Featuring Blogger & Author Marsha Ingrao @ Always Write

Thank you, Yvette for featuring me on your blog. It is such a great honor. To my readers who don’t know Yvette, please go by and explore her blog, Priorhouse Blog. She is full of wisdom and wit. Her photo challenges are so much fun to look at and read, and she connects with you rather than just pressing “LIKE.”

Successful Web Developer Uses Little-Known Time Management Technique To Overcome Procrastination and Dramatically Boost Productivity

If the Pomodoro Technique aids successful web developer and blogger, Mark Brinker, it can help the rest of us.

Pomodoro Technique Aids Successful Web Designer
Mark Brinker, Web Designer

Maybe you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro Technique, but if you read on you will learn how it helped Smart Blogger contributor, Mark Brinker.

Mark Brinker wrote 7 Little-Known Reasons WordPress.com Sucks for Serious Bloggers for Smart Blogger. After I read the article I tweeted him. Surprisingly, he messaged me back and we chatted for about a half hour. That NEVER happens! He impressed me. When I invited him to write a guest post, he agreed to an interview.

Today I’d like to you meet Mark Brinker,”the owner of Mark Brinker & Associates, a web development firm serving professional service providers, small business owners and entrepreneurs —  the ones who are routinely ignored and underserved by big agencies.

Although Mark has a degree in electrical engineering, everything he knows about website design and development was learned through years of trial and error, dating back to 1999 when he built his first site.

Mark lives in Sterling Heights, Michigan with his wife, Patti. He loves all animals, but especially dogs. His guilty pleasure is a premium cigar on a warm, sunny day. Mark’s newest pastime is sporting clays.

To connect with Mark on social media, the 3 best places are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.”

Mark, welcome to Always Write, a blog where new and hobby bloggers, writers and photographers learn together at home and abroad. Thanks for being with us. It seems like you are in business to help small businesses like some of us hobby bloggers.

What is the ONE thing that you do, that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes, so far?

Persistence. Never give up. Keep pressing on. Get up and go to work every day—whether you want to or not. I know it might sound like I’m over-simplifying this, but it’s the honest answer to this question.

You mentioned a quote from Stephen King that sums it up nicely. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work.”

What concerns, or obstacles, have you overcome in your career?

A million – both on a personal and professional level. The biggest obstacle that I see getting in the way for most people (myself included) is *fear*. But you can’t let fear paralyze you. You just have to stay mentally tough and press on, regardless of your fear. Your confidence grows exponentially by conquering one fear after another after another.

To be honest I felt a little bit of fear about asking you to do an interview but I’m so glad I did. Tell me about something that you are not good at.

Picking out jewelry for my wife. I have great taste when it comes to fashion or design, but I can’t tell the difference between a $25 pair of earrings or a $10k tennis bracelet.  

I take it you don’t look at the price tag before you say, “I’ll take it!” That’s a pretty good clue. 🙂 I have a feeling you might be exaggerating a bit, though. We need your wife to verify that answer. You are a busy guy running a business, writing for Smart Blogger and other large blogs.

How do you balance your time between your personal and career/blogging life?

Discipline and focus. When it’s time to work, you work. Eliminate distractions. I regularly use the Pomodoro technique (Google it) to manufacture urgency. It really works for me. I also think a lot about why I’m doing what I’m doing and is this activity getting me closer to my goal. If you’re clear on what you’re actually trying to accomplish, it’s amazing how quickly you generate real results without wasting a huge amount of time/energy.

So, Mark, I did look up Pomodoro technique. Named after his tomato-shaped kitchen timer in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the time management system, as I understand it, involves breaking the task apart then doing them in stages. First plan and prioritize, then track and record the to-do list. As the planner completes tasks task, the time to do them is validated. There is data for improvement.  It’s almost like exercising. Three sets of exercises and a break. Group of sets and a longer break. You seem to use it well. Even though you are very busy, you answered my email and responded to these interview questions very promptly.

Tell me about when you realized that you were a professional.

When I realized that my work was making a positive and tangible difference in peoples’ lives. In other words, their outcome was better because of working with me than not working with me.

That’s a good aim for all of us. Someone wrote that usually new or hobby bloggers don’t think in terms of blogging to directly benefit others. We do it to have fun, to have interactions with people or to record the thoughts for ourselves and hope that someone out there likes what we have to say. What one person or resource helped you the most as a new blogger?

It’s a tie. Jon Morrow at SmartBlogger.com and Brian Clark & Sonia Simone at CopyBlogger.com.

They have some great articles. I’ve learned a lot from both of them, too. If your blog or career ended today, what would be the legacy that you left behind?

That the world was a better place because of the work that I did, and that I inspired others to do more and be more.

That’s a big goal, Mark. I hope you achieve it. Thank you so much for being here today. I’ll be on the lookout for more great material from you. I ordered your book, The Modern Website Makeover. I just had a developer company and long-time friend of mine update my website but I am always looking for ways to improve my website. I want to take my hobby a step further to help others realize the benefits that blogging can have for them.

Pomodoro Technique Aids Successful Web Designer
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How to Blog for Fun Like Problogger, Janice Wald

Interview with Janice Wald

Go behind the scenes with Problogger from Mostly Blogger, Janice Wald as she shares some of her successes and failures breaking into the blogging market.

Welcome to Always Write

a blog for newbies and fun bloggers, writers, and photographers, where you do not have to be Patrick Problogger to have a great blog.

I’m your hostess, Marsha Ingrao.

Today I’d like to introduce Janice Wald. Her name is not Patrick, but she is a problogger and teacher.

probloggerJanice Wald with Angel
Janice Wald with Angel

Hello Janice, welcome. Would you like some coffee as we begin? I just happen to have some fresh iced coffee. My husband makes the very best combination of coffee. I add the ice. There, I’ll try not to spill!

I found your blog this month as I’ve read new blogs recommended by friends and friends of friends. You’ve had a lot of success as a blogger at Mostly Blogging.  

What is the one thing that has contributed to your success as a blogger?

Without a doubt, networking has contributed to my success. According to blogging influencer Daniela Uslan, my superpower is networking. I feel that you shouldn’t expect people to come visit your blog after you press PUBLISH. You need to do the work. If you don’t engage with your readers and expand your audience, it’ll be a waste–of your time, your talent and your words. So share, connect, and talk to your readers.

One of the things that has made a huge difference for my blog has been doing blogger outreach. This includes taking the time to read, comment and share other bloggers’ posts. Not only does it help build relationships with other bloggers, but It actually helps to bring traffic to my site as well. If new visitors to my site click “like” or make comments, I visit their blogs and make thoughtful comments about their posts. I also find new bloggers to network with at blogging events such as Meet and Greets.

I do that too, but I get overwhelmed with the sheer number of blogs, then I end up just reading one post when each person on my email list may have written five posts that I’ve missed. I read that one of your friends spends 2 hours every day reading blogs. That’s a huge expense of time if someone is a problogger part-time and working full-time like you are. 

How do you balance blogging and your personal life? 

In the Twilight series, Stephanie Meyer created a character named Edward Cullen. Because he wasn’t human, he didn’t need sleep. During the time that people slept, he learned to be proficient at many skills.

Edward Cullen develops skills instead of sleeping.

Janice, we can see that you have developed many skills. So are you saying that the answer is not sleeping? Yikes! Maybe you are superhuman like your blogger friend said about you.

It is hard to settle on a schedule that works with life, Marsha. I wrote this post How to Blog and Easily Have Time to Sleep. In that post, I suggested a blogging schedule that works for me.

problogger Janice Wald
MostlyBlogging has suggestions for finding balance.

I have since changed my schedule. If you agree with my reader that  busy bloggers need to be superhuman, the proposed blogging schedules in this post may be just what you need.

Ralph, a friend of mine also wrote about his schedule in a post, How to Blog and Still Live a Quality Life, that your readers might enjoy. Let me just quote a bit of that post that your readers will enjoy.

 I was keen as mustard when I began blogging over 3 years ago. I would Follow everyone who looked my way. A jellyfish using a jack hammer would get a Follow. I had 3 blogs, FB with a messenger, G+, normal emails, drafting new posts, visiting other blogs and Satan’s spellbook (the WordPress.Com Dashboard) to contend with.

 PLUS I was spammed rotten, 100 comments an hour for a few days until I found what I thought was a topical Mystery Man comment that I had approved in the middle of 8000 comments. Deleted, the spam went. I almost threw my laptop over the balcony.

Over time I reduced my blogs to one, exporting posts I wanted to keep into http://bluefishway.com/.

Emails! Ha! There was only one thing to do. Go into Blogs I Follow and reduce them from 200+ to 50. Mainly friends and quality are left. I will never Follow blogs that reblog, single photos, haiku (can’t undersand it), multi-posts per day / week.

– Ralph Whillier

It thrilled me to read Ralph’s article. He is My Favorite Ralph (MFR). You and I have lived in Ralph’s community together, and I did not even know it! Ralph has some great ideas there. He’s always telling me to slow down. But I can’t hold a candle to you!

But back to time management, so basically, you are recommending keeping to a schedule? I’m really curious about your Friday when you “promote my MostlyBlogging subcommunities on Twitter,” but that sounds like another entire post. Let’s move on to my last question for today. 

If your blogging career ended today, what legacy would you leave behind?

In 2012 Ernest Cline wrote a book called Ready Player One.  It details a virtual society in which people befriend (and marry!) others they never meet.  They get educations from schools they never physically attend.  They travel to places without leaving their computer screens.  Cline’s theme is that virtual reality is bad.  Virtual interactions should not replace real ones, and virtual experiences are inferior to the real-life kind.  I disagree with Mr. Cline.

Strangers are writing me from all over the planet, the United Kingdom was one example, to applaud my writing skills and courage.  As a result of my new knowledge and these kind compliments, my confidence has increased.

What do real friends do Mr. Cline?  They help and support each other.  When the technology inherent in blogging confuses me, Garry from the Seems to Me writes me a witticism along with a link to the answer, and the frustration is dissipated. Garry is definitely a friend.

I expected a rush when I was proud of my writing and fulfillment from expressing my analysis to the blogging community.  In addition to getting all I expected, I found a niche, a community of bloggers who share my passion for writing.

I hope that answered your question.

Yes, I think your answer tells us more about the legacy blogging has left on you. In so doing, your blogging has left a mark in many hearts. We try to measure every bit of success in education, but I do not think we can measure the success of a blog adequately because it sprawls all over our lives and into the lives of others. 

It networks us, to go back to your first answer. 

Janice, thank you so much for being with me and my readers today. It’s been an honor to talk with a problogger that has raced to the top, like you have. A special shout out to Ralph, and thanks for his post as well.

I hope you will be back as a guest post or another interview.

I am truly honored by you including me, Marsha. I am excited by this and can’t wait to see it.
Thanks again for joining us here at Always Write for a glass of iced coffee and a great interview with our guest problogger, Janice Wald. Don’t forget to give her blog a peek, and invite your friends to do the same! 🙂

Cycling Grandma Shares Reasons for Self-Publishing

Lisa Winkler, online at CyclingGrandma, and I have been blogging friends for about four years. She wrote a book, On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America, which I read, discussed, and then reviewed on my blog, Streaming Thoughts.


When I heard that she had published another book, I asked Lisa if she would allow me to interview her for my new blog, Just Write, and I was thrilled that she agreed.

Lisa cycled in Tuscany
Lisa cycled in Tuscany

Hi Lisa, welcome to Just Write, a blog for writers, bloggers and photographers to have a place to share and have a cup of coffee together. Glad you could take a few minutes to sit down. I don’t think you do that often!

I’m so proud of you, Lisa. You just published your second book. That’s quite an accomplishment! In light of that let me ask my first question.

What is the ONE thing that you do; that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes as a blogger and author, so far?

Thanks, Marsha. It took courage to self-publish my first book, On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America. I had invested a lot of time and passion into the book and thought I’d be able to get an agent, a publisher, etc. I self-published because I believed in the story but unless you self-promote to death, you don’t get much sales. It’s been a very slow process. But once I self-published my first book, I felt more comfortable doing the others.

I get that. I always feel better just finishing a project. Then it’s exciting to hear from people who read it. So, you had one book under your belt and felt encouraged to finish another. You probably had the idea for Amanda at Bat for a long time before you started writing it. I’m sure it took a while to develop.

What is one opportunity that you attribute to publishing your new book?

Amanda at Bat

Once again, I knew I was going to self-publish Amanda at Bat.  I’d submitted it many times over the years and it has been developed through a couple of writing workshops. I felt it was time for it to launch. I’m so grateful that my friend Stella Sormani agreed to illustrate it.

Submitting to publishers takes a lot of time, and is a completely different skill than writing the book. That task is daunting, coupled with the unsettling rejection letters that come to all authors at some time in their careers. Many of us are turning to self-publishing. I am no artist, either! Illustrations overwhelm me, and they are so important for children’s books. Stella did a great job, simple, but expressive. I haven’t been to any writing workshops, but I did take an online class on writing children’s picture books through the Australian Writers’ Centre with my blogging friend, Carol Sherritt.

What concerns or obstacles have you overcome in your writing career?

I’ve reached an age where I am going to write what I want to write! That said, I am sensitive to not using my children’s or grandchildren’s names as they’ve asked me not to write about them. It does limit my writing at times but that’s life!

Yeah, it’s nice to feel the freedom to write what you want to write. I hear what you are saying about writing about friends and family. People who have authors as friends may feel that they have to step on eggshells. It’s good that you are careful! Nobody wants to be exposed in a bad light.

Tell me about something that you are not good at.

Gee, just one thing? I am not good with technology. I can use my computer and I blog but I know I only use a fraction of the tools available to me on my phone. I know I could learn—but just don’t seem to have the interest or patience.  I’m not good at book design and happy to allow a professional to do that.

Hahaha. I agree that is a loaded question! There are so many details to bringing a book together for publication.

How do you balance your time between your personal and career/blogging life?

Bear on Lisa's porch

I wish I could say I had the discipline to write every day. I don’t.  Family, a bike ride, travel, errands and such all distract me.

Like having a bear visit you on your patio? That was quite a story! It sounds like you are comfortable with your choices, and that you keep your life in balance.

If your blog or writing career ended today, what would be the legacy that you hope you left behind?

Wow! What a question. I hope my blog and book readers have enjoyed my writing and have gotten something from it that may resonate. I’ve donated my books to libraries where I hope people might find them in the future!

That is a generous gesture, Lisa. It’s probably a good marketing tip for other self-published writers as well. I think some traditional publishing companies do that as well. I know mine did.

Tell me a bit about more Amanda at Bat. Why did you write it?

I wrote many children’s books when my kids were small. I received my Masters in Education with a focus in children’s literature and was inspired by all the wonderful literature I read. I suppose every parent thinks they have stories to tell. Children’s writing is very hard! You have to tell a story in as few words as possible.  Amanda is really based on a real person, who like Amanda, is short, born in December, and whose last name is at the end of the alphabet. Her mother was annoyed when she played on a T-ball team that the batting order seemed unfair. I’ve been working on the story for many years. It was originally published in the last issue of a children’s on-line magazine and was a bit longer than it is now.

Are there any overall themes in the story?

It’s about fairness, solving your problems, and speaking up for yourself. I hope other children will see a bit of themselves in Amanda.

All kids worry a great deal about fairness, don’t they, Lisa? They are like the fairness police in a world that is not always fair. I can see where your book would be VERY helpful, especially for teachers to read just before kids go out on recess! Recess was the one place where my fourth graders had the most difficulties in school.

Lisa, this draws our interview to a close. I want to thank you again for being with me today. This was fun! I feel that I’ve gotten to know you a bit better, and I hope that those who read this interview will feel the same way, and will share your book as well as this article.


Lisa Winkler

Lisa K. Winkler writes and blogs from New Jersey. She grew up on a poultry farm in Connecticut and worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine journalist. She’s now writing family histories as a personal historian.  www.lisakwinkler.com Read more about Lisa here

Your Turn

If you enjoyed this post, please forward it to your friends, especially teachers and parents or grandparents with young children. If you read Lisa’s book and write a review, please put a link to your blog in the comment section of this post, so others can find it.

cup of coffee

Thanks again for joining us here at Just Write for a cup of coffee and another great interview with our guest author, Lisa Winkler. 

Interview with Author, Anne Stormont

Meet the author, Anne Stormont from Scotland here on Always Write.

Welcome to Always Write, a blog for newbies and fun bloggers, writers, and photographers, where you do not have to be Patrick Problogger to have a great blog.

Author Anne Stormont
Anne Stormont, a Scott, writing about her beloved Scotland.

Anne and I met online through our WordPress blogs recently, and I liked her right away, and I know you will too. She has three published books under her writing belt: Change of Life in which “one of the main characters has breast cancer and other significant disruptions in her life. The book does deal with what it’s like to have to cope with enormous upheaval and change and how you come out the other side.” Displacement is about a romantic friendship, which crosses the miles from Scotland to Israel. The Silver Locket, written under the pen name of Anne McAlpine, features three best friends who get caught in a time portal that escorts them to the 18th century.

Like I am, Anne is a retired teacher who loves to travel, walk, and do yoga. Unlike me, she is from Scotland and has grandkids, with whom she enjoys spending time. Anne has blogged since 2010 and has a writing style I enjoy. Join with me as we find out more Anne Stormont.

Anne, what is the ONE thing that you do, that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes, so far?

In terms of writing success, that would be the decision to ‘just do it’, to show up at the desk no matter what, inspired or not, and write.

It was in 2000 that I decided to get on with it after years of procrastinating. Up until then, I’d told myself that one day I’d write a book, one day when I wasn’t too busy working, raising a family, running a home. I’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1998 and that was the wake-up call that ‘one day’ might never happen. So I did a deal with fate and promised ‘if I get through this I will write that book’. I survived and kept my side of the deal and got down to it. So far I’ve published two novels for adults and one for children.

When I was still teaching, my writing had to be done in the evenings, the school holidays and at weekends. Then two years ago I took early retirement in order to have more time to write. I treat it as my job. I have an office diary and plan my time at the desk and stick to it. So in short, I’d say my success is down to determination, perseverance, and hard work.

Having cancer is certainly a wake-up call! It seems that having a mission or big goal gave you hope. You triumphed! I also admire you for writing while you were still teaching. That takes a lot of dedication and saying no to other things in life. Writing is a profession that demands to be taken seriously, and it is so easy to put it on the back burner when other obligations crop up.

What is one opportunity that you attribute to blogging or publishing your work in addition to selling books?

I think that would be the opportunity to engage with the writing world.

Both blogging and publishing my novels have allowed me to engage with other writers and with readers too – both online and in the real world. The one thing I particularly value about blogging is the sense of community there is with other bloggers. I’ve learned a lot, and not only about writing, by doing my blog, but even more so by reading other people’s blogs. Writing can be a lonely job but blogging has allowed me to build a support network of fellow writers. I’ve made several friends both virtual and real through blogging.

I’m so glad we’ve met, Anne. It is amazing to me to have friends from Scotland to Australia who think so much like I do, and connect with me on almost an “I feel like I’ve know you all my life,” level.

What concerns or obstacles have you overcome in your writing career?

The biggest concern was getting published. I approached several agents and publishers with my first book. I got lots of nice, polite rejections. Several of them said the book was good, but they wouldn’t know where to fit it genre-wise, so it would be hard to sell. In the end, I went down the independent publisher route. I was fortunate that self-publishing was just beginning to take off and to become respectable. I subsequently did the same for my second novel and for my children’s book.

I’ve no regrets about self-publishing but there are obstacles for authors who choose to do so. The biggest one is, having published, you need to market your book and reach prospective readers. Although the same is true to a large extent for traditionally published authors, at least they’re not doing it completely on their own.

Another obstacle is that my (adult) books don’t slot neatly into a category. They’re a bit literary, a bit romantic, a bit adventure/challenge. I suppose the closest description would be ‘contemporary women’s fiction that portrays mature women facing life-changing situations’. However, gaining visibility is where the blog has proved so useful. I don’t use it directly to sell books, although that’s why I started it, but it’s a connection, a place where existing and prospective readers can get to know Anne, the author. They can find out what inspires me, what I’m currently working on and the books I like reading.

I should also say that joining The Alliance of Independent Authors (http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ ) was a tremendous help in overcoming obstacles. Their advice about finding editors, proofreaders, cover designers and all the many possible pitfalls to be aware of when self or indie publishing has been invaluable. They have a world-wide membership and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

I’m going to check that group out, Anne. I know that even having a publisher does not solve the problem of having to market your books yourself.

What challenges are you facing now, if any?

The main writing challenge is to finish my next (adult) novel. It’s the sequel to Displacement and it’s penciled in for an end of year release. And then I need to get on with the next Scottish history adventure for the three time-travelling children who featured in The Silver Locket. This time, it won’t be Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites that they’re helping. I’m thinking maybe it will be Robert the Bruce for their next mission.

It’s embarrassing to me that I do not know Scottish history, so I checked Robert the Bruce, King of Scots March 25, 1306 to June 7, 1329. Time travel is a great way for kids to learn history.

Tell me about when you realized that you were a professional writer.

I suppose it should have been maybe getting my first review, or royalty payment, but it wasn’t until much later. It was when I was invited to appear at the Isle of Skye book festival last autumn and got to talk to readers face to face about my books. And it was when The Silver Locket was described as Outlander for kids, that’s when it hit me. It was a surreal feeling.

Jack Canfield, the author of the Chicken Soup books, said the same thing insisting that one of the most important benefits of writing comes afterward. He had speaking engagements, press coverage, and sales of other items, which made such a difference for him over the years.

You said something in your email to me about writing your children’s books under a different name. Why was that?

The reason I wrote the children’s book under a pen name was to keep my two identities separate. The audience for the children’s book is obviously very different from the one for the adult books. I wanted to be sure children looking at my author website saw only stuff that was aimed at them, or if they went into a library or bookshop that they were directed to the right place if looking for ‘The Silver Locket’. So I chose my maiden name of McAlpine and was able to set up a separate author website in that name. Having two identities has its advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole, it works for me. And it was great to resurrect Anne McAlpine after thirty-plus years of marriage

I’m sure there are many authors who have thought about using a pen name for various reasons including differentiating between genres. It is kind of exciting to have another identity.

What one person or resource helped you the most as a new blogger?

The best resource was WordPress itself. That’s the blogging platform I use. They’re a great organisation. Bloggers can easily access all the help they need, either via email to a real human being, or by signing up to their free online courses. And although there are paid for add-ons, you can produce an impressive looking blog for free.

I’m sure WordPress would love to hear you say that. They have created a very usable platform even for those who never thought they would have a professional blog.

If your blog or career ended today, what would be the legacy that you left behind?

My books aren’t classics, so I don’t imagine they’ll be being read in a hundred years time. If my career ended, because I’d gone to the big library in the sky, then I hope that at least my family and friends would keep a copy of one of my books on their shelves. And I hope they’d see them as a good way to remember me by. In a wider sense, if my career ended for whatever reason, I’d hope the legacy would be for others to see what I did with my writing and believe they too could follow their dreams and ‘just do it’ before it’s too late.

I would not be so quick to say that your books are not classics. We are not the judge of whether or not our books become classics. It takes a generation of readers to determine what the classics will be. You may never even realize the value of your books.

Anne, I want to say again what a pleasure it has been to interview you. I know our readers will both enjoy getting to know you a little better. For my readers, you can connect directly with Anne on her blog, Put it in Writing. Check out her books, too. Clicking on the titles at the beginning of the interview will allow you to order them on Amazon.

Thank you, Marsha, for inviting me to be your guest on the blog.

Thank you, Anne. Have a wonderful week!

Readers, It’s Your Turn

If you enjoyed this post, please forward it to your friends.

Thanks again for joining us here at Always Write for a cup of coffee and a great interview with our guest blogger, Anne Stormont. Don’t forget to give her blog a peek! 🙂 To be a guest on Always Write or read other interviews, click here.

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