An Easy Way to Look and Feel Better On Zoom

I started taking a late-night comedy writing class in September. That means I’m learning how to write monologue jokes based on real news headlines à la Stephen Colbert or Conan. How about this one,

Microsoft pulled its underwater data center out of the Scottish sea, which means the Loch Ness Monster has lost its favorite chew toy.

This class is offered through The Second City, where many of today’s comedy greats have honed their craft. Normally, I would have had to be in Hollywood to take the class, but under the current circumstances, I’ve been able to Zoom to class and have classmates from across the U.S. and even one in Canada. Connecting through Zoom is a great thing, but I started to feel self-conscious about letting all these talented people look directly into the inner workings of my apartment living room.


They could see overstuffed bookshelves and my husband walking around behind me as he unwinds after his workday. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom meetings, and I did realize people could see all the stuff behind me. I think I was holding out hope that this video meeting thing was going to be short term. I thought to myself, We should be at a local restaurant right now having a lunch meeting–not connecting over a computer screen.

I was resentful of having to change how I do things, so I did little to figure out a new arrangement, and as a result, people could see all the stuff behind me. It took experiencing a little embarrassment to get me motivated. After the first comedy writing class session, where things out of my control happened behind me, I decided to do something about how I presented myself.

I bought a woven rattan room divider off Wayfair. I had it set up behind my chair at the next class session. The teacher called me out on it saying, “I remember seeing a room behind you and someone walking around. That panel is so smart!” Other than me being slightly allergic to the rattan, which smells like a cornfield, the panel works. I do feel better knowing that whatever’s going on behind me is blocked from myself–which helps with my concentration during video calls—and the people I’m on the call with don’t have to choose where to put their attention when I’m speaking.

So my message is if you’ve been waiting to make a change or investment in your business that could help you professionally consider going ahead with that change—as long as it makes sense to you, of course. It could be a small change that makes you feel more comfortable, and that will be enough to make a noticeable difference in your life.

Stay up to date:

Finding My Tribe: Tips for Collaborating On Your Business Journey

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash 

It can feel lonely when I think about ways to market my writing and editing services. In the beginning, I sent out “cold emails” (emailing businesses I’ve never met) to introduce myself. A few people answered back but didn’t need my help at the time. Cold emailing, like any marketing method, is a numbers game, but it left me feeling chilly. It took me forever to figure out who to contact at each business and personalize my emails so they’d be taken seriously. It felt like I was wasting too much time sending emails into a cyberspace black hole.

So, I began in-person networking. It’s been a great way to get to know local business people, and they have helped me grow my business by employing me to do some work for them or referring me to businesses they know.

I’ve always been envious of the “power partner” relationships that grow out of networking. For example, a realtor, mortgage broker and estate attorney will team up and endlessly refer clients to each other. These professionals are on the same wavelength. They know each other’s skills, abilities and specialties and can send the right potential clients to each other.

I wanted that level of collaboration for myself. While my business was humming along the end of last year, I reached out to a graphic designer friend who was interested in creating a power partner group with me. When the pandemic disrupted how business was conducted and reshaped the needs of many, I decided it was time to get serious and form a specialized creative services team.

I want to share a few reasons why you should consider establishing your own power partner team.

Support Group

The businesses represented in your power partner team should be related to what you do. In my case, a graphic designer knows quality writing is a key factor for a website. Since we are familiar with the expertise that goes into creative projects and what it’s like to obtain new clients, we have an understanding of how to support each other.

Specialized Networking Group

When I’m working on a client project, it often includes a design, web or video component. Being in constant contact with my power partners who are specialized in those areas makes it super easy for me to refer work to them. I’m confident that they will do a great job for my contacts.

Automatic Team

There’s a high probability that I will have the opportunity to work on client projects with my power partners. Since our skills are often needed in tandem, it only makes sense that we offer our combined services to businesses making the process of finding creative experts easy.

Create a power partner team in your field. You’ll be there for each other on your shared journeys and never feel alone again.

Stay up to date:

Mail A Little Love & Cheer

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience. Savor the moment. Don’t open your letter or card along with all the junk mail. Wait for a moment when you can sit down and really take in the correspondence.

Growing up, I loved getting mail. I still do – as long as it’s not a bill! I was a prolific pen pal with writing contacts in other states and even other countries. Sometimes it was difficult to come up with something to say in my letters to someone who hardly knew me. It was good training for becoming a professional writer because I had to fill the page with something. I’d pick out a slice of my life that was amusing in some way, get it down on cotton candy-colored Lisa Frank stationary, seal the envelope with a few stickers and clip the letter to the mailbox. I can’t say for sure that my pen pals cared about what I shared, but they wrote back. The drive behind all this effort was getting a letter in return.

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience.

Eva Barrows

Receiving mail is magical. Think about what has to happen for that letter, card, or postcard to get into your hands. The paper, the pens, the stickers (yes, must have stickers), choice of stamp, to include glitter or a recent photo? When the letter is out of the sender’s hands, it goes through the postal service, onto a truck, an airplane, it gets sorted and brought around to the recipient’s mailbox.

Then you wait.

Wait for a response.

And one day, when you’ve started to think about other things, a pink envelope peeks out from the day’s stack of ads and bills.

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience. Savor the moment. Don’t open your letter or card along with all the junk mail. Wait for a moment when you can sit down and really take in the correspondence. Sometimes the design of a card is so special, or the message inside so touching, I find myself holding onto it for years. If simply sending a card, note or letter in the mail could be this cherished by the receiver, why aren’t we sending more cards?

Over the years, I’ve collected a variety of blank cards for their designs. I have quite a few with chickens on them! Because I love to receive mail so much, I realize others must take a similar delight in it, so I am diving into my collection to send out cheer to my friends and family. I think this is a good time to disseminate my stash and spread the joy of receiving mail.

I encourage you to send good wishes to your loved ones through the mail and put a smile on their face!

Stay up to date:

8 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Send e-Newsletters

Sample e-newsletter layout

If you have a business, you should be sending an e-newsletter. Newsletters are a consistent form of marketing that if done right, provide value to your readers. In other words, the people you send your newsletter to once a month, want to open your email. Why do they want to open it and not toss it in the “trash” folder? Because they know, from reading your previous emails, you aren’t selling something, but giving something they want to read.


The following reasons will give you an idea of how having your own newsletter will bring value to your business and potential clients.

Reason to Stay in Touch

Once a month, twice for the ambitious, you get to say, “hello” to your newsletter readers. If you’re doing it right, only emailing people who want to hear from your business, you will quickly build an anxious audience awaiting your next email.

Prove Your Expertise

In every email, you get a chance to educate, inspire and challenge your readers. Place the heavy stuff up front. If you’re going to talk about the merits of sending newsletters, do that first, before you get to the fluff.

Show Your Products and Services in Action

Highlighting a client success story is a great way to show your product or service solving a problem. Like I can talk about helping a personal trainer plan, edit and launch her e-newsletter!

Increase Your Blog and Website Clicks

Include links to new blog posts in your newsletter. People won’t know about your posts if you don’t tell them to take a look.

Shine With Your Business Branding

Recently, I was asked, what’s the best way to share a blog post with clients, without using a plain email with embedded link? Sending an e-Newsletter was my first thought, because you can, and should, personalize the newsletter template with your business branding. A professional look is easy to achieve through an e-newsletter service like Constant Contact or mailchimp.

Invite People to Events

Want to publicize your next open studio, gallery opening, workshop or class, presentation, or client appreciation party? Include an invite in your upcoming newsletter.

Share Business Updates and Milestones

As you build your newsletter mailing list, a core group of people interested in what you or your business is up to will develop. So, tell them about your new product or service launch, anniversary celebration, or new hire. They really do want to stay in-the-know about these things.

Make Special Offers

Reward your dedicated following with “only for newsletter readers” coupons and discounts. Make it something good for you and for them.
Are you starting a newsletter from scratch and don’t know where to begin? I can help you strategize what to include in your newsletter and who to send it to. Already have a newsletter but need editing support? I do that too! Email me to start a conversation about how I can help you with your e-newsletter.


Now go write your newsletter, your audience awaits!
Stay up to date:

Talking to the Source 37 Interviews and Counting

Mid-2017 to date I’ve recorded 36 interviews on my little digital voice recorder. I put “37” interviews in the title because I just did one today but I only took notes…but since we’re counting non-recorded interviews let’s add at least another 15. And if we’re going to do that, why not add the 3 21-question interviews I research, craft and edit for each issue of FitNFabs Magazine, another 12. So 64, 65 interviews in the last 18 months sounds like a lot and some weeks, it is.

I’d say a majority of the interviews I conduct are for the Midpen Media Center newsletter. Last month I interviewed a Stanford professor who developed MyShakespeare, an online multimedia website presenting Shakespeare’s plays in a fun, interactive and dynamic way. From speaking to the site’s creator, I learned the history of the project, what goes into developing it and the positive ways students and teachers have used it to delve into the world of the plays. I wouldn’t have reached a deeper understanding of the MyShakespeare website without speaking to its creator. I was able to bring the knowledge I gathered during the interview into my article through direct quotes and synthesizing information.

Over the course of these 65 interviews, I haven’t had a bad one yet. I know how to frame questions in a thoughtful way and I get more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Several times I’ve had interview subjects pause and say “That’s a great question.” It’s usually something they have to think about for a moment but it’s relative to what we’re talking about and adds depth to the conversation. I use interviews in my writing to capture quotes and information for people profile articles, expert perspectives, introducing new works or projects, Q&A interview features, and professional bios.

I’ve already got another interview scheduled for tomorrow and one next week. The FitNFabs Magazine and Midpen Media Center articles below are samples of recent interviews. If you have a writing project requiring information only the source can tell, I’d love to ask you some questions about it!

Stay up to date:

Feel Good about Your Writing: Get an Editor

No matter how you feel about the act of writing – a difficult chore with tons of roadblocks or you love it so much you can’t stop writing – having a second set of eyes on your creation is a good idea. I’ve been taking on more and more editing work. Many of the people I’ve edited for are experts in other fields like real estate, beauty industry or fitness gurus. I get to read the expert’s article before it’s published and I help them find what needs to be clarified.

As an editor, my goal is to cut away words and sentences that are not contributing to the overall message of the writing. Sometimes words just sit there taking up space instead of propelling the momentum or meaning of the piece. Today’s reader doesn’t have time to sift through paragraphs searching for the point.

Some of the top issues I edit for are:

  • Logic flow
  • Typos
  • Grammar
  • Unnecessary verbiage
  • Flowery clichés not adding to the meaning
  • Areas to condense and make concise

One of the experts I edited had this to say:

“You are AWESOME!!! You have magic in your pen.  I love your edits and greatly appreciate your work on this.”

I was relieved to be getting such positive feedback because I realize being edited can feel invasive like you’re under a microscope. But I made this writer feel comfortable, and she appreciated how the suggested changes made her look as a knowledgeable author. So before you hit “send” on an important email, newsletter or article, it really won’t hurt to have an editor take a look-see.

Stay up to date:

Networking My Way to Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs Magazine

For the last few years, I’ve experimented with ways to grow my writing business and find new clients to work with. My preferred method has been to get out and meet people at networking events and mixers. I get to know who’s out there, what they are doing and if they by chance have any writing needs or know someone who does.

Two years ago I was in a networking group with a lady who knew the publisher of FitNFabs Magazine was looking for writing or editorial help. She sent an email to the publisher referring me to her, but we didn’t hear back. Later on, I met another lady who also referred me to the publisher, knowing the best way to get in touch with her was through Facebook. Within the next few days, I was setting up an appointment to meet the publisher because she had an opening for Editor-in-Chief!

I prepared for my meeting with the publisher by creating a portfolio of my writing samples, publication history, and resume. I could tell during the meeting my presentation, experience and my networking contacts set me up to be the perfect candidate at the right time for the position. By the end of the meeting, the publisher was already talking about terms and contract.

As Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs, I’ve been tapping my networking connections hard. I need dedicated health and wellness experts to write content for the magazine and also become a part of the FitNFabs community. I’ve been able to add the knowledge of a professional home organizer, success coach to CEOs and a personal trainer into the pages of the magazine, all people I’ve gotten to know and trust from networking.

If you’re in business for yourself or have a side project that requires clients – get out and meet people in your community.

Attend local chamber functions to meet owners of businesses and find out what their needs are.

Join professional organizations within your sphere. I’m a member of the California Writers Club, where I meet other writers and find out how we can support each other and collaborate.

Join a business referral networking group where professionals from different industries connect, refer potential clients and business to each other.

Be available and accessible — help your next great client find you!

Stay up to date:

Tame Your Writing Project and Get it Done!

Is a Daunting Writing Project Holding You Back?

A feeling of dread washes over you when you read the next “to-do” on your schedule.

Write my website pages

Even though you scheduled two hours to work on writing your website, which should be enough time to make headway, you decide to check your emails again and take an extra-long lunch break.

When you check your schedule again, it’s time for the next to-do. Oh well, writing your website pages will have to be re-scheduled. After a momentary sense of relief knowing you can’t possibly squeeze in time for your website today, you realize that you’ll have to write the website pages at some point.

Before you block off another two hours to write your website, figure out the best way to break down this monumental task so that you’ll actually do it.

Give yourself a deadline. Some writing projects have deadlines attached but personal projects you can do “whenever” have a tendency to get done never, put an end date on it.

Break the project down into manageable tasks to sprinkle throughout your schedule.

Any writing project you do can follow a similar writing process.

If you’re working on writing your website, list all of the pages you need to write. For each page you’ll need to set aside time for:

Research – gathering supporting info
Outline – bullet points of what you’ll cover and arranging in order
Rough Draft – turn bullet points into sentences
Writing – type up a clean draft
Editing – make notes on what needs to be changed
Clean up, Polish – make corrections, read through for clarity

Create the writing project timeline. After you’ve identified all of the tasks associated with your project, estimate how long each task will take. Working backward from the deadline, schedule time to get all of the tasks done.

Do the work of writing. Now that you have a comprehensive plan, you won’t have to think about the next step. Do each step as you planned out. You’re free to have fun as you work on completing each step.

Congrats! You met your deadline and wrote your web pages!

Try following this process the next time you need to write a project that freaks you out.
Instead of giving up or putting it off –

Break it down and put it on your schedule in manageable portions and get it done!

Stay up to date:

All the Books and Movies You Could Ever Want with “Library on the Go!”

I bought a new cell phone last month. In my world, this is news because I only upgrade when forced. Texted images were constipating my old phone, making me miss receiving some of my messages. I am pleased by the sleek technology of my new phone. The first thing I did was hook all my email accounts up then gave a brief thought to what app I would add next. After Facebook, I loaded “Library on the Go!” from the San Mateo County Library system.

“Library on the Go” has so many useful features: online video streaming, research databases, and e-books just to name a few. What I love the most is being able to search for a book or DVD (as I’m out and about) and clicking “hold.” My order is sent to the Peninsula library where my item is located, someone pulls my choice off the shelf, and then ships it to my local library where I pick it up. So easy, so convenient and so FREE!

If you’re researching a topic, binge-watching every Jane Austen movie adaptation, or reading a book series, search your library system (not just your branch) and check out the material for free. Just think about how much it would cost to buy all the DVDs and books you’d like to watch or read in a year. If there’s a good chance you won’t re-read or re-watch them – then why not check them out from the library? Now that I have the “Library on the Go!” app I’ll be tempted to check items out more often.

Stay up to date:

What’s the Difference Between a Blog and an e-Newsletter?

Both blogs and e-newsletters are effective methods for building, maintaining and growing an audience interested in what your business has to offer. From doing both types of publications, I’ve found that the main differences between them are: how they are distributed and how they are interacted with. Below, I outline the purpose of each along with their major benefits.

Sample blog post

What is a blog?

A blog, short for Web Log, of regularly scheduled posts, is meant to engage readers who return to your website often to find out what’s new.

What’s the Marketing Purpose?

Build trust and authority in your business specialty as you build your prospect following through informative blog postings.

How is a Blog Distributed?

Your audience can subscribe to your blog and receive a notice when new posts are published, people can find your blog while browsing the internet, or people can click on links that you promote through social media posts.

A Cool Thing About Blogs:

Search engines like Google will index each post you publish – making it easier for people to find your business when they search on keywords.

For instance, if you search on “marketing bad attitude” my blog post, “Don’t Ruin Good Marketing With a Bad Attitude” along with my business name appears on page two of Google out of 53,100,000 pages. This is a good thing because people looking for this subject have a great chance of running across my article.

This type of visibility is possible for each blog post you publish!

What’s an e-Newsletter?

Sample e-newsletter layout

A regularly scheduled email in article style layout. E-newsletters can include useful articles, helpful web links, notice of upcoming events, announcements and reminders, fun game or inspirational quote.

What’s the Marketing Purpose?

Stay in front of serious prospects who are interested in your business. Continue to build relationships and your subject matter authority.

How are e-Newsletters Distributed?

E-newsletters are sent directly to an email address. Email marketing services like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp track how many people open your email and click on links inside the newsletter.

People will forward a good e-newsletter to their friends!

A Cool Thing About e-Newsletters:

Your e-newsletter fans will reply to your mailing and let you know that they enjoyed the information you shared. The responses you get back are more personal because you are building a relationship with your readers.

Similarities are Okay

It’s ok to publish the same article on your blog as you do in your e-newsletter. You may have a different audience for each type of publication. If you do have readership overlap, be sure to offer something “new” or different in each place so there’s a reason to check out both.

If you need help planning, editing, or writing content for your blog or e-newsletter contact me for a complimentary 30-minute writing services consultation.

Stay up to date: