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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is The School Library Closing?



I was at my daughter’s second-grade classroom the other day.  She was participating in an event that showcased poetry.  It was wonderful to see the kids read their works aloud and hold up signs for “alliteration” and “couplet.”  

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration that was introduced two decades ago by the Academy of American Poets as a means to increase awareness and enhance a deeper appreciation of poetry in America and Canada.  Poets.org is a good resource to learn about local poetry events.  

My wife and I gave our eight-year-old daughter a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends:  40-year Edition.  She loves it.  Seeing her gap-toothed grin made me smile as wide as the halls are long at her elementary school.

We should always encourage our youth to experiment with writing in all forms and genres.  Let them try everything on so they can determine what fits them.

While I attended her event, I heard a disturbing rumor that the school’s library may disappear and be replaced with a tech and robotics center. The news was shocking.

I paused to reflect and thought, “Well, the kids can get books at their local library, but they can’t easily get a decked-out technology lab."  But that quickly got replaced with:  “How could a school not have a library?”  I came to my senses quickly, even though the shiny, new toy sounded promising.  It’s a shame we have to choose between the two.

After the principal quelled the rumors and reassured me personally that this was not going to happen, I felt relieved but unsettled. I realized that it could’ve happened and still might down the road.  It can certainly happen at any of the other thousands of elementary schools across the country.

Libraries serve many functions in a school.  They not only are a repository of wisdom and inspiration, but they serve as a strong model for the printed word.  Students enter a library and feel the power of choice, ideas, and information wall to wall. They can come across hundreds or thousands of titles, touching, seeing, and reading centuries of history and imagination.

Sure kids can get books for cheap on Amazon.com.  Sure they have a community library where they can get books for free.  Sure they can find tons of digital content online.  But when they attend a school they need to be exposed to a library.  It doesn’t just provide a book they may need to do a report.  It provides an opportunity for young minds to discover the reader inside themselves.  It provides a safe, encouraging, and sharing environment.  It gives shelter to books and to readers.  Its very existence makes a strong statement that books matter, that they don’t just get boxed up into a device or remain shored away in an attic.  

Books matter and a school library must always be seen as the foundation for a school and for one’s learning experience.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Is Reclusive Singer Enya A Model For Writers?



The other day I read an article about Enya, a 54-year-old songwriter and singer who had some success in the U.S. in the 1990s (I was a fan), and how she has surprisingly done what all creative artists long for:  become a wildly popular seller, been able to avoid touring and promoting her work, and is able to seclude herself so she can privately – and without disruption – work 24/7 on her craft.  A part of me was jealous and a part was sad.

Enya apparently is UK’s biggest success story for a female singer.  She has sold 75 million albums and is worth a reported 167 million bucks.  However, it sounds like she doesn’t get to spend her fortune because she’s too busy hiding in her castle.  Yes, a castle!

The report says she long ago swore off having a long-term relationship with men because she didn’t believe she could dedicate enough time to him or deal with his needs.  She is extremely focused on her work.

Though it’s admirable that she wants to pour herself into producing a quantity of quality work, doesn’t she want a life of her own?  What’s the point of wealth and success if you don’t share it and join the living?

You have to wonder how informed her music is if it’s based on living a monk-like existence.  She’s writing and singing for the masses.  How far removed is she from those she seeks to touch?

On the other hand, with no spouse or kids, no financial worries, and no other obligations, burdens or distractions, she is able to zone in on her passion.  She’s able to plunge the depths of her creativity unobstructed.  She can tune in to her inner-self and actually hear just her voice.  But as much as writers crave such an opportunity, I think most would need a balance.  Yes to occasional solitude and spontaneous writing without having to reschedule a day, but also yes to family, friends, love, and fresh air.  Yes to life and all of its wonder and foibles, to its beauty and hatred, to sex and violence, to nature and pollution.  Bring it all on!

Is Enya happy or some kind of social misfit or mentally disturbed individual?  Who knows?  For those who just love her music, they may ask, “Who cares?”

It is hard to feel bad for someone who chooses to live life on her terms, especially for a successful person who has the resources to choose many different paths.  But maybe she is making a sacrifice for us.  Is she giving up parts of her life so that she can produce music that millions can live by? Is she a victim of her talent?

It takes self-discipline to be a productive writer, artist, or musician.  It requires thousands of hours of research, practice, experimentation, and execution.  Enya has found the way to do what most dream of. Hopefully it’s not her nightmare.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016


Friday, April 29, 2016

How Old Is Too Young For Blue Language In Books?



“What the fuck?”

That is how I felt when I saw those three words in my 11-year-old son’s reading choice, an award-winning, critically-acclaimed book, I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson.

School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Boston Globe, Time, New York Times and others rated it as one of the best YA books of the year. The New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library put it on their best-of-the-year list.  The author’s site describes the book as “radiant,” that will “leave you breathless and teary and laughing – often all at once."

It sounds like a great book.  The best-selling novel could be in the hands of our youth for generations to come.

But have we crossed a line somewhere?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude.  I long ago decided to let my kids – by age six – say “shit” and a few other funny-sounding words.  But I draw the line with the F-word.  I do my best not to say it in front of them.  But now my son, in fifth grade, is reading a book with this line in it.

I don’t oppose the use of the word. All great books cover controversial topics and sometimes blue language goes along with them.  But I didn’t realize the day has come where the F-word is so normal and mainstream that we let kids in elementary school read books with such words.

Age-appropriate concepts, terms, or actions are hard to define.  My eight-year-old is not reading a book with that word in it.  No fucking way!  But my son is.  Is it too soon? Is it really necessary?  On the other hand, so what?

He’s old enough to grasp the use of the word.  Soon he’ll be exposed to such language more regularly as he enters middle school.  But I thought we could keep him innocent for a little longer.  He doesn’t even turn his head to look at beautiful young women. He hasn’t entered the world of sex-obsessed, drug-taking, language-offending teens.

But he will.  With the reading of this book it’s begun.  I think what bugs me is his school is endorsing this.  It could’ve chosen any number of great books, but it took the one with the F-word.  The mass media endorses it, too.  Maybe parents need to follow suit, I don't know. 

I’m all for pushing the envelope and challenging people on their ethics, passions and behaviors – but when it comes to kids, my kids, I thought some things were still off limits.  I guess not.  

What a fucking shame.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trade, Pay, Act & Network: 4 Ways to Market Your Book


I am always telling authors, whether they are first-time novices or veterans of multiple best-selling books, the key to success is to go all-out on book marketing and publicity.  That is actually more important than making a book great.  A mediocre book with great PR often does better than a superior book with little or no marketing behind it.

It doesn’t matter what genre you write in.  It doesn’t matter if your publisher is big, small, a university press or an independent.  It doesn’t matter what your book is about, how it’s written or designed, or how catchy your title and cover appears to be.  You have to promote and market the heck out of it.

But some authors lack the key elements to promote:
·         Knowledge:  They don’t know what to do, when, or how.
·         Ability;:  They lack certain skills needed to sell themselves.
·         Time:  Everyone is short on this.
·         Money:  You need it if you want a professional helper.
·         Personality: You don’t want to talk about yourself or book.
·         Mental Make-up:  You fear public speaking or desire anonymity.
·         Attitude:  You think you shouldn’t have to blow your own horn, that the book sells itself.

So how do you get some marketing success when you lack one or more of the above?

You either do what you can and supplement the rest, or you outsource everything, or you do nothing and pray that you get discovered.

If you recognize that you need help, you have a few options:

·         Pay for professional services.
·         Pay less for amateur services.
·         Trade your services/resources with others.
·         Barter with your network for help.
·         Borrow funds and resources.
·         Seek an investor or sponsor to fund your efforts.
·         Use Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites.

So what can authors do to make sure they have exhausted all possible avenues for success?  They must act with a sense of urgency and assume a mindset of desperation.  They can’t have a wait-and-see attitude.  They can’t be laid back in their approach.  They can’t just hope to win the lottery or be dependent on the kindness of strangers.  Nor can they risk debt or bankruptcy to take a dream and turn it into reality.

First, you do what you are capable of and what you enjoy doing.  I don’t mean writing.  I’m talking about the specter of book marketing and PR that you do well.  Let’s say you are good at research and emailing people, but not so good in networking.  Let’s say you are good at getting speaking gigs but not at securing media coverage.  Perhaps – you know how to get radio interviews but social media baffles or even frustrates you.  Know what you do well and identify what needs to be outsourced.  Accept the things that you will ignore, that neither will you do yourself nor get others to do for you.

Second, identify who can help you do the things you plan to outsource.  Query them on capabilities, fees and past performance.  Find people you can work with.  You likely will need multiple experts to help you if you have numerous areas that you require help in.  There are no one-stop-shopping pros in the book world.

Third, figure out how to work your network, as well as build it up.  What will you ask of them – and give in return?  How will you reach the networks of your network?

Fourth, think of how to trade with people who can help you.  I don’t mean paying your web guy with books or compensating someone with sexual favors, but what you can and should do is think of what it is that you have digitally that is perceived to be of value of others.  Incentivize others to buy your book not only because it’s a great book at a great discount – or because they are your friend or colleague – but because by doing so they will be rewarded with a free item.  It can be a prior ebook.  It can be a webinar.  It could be copies of presentations, missing chapters, or a resource guide.  It can be something that belongs to someone else.  Share the digital resources of fellow authors – not only does it help you sell your book but the authors that you help promote will be willing to share your stuff with their list of connections.  It’s a win-win.

Lastly, you need to simply take the extra step or do the thing you didn’t think you were capable of doing.  To break through you need to do more than you think possible and to try things you never did.  That’s how you get moving from point A to point C: pay others, trade with others, exploit your networks, and do work on your own.

Good luck!

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Writer Suicide Rate Doubles America’s Ballooning Total


With the loss of Prince potentially due to an overdose of pills – presumably accidentally – it rekindles the age-old debate about creative types and reckless behavior.  But let’s take it a step further and look at suicide and the writer.

A study was published on suicide and mental illness around four years ago in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.  It was based on the work of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.  It slowed that authors were almost twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.

Now consider that suicide in the United States has dramatically increased over the past 16 years.  A new study shows that the suicide total of 29,000 in 1999 has risen sharply to 42,000 last year.  This is almost a 50% increase.  The suicide rate, which is adjusted, based on a growing population, jumped more than 24% - from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 Americans.

The most frustrating thing about suicide is that it is preventable and even with all of the public outcry to improve mental illness treatment, even with all of the medicated Americans, and even with all of the therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists available, and even with the declining public stigma of getting help for mental illness, we have failed miserably to help those who obviously need help.

You can speculate on any number of reasons why people kill themselves. For some, it could be a crappy marriage, the loss of a job, an addiction gone wild, or any reason and no reason at all.  Suicide is not rationale and is induced by mental imbalance.  But why are so many more people imbalanced, and why are so many pushed to their doom?

We do have an increase in psychologically damaged veterans returning home from a decade-and-a-half of fighting terrorism wars.  We did have a Great Recession that killed dreams and hopes.  We still have many problems, as a society and as individuals, that if not addressed, can get out of control and lead to one believing that ending their life is a better option than to live with pain, loss, or a broken heart.

Are we missing something here?  Is life itself the problem?  Does life cause suicide?  Does the toll of life burden so many people to the point of no return?  Is it chemical, like a toxic pollutant that gets into our system and leads to out-of-control behavior?  Could suicide not be a mental issue at all, but a physical one, one based on the environment?

So why do writers choose to kill themselves twice as often as the average person?  Is writing itself a symptom, or even a cause, of mental illness?

My uncle committed suicide when I was just five years old.  I learned a lesson early on about death that will stay with me until the end of my days comes.  But I know my death will not come at my own hand.  I learned that we are bigger than life’s troubles and I know that there can be some hellish scenarios that could tempt us to see death as relief.  But we get this one life to live.  Reincarnation may be possible, but nothing is certain. I choose to live this life fully and hopefully.

But I don’t blame anyone for taking their lives.  Everyone has their threshold of pain. But I bet most victims would alter their plans if they had hope or love or support in their lives.  Still, for some, a disease, an injury, a personal loss or even a professional shortfall tests their resolve and seems overly burdensome.

Writers, if they didn’t write, would probably kill themselves at double the rate they already die at.  Writing is a salvation to many.  It’s our therapy, our passion, our artistry, and our way of seeing the world and sharing it with others.  It’s our cry for help. It Is the legitimization and validation of our pain, suffering, and shattered lives.  

I came across a web site that listed hundreds of writers who either attempted suicide or killed themselves.  You may recognize a few:

·         Virginia Woolf
·         Kurt Vonnegut
·         Jack London
·         Sylvia Plath
·         Edgar Allan Poe
·         Ernest Hemingway
·         David Foster Wallace
·         Malcolm Lowry
·         Anne Sexton
·         Arthur Koestler
·         Spalding Gray

The list can get really long. It’s not just the famous, award-winning or best-selling writer that takes his life. It’s the amateur writer, the unknown poet, and the person struggling to be heard and seen.  For some, fame and fortune accelerates their demise; and for others it is their failed pursuit of such things that expedites their dark ending.

Writers have a great ability to rescript the world and imagine it in a way that it never has been and may never be able to become. They have a gift and a talent that can be shared with so many others. If only they could appreciate their writings in a way that others are impacted by their words and ideas.

Perhaps every book is a portion of a long suicide note.  For many writers, that note is never completed but all too often, the note is finished before they can fully share their works with others.

America has a suicide and mental health problem. We have failed to contain it.  On a mass scale, society has unequivocally dropped the ball.  Can we merely throw dollars, doctors, and drugs at the problem?  Suicide is winning by huge numbers.  You can’t point to something specific and say if we fix that we fix the problem.  How could we go backwards and fail so many people?

Suicide is the exclamation point to the bigger issue – society suffers from mass depression.  I know, not everyone is sick, sad, or crazy but tens of millions are suffering or at risk.  Maybe the answer is not to treat depression but to treat life. Something is deficient in the world that leads so many people to lose hope, faith, and happiness.

You would think that our lives are supposed to be better.

Maybe it’s technology and the digital era that’s killing people off.  The meteoric, suicide rate coincides with the period of time that the majority of the population has been connected online.

Maybe it’s the terrorism era.  Could we be self-imploding because we fear terrorists are coming for us?

Maybe it’s something in our genetically-altered foods, the global warning environment, or the oversized lightweight T.V. in our homes.

Or it’s none of that. The mental health community obviously has no clue because it has failed us miserably.

Maybe our improved society is to blame. As we have more laws to protect ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, pot-smokers, and women – and as it becomes more publicly acceptable to be different, if not weird – we have an increase in people killing themselves.  I thought the opposite was supposed to happen.  It seems as life became easier for us on a socially accepted level we instead have retreated deeper into depression. What the hell is wrong with us?

I wonder if my writing could ever save a life.  What could I say that would lead people to veer off their suicidal path?”  Maybe one day I’ll need inspiring or encouraging words to pull me from the brink of reckless despair.

Scientists and feng shui experts tell us how to employ better surroundings and environments for maximum living potential.  Psychologists tell us to reduce stress and meditate.  Religion tells us to have faith in God and community.  Sports and Hollywood distract us in useful ways.  So we have all of these industries and experts to make us feel good and enjoy life, but again I ask:  What went wrong?  How are we, citizens of one of the greatest nations in modern history, so screwed up that we can’t even choose life over death?

Do we need more therapy dogs?  The pet population is at a record number but so is suicide.  Comfort food sales remain high, but so is the suicide rate.  Our exposure to new ideas, health information, and resources to prevent or heal from depression is on the rise, but so is suicide.

The numbers just don’t add up.  Sometimes pieces of our lives don’t add up either.



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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Interview With Parenting Expert & Author Sharon Ballantine


Author of The Art of Blissful Parenting

1.      What inspired you to write your book?  After becoming a master at what did not work in my parenting, coming full circle back to where I remembered what did, made me realize that other parents need to know this stuff. I wanted to share the details, processes and ways for parents to have their ideal relationship with their kids! 

2.      What is it about? My book teaches parents the importance of tapping into their own internal guidance system, then teaching their children how to use their IGS to access their best choices and decisions. The book coaches parents on finding and maintaining their alignment (feeling happy) so they are able to parent effectively. Trusting one's own IGS and also trusting your child's power to choose for themselves is what will enable a more stress free relationship with your kids and empower them to know what is right for them.

3.      What do you hope will be the everlasting  thoughts for readers who finish your book? I hope that readers will know it is possible to have a great relationship with their children and even their teens. That they will make their own wellbeing a priority so they can be the kind of parent and person they would like to be.

4.      What advice do you have for writers? My advice for writers is to trust that what they feel inspired to share is the perfect thing. Never sit down to write when out of alignment. Nothing productive can come of it.

5.      Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? I think the book publishing industry is heading toward more self-published books and more people utilizing all of the marketing venues available today.

6.      What challenges did you have in writing your book? Getting to the point where I knew I was I supposed to. As in meant to.

7.      If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours? Because my book offers ways to get what you want.

Author Sharon Ballantine is a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach from Quantum Success Coaching Academy and has spent the past 20 years studying and applying this law. Additionally, Ballantine has headlined her own parenting column for BeliefNet.com and has recently launched Ballantine Parenting Institute, an online parenting program.   
For more information, visit www.SharonBallantine.com.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How Do We Create Great Writers?



How do teachers, tutors, parents and coaches create great students, athletes, and writers?

It takes a village to raise greatness.  It begins with the child and his or her DNA, social upbringing at home, the community environment, and the era in which they were raised.  Things like race, wealth and other demographics can certainly play a role too.  Children are the result of a physical-psychological-economical cocktail. Still, I wonder how any one individual can make a significant difference in the life of a child.

As a parent and an amateur sports coach, I always try to teach kids the raw skills and the psychological approach to whatever they are doing.  My belief is everyone, at every level, can benefit from coaching and motivation, and can always improve by some incremental amount.  Great players can be even greater. Mediocre students can excel higher. Low-performing writers can rise and show vast improvement.

But in the heat of the moment, adults forget that kids are kids.  They tune you out on purpose – they know better!  They zone out and get easily distracted -- ooh look, a butterfly!  They can be emotional, sensitive, and touchy.  They can be tired, unfocused, unmotivated or even bored.  You may love a sport or value knowledge or worship the art of writing – but kids need to be nourished, molded, and encouraged to discover their strengths, convictions, and passions.  They can’t live out our dreams.  They must pursue theirs.

Sometimes we end up pushing children away from what we love most.  We’re too intense, too aggressive, and just overtly pushy when trying to pass on our experiences and knowledge. The children get overwhelmed by your suggestions and prodding.  They need to feel they own their lives and that we are there for times when they feel they need us.

They want to do things their way and develop their own style. They want encouragement but not to be pushed beyond their comfort level or safety zone.  They went to succeed without practicing, to achieve without always having to try so hard.  They get jealous of fellow teammates or classmates who seem to naturally and effortlessly conquer any challenge.

But they need us, whether they know it or not. For our youth to become tomorrow’s writers, scientists, and even professional athletes they need volunteers, trained professionals, guardians, and coaches to help them rise above their abilities, expectations, or desires.

I think the keys to getting the most out of children when seeking to teach them something is the following:

1.      Always encourage them.  Let them know you believe they are capable of doing better and of accomplishing the task at hand.  Everyone needs to hear it.

2.      Use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. Praise their effort as much as the result.

3.      Whenever possible, let the child know how to do something better.  Every moment is a teaching opportunity.  Even if a child does something that results in a run scored for his team, show him or her how to do it better or how he could’ve done it differently.

4.      Publicly acknowledge great plays or excellent essays or wonderful test scores.  The child feels proud when others hear of their success.

5.      Be patient.  You have to tell a kid something scores of times until it clicks in their heads.  “Oh, so that’s how you do it?”

6.      Don’t assume a good result means your work is done.  Kids can easily go into a slump or develop bad habits or forget what they did right. Adults still need constant reminders to do their jobs well -- kids certainly are no different.

7.      Sometimes you need to accept a child’s limitations.  They may not be physically coordinated or mentally suited or intellectually-gifted to process a certain task.  Never give up on them, but allow yourself to move on to other skills and challenges.

8.      Don’t give up too quickly. Just because a child initially struggles with a task doesn’t mean they won’t turn a corner. Make sure you give them enough tries and training before tossing in the towel.

9.      Take a break and just have fun. Let the kids express what they want to do and try it their way.  Instead of them doing things the way you think they should be done, let the kids tell or show you how they want to approach things.

10.  Change your methods, your words, your tone. Yes, you may be the problem. Each child responds to certain approaches.  Change your approach if it’s not working and see if a new style gets the job done.

I was inspired to be a writer at any early age.  My dad said he wanted to be a writer but didn’t pursue it.  He did however write many letters to the Congress, White House, and newspapers, protesting the Vietnam War. His activist voice stuck with me.  I had good teachers as well.  In the end, I think I became a good writer because I followed my passion and spent many hours naturally and instinctively honing my craft.  I had the inner confidence to know I had something worth saying and that I’d find the right way to say it.  Words have such power and writing them down allows me to map out a one-sided argument without a rebuttal. In my mind, I’m always right!

A lot of things children are taught or told come from volunteers. The volunteers often lack professional training. Sometimes they teach the wrong things, fail to break bad habits, or say negative things.  In such cases, not only are kids not taught how to improve, but their dreams get ignored or crushed.

To develop great writers, I would suggest the following:

1. Expose them to all kinds of genres and types of books – let them see there are many styles and subjects out there.

2. Encourage them to free-write – without worrying about spelling, editing, or even grammar.

3. Get them used to keeping a journal but don’t encourage them to post so much of themselves on social media just yet – they first need to develop their voice and protect their privacy.

4. Show them how to conduct research and how to decipher if a source is reliable.

5. Teach them new words every day.

6. Inspire them to ask questions – it all starts with a curious mind.

7. Praise whatever they share with you, ask them how they could’ve made it better or different, and offer a strategy to improve upon it.

8. Encourage them to write how they feel and to speak their truth – even if it goes against the wishes, expectations, standards, or desire of others.

The gift of writing is the best gift of all – next to the gift of love.  Maybe writing is love. I know I love writing and so will millions of others from every generation.  They just need a good support system.  Are you ready to mentor the next great writer? It’s not too late to become the writer you know you are capable of being – keep learning and teach others.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016