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!
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?
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?
Let’s Move Pittsburgh hosted their first ever Symposium on November 7, 2013 at Phipps Conservatory. The title was “Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.” I really liked that title because so much research shows that when you give children choices at the grocery store, during preparation and during meals – and those choices are healthy choices – kids will choose good-for-them-food.
I also learned from Let’s Move that the USDA is rolling out a new Smart Snacks in Schools program.
Healthy Snacks for Kids
I started thinking about places where I could increase healthy choices for my children, and our wonderful community soccer program came to mind. My boys have played soccer for about two years and I always cringe when they ask to buy Hugs at the snack bar after games.
So I started asking people about alternatives at the Symposium.
“Instead of Hugs, give the kids their water bottles at the beginning of the season and get them filled up at the snack bar,” suggested Jesse Sharrard, Food Safety and Nutrition Manager from Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
I loved that idea because water is so important for young athletes and getting rid of those Hugs would reduce litter on the soccer fields.
But I know the soccer league relies on snack bar sales to fund a lot of the program. And if the snack bar has candy for sale, the kids will ask for that. So I asked parents on Facebook what healthy snacks their children would actually buy.
Here are some of their answers:
- Squeeze applesauce
- Peanut Butter and apples
- Fig Newtons
- Carrots and celery sticks
- Kid-styled Luna Bars
- Pirates Booty
- Frozen Go-Gurts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Bananas, Oranges, Apples
- Yogurt-covered Raisins
So what are your thoughts? What healthy snacks would your kids buy at school or at concession stands?
It seems very simple to thank volunteers, but as I learned today, “every ‘thank you’ is your next ask.”
I’m working on the annual report for a Pittsburgh-area non-profit and the design team is exploring the role of the annual report. Is it just to thank last year’s donors? Or can it somehow mobilize the people who read it into action?
As we prepare to thank volunteers who contributed to the non-profit during the season of giving, the holiday season, this agency is eager to encourage donors to get involved in a second season of giving during the spring when their donations and support wane.
So can we thank volunteers and encourage them to take action more than once a year? Can one little annual report really do all that?
I’m an idealist so I think it can. During the brainstorming meeting I was tossing out ideas left and right.
- QR codes so people can scan and donate! (Shot down because QR codes are ‘out.’ Ok, so what’s in?)
- Tear out calendar.
- Pages that people can write on and take notes about their volunteer ideas.
- Tear-out action cards.
- Tear-out thank you notes so people can thank volunteers they work with.
- Tear-out thank you cards that people can send to motivate new volunteers!
I think some of those ideas might get used. The team was interested in a lot of them. We’ll see what the budget can hold. In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways to thank volunteers, consider picking up a copy of my e-book Thanks! 100 Wonderful ways to Appreciate Volunteers. It’s the season of gratitude and maybe it’s time some volunteers in your life could use some thanks!
This year I’m heading to my first writers conference. I’m gathering tips and advice from people who have been to writers conferences before. So I asked one of my good friends Beth Skwarecki about her most recent writers conference. She’s also really analytical and never takes things at face value, which makes her a great science writer. We met last year when she agreed without ever having met me, to be my writing mentor for National Novel Writing Month. Since our first meetings, which were quiet and focused on writing, we’ve had some interesting shared adventures like hiking with our kids and spotting an owl as well as visiting gun and archery ranges. Yep, we’re exciting people.
Beth recently attended a science writers conference called…ScienceWriters hosted by the National Association of Science Writers. Pretty much it was science writers heaven to judge by her enthusiastic – almost giddy – tweets and emails!
— Beth Skwarecki (@BethSkw) November 5, 2013
Writers Conference Tips
Before Beth jetted off to London for SpotOn, another science conference, I asked her to share with me some advice for a great writers conference experience.
I suspect ScienceWriters is a different beast than other writing conferences. Not sure how much of this applies elsewhere. That said, I jotted down a few thoughts.
To know about writing conferences like ScienceWriters:
Editors want to meet writers. Writers want to hear cool stuff from PIOs. Freelancers want to compare notes with other freelancers. Introduce yourself to anyone and everyone; you won’t regret it.
Don’t skip the parties. Your conversation starters are:
So where are you based?
Are you a freelancer / who do you work for?
What sessions have you gone to? How was that one? Which ones are you doing tomorrow?
Have you been to these conferences before?
We’ve emailed / I follow you on twitter / etc / and I just wanted to say hi in person.
If you’re just starting out as a freelancer and don’t have tons of clips you’re proud of, and somebody asks you who you write for? DO NOT PANIC. It’s OK to say you’re new. Mention a thing or two you’ve done. Or just evade the question and tell them about the latest topic you wrote about, or something you’re interested in. They’re not fact-checking your resume, they just want to start a conversation.
When there are food tables, skip the first one you see. The ones at the back of the room have shorter lines.
There will be times you have to choose between sessions. Don’t sweat it too much; just ask other attendees later about how that session was. Sometimes I’ll skip a session if I know it’s likely to be blogged or videotaped, and instead choose something where the in-the-moment experience will be the best.
You don’t HAVE to do anything. If you want to skip a session to write, go ahead. If you’re partied out, feel free to hole up in your hotel room. Just not all the time.
NASW has lots of field trips and opportunities to meet researchers. Even if what they’re doing seems boring, put on your interviewer hat and start asking questions. Imagine an editor has told you “This person does super cool stuff, but you’ll have to dig to find out what it is.” Ask dumb questions, smart questions, anything that comes to mind. Stumped? Try “What is the worst part of your job?” and “What’s the most exciting thing in your field?”. Those two questions, if propelled with just a little bit of “so tell me more about that,” can cover anywhere from minutes to hours.
We did a “Power Pitch” session which was like speed dating with editors. It was AWESOME. Here’s my approach, which seemed to work well for me.
Find out how it works. Wake up early to sign up (they did a lottery in the morning)
Know, ahead of time, who your first (second, etc) choice of editor is. Have a list of pitch topics.
Don’t worry about fleshed out pitches; there isn’t time. Think in terms of headlines and hooks.
Here’s what I would usually say:
I’m [name] from [city] covering [beat].
(Business card swap)
I ask: Where does your pub fit in the news cycle? What counts as a good news peg for you?
Maybe another quick question or two to narrow down where their needs intersect with the kind of stuff I can write (topic areas, word counts, etc)
Rapid fire pitches: a headline, a few sentences of explanation if needed. Get a yes/no and move quickly to the next. Time will be up before you know it.
They won’t assign stories on the spot; it’s more of a rapid fire “Do you want a pitch on this?”
If they give a yes, or a strong maybe, I star that pitch in my notebook.
If you’re planning to write for children, especially early readers, you need to be familiar with sight words. Sight words are a group of several hundred words that make up the majority of words used in children’s literature. New readers need to be able to recognize sight words by sight because many of them cannot be deciphered using phonics. Pretty confusing for a young kid but also essential if they want to be successful readers. Teachers and editors know these sight words – but, aspiring children’s writer – do you?
There are tons of resources online for writers who want to gain familiarity with sight words. I’m pretty lucky because I have a first grader! We are working through five books this year, each with five lists of words that my young reader will master before the end of the school year. Can I brag a little and mention he’s already completed the first two books and is ahead of schedule?
Helping him master sight words includes very common techniques that we use to learn new things every day: repetition, frequent exposure, and in his case, a relaxed approach to the process of learning the words.
Writing With Sight Words
Research shows that children learn these sight words best when working in small groups with adults, so I’m also a volunteer in the classroom helping other children master their sight words. I flip over index cards and gauge how fluently the children read the words.
There’s so much more to writing for children than just picking a high interest topic like dinosaurs or princess fairies. Word choice can make a story just the right level of challenging for a young reader and very useful to a teacher.
When I’m working on a children’s story that I plan to submit to a magazine, agent or publishing house, I return to these lists. I look for places where I can substitute adult words for a sight words. Lists of sight words are available online.
Work bags are essential for freelancers. I rarely go places without mine. Not everyone can work at home all the time, even freelancers need to visit the outside world. Sometimes I’m meeting deadlines at soccer practice, cranking out words at a local coffee shop, or strategizing at a client’s office. I don’t mind leaving my home office but I do mind when I’ve forgotten something essential.
So I wanted to put together a standard ‘desk on the go’ that was always ready in case I wanted to head out the door and didn’t leave myself enough to check over the contents of the bag.
So I asked four creative professionals what they always pack in their work bags in order to get things done.
First I asked Susan Paff from Ideality Communications what she carries.
“Believe it or not I used to carry a travel file folder in my trunk. Now dropbox carries everything for me. A laptop, an iPad, an iPhone – I’ve worked from them all. Add Skype for conferencing and messaging and we can work from anywhere.”
Susan sent her answer using voice texting from Siri. I’m impressed at her multi-tasking.
Shawn Graham, who offers marketing services for badass small businesses, brings these items:
- Laptop (with charger)
- Internet Access
- Cell Phone (with charger)
- Ear buds (personal preference or if people are loud talking around you)
This is a great question, thanks for asking! I generally work in my home office, but each week when my boys are in karate, I usually take “the show on the road.” I have a large laptop bag that’s about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage. I always keep it packed and ready to roll! Even though there was some up-front cost, I bought duplicates of most things in my bag so that way I keep the extras in there and don’t forget to pack them!Here’s what’s inside:
Spare laptop cord
Spare mouse and my Disney Vacation Club mousepad (Will work to travel!)
Pens, Post-it notes, pencils
I liked that Jennifer packs Post-it notes and I think I’m going to add that to my work bag. Local science writer Beth Skwarecki was the only one who mentioned a caffeinated beverage – maybe that’s why we make such good writing partners.
Here’s what Beth keeps in her work bag: