least three people told me how much they love reading my blog.

Project Variety

I have written about so many different things this past year: camping, film festivals and construction projects to name a few. I’m constantly challenging myself by learning new subjects and switching gears from project to project.

In Person Networking

As a solopreneur I need to get the word out about my writing services. One of the ways I do this is through going to local networking meetings, and mixers to meet the community. I’ve picked up a few clients this way and met with people that could be future interview subjects.

Local Travel

The focus of my blog is the exploration of the beautiful San Francisco Peninsula. With so many points of interest in close proximity, I don’t have to worry about running out of content to write about. Experiencing where I live has been refreshing and gives me a greater appreciation for the area.

Creating Publications

I’m also celebrating ten years of publishing Imitation Fruit, the online literary journal that I created and edit once a year. The skills I developed working on the journal and doing layout at a print shop have equipped me for taking on newsletter publications for clients. I’m currently newsletter editor for Midpen Media Center and enjoy the publication process and project management aspect.

Solve Problems

I love to be the one with the answers and the ability to pull off writing and publication projects for clients. I can step in and produce newsletters, examine websites for areas of improvement or take on writing assignments that need to be done.

Work in PJs

Umm yeah, freelance writing has its perks!

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In a Writing Rut? Plagiarism Isn’t the Answer

Hey, writing is hard even for professional writers. Nowadays everyone from established businesses to solopreneurs has to crank out blog posts, newsletter articles, social media conversations and more to build their audience. Most likely the focus of your business is on a widget or service that has nothing to do with mastering the skill of writing. So when those deadlines loom to get something new posted, cutting and pasting a great article (someone else wrote) into your layout might seem like the perfect solution. But it’s not.

The word for taking someone else’s writing and putting your name or your company’s name on it is plagiarism – which is another word for stealing. Writing is like any other product. It takes time to research the subject matter and tons of thought goes into crafting the message. So yeah, if someone’s writing is stolen they’re going to be upset.

Let’s look at three ways to create fresh content to broadcast to your followers. The best part is you’ll be proud of the content because you can legally call it your own.

Write it Yourself – This is a no-brainer. You’re the expert. We want to hear from you about what’s going on in your industry. Tell us about what you deal with every day and how your products or services are helping people out. If you’re having trouble coming up with things to write about check out my article on just that, “7 Tips to Finding Your Next Writing Topic.”

Hire a Ghostwriter – In this scenario, you can put your name on a professionally written article and take full credit for it. That’s because you hire a writer – and let them know that it’s going to be a ghostwritten piece – to write as if they were you. They’ll perform the magic behind the scenes to make you look great in front of your readers.

Link Up – This solution involves you (or your ghostwriter) writing an introduction to your topic of choice then listing one or more articles that you’ve enjoyed on this topic. Refer your readers to these articles with a live link and a short reason why you think they should read it – without giving away the heart of the piece. Then cap off your article with your words of wisdom.

These solutions enable you to create valuable resources for your readers without stooping to anything shady. If you’re looking for a ghostwriter you can find me hiding under my desk! Booo.

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Don’t Stink Like A Fish: 6 Ways to Keep Your Web Content Fresh

Browsing the web you’ll come across sites that look like they haven’t been touched since the day they were launched. A “What’s Happening” page full of events from three years ago or an attempt running a blog fizzled out after three posts point to abandoned websites. Visitors question if the business is legitimate or if they’re still in existence. If you want to engage potential customers and build an online audience you can’t let your content fester and stink like a dead fish.

Keeping your website current may seem challenging but it doesn’t have to be. The good news is you’re already making news as you grow your business. You just have to identify things to add to your site.

If you’re thinking that you haven’t done anything worth adding to your website in a while then it’s time to swim out the door and do something. Having a website should motivate you to stay active in your industry so you can have something to share with your visitors.

Easy Website Updates that Keep Your Business Swimming Strong

Front Page – The most visible web page of your site is a place to get to know you and your business. It’s an opportunity to display important or major new offerings, products, promotions or insights.

Event Page – Get out and do things – tell us where you’re going to be so your followers can come visit you!

About Me – Every six months to a year look this page over. I bet you’ve done something new you can add to this page to keep it current.

Credentials – Good job! You have a new certification, award, or license to enhance your knowledge and skills – Let your visitors know you’re serious about your business by updating this info.

New Clients + Testimonials – A strong list of people you’ve worked with and happy client blurbs always look great and build potential client’s trust in your brand. Keep this updated so we know you’re still making people happy.

Publications – Have you published an article on another website? Has someone written about you and your business? Keep an ongoing list of links to these publications on your website so we can learn even more about you.

Just by adding, updating or moving around information, you stir the water of your site and prevent it from going still.

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7 Tips to Finding Your Next Writing Topic

If you write articles for your personal, company or club newsletter or blog, it’s a good idea to keep a list of possible article ideas to pull from. Avoid the stomach sinking worst case scenario of having nothing to write about. Prepare yourself for your next article by keeping track of issues that come up in your area of expertise and/or industry.

I used # 7 to create this post. I asked potential clients in my networking group what they wanted to know about writing. One of them asked “How do I come up with a list of topics for my industry newsletter?” Check out the following steps for my answer.

If you want to keep track of ideas on paper consider also keeping an ongoing Word Doc file (or equivalent) to track web based publication links.

1) Find out what’s being said on Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn) about your industry across the nation or worldwide. Cut and paste interesting conversation threads or links into your Word Doc.

2) Keep note of what issues YOU face throughout the month and how you handle these situations.

3) It’s okay to jot down the obvious issues in your field…your insider solutions may not be so obvious.

4) Listen to what your co-workers are chatting about and write down the issues they’re experiencing.

5) Ask your higher ups what issues your industry is facing as a whole.

6) Research what your competition is up to online.

7) What questions do your clients have that you can write about?

Give yourself some time before your deadline to go over your notes and highlight the most compelling issues and trends listed. Pick one of those issues to be this month’s article topic.

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Pooper Postage Required: Cut Typos Out of Your Writing

No no no no no that wasn’t my typo. I mean I wasn’t the one who wrote “pooper” when it was supposed to be “proper.”

Okay so here’s the story: I was working at a print shop when an order for thousands of return envelopes was placed. That’s what it said in the box where you’re supposed to affix the stamp. I mean I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t change it because that’s what the client ordered. So that’s what we printed. All two thousand envelopes had the word “pooper” on them.

I have to admit that was a pretty funny mistake. We all laughed about it at the shop. I bet some of the people who put their stamps on that spot laughed too. This isn’t the kind of reaction businesses want, right? If you want to be taken seriously you’ve got to make sure your words are saying what you mean.

When I’m reading a Victorian novel (cause that’s what I do) and I run across an old-timey typo – a single word misspelled amongst hundreds of thousands – I forgive it. But when I’ve only got three words to read and one of them is dead wrong there’s no room to have understanding – because the meaning is totally shot.

Here are the steps I take to create typo-free text:

  1. Spell check – If everyone used it we wouldn’t have had the “covfefe” scandal. This is an especially important step for Social Media. You’re not writing a business letter but you are communicating with the public and a quick run through spell check could save you some embarrassment.
  2. Grammarly – Install the free version of Grammarly to Word. It helps out with punctuation, identifies when words should be compound words (water fall or waterfall) and also identifies word usage errors (“dancing in the isles” or “dancing in the aisles”).
  3. Read it out loud – After all the spell checks just go through the document yourself. You’ll be able to pick out choppy sentences and replace words for better ones. If you only have three words in your document look up each of them in the dictionary just to be sure you’ve got it right.
  4. Have someone else read it– Hand your document to a friend, family member or co-worker. Ask them to highlight anything that stopped the reading flow for them. They’ll be able to pick out things you gloss over.
  5. Hire a proofreader – If your document is super important hire someone to read it over and confirm that you’ve eliminated all of those pesky typos.
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Local Writers at the San Mateo County Fair

My Award Winning Short Story on the Wall

Yes go to the fair for sunshine, double stacked corn dogs, a block of curly fries melded into the shape of a fry basket, pig races and carnival rides but also consider stopping in at the Literary Stage. Yeah, the San Mateo County Fair held a mini writing conference sandwiched between the fine art and quilt displays inside the main exhibition hall the third week of June.

I was especially excited to visit the Literary Stage this year because I knew I had won two Honorable Mentions for my writing. Out of roughly two hundred submissions I made it to the acknowledgement level. Every piece of writing submitted to the fair was on display hanging on the walls of the literary area. While I was searching for my name I encountered a pleasant surprise. I found that the third piece I had submitted also won Honorable Mention!

Two of my pieces that won have been featured on this blog. Little Free Library, is a post about micro neighborhood book lending and A Decade of Imitation Fruit is a guest post on the topic of the literary journal I have been producing for the past ten years. A new short story based on a comedy sketch that I wrote, The Birthday Committee was also featured at the fair.

Winning stories, essays and poetry are put into an annual anthology Carry the Light: Stories, Poems, and Essays from the San Mateo County Fair. The publisher of the fair’s anthology, Sand Hill Review Press, works closely with local authors many of whom are also members of the California Writers Club San Francisco Peninsula chapter. CWC helps organize the Literary Stage and performs judging duties for writing entries. The anthology, publisher and CWC are great resources for writers in San Mateo County and beyond.

Darlene Frank’s Workshop, Photo by Eva Barrows

The Literary Stage hosts a variety of events for writers to learn about the craft of writing, authors to read their writing to an audience and an opportunity for readers to buy books from local writers. This year I caught my CWC friend Darlene Frank’s workshop on “Creating Your Most Powerful Writing.” For about an hour and a half Darlene outlined how writers can identify and execute writing with a clear purpose. It was fun to hear a fellow writer share their process and to take the time to think about my own writing in a supportive environment.

After listening to writers that I’ve come to know through CWC read from their award winning work at the Literary Stage author’s panel I am inspired to continue submitting my work to the fair. I hope to move up a notch next year and take home one of the big fluffy ribbons!

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