Summer Writing Mini-Workshops: On Blogging


Invest in yourself by investing in your blog, losing the Having a site that is just the name of your blog plus .com is much more professional.  This upgrade is extremely affordable (just a little over $2 a month). As for the design, it’s okay if your blog is a constant work in progress.  Don’t wait until you can afford a professional photographer or web designer. Get started today!

Don’t put slideshows on your blog. People would much rather scroll down than wait for the next screen to load. 99% of the time, I click off a site that uses this device and google for the same information elsewhere.

Nothing is more annoying than going to a blog that uses gifs (things like that are for tweets and Facebook comments) or worse, music/noise.  The latter is why I keep my speakers turned off–just like I hit the mute button on commercials.

Be aware of what posts capture readers. I’ve found that my book reviews far outpace my poetry posts as books have a built-in readership (and many more read fiction over poetry).

This article got over 3500 views, and I believe it’s because it’s a “How-To” article. We live in a self-help, DIY society.

Because of the boring nature of most LinkedIn articles, I decided to close my account and focus on Facebook (friends and family I actually see) and Instagram (which welcomes a much higher degree of creativity).

It’s okay to share posts, but never reblog, as you’re only promoting them, not yourself.  Don’t give someone free real estate on your virtual space. If you want to respond to a post with your own, you can post a link back to it, and then write your own take, as you are benefitting from their “writing prompt.”

Unlike writing for a newspaper, it is better to use your own quotes in your blog post rather than someone else’s; you only boost their brand by sharing their words rather than elevating your own.

If you have an old post that would add clarity to or enhance a new post, backlink it. Backlinking is a fantastic way to bring attention to past posts.

Double check the links on your blog occasionally. Whenever I discover a broken link on another blog, I think the administrator doesn’t update their site very often, and so I won’t go back again (assuming there will be no updated content).

Here are 15 reasons why every author should have a blog.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Writing Truths


Remember that colleges ask for essays, not equations, when it comes to admissions. Numbers matter, but in cases like these, words matter more.

Imitation is a form of admiration; plagiarism is not.

Behind every image, there is a story, but a picture doesn’t always have to equal 1000 words.

Sensory details don’t just inform the person but take them there.

We can perceive the same thing, seven different ways, at seven different times in our lives.

Write what you know, but don’t write about everything you know.

As mothers, we always wonder, even as our children are filled with it.

Conciseness breeds clarity.

Life is many things.

All writing matters. If the language arts didn’t matter in mathematics, then there would be no word problems.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshops: Writing Prompts


Whether it’s the periodic table of elements, a litany of every Mary Kay lipstick color, or a grocery list, you can make a poem out of it.

Life is full of unanswered questions.  For example, if your wish came true, how would that affect someone else’s life?  Would that undo their wish? 

Everything–from the days of the week to a single emotion–can be personified.

If you have a book written, a fun exercise to promote it would be to treat it as research for mock newspaper articles. Write a human-interest story based on one of your characters (preferably, a minor one—it might end up spinning off into a story of its own); this will help you get to know your characters better.

What If? poems are some of my favorites. Many of the choices I’ve made have led me to the choices I am making today. Life is rife with unintended consequences.

Our lives are full of “firsts”: First (and last) dates, first job, first child, first experience with someone close to us dying, first time trying potted meat, et cetera. Write about one of these times; analyze whether the first could have led to the last, or play around with the order of things.

Fairy tales, myths, and Shakespeare are all ideal places to start if you need ideas, but throw in something timely to freshen it up. For me, it was an ecological disaster, personified.

The newspaper is full of stories. Scan the classifieds, the advice columns, the police blotters, &, if you’re morbid, the obituaries.

Though ____ “walk into a bar” may seem as cliché as knock, knock jokes, it is endless what you can do to bring freshness to an old idea.

The Bible is full of wives & daughters, whose characters aren’t fleshed out. Give them a voice.  Write a piece of fictitious herstory or an alternate history.

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Journaling and Chapbooking


Shutterfly makes incredible gift books—better than the kind you see in stores because they will come from your heart—with the words you’ve written, the pictures you’ve taken. If you’re not much of a photographer (or artist), you might want to become one. Just be patient and have the books ready weeks in advance. These “professional” chapbooks take time; I generally spend several weeks on one.  So far, I’ve done two autobiographical series of poetry, a collection of my Dove chocolate poems, a.k.a. “Sweet Little Nothings,” and a collection of community college stories.

Though there’s something intrinsically beautiful about a handwritten journal, don’t feel like you have to write your journal by hand. (Better to keep a digital journal than no journal.) There are many journaling apps online. Think about it:  Most of us already journal every day, whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, et cetera (though hopefully, we’re not posting our deepest, darkest thoughts—that should be between you and your journal, whether on paper or paperless). Journaling just privately removes the filter.

I am a scrapbooking collagist when it comes to journaling—heavy on the photography and layout and light on the writing. I’ve included newspaper clippings, greeting cards, event programs, badges (for example, my college press pass), and a myriad of other elements.  They may not tell a story, but they just might caption one.

In the film, The Secret Scripture, the main character has a Bible in which she keeps her journal, writing in between the lines, the margins, et cetera. You can do this with any book that profoundly affects you—even a recipe book!

I have written hundreds of poems. What helps me keep them organized is separating them into chapbooks.  For example, I have a collection of ekphrastic poetry, 50-words or less, “Modern Proverbs,” et cetera.

Adjacency matters. Typesetting matters. When you put together a poetry chapbook, the order of the poems should have an ebb and flow to them. What’s more, it’s not just about the way the words sound but also the way they look on the page.

Emily Dickinson wrote over 1800 poems. One a day is enough for me. Push yourself, but know your limits.  I know this is mine.

For some, journaling is their stream of consciousness exercise; for me, it’s poetry. Poetry writing is my playtime, short story writing, my work time. Poetry helps me make my writing more concise whereas short stories help me generate ideas for my poems, which make up the bulk of my blog’s content.

Just as an interior designer doesn’t have to know how to sew, a graphic designer doesn’t have to know how to draw. It’s all about having an eye for what works.  Working on the college newspaper helped me with this (see recruitment ad below).  Keeping a minimalist, non-glossy look to your chapbooks looks more professional than a busy, glossy cover (and don’t go crazy with fonts).

Recruitment poster

Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: Drawing from the Well


Write what you know first. Then you will learn how to write what you don’t know.

Make a timeline of your life. Find the dots, connecting them if necessary. An entire narrative can be built around one defining moment.

We all have our quirks. A self-portrait in poetry is more interesting than a self-portrait in pixels.

Life is full of awkward moments. Don’t let them go to waste.

Certain spaces only have meaning for the memories attached to them. Think of several places that have had meaning in your life, preferably in various stages of it, as personal change makes for dynamic (versus static) characters:

Some would say life is like a box of chocolates; I say it’s like a patchwork quilt. Think of fabrics or patterns that represent you. When I see fruit basket wallpaper, I think of my grandmother’s kitchen with the white porcelain gas stove where she cooked meals.

It seems that one can never have enough stories set in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles (or a fictitious, generic small town), so it’s nice to read about a real place that isn’t overexposed. Make the most of where you live.

Sometimes stories come from somewhere deep inside ourselves (i.e. our genetics). DNA has played a role in finding lost loves, in freeing the innocent and punishing the guilty, in locating life-saving medical donors, and in causing identity crises as well as solving them.

Who do you think people say you are?

The highlights of our lives are the pearls, the mundane every days, the string.  Sometimes we have to seek complexity in simplicity.

15 Content Ideas for a College Newspaper

Advice column.  This, of course, is dependent upon getting letters from students.  Same goes for Letters to the Editor.  Whatever you do, do not make stuff up.  Recruitment ads can be entertaining and fill leftover space.  I like the one below because I wanted to show students that you don’t have to be a writer to work for a newspaper.  


Awards ceremonies.  For example, I made sure to pull my favorite line from each winning piece in our college’s annual literary contest.  Even though newspapers typically don’t publish creative writing, they can publish about creating writing.   

Careers you can have as an English major. (This falls into the “Useful Information” category.)

Columns.  We had an “Old Geezer” column by a student in her forties, a “Veterans’ Voice” column (briefly), and a travel column called “Postcards from Sparrow”; I wrote a few columns that profiled different organizations where students could volunteer.  

Comics (about current events and what’s going on at the school) and editorial cartoons (preferably one that leans left and one that leans right, for balance).  

Events, such as plays, book talks, poetry readings, etc.  And it doesn’t have to be a review of the play; it can also be a preview, which is better because you can get quotes from the students.  You want to get as many student names and faces in the paper as you can.   

Green living.  I always thought how to repurpose/upcycle old issues of our school’s lit mag would’ve been a good one.  

Hybrid humor.  This can be a mock resume, horoscope, or even a syllabus.  I also wrote a couple of humor pieces—one about Student Poetry Night, where I read a poem about my crazy family, and another about finding the cleanest bathrooms on campus (both of which won awards).  

Internships.  Advertise these opportunities to students.  Internships help students gain experience in their field so that they will be more employable after graduation.  

Intramural sports.  These are underrepresented; for example, there is a “fastest student” contest at our college as well as archery on St. Valentine’s Day.  

Jobs for students. This might help other students find work outside the restaurant or retail sector.  The federal work-study program is flexible around a student’s school schedule, so if you’re going to work a minimum-wage job, you may as well work one where you can work on your school work.   

Not just the product but the process.  I wrote a story on how our Lit Mag, Hurricane Review, came to be.  This is where being involved in something, be it a club, organization, etc., can help you write a great story, because it’s like you’re undercover (except you’re not).

Opinion piece.  I wrote about how an algebra teacher finally made me understand why math was important.  (The answer:  To make you think and pay attention to detail.)  

Student and club profiles.  Youngest/oldest student, students with weird talents, student who has clocked the most volunteer hours, students who work in the Writing or Math Lab, etc.  We did a feature, based on “Humans of New York,” called “Pirates of PSC,” where a “man/woman on the street” goes around and asks students thought-provoking questions.  Do not ask how someone’s summer was, as that is something elementary school teachers have their students write about.  If they say someone is their favorite teacher, ask why.  Do not ask yes or no questions, always ask their name (and to spell it out), their major, and get their picture right then.   

Surveys.  For Banned Books Week, we went around to different classes (particularly English, Ethics, etc.) five minutes before class started (clear this with the teachers first) with surveys about banned books.  We used the strict answer (yes or no, multiple choice, etc.) questions to create our infographic, and the comments section for our quotes.  

What I don’t suggest:  Articles on study tips (as that falls into the “Who Cares?” column), stories about how damn high textbooks are (we all know this), crosswords (students never do them), recipes (students don’t make them), and music playlists.  If you have a reviews section (book, movie, music, board/video game, app, etc.), put that in the online version of the paper, as that is what I call “bloggy” material. 

For more ideas, check out:

Updated 12/29/2019

My 500th Blog Post: 13 Reasons Why Blogging Rocks

Blogging, for me, hasn’t just been about the product but the process. It’s given me great writing practice and an additional creative outlet, because sharing what I write is part of the fun of writing.


With the advent of the Internet, words have more power today than they ever have before, for they can transmit in a matter of seconds to billions of people simultaneously. The Internet is a virtual pond, where the thoughts of anyone with an Internet connection can ripple forever. 

So be careful with your words—they might come back to haunt you someday.

Since I was a third-grader in Ms. Yvonne Cahoon’s class, I’ve been a writer. “I just love reading your journals,” she would say, and the spark was ignited. Those journals weren’t just logbooks but how I felt about what I saw and heard. (I didn’t learn how important it was to include sensory details, like touch, taste, and smell, until much later). Those journals were my first taste of writing creative nonfiction. I started with what I knew, and then, as Mark Twain would say, “distorted the facts as I pleased.”

My blog will be part of my legacy when I depart from this world. I like to think that my descendants, a hundred years from now, will know so much more about me than I know about mine. Most of my words I will take with me or will live on in someone’s memory for a time, but the ones I’ve written and will write for the enjoyment, and, hopefully, the enlightenment of others, are the ones I will leave for my great-great-great granddaughter to read. I like to think even if my words don’t become famous in this life, perhaps they will posthumously (à la Emily Dickinson). I suppose that’s why I chose creative writing over journalism, for how many newspaper articles about local politics or blog posts about parenting endure like a poem or a piece of literature?

That said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, for with the ease of sharing, there is oversharing, as there are over 70 million blogs on WordPress alone. Though I cannot control how many people choose to follow, share, or comment on my posts, I do have control over the quality of the content. I’ve found that the shorter the post (400600 words is recommended), the more likely it is that someone will read the whole thing. (I suspect that’s why haikus are so popular.) We like our information bite-sized now. Think about it: We’ve gone from the cake slice, to the cupcake, and now the cake pop.

Wednesdays are the only days in which I have to create new content, which frees up time for me to spend on writing pieces that may get published for pay. (Every April and November, I post my Writer’s Digest PAD, or Poem-a-Day, Prompt. This is when I get a bulk of my followers, but you will stretch yourself too thin if you try to post 365 days a year. Once a week is the minimum you should post. (I have since discontinued my Writer’s Digest posts, as it just became too much to have a 24-hour deadline while being a full-time employee and part-time student.) 

My blogging journey started in October 2014, after I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Market. I read that blogging should be a part of every author’s platform, and Sarah Lea Stories: A Flurry of Creativity, was born (which I’ve since renamed). I blogged about everyday life: marriage, motherhood, food, and many other things (none of which I am an expert but rather just have an interest in).  

Just remember, once something is published online, even on your own blog (and even if you have only 100 followers), it’s considered published and you will likely never be able to submit it anywhere else. So, never publish anything online that you may find an adopted home for someday. I’ve written volumes of work I will never publish on my blog.  Sell your short stories to a journal or magazine or self-publish them (either separately or as part of an anthology), but do not publish them on your blog.

Another piece of advice is to never blog your book—you’ve worked too hard to give it away, and I have found that a book I haven’t paid for but downloaded for free is actually less likely to get read because I have so many books I paid for (or went through the trouble of checking out at the library) competing for my attention. Professionally self-publish before you ever blog your book (meaning don’t skimp on the cover; hire a professional or a college student). At least that way, you have a chance at making a little money from it.

Notwithstanding, you should always post your best work on your blog; it should never be a dump site for rejected material. When I write something (whether specifically or not) for my blog, it represents me, and it’s going to be polished to a fine patina.

Moreover, writing short on a daily basis has helped me add richness to my longer works, for what is a Great American Novel without great lines? With a blog, you see the results immediately, mostly via likes and maybe a follower or two (comments are rare and golden). With a novel, it might be months or years before you get feedback (much less published) besides the form letter that says it was great but just wasn’t for them (the most maddening kind.)

Nevertheless, don’t let blog writing take too much time away from the writing that might make you money, unless you plan on making money from your blog. (Being a traditionalist, I still highly recommend submitting work to paying publications.)


Don’t think of blogging as giving away your hard work for free but as investing a little time in yourself and your brand. There are 15 great reasons to start blogging now!

1. It helps people get to know you better. If you are at present unknown, people are more likely to take a chance on buying your book if they feel they have a personal connection with you. Blogging is also a great way to advertise your product, but don’t forget to make the ad entertaining. Everyone loves a story, so use a storyyou’re a writer, after all. Even Jesus got some people to buy what He said by using parables.

2. It gives you a voice and an outlet. Blogging shouldn’t be a diary but a narrative. Only you can tell your story the way you do. 

3. It satisfies our temptation for instant gratification. That’s one of the many reasons why we write—to connect with others.

4. It gives you writing practice.

5. It instills discipline with self-imposed deadlines.  

6. It enhances your creativity. I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with the Writer’s Digest prompts if it hadn’t been for needing regular content. It served its purpose, for I’ve found my rhythm.

7. It’s free. That said, I pay $18 a year for a professional URL (without the, which I highly recommend for search engine optimization (SEO).

8. It can make you money. Attract enough followers, and this can happen to you.

9. It can get you speaking engagements. This is where many writers make a lot of their money. I still need to join Toastmasters. 

10. It helps you learn. You can learn as much by researching as by being taught.

11. Depending on the job description, it looks great on a resume. I include my blog in my portfolio. If nothing else, it shows I’m prolific and passionate.

12. It leaves a legacy. Like any distant star, there is a chance someone might land on it.

13. You get to know yourself better. Though writers often live inside their heads, they don’t always self-reflect, especially if they’re used to making things up. I’ve learned how to capture the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

I’m still learning everyday how to become a better blogger, website designer, photo editor, and someday photographer.

Blogging, if done right, will not take a great deal of your time. What’s great about it is that you have complete control over your content and can even schedule posts ahead of time if you know you’re going to be short on time. (I did this during my summer medical internship, with months’ worth of Monday and Friday blog posts “in the can.”)

Blogging is a great way to unload some pent-up creativity—a way of shedding the excess—so you can focus on writing down the bones.

Updated 2/1/2020

15 Blogging Prompts


Bloggers, have “theme days” or regular “feature articles”.  It will help you stay on track, as it’s easier to write a continuing series than a stand-alone piece every single time; this will also help you blog purposefully, rather than simply posting whenever inspiration sparks (as inspiration doesn’t always happen on a regular basis).  Serious bloggers should blog at least twice a week, or no less than once, and preferably on the same days.  Make your own deadlines, and meet them.

If you’re not on a regular blog schedule yet (which I highly recommend) with “themes” filling in the slots on certain days, here are some blogging prompts to get you started:

1.Query letters:  I believe these are an art form in & of themselves, and should serve as an appetizer to the main work.

2.Rejection letters:  The good, the bad, and the funny.

3.Book reviews:  Analyzing a book and articulating why you liked (or didn’t like) it strengthens your critical thinking skills, which helps you become a better writer.  A well-written book review can often be as entertaining as the book.  If you’re praising the book, try to “sell it”; if you’re not, then state exactly why you didn’t like it. “It sucked”, or “it was stupid”, will never suffice.  Beware of spoilers—think of a book review as a movie trailer.  Whet the appetite, but don’t satisfy it.

4.”Blog your book”.  That said, don’t post 1000-word chapters at a time.  300 (or less) is perfect.  For a 60K word book, at 300 words per post, you will generate more than 260 posts, which you could stretch out over two years time.  However, read this ( before doing that.

5.Author tribute.  This is different than a book review in that it “reviews” an author’s entire body of work.  As great as it is to find a good book, it’s even greater to find a good author and read everything they’ve read (as many authors are hit-and-miss).

6.Take something cute (or not) & turn it into something dark & sometimes inappropriately funny:

7.Haiku, limerick, or even a 6-word story with a stunning photograph; posts don’t have to be long, just good.  (A great suggestion I once read is that the first two lines of a 3-line poem should be opposites, and the last line should be a surprise that ties the two opposites together in a surprising or unexpected way.)  I often like to do short pieces in series of 3:

8.Short, personal essay (300 words):  Myslexia ( does this using the ABC’s, which I thought a cute idea.  It’s easier to mine your life for material when it doesn’t have to be a full-length piece.

9.Writing tips:  I share these on my Facebook page Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday:

10.Writing prompts:  I appreciate these, as they are ideal for freewriting practice.

11.Writing products you like (software, pens, free Kindle books, etc.):

12.Favorite writing blogs (or Twitter accounts).  Mine are (so far):,,,,,,

13.Life Lessons:  A list of 10 life lessons (serious or silly) you have learned.  I consider this a “column piece”.  These are so “notebookable”.

14.How-To Article:  Did you know Microsoft Word can “grade your work”?:

15.One Book, Many Forms.  Every Friday, I post a set of #novelines or #micropoetry from my book  (  Not every noveline is a true noveline because of Twitter’s character limitations, and the micropoetry is brand new–all of which I am going to repurpose into a pocket book called “Mormons on the Beach”, as part of my book promotion package.  Though you should always keep at least half of what you write under lock and key (until you become Stephen King and can charge for it all), make sure everything you put out there is your best work.

And here is 40 more from an author who has great content and isn’t just all about selling her books:


#Micropoetry Monday

Awhile back ago, a friend of mine had found some success as a writer by linking in to Twitter.  Twitter can be a great resource for sparking creativity (I will publish a post later on the ten best accounts I’ve found for that), connecting with other writers, and learning about other contests and publications.  However, to get the most out of Twitter, you must use hashtags so people can find your tweets.

My favorite hashtag is #micropoetry, meaning a poem in 140 characters or less, including hashtags.  (However, I have found a way around this by replying to my own tweet with the applicable hashtags).  I tweet one micro a day, and these tweets generally receive the most likes or retweets.

So, every Monday, I will be posting 5 of my best short poems (as shorter blog posts tend to get more attention in our ever-distracted world).


Hope was the diamond merchant’s daughter—
rough, uncut, & in need of a fitting;
then came Pearl, & Hope became a diamond solitaire.

Sara let him go.
His new wife was her Hagar,
for when she died,
Sara was Mom, not Aunt.

Poverty, Obedience, & Chastity:
1 person, 3 personalities.
When Faith & Hope got pregnant,
Chastity had to change her name.

She was childless, & yet childfree.
Everything she was, she wasn’t because of someone,
but because of the lack of someone.

Three junkyard dogs, a liar, & a Socialist
all wanted the same thing.
It was beautiful.

*If you like these, you can follow me on Twitter:  Sarah Lea Stories @SarahLeaSales