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Time’s Up

by CHANTAE EATON

 “Beep beep, beep beep.” His alarm sounded promptly at six a.m., the same as it had every Monday since his eighteenth birthday. Today it did not fulfill its duty in rousing him. Rufus was already awake and had been for some time. He’d spent the last three hours staring at the cracks on his bedroom ceiling contemplating the day ahead. He was so lost in concentration that he barely registered the sound as the clock roared to life. He rolled onto his side and slapped the top of the clock to quell the ringing. He knocked it from its perch on the nightstand when he did, and it shattered as it hit the floor. A sigh escaped him. He tossed back the covers and sat upright, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, and looking down at the plastic pieces strewn about the hardwood floor. He grimaced. The alarm clock was a birthday gift from his mother. He pictured her now, wearing the same jestful smirk she wore when she declared, “Now that you are an adult you will be responsible for getting yourself out of bed before school!” The clock had served him well for 16 years but now it was just another thing he’d need to replace. Another expense he could not afford.

He rose from the bed and stumbled across the floor to the bedroom door. He proceeded down the hall to retrieve a small brush and dustpan from the linen closet. A familiar voice could be heard calling to him from the bottom of the stairs,

“Honey, are you up? Breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes!”

“Be down in a minute Emily!” he muttered, carefully sweeping up the pieces of the broken clock and placing them in the trash receptacle. He began dressing for the day, pulling on the grey dress slacks and white collared shirt his wife laid out for him. He fiddled with his purple tie for ten minutes before becoming irritated. He tossed it onto the dresser and grabbed his sport coat. He paused for a moment, taking stock of his reflection in the mirror. Course stubble carpeted his jawline. The toll of countless sleepless nights hung heavy beneath his eyes. He sighed again, casting his eyes to the floor, and trudged downstairs to the kitchen.

Rufus entered the kitchen to find his wife and children already seated around the table. “Good Morning Daddy!” his youngest daughter squeaked. She rose from her chair and raced toward him, planting a tight hug around his left leg.

“Good morning Pumpkin!” he replied, patting her on the head. Rufus took his place at the head of the table and picked at the breakfast his wife had prepared. He didn’t have much of an appetite,

“Honey, my check engine light is on again, I think you need to take it into the shop,” Emily said. An agitated sigh escaped him.

“Ok, I’ll drop it at the shop on my way into work; you can take my car today.” He said hesitantly.

 “Oh, and Coach Moss called, Dylan’s soccer fees are past due, we have to pay $600.00 by Friday or they won’t let him participate in training.”

Rufus dropped his fork. It made a loud clanging sound as it hit his plate. He closed his eyes in frustration and took a deep breath. “I’ll take care of it dear, No worries!” He was lying. Lately all he did was worry. His wife was oblivious. She was a stay-at-home mom with a penchant for online shopping. She hadn’t worked a day in her life. She had no idea what the state of their affairs really was, and he had no intention of telling her. Not if there was a way for him to fix it. He rose from his chair abruptly.

“Sorry to rush off, I need to hurry if I am going to get your car to the shop and still be on time for work.” He paused for a moment looking deeply into his wife’s eyes and thanked her for breakfast. His tone was brittle, but his words rendered unending gratitude. Something about his actions made Emily feel uneasy.

“Are you feeling ok?” she asked. He nodded and kissed her on the forehead. He made his way around the table, hugging each of his children tightly before hurrying into the den to retrieve his keys and briefcase.

He grabbed his laptop and a stack of papers from the desk, dumped them into his empty briefcase, and shoved his keys into his pocket. “I love you all!” he called and pulled the front door tightly closed behind him.  A few minutes later the green Ford Taurus sputtered out of the driveway and he headed off down the road with Rufus at the helm.

He drove around for almost two hours before parking the car in the empty lot at Crawford Woods Park. He had been coming here for months. His charade had held up nicely and so far, his family was unaware that he had lost his job. He had gone on several interviews, but nothing had come to fruition. He had either received rejection letters or no response at all. He opened his briefcase and began rifling through the various papers. He organized them, placing them in a neat stack on the passenger’s seat next to him. He opened his laptop and double-clicked the word document on his desktop labeled “Budget.” He stared at the screen for several minutes before slamming the laptop shut in frustration. Tears began to well in his eyes. He felt as though he had failed his family. “Some adult I turned out to be.” He thought.

Rufus exited the vehicle leaving the keys in the ignition and his cell phone in the cupholder. Raindrops pounded down upon him as he proceeded walking briskly toward I-95, the busy section of highway which ran parallel to the park. He paused briefly at the curb, looked both ways, and then stepped out into oncoming traffic. He heard the screech of brakes on the pavement and felt a giant burst of pain radiate through is body before everything went black.

Three days later; Emily sat on a creaky wooden bench in the lobby of the Covington Police Station. “Emily Cline!” an officer shouted from behind the glass. Emily approached the counter and slid her I.D. to the officer through the opening in the window. He returned the I.D. and placed a clear plastic bag on the counter. “One cell phone, one set of keys.” He began to naming the contents of the bag while marking each item off a list as he did so and slid the bag over to her once he was finished. She sat down on the bench and began rummaging through the contents of the bag. Among the paperwork, Rufus had left in the car were several overdue bills, a foreclosure notice, and a copy of their life insurance policy. She pulled out his cell phone and powered it on. The green notification light began blinking, notifying her of unread messages. She waded through various emails and texts before dialing the voicemail box to listen to the unheard voice messages. The first message began to play. “Mr. Cline, this is Stan Bardswell from KOA Corporation. We met several weeks ago, and we were impressed with you during your interview. We would like to formally offer you the position of Supply Chain Analyst. Please give me a callback, we’d like to get you started at soon as possible.” The message trailed off as Emily lowered the phone from her ear. She sat there frozen with the weight of the world on her shoulders.

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Something to be Thankful For

It is going to sound morbid, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve pictured someone in my life dying. I imagined where I would be, how I would be told, how I would react, and how the days after would unfold. In a way, I think these thoughts were a way to prepare myself because I knew at some point it would happen because it happens to everyone. But now I know that nothing you do will ever prepare you for the loss of someone you love, especially when their death is unexpected because you do not get the chance to say goodbye or make amends. Your life changes in an instant and you are left with a void that cannot be filled.

Sunday, November 14, 2021, was one of the darkest days of my life. I woke to the sound of ACDC’s Thunderstruck roaring through the speaker on my cell phone. I rolled over to see my mother’s face plastered across the screen of my phone as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I swiped the screen and pressed the earpiece to my ear while returning my head to its spot on the pillow. My mom’s voice sounded through the earpiece beckoning me to wake up. She was calm and her voice was soft. “Honey I need you to wake up.” That calm tone was eerie and put me on alert, I sat upright in bed and kicked my legs over the edge of the bed. I crept quietly out of the room so that I would not wake my son who was asleep beside me. I exited the house and stood barefoot on the front porch. I cannot remember the exact words that were spoken but I do recall my mom telling me the story of what had occurred that morning and telling me that she needed to stay calm because the kids were with her, and they did not know. I remember asking her who knew and then told her I would take care of calling my dad because I could tell that she wasn’t going to get through another phone call as calmly as she had this one.

When we ended our call, I crumbled. I can still hear the guttural moan that escaped my lips as my legs gave way and my knees hit the pavement. It took me several minutes to collect myself before dialing my dad and delivering the same agonizing blow I had just been dealt. I had to tell him that his first-born child, his daughter, my older sister, had died. I do not have the words to express what it is like to tell someone that their child has died, to detail what it is like to hear their reaction over the phone and to not be able to be there to comfort them, but I pray none of you ever have to be the one to do that.

As the news of my sister’s passing spread, we were accosted by a whirlwind of phone calls, texts, and social media posts, that were made with the best of intentions but proved too overwhelming to manage during the first few days after her passing. As most do, we gathered as a family, discussed arrangements, and discussed what would happen with my sister’s children going forward.

I am telling you all of this because it is important that you understand what we were feeling and so that you know the difficult roads we were attempting to navigate while still dealing with the shock of a significant loss. So that you are aware of the impact you have had on us over the past ten days and how profoundly grateful we are to have each and every one of you in our lives.

 With the help of my good friend Brandi, I was able to obtain information about Butler County’s Kinship Navigator program, a program that is offered free by the county (regardless of income) to families living within the county. The program helps those who need it apply for legal custody, file for assistance, Medicaid, and even find support groups and other resources as needed. You can learn more about the program by visiting their website at https://www.bcesc.org/apps/pages/kinship . I reached out to them for assistance with filing for legal custody of my nephew Jackson. My brother also utilized their assistance when filing for legal custody of our niece Tinsley. We have been navigating this process together. And I can say with 100% certainty that without this program we would have been lost and might still be trying to figure out the logistics.

Upon learning of our loss and the plans we had for moving forward we were inundated with a barrage of texts, emails, and Facebook posts all from friends wishing to contribute and help us and the kids in our time of need. While we were not necessarily asking for donations, they came in full force, and we couldn’t be more thankful. It all started with a post made by a friend we made playing an online game about 20 years ago in a group that we as a family have grown remarkably close with over the years and it spiraled from there.

We received support from some of the most unexpected places. Everyone from family to friends we have only ever met online has helped support us in one way or another, whether it was a kind word, food, the gift of time and labor, furniture, or a monetary donation. Because of the support of our amazing family and friends we have been able to cover the entire costs of Michelle’s cremation and memorial service. We have also been able to transition the children into their new living spaces more quickly and when it is all said and done, their Christmas will be fully covered as well.

The outpouring of support that we have received from you over the past ten days has spoken volumes about the people that we have chosen to surround ourselves with. It has opened our eyes to the community we are a part of. We may have lost a sister, a daughter, a mother, but we have come to realize that family is much more than blood, that you are our family and without you, we wouldn’t have come this far so quickly. We are truly grateful for each and every one of you (you know who you are) and if ever a time comes when you need us, we will remember what you have done for us, and we’ll return that goodwill in kind.  

This Thanksgiving will not be the same as years past, there will be no one to make the pecan pie and we’ll have one less person betting on what time our mom will finally arrive for Thanksgiving dinner (my bet is 2:15pm even though dinner is scheduled for 1:00pm), we will still be grieving and doing our best to put on brave faces for one another but we’ll also have something to truly be thankful for, and that my friends, is you.

You have been the light during our darkest hours. We wish you all the best this holiday season and if you do anything else for our family, hug yours a little tighter and tell them how much you love them because none of us know when the last opportunity for that will present itself.

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In Loving Memory

Today I received a text message from my mom. She said she wanted to call me, that she had something to tell me. Seems weird right? Why wouldn’t she just call? The second I read the message I knew what was coming, I knew what she wanted to tell me. She was going to tell me that my cousin had finally passed away. It was a call I had been expecting for several years now because, like so many others, my cousin was a heroin addict, so in my mind it stood to reason that eventually, one of these overdoses would be his last.

I was right, my cousin had passed away, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. After a long battle with addiction, having suffered numerous medical afflictions, his body finally gave in to years of harsh treatment at the hands of dugs abuse. My cousin, Nicholas Blackwell, was sober when passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of Thursday August,5, 2021. He was 41 years old, 19 days shy of his 42nd birthday.

When I learned of this news, I wrestled with how I felt. Like most people do when they lose someone close to them, I cried. Then I struggled with whether I had a right to be crying. Nick and I hadn’t been close in a very long time. Like most people do when their loved ones succumb to addiction, I’d pretty much cut ties with him. After watching him lie, cheat, and steal from family and friends I wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to do that to me. When he sent me a friend request on Facebook, I didn’t accept it because I didn’t want to give him the chance to take advantage of me the way he had done so many others. I’m ashamed to say that now, but that is the reality.

For a short time in our youth, he lived with us, and I’m told that my mom was working toward getting custody of him. His mother lured him home with false promises and moved him to Tennessee which made getting him back almost impossible for my mom. I feel like she still blames herself a little for how his life turned out, but I think she did the best she could, given the circumstances. Being ripped from our family meant he was torn away from the only people close to him who could help improve his quality of life.

Looking back, I realize that Nick was a product of his condition. A son, born to two drug users, who could barely take care of themselves let alone someone else. In situations like these the argument of nurture versus nature is irrelevant because for people like Nick, nature and nurture were one and the same.  His predilection to drug abuse was inherent since birth. It was genetic. And the environment in which he developed amplified that predisposition.  

On Wednesday, August 24, 2021, a few hours before his death, my cousin took to Facebook to share his thoughts with the world. It was originally written in text shorthand, and I’ve cleaned it up a bit for the purpose of this post. Basically, the post said:


“Well, I don’t care to share with everyone that I know. Friends, fam, or acquaintances. That yes, I’m in a nursing home because I’m a 2-time loser by my own Hand. I can say that cause it’s the truth as I see it through my eyes. Free will is a gift from God. It can open many pathways in a person’s life for good things and not so good things. Different outcomes in one’s life depending on the path u take. I chose the not so good life because it’s shaved about 20 years of my end game, but I did it. No one else. Did I think it would be this way? No, I thought I would have died by NOW … I USED TO WANNA LEAVE cause growing up I always felt that no one was there for me, because everyone’s lives are and unfair that’s what I used to tell myself up into my late 20’s… But the sad thing is that the one I hated the most my mom changed the most between not being able to see the change in her until after she passed. I did what I’ve been doing most of my life but way harder, I went dark inside and autopilot on the outside, my failure to one thing in these word that I help make was my beautiful boy Dalton Blackwell Hobbs. I should’ve tried harder. I wish I would have been stronger in smarter and way less emotional, life might have been different. Freewill right? love u Son, if u ever read this, I did and do love u and wish I made you my pathway, my choice, u deserved better and I hope your mom married a good man and he’s good to u and I loves u as his own … God forgive me for the poor choices I have made and the people I’ve hurt stolen from, used … I ask for your forgives owe lord for this man stripped of everything let all my sins lay bare before u FORGIVE ME oh Lord the alpha and Omega I cannot pass on thro u and the truth in the end will set me free Jesus name I pray AMEN. SORRY I GOT OFF POINT TO THOSE WHO MAY READ IT.”


I used to be one of those people who questioned why Narcan was available free of charge to save an addict’s life and necessities like Insulin and EpiPens were not. It just seemed reasonable that people who choose not to protect their own lives and make choices that are guaranteed to destroy not only their own lives, but the lives of others, shouldn’t be afforded that convenience when there are people all over the world struggling to afford medications that can save their lives. Lives they want.

Today I see it differently.

This week a recovering addict and friend of mine shared a post on social media that explained the rationale behind it, that made me see the argument in a new light and the post explained it better than I ever could, it explained that EMT’s have an obligation to revive a person in an emergency, not treat them. It went on to explain that Narcan is not a treatment for addiction, it is a tool used to save lives. Today I’m grateful for that tool, because it provided my cousin with a chance to come to terms with the choices he made in his life and to try, if only momentarily, to make amends for them.

Going forward I choose to remember Nick as he was before drug addiction took control of him. I’m going to remember the times we spent at our grandma’s in the summer, fishing, riding four wheelers, and driving our uncles crazy. I’m going to remember how Grandma use to baby him, except of course when she made him sit on the front porch and watch the Tennessee vs. Kentucky games through the front window because he had the audacity to root against the Wildcats in her home. I’m going to remember the person who, along with my older sister, carried me upside down for three blocks when I cracked my head open on a patch of ice because he didn’t want to get blood on his clothes. Looking back now its one of my favorite memories from our childhood.

You may not have realized it, but you were loved. Wherever you are now, I hope you are at peace.

Rest in Peace.

Nicholas Andrew Blackwell

August 24, 1979- August 5, 2021

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Thank You Mom

For some reason, when I think back on my childhood the memories that are the easiest to remember are the bad ones. I’m not sure why bad memories tend to be more prominent in my mind, but It is my opinion that they serve a purpose. Those memories are the ones where although there was struggle, lessons were learned.  

One of the oldest memories I have is from one Christmas shortly after my parents divorced. My Dad was remarried to a woman with two daughters, and we spent the morning opening gifts as a family. I recall opening a gift that contained clothing of some kind with a small Minnie Mouse necklace that I was overly excited about. Upon revealing the gift to my family my Dad and Stepmother realized the error that was made when wrapping the gifts. The gift I had just opened was a gift for my stepsister. It was a bummer relinquishing the gift, but I sucked it up and we went about our day.

Later that morning My Dad dropped us off to our Mom so we could celebrate with her.  I cannot recall every detail of that day, but I can summarize by saying we greeted our Mother and told her all about our morning while showing her the gifts we received at our Dad’s before opening presents with her.

I remember opening one of my gifts, a Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack and upon seeing the gift, I admit, I acted horribly. I declared that it was a baby’s toy, and I didn’t want it. I’m not sure if the events that took place earlier that day had an effect on how I reacted but to this day I can still remember the look on my mother’s face. Sadness, hurt and disappointment, and I’m still incredibly ashamed of how I acted in that moment.

I remember my Mom taking the toy and making a statement about how if I didn’t want the toy, we’d put it up for someone who would appreciate it. She then put it on a shelf above our basement stairs and it stayed there for quite some time and every time I’d go up or down the stairs I’d see it there on the shelf.

One day I remember asking her if I could have it, I had changed my mind and wanted to play with it, and she refused to let me have it.  Looking back, I know that her refusal wasn’t to be cruel due to my reaction, it was to teach me a lesson. It was to teach me to appreciate the things I have, the gifts I receive and the people who provide them.

It took me a long time to understand that, that Christmas after a very trying few years in which my mother was divorced and her support system (my Grandma) moved out of state, my Mom needed help to provide her children with Christmas gifts and she didn’t necessarily choose those gifts for us, but she did her best to make sure that when the day came, we had something under the tree.

Each Christmas after that I can say she never failed. She worked herself to death every day to make sure we had what we needed, even if it wasn’t the trendiest item and come Christmastime, we always had gifts under the tree, even if it meant she did without. Perhaps that is why I still go all out for Christmas, and sometimes my husband says I go a bit overboard, I’m just carrying on a tradition she started.

Because of that memory I make it a point to instill those same lessons in my own children. While I am lucky enough to provide them with more than I ever had, I do my best to ensure that they appreciate what they have and that they know how lucky they are. Especially around Christmas time when my husband and I remind them as we take them to shop for gifts for less fortunate children after we’ve chosen an “Angel” or two off the tree.

Teaching my children the same lessons you taught me isn’t always easy, but it is necessary.

For making me a better person, for making me a better Mother, Thank you Mom!

I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Voice: Effectively Impacting the Consumer Through Digital Media

In today’s world almost everything can be done in an online environment and because of that there is often a subconscious expectation for instant gratification in everything we do. Social media has changed the way the world operates and has forced businesses all over the world to adapt to the online way of life or die off.

New online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have pushed the Blockbusters of the world out of the limelight and into oblivion. With new media available everyday even mainstream television has had to learn to adapt and the creators of The Voice have done just that by creating an online experience that focuses on content, collaboration, and connections with their viewers.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

The show actively engages with their viewers throughout their various social media platform by providing behind the scenes storytelling on Facebook, Fan Art on Broadcast through their Tumblr page and allowing viewers to impact the outcome of an on-air show by tweeting their votes during the show. Prior to the implementation of social media marketing viewers would sit at home, watching their shows and hoping that their favorite performers would make it to the next round of competition, often feeling deflated when their choice was eliminated but The Voice has given viewers a chance to change that.

By engaging their fans in this manner, The Voice has been able to provide that sense of instant gratification that viewers have become accustomed to and have made fans feel like they are part of the process, like their voices are being heard and that is not something televisions shows of the past have been able to do before now.

It would be difficult to criticize the show for how their online following has been handled because the ways in which they’ve utilized social media to create an experience for fans was truly groundbreaking for its time. The show continues to create unique fan experiences through its various social media platforms by providing sneak peaks at upcoming seasons through it’s Facebook page, Outtake peeks on its Twitter feed and utilizing hashtag campaigns across its various platforms to engage with it’s viewers during between seasons which keep the fans wanting more and eagerly anticipating the next season.

The Voice has won a multitude of awards since the shows’ conception and you can find an extensive list on the show’s wiki. Notably, In 2015 The Voice was named the Winner in Integration with Live Television category of the 8th Annual Shorty Awards and were finalists in Instagram and Twitter with a Gold Distinction in Television. You can read more about it at Shoryawards.com.


This blog post is a course assignment for my Social Media & Marketing Communications class at Southern New Hampshire University.

If you enjoyed this post don’t forget to follow, like, share and check out my social media!

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Steps to Success: Creating a Writing Portfolio

by Chantae Eaton, Alyssa Griffin, Miranda Guerra, Kellen Marler, and Joanna Rangarajan

So, you want to be a writer? Grab a pen to mark-up a notebook or type away on your laptop: congratulations, you’re a writer! But if you want to become a professional writer, that’s a different story. If you aren’t sure where to begin, you’re not alone. The wide world of writing can seem daunting, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of landing that new writing gig. In the writing world, portfolios trump resumes; potential clients prefer to see a sample in action to build trust. How do you build that trust? By assembling a writing portfolio of your very own!

Language of the Beast

If you’re asking yourself, “what is a portfolio?” don’t fret. A writing portfolio is a collection of writing samples that showcase your writing style. There are a few terms that may throw you for a loop on your portfolio-building journey, but familiarizing yourself with them will help you flourish. Some terms that might pop up are:

  • Platform – the chosen media forum used to build your portfolio and connect with an audience. 
  • Freelance – a temporary, per-job assignment for clients rather than a permanent role. 
  • Niche – a concentrated area of the market focused on a specific audience, service or topic. 
  • Voice – unique writing style expressed through tone, point-of-view, phrases and more. 

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. And today your goal is to do just that—to start.

Tools of The Trade

We live in a digital age, where the days of carrying around a paper portfolio have long passed, and information is available to us at the click of a button. It stands to reason an editor will want to access your work easily. Although building a website where you can showcase your work is ideal, creation and maintenance often come at a price. For novice writers this can be a deal-breaker, but have no fear! Various websites (such as Upwork) offer writers an online portfolio template where they can showcase a compilation of their work, use mentors and apply for writing jobs on their site. Most sites offer a trial or version of their site at no cost to the user, and additional content is available for a nominal fee.

When asked about any tools she found especially helpful in building her portfolio, Nikky Raney, a Freelance Writer and Interview Media Journalist for Moms.com states, “…100% you can use Contena Academy and you even have a coach that will work with you to help you get hired… I have submitted multiple portfolios through Contena and my coach has provided incredible feedback.” Another great resource is Smartblogger.com, which has compiled a comprehensive list of portfolio sites that detail the pros, cons and costs of sites like Contently, Journo and Quiet.ly

Constant Evolution

As an aspiring professional writer, one of the fundamental questions you need to ask yourself is “what is my niche?” Do you write fiction? Do you write for scholarly journals? Are you hoping to write for a news publication? Whatever niche you land on, be sure it engages your interests and find compelling topics within that niche to write about. Writings centered around your niche will make up the bulk of your portfolio. Until your prominence as a writer is established, there may be times when you need to step outside your comfort zone and create content that falls outside your niche. Adaptability in these situations is key and devising quality content is imperative in meeting your career goals. 

Developing Your Voice

When writing, it’s important to develop your voice. Ask yourself, “could anyone else have written this?” Of course, they could use the same words in the same sequence so technically yes, someone else could have. But is your piece infused with your spirit, uniquely yours and not just echoes of other people? Those are the pieces that will make your writing stand out.

Persistence 

You’ve found your niche and your voice. Now it’s time to get to work. Write often and when you think you’re done, keep writing! As with anything else, the quality of your work will improve the more you practice. You’ll amass a pile of work that you can choose from when composing your portfolio. Never stop writing, creating and updating your portfolio with your latest work because it’ll aid you in putting your best foot forward.

 Hitting Pay Dirt for Writing

When starting a new career or venture, the desired result is to make ends meet, if not to become wildly successful. To do that in the writing world requires experience, but to get experience a writer must have published work. How can you conquer this without having published pieces?

We interviewed Sara Barton, a Senior Freelance Copywriter based in Columbus, Ohio, who shared her thoughts on how to get started without being published. Barton states, “I would come up with writing assignments to put in my book [portfolio] to show what I could do. When you’re starting, you don’t have actual, legitimate, produced pieces, so you just kind of have to wing it.”

In other words, coming up with pieces like scripts, or posts that showcase a writer’s prowess is vital in building the foundation of a writer’s portfolio. In time, these speculative pieces can be replaced with published works. Barton also expressed that while she has a website, and a viewer can find her entire portfolio there; it’s not categorized. She feels that a client may see potential in work unrelated to the industry in which they’re hiring.

While writing for free may not be ideal, sometimes it’s necessary. Consider various varieties of payment terms you may come across when signing contracts. These could be terms like Net15 or Net30, which usually cover business days, not calendar days in reference to expected payments. “Net” payment with a number following it is a full payment by 15 or 30 business days after project completion. Placing a monetary value on your time and effort can present a challenge. Be sure to read your contract thoroughly so you understand the guidelines and agree that the terms set forth are equitable.

Being a creative individual means constantly evolving to keep up with the times and staying abreast of the latest technology. When assembling your portfolio, the sky’s the limit and creating bold pieces could just land you your next job! Having a diversified portfolio, even if it’s speculative work, could be what leads a client to hire you over someone else. 

What Next?

Creating a writing portfolio is only the first step in your writing journey. You can continue to grow and find work in various ways and have a thriving career. Not that there won’t be rejection; there will, but how you handle it will make the difference.

To get your work published quickly, you can self-publish. Though this route may not be best suited for everyone, it may be the best avenue to take with certain books. This is especially true if the content is “specific to a niche,” according to Moira Allen. Allen states that with self-publishing, “the author becomes the publisher.” It grants authors the freedom to select the cover design and allows them to get their books onto the market in a few weeks versus the years it might take with a commercial publisher. It also gives the writer control over the entire publishing process.

Companies like Amazon offer publishing options that range from e-books, print, and audiobooks; all done through their platform, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). It allows you to set your price but be aware that you’re signing a contract with terms and conditions. While Kindle has its own audiobook platform, ACX, you won’t be able to publish it on Audible unless you remove it from ACX prior to publishing it elsewhere.

Continuing Your Journey

Now that you’ve added a few extra tools to your writer’s toolbox, it’s time to make some decisions and set forth a plan-of-action. Did you decide that self-publishing is for you? Head over to the self-publishing venue and look at what’s needed to start the process. Ready to build your blog or website? Research the “tools of the trade” like Contena. Think about its content and how you want to appeal to your audience. Will you showcase the many types of work that you do like Barton, or do you prefer offering select pieces that fall within your niche? Find the platform you connect with, so you can broadcast your voice to the world. Let your passion for writing lead you on a journey and you may just find yourself doing the thing you love the most: writing!

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Local Business Spotlight: Sound Body Productions

In a time where COVID 19 is making waves for small business owners, one local entrepreneur credits the pandemic for helping him launch his new business. When asked about the impact the corona virus had on his ability to start Sound Body Productions, sole proprietor, and local disc jockey Michael Randolph, said “I know it’s kind of weird to say it, but Covid helped me more than anything. If the world wouldn’t have stopped, I would not have had the time to dedicate to my passion.” He says it was his love for music that inspired him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional DJ.

Hamilton Native and proprietor of Sound Body Productions, Michael Randolph

Sound Body Productions is a DJ for hire enterprise that specializes in helping its customers create a lively atmosphere for any event. Randolph is a disc jockey with two and a half years of experience, but he got his start at an early age when he began to emcee for his brother-in-law during DJ performances throughout the Tri-state area. His witty and theatrical personality combined with his lengthy experience make him an ideal candidate when hiring a disc jockey for any occasion.

Randolph, a Hamilton native, attributes his personal brand of “Funk House” (a subgenre of house music combined with funk samples) to the music he grew up listening to as a child. “Growing up my dad always had Motown and funk and country playing in our house,” he said. Although Funk House is his preferred genre, he reports that his music collection is essentially unlimited, and he can easily cater to the musical preferences of his clientele.

If you are the type of person who likes to try before you buy you can catch live performances by Randolph, as well as local DJs Matt Marcum and Scott Hubbard, Thursday evenings from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at The Fringe coffee house. The trio are also slated to perform at the SHIFT Music & Art Festival, May 15th at RiversEdge.

Randolph referred to DJs Marcum and Hubbard when asked how he came to perform at The Fringe. The pair posted about their upcoming performance at the coffee house on Facebook, Randolph commented about his interest in the event. They then invited him to participate, and the rest is history.

The camaraderie and willingness to help other local performers shown by these artists is consistent with the cultivation of fellowship and inclusivity that has become prevalent in Hamilton over the past few years and the city can look forward to seeing much more from these artists in the future.

For more Information on Sound Body Productions or to get a quote for your next event call: (513) 208-8961 or visit Sound Body Productions on Facebook.


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I Didn’t Choose the Soccer Mom Life, The Soccer Mom Life Chose Me

When I was younger, I loved to play baseball. I started tee-ball at the age of five and played up until my sophomore year of high school. It was the thing I loved to do the most and I can still recall some of the best plays I made during my 13 years on the field. When I became a parent hoped that my children would find something they loved as much as I loved playing baseball and if I were lucky, I knew there was a small possibility that they would share the same love for baseball that I did. So, when my daughter turned five, I did what any self-respecting former athlete would do. I signed her up for tee-ball!

Much to my chagrin we made it through two seasons before she decided that tee-ball was boring, and she wanted to quit. I spoke to her about what it means to make a commitment and told her that once the season was over, if she no longer wanted to play then we could find something else. And that is exactly what we did. She tried taekwondo, she tried gymnastics, she also served a short stint as a cheerleader but none of those things seemed to stick. Right around the time she began losing interest in cheerleading my son was turning five, so we decided once again to try our hand at tee-ball and once again our child was not happy so after he fulfilled his commitment, we allowed him to quit and both kids took a short break from sports.

Just as I was beginning to accept that neither of my children were interested in athletics it happened, the day I had always dreaded!

I picked them up from their afterschool program where they were planning a small talent show and both kids announced that they’d be doing soccer for the talent show. Soccer? Neither of my them knew anything about soccer outside of what may or may not have been taught in gym class, so this came as a surprise to me. They then announced that they wanted me to sign them up to play on a soccer team. My heart sank! I tried to avoid the request and I am embarrassed now to say that it took multiple requests from each child before I bit the bullet and did some research on local soccer programs.

I had always been of the mind set that I’d never be a soccer mom. The middle-class suburban housewife who drove a minivan and donned her yoga pants at every opportunity while sipping her six-dollar latte was never something I aspired to be, and I often criticized that type of parent for being so predictable.

So, while desperately clinging to the idea that even if my children played the game, I would still be me and wouldn’t allow myself to be pushed into the stereotypical mold that is a soccer mom, I put my kid’s happiness before my own and I signed them up for their first season of soccer. One season quickly spiraled into multiple and eventually turned into my husband and sister-in-law coaching teams for one or both of my children at any given time due to a lack of volunteers.

I had to admit, soccer was a harder sport than I realized, it was a fast-paced game that required both skill and stamina It was also more fun to watch than I had previously imagined. I began to enjoy going to practices and games and sure, my kids played soccer, but I still didn’t drive the minivan and I didn’t live at the field, so I didn’t fit the stereo type. My kids played casually they didn’t play club soccer. That soccer mom stereotype must’ve been molded to fit club moms because It didn’t fit the mom of a casual player.

And then it happened again!

The day came when my husband and I realized that our children really loved the game and if they wanted to be able to keep playing then they needed more than what our local city program could offer them. So, I swallowed my pride and did research on the local club soccer programs and signed them up for tryouts. Both kids made their respective teams.

A new journey was about to begin, and we had no idea what we were in for.

What came next was a whirlwind of games, practices, camps, and private training sessions.  My daughter being older needed a helping hand in bridging the skill gap between herself and her teammates and the other parents were kind enough to offer suggestions for private trainers or extra classes she could take to catch up and while it was helpful, I felt like there were ulterior motives behind their willingness to share their knowledge. You know what they say, the team is only as good as its weakest link, or something like that.

A few practices in to their first season of club soccer we were invited to go to dinner with a few of my daughter’s teammate’s families after training. They were an especially social group, and this was something we’d need to start getting used to, but I didn’t have a problem with that, in fact I welcomed it. It reminded me of the comradery I experienced when I played youth sports and I was happy that my daughter had found her place.

Whenever these group outings would occur the girls would get excited and would often negotiate with their parents on who they could ride with to games or other events. The first time that it was decided that they wanted to ride with us was the moment I realized why all the families owned SUV’s or minivans. My daughter was ecstatic as she and several of her teammates approached me asking if they could ride with us to dinner. At that point, my husband and I both drove small four door vehicles and there was no way I was going to be able to fit multiple10-year-olds in my tiny Volkswagen. The disappointment on my daughter’s face was deafening. I looked at my husband and we both knew what was coming. Several weeks later (while wearing my jet-black yoga pants) we traded in my husband’s Silver Saturn Ion for our first minivan, a grey Honda Odyssey with third row seating and plenty of storage space.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

 I was officially a middle-class, yoga pant wearing, minivan driving, mother of two club soccer players. And I didn’t feel any different! I still felt like me. The only thing that had changed was the way I viewed the stereotype that was the proverbial soccer mom. I was now one and I had an inside look at what a soccer mom really is.  

When I look at my fellow soccer moms, I see truth, I see strength, and I see sacrifice.

 I see the single mom who works days and goes to school at night so she can provide her daughter with all the opportunities she never had.

 I see the working mom who spends a full eight-hour day in the office and then spends her evening rushing her children to their games and practices, with no time to change her clothes or grab a snack. She is usually seen on the sidelines in full business attire with her heels sinking into the grass.

I see the mom with multiple kids whose husband travels for work and even though it can be difficult to ask others for help, she does, for the benefit of her children.

I see the teacher working on her lesson plans from the sideline of her child’s practice because as important as it is for her to be there for her kids, she wants to show up for yours too!

I see the team mom, who struggles as much as the rest of us but pushes herself even harder to make sure that we are all organized and where we need to be when we need to be there because she knows life is hard and we need to support each other.  

These mothers are pigeonholed based on observations made by those outside the sports world and although some of the descriptions may be accurate, they don’t provide you with a full picture. Soccer moms are a support system, they are a team! A team I’m proud to be a part of.  

We don the yoga pants because they are comfortable and easy to throw on at a moment’s notice.

We drink the latte’s because we are tired and in desperate need of caffeine.  

We buy the minivans so our kids can stay connected on and off the field and so that we can help each other with the kids when one of us has a little too much on her plate and needs a helping hand.

Soccer isn’t just a sport, it is a community, one I’m glad my children chose for us.

Oh, and to lacrosse mom on the other side of the aisle trying to keep her son from hitting passersby with his stick as he unpacks his gear for another practice: I’ve been there! Your next latte is on me!


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Marketing Perspective: Influencers & Big Business

Over the past several years the use of social media outlets by people across the globe has skyrocketed and because of that businesses all over the globe have been forced to adapt their marketing strategies to keep up with the technological tidal wave that has rendered the methods of the past as ineffective.  

While powerhouses like Budweiser and Coca-Cola will be ever present in television ads for as long as television is relevant, companies like these are evolving their marketing approaches and the celebrity endorsement ads of the past are being replaced by a new type of advertising by a new kind of face.

The creation of social media sites like YouTube has spurned a recreation of the American Dream. The white picket fence has been replaced with aspirations of self-made internet fame where making more than a living wage can be done from the comfort of your home if you know how to appeal to a specific online demographic.

Influencers like King Bach, Mr. Beast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) and even the once relevant Logan Paul are sought after by companies searching for online personalities with large followings within their target demographic to help promote their products.

For a fee, brands like Honey can integrate advertisements of their products and services via product placements within a specific influencer’s content, short ads fused with their YouTube videos and even product shout outs by the Influencers themselves during a video or post.

These influencers have insight into what today’s generation is looking for in terms of entertainment and they deliver that content free of charge to the user while getting paid a fee to promote a brand’s product in the process. It is a mutually advantageous arrangement by both parties, one wishing to sell their products to a specific consumer and the other assists them in reaching that goal by introducing and endorsing those products to a fan base that respects them and their judgement.

This tactic, however, is just a twist on an old method that previously utilized celebrity endorsements from people like Michael Jordan or Eva Longoria who endorsed products via television commercial or in a series of magazine ads. Companies have a long-standing tradition of utilizing the fame of another to gain support for their own products and self-made influencers are capitalizing on that strategy.

Stephen Hawking said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt” and there is no question that there is brilliance behind this new evolved form of marketing, the only question lies in who the genius really is, the company or the influencer?


This blog post is a course assignment for my Social Media & Marketing Communications class at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Throwback: My Very First Byline

I was given my first byline at the age of 17 after shadowing a local reporter with my hometown’s local newspaper. I was then given the opportunity to write about my experience and that article was published in the Journal News.  See the photo to read my very first published article.

Originally published by https://www.journal-news.com/ via print.