As a contributor to 30SecondMom, I have connected with interesting, motivated and funny moms across the country. These moms also offer some really excellent working mom tips, and as a working mom myself, I often find my balance shifts day to day, hour to hour.
That’s why I’m proud to share this interview with fellow 30Second Mom and author Marci Fair as she launches her book TILT – 7 Solutions To Be A Guilt-Free Working Mom as a part of my Recipe for Success feature. Marci is a wife, mom of four & friend who has worked in real estate for over twenty years. She founded kares4kids.com, which has served over 15,000 children since 2005.
What is TILT?
TILT-7 Solutions To Be A Guilt-Free Working Mom is a practical parenting guide brimming with real life suggestions, tips, and advice for working mothers. It encourages them, as they help their children reach for their goals and dreams, to continue to reach for their own. It is filled with over 70 quotes from the author’s children, over 100 practical guilt-free tips and the wisdom of over 80 other amazing working mothers.
Was writing TILT self-motivated?
As a working mom of four, I had to find my own meaning and peace within the chaos I had created. And balance was not an option. So, I TILTed instead.
I wrote TILT to cut through the commotion of my day-to-day life and find solutions that worked for our family. As I learned how to incorporate these ideas into our life, I found the answers I wanted to enjoy my mom-journey.
With so many of my mom friends also struggling with mom guilt, I wanted to share my best ideas with them on how to overcome that painful problem.
What are your favorite parts of TILT?
I have many parts that I really like about TILT – the funny Mom Quizzes, the silly children’s quotes (70+!), and the Guilt-free Tips at the end of each chapter. I also really appreciate the 86 ideas from other moms included in TILT.
As I have matured, I have also realized how much I still need to learn. So I asked other women to share their own hard-earned mom wisdom in TILT as well, to make it an even richer book for the reader.
What was your favorite part of the process?
I have been working on this “heart-project” to write TILT for many years now. It was very challenging for me to put all the parts and pieces together. I had it edited over, and over, and over again to make it the best that I could.
As it’s “construction” was challenging, I would say the most rewarding part for me has been after its publication, to hear and see how amazingly well-received it has been. I am so thankful that it has only “5″ Star reviews on Amazon so far (40) and delighted when a mom tells me how much it has helped her in her life. The strength of the feedback and the conversations with the moms are my favorite parts!
Get your copy of TILT!
I am a sucker for a writing contest. I have a writing friend who thinks they can be a real waste of time and money, and I acknowledge that she is very right most of the time. But after a recent meeting of my SCBWI critique group, and after the experience I gained from one contest, I have identified some intangible benefits.
But to be fair, I will outline some of the negative aspects of writing contests, too. This is hard because I’m not good at seeing the downside of things.
Cons of Writing Contests
- There is usually a fee.
- The word count may not lend itself to the best telling of your story.
- Winning an award doesn’t always mean publication of your writing.
- It could be a scam.
Pros of Writing Contests
- The fees for some are very small.
- Some offer prize money.
- Word count limits can force you to revise.
- Winning could mean publication.
- It’s good practice to have to meet a deadline.
- Some contests promise feedback that you don’t get on regular submissions.
I’ve been writing for a long time, all the way back to when I started my elementary school’s first literary journal. Yes, as editor several of my more painful pieces of poetry were chosen for the first issue. But since then my fiction success has been pretty low. In college and as an adult I wrote for several newspapers. But my short stories only earned rejections. It hurt but I kept writing.
Then last year, as I continued my habit of entering writing contests, something changed. I earned an honorable mention for a poem, a finalist position for a flash fiction piece, and an honorable mention for another flash fiction story.
These were my first writing awards, ever. And that last honorable mention includes publication in a respected sci-fi/fantasy magazine! My first fiction publication. Ever.
Of course I think it couldn’t be better. But to be fair I’ll list some cons:
- There is no prize money.
I’m sorry, I can’t think of any more cons for entering this writing contest! I tried. But I’m just too much of an optimist. Here are some pros:
- The editors asked me to revise my story slightly. That was good practice.
- The editors asked me to review and sign a contract. I was excited to learn what was in the contract and research the meaning of the rights.
- The editors asked me to review their copyedits. This was good learning, too.
- I’m following the magazine on Facebook and learning about how they tagline the stories in each issue.
- My ego is boosted.
- This story was originally written before I had children, and I had pulled it out and re-worked it. I have lots more of those and feel like I am a better writer than I was then. I can make them, better, faster, stronger.
If you want to enter a writing contest, I would say go for it. But go for it in a smart way.
- Do your research. I picked journals that printed things I loved to read. So find a literary magazine or journal that you respect. I have two favorites that have contests on right now and I saved up some of my best work for their contests!
- Do not just enter any old contest. I often look for contests with unique angles like ‘Best Starts’ or with themes and prompts.
- Pick the right writing. Chose stories or poems you have written that you think they would love.
- Don’t enter contests with excessive fees. I consider anything above $20 excessive.
- Think small. Lots of really big magazines like Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers offer contests. But smaller journals and magazines host them, too. Sign up for alerts from places like WOW! Women on Writing, Writer Advice, FreelanceWriting and AllIndieWriters.
Looking to help kids write essays?
I remember an essay I wrote in eighth grade about a specific chapter in Gulliver’s Travels. My English composition teacher adored it and praised it through the roof. I also remember another one I wrote as a senior about Jane Austen for a contest. It received an Honorable Mention, but only because there were four entries and mine didn’t nearly come close to the quality of the other entries.
Writing essays is a learned skill. Some of us feel more confident right from the start, but we can all learn helpful steps to take when writing essays.
I recently tackled an essay contest for kids with all three of my boys. If you’re a regular reader of my site, you know I already believe there is a strong connection between physical activity and creativity. That’s why I encourage my children to get involved in sports and games and this winter we are doing Kids of STEEL for the first time. It’s a non-competitive running club for kids organized by the team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.
The essay contest was optional but I felt it was important for my boys to write their 100 word essays on their favorite healthy snacks. But they needed a little help writing their essays.
A good way to help kids write essays is to coach them on how to write, but not what to write. That’s one of the hardest things to manage when you need to help kids write essays. The idea is to coach kids through some useful exercises that will lead to the essay without telling them exactly what to write.
It can feel a bit painful, and it’s certainly easier to write it for them. Some kids will take longer than others and need more coaching than others. But think long term here! The idea is not to just finish the essay, the goal is to help them learn how to do this for themselves…unless you are really eager to continue doing their school assignments for them all the way through college.
Here are some ideas that I shared with my boys and that I learned from other parents.
Brainstorm your essay topic
- Make a list of your favorite snacks
- Imagine how your favorite snack smells
- Describe the colors of your favorite snack
- Start with a photo or draw a picture of your favorite snack
Writing the essay
- Start with a joke
- Make an acrostic or a fun rhyming poem
- Describe instructions on how to make the snack
- Convince another kid to try the snack
As one of the moms organizing the essay submissions from our school, I was really excited to see the wonderful variety of snacks and writing styles. Most of the essays were typed but it was obvious the words were straight out the kids’ mouths. There are prizes for this contest, but the real prize in my opinion is giving my children more practice in picking a topic, brainstorming an opinion and then expressing their opinion in writing. That’s a skill that will always be needed.
There are more ideas on my Pinterest board Writers’ Resources for kids and adults.
Did you write essays as a kid? Do you remember one that went particularly well or just plain awful?
Composting can teach writers a lot.
I am an avid composter and have trained my three sons to compost as well. In addition to being good for the environment, I have recently discovered how useful composting is for writers.
I’ve often sat and thought about the magical process that transforms fairly gross old food scraps into rich, black soil that goes into the garden to create more delicious food that leaves us with more unappealing leftover scraps.
This mysterious cycle made a great topic for a fiction story for a kids’ science magazine, Odyssey. I’m submitting my story this month, so wish me luck. If they decide to publish you can be sure I’ll let you know!
I realized composting can be more than just a topic of a story, though. It can also be a metaphor for the writing process. So I asked on my Facebook page, “What can writers learn from composting?” I got some great answers! (These will make some excellent tweets for writers, too.)
Composting For Writers
Here are the four replies to my post:
Ron said, “They can learn that a portion can be beneficial, but most is just a load of crap.”
Allison said “Something that’s leftover or tossed aside can transform into something you never envisioned.”
Rebecca said “Sometimes good things take awhile to develop.”
Giggi repled, “There’s value in letting things ‘stew.’”
Which is your favorite?
Writer’s Weekly Helps Freelance Writers
Writer’s Weekly recently published my success story. This online newsletter offers terrific resources for freelancer writers and I invite you to check it out here.
Writer’s Weekly editors are looking for more success stories and feature articles. In addition, the newsletter lists jobs for freelance writers and information on self-publishing.
Consider what has helped you as a freelance writer. Was it something as simple as changing where you worked or how you organized your tasks? Did you adopt new technology or change your website?
This past month I downloaded the free trial for InDesign and used it to lay out and design a monthly newsletter for one of my clients. It was a challenge and I made mistakes. But I know I won’t make the same mistakes next month and by learning this software I now have more hourly work for this client.
What are you doing to challenge yourself as a freelance writer, keep your skills fresh and remain valuable to clients?
Do you send thank you notes?
Have you ever forgotten to send a thank you note?
I volunteered at our elementary school this month helping with an assembly and the launch of a new school activity, Kids of STEEL. Kids who join this program will get to run together once a week and learn about healthy eating. It’s right up my alley.
But after the assembly ended, our PTO president and principal realized they had forgotten to unroll the giant thank you sign they had created for these kinds of events.
“There’s just so much going on,” lamented our PTO president.
So I opened my big mouth and made this suggestion: “Let the kids take over saying thanks. Have the student government put together a gratitude team, and they can write thank you notes to volunteers and guests.”
We discussed photographing the large thank you sign and creating custom thank you cards. The principal is taking the idea to the teacher who advises student government, and I am hopeful they will give it a try.
The PTO can still write notes or send emails, but I think involving the kids has so many benefits. Writing thank you notes as a kid is almost as important eating healthy and exercises. Writing thank you notes is a physical, active way to help my children develop a strong sense of gratitude. I know that feeling gratitude can go a long way toward helping a child feel happy and satisfied in whatever path they follow in life.
Gratitude and Thank You Notes
I recently finished local Pittsburgh author Britt Reints’ book An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness. Reints dedicates an entire chapter to the science of gratitude. She cites research that argues when we feel and express gratitude, we are happier. She also emphasizes that gratitude is not the same as feeling indebted, and I am working hard to help my children understand the subtle difference there.
Working with volunteers gives me many times to feel and share my gratitude. Over the past ten years, I have often found myself struggling to find ways to express my gratitude that matches the value of the gifts these volunteers have shared. I collected a list of the 100 most creative and relevant ways I’ve said thanks to volunteers and these ideas are available to you as an e-book.
Should you force it?
Some families don’t have a habit of writing thank you notes. I often give my grandmother credit for building the habit for me, but really my mom was just as influential. She would often say, “Write the thank you note, or we’ll never hear the end of it from your grandmother.” I guess they had a pretty effective good cop/bad cop system going because even now I say those things to my children.
Technology offers lots of ways to say thank you now beyond the traditional handwritten note. And my family has used a variety of them, like the photo at the top of this blog. But we never abandon the thank you note completely. I do agree that the way we say thank you isn’t as important as remembering to do it in the first place. A true, heartfelt “thank you” is all we need to offer.
I have two requests for feedback here:
Do you value handwritten note more or less than other thank you’s?
What creative ways you have helped your children – or you have used yourself – to express gratitude?