Monday, December 12, 2011

Taking a Break

I regret to inform my readers that due to my month-long international trip, I will not be publishing any blog posts until after the New Year, 2012.  Kindly bear with me.  Thank you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jobs & Careers: Writers Inspiring Writers

A Writing Career - What in it for Me?

'Sell.  Sell.  Sell."  This was the motto of the place I worked at - and I must say, I am guilty of emphasizing on this motto at my store too.  Way back in 2007 I signed a franchisee contract to run a retail outlet.  It was mine for about 18 months until I had to relocate due to personal reasons.  It comprised of everything related to running a store from scratch; setting it up, interviewing staff, training, organizing, delivering as expected...  everything.  Oh, and there was also a few months that I spent at the main office - the mother company, where I learned all about vouchers, invoices, payments and issuing of checks to vendors. The work was hectic.  Sometimes I used to be at the store for as long as 16 hours, while most days it averaged to 12.  I could have opted to spending lesser time at work... but the bottom line was - I was happy with my job.  It was tough and challenging... but I loved it.  In turn, I was being rewarded for my work; compliance bonus, profit sharing, my monthly commissions, etc.

After relocating to a new place, and with the drawback of also not knowing the foreign language (Arabic) coupled with the economic crisis of 2008, the job market tightened career openings.  Realizing that I was only wasting time waiting for some opportunity to strike luck that I started out with writing seriously.  Although I used to write for a couple of smaller sites since 2005, Helium was the first major publisher through which I earned for my writing.  But that was 2009.  2011 has another story to tell which is best read at Raymond Alexander Kukkee's   Incoming Bytes -  The trouble with Word Mills: Writers Beware.

How many of us can claim to be really happy at work?  Not many people can attest to this. With the work scenario and job market being tough one is expected to take whatever job comes along.  Sure, one has to adapt to the times, but are we really happy with our jobs?  What is it like for a writer, who struggles daily to get past writing blocks, writing moods, publishers that pay or dealing with publishers that steal.  What about content that is stolen from the writer online and used illegally at smaller insignificant sites to raise their standing?  What about loss of earnings due to Google and Panda and companies changing their TOS from time to time?  Such is a writer's life... when one has to write for a living.  

There are so many things that come to mind with disappointed careers; especially with writing careers... but since I already decided that Mandy's Pages will be one of 'positivity' (is there such a word?) and encouragement, I've decided to feature a writer who is amazing at her work and absolutely loves what she does.  Meet Mary Brotherton; Writer, Editor at Bluewater and Photographer. I have invited her to be my guest blogger for this week, to share with us some of her passionate 'career' moments. 

I love my job.

If time flies when you are having fun, my job must be one of the best in the world. I have the honor to work with talented writers, photographers and designers on a team with marketing and sales reps that place several award-winning publications in the hands of some of the most amazing people in our community - and our community beyond, online. The publisher is a forward-thinker who brings exciting events to the community and urges each of her employees toward greater creativity and community involvement.

Before I was brought in-house in 2008 to serve as editor for the Bluewater Creative Group, I had been a freelance writer for the organization for five years. In addition to the joy of working with professionals in my chosen field, doing what I love to do, I have had the privilege of meeting celebrities, the honor to associate with genuine heroes, going on travel junkets and firsthand experience in a variety of activities from flying in World War II trainer planes to jumping out of airplanes so I could better write the experiences.

My job allows me to write with the objectivity of a reporter and the freedom to voice my own opinions in my letters from the editor. Since the publications do not lean toward controversial topics, I keep those for my private website and blogs. In my letters to our readers, I share family traditions and glimpses into my personality.

My fulltime position with these publications allows me time after hours to pursue my own interests as a freelance editor, blogger and photographer. As with all jobs, there are aspects I like less than others, but overall, I love my job. I wish for you, the same on whatever your career path.

 Another person that comes to mind is Doreen Martel.  A person who has had a promising career, but faced with a health problem turned to writing despite proper visual health.  I have always found her to be a person who says NO to what life's thrown at her and has made something of herself as a writer. So many writers from among our group have stories to tell, stories that inspire us and bring out the writer in each of us.  Check out Doreen's blog on Freelancer resources.


The next person that came to mind when I thought of Jobs and Careers is Conny Manero.  Lets read what Conny has to say. 

"I mainly focus on the Jobs and Careers channel because I feel that is where my strength lies. Having been on both sides of the interview table, I know firsthand how important a resume and cover letter is and the pitfalls of an interview. As a professional temp, I have worked for a variety of companies and dealt with all kinds of people. The good, the bad and the mean! When not dealing with employment and unemployment, I am working on my blogs and my fourth novel."


What do the many writers have to say about their writing careers?  I have asked friends to send in their submissions and here's what they have to say.  

My life as a writer has evolved, devolved and risen like a phoenix cyclically for the last 25+ years. What I find most poignant, unlike other occupations, the amount of heart poured into the work does not equate to the success of that work. Although it may seem pessimistic, it merely is a reflection of audience taste and ability to comprehend the emotional scope of your work.

I recognize the necessity of writing to specifications when taking editorial and research assignments and have managed to flourish in just such an environment. On the other hand, there are few things as freeing as watching the words flow onto the page when you are enthralled by a subject or story whose only purpose is to satisfy the inner creative voice which drives you to write.

One mustn't overlook the third generation of writing: The blog. Bloggers marry the previous two generations or merely stand on their own expressive identity. Despite traditionalist naysayers, the cathartic nature of stream-of-consciousness blogging produces euphoria for both writer and reader. When gauging success, there is no greater mark.
Whichever path you choose, fire the inner critic; pay the inner editor; but most of all, praise, pamper and encourage the inner creativity.  

I have been a writer/ reporter/ magazine journalist and most recently a blogger for the last 25 years or thereabouts. I have experienced some very inspirational people and events (the vast majority) and some people who have done some awful things. Overall, what I have enjoyed the most is the knowledge and learning experience and most importantly, the friendships and relationships I have been able to forge. Unless you’re very lucky, you’re never going to be in the upper 1%, but these are powerful experiences no amount of money can ever purchase. It's the stuff the breaks my writer's block and provides a sense of fulfillment to the writing drive.

What I have learned is that writing is just like any other job, you have to work hard at satisfying clients and publishers. This means you may have to forego your own style and freedom (we call it voice) to please someone else. That is why writers often have blogs, to keep their sanity and to be able to write for themselves. We also have to become accustomed to constructive criticism, especially from editors. Or, to make it simple, I came up with this explanation: "Constructive criticism is the salt in the spread that butters a writer's bread"

I love writing. I always have and always will. Writing is like teaching (my other favorite career); it allows you to dig deep and express yourself, engaging others and developing thoughtful, constructive discourse. Sadly, there is far too much politics involved in educating our children and the writing industry, particularly with the advent of the Internet. However, that doesn't need to prevent anyone from using their skills and talents, without sacrificing their principles. Standing by one's principles might translate to having less work from time to time. It may even cause less scrupulous people and businesses to attack you. None of that matters as long as you maintain your reputation, be true to your integrity and adhere to a high ethical standard in life.

Writing is a tool... I can't say that I love writing for writing's sake, but I've learned and continue to learn to treat it with care. 

Image Credit:  Hands on keyboard


Monday, November 28, 2011

Help! It's Not Easy Being Green

Go Green!

A few days ago I was watching a YouTube video of Kermit the Frog singing 'It's not easy being green'... and it seemed so apt for what our planet Earth probably worries about.  All that was once beautifully green is now turned into concrete deserts called metros and big cities.   

Last week when I published my blog on Home & Garden, Diane wrote to me with a suggestion that I liked immediately.  She suggested that I organize a post on Go Green as a lot of it is related to Home & Garden and how we use the resources freely within our reach.

One of the first things that came to mind when I thought of 'Go Green' is a song -  Earth Song, by the late Michael Jackson.  The video is absolutely brilliant, and one can see the way the earth is being affected as a result of our actions.  Please do take the time to watch the video.

I’d like to take this time to thank Diane for her idea, and to also showcase her for her contributions to saving the environment, in her own way.  We could learn from her a valuable lesson or two, or be motivated to ‘think green’.  


Living in the Mojave Desert of Southern Nevada after growing up among the lush, forested hills of Southern Pennsylvania where every road seems to cross a creek or river, have been a 20-year environmental epiphany.

For the first 43 years of my life, I never had to think about wasting water, but now I think about it every day.  I also think about the obvious benefits of solar energy as I enjoy what seems like 345 days of sun each year.  

My eastern, green thumb took on the often painful challenge learning what ‘xeriscape’ meant when trying to create beauty amid rivers of rock and dirt.  These are some of the green things I wonder about and sometimes I even get to write about as a freelance writer.

I have also come to understand that I was living with overwhelming amounts of chemicals around me.  In the air I breathed, in the cleaning products I used, and even in the foods I was eating.  Since then, I have set about to make serious ‘green’ changes in my home and lifestyle.

My article featured here about ‘green cleaning’ was written early in my re-education process, yet the tips are still worthwhile.  Whenever I pull out my box of baking soda, I can hear my mom whispering in my ear, “See, I told you to use baking soda in your laundry!”

Here’s a special surprise for someone who’s celebrating her birthday today.  Happy Birthday Nan.   Check out Nan Keltie’s article Kid-friendly garden ideas.  If you want the next generation too to learn about green living and saving the planet, there’s no better place to start than in your yard with your children.  Teach them how to grow a garden and care for plants.  In turn, they will grow up to cherish that which is also beyond their garden limits.

The next writer that I have the pleasure of featuring today is Ann Marie Dwyer.  She has been of immense help with her contributions towards Green Living.

Ann Marie is a lifelong champion of preserving the environment.  From early years scouring woods for artifacts and removing human presence, to teaching toddlers to recycle, she brings information to the fore which would otherwise be obscured in the interest of profit.

Look for features on water (fresh and salt), air, trees and manufacturing.  Check out connections to other environmentally-minded zones from her page Ann Marie Goes Green.
Here are some of her Green Living contributions. 

Saving Money in Your Sink - 50 ways to conserve water

 What about animals and pets?  How do we take care of them the green way?  No, I don't mean that we have to turn them into vegetarians.  That would be another form of green revolt if we did...  but how about using products for them that are eco-friendly and recycled. Conny Manero lends her suggestions on the best eco-friendly gifts for pet owners.  

While we talk about going green and saving the planet, there are so many factors that are beyond our reach; to take care of.  Yes, you can blame it on politics and the 'green-note' bureaucrats.  Funny I should say green-notes, when they do not do their part to 'go-green', or they are literally going green with filling their coffers and allowing the notes to add on. Take for instance the nuclear power blasts at Japan when the earthquake happened and the tsunami followed on March 11, 2011. There was so much radiation from nuclear power blasts in Japan, that so many lives were in danger, and I mean, for those who escaped the earthquake and tsunami. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust... If nature won't get you, politics must!  

On the topic of Green Living, here are some points that we can bear in mind. 

- think green
- conserve water
- switch off lights, fans and air-conditioners when not in use
- switch off plugged-in devices when not in use
- save paper  (wasting paper means excessive and unnecessary cutting down of trees)
- recycle material
- reuse material around the house before it can be disposed off or discarded
- natural material such as wood may be stored and used for various useful applications
- if possible, grow your own veggies,
- use natural and bio-degradable material for various applications if possible
- go organic; unwanted chemicals and pesticides harm the ecosystem
- adopt habits, mannerisms and a mind set to be ever conscious about cleanliness of the places we live in 

These are just a few points that I could mention from the top of my head without investing time and research into.  Bottom line, we should love and cherish the earth, for this is what we leave behind for the next generation.  This, coupled with the spirit of who we are makes a great combination.  Either we can embrace or we can disregard the beauty of Creation.  Our actions display the choice we make. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Home & Garden: East, West, Home's Best

Home is where the heart is

There are so many things that come to mind when I think of the word 'home'. First of all, it's that safe place... that sanctuary where you are at your comfiest. Yes, East, West, Home's Best.  But when it comes to maintaining your home, there are so many things to take care of, so many issues to resolve, so many damages that need repairing.  If you have a garden, your garden needs maintaining, or your lawn mowed and fence maintained.  Talk about the walls and you sigh, yes, the walls need painting too.  Taking care of your heart is hard work.  It isn't easy to run a home while ensuring that all your bases are covered.

The other day, when Oman was hit with the tornado, there was a heavy thunderstorm (November 02, 2011).  Water kept seeping in from under the window frames.  The bed rooms  where flooding with water  despite the windows being shut. I ran between rooms trying to mop up the water as fast as possible so that it wouldn't spread all over the place. It was quite a mess.  I love the rain... but this?  Nope.  The reason why the water kept seeping in was because the window ledges slant inwards and not outwards and the water was collecting at the base of the window and finally making its way in.  Now this is bad construction.  Oman is a desert country.  The buildings are not designed for the rain.  When we had the next tornado warning last week, I made sure I sealed the window bases so that water doesn't seep in.  Thankfully the rain did not hit our area, except for a bit of a drizzle.

There are quite a few writers that I admire for their Home & Garden opinions.  All of them are no strangers and are in fact very involved with what's happening around discussion boards and offering helpful advice related to Home and Garden.  Moreover, these writers are real good friends and very helpful, should you require helpful tips, suggestions and support with your work. 

“I’ve had quite an interesting life and hopefully, the next thirty years will be as interesting as the first fifty.  As a boy, I wanted to be a farmer and I spent quite a bit of time on farms that belonged to friends, family and farmers who needed temporary help. I’ve milked a cow into a glass and drank it the way God made it. 

I’ve done a lot in my life; engineering, computer networking and coding software, real estate investment and I owned a remodeling company.  I have loved just everything I’ve done.  When I started writing back in the late eighties, I didn’t realize I’d found my passion and what a passion it is.  Today, I have over a thousand articles published on the internet under my pen name, and many more that were ghost written for other companies.  Other work has appeared in magazines and newspapers.  Of all the things I’ve written, I enjoy writing fiction the most, but so far my bread and butter comes mainly from Home & Garden articles on remodeling, design and building. 

One thing is certain, when your work is your passion, it is no longer work.”

MJ Logan is a writer with diversified writing calibre.  He manages a website under his pen name which is his main writing portfolio, linking much of his work that can be found on Helium, Demand Studio, and Bright Hub to name a few.  

Articles by MJ Logan that you may like:


MJ Logan's websites:

Latest eBook, short story published:  Snowed In


Mac is an avid gardener and his writing portfolio on articles related to Home and Garden is impressive. I have had the pleasure of knowing Mac for quite awhile now, more especially after we joined forces to play Kingdoms of Camelot on Facebook as a team.  Chatting with him, I have come to understand his passion for gardening (especially growing vegetables), his knack for dealing with raccoon when they attack his corn, and his skill at being a handyman for practical home maintenance.   In Mac's own words, "Mac Pike lives in the northern, wooded section of New Jersey.  He hunts a little, fishes a bit and grows many vegetables.  He splits firewood and infinitives with equal enthusiasm, and is often on the throwing end of interminable games of fetch."  Mac is a good friend to me and I am proud to feature him today for his impressive contribution to the Home and Garden channel at Helium.   

Articles by Mac Pike that you may like:

Is there a rat menace that you are having a difficulty dealing with?  Perhaps this article on How to get rid of rats will help you.  You will find helpful tips on rat traps, glue traps, and also  about the feeding habits of rats.  

It is probably time, or you might have already pulled out your sweater from storage.  If you are residing in places like Australia where it is summer now, this may also be applicable.  Either way, to use, or before storing, one thing is common - you might want to hand wash your sweater.  B. Leslie Baird gives a pretty neat description on How to hand wash a wool sweater

East, West; Home's definitely best.  Especially when it come to home grown  fruits and vegetables. Many gardeners choose the period of fall to plant their vegetables, so that they may harvest them during spring or summer.  In this article Fall vegetable planting guide, Susan Klatz Beal gives a handy list of spring or summer vegetables that can be planted in the fall.  Most definitely useful, as you will find not just vegetable names, but also tips on the type of planting method too.  

Setting up a home is fun as well as a pain.  When you think you know what colors you want to choose  or how you want your home interior decoration set up, out pops another suggestion from another source. Confusion and uncertainty are some of the terms that best describe what one goes through while setting up home.  However, this confusion can be minimized with tips from the article Choosing interior design color combinations by Alexandra Heep.  In this article, you will find that Alex stresses on important aspects such as themes, contrasts and lighting.  

Now this is something I do not hear often although this has pretty much been in use when I was a kid too.  This is how our fence used to be.  Of course, I never knew it by this term.  What am I talking about?  Read Organic fences as an option for your garden by Glory Lennon.  You'll have to agree it's a nice way for you to go green, and not have to invest in too much raw material.   How much more healthier and economical can it get than that? 

Home is definitely where your heart is. There might come a time when you decide to plant roots and build your home.  Consult Jim Bessey for advice. He will tell you all that you need to know about tips for building your own home.   There are important points that you should not overlook such as planning, blueprints, etc...  but he's got it all covered in this article so that you may be able to go ahead with your project with ease. 

With the cold weather set in and the water in the pipes freezing, that time of year comes around when you have to turn the hot water system on.  For some, heaters are already in place, while for others a fresh one might have to be bought.  Should you choose to buy a new water heater, you should know the different types of water heaters that are available.  Fortunately Evelyn Berger has taken care of this and gives a brief description about the types of water heaters for different settings. 

Many are already in their Thanksgiving mood, and before you say Jack, Christmas will be upon us.  With all the decorations, festivities, parties and visiting, casualties and damages can happen if one is not careful during this season.  Conny Manero gives a brief outline of suggested indicators that can prove disastrous, and also advises on how one may prevent hazards with Christmas trees and decorations. It is helpful to be aware of these hazards. 


Here are some of my contributions to the Home and Garden channel at Helium


Credit for images: Google images


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hobbies: Work or Play?

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy                                                                             Everybody has a hobby.  It may be that you love to sleep, or  it may be more 'energy-spending' as in 'creating' something. I can't think of anyone who doesn't have a hobby; something they'd like to indulge in during their spare time. Do you like to read?  Do you like to paint?  Or perhaps watch a movie?  I had earlier planned to review articles on both Hobbies and Games, but with the amount of talent around, it just has to be reviews on Hobbies for today. 
I need to indulge in my hobbies to keep me sane. I cannot sit still.  If I'm not working around the house with cooking or cleaning, you will find me writing or sewing or reading.... or even playing Age of Empires.  I like to play the electronic versions of Monopoly and Sudoku too.  

The above image is that of a small basket with paper flowers.  These flowers were made by my mom and daughter last month, when my mom came over to visit. All that you will need are some thin wire, crepe paper (floral colors + green), a reel of thread, glue and a pair of scissors. Simple materials for something so creative. The ribbon is added as part of the assemble along with the basket.  If you don't have a basket, you may use a vase.  Be creative! 

I generally like the idea of recycling material.  For example, after my sewing projects, there are left over bits of cloth.  I use these balance bits of cloth pieces to create a rug. You can read all about this at 'How to make a burlap rug'.
This week I'd like to showcase a writer who needs no introduction.  She has a passion for crafts and is a bubbly, lively and caring person to interact with.  This is none other than Trenna Sue Hiler.

The first time I wrote to Trenna regarding an article about autumn and mentioned to her that I have never really experienced this climate, she immediately replied with an invitation to stay with her for a year.  A year?  Yep.  So that I might experience all the seasons of the year as she does. Now that's something you don't hear often, do you?  A passion for hobbies, and one very creative at that, Trenna says...  "There is  something almost magical about giving something away that took hours of your time. Every craft I make has a story.  I am not sure which is more fun to share; the story or the craft. They are rarely perfect, but always made with a person in mind. It calms my nerves and soothes the soul.  So get dirty, get sticky, get tied up in yarn; get crafting.  I am always interested to hear your story."

I have specifically chosen some of her guides that you can make use of this season; specifically Thanksgiving.  They are all related to 'pumpkins'.  I've also thrown in a Christmas tree guide, since I found this original.



It is really amazing and inspiring when someone turns a hobby into a profitable venture.  Not only does it motivate others, but it also makes us feel very proud of them.  As a writer, and for every writer, the one dream that all of us step out with when we take up writing as a passion, is to write a book; get published. At least, that's how it has always been for me. 

Is writing your hobby; your passion?  Take a look at what some of our friends have achieved.  I am sure you will agree that they have each done an incredible job at writing. 

This  first eBook is by my friend Scott A. Scherer.  He has written a book of poems titled 'Some day you are going to need one' (Poems that truly make you feel).  I have to admit his poems are moving and comforting. Should you be struggling with hurt in your life, read his book of poems. 

Here is another book of poems... and this one is by Gerard Quain, who has written and published 'Snatches of the Mind' (Poems that matches moods).  Expressions of one's thoughts through writing have found its way to connect with others; and this is what his poems are about. 

Last but not the least... it is with pride I showcase one of the newest releases to hit the shelves this season; Morgidoo's Christmas Carol written by our very own Raymond Alexander Kukkee.  A story for the young and young at heart, Morgidoo's Christmas Carol is a story that will linger on in your heart long after you have finished reading it. The illustrations are colorful, imaginative and cheerful, and will most certainly add to your reading pleasure.  Make sure to pick up your copy today!

P.S.  I have taken these images from the sites where these eBooks are up for sale, so kindly click on the titles and not the images to check out the eBooks further. 



Take a look at this.  Ain't this something!!!  It's real cool and you can make one like this too.  This has been done by Glory Lennon.  It is a crotchet pattern and you can read all about it at her Flower Crotchet Block Pattern.   In addition, there is also another crafting pattern of hers that I suggest you take a look at.  This one is simply awesome;  In the Craft Room.

There is hardly any Helium Charter Member that doesn't know Rachelle de Bretagne.  She is a person that overflows with talent and creativity.  You think you know the extent of her hobbies, only to surprisingly find another passion of hers pop up through her writing.  When it comes to needle-point crafts, you will most often come across her articles or guides. I have added a few guides by Rachelle that seem relevant to this topic.  Take a look at them.  They are quite interesting. 

Well... here's one of my articles to add to the needle & thread list - How to embroider faces on cloth dolls



Do you love carpentry?  Wood working has been not just a hobby, but also a means of earnings; a profession for many from time immemorial. Before it becomes an occupation, you have to start out somewhere; and this starts as a wood-working hobby for quite a few.

How to start a wood carving hobby - Rachelle de Bretagne



I would like to conclude this blog with special mention of April May Maple.  She loves to spend her time checking out things with her camera.  Yes, a love for photography, April has a page just dedicated to images that she has photographed. She says...

"As a child, I always had a wild imagination.  I was the girl who was always gazing off into space with my head in the clouds, never noticing the real world.  As an adult, with family responsibilities and children, I use writing and photography whenever I need some 'me' time.  Without an outlet for my creativity, I feel like I am suffocating. Writing allows me to paint a picture of how I imagine the world, and photography allows me to share how I see it. I like to take pictures of normal, everyday things that people walk right by never looking twice at, but capture them with just the right lighting or angle to highlight them and show off their beauty.  Well, this is my goal.  Sometimes it doesn't quite work out like that, but I welcome the mistakes... how else will I learn to get better."

A few photographs by April...   


I encourage you to take some time to congratulate these writers for their amazing contributions, either here, or at Facebook or even at Helium.  There is always something we can learn from each other; especially when it comes to hobbies.  Who knows, some of these mentioned hobbies might just motivate you to pick up a needle or a hammer.  Go for it.  It might be just what you have been looking for. 


Amanda Dcosta - Writer,