Silverpen Productions Blog

Tips for Writing a Business Email

In an era where almost everyone constantly has access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, email has become the primary form of professional communication. With just a few clicks, you can instantaneously send word to your co-workers or employer. As a result, people, particularly in the business world, are constantly sending and receiving emails, and more than a few get lost in the depths of the flooded inbox. If you don’t want your message to go unnoticed, look no further. With three easy steps, you can make your email stand out and increase the odds of a speedy response.


Strong Subject 

The first, and arguably most important, step in getting your email noticed is to have a strong subject. Many people write a vague subject line, with the intent of revealing more information within the email itself. However, a vague subject often fails to convey the importance of your message. At the same time, a lengthy subject line can be overwhelming and deter the recipient from even opening the email. Try to limit your subject to under ten words, only including the essential details. For example, if you want to schedule a meeting, state the date and time, and try to phrase the subject as a question so the recipient knows an answer is expected of them.


Clear & Concise Content

Once you’ve piqued interest with your subject, the next step is organizing the content of the email. Like in step one, brevity is important here. Even if your subject is engaging, the recipient may forgo reading through the email if they see it is too long. Only include relevant information, and format the email in such a way that the important parts stand out. This can be done by putting significant details in bold text or using bullet points. You can also use line breaks to make the content of the email appear less dense. If you have a request or question for the recipient, make sure to state it plainly to avoid misunderstandings.


Formal Formatting 

Lastly, you want to make sure your email looks as professional as possible. Avoid using informal language, like contractions and acronyms, and proofread your email for any grammatical errors. Sites like can help if you are unsure if something is incorrect. Also, make sure to include a formal greeting and closing. “Dear (recipient),” is fine for a greeting, but if you ever find yourself writing an email to an unknown person or entity, try using, “To Whom It May Concern.”

As for closings, “Sincerely” or “Regards” are good, all-purpose choices. If you are expecting a response, you can try writing “I hope to hear from you soon,” in an effort to prompt a quick reply. In other instances, it may be wise to show some gratitude to the recipient for reading your email. Then, you could write, “Thank you for your time,” or something along those lines. Finally, always make sure to sign your full name at the end of the email. Some programs allow you to customize an automatic signature, which could include other information such as your phone number and office address.


By following these three easy steps, you can give your email the best possible chance to stand out amongst the countless others.

-Eddie Godino


Photo Credit: Aerial view of woman using computer laptop and a smartphone on wooden table via photopin (license)

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Why You Shouldn’t Shy Away From Opportunity


Making decisions with long-term consequences is scary. Choosing to make a big change to one’s life or keep things the same are both hauntingly ambiguous options. Some opportunities are too easily swayed by irrational fear, while others are obvious answers. But for the ones that seem to shake us to the core, even if they are great opportunities, it sometimes takes a little more convincing for commitment. For those indecisive individuals with their heart and heads in conflict about what chances to take, there are many reasons you shouldn’t shy away from opportunity.

Being nervous for new changes in your life is normal. For people who are especially nervous about their life decisions, sometimes the easiest option is to just go for it. Committing to a choice and then seeing how it plays out can help make scared people more familiar with being uncertain. No one is certain of anything in life, so why not get comfortable with feeling a little ambiguity now and then?

Taking a chance on an opportunity even if you’re afraid could also be great if you end up loving the choice you made. We’ve all heard the sayings, “If you don’t try, you’ll never know,” or, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and even, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” As cheesy as they are, those sayings are true. You might really love the decision to commit to a new opportunity, but if you never take that chance then you’ll never know. Your fears about what if it doesn’t work out are valid, but what if it does?

On the other hand, if you take an opportunity and find out you absolutely hate it, that’s all right! You tried something and realized that it’s not for you. Finding out the things you dislike are just as important as finding the things you love. It’s good experience to figure out what doesn’t work for you, and that opportunity may lead you to some new discoveries about yourself and what you truly want to be doing.

Sticking out an opportunity you chose can also help you learn new things. Even though your new job might require you to travel more than you intended, you might become a master in efficiently navigating airports. Or, if you decided to move to a new city, you might learn the best way to move a couch up to the 9th floor of an apartment building without an elevator.

In the end, regardless of whether you loved it or hated it, taking one opportunity might welcome new opportunities as well. So even if you didn’t love the opportunity you took initially, you may meet someone or learn something that can open new doors and welcome new experiences in the future.

Any big opportunity presents pros and cons, but the openness to new experiences may also play a role in your decision. Despite your apprehension to take a chance on new opportunities, fear shouldn’t nudge you away. Taking new opportunities is nerve-racking, but a lot of good can come out of it, even if it’s not the way you expected!

-Brianna Cochran


Photo Credit: marcoverch Every change is a chance via photopin (license)

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How to Start a Mini-Garden ANYWHERE!

A few months ago my housemate and I decided to dedicate a corner of our house to a garden. We live in a small loft apartment with about 70% of the day’s sun beaming over our house; the sun’s rays just slightly missing our windows. We get 5 hours of direct sunlight into our living room every morning. That brief amount of sunlight in the life of plants who thrive off of sun rays was just enough to give life to a beautiful garden consisting of a variety of plants.

Starting an indoor garden is easier than you would expect. All you need is an empty cardboard egg cartoon, a few packets of seeds (which you can find various kinds of in the dollar store. We found ours for 25 cents a pack!), soil ($10 a bag in our local supermarket, which yielded plenty for our garden), water, and sun. After you have gathered all your items what you’ll need to do is find the sunniest spot in your space. Dedicate a section of the spot to only your plants. All we needed was our windowsill and a small 12 in. by 12 in. table.

Next, simply divide your egg cartons into three sections, four spaces each, dedicated to three kinds of seeds. We used oregano, parsley, and marigolds. Depending on the kind of seed you have decided to plant, you could see sprouts as early as a week, to up to four weeks.

Patience is an essential virtue to have when starting a garden from seeds. It took us three tries with three different egg cartoons to finally see lasting results. With a garden you will learn that plants, like all life forms, are resilient. The most challenging plant we grew was lettuce. Six months passed since the initial sprout and the lettuce has since dried out and regrew at least four times.

Gardening is an experiment, teaching you valuable lessons about how we nurture and how nature does its job with grace and relentless strength. Since starting a garden I have learned the most valuable lesson of all. Plants want to grow. They will seek what they need and communicate with their caregiver what it is that they need.

All in all, do not be hesitant to start a garden if you are unsure about sunlight, your ability to care for a living thing, or space. Gardens, like us, will always find a way to live. Start with simple plants like marigolds, oregano and basil. I have found that herbs and flowers are the kindest plants to start with and the most rewarding because you can enjoy their visual beauty and use them in your cooking!

Once you begin to see your garden come to life you can easily transport the egg cartons directly into a pot since the cartons will decompose on their own. In just a few weeks you will see the beginning of new life forming right before your eyes. In a few months, you will see a self-sustaining garden filled with the will to live and the ability to enhance your life - even if it is just by enhancing a simple egg omelet!

-Samantha Garcia


Photo Credit: Photos by Samantha Garcia. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.



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How to Add a Little More Reading to Your Life

Life is busy. We often find ourselves winding down our day thinking of all the things we did and the things we have to do tomorrow. But how many times have you told yourself you should start reading more yet struggle to find the time? One of the best ways to start anything is to start small and gradually. Slipping a little more reading into your life is no exception.

One of the very first activities of our day (or at least usually is, if we can manage) is eating breakfast. If you’re someone who eats breakfast peacefully solitary, try spending some time reading the newspaper, or a poem, or even just a page from the book you’ve been meaning to start. Reading can also be incorporated into any other time you’re eating as well.

However, if you’re usually eating with family or eating with a significant other, you can designate reading time with them instead. Carving out reading time for your home to settle in with a book can be a great way to get others onto your ambition to read more. Try persuading your family or significant other to agree to read for 20 minutes before you start to prepare dinner or after you’ve eaten. Getting others on board will also help motivate you to stay on track and continue your reading quest.

Another time of day you could afford some reading is while you’re working out. Reading on the stationary bike or walking on the treadmill definitely requires some coordination, but can be just as easy as watching the TV mounted to the gym wall.

You can also swap the screen for a book while watching TV at home on your couch. Binge watching your favorite show is always tempting, but it’s an equally good time to read. If you just can't give up the show and you're watching something that has commercials, especially the same commercials you’ve seen five times already, you can always opt to read during them. Since sporadic bursts of reading between TV may make the flow of reading a bit challenging, it might be best to read non-fiction or short articles that can be finished in little time or easy to come back to without forgetting the context.

You can also read while you wait. If your day is busy with hurry-up and wait kinds of activities, like waiting for meetings, picking kids up from school, or waiting for your train, there is always a little time to squeeze in a page or two.

Finally, one of the most convenient times to read is right before bed. When you get in bed, you’ve made it! You have completed your day and have resigned to rest for the night. The down time before you sleep can be used to read a chapter of a book, but if you’re too tired and sleepy for a chapter, reading just a page a night can make a dent.

If you’re someone who finds it hard to stick to one book or other reading for long periods of time, keeping multiple books around can help keep the reading going, even if it’s not from the same book. Switching between books that hold your interest can help make reading less of a chore and more fun. Additionally, having a physical stack of books lying around can be motivation to pick them up more often!

Reading is an easy fix for any chance you have time to kill! The best way to read more is to have something you’d like to read handy, so if keeping a book in your bag, in the car, by the couch, by your bed, or in your office seems do-able, try it out! With the digital version of books, magazines, and newspapers, interesting reading material is never far from reach. Whether if you love the feel of a paperback in your hands or if you love the convenience of a kindle or smartphone, find the sorts of material you like to read and keep them with you!

-Brianna Cochran

Photo Credit: paologmb reading via photopin (license)

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Recipe Corner: Homemade Strawberry Jam (Kid Friendly)

The summer months are a great time to enjoy the freshly harvested fruit. You can stock up on delicious strawberry jam for the rest of the summer and not have to worry about buying the high-fructose corn syrup, factory-made, store-bought option. Once you see how easy it is to make your own delicious jam, all the store-bought options won’t seem as appealing!

Imagine starting your day with a breakfast crafted by you and your kids. You put the bread in the toaster. The bread is warm and toasted. As the jam melts over the bread the sweet rich scents enchant your senses. You and your kids are now ready to go for the day knowing your stomachs are full and hearts are happy.

Most jam recipes call for pectin, an added preservative that increases the shelf-life of the jam. However, this recipe does not require pectin. The jam yield in this recipe should last you about one to two months, if you have not eaten it all by then!


Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook: 30 minutes


2 Cups of Halved Strawberries
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
1 Cup of Granulated Domino Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
1 Canning Mason Jar



Place a plate in the freezer before cooking. The plate will be used later on to check for consistency.

In addition to the plate, while the mixture is cooking, heat up the canning jar either by running under hot water or submerging in heated water.

In a wide bowl, stem and halve strawberries. Lightly mash strawberries for desired thickness. The more mashed the strawberries are the more uniform the jam will turn out.

Pour the strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium-sized saucepan on low heat. Stir well to ensure all the ingredients have been mixed together. Do a quick taste test; add more lemon juice, cinnamon, or sugar to liking. (Be wary, the jam grows stronger in taste as it sets!)

Once the sugar has dissolved and the jam starts bubbling, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir continuously and maintain a rolling boil. After 20 minutes, check if the jam is ready by placing a spoonful of the mixture on the cold plate. Let it sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Run a finger through the mixture while tilting the plate, if the mixture resists running back onto itself your jam is ready to be canned!

Immediately pour the mixture into a heated jar and tightly seal the top. If you desire, place the closed container upside down on a cloth and cover. Otherwise flip the container upside down. Let it set for 24 hours.

Your jam is ready to eat!

-Samantha  Garcia


Photo Credit: Michel_Rathwell Strawberries via photopin (license)

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Finding Your Voice Through Writing

Our words, thoughts, and feelings reassure us that what we experience is real. The popular saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is great for thickening our skin in the face of a bad reputation, a bully, or a difficult conversation. However, our words hold immense power. They are our main form of communication. So it’s important that we narrow in on who we are and bring ourselves into our writing. We put ourselves into the clothes we wear, the car we drive, and the job or career we work, so why not into our writing?

Despite common belief, you do not need to be a professional writer to be a good writer. What makes a good writer is someone who is honest with himself, someone who is unafraid to put herself into the words she writes. Now, not every profession allows such leniency or creativity. However, there are a few ways to put yourself into the words you write, regardless of your profession.

  1. Sentence Structure. Notice how you write. Do you write in long flowery sentences or do you prefer short, brief, succinct sentences? This can be one way to find your writing signature. Authors play with their sentence structure all the time. A long sentence can mean you enjoy drawing out ideas. You like creating images for your audience that captivate and intrigue them. A short sentence can say you like getting straight to the point. You don’t leave anything out but you also don’t add anything more. This can be a way to let your audience know what kind of person you are.
  2. Visual Appeal. When you write a memo, post, text message, or paper do you find them to look long and bulky or short and narrow? This can let your audience know if you’re a long-winded writer or like to balance things out with short, brief paragraphs. Both are okay, but the key to bringing your voice into your writing is to be able to mindfully be aware of the kind of writer you are. If you’re like me and enjoy long bulky paragraphs, when someone asks you to write something, you’re aware of that and can either play it up or tone it down.
  3. Word Choice. The last two options pertain to the more visual, how you may look on paper. However, word choice focuses more on how you sound on paper. The words you choose say a lot about who you are. Do you like to challenge your audience? Do you like to make things sound conversational?

These are all things you can look for next time you find yourself writing. Most importantly, however, is to remember that your voice is who you are. Never sell yourself short. The words and wisdom you share can have lasting impacts on those who listen.

-Samantha Garcia


Photo Credit: Aerial view of computer laptop on wooden table via photopin (license)

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Making Friends in the Office

New jobs can be exciting, but being the “new person” not so much. Being new in the workplace can be hard at first, especially if you’re not the most outgoing person. Since making new office friends doesn’t always happen right away, here are some tips to help get you started.


By far one of the easiest gestures is to smile at your coworkers and introduce yourself. It may seem silly, but unless you signal to others that you are open to socializing they could just as easily mistake you as a passing visitor.

Once you’ve established some acknowledgement, you can start to reach out and ask them if they’re interested in getting lunch together. Since you’re new, you could always ask for recommendations of places close by and extend an invitation to some of your peers. Lunch is a great way to learn a little more about your coworkers and allow them to get to know you a little better too!

Even without lunch, chatting with coworkers or making small talk to figure out common interests is helpful in getting more comfortable. An easy topic for finding common interests is asking how their day is going, or asking for suggestions for things like places to eat, books, or shows to watch. People love to talk about themselves and the things they like!

Once you find common interests, organize things that might be fun to do together, like a book club, a watch party for the Grammy’s, wine night, or an office soccer team. The best way to start being friends with people in your office is to be friendly, and at the very least smile. Most people will respond positively!

-Brianna Cochran

Photo Credit: caribb Breaking out via photopin (license)

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How A Good Author Can Improve Your Life

Who is your favorite author?

That can be a tough question for a lot of reasons. Maybe you love to read and struggle to pick just one. Maybe you are not a big reader and struggle to even think of one. Or maybe you just never even pay attention to the authors at all.

However, one of the best things about reading, beyond the content, is being able to dive into the mind of the person writing the novel, poem, short story, and more. The little glimpse of the inside of their mind that walks you through the words on the page. Authors are sharing a part of themselves with you when you read their words, and a good author can improve your life.

A good author can inspire you. Sometimes phrases or sentences strike a chord in you that make you feel like someone is explaining life to you, or at least understands the human condition. Other times, the message or plot of a novel can drag you through an emotional, intellectual, spiritual roller coaster and connect with you so strongly it’s as if the author is writing to you personally. A good author can move you, motivate you, or encourage you simply by creating words on a page for you to read.

And the best part about novels is that you’ll always be able to come back to it. Authors provide us with words we can always come back to. One of the most comforting things is knowing that the author's words will always be there to read over again, glean something new from, and still remain there should you ever want to return to them.

If you like what an author has written, then there’s usually more to read by that author. By finding one author you really love you can expand your library and read more by that author. Whether or not you love the other pieces they’ve written, it can help bring you to new ideas of what to read.

Finding a great author can also lead you down other roads of exploration. If you become interested in the life of the person you’ve been reading, discovering an author that’s piqued your interest can give you a history lesson too. Finding out more about the life of the author, the time period they lived, and what motivated them to write what they did can be fascinating and lead to interesting discoveries.

Authors are truly allowing you to look into windows of their souls and sometimes you get lucky and find one you love. Good authors make lasting impressions beyond their words, they make themselves a piece of your own identity and have the ability to improve your life.

-Brianna Cochran


Photo Credit: TaylorB90 #280 via photopin (license)

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Book Corner: This Is Not A Love Letter


Hate. Violence. Love. Loss. Fear. Guilt. Forgiveness. Depression. Racism. Teenage Years.
Be ready to journey through it all!

"This is not a love letter...
So don't get all excited for nothing. Maybe I should write you one, to go with all the letters you've written me and folded into perfect little airplanes. But I never wrote you one before, and it would be seriously bad luck to start now.
Chris. Where are you? How did you not come home last night?
I don't care where you went or what you're doing; I just want to know if you're okay. We all do. I mean, who does this? I'm starting to feel kind of weird. Desperate, if you want to know the truth. It's like when I get a mosquito bite. You're always telling me to leave it alone, but I can't stop itching until it bleeds. Right now you're my mosquito bite. Isn't that romantic?
I thought I'd write and let you know what we're doing to find you. Maybe it'll help me figure out where you are. So until you turn up, this is an account. I know. That's the unsexiest word ever. But if you want a sexy love letter, you're going to have to come back home and get it."


And so begins this poignant new story by award-winning author, Kim Purcell. This Is Not A Love Letter follows high school senior, Jessie, in the mystery of her boyfriend's disappearance. As one of the only black kids in their town, Chris dealt with his share of hate and violence. Is it possible that something horrible happened to this popular and talented boy? What really happened?

Purcell doesn't shy away from anything. This young adult novel is a candid glimpse into one teenager's life as she writes about all the events happening around her as her world comes crashing down, taking the reader along for all the ups and downs. I was pulled into this book from page one and was swept away by Purcell's honest writing and Jessie's relentless search for the truth. There are so many things happening in the world today that are hard to understand. It was refreshing to see a book that takes a brave step in opening up that world for its young readers.

While it does tackle some heavy topics, it doesn't throw anything in your face. There are no lectures; there is no "After School Special" feel to it. There's no sickeningly sweet life lesson attached. It's just life. Things are what they are and you either learn from it and adjust your own life accordingly, or you don't. We all have choices in life on how we deal with what is presented before us and on how we interact with the people around us. Everyone has their own secrets and struggles - no one is exempt. It's how you choose to survive that defines you.

This tender, coming-of-age story will pull on your emotions in all the right ways. I highly recommend for teenagers and adults alike!


This Is Not A Love Letter by Kim Purcell
Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group
On Sale Now
Suggested ages: 14+




Photo Credit: Silverpen Productions, LLC
Photos Copyright (c) Silverpen Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.




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Things to Do For Your Health That Are Easy to Forget or Overlook

These days, it seems everyone is so busy and caught up in their own lives that it can be easy to forget even the simplest actions that help us look and feel our best. Don’t forget these crucial steps for peak health and wellness, and make sure to adhere to them every day:


  • Fit in time for active walking and movement throughout the day. When all you’ve ever known is a sedentary life of sitting down at school all day, working a desk job, or unwinding on a couch, it’s easy to forget how crucial a little movement in our day is. Find ways to incorporate walking and being active even into your school or work. Take the stairs, park in a further parking spot, walk to any and all accessible and safe destinations, volunteer to run an errand at work that requires moving throughout the office, etc.


  • Take a breather. With work, school, and the everyday stresses of a busy modern life, it’s easy to forget to give yourself a break and time to breathe. Remember that small breaks are good for your health - they ensure you don’t overwork yourself and become too stressed out, and they’re also great for relaxation. Try some breathing exercises, meditation or yoga, or just take a minute to yourself. If your work involves a lot of computer screens, maybe incorporate a conversation with another person or a walk outside into your break. It’s important to interact and look at something real outside of a computer screen when your technology is busy soaking up your energy all day. No matter how much work you have to do, you always have time to put your health first, regroup, and refresh with a quick break. Your body and mind will thank you, and you’ll be more productive in the end.


  • Protect yourself from the sun. So many people walk around every day exposing themselves to the sun’s harmful rays and won’t think twice about it. Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and clothing are great ways to protect yourself all year round - not just during the summer! Find a moisturizer with SPF in it and use it every day on your face. Use sunglasses to shield your eyes and the skin around your eyes, one of the most prone areas to skin cancer. It’s important to wear sunscreen and sunglasses and be mindful of your time in the sun all year.  This is not only for the health benefits to the look and feel of your skin, but to protect yourself from skin cancer; a disease that is often overlooked when a person thinks they aren’t at risk because they “don’t sunburn.” Everyone is at risk, regardless of skin tone!


  • Start seeing water as your main drink. We all know how important water is; after all, it keeps us alive. We also have heard plenty of times the tropes about how much water we all should be drinking each day. While these recommendations might fluctuate, it’s still not a bad idea to make water your main drink of choice in order to get the proper amounts. It’s easy to forget to meet your daily amount when so many other options are out there: coffee, juice, tea, etc. We think we’re staying hydrated when we choose these drinks instead of water to accompany our meals, but this is how we fall behind on meeting our water recommendations. When you reach for water in place of these drinks, you’re much more likely to reap all of water’s benefits to the fullest extent. If you can’t give up other liquids, at least try pairing them with a glass of water each time you’re craving those different drinks.


  • Go to sleep! This is another one of those concepts, like drinking lots of water, we’ve heard plenty about and know it’s good for us and that we should be trying to do better at it. But now is the time to actually do better at going to sleep at a reasonable hour and getting a full eight or so hours! Set an alarm on your phone not only for when you need to get up, but also when you should go to bed. Don’t overcompensate on the weekends for a lack of sleep during the week; try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each night and get the same amount of hours each night. Try to avoid frequent naps as they can interrupt your sleep cycle and lead to grogginess. Avoid things like coffee and exercise late at night, as they can hinder your ability to get to sleep. And finally, avoid “all-nighters” at all costs. They do not help you accomplish more of your work and they only lead to worse performance the next couple of days.

-Hannah Kotler


Photo Credit: Raimond Klavins | Yoga Intensiv 2016 via photopin (license)

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Are You Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes?

Sexism and the behavior between men and women have been under scrutiny lately, and there’s a need to reexamine behavior. One place where gender norms creep up is the workplace, because even though both men and women coexist together doesn’t mean equal treatment is insured. Sometimes, gender stereotypes are reinforced without even realizing it.

One of the subtlest ways gender stereotypes are reinforced is by determining who gets to talk during meetings. In a room full people, men tend to dominate the conversation more and don’t always realize that the women in the room are being ignored or skimmed over during the conversation. One of the reasons behind this is men have traditionally been in power in office spaces and people tend to give more attention to people like themselves. In this case, men in charge allowing other men to speak more and listening to their ideas over women.

Similarly, assertive women are often perceived as difficult to deal with and written off as bossy and uncooperative. However, men are expected to be assertive and take charge, and in contrast women are expected to be demure and communal. The expectation of gendered behavior influences our own perceptions of others causing us to be critical of the assertive woman despite our acceptance of the assertive man.

Additionally, men tend to receive more complex tasks in the office than women. By allocating more intricate tasks to men, women are rendered to less important, more menial job that underutilize their potential. If men are always asked to handle the difficult stuff, women will never get the chance to prove they can do it too.

In general, women are hired as secretaries more often than men. The problem is that a secretary is a traditionally feminine job, and by continuing to hire more women for that position, it is perpetuated as a feminine job and also leaves out qualified men who apply. Qualified men are excluded, and women are constrained to administrative office work instead of managerial positions.

Finally, maternity leave and paternity leave play a huge role in the way men and women are thought about in the workplace. Giving women paid maternity leave is important, but it’s also essential that men receive paternity leave as well. By providing only mothers with leave for childcare, we are reinforcing the gender stereotype that women should be the primary caretakers of children and that men should be the main breadwinners. However, there are a lot of fathers who take an active role in childcare and mothers that are main providers and it should be recognized by employers.

Although progress has been made towards gender equality in the workplace, there are many small ways gender stereotypes are reinforced that have lasting impacts. Everyone should aim to treat coworkers, and people in general, equally and respectfully and remember that gender stereotypes can be defied with our everyday interactions.

-Brianna Cochran


Photo Credit: franchiseopportunitiesphotos insurance claims adjuster meeting with a client via photopin (license)

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Benefits of Working With a Team

Do you need to collaborate efficiently with a group in your workplace? How do you ensure that everyone involved benefits from group work and is able to achieve the objective at hand?

Team projects can break your company or they can be a breakthrough for your company. As a college soccer player, I had been on a team for the majority of my life, but it wasn’t until college that I realized how great working with a team is, especially off the field. Beyond the actual sports aspect of my team, I learned a lot about the dynamics of a team that can be applied to any group collaboration. Some of the best life skills I’ve learned have come from my experience working with others. Here are a few tips to help make any team experience a great one!


  • Cooperation. This is one of the most important skills I've developed. Working with others requires compromise, in order to work together successfully it is crucial to acknowledge that you will not always get what you want. A group of people working towards one goal will often need to devise a plan of action to reach their goal and creating a plan means a lot of give and take between team members. A team won’t get anything done if team members are unwilling to give up on some of their own ideas for the betterment of the group.


  • Clear objectives. When working with others it is extremely important to make a clear path for action with deadlines so everyone is on the same page. Making clear objectives for each team member also helps eliminate confusion and will help each team member understand where to start working.


  • Handling different personalities. Collaborating with different personalities can be challenging, especially when you don’t “click” with every team member. However, it is important to remember that not every team member is going to be easy to work with and that dealing with personalities that don’t always mesh is part of team work.


  • Responsibility to others. A major aspect of working with a team is the ability to rely on others to do their part, but in return, it is just as important to make sure you do yours. Holding yourself accountable to your team members requires you to take responsibility for your actions and how they will affect the team.


  • Expanding your network. Although team members may not always be your best friends, they can be helpful resources for future projects. After working together, you’ve hopefully made a connection with your team members that will allow you to have a reciprocal helping relationship in the future.


  • Constructive criticism. One of the best parts of working with others is the multiple perspectives team members can offer. Although constructive criticism is sometimes challenging to both receive and deliver, it can be beneficial to hear what kinds of advice people have to offer when you’re unsure of something.


After being a part of a team for so many years, I’ve had to hone these skills for the success of everyone involved. But these skills have continued to be useful in a variety of settings, including academics, general workplace manners, interviews, and any professional interactions I’ve encountered.

I would not have had the opportunity to learn these skills and benefit from the help of others had I not been working with a team. Though working with a team can be difficult, especially with a “I like to do things my way” mentality, there is something to be learned from working with others.

-Brianna Cochran


Photo Credit: Photo by Emily Mendes. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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Self-Care Is Not Selfish

You’re run down, you’re tired. You have a million things going on and it feels like time is working against you.

Maybe you’re feeling drained mentally, emotionally, and as a consequence, physically. But calling out of work to take care of your mental health seems to carry a stigma – selfish. Tending to your mental health is just as important as physical health. So why does taking care of your mental health seem more unreasonable than taking care of your physical health?

Recently, the term “self-care” has made its way into popular vocabulary. But it’s hard to give a definition to self-care because it can mean different things to different people. The term self-care generally includes activities or lifestyle changes that help alleviate stress to maintain positive feelings towards oneself and their life. Although self-care strategies differ between individuals, the term can be thought of as a handful of characteristics of what it is and what it is not.


Self-care is…

  • Taking responsibility for your well-being. You know yourself best, so when you start to feel yourself needing to step back and take a breath, you’re able to do just that.


  • Setting healthy goals. Taking care of your mental health includes creating goals that are do-able and contribute to a positive outlook on life. Eventually, these goals will become a healthy routine that you won’t have to devise ways to recover from.


  • Being realistic and honest. There is only so much time in the day and you can’t keep eating power bars for every meal because you’re rushing from meetings to carpools to the gym. Understanding your own needs and how much time you’re willing to carve out for yourself will help relieve that run-down feeling.


  • Self-love. It is important to reflect upon yourself with compassion and remember that in addition to your high self-expectations, you must also be kind to yourself.


  • Personal growth. Self-care is not only sustaining a balanced life, but also changing and learning for the sake of betterment. This is not to say someone must change or learn something new to partake in self-care, but maybe taking the time to learn a new skill or become a habitual afternoon-walker could create positive changes in one’s life.


Self-care is NOT…

  • Being receptive to your needs without the influence of a reward. The activity itself is rooted in positive motivation, rather than a motivation for social gains. It is not self-centered to take care of your own health.


  • Self-indulgent. Changing part of one’s daily routine is not always what one wants, but it might be what they need for a healthier lifestyle. Deciding to work on personal fitness for health’s sake might be grueling and definitely not what one might call “indulgent.”


  • Just a benefit for you. By taking care of your own feelings and being self-aware of your choices, you’re allowing yourself to live your daily life the best you can. When you tend to your own feelings you’re able to interact and relate to others with compassion and understanding as well.


Despite the connotations “self-care” carries, people who utilize it when necessary should be met with compassion, like any other person with a sickness would. Although the bubble bath-taking self-care strategies may seem lavish, everybody has their own approaches to combatting everyday stressors. We should encourage people to take care of their mental health and applaud those who are self-aware enough to do so when they need it.

-Brianna Cochran


Photo Credit: wuestenigel Meditieren / Meditation via photopin (license)

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How Employers Can Make An Internship Most Useful For College Students


When a college student has an internship in their field of interest, they’re probably just happy to be there and be getting experience regardless of their actual tasks. But if you’re an employer looking to make an internship most useful for that student, here are some tips on how they can get the most out of their internship:


  • Allow the intern to see what a typical day looks like in your position.
    This can take many forms and differs depending on the job and field, but a few ideas include bringing them into any meetings they would be allowed in, giving them a hands-on task that would be applicable to the field, or just chatting with them at lunch or on a break about what it is you do. Chances are that college student is interning at this particular company because it relates to what they are studying and what they want to have as a career, and while they are probably just grateful to even be there no matter their tasks, it helps them see if this is what they truly want to do if they know what the job/field entails.


  • Challenge them.
    Let your interns know what it’s like to work under high-pressure or take on a daunting task. Internships are a learning opportunity. If the intern is debating whether or not they want to make a career out of this particular job or field, a challenge and how they handle it can help them make that decision about their true interest in the field. Even if the intern knows they have no future aspirations in the particular field, a challenge in any work setting is a growing opportunity and lets them learn more about themselves and build problem-solving skills.


  • Make them show something for their work.
    Encourage weekly write-ups on what the intern did that week or something to be produced by the end of the internship about what they did and learned. This helps interns reflect on their tasks, how well they performed them, and if they need to be doing more. Task write-ups would also help them moving forward in landing future jobs and internships as they could clearly understand and verbalize what the past internship taught them and how what they did there would help them in their new desired position.


  • Encourage communication post-internship.
    If you liked your intern and thought they had a good work ethic and brought something successful to the position, one of the best things you could do for them after they leave is be open for communication. It would be encouraging for them to know their boss was pleased with their work and helpful if you were there to answer possible future questions they have if the need arises. Especially if the intern is looking to pursue the field, you could be a great resource for them both in and outside of the office.

-Hannah Kotler



Photo Credit: 062 via photopin (license)

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish everyone in our Silverpen Productions Family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

We are so thankful for you and the wonderful stories you have allowed us to be a part of this past year, and hope that you and yours have a successful (whatever your version of success is!) year ahead.

What are you thankful for this year?


Background Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

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How to Spark Writing Ideas

Let’s face it, writing is hard. No matter if you write for a living or just need to get through some assignments for school or work, finding the right combination of words and transferring them to the page can be taxing. Next time you find yourself taking a step back from your writing or needing a break, do something that will help spark ideas rather than getting sucked into a world of procrastination and distraction.


  • Get outside. Stepping away from the computer screen and breathing some fresh air is not only a generally good activity to do for your health, but also for your writing. Take a walk, hike, meditate, go running, or do anything in the outdoors that you find peaceful and quiet. Sometimes when we’re writing we can forget about the outside world as we are so determined to get the assignment done or make something just right. Taking a look around you and seeing nature and real things outside of your Microsoft Word draft will help clear your head so you’re refreshed for when you go back to writing.
  • Talk to others. I used to think “a-ha” moments were something only reserved for television and movies, but then I realized even the simplest conversations with others can sometimes lead you to your next idea or push you past your latest roadblock in your writing. Whether you ask a person direct questions about your writing or just have a chat about how their day has been, anything can spark a new idea. When you step away from your writing, you leave behind the mindset that was having trouble solving a particular problem or couldn’t get past a part of the writing process. When you allow yourself to have conversations with others, any number of mundane conversation points can spark an idea and take you back into your world of writing with a new frame of mind.
  • Take a shower. A lot of people often say that their best ideas come to them in the shower. This is probably because there is very little hindering your thought process - no technology, no distractions - you’re practically forced to think. The sense of cleaning and renewal are also entwined with showering, and most people relate to the feeling of stepping out brand new when they’re done showering, so you can emerge renewed and ready to take on your writing again.
  • Go to sleep. If you have enough time to spare in your writing process to take a break like sleeping, do it. Dreams can be inspiring and full of ideas and the notion of “sleeping on it” helps you become removed enough from your writer’s block or hesitation that you can tackle the problem the next day with a better mindset.
  • Work on something else. Leave your writing behind for other brain-power activities. Sparking your mind in other ways can strengthen it overall. Solve a puzzle, do some reading, work on another assignment or problem, etc. Just get those neurons firing!


-Hannah  Kotler



Photo Credit: Chris Blakeley writing in the sun via photopin (license)

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What Literature Can Teach Us

No matter your feelings toward literature and reading, everyone at some point in their life has picked up a book and felt at least something. That’s because literature has the power to teach us countless lessons and information. Here are just a few things literature can teach us:


  • About ourselves. Books and the characters within them often hold a mirror up to the reader’s face, begging you to make comparisons and see part of yourself within some character. Relating to characters, questioning their motives, finding yourself angry at certain actions or any range of emotions you feel as you read teach you more about yourself. You are able to see parts of yourself, both the good and bad, in different characters and evaluate why you may have reactions to certain things, teaching you more about your behavior and likes or dislikes as a person.
  • About the human experience. Arguably the most important and prevalent lesson you can learn from literature has to do with the human experience. Reading a quote from a character and having found yourself thinking or saying those very words before, recognizing a fictional plot as a parallel to a point in history, or feeling a character’s same feelings based on similar experiences all deepen our understanding of the human experience. Even when exploring fictional, historical, or far off worlds that exist in literature, the ability to empathize or understand even a fraction of what the characters go through pulls us closer together as humans. Literature grants an equal playing field and allows people to project themselves into worlds they may never experience in real life; but at least they can know their feelings and experiences are not singular.
  • About other cultures and worlds. Books are great tools to use to learn about customs and ways of life completely different than your own. Considering the amount of research an author does and their ability to delve into a particular world, time, or place with rich description, one can learn a lot about other cultures. Historical fiction obviously works best for this, but even completely made-up stories take inspiration from reality on some level.
  • How to write. Any good writer will often cite books as their primary teacher. Reading literature will help you learn style, punctuation, grammar, plot, description, and everything else. Absorbing as much good literature as possible helps you find your place as a writer and offers endless sources of inspiration for how to craft sentences, characters, and whole entire worlds to play in.


-Hannah Kotler


Photo Credit: Maggi_94 Bibliothek am Steintor-Campus via photopin (license)

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What’s Behind the Pumpkin?


The American word “pumpkin” originated from the Greek word Pepon, which means large melon. The word gradually changed through the years by the French, English, and then Americans to the pumpkin we know today. It is believed that pumpkins and squash originated in ancient America, even before the prevalent use of corn. Based on early documents, it appears that pumpkins were a major source of survival for the Pilgrims, especially during the winter months. Pumpkins were first documented as served at the second Thanksgiving celebration.

There are multiple theories as to the origins of what we now know as jack-o-lanterns and our modern Halloween celebrations. Early jack-o-lanterns from the Irish and Scottish were actually carved from potatoes and turnips for their Celtic celebrations. The English used beets and added lit lumps of coal inside the hollowed-out vegetables. As the European immigrants settled in to America, the tradition transitioned to the better-suited pumpkins.

The use of pumpkins for Halloween and Thanksgiving was not the only thing that seems to have originated with the Celtic tradition. In fact, it seems that our Halloween traditions in general can be traced back to early Celtic celebrations. Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was an ancient Celtic festival from over 2000 years ago. At the time, their new year was celebrated on November 1, marking the end of summer and harvest with the beginning of the dark and cold winter that was usually associated with human death. They believed that the evening before the new year was when the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead were blurred and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

The Celts believed that these spirits could damage their crops and cause trouble in general. They also believed that their presence made it easier for the Celtic priests to make predictions about the future. They built large bonfires and the people would gather to make sacrifices to the Celtic gods, usually burning crops and animals. They wore costumes out of animal heads and skins and would attempt telling each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their own personal hearth fires from the bonfire to help protect their homes and families from the coming winter.

After the Roman empire conquered the Celtic lands, the celebration began to incorporate some of the Roman traditions. The Romans had two fall festivals - Feralia, commemorating the passing of the dead, and a day to honor Pomona, a Roman goddess of fruit and trees. Her symbol is the apple and this likely is the background of the popular tradition of bobbing for apples. By the 9th century, Christianity was spreading into the Celtic lands and the Catholics blended their celebrations of All Souls' Day and All Saints Day (also was called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, derived from the Middle English word Alholowmesse and meant All Saints' Day). The night before, the traditional night of Samhain, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and eventually morphed into the Halloween we now know.

In America, while Halloween was fairly common in the southern colonies, it was initially very limited in colonial New England due to the rigid Protestant beliefs. But as other European ethnic groups came to America and meshed with the Native Americans, the festivities began to expand, and included parties, fortune telling, dancing, singing, ghost stories, and mischief-making. They also included the Irish and English traditions of dressing in costumes (mainly to avoid being recognized by the ghosts that crossed over into our world) and would go door to door asking for food or money, which evolved into the trick-or-treat custom we know today.



Want to learn more about the origins of our Halloween traditions? Check out what has to say.

Want to learn more about pumpkins, squash, and how to pick the perfect one? Here's some great info on All About Pumpkins!


Background Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo / mythja

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#MeToo – Power in Social Media

Perhaps you've noticed this #MeToo campaign flying around social media right now.

I think pretty much every woman I know would agree with me that they are not surprised by the sheer number of me too's they're seeing on their newsfeed. What would be surprising is if there were many people that could write "not me" instead. Those of us who have been a girl all our lives know that we are under a constant state of scrutiny, criticism, harassment, and unfortunately for some of us, yes even assault. This is sadly nothing new. So why does it take a media storm about Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein to bring it to light? Just because "that's the way things are?"

If we were to look for a silver lining in all this, at least it's that the recent news (and yes, political events, too) are causing women to say, "Enough!" It's time to make a change. It's time to take control.

Any of my regular readers and clients will already know that I have a definite love/hate relationship with social media. There are a lot of reasons I hate it and feel it is causing serious issues in our society and businesses. But there are some definite pros to it, and the #metoo campaign, even with the issues and complaints surrounding it, is one of them.

It raises awareness.

To me, the surprise isn't the plethora of me too's in the newsfeed; it's the reactions of the men in my newsfeed and the conversations this campaign has brought up.

I've seen rebuttal posts saying they shouldn't have to out themselves as survivors of harassment or assault, because men have always seen the gendered violence happening around them and it shouldn't be just our burden as women to speak up. We are not the ones that need to change or become more aware. And if men need to see a huge threshold of survivors to  "get it," then they will never truly "get it." They say that the focus shouldn't be on the victims, and it should be on the assailants and enablers - that's the change we need to see. Survivors don't owe anyone their story and if they don't post a #metoo, it doesn't necessarily mean they haven't been through harassment either.

And you know what? I agree.
To a point. And here's why.

I am proud to say that I know a lot of men that I consider to be well-educated, intelligent, and fairly enlightened men. They help out around the house, they take a large part in their kids' lives, they think that gender inequality is wrong, and they treat women with respect.

What has surprised me is the surprise they've shown in response to the #metoo. I've seen several of my male friends posting that while they knew it was a problem, they didn't realize the magnitude. I've seen some express shock over how many of their "intelligent, well-educated" female friends spoke out. I've seen some express thanks, because they have learned a lot, and I've seen some of them posting articles that have popped up in men's magazines on things like what needs to come next (men - do something) and what to do if you see a female coworker being harassed.

It's a start.

For those women who have been traumatized does it seem too little too late? Sure. But it's a start.

The whole point was to raise awareness and to start a conversation - to spur action. And that is what's happening. For those who are survivors of assault, it is raising traumatic feelings and fear. Some don't want to speak out because they don't want questions. Some are writing #metoo anyway. (Men - here's another tip for you: Don't ask for details. They don't need to talk about it.)

Many women have "only" been victims of harassment in terms of degrading comments, catcalls, unwanted arms around the shoulder, hugs, kisses, etc. It doesn't mean they are completely traumatized (sadly, this is common grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it daily occurrences for many women), but know that it happens - often - and we don't like it.

And it's sad that many of these women are hesitant to write #metoo because they feel that their situation is comparatively "not that bad" and they don't want to take away from the women who have been through much worse hell.

See how society has warped this situation?

Women are banding together to support each other and want to stop the worst violence. But NONE of this behavior is ok. This should not be a part of everyday life in any way, shape, or form. Period. And yes, this campaign is bringing a lot of that up.

But you know what I've found interesting about all this?
The uncomfortable looks I've seen on men's faces when they talk to their friends and say, "Whaaaaaaa? I didn't know you ever had any issues...." Yes. Be uncomfortable. Be angry. Feel powerless. That is how many women feel every. single. day.

But then do something about it! Be mindful of your own actions and words towards women. Speak up if you see something. Don't just bury your head back in the sand. Stop just standing by passively as this happens to your wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend. Take action. You do have power. It can change.

Women have spoken up and taken the first step. What happens now?

I know that some of the comments I've seen are probably right - the people who are the main part of the problem, those guys that scoff at this type of stuff, unfortunately, they will probably never "get it," no matter what happens. But if this opens up the eyes of the other guys and makes them more aware and spurring them to action instead of passively standing by while this happens every day? That to me, seems like a win.

If they are more vigilant for their daughters and guide their sons and speak at the injustice, then maybe, just maybe, someday this will not be such a big issue. If it becomes more accepted to talk about this, to speak up, to be aware - maybe our children won't have this be a part of their everyday lives. Maybe #metoo can take on a whole new, positive connotation and women can finally walk down the street with a little more ease.

If that could happen, this could then truly have some meaning. But we need to remember that just expressing opinions online isn't going to actually change anything. It might raise awareness, but action - action is the only way to bring about true change.

So the question now remains, what are you going to do about it? What is the answer here? Perhaps that should be the next campaign - answering, #what next?


Photo Credit: Hugedé Loïc Aix via photopin (license)

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Calling All Teens & Tweens!


We have a couple of projects coming up that involve the young adult book market and we want to hear from the young adults that read!
This short survey only takes a few minutes and we would love your help. Please share this with any teens & tweens you know.

We look forward to reading your answers!

Send us a note for more info,
or find the survey here

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Why You Should Take a Writing Course in College

If you just graduated high school and are hoping to abandon all English classes and forms of writing while in college, think again. Here are some reasons why everyone should take a writing course in college.


You will most likely need writing in anything you do. No matter your future profession, the ability to communicate well is a necessary skill. From formal write-ups to casual emails and verbal networking, writing and communicating are unavoidable. Give yourself an edge by taking college writing courses so that you can continue to hone your skills over time. The more you write the better off you’ll be, so even if your schedule is filled with math classes, squeeze in that writing class.

Writing courses are a great way to get introduced to college-level work. There is a large difference between high school quality writing and college-level writing. Taking a writing course early on is a great way to introduce yourself to the new standards to which you will be held. The first college paper/essay you hand in will be a great learning experience, and your writing professor should only help you to get better over time and rise to your new expectations. Plus, the high demand of essays in the class should prepare you for the amount of work you will encounter in college and the work ethic you will need.

Writing courses will teach you basics you may not have learned in high school. A writing course will not only teach you how to write better, but also about sources, citations, constructing a strong argument, clarity, and more. You may think writing courses are just for learning how to use fancy words in a pretty way, but there are a lot more technical skills you will learn that are important all throughout college. High school writing classes are usually focused on structure (a persuasive essay versus an expository essay, the five-paragraph essay, etc.), but a college-writing course will actually teach you how to form a cohesive and convincing argument using proper sources and citations. These skills will come in handy in all courses.

You can probably tailor your writing course experience to your interests. If you’re still not convinced to take a writing course or are particularly against a “Writing 101” style class, see if your school offers writing-intensive courses or if a certain class in a different field involves a lot of writing. Look into what each class requires or talk with a professor about their courses. You don’t need to take a standard writing or English class to get a good writing experience; you may find a history class with a lot of essays or a science class with multiple papers throughout the semester. Each subject will offer different skills for your writing arsenal, but the experience is valuable nonetheless.

-Hannah Kotler


Photo Credit: Ikayama Geology Class via photopin (license)

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Family Summer Activites

As the summer continues, it can be easy to fall into a hole of boredom as you and the kids run out of ideas for things to do. Here are some fun family activities to try next time you can’t quite think of something.


  • Picnic. Not only is this a great way to come together for a meal, but you can also explore the outdoors together by going to a park, trail, or hiking spot for the picnic location. Expand on this by preparing the picnic food together and maybe trying a new recipe!


  • Movie night. There are tons of fun ways to do this classic activity in the summer. Find a drive-in theater nearby, use a projector and a wall outside, look for nearby venues like parks that host outdoor movie nights, find one playing on cable or Netflix, or just go to the theater!


  • Water-based activities. Of course the heat in the summer will make you want to flock to the nearest beach or pool, but an often more local option is water fun on rivers and lakes. See if you have places near you that offer kayaking, tubing, canoeing, swimming, or rafting.


  • Check out your town, city, or state’s hot-spots. Often when we’ve lived somewhere for so long, we overlook the many places around us that attract outsiders. What is listed on your town, city, or state’s tourist website? Maybe you have a museum, nature center, aquarium, or outdoor location that is particularly special to your place of living. Check out the local gems of your hometown or make a day of it and take a road trip elsewhere.


  • Farmer’s markets and food truck festivals. The summer is great for outdoor and food related events. Look into whether your town or neighboring ones have consistent farmer’s markets throughout the summer season. Larger cities also often host food truck festivals you could try.


  • Camping. While the weather is nice, why not take the family outdoors and live under the stars? Find local campsites and spend some old-fashioned fun roasting food on the fire, telling stories, and making the woods your new home. Not much for the rustic life? Set up a tent for the night in the backyard!


  • Competition-based activities. Have a friendly battle in the family by trying mini-golf, croquet, bocce, bowling, or board game night.


-Hannah Kotler

Photo Credit: Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits Summer vacation via photopin (license)

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Recipe Corner: Blueberry Banana Smoothie

This smoothie recipe is very easy and helps start your day right with two different fruits. Plus, plenty of substitutions can be made to make it just right for you!




1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

1 banana (frozen or fresh)

1 cup milk (Almond or Coconut milk for vegan/dairy-free alternative. Almond Breeze brand unsweetened vanilla flavor used here.)

½ teaspoon agave nectar to sweeten

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup crushed ice



Place ingredients in blender and blend until desired mixture and smoothness. This smoothie can be made thicker by adding more ice, using frozen fruit or using yogurt in place of or on top of the milk. Makes enough for one large cup and a little more left over!

-Hannah Kotler


Photo Credit: Silverpen Productions, LLC
Photos Copyright (c) Silverpen Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.


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How to Stay Motivated


We’ve all been there - late night piles of work, the feeling of procrastination overtaking your goals, and that feeling of wanting to give up on whatever it is you’re trying to do. Finding motivation can be hard. Here are five ways to stay on track:


  • Always look at the big picture.
    A lot of the time, finding motivation to do little tasks or larger stretches of work can be hard because they get lost in the overall goal. Try to remain clear on what it is you want to do and where you want to end up. These visions should be enticing and satisfying to you, so that you will be more motivated to complete the steps to get there.

    Whether it’s working hard at your current job to land an even better one or get a promotion, studying to eventually achieve the career or graduate school you want, or even cutting back on spending to save up for something you have always dreamed of, it’s more motivating to keep those larger and happier pictures in mind and work toward them than it is to think about doing unpleasant or monotonous tasks in singularity.


  • Have a clear path.
    While keeping your “big picture” goal in mind, map out how it is you’re going to get there. Reminding yourself of the overall goal is important, but it can also be scary to achieve if you don’t have clear steps in mind. Have something that you can revisit and make changes to in order to see your progress and feel like you are staying on track.

    Find what works for you! If you like crossing items off a list because it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing tasks, make a to-do list. If you don’t like having a list of every little detail you need to finish because it feels overwhelming, stick to just weekly or monthly goals to achieve in the course of the end goal. Or, if you just want to see what your goal looks like, make a physical representation (a diagram, map, etc.) of how you plan to go from point A to point B and so on to get where you want. Regardless of the method, you will stay motivated in the big picture if you have a clearer idea of how to achieve it in smaller steps.


  • Reward yourself.
    Once you’ve mapped out your goal and the steps to get there, make sure to keep yourself happy and interested by rewarding your progress. The first step in anything is normally the hardest, and once you get over that hurdle it can be easier to continue to take steps toward your end goal. But when tasks become difficult or you lose focus, use rewards as a way to stimulate motivation.

    The rewards don’t have to be counterproductive! Celebrate your progress by taking a short break filled with relaxation, spending time with someone you love, or enjoying a quality food or beverage. Don’t fall into a television or phone-watching hole and make your breaks worthwhile!


  • Manage your time by scheduling fake due dates. Procrastination often takes over when we know we have more time to do something. We find ourselves saying “I’ll do it tomorrow” because in our mind we still have tomorrow as an option (and a very doable one, at that!) Take this away by scheduling fake due dates and entering them into your calendar. If you act like something needs to be done at a certain date earlier than it actually should be done, you will act accordingly.

    If you have a pile of work on your desk that needs to be done by Friday, write down that it is due Wednesday. Keep this in mind and repeat this sentiment, so that Wednesday will stick in your head as the due date and you will act like it really is! And even if you procrastinate towards the fake due date you will have done more work by Wednesday than you originally would have if you always aimed to complete it by Friday.


  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    You don’t have to work toward your goals alone. If you are struggling, find the appropriate people to help you and don’t feel inferior for doing so. Even just asking for general life advice or smaller pointers will help you stay on track by including someone else in your goals. Often, once you’ve asked for help or advice, people will follow up on how things turned out. This alone will keep you motivated to keep working because you’ll have to give them answers or feel obligated to show progress when they check in with you!

-Hannah Kotler

Photo Credit: MorseInteractive Entrepreneur Macbook Pro via photopin (license)

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How To Have A Healthier Summer


Summer is officially here and while these may not be the months of cold weather flu season, that doesn’t mean your health goes to the wayside. Gear up for the warm weather with these tips!


  • Protect yourself from the sun. The summer is known for its sunny weather and it’s great to get outside and enjoy it, but make sure to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Always wear sunscreen for any outdoor activities (not just the beach!) Sunscreen is not only great for preventing skin cancer but also premature aging, spots, or skin discoloration. Not only that, but I think we all know how painful a sunburn can be! Commonly missed spots that still need protecting include your ears, neck, hands, and tops of your feet if you are in open-toed shoes. Also make sure to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and a hat to shield your face and protect your scalp (the top of your head can burn too!).


  • Eat on the lighter side. Summer is the perfect time to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into meals because a lot of them are in season. You can make healthy salads using in-season vegetables like arugula, cucumbers, bell peppers, and more. Fruits in season include cherries, blackberries, strawberries, melon, and plenty others that are great for including in breakfasts, as a snack on their own, or in a smoothie! And because of the weather you can grill rather than bake or fry lots of foods, more readily find farmer’s markets available near you, or even start your own garden!


  • Take advantage of the warm weather for exercise. The summer is a great time to enjoy fun workouts like hiking, bike riding, walking or running on trails, swimming, kayaking, and more! Staying healthy and active during the summer months is a lot easier and more fun because these activities don’t even feel like a workout. Plus, you get to explore beautiful places around where you live. Grab the family, some friends, or your pet and get outdoors!


  • Keep up with your health appointments. The summer is a great time to visit the doctor, dentist, or catch up on any check-ups that might have been pushed to the side during the school year. Those home from college should especially use the summer as a way to get in their yearly visits and vaccinations they may not have access to as easily at school.


  • Summer is a time for relaxation. Those in the workforce should take advantage of any vacation time they have to take a trip or at least have some “rest” days. It is vital to get outside to soak up the natural vitamin D as well as the restorative negative ions that nature provides (and that our computers, other electronics, and sitting all day zaps). Plus, breaks are important to your health as they offer a busy professional the opportunity to regroup, refresh, re-energize, and ultimately become more productive. If you can't get too far away from the office, make the most of the scheduled break times you have during the work day by getting outside and experiencing the summer weather, eating healthy foods, and recharging through restorative breathing or meditation!


Enjoy the summer and stay healthy!

-Hannah Kotler


Photo Credit: bobobahmat 2017. Lviv. Ukraine via photopin (license)

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Tips for Proofreading Your Writing


After overcoming the many trials and errors, writer’s block, and stress that goes into writing, it can be easy to overlook one of the most important final steps: proofreading. Proofreading is essential to any good piece of writing, so here are some tips for how to get the most out of your editing process!


1. Step away from your work immediately after you are finished writing. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own work and attached to the sentences we craft that it can be hard to look at each word individually for any errors or syntax issues. I often find when I proofread directly after writing a piece I gloss over words because I already know what is coming next. Stepping away from my writing and leaving time before I proofread helps me forget the flow of the sentences, so I read the piece as if it is new and I can notice more errors.

2. Read your piece aloud. Somehow, the writing we read aloud and the writing we read in our heads are two different works. Reading your writing out loud forces you to hear any awkward phrasing and detect wordy sentences. If you tire of reading any sentences or have trouble saying the words, it is a good indicator to fix them. You can also take this a step further by reading the piece aloud to someone else so they can tell you what doesn’t sound right.

3. Have someone else read your work out loud to you. This is often the method of many writing centers because it is the most open and vulnerable way to explore your writing. I always feel embarrassed when someone reads my writing back to me, but it is a good way to get more comfortable with your voice and really hear what your writing is saying.

4. Have someone else read your writing (or multiple people!). A second set of eyes is one of the best proofreading strategies - it’s why writers have editors, after all. It doesn’t really matter who you get to read your writing, just as long as you listen to any questions they have about certain sentences and any issues they encounter while reading. If the person reading your work is confused about anything you write, have them ask you about it; this will make you explain something possibly in better terms than you were able to write initially.

5. Break it down word by word. One of the greatest editing sessions I ever had was with a professor who read my work word for word. Looking at each word individually helps build a clearer overall picture. This method is meticulous, and therefore forces you to remember all the tiny grammar rules. Reading a piece word for word allows you to examine aspects like antecedents, prepositions, and comma rules because you must look at whether a particular word’s placement makes sense.

6. ALWAYS check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. While proofreading is important for making sure you've created the best sentences in terms of their sound, flow, and clarity, they cannot shine if they are riddled with errors. Pay attention to the little rules and do not rely solely on automatic grammar and spell check. While this is a useful tool, it often only looks at the words themselves instead of the context of the sentence. Make sure spell check does not change the meaning of your sentences!

-Hannah Kotler

Photo Credit: Wouter de Bruijn Day 365+19 via photopin (license)

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A Conversation with Mary Frances Millet – Artist

Mary Frances Millet has been a successful artist for many years, but when she decided to try something new, she was suddenly propelled into a whole new world. She wanted to create a coloring book to celebrate her town, Schenectady, NY. We all know coloring books are hot, but she never expected it to take off the way that it did. She even was awarded a Proclamation from the City of Schenectady.

The books flew off the shelves and she had to print another round. Sales are still going strong, and now she has been asked to do other areas as well (stay tuned). She is also adding in a new coloring book component to her services - personalized coloring books. Using family photos or photos from events, she creates a personalized book for each client that orders.

Mary is also famous for her beautifully painted silk scarves. Customers can custom order one, or choose from her current selection.

Are you interested in learning to paint your own scarves? Or would you like to learn some art tips? Be sure to check out Mary's classes that are offered throughout the area.



Tell us about your Schenectady coloring book.
It is a 60 page book with hand drawn illustrations and accompanying text.

How did the idea for the project start?
I noticed the coloring book trend not slowing down. I thought it was just a fad but it has become a phenomenon. People are catching on to the fact that coloring is therapeutic; as is all art making. We artists have known it all along.

I went looking for a coloring book about Schenectady since there are so many wonderful things about this town, past, present, and future. I call it the Town of Firsts because so many things were invented here, mostly thanks to the scientists of GE.

Where can people buy it?
The Open Door, Folklore Society, Mikes Hot Dogs, Via Aquarium, Garafalos, Civitellos. Soon to come will be Ellis Hospital, MiSci, Proctors, and more. I have been approached by a publisher so I will have it published this year too.

Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I am a third generation Schenectady, NY native

What did you like to do growing up?
Draw and paint. And read.

What is your current business?
Creative entrepreneur. I am an artist instructor, designer, illustrator, watercolorist, and silk painter.

How did you get into art?
My parents placed me in art classes at an early age. They were extremely supportive of my creativity.

What is your background/training?
I spent 2 years at an art school in Maryland and many years in private classes with several watercolorists. I also hold a degree in occupational therapy from Maria College and a degree in Sociology from Albany.

What is your favorite part about your business?
Designing images

What is one thing about your business that most people would not know?
That I hate making cold calls to sell myself. I'm learning to be more comfortable with it as I know how important it is. But I hate it.

What other projects do you have going on right now?
OMG, too many. I'm kind of ADHD when it comes to ideas. They come to me day and night. T-shirt designs, coloring books, paintings, scenes for my silk scarves, classes where I teach at Arlene's Artist Materials, Saratoga Art Center, Saratoga Library, HVCC, and my friend and art therapist Heather Hutchison's newest space at CREATE Studio in Schenectady. I get a lot of ideas from taking photographs everywhere too.

How can people find out more about your classes?
CREATE's classes will be on her website. The Saratoga Art Center's class is being developed. Saratoga Library demo on silk painting is May 5. I'm also formulating workshops at Art Fusion in Black Mountain, South Carolina. Information will be available online.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My art! Watching movies on Netflix, spending time with my friends and family and my 4 year old grandson.

What don't we know about you?
I was in the service for 3 years.
I'd like to be a motivational speaker and a stand-up comic. LOL

Any advice for aspiring artists or people that just want to let their inner artist out to play?
Don't give fear space in your head. Just create. Learn how to market yourself. There's a lot of talent out there. You have to promote yourself constantly. But don't forget to rest too.


To learn more about Mary, visit her website at


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Photo Credit: Mary Frances Millet
Photos Copyright (c) Mary Frances Millet. All rights reserved.

Photos are not to be used without prior permission and license. 

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Now WBE Certified!


Silverpen Productions is proud to announce that we are now officially certified by the state of New York as a Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE)!

We have many service options for businesses, organizations, and publications. Contact us today to find out how we can help you make your organization shine!

*Customized services for every budget.*

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Beauty & the Beast – A Blight on Our Society, or A Magical Break?

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you've probably heard about the little movie that's out now called Beauty & the Beast.

I was lucky enough to catch this one on opening weekend and it has been interesting to hear people's reactions as they've made their way to the theater.

Yes, there's been controversy about what the media portrayed as a big "gay scene." I won't get started on that hoopla since there really wasn't anything to be shocked about. Perhaps that could be another post, or, perhaps the media should look up the meaning of a "scene."

But I digress.

Some other complaints I've heard about the movie is that: Emma Watson's voice wasn't strong enough to carry the movie; why are we celebrating bestiality?; the movie portrays the lesson that looks and personality don't matter when you have money and prestige; it's demeaning to women; Disney is just trying to make a buck (which, aren't they all?); and the list goes on.

Now, we all know that many people loved this film (and with good reason), and we all know there are people out there that just love to always raise a stink no matter what the issue is. But, I felt it important to play devil's advocate and address some of these issues.

Yes, Emma Watson's voice was not of Broadway superstar caliber, but it was nice. It was sweet and on the "normal" side, just like her character was supposed to be. Belle is portrayed as a fresh-faced, no makeup, no fuss kind of girl, which is very different from the rest of the women around her at that time. It worked. And I don't feel it detracted from the overall soundtrack because everyone else did have an incredibly strong musical presence. Alan Menken is famous for his catchy, sweeping scores and the cast did this justice.

In terms of bestiality... it's a fairy tale. We all know he's really a man who has been cursed. It's not an actual animal and there are no make-out scenes or anything like that. Ever hear "the suspension of disbelief"? It's a key component of theater and entertainment. This is obviously not a movie based in reality. We've watched much worse as kids. Chill.

As for money and power being the determining factor in picking a mate, I think perhaps people are missing the point. She could care less she was in a castle. She was only there to save her father, and she tried to get away - more than once. It wasn't until she began to see the Beast for who he really was - after they began to have real conversations and learned about each other's lives and interests - did she begin to respect him and care for him. It was the mind inside that drew her interest - not anything else (although, let's face it, the library didn't hurt).

And demeaning to women? Anyone who follows me knows I am a proud supporter of women's rights. We are all "mighty girls" and it's time to show it. So for me to say that I didn't feel this was demeaning, means something. The time period this was supposed to be was a very repressed society for women. So of course those viewpoints from the villagers would be included. But didn't you notice how she took control of the situation at hand?

It was Belle that ran after her father (twice) when she realized he was in trouble - alone, without a second thought. It was Belle that stood up to the Beast when he was being a jerk. It was Belle that came up with her own escape plan. It was Belle that "tamed the beast" and saved the castle from the curse. Not once did she ask a big, strong man for help.

And let's not forget that the movie showed she was an inventor, always one step ahead of her father, an advocate for expanding the knowledge of women, an avid reader (rare for a woman then) with an incredibly sharp mind, a woman who scoffed at the advances of the strongest and most handsome man in the village because he could not keep up with her intelligence. These things seem to celebrate the power of women, not demean them. It seems she has proven that she is "more than just a princess." I'm failing to see the issue here....

This movie was visually stunning and magical in every sense of the word. It offers audiences the chance to escape from the crazy, disheartening world we are currently living in. It gives us a break from our everyday stress, allows some of us to relive moments from our childhood, floods our senses with the power of the arts (Something that everyone needs. The arts are life itself, it has been said, and proven true many times over). It offers us two hours of magic, which this world so desperately needs right now. There's a good reason why Disney is making that big buck right now.

My opinion?

Sit back, relax, and enjoy! Let yourself be entertained for a couple of hours. The cynicism of the world will still be waiting for you when you get out. Just let yourself enjoy the power of a story until then - just like when you were a kid. It's amazing what a little magic can do!
Photo Credit: chris.alcoran Song as old as rhyme. via photopin (license)

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7 Life Lessons from the Oscars


As one of the "artsy" kids, the Oscars were always like my Super Bowl. I had big dreams and knew I was going to work in Hollywood someday. The Oscars - Hollywood-bound or not - always represented to me that crazy dreams can and do come true.

As I got older and became more aware of the politics behind the scenes, I noticed that some aspects had changed about the Academy Awards, and it wasn't just my own personal viewpoint. But they still remained that symbol of hope to me; that moment of fantasy turned reality. Even though I am not as involved in "The Business" [Hollywood] as I once was, I still enjoy watching the Oscars. It always brings back a flood of wonderful memories and a reminder of who I once was. It's a way to reconnect with my younger self and both my past and current dreams. I don't think I'm the only one that feels that way.

But last night, I enjoyed watching the Oscars much more than I have in recent years. I was worried it would be full of political outcries, as everything seems to be these days. Although there were some very pointed messages throughout the evening, I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, it was just a night of love. Message after message of love and acceptance and coexistence. And that just added to my warm, happy glow that had surrounded me while watching. I realized that good old Oscar had several important life lessons for us this year. Here are just a few takeaways from the 2017 Academy Awards:


  • Love. We are all on this earth together. We are all human. And we are all entitled to basic human rights. Spread love, not hate.


  • It's time to come together. There is something to that whole agree to disagree thing. We don't all have to have the same opinions. But we certainly don't need to have a shouting match to try to prove whose side is right. Everyone has his/her own opinion and that's not going to change. I've said it before, I'll say it again - "United we stand. Divided we fall." It's time to come together and unite our country. Listen, truly listen, and try to understand someone else's point of view. You don't have to agree, but have a real conversation, not a shouting match, and learn where the other side is coming from. Or, don't have a conversation at all and just "hold your neighbor's hand," so to speak, and show what really makes this country great.


  • The arts are life. The arts are a part of everything. If you can't first think creatively, you won't be able to solve a problem, invent the future, or heal the present. Viola Davis summed it up very nicely in her speech: "I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life." We can not really understand the meaning of our lives without the experience of the arts. We can not heal our souls, experience a new point of view, escape from our problems, imagine our futures, or realize our dreams without the arts. They allow us to step outside of ourselves and discover something new. They allow us to find our empathy, to experience all emotions. They allow us to live more than just our own life; we are able to experience much more. The arts may seem frivolous on the surface, but they are indeed the breath of life itself.


  • It's ok to dream your dreams. Dreams do come true, but you first have to dream them! Sing in the rain, beat that drum. Put in your work and keep going. Never stop trying. Never stop dreaming. Always go for the gold.


  • Mistakes happen. Even a meticulously planned out, massive-budget production like Oscar night can still have a huge, shall we say, "snafu" right at the most pivotal moment. Heartbreaking? Yes. The end of the world? No. Mistakes happen. That's part of the human existence. Own up to it. Be gracious and humble. Try to fix it the best you can. There's always next time.


  • Don't Give Up. No matter how many knocks you take, keep going. Don't give up. Don't stop working for it. Don't stop trying! Stay focused. Keep going. Remember, not even Meryl Streep actually wins the award every time. It's not about the award itself, as nice as it is. It's about the journey - the process. It's about your growth and experience, your strength and your attitude. Prove that you have what it takes. Go after your heart's desire. Don't give up.


  • When in doubt, laugh. Life is hard. And especially these days, life can be really scary too. But if you can find the humor in the situation, you can muddle your way through a little easier. Laughing is a condition that the human soul needs. To laugh - to feel - that is proof of life. Ease your load, laugh, and you just may find yourself waltzing among the stars.


Today is for the dreamers. Thanks, Oscars!


Related Articles:

Just a Thought: How to (Really) Make America Great Again

Focus on the Love

Just a Thought: Let Love Be


Photo Credit: ventonero2002 Oscars via photopin (license)

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Business Owner Spotlight: Dale Klein from Profitable Speech

Dale Klein, founder of Profitable Speech, LLC, has been helping local business professionals sound their best since 1994. A vibrant, sought-after speaker and author, Dale works with a variety of clients, from Fortune 100 companies to major hospitals, as well as individual professionals.

Originally from the Bronx in NYC, she now resides in Clifton Park, NY. An active child, she enjoyed ice-skating, bowling, dancing, skateboarding and being in the Spanish Honor Club in school. After college, she lived in California to simultaneously attend graduate school and begin work in her field. (One of her jobs was on Catalina Island, requiring her to commute to work by helicopter!) After receiving her advanced degree in Speech & Language Pathology as well as a certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), she had a progression of career changes from Speech/Language Pathologist to Healthcare Administrator and now an Entrepreneur.

Her mission through Profitable Speech is to ensure people in business are memorable by sounding their best in any situation. She has an extremely diverse client list with a variety of ages, industries, and physical locations. Her favorite part of the business is the ability to help these professionals further their success in a tangible way. Landing the ideal job, accepting an award, delivering an exceptional presentation or business pitch to gain new clients, learning how to network and share what’s unique about them – these are just a few of the rewards a client can expect when working with Dale.

Besides publishing her book, In 30 Seconds Speak Like You Mean Business: You Are Your 30-Second Commercial!, Dale is continuing to expand her business to reach professionals outside of the area as well as outside of the country, through video conferencing and Skype. She has recently released a completely redesigned website, produces monthly podcasts and weekly blogs full of useful tips and advice for business professionals, committed to her third year of mentoring a young professional through the Young Professionals Network of the Capital Region Chamber, and has been asked to facilitate a statewide meeting this month for SUNY’s Center for Public Health Continuing Education.

Outside of work, she shares her life with her husband, Steve, and their two canine sons – Leo & Sammy. She enjoys reading novels, solving word puzzles, and going to the movies.

Her advice both for business owners and those just joining the workforce?
“Strive to help others when you can. Always provide more than your clients expect. Remain focused on the person or people in front of you. Speak with confidence!”

Be sure to check out Dale’s website,, for more information about her services and to receive some free tips that you can use today to make sure you perform your best!

Not sure if you could use Dale’s services?
The ideal Profitable Speech client is someone who is:

  • Networking
  • Interviewing for a job
  • Preparing to be interviewed by media on radio/TV/internet
  • Accepting an award
  • Conducting a meeting with one person or a group of people
  • Giving a presentation or pitch of any kind (live or virtual)
  • Speaking on the phone or a conference call
  • Trying to manage fear of public speaking


Photos are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission & license.


Other Business Spotlights


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Just a Thought: How To (Really) Make America Great Again

It doesn't matter who you voted for in this past election. No one really won. This was the nastiest election in my memory, and in more ways than just the usual sludge.

I didn't write about the election up until now because I needed some time to process my thoughts about the whole affair. I love my country, but have been very frustrated with what I've been seeing lately. Some days I feel like we have been dropped into an alternate reality - and it certainly is not a better one.

What has happened to our world?

There's so much more hate and senseless violence circling around. Respect for others and our surroundings seems to have vanished. Everyone is trying to be heard, but no one is listening.

Our country is at a different place than we've ever been before. Nobody knows what to expect. It doesn't matter if you're happy with the election outcome or angry - the future is most definitely uncertain. And with uncertainty comes fear. For some, the thought of our imminent future is downright terrifying. I've heard a lot of people saying that there is nothing we can do. The system is rigged and it doesn't matter how vocal we, the people, are. Nothing is going to change.

I'm not a political expert so I can't say with any certainty if that's true or not, but what I can say is that there are still some things in our control. And as small as they may seem, yes, they can make a difference. We can control how we act, how we treat others, how we listen, how we set an example for our children, how we support (or not) the causes closest to our hearts. Life is scary enough. We don't need to live in a world of angry isolation on top of it.

It's time to band together.

I think regardless of your political beliefs, there is one thing we can all agree on - we all want to see America become a better place. We all want our country to be truly great, for everyone. So here is what I propose. To see a change, you need to be the change. And if we all strive towards taking these steps every day, then we will see America become great again - regardless of what the baboons in Washington are doing.

  • First and foremost and always - Be Kind. You don't have to agree with everyone around you. You don't even have to like them. But still be kind. Everyone has struggles in their lives. You never know what a person may be going through and what makes them act or think the way they do. Life is hard enough, and like it or not, we are all in this together. Let's not make it even more difficult. Refrain from name-calling. Hold the door for a stranger. Smile. You don't have to go out of your way (unless you want to), but make a moment in someone's day a little easier. Or, at the very least, show kindness by not making it harder!
  • Have respect. Everyone has their own opinions. And let's be honest. No matter how much you might throw something in someone's face, most of the time, their opinions are not going to change. You can believe whatever you want. So can others. Respect other people's right to have their own opinion even if it's not the same as yours. And even more importantly, respect other people's rights in general. We are all human. We are all in this thing called life together. Learn to coexist. Live and let live.
  • Knowledge is power. Research and learn about things. You can't make the world, your community, or even your house a better place without first learning the things you don't know. And with the new agency blackouts, it will be even harder to get accurate information. Dig. Find answers. Learn both sides. Think for yourself. Have accurate knowledge before moving forward with anything.
  • Keep an open mind. This does not mean you need to agree with others. This only means that you acknowledge there are other viewpoints and methods. You don't have to agree - Just listen.
  • Get off your phone and look around. The world does not exist behind a screen. It's what is outside your window that really counts. Take a good look around. What is really happening? Don't rely on the increasing fake, and/or sensationalized news headlines. Don't just take what someone else is feeding to you. Get out there and live it for yourself! Make your own opinions based on what you see in front of you. Be a part of humanity, not a part of the internet.
  • Change the Facebook newsfeed. Facebook used to be about cute pictures of our kids or vacations. My newsfeed used to be filled with things that made me smile. Now, most of my feed is filled with one disgraceful "headline" after the next and people fighting over who is right or wrong, or predictions of the doom that is heading our way. You know what? No one knows what's coming. All we have is today, so let's take that gift and enjoy it. Post things to make people smile. Leave the crap for dinner table conversation if you must. The government and media now has this incredible power because we gave it to them. Stop clicking on it. Stop sharing it. Stop letting it "trend." Why continue to spread the stress? Let's let happiness trend again for a change!
  • Be the good. Strive to do something "good" every day. Pick up trash on the road. Help someone that needs an extra hand. Plant a tree. Surprise your significant other with dinner on a hard day. Visit someone who is lonely. Create a piece of art. Give out compliments. Buy from a small, local business. Give a friend a hug. Pay for a stranger's coffee. Make people smile. Spread happiness.

The election is over and now it's time to live our lives in this new age - together. This is OUR country, so let's make it the way we want it. We don't have to rely solely on our government to dictate the happiness level in our lives. If we want America to be great again, then we need to do it together - as one, unified.

We need to push our differences aside and show that we are still the strongest nation in the world. "United we stand. Divided we fall." There is no right or wrong side here anymore. We are all American. So let's stand together in an act of love and truly make America great again.

Just a thought.

#BeTheLove #BeTheGood #America


Related Articles:

Focus on the Love

Just a Thought: Let Love Be


Photos are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission & license.

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A Conversation with Jessie Riley

Jessie Riley

Photo by Mark Morand

Jessie Riley, owner of Kitanie Books, an independent publishing house, knows what it's like to dream. She also knows what it's like to have an invisible illness. What she didn't know was that these two traits would converge to become one of her life's missions. Her recently released, Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection, is a collection of creative how-to workbooks that focuses on 18 invisible illnesses - using art, humor, and motivation to help those with a newly diagnosed invisible illness navigate those early days and months of confusion and frustration. Aimed for ages tween through young adult (and their parents), these books provide an imaginative starting point to help the reader through their early challenges. Check out their website for more information about these books that are being highlighted in many national publication gift guides!


How did you come up with the idea behind your new collection of books?
My life has thrown me a lot of medical hurdles that I’ve had to overcome. At some point, you think to yourself, my god, when is this going to be over? When do I get a break? But then you realize, it’s never going to be over, it’s chronic, and you have to figure out a way to get over that seemingly impossible hurdle of accepting that. Since I’ve been through so much, and right now am juggling all of these different invisible illnesses fairly well, I wanted to give back to those who are just starting their journey to give them some hope. That’s what this project is all about for me. These illnesses that we all have aren’t really “who we are.” Our illnesses don’t have to take over our life and our identity as long as we keep sight of our dreams, our goals, and keep moving forward towards those things that make us happy.

Invisible Cosmic ZebraWhat invisible illnesses are covered in the new collection?
There are currently 18 workbooks available for 18 different invisible illnesses (allergies, celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, concussion, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s disease, lupus, Lyme disease, migraines, multiple sclerosis, POTS, PTSD, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome and vestibular disorder) as well as a companion coloring book for all of them.

How can people get these books?
They are available for purchase on, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York but have lived all over: Paris (France); Dunedin, Wellington, Wanaka (New Zealand); Park City, Utah; Santa Monica, California; Burlington, Vermont; Garden City, New York; San Francisco, California; North Shore, Hawaii

Where do you live now?
Saratoga Springs

What did you like to do growing up?
I grew up speedskating with the Saratoga Winter Club. We traveled all over the world for competitions. I tried out for 3 Olympic teams in short track speedskating and came 12th each time.

How did you start your business?
When I originally moved back to Saratoga in 2001, I was deathly sick with undiagnosed Celiac disease and couldn’t work. But I had always wanted to be an artist, so I started to volunteer with the Saratoga Mentoring Program (which used to be very arts based) as a way to get back into the arts. While there, I created a book project for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly that was illustrated by the children in the program. It was such a fun project for everyone involved, so I decided I wanted to do that full time and have been working on making that happen ever since!

What is your background/training?
I have a BA from Middlebury College in English and Film (Screenwriting) and a graduate certificate in graphic design from New York University. But I also studied at lot at various other schools learning about art therapy, dreaming, and counseling.

Healing Arts/Art Therapy Education:

  • Certificate from NIH (National Institute of Health) Center for Mind Body Medicine in "Food as Medicine" (Berkeley, CA)
  • Graduate courses at the American University of Complementary Medicine (Beverly Hills, CA)
  • Graduate courses at the University of Vermont's MA Counseling Program (Burlington, VT)
  • Courses in Imagery at School of Images (New York, NY)

What is your favorite part about your business?
I love doing the actual creating — taking my dreams and manifesting them into book form. Nothing in the whole wide world feels better than expressing your purpose in life.

What is one thing about Kitanie that most people would not know?
My business is 100% just me. I do everything: writing, design, marketing, building websites, sales, managing metadata, social media, campaigns. Every last little thing.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love “forest bathing” – spending time in nature with my camera looking for art. It motivates me to get outside everyday, get lots of fresh air, and it inspires my imagination. I can see myself doing this full time one day, traveling all over looking for art. It’s a lifestyle and a way of life.

Any advice for people diagnosed with an invisible illness?
Hang in there. It gets better. Never look back to your old life because there’s no going back to it. Instead, look forward to what’s ahead, what you can do, and evolve your life into something new. Think of life like the creative process, ever evolving, changing and just try to go with the flow of what’s presented to you next. It’s an experience that will enrich your life in ways you might not have ever thought it could. It’s not all doom and gloom because nobody lives forever. I think of it actually like a gift to help you never ever take anything for granted. It allows you to love life and the people you meet that much more, which is a beautiful thing. There’s no room for pettiness or small stuff. There’s only room for love all the time because you’re suddenly just so happy that you’re alive and get to experience life some more so it all seems so beautiful. Sometimes blessings are disguised as hardship or pain but once you go through the pain, there’s a beautiful place on the other side, so just keep moving forward. Something good is ahead.

Any advice for small business owners (and/or writers) starting out?
Plan for the long haul, but celebrate each small victory. Failure is almost certain so when it happens, just keep moving forward and evolving. Something else will come along down the line if you don’t give up.


Learn more about the Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection at


More Conversations. 


Photo Credits: Mark Morand & Jessie Riley
Photos Copyright (c) Mark Morand & Jessie Riley.  All rights reserved.

Photos are not to be used without prior permission and license. 

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Top 6 Blog Headlines



Are you looking for ways to increase the amount of clicks you get on your blogs?


Try Some of These Tried & True Grabbers:

"The List" - Lists could be as few as 5 or 50 or higher. It doesn't matter because lists mean traffic. People are always looking for the easiest way to find out the most important info and a list will get you there!

Example: 10 Ways to Stay Healthy During Back-to-School Season 


"The Promise" - People always want something. They want to be successful, they want to learn new things. If you can provide them with a promise telling them how to do that, then they will feel much more compelled to read your article.

Example: How to Have a Better Morning 


"Facts & Figures" - People like to be able to pull out bits of trivia at dinner parties or networking events, without having to spend a ton of time researching. So give them something they can use!

Example: 20 Fascinating Social Media Marketing Facts


"How To" - Everyone wants to learn how to do something. Whether if it is how to make more money, how to fix a car, how to lose weight, or how to write. If you can answer one of those questions for them, you're golden. You're also likely to be shared throughout social media as well!

Example: How to Live with a Meathead


"Predictions & Trends" - Future possibilities or current trends pique people's curiosity. Who doesn't want to be able to look around the corner and be the first to know? Give them a glimpse for some extra clicks.

Example: 5 Marketing Trends You Shouldn't Ignore


"Best & Worst" - Positive or negative, people are always looking to stay on top of things. So let them know how.

Example: Best Teacher Gifts


Photos are copyrighted and should not be used without prior permission & license.


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Getting More Headspace: Day 3

28720300880_39aa28b668On the third day of meditating, I felt like I reached a new level of bodily awareness. The strangest sensation overcame me in the middle of my guided session — I began to feel as though my body was made up of one single cell rather than billions of them. This probably sounds a little crazy, but I swear it’s true! My hands were resting on my legs, but they didn’t feel any further away from me than the section of my back that rested against a propped up pillow. It was pretty remarkable — but then again, maybe I was just losing feeling in my legs because I had been sitting cross-legged on my bed for so long…

Either way, I definitely felt a lot calmer than I did before I started meditating. As soon as I began to take deep breaths, I felt so much more relaxed. Ordinarily, we go about our day-to-day lives without acknowledging our breathing, because it happens whether we think about it or not! I think one thing I will take away from meditating is that I will remind myself to take deep breaths if I am ever feeling stressed out during the day.

Something else I observed during this session was that it was not necessarily a bad thing that there was a little background noise while I was meditating. I could hear the barking of my neighbors’ dog, the whoosh of cars driving by my house, and the electronic beeps of my mom dialing the telephone. I found that listening to these sounds with my eyes closed actually allowed me to go more deeply into my body and mind. I think it was because I recognized that the things causing these sounds were happening separately from me, and that I could listen to them and just accept them as a part of my meditation session. I think we as humans are often so affected by the outside world that we forget that there is so little we can do to change the way things are. I am not in any way advocating that we should just sit back and do nothing if something about the world seems wrong or unjust to us, but I personally believe that the sooner I realize that I cannot control everything around me, the happier I will be.

I will continue to practice meditation in my spare time because it has taught me to focus present moment the same way it has taught me to focus on my breathing. To again quote Eckhart Tolle, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” I strongly recommend Headspace for anyone thinking of beginning meditation!

-Ally Donovan

Related Articles:
Getting More Headspace - Day 1
Getting More Headspace - Day 2


Photo Credit: Bhudda Bokeh via photopin (license)

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Do I Really Need to Blog?

canstockphoto23439566Short answer?
Yes, yes you do.

And here's why.

I often get this question. I will be setting up a website for a client and showing them where the blog will be, and they'll say, "Oh, I don't need a blog." Or, I'll get someone saying to me, "No one really pays attention to blogs anymore. They are so old-school. Everyone is just on Snapchat or Twitter anyway."

Don't believe it. Yes, you do need to blog - if you want to give your business every chance to be as successful as possible, anyway.

Blogging is a huge marketing tool. It's a very powerful tool that sets "the big boys" apart from those "just playing around." You want to grow your business? Then blog. Blog and share on social media - often.

This will not only grow your followers and expand your reach well beyond what you could do on your own, it will also give you a chance to show your expertise - to prove that you are indeed the right person for the job. Help potential clients out and they will instantly think of you when they need your services. Blogging allows you to build a totally different kind of portfolio, it allows you to connect with your audience in a more familiar way, and it keeps your name and brand at the tops of their minds (and newsfeeds). It's a way to break into these "new" social media sites in a different way that gets you noticed.

Not to mention that a blog connected within your current website also keeps your website - and brand - at the top of Google's search lists. Google loves new content. It shows that you are relevant, that people are following you and interested, which means that Google is interested too. And like it or not, we all know that we need Google to be interested in order for our business to be successful in such a competitive climate. A blog is a GREAT way to keep generating new content under your website's name so Google can be happy.

Want to put some fire into your blog and make it work for you?  Then stay tuned as I will be continuing to post some helpful tips on here throughout the upcoming months. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe so you don't miss it and pass on the link to your friends and associates.

Thinking about a blog but not really sure where to start? Or, do you have a blog already, but are not really sure how to make it work for you? Get some inside tips on how to make your blog a success on Thursday, November 10th, 2016, when I will be presenting on tips for blogging success in 2017. Sign up at: Women's TIES Blogging Success Strategies for 2017.


Photos are copyright protected and should not be used without prior permission & license. 

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Getting More Headspace: Day 2


25558139133_f8bbbe21c5_mNaturally, I forgot to meditate when I first woke up in the morning, so I had to settle for meditating in the car on the way to the mall with my mom. Luckily, I’ve always found driving to be a very relaxing experience. I can fall asleep in seconds in any plane, train, or car! Once again, Headspace instructed me to take in the way my body was feeling without any resistance. The app reiterated my early hesitations, noting that often people try to meditate with the idea that something has to happen, when the true point of meditation is to just take a little break out of one’s day in order to return to it with a calmer state of mind.

At the end of my second session, the British guide asked, “Do you feel different?” Without a doubt, I noticed that sounds and colors appeared sharper and more intense than before I began. I also felt much more in tune with the present moment. The only way I think I can describe this feeling is by quoting Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Tolle writes, “Have you ever gazed up into the infinity of space on a clear night, awestruck by the absolute stillness and inconceivable vastness of it? Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in the forest? Or to the song of a blackbird at dusk on a quiet summer evening? To become aware of such things, the mind needs to be still. You have to put down for a moment your personal baggage of problems, of past and future, as well as all your knowledge; otherwise you will see but not see, hear but not hear. Your total presence is required.”

Just as Tolle found that entering the present moment —“the now”— helped him to look at the world around him in a new way, meditating for the second time made me feel more aware of my body and my surroundings. And I am pleased to say that this new awareness of things made it easier for me to accept them for what they were.

-Ally Donovan

Related Articles:
Getting More Headspace: Day 1
Getting More Headspace: Day 3

Photo Credit: Blackbird in the Pussy Willow via photopin (license)

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How To Break Writer’s Block – Option 1


Writer's Block is a very real thing.

Anyone who has had to stare at a blank sheet of paper or a blank screen knows the panic that creeps up when you need to get something done by a zooming deadline, and absolutely nothing is coming.

img_2759But there's another kind of writer's block too - one that sometimes you are not even aware of. I call it the "Stale Writer."  This is the block that comes when you're slogging through your day-to-day activities, still writing what you need to, but it's not exactly your most inspired work. It's your obligatory writing. It gets you through what you need to get done, but there's not much more to it. Usually, it's the writing that you need to do to pay your bills that month, while your more creative endeavors - the projects that could potentially hold a much higher ROI, shall we say - sit in a dusty pile on the corner of your desk.

That's a very real writer's block too, and arguably, an even more scary one than the blank screen. Because this type of block can sneak up on you without you even knowing - sabotaging your work and your creative name.

img_2737I was reminded of this recently when I took a short trip to the very lovely Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. Now don't get me wrong - I'm very aware that I have pushed aside some of my more creative and fun endeavors lately, but I didn't realize how "blocked" my brain had become... until my car started climbing that mountain to the "castle," as we have come to refer to it. It was like cobwebs were flying away from my head, and as we climbed higher and higher, my brain felt freer and lighter.

img_2801When I stepped out of the car and took a deep breath, I knew something was different. I instantly felt more... well, more me! The feeling did not pass once I stepped inside either. As I walked through the doorway into this historic place, I felt myself not only transported in time, but in mind. I couldn't wait to turn my phone off and just indulge in all the beauty around me. This was apparently exactly what I needed, and I didn't even know it.

img_2746The next two days were bliss. Instant relaxation, gorgeous views everywhere I looked, a plethora of great food, every type of exercise and activity you can imagine. The weather was perfect, the colors were spectacular, the atmosphere was a constant state of peacefulness. My mind creaked to life and I felt such a rush of creativity that I just wanted to sit down and write until my fingers fell off. As I hiked higher and higher on the trail, every ounce of that "staleness" fell away and I felt refreshed, alive, and ready to not only create, but to push my business in a new direction - to push myself in new ways.

img_2847As I sat on the last day on our little balcony overlooking the incredibly peaceful lake, I knew that I had been missing out. In trying so hard to keep up with everything, I forgot how crucial it is to take a break from everything too. The best way to recharge and revive your senses and creativity is to walk away. Remove yourself from the situation. Change your view. Then watch the juices begin to flow again.

img_2785Yes, spending money and going away is certainly not always an option. But I'm going to keep this experience in the top of my mind and make more of an effort to take these breaks more often than I have in the past. Apparently, it is exactly what I need to push myself forward in a much more productive way than the day-to-day slog, just trying to get through it all.

If you are looking to break through a writer's block or a "stale writer," then I suggest leaving your tools behind and going someplace new. If this is not an option, then don't worry, I have more writer's block tips coming soon!

And if you are looking for a wonderful artists' retreat type of place, then I highly suggest Mohonk Mountain House. It is a perfect oasis for any type of artist, providing never-ending "scope for the imagination" and nourishment for both the mind and body.

Happy Creating!
















Photo Credit: Silverpen Productions, LLC
Photos Copyright (c) Silverpen Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.

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Getting More Headspace: Day 1

Meditation is something I have always wanted to try. We’ve all heard that this practice supposedly reduces stress, but it can also improve your concentration and ability to multitask, which makes it the perfect addition to the life of a busy professional. Not only can meditation alleviate the daily agitations of a workday — the enhanced focus and mindfulness it provides might enable you to excel in ways you never thought possible!

For me, the reason I have not made more of an effort to meditate in the past is that I was unsure of how to go about it. I had an image in my head of a serene person sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat, but I didn’t know what was supposed to happen beyond closing my eyes and arranging my hands into an “om” position. So, when I heard about Headspace, a phone app that teaches users how to meditate for ten minutes a day, it seemed like the perfect way to begin. With such a short time commitment, this app is perfect for anyone managing a hectic schedule or household.

Still not convinced that you have time to meditate on top of taking care of your kids and preparing for your 10 a.m. meeting? Here are a few more reasons why you should set your alarm ten minutes earlier than normal to meditate:

  • Meditation can change brain physiology in a way that slows down the aging process
  • Its ability to relax you (by lowering blood pressure) is tremendously beneficial for your cardiovascular and immune health
  • It will increase your happiness, self-awareness, and acceptance of the world around you!

For my first Headspace session, I put my headphones in, sat on my back deck, and listened to the step-by-step instructions told in the voice of a pleasant British man. (Something about British accents is very soothing to me — probably because I spent a semester abroad in England.) The app instructed me to begin with my eyes open — just to take in my surroundings before shifting my focus to breathing. I was told to take deep, slow breaths and try to notice how my body changed with each inhale and exhale. Next, the app instructed me to appraise how my body felt “from head to toe.” If I noticed any stiffness or soreness, I simply acknowledged it and then moved on to the next part of my body. This idea of acceptance and making peace with the way things are has become central to my practice.

When the app instructed me to “let my mind wander” (as opposed to counting my breaths), I was surprised to find that my mind was blank. For someone whose thoughts are usually going a mile a minute, it was refreshing to just take in the sounds of nature that surrounded me. I opened my eyes much calmer than when I started, with a simultaneous feeling of that all of my senses had been heightened. (Kind of like waking up from a power nap.) I vowed that the next day I would meditate first thing in the morning to start my day on a good note.

-Ally Donovan

Related Articles:
Getting More Headspace - Day 2
Getting More Headspace - Day 3


Photo Credit: Woman practicing yoga on the beach via photopin (license)

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Office Renovations

The Silverpen Productions office is getting a new look while some repairs are being made.

The contractors should be here off and on over the next few weeks and there will be some days that we will be without a connection while they are working. We will be continuing to check in on our messages whenever we can, but please be aware that there might be some days that we may be slow to respond.

We apologize for any inconvenience, but rest assured that the team is still busy working and we are very excited not only for our new work space, but also for the fun new projects in the fall lineup!

As always, thank you for your support!

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10 Ways to Stay Healthy During Back-to-School Season

Back-to-School HealthBack to school season is quickly approaching, and we bet we can guess what’s on your mind: the thrill of new school supplies, new shoes, and seeing good friends for the first time in months. As weeks of popsicles by the poolside fade to sweater-clad, blustery days, the ever-present threat of the flu and common cold lingers in the background. But don’t worry—we’ve got the guide to keep you staying healthy all year round.

1. Get enough rest. This one is kind of a given, but fatigue really does increase your susceptibility to illness. In fact, we should all try to get enough sleep even if we’re not concerned about getting sick - seven to nine hours a night is ideal for optimal health.

2. Drink lots of fluids. Another given, but so important. Stay hydrated during back to school season with green tea - to reduce free radicals - Emergen-C - my mom swears by this Vitamin C booster - and good old fashioned H20. If you really want to give your immune system a boost, cut out the sugary stuff; even a small amount of soda can reduce your white blood cells’ ability to fight bacteria.

3. Wash your hands before you eat and right away when you get home. This might seem a bit excessive, but it’s always a good idea to get rid of any germs you may have picked up during the day, especially if you’ll be touching food. Thanks to this rule being lovingly enforced when I was a kid (looking at you, Mom), it has become second nature to me. But I think it’s a good habit to pick up regardless of whether or not it’s flu season, so consider telling little ones to do the same thing!

4. Keep a supply of antibacterial wipes If you regularly wipe down germy surfaces, it will greatly decrease your chances of catching anything—think kitchen and bathroom counters, your desk, your bedside table, as well as your phone screen and computer keyboard. Side note: this post is definitely confirming my suspicions that I am indeed turning into my mother.

5. Don’t share towels, glasses, or utensils. Sharing is caring, right? WRONG. Though it might be tempting to have a sip from someone’s water bottle or let them spare you a bite of their food, it’s better for you and those around you to refrain from it.

6. Eat ALL the fruits and veggies. Nutritionally dense foods like leafy greens and bright berries are loaded with antioxidants that help you stay healthy. Looking for more ways to incorporate produce into your diet? Try having a small side salad in addition to your normal dinner, or a yogurt, granola, and fruit parfait for an easy breakfast or late-night treat.

7. Stress less; laugh more. While stress hormones can suppress the immune system, sharing a hearty chuckle with friends and/or loved ones decreases number of stress hormones in the body, and increases a type of white blood cell that fights infection! Laughing isn’t the only way to decrease your likelihood of getting sick—mediating, deep breathing, or even listening to music can serve the same purpose.

8. Exercise. Make an effort to move for at least 30 minutes a day. It stimulates the lymphatic system, increases oxygenation, and ups the number of leukocytes (immune system cells that fight infection) in the body!

9. This one you’ve definitely heard before: Install a humidifier. I have personally never owned a humidifier, but I have friends and family who swear by them. If your home is especially dry, you might want to consider it—flu and cold viruses thrive in low humidity!

10. Drink red wine. Over the past couple of decades, medical researchers have concluded that a glass of red wine at the end of the day can actually be good for you. In addition to its cancer-fighting properties, red wine lowers your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. You - or the kids - can also reap a lot of the same benefits from drinking dark grape juice!

-Ally Donovan

Photo Credit: Day 22 - Tea with lemon via photopin (license)

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A Conversation with Louis Torres

We all know that I am a huge supporter of small business and using local resources. So I have decided to start a new Spotlight feature on this blog to highlight local businesses and entrepreneurs.

For our first owner spotlight, I would like to introduce Louis Torres from Louis Torres Photography. If you are looking for a guaranteed fun day at your event, hire Louis! Not only is he fun, his artistic creativity shines through all his work, providing you with incredible photos for your wedding album or even business portfolio.

His passion for his business radiates in everything he does. He describes his career as, "a fulfilling one by capturing special moments for generations to come." The moments he has captured so far are special indeed, as you can see on his website. Read on for more about this local photographer that has been voted as "One of the Most Influential Photographers" in Photo District News Magazine. 


Louis Torres - Photo by Christopher Becker

Louis Torres - Photo by Christopher Becker

Where are you originally from?
Brooklyn, New York

Where do you live now?
Historical Halfmoon, New York

What did you like to do growing up?
As a young kid, we'd play tag through dark alleyways, which was fun because you could hide in so many places and they'd never find you! We would also spend hours playing games like buck-buck, stoopball, kick-the-can, and Skelly! These are all great games kids played in Brooklyn, regardless of the block you lived on.

What is your business?
Wedding and Family Portrait Photography

How did you get into that business?
At the age of 15, I was a sponsored skateboarder and wanted a camera so my friends would be able to take photos of me skating. Fortunately, they were all terrible photographers so I switched gears and decided to photograph my friends instead and that's how it all started back in 1989.

What is your favorite part about your business?
The absolute best part is having fun with my clients. Making them laugh, being silly, and taking photos they feel capture who they genuinely are. Anyone can take a formal photo where no one is smiling - that's easy! Instead, I focus on making couples and families laugh out loud with my silliness and I capture their real smile. The kind of smile you see when your best friend tells you the funniest joke you've heard all week. That's my goal every time I pick up my camera.

What is one thing about your business that most people would not know?
As a photographer, the fun and exciting part is spending time taking photos. What most never get to see are the numerous hours photographers spend in editing images. I've had days where I'm in my zone editing photos until 3am because I can't stop working. If I'm on a roll, I just keep going until I'm done editing hundreds of photos for a client.


What tips do you have for wedding couples – either while they are planning their wedding, or on their actual wedding day?
For couples, they should focus on hiring wedding vendors who are fun and will add to the excitement of their wedding day.

Tips for couples on their wedding day: your wedding day will be perfect, everything you've planned for will work and don't stress out so much. It's finally the big day, you've been planning for it for months and months, and it's going to be a great day! Relax and enjoy it.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spare time? What's that? I'm kidding! Actually, I've been playing guitar for 28 years and play out of my Marshall JCM800 halfstack everyday. I'm currently obsessed with the A Minor Harmonic scale so I basically practice trying to sound like one of my guitar heroes, Yngwie Malmsteen. At times, I'll have fun trying new things like learning the lead guitar section in Michael Jackson's "Beat It", that was originally played by Eddie Van Halen, or anything by White Zombie since they have lots of fun songs like "Thunder Kiss 65".

What do you like about being the feature photographer for Clifton Park Neighbors magazine?
There's nothing better than meeting some of the business owners I've captured. They all have incredible businesses they're passionate about and I think it's important for our neighbors in Clifton Park to know that. The business owners who advertise in CPNM really care about our community and I think it shows in the photos I capture of them. We also have the absolute best staff at the magazine who are fun to work with.

What do we not know about you?
Before photography, I was a Bondtrader at Deutsche Bank in New York City executing trades for a $10 billion dollar fund. On most days, I would trade between $200,000,000 and $425,000,000 – It was incredibly stressful but I'm glad I had the chance to work on wall street during one of the biggest runs in the history of the financial markets.


Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Yes! Practice your shooting style and hone in on your editing technique! As a photographer, your goal is to continue learning your craft as the months and years go by. As you naturally become a better photographer, the next step is to take gorgeous photos and have happy clients.

Any advice for small business owners starting out?
Your passion and drive is everything! Never ever stop! Write down your daily and weekly goals and read them out loud every morning! If at some point you see that something needs to be tweaked in your business, make that change as soon as possible then keep going! When I started, I wanted to quit dozens and dozens and DOZENS of times. What helped was reading my goals or the little notes of encouragement I had written weeks earlier. When you're down and feel defeated, have a Snickers, then breathe, meditate, and get back on your feet. You're going to do just fine.


Want Louis at your next event?  Check him out at or call him at 518-605-6565!


Photo Credit: Louis Torres Photography & Christopher Becker
Photos Copyright (c)  Louis Torres Photography & Christopher Becker. All rights reserved.

Photos are not to be used without prior permission & license.

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Hemingway’s Top Five Tips for Writers

Ghost WriterIn his book titled Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Larry W. Phillips writes,

“Throughout Hemingway’s career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing — that it takes off ‘whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk’s feathers if you show it or talk about it.’ Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived…”

A recent trip to Paris and to some of Hemingway’s old haunts — Shakespeare & Company, Deux Magots, Brasserie Lipp — inspired me to read one of the author’s most memorable works: A Moveable Feast. I found that the commentary that Hemingway provides on his writing and his writing process in this novel heavily influenced the way I thought about my own writing.


1. Remind Yourself Why What You Are Writing Is Important to You. 

A Moveable Feast is comprised of a series of short, autobiographical stories that paint a vivid picture of Paris and give a great deal of insight into the author’s private life. In the story “A Good Café on the Place de Saint-Michel,” Hemingway describes going to a café to work on a story. His writing session goes so well that he refers to the story as “writing itself.”

As a writer, I can definitely relate to this; during my three-week writing seminar in Paris, there were days when I felt like it would take me hours to write one sentence. On other days, I could invent metaphors and dialogue with no trouble whatsoever. If there is any advice to be taken away from this, perhaps it is that we as writers should delve as deeply into our writing as possible. When we figure out why we care about what it is we are writing, perhaps we will find that our words and ideas flow freely and come without us needing to force them.


2. Write Every Day, But Allow Yourself to Renew & Regenerate.

One of my favorite tips from Hemingway comes from “Une Generation Perdue.” The story reads, “I had learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

I love this idea because it reminds me of something my professor reiterated to me and the other students in my workshop time and time again: WRITE EVERY DAY. Even if you think it’s horrible, even if it’s nothing more than a description of what you ate for breakfast, WRITE; it is helping us hone our craft even though we may not realize it. I also love the idea of writing being a well, because it implies that the world contains a never-ending supply of inspiration to feed our writing!


3. Hone Your Senses.

In the story “Hunger Was Good Discipline,” Hemingway writes, “all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry…all your perceptions were heightened. The photographs looked different and you saw books that you had never seen before.”

Now, I’m not advocating that we starve ourselves for the sake of being good writers. But Hemingway was definitely onto something about the importance of looking at the world more closely, as he seemed to find it easier to do when he skipped breakfast. Just sitting in a café allows one to observe an endless amount of external stimuli. Here is an excerpt from one of my stories that grew from sitting in a café for a couple hours and jotting down sentence fragments in my notebook:

“Carine’s preference for the cramped, rustic café was another source of confusion for those who knew her well. But she felt more at home amid Loustic’s old-fashioned décor than she ever would in some sleek, modern, coffeehouse serving several different kinds of espresso bean. With its squat wooden tables, booths covered by blue and white geometric-patterned fabric, and exposed brick that merged to meet patterned wallpaper, Carine had always thought that the café felt a bit incomplete—but not in a bad way. It was as though it belonged to an artist, who had high hopes for the space when he moved in, but never managed to finish decorating.

“Today, Loustic’s staff was playing exclusively Beatles albums, probably in an attempt to cater to the multitude of English-speaking students that frequent it. Normally, Carine was too absorbed in homework to even notice what music the café was playing, but today she listened to everything. She heard the tinkle of a customer searching through her change purse, and the decisive jangle of it being thrust onto the wooden counter. She heard the scrape of glass plates as they were stacked on top of one another, the slam of a refrigerator door, and the grating of a table being pushed and pulled into place.”


4. Jot First. Write Later.

I want to bring up another point about keeping journals: I have found that keeping a journal is much more beneficial if I jot down notes (lists, words, even doodles) rather than full, coherent sentences. Writing notes means we can return to our notebooks, think even more deeply about our initial observations, and elaborate on the base, sensory observations we have scrawled down.


5. Don’t Be Afraid To Go To the Depths. Dig Deep Enough To Hit Your Own Nerve.

Hemingway brings up another fascinating idea in “Hunger Was Good Discipline.” He writes, “I started to think in Lipp’s about when I had first been able to write a story after losing everything…. What did I know best that I had not written about and lost? What did I know about truly and care for the most?”

This is something that I am sure a lot of writers struggle with. Sometimes writing can take us to a very emotional place — especially if we can relate to the subject matter on a personal level. As a writer, I have found that my best writing occurs when I don’t shy away from past experiences or existential questions. Though it may be difficult, writing about topics that are painful and scary will get easier over time. As Hemingway says, “It only takes time and it only takes confidence.”

Have confidence in yourself, have confidence in your abilities, and never stop writing!    

-Ally Donovan

Photo Credit: Ghost Writing Old Typewriter via photopin (license)

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