Writer, Editor, and Creative Strategist

children's book author, writer, social media coachWelcome!

I’m Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan. I’m best known as a children’s author and freelance writer. Clients work with me when they need:

  • Business writing and blogging
  • Editing and e-book production
  • Creative consultation and promotion
  • Social media coaching

As a runner and triathlete, I have a great work ethic. In my experience, a tough physical challenge is a great way to spark incredible ideas.

As a mom, I know the value of humor and patience. My own children keep me on my creative toes and offer endless inspiration. Need help with grumpy kids? Picky kids? Grab a book below!

Contact me at 412.837.9499 or onesweetwriter[at]gmail.com if you need:

My writing appears frequently in magazines like Family Fun and AppleSeeds as well as Writer’s Weekly, Children’s Writer, and Kidsburgh. I have won awards for my fiction and poetry with my most recent flash fiction story appearing in Leading Edge Literary Magazine.

I have my MA in American History and have been a science educator, stage performer and worked with non-profits for over 10 years. When I’m not training for an upcoming road race or triathlon, I’m exploring the world with my husband and three children. I’ve been to 31 out of 50 states and 3 continents and counting!

I tackle each writing assignment with enthusiasm and would love to apply my skills to your project.

I encourage you to review my extensive writing samplesview my testimonials, visit my Amazon.com Author Page, and visit my LinkedIn profile.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Summer Reading for Kids

A few years ago I hosted a book club at the summer camp my boys attended. The kids in the club were in the Kindergarten through second grade age group. Each week we read two books and then worked on a literacy activity.

The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and the activities are accessible for both literate and pre-literate readers.

If you’re looking for fun summer reading for kids, here’s the list.

summer reading kids

Page-turners!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Inspired by books: Dogsledding

It’s hard to not be inspired by books. When I read about a delicious food in a book, I want to try it. When I read about an exotic – or even nearby – location, I want to visit it. And when I read about a fun adventure, I want to give it a try. Luckily, my children are just as excited to try new things as I am.

My second grader is very interested in reading books about dogs and right now he’s hooked on the Puppy Place series by Ellen Miles. My son is especially interested in huskies, so I knew he would really enjoy Bear (The Puppy Place #14).

And I was right.

My son loved hearing about the fluffy husky pup and about the sport of dog sledding. So did my younger son, age 5 and my older son, age 10. We read Bear during a nice, snowy Pittsburgh winter and we talked about what it would be like to dog sled to school in our neighborhood. I admit, the boys weren’t the only ones interested in the adventure. I couldn’t resist a quick online search and learned that we could try dog sledding ourselves, less than two hours from our house!

On a chilly afternoon in February, we left Pittsburgh and headed south to try dog sledding at Nemacolin Woodlands. The Chateau was  booked so we stayed at Fallingrock. Saturday morning the sun came up bright but it was almost 0 degrees outside. That didn’t stop us. We had a warm breakfast then headed to the Animal Wildlife center. We could hear the dogs barking and howling before we saw them.

dog sled 1

Dog sledding in Pennsylvania

As our driver took us up to the kennels, the barking grew louder and we realized we weren’t the only ones excited by the idea of a ride! The dogs leapt and yelped, each one clearly asking to be chosen for the harness. I settled into the sled for the first part of the ride with my 5 and 7 year old sons. The dogs slipped into their harnesses and pranced in place waiting for the command to go. The driver called out “Hike!” and we were off.

It was exhilarating to pulled over the sparkling snow, speeding through the freezing air. The dogs ran silent but some let their tongues waggle out of the side of their mouths. When the driver gave them a break, they turned back, watching for the moment they could go, go, go again.

The dogs stay outside year-round and in the summer they pull a wheeled buggy on shorter routes. To stay cool they wear ice vests. But in the winter months they are in their element. We wondered, like many probably do, if the dogs actually enjoy the task of pulling the sled. Once we had completed our ride, we could not deny the eagerness of the dogs to be chosen to pull, the energy and excitement they showed during the ride, the silent but expressive happiness of a dog who is healthy, active and strong.

I love that we had the chance to bring dog sledding to life for our boys. But even if we couldn’t experience it for real, I love that they are eager readers and can learn about the world around them from books like the Puppy Place series.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Books for 11 year olds

books for 11 year olds

Maybe on a list like this someday!

It can be tough to find the right books for 11 year olds. I am not an 11 year old, but I remember what books I loved reading when I was 11.  My oldest son just turned 10 and I exchange emails with an 11 year old boy about books. I am writing books and stories that I hope 11 year old boys and girls would want to read. That’s why I love this list from several well-known authors about books for 11 year olds. The list originally appeared in The Guardian, but I’m sharing it here and keeping track of what books I’ve read. What better way to write books for 11 year olds than to read great books for 11 year olds?

I’ve still got quite a lot to read, but I’m making my way through the list. Have you read any on this list? Which are your favorites?

Philip Pullman

READ * Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Indispensable. The great classic beginning of English children’s literature.

READ 2014 * Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. What effortless invention looks like.

READ 2014* Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. A great political story: democracy in action.

READ 2014 * Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. As clear and pure as Mozart.

READ 2014* Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken. If Ransome was Mozart, Aiken was Rossini. Unforced effervescence.

READ 2014* The Owl Service by Alan Garner. Showed how children’s literature could sound dark and troubling chords.

READ 2013 * The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Superb wit and vigorous invention.

READ 2014* Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson. Any of the Moomin books would supply the same strange light Nordic magic.

READ 2014 * A Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna. A particular favourite of mine, as much for Richard Kennedy’s delicate illustrations (in the English edition) as for the story.

* The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé. Three generations of this family have loved Tintin. Perfect timing, perfect narrative tact and command, blissfully funny.

Michael Morpurgo

READ 2014* The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson. The heroine is blessed with such wonderful friends who help her through the twists and turns of this incredible journey.

READ 2014 * A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The first few pages were so engaging, Marley’s ghostly face on the knocker of Scrooge’s door still gives me the shivers.

READ 2015 * Just William books by Richmal Crompton. These are a must for every child.

READ 2014 * The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. This was the first story, I think, that ever made me cry and it still has the power to make me cry.

READ 2013 * The Elephant’s Child From The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The story my mother used to read me most often, because I asked for it again and again. I loved the sheer fun of it, the music and the rhythm of the words. It was subversive too. Still my favourite story.

READ 2013* Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson This was the first real book I read for myself. I lived this book as I read it.

* The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. A classic tale of man versus nature. I wish I’d written this.

* The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. A book for children from 8 to 80. I love the humanity of this story and how one man’s efforts can change the future for so many.

* The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy The story of two children who go to find their father who has been listed missing in the trenches of the First World War.

READ * The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. I love this story of a girl’s life being changed by nature.

Katy Guest, literary editor for The Independent on Sunday

* Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah. Story of a young Ethiopian boy, whose parents abandon him in London to save his life.

* Finn Family Moomintroll (and the other Moomin books) by Tove Jansson. A fantasy series for small children that introduces bigger ones to ideas of adventure, dealing with fear, understanding character and tolerating difference.

READ 2013 * Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. It’s rude, it’s funny and it will chime with every 11-year-old who’s ever started a new school.

* I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Written for a teenage audience but fun at any age.

READ * The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein. Be warned, these tales of hobbits, elves and Middle Earth are dangerously addictive.

* The Tygrine Cat (and The Tygrine Cat on the Run) by Inbali Iserles. If your parents keep going on at you to read Tarka the Otter, The Sheep-Pig and other animal fantasies, do – they’re great books – also try Iserles’ stories about a cat seeking his destiny.

* Carry On, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. A grown-up book – but not that grown-up.

READ 2015 * When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. Judith Kerr’s semi-autobiographical story of a family fleeing the Nazis in 1933.

* Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett. Elaborate mythological imagery and a background based in real science. If you like this, the Discworld series offers plenty more.

* The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson. The pinnacle of the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson’s brilliant and enormous output.

John Walsh, author and Independent columnist

* The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Irresistible puzzle-solving tales of the chilly Victorian master-sleuth and his dim medical sidekick.

* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Age-transcending tale, both funny and sad.

* Mistress Masham’s Repose by TH White. Magical story of 10-year-old Maria, living in a derelict stately home, shy, lonely and under threat from both her governess and her rascally guardian.

READ * Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Inexplicably evergreen, trend and taste-defying 1868 classic.

* How to be Topp by Geoffrey Willams and Ronald Searle. Side-splitting satire on skool, oiks, teechers, fules, bulies, swots.

READ 2015 * Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. First of the action-packed adventures with 14-year-old Alex Rider.

* Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. “Dulce et Decorum Est” for pre-teens.

READ 2013 * Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Lively, amoral, wildly imaginative debut (six more followed) about the money-grabbing master-criminal Artemis, 12. The author called it “Die Hard with fairies”.

* The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. Inspiring wartime story of the Balicki family in Warsaw.

READ * Animal Farm by George Orwell. Smart 11-year-olds won’t need any pre-knowledge of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and 1917 to appreciate this brilliantly-told fable.

Michael Rosen

READ 2013 * Skellig by David Almond. Brings magical realism to working-class North-east England.

* Red Cherry Red by Jackie Kay. A book of poems that reaches deep into our hidden thoughts but also talks in a joyous voice exploring the everyday.

* Talkin Turkeys by Benjamin Zephaniah. A book of poems that demands to be read aloud, performed and thought about.

* Greek myths by Geraldine McCaughrean. Superheroes battle with demons, gods intervene in our pleasures and fears – a bit like the spectres in our minds going through daily life, really – beautifully retold here.

* People Might Hear You by Robin Klein. A profound, suspenseful story about sects, freedom and the rights of all young people – especially girls.

* Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. A book that dared to go where no one thought you could with young audiences because it raises tough stuff to do with race.

* Einstein’s Underpants and How They Saved the World by Anthony McGowan. A crazy adventure set amongst the kids you don’t want to know but who this book makes you really, really care about.

* After the First Death by Robert Cormier. Cormier is never afraid of handling how the personal meets the political all within the framework of a thriller.

* The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. A book that allows difference to be part of the plot and not a point in itself.

* Beano Annual. A cornucopia of nutty, bad, silly ideas, tricks, situations and plots.

 

This list originally appeared on my personal blog, Try It and You May. 

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Symbols in writing: Birds

hawk, symbols in writing

Focus on your task.

Animals make excellent symbols in writing and my children love books and stories about animals. One of their favorite stories is a little one I tell them about my guardian hawk. The hawk lives in the small copse, or group of trees, that borders our property. There are lots of tasty rodents for the hawk to enjoy in our area including chipmunks and squirrels, as well as the occasional snake surprise.

Hawks are used often in books. One of my favorite books, My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics), features a boy who lives on his own and tames a hawk. This is an excellent book for middle grade readers. For older readers, T.H. White includes hawks in The Once and Future King. Adults who enjoy a creative non-fiction work might like a book I recently heard about titled H is for Hawk. This book is a memoir of a woman who dealt with grief, or great sadness, by taming a goshawk.

I love to include symbols in writing, and birds make excellent symbols. As your child reads books or writes their own stories, talking about symbols in writing is a great way to increase their understanding of the text. It can also fuel creativity in their other work.

I typically use birds as symbols based on the roles they play in Western culture, but with a little research it’s possible to introduce knowledge about other cultures using birds. Here are four birds that my boys and I feel might symbolize us.

Hawks

Let’s start my personal favorite, the hawk. I recently read that hawks can symbolize a person’s ability to soar over obstacles, to see the big picture, and to take action when the time is right. Hawks can also symbolize messages from the spirit world. If I were to use a hawk as a symbol in writing, I would use it as a guardian figure or possibly a judge.

Blue Jays

My youngest son has chosen the blue jay as his bird symbol. This bird has a lot of meaning to Native American cultures and is very curious and represents people with the “gift of gab.” The blue color of the blue jay against a blue sky represents double clarity of vision in the Sioux tribe. If I were to use the jay as a symbol in writing, I think I’d use it to represent a curious child or an inventor figure.

Blackbirds

My middle son told me to think of him whenever I see a blackbird. This symbol is well-known to me from Irish myths and legends because it is associated with Morrigan, the goddess of war. It is a gruesome image, but blackbirds are seen as harbingers, or warnings, of coming battle. They are also seen in the awful aftermath of battles. But blackbirds, be they ravens or crows, have a different meaning to the New World peoples who see them as creators. They are creatures of high intelligence but are not above using trickery. As a symbol in writing I tend to see the blackbird as ominous, powerful and something to be respected.

Ducks

I’m not sure if my oldest chose the duck as his symbol or if he was assigned this particular bird. I can’t help but laugh when I think of it. Our list starts with a majestic bird of prey the hawk, then moves to a colorful curious jay, then the dark, mysterious blackbird and ends with the comical, practical duck. At least, that’s how I would use a duck as a symbol in writing. But is that really what ducks represent?

One meaning of the duck is freedom, the ability to move through air, land and water. Ducks also live in communities and could symbolize group work rather than individual action. Ducks in dreams might be a warning that danger is coming. Don’t be a sitting duck!

There are so many different ways to use symbols in writing and these are just a small sample. Take a look at how other cultures view these birds and other birds. Birds can add depth and meaning to a simple tale.

Do you use birds as symbols in writing? What symbols in writing do you like to use?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

New Secret Tip for Picky Eaters

I’ve collected lots of tips for helping parents work with their picky eaters and get more fruits and vegetables into their diet. But new research shows that one of kids’ favorite things – recess – could be a huge help!

Schools in a Utah school district switched their schedules so that recess happened before lunch and guess what happened? Kids are more fruits and veggies. Lots more!

In the schools that switched recess to before lunch, children ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than they did before the switch, the researchers found. Moreover, there was a 45 percent increase in the number of kids who ate at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. But in schools that kept recess after lunch, children actually ate fewer fruits and vegetables as the year went on.

54 percent! That’s a lot of broccoli! Active kids are hungry and hungry kids are less likely to be picky eaters. And it’s exciting that there was an increase in children actually eating fruits and vegetables. This shows it wasn’t just kids who already ate these foods, it was new children eating these foods. I’m all for increasing physical activity in schools. I’ve learned a lot from Action for Healthy Kids about the value of recess when it comes to academic learning and positive behavior. But now we can add eating healthier foods as another benefit of recess! I encourage every one, kids and adults to be more active. Being active is invaluable to me as a writer. It’s a win-win decision.

But the great news doesn’t stop there. The study also showed a decrease in wasted healthy food, too. I can’t stop smiling at this good news! Why aren’t we hearing more about this? What do we need to do to convince schools to switch their lunch and recess schedules? I am betting that the decrease in food waste could be the stronger argument if it can be connected with saving money.

This article also argues that parents and children who sit and eat together also eat better. How often does your family sit and eat? We try to sit and eat dinner together every night if we can, but we also find time for breakfasts and lunches together over the weekend. It’s one of the happiest times of our day, now that we’ve developed new ways of working with our picky eaters. No more food fights!

secret tip for picky eaters

Give those new foods a try!

You have to read the entire article and let me know what you think. The full study is out in the Journal of Preventative Medicine. Why aren’t we hearing more about this good news? Do people just not care about kids eating healthy? Would your school flip lunch and recess? Why or why not?

Take a look at more tips for picky eaters in these posts and if you want to help your picky eater have some fun trying new foods, grab a copy of My Food Notebook.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

New Food at Pittsburgh’s Farm to Table

Open wide! New food

Open wide!

It’s almost time for the ninth annual Farm to Table Conference here in Pittsburgh! This is one of my favorite events in the city because I get to meet new people and try new food! I’m really thrilled to participate this year for several reasons. As usual, I’ll be hosting a table and selling copies of My Food Notebook, but I’m also going to unveil a new game for kids called “TASTE or TEST.” When kids visit my table they can choose to TASTE a Mystery Food or take a TEST and answer a really tough (wink, wink) question about Pennsylvania farms and agriculture. If kids are really brave, they can tackle both challenges! When a child does a TASTE or TEST, they will earn an entry into a raffle drawing for a basket of fun, healthy prizes.

I’m also going to bring this fun TASTE or TEST game into the first grades at my local elementary schools to coincide with the Farm to Table unit in the curriculum. As I work on different projects and books for children, I find that taking a look at the standards really helps. I use the PA Standards Aligned System site to see what teachers need to cover in the classroom. Then I try to make sure that the information in my games, activities and books matches the needs of the teacher.

Just because information is required doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! I know kids love learning about healthy foods because I worked with the folks from Farm to Table to create the Super Fun! Local Food Challenge assembly and have performed it in front of screaming crowds of school agers.

I think the TASTE or TEST game is going to be a hit for parents and kids, because trying a new food is a tough challenge for many people.

Trying New Foods

When’s the last time you ate a new food? And I don’t mean trying a new flavor of Triskets. I mean a new fruit or vegetable, maybe a new kind of cheese, or even a new kind of grain.

We get into habits (or ruts) where we eat the same things every day. I know personally it’s easier for me to cook familiar foods. I know how to cook them and (usually) don’t ruin or burn them. But it’s important for parents to model trying a new food if they want their kids to try a new food.

Here’s a challenge. Try to eat one new food every day. Could you do that two days in a row? Could you do it for a week? I’m thinking the next time I go to the grocery store, I could grab five new kinds of fruits and vegetables and give them a try once a day. Sounds intimidating but also a little exciting!

Parents want their kids to try new foods. I asked friends on Facebook what new foods they wished their kids would try and got a great variety of responses. Here are some of the foods:

  • Kiwi
  • Spinach
  • Peppers (red, yellow, orange, green)
  • Tomatoes (twice)
  • Rambutan (I don’t even know what this is!)
  • Mushrooms (twice)
  • Eggplants (twice)
  • Mangoes (I’m allergic)
  • Lima beans
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Grapes

That’s a pretty good list of new foods to try! Some of those are delicious. But what the heck is a rambutan? Sounds like a new food I need to try.

Be honest now: Which of those foods have you eaten yourself? Which have your kids eaten? If you’re going to tackle this list of new foods with your family, let me know which ones they taste!

Do you think the TASTE or TEST game would be a hit at your child’s school?

 

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About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Working With Volunteers Made Easy

Working with volunteers can be the most rewarding experience or the most frustrating. Numerous non-profit organizations across the nation rely on volunteers to stuff envelopes, raise money, pick up litter, and donate their time to the cause. It isn’t always easy, but working without volunteers is a frightening possibility for many organizations.

Perhaps due to hectic living, volunteering rates are falling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volunteer rates have dropped from 28.8% in 2003 to 25.3% in 2014. That rate didn’t change from 25.4 % in 2013. To put it another way, “about 62.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014.”

Volunteers are the heart and soul of groups school parent teacher organizations, food banks, community shelters, and churches. But it’s increasingly harder to find volunteers who can give their time and passion to an organization. We live in a two-income society and families juggle school, jobs and and financial responsibilities. Finding free time on weekends is almost out of the question.

62.8 million is a huge number of people with creative, innovative ideas just waiting to put their skills to use for a mission in which they believe. And volunteers are a valuable, irreplaceable resource. How can organizations keep the volunteers they need and recruit new ones?

There is a lot of competition out there, but some volunteer-based organizations fare better than others. How do successful organizations keep so many volunteers inspired and dedicated?

Working With Volunteers in ways Motivate, Excite and Show Respect

  1. Keep your promises. When a staff member promises a phone call, a meeting, a decision or piece of information, it is imperative that they follow through on the promise. If you want to rely on your volunteers, first, show them they can rely on you.
  2. Make it personal. Some send out handwritten notes to a few key volunteers, some take the time to write notes to every single volunteer they work with. Since a number of staff were once volunteers for their organization, they have affirmed the importance of this personal gesture. It’s also a good idea to learn something personal about your volunteer and be able to mention that topic. Does the volunteer love to talk about their children or pets? Ask how their loved ones are doing and show that you care about them as people, not just valuable resources.
  3. It’s ok to care. It may be your job to raise money for cancer, or for heart disease, or for the local park. But it’s also important to let your volunteers know this is a cause you believe in and that you are emotionally invested. Working with volunteers means sharing emotions and the reasons why the mission matters. Sadness can motivate people, but hope can, too.
  4. Feed them! Food is as powerful a motivator more than any other method. Nothing makes a committee meeting on a Wednesday night easier to bear than food. Anything from chocolate to tea and cookies seems to make people feel appreciated and keep them coming back to help.
  5. WIIFM – What’s in it for me? Finding a person’s WIIFM, or what it is they hope to get out of the volunteer experience, is a great way to make sure they are always satisfied with their responsibilities. Before you being working with volunteers, find out what their goals are. Some people just want to work on the day of the event, helping with registration or handing out buttons. Others want to be a part of the committee and assist with all the planning details. Learn what your volunteers want, and help them achieve that. They will love their time with your organization and return.
  6. Recognition. Not every volunteer is working to get an award, but some are. Some volunteers need to know that their efforts have made a big difference and public recognition is just what they need to feel appreciated and renew their commitment. Yearly volunteer recognition dinners give many of volunteers a chance to shine. But some volunteers prefer a more private show of appreciation. Meet them for lunch, send special thank-yous. They need to feel wanted.
  7. Have fun. Events like 5Ks and mini-golf outings and festivals and attract people because they are FUN. Combine a fantastic event with your mission and keep those volunteers coming back year after year.

Working with volunteers is an art. For more ideas on how to express gratitude to your volunteers, get a copy of Thanks! 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers. 

thank volunteers, working with volunteers

Don’t Forget to Thank Volunteers

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

The Pitfalls of Freelance Writing in Pittsburgh

freelance writing pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is home to lots of creative types!

Freelance writing in Pittsburgh isn’t always perfect. In fact, it can be full of pitfalls. But what if there was a cushy landing waiting at the bottom? I love doing freelance writing in Pittsburgh. Over the past four years, I’ve enjoyed working the organizations like Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, Cancer Be Glammed, and teli. Right now I am enjoying my freelance writing work with Farm to Table and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, as well as writing for national magazines.

Why I love Freelance Writing in Pittsburgh

I have learned a lot in my time as a freelance writer and not all of it pertains to writing. There are lots of extras, both good and bad, that come with a corporate position. Here is a quick list of seven potential pitfalls of doing a freelance writing in Pittsburgh that aren’t so bad after all.

  1. No organized community service. I miss blood drives! In my previous work in the non-profit world, the office manager always organized the blood drives and volunteering was part of my day job. It was easy and a no-brainer. Now that I’m a freelance writer I have to make my own volunteering opportunities. That could be a con, but now I have a chance to pick which causes really matter to me. I’m starting a creative writing club at our elementary school, I’m volunteering with the Food Bank and promoting healthy eating for kids.
  2. No office kitchen. I have no where to take leftover party food! When I worked in an office, I could keep extra sweets and snacks out of my pantry by donating it to the office kitchen. Problem solved. Now as a freelancer, a lot of those leftover pieces of cakes and cookies stick around the house. But as a freelance writer, I’m also not tempted to eat treats brought in by other people. No 4:00 sugar rush! And I can usually avoid the guilty obligation to buy popcorn and chocolate and wrapping paper from co-workers who are fundraising for their kids.
  3. No chit chat. Not working in an office means no water cooler talk. That’s good and bad. It means I don’t have people to bounce ideas off of easily. It means I have to use the phone, social media and scheduled meetings to share ideas and get feedback. That does require extra effort on my part. But losing the water cooler means also means I get to avoid hurtful gossip and misinformation. A definite pro!
  4. No suits. Working from home means there is no need for a business wardrobe. This feels like a real pro for me most of the time. I can do my freelance writing in my workout gear and make sure I have no excuses when it comes to running, cycling or lifting weights. It does make it hard sometimes when I need to dress for a presentation or networking event, but I think this feature has helped my budget and my overall health. I haven’t worn high heels in several months and I don’t miss that at all!
  5. No sick days. As a freelance writer, I still have to work when I’m sick. I’ve taken time off when I’ve felt really bad, but if it’s a bad cough or a sore throat, that doesn’t stop me from writing. That mean seem like a con, but the good part about not working in an office is that I don’t have to work around other sick people. Why do people insist on coming into work sick? No one’s handing out medals for coming into work on your deathbed! And since our nation has really failed to support families with excellent parental sick leave rights, I can now stay home with my sick children and keep working. That’s a real pro.
  6. No carpool. I don’t have anyone to carpool with to work. No HOV lanes for me. When I do have to drive somewhere, I am on my own. But I also don’t drive to work everyday. There are many days I don’t drive at all. That has to be a pro.
  7. No trivia club after work. It is harder to socialize now. It’s very easy to stay home, tuck into my work, and neglect personal relationships. But I am a social person and I make an effort to get out to different kinds of networking events and community activities. And I’ve also tried to prioritize friendships with people that really match my personality instead of gravitating towards someone who just happens to work in the next office. It’s been good to meet a variety of new and interesting people through my numerous freelance writing contracts but it’s also been good to explore friendships that are not related to work. I think in many ways, non-work friendships can be healthier and less stressful. There are so many great people in Pittsburgh, I don’t think I’ll ever truly lack for excellent socializing!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Help for Moms of Picky Eaters: Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa

I am so thrilled to share the link to a truly fun conversation I had with Denisa LaRosa, host of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa. Denise and I are both Pittsburgh moms, but she is raising girls and I have all boys. We share a common goal in helping our kids develop a healthy relationship with food. Denise is a former elementary school teacher and I admire anyone who can tackle a classroom full of kids.

Denise is the founder and CEO of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa, LLC, a multimedia platform designed to motivate, inspire and inform mothers. Denise’s website focuses on “providing mothers with encouragement, support and resources as they travel the journey of motherhood.”

Denise and I had a inspiring talk about what inspired my books and how I encourage my kids to try new foods. But her website has many more resources for moms.

Moms learning from Moms

Moms learning from Moms

Denise and I are both supporting the Burgh Baby Diaper Drive and collecting diapers for the smallest members of our community.

Make a change in a little one's life!

 

It can be hard to be patient when kids refuse to eat. Moms know that many times dinners and meals with picky eaters end up in food fights and battlesI Denise and I shared great ideas on how we take our children to the grocery store, get them involved in cooking and encourage them to try new foods. I invite you to listen to this podcast and check out more from Denise!

 

 

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Writing Advice: What not to write

This is a list of writing advice I’ve heard on what not to write or how not to write. It’s probably a little fiction heavy, but I’m open to non-fiction writing not-to advice. Feel free to send suggestions of what and how not to write. But I’m also interested in examples of when going against this writing advice works.

1. Don’t use  “started to” or “began to.” People don’t start to cry, they cry.

2. Don’t tell us a character “felt” something. Show us how the character feels.

3. Don’t use passive voice, for instance “She was informed by a friend of her mistake.” Use “A friend said she was wrong.”

4. Don’t use adverbs like “happily” or “greedily.”

5. Don’t use cliches, like “she balled her hands into fists” or “she rolled her eyes.”

Advice from other writers:

1. Avoid “to be” verbs unless the sentence is awkward without them. Just about always avoid expletive constructions (exception for weather only, I think). Avoid unnecessary attributions. Avoid most attributions other than “said.”

2. Use Wordle to figure out what words you’re overusing. Then use a Find command to eradicate as many of them as possible. Do this with your top ten most overused words.

3. If your story makes perfect sense without a chapter, delete it.

4. Don’t start a sentence with “There” or “It” or “This,” especially if you can’t pinpoint what the pronoun is referring to. Start with a strong word instead. – Beth Skwarecki

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.