Lessons Learned at the Family Travel Conference

Posted by at 5 February, 2012, 4:52 pm

This past weekend I attended the first annual Family Travel Conference at the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel in New York City. The event was organized by Kim Orlando of TravelingMom.com, Kyle McCarthy of FamilyTravelForum.com,  Eileen Ogintz of TakingtheKids.com, and Joanne Vero of Travel Media Showcase.  The event was extra special for me, because I was able to bring my daughter Amy, who recently graduated from college and has embarked on her own freelance writing career. She and I have traveled on many mother-daughter press trips over the years. But this was the first writing conference that we attended together as professional journalists.

We both learned lots at the awesome workshops, which covered topics like “Writing for the Web,” “Monetizing Your Content,” and “Creating Video for your Site.” We got to network with an amazing group of writers and share tips and strategies. Our favorite part of the weekend was the video workshop, where we were sent to various parts of the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel (Amy and I were assigned to the Kidz Korner kids program) and told to produce a 1-2 minute video. I’m still editing it, but hopefully will have it ready to premiere here soon!


Though the conference focused on travel writing, many of the tips were relevant for any topic you might write about.  For example, in the Better Travel Writing Workshop, we learned these general tips on Writing for the Web:

Use clear headlines. Make sure your title describes what your piece will be about. Don’t get so caught up in optimizing SEO that you lose sight of what will be appealing to your readers.

Use photos to break up the copy.

Have subheads every 2 or 3 paragraphs.

Use bullet points to illustrate important information.

Keep posts short. Instead of trying to cover too much in one piece, do a series of posts. For example, I’ll be doing a separate post on Creating Video for your Site, using tips we learned at the conference.

Link, link, link. Refer to other articles (both on and off your site) that are related to the topic. But no more than 20 links per page.


We ended the conference with a family-style lunch at Virgil’s Real Barbecue restaurant in Times Square. (The pulled pork was to die for!) Then we were all given a New York Pass, which allows free access to over 70 NY attractions. Amy and I used ours to visit Madame Tussauds wax museum. Eli Manning was there to welcome us in the lobby. We hope that was a good omen!

Amy wishes Eli good luck in the big game.

Amy wishes Eli good luck in the big game.

Category : Uncategorized

Relationships, relationships, relationships!

Posted by at 29 May, 2011, 6:37 pm

A couple of years ago, several of the Mompreneurs from the MopreneursOnline forum here, met in Chicago for a weekend. That gathering took all of our online friendships to a whole new level. Along with some awesome business tips, the main thing I took away from that event was building relationships, and realizing how important those relationships are. I feel like I made many friendships for life through that one gathering.

A couple of weekends ago, I attended the ASCAP I Create Music Expo/convention. It was fantastic! Lots of panels on different areas of music, ie., production, songwriting, writing for film/tv, recording equipment, etc. It was really informative. But the key thought that kept coming up and was impressed upon us was building relationships with other people.

I witnessed it first-hand at the conference. I made sure I reached out and got to know people – and we all approached each other from a “relationship” perspective. I noticed I tended to gravitate toward people that were happy, laughing and having a genuinely positive attitude, and steered clear of people that were either so full of themselves or who were just plain negative. I left the weekend feeling like I made lots of new friends, future collaborators, and co-writers.

This week, I attended a dinner with several of my composer friends. The event featured a panel of music supervisors and we were able to listen and learn, as well as meet and dine with several publishers, music attorneys, and others in our industry. This wasn’t a “Music Biz 101 class”, by any means. It was about really getting into the nuts and bolts of what is taking place in the music industry.

I am attending another function in a couple of weeks, and am seeing the panelists beginning to overlap from different functions. My perception of this “one, huge, lumped together, impenetrable industry” is quickly shifting to an industry made up of unique, creative individuals – all brought together by our common passion for music. (And yes, there will always be the sharks and the shirts, but that’s another blog post.)

I am learning that it is well worth attending conventions and events that have to do with my area of work (music) and I STRONGLY suggest that if you are able to attend a convention or event that has to do with your business, that you go. It is GREAT to get off the stage, or out from behind the computer, or out of the recording studio, and meet people face to face, have lunch, and make new friends. From here on out, I’ll be attending these events regularly and viewing them as a necessity, rather than a luxury. And I may even invite a new friend to come along with me.

Category : Uncategorized

Meanwhile Back in L.A. …

Posted by at 20 April, 2011, 6:27 pm

Have I mentioned how happy I am living back in Los Angeles? If not, let me just say it…I am sooooo flippin’ happy living in LA!

There. I said it. And I know it won’t be the last time.

I have been on such a “happiness high” – especially in the last two days – that today I actually feel “hungover.” I am exhausted from all the happy. And it keeps coming.

Who would have ever known that back in November, selling our 3800 sq. ft. house, selling most of our belongings, leaving Omaha, moving back to Los Angeles, downsizing to one car and a 1100 sq. ft., 2 bedroom apartment, and writing music full time would turn out to be the best thing we could have ever done? I am delirious!

There really is something to be said for following our hearts and pursuing our passions. I just never knew that letting go of all the safety nets could be so exhilarating. And freeing.

I’ve been pulling some all nighters, (well, nearly all nighters) writing music with the intent of getting them placed in film, television and ads. I am having to learn lots of new things, like how to record the music on new equipment, how to play instruments “virtually” on a keyboard, learning to play new “live” instruments, and how to create – without the help of the people I am so dependent upon, like my sweet brother Gene, who is still in Omaha, and “Omaha Tom” who owns the studio we would use to record at in Omaha. But in doing so, it feels so good to know that I finished a song yesterday, where I played all the live and virtual instruments, wrote the music/lyrics, recorded all the vocals – lead and background, female AND male (I can sing pretty low if I have to ;) ). I even did all the whistling. (My mom said, “I didn’t know you could whistle!”) And I even got to include my hubby and son on the hand claps, finger snaps, and thigh slaps, so it is becoming a family project. I also have a new, extremely talented engineering/writing partner who loves music as much as I do, who brings absolute magic to the final product, which is an art in itself.

So, when the song was submitted, with only seconds to spare before the deadline, my palms were sweaty, my feet were clammy, and we got it done. And I gotta admit, it turned out really fun! And I felt, well, really proud.

Will this be the song that gets used for this particular commercial? It’s out of my hands at this point, but WOW, did it ever feel good accomplishing what I set out to do and creating a song that didn’t exist 3 days earlier. And I will continue to do this because this is my true passion.

I feel more empowered than ever before, and I feel so ALIVE!! I am following my heart – completely. And I am soo happy being back in L.A. There – I said it again.

Category : Uncategorized

Leap of Faith

Posted by at 18 April, 2011, 9:47 pm

Before having children, I had dreams – BIG, lofty dreams. I was going to do it all! Actually being a mom was never a part of this girl’s agenda. It was going to be me, a loft apartment, a big city view and a dream career.

I sit here now writing as my 6-year old plays in the bathtub. Me has turned into 3; the loft is a place in my home filled with dolls, dolls and more dolls; the view is of the beautiful Rocky Mountains and the career…..well it turns out that the dream career still made the cut but the path to get there was certainly not what I expected.

I had years of freedom and zero responsibility. Looking back, I wish I had taken more chances then but then again, I guess I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s not like I just sat and watched the world go by however I didn’t push myself to the limits I could have and should have done. It wasn’t until my girls were born that I began seeing myself through my Mother’s eyes. I realized the wishes I held for my own daughters were not unlike the wishes she held for me. She has always been my number one supporter while I questioned her sanity. I always felt she gave me way more credit than I deserved but it made sense once I became a mother myself. A mother sees the truth even if no one else can.

Our children learn by watching our actions, and reactions to the world. I did not want to pass my fears and limitations down to them. The thought crossed my mind when my first child was just days old that I can’t expect her to live to her fullest potential when I know I hadn’t lived up to mine. I embarked on my first toy, the Color Bug, without fear of failure even though part of me expected it. If anything, I could teach the girls that failure comes in not trying.

I am grateful to have a mother who always pushed me to be my best. I’m even more grateful that she never gave up on me even during the moments and years I gave up on myself. As mothers, we have the important task to help foster our children’s dreams into reality. Sometimes the best way to do that is by nurturing our own dreams. As the years go by, I continue to push myself to learn new things and take new risks. My children continue to inspire me to reach further. Originally I did it to be a good example for them but now I do it for me too.

Today I watched as my 6-year-old jumped off the diving board into the deep end of the pool for the first time. She looked down and said “wow, that’s deep”; then climbed up the ladder without any hesitation. She had faith in herself and she had faith that I would be there if she needed me. It is in these moments that I am reminded just how much joy can be achieved from trying something new. When is the last time you took a leap of faith into uncharted waters?

Category : Inspirational Stories | Toy Mom | Uncategorized

Time For a Biz Makeover? Free One-Time Only Webcast 3/22

Posted by at 17 March, 2011, 12:30 pm

Hard to believe it will soon be APRIL already! Live_WebcastAs this year continues fly, it’s a good time to take a look at your biz and see if it’s truly where you want it to be. If you’re not quite there, I’s love to help you make THIS year your best ever.

That’s why I am SO looking forward to my next FREE, info-rich webcast coming up on Tuesday, March 22 at 8 pm Eastern.  I’ll be sharing exactly what I’ve been doing that has taken me from struggling and not making the kind of money I wanted to be–to having a business that not only rewards me financially, but gives me the freedom and flexibility to live life on MY terms.  If you’re interested in knowing how you can have this for yourself, too then you won’t want to miss this. Be sure to register here.

itsapartyOh, and you should know—it’s also going to be a bit of a PARTY! I’m celebrating the “making over” of my new (soon-to-be-revealed) website with a virtual BASH and you’re invited! There will even be party favors for you…

On this complimentary, one-time info-packed webcast, you’ll learn:

  • The actions you can take RIGHT NOW to help ensure that the rest of this year is a smashing success for you
  • How to pick a mentor who will be the best fit for YOU and who will guide you to build a business based on YOUR ideas of success (not theirs!)
  • How to build your list with integrity (online and off) so that you consistently PULL ideal clients to you (instead of you chasing after THEM!)
  • The one very common (often overlooked) reason why your business is still struggling to grow—even as the economy is finally beginning to pick up (and the simple solution to this)
  • The top ways that myself and my private clients increase our income—that actually allow us to work LESS
  • How you can claim one of the exclusive spots in my just-revamped private coaching programs (including one of only *4* remaining spots in my in-depth Mastery program)

…and a lot more.

So, let’s celebrate the hopes and dreams you have for your business. Don’t miss this FREE, one time only webcast!

RSVP here: http://communicatevalue.com/party/

The call will be recorded if you can’t make it live (you’ll want to be on LIVE, however, to grab the “party favors” I’ve got in store for you!)

Hope you can RSVP YES! :)

Category : Uncategorized

The Power of Community

Posted by at 13 February, 2011, 7:01 pm

This past Friday night, Ellen and I had the pleasure to meet one of our longtime MompreneursOnline.com community members, Gwen Austin. Gwen was in NYC for the annual Toy Fair, and we got together on Friday night to have a glass of wine and some appetizers near her hotel. We had never before met Gwen in person, but as the founder of RC Art Toys and the  inventor of some really cool, educational toys, she had been active in our Mompreneurs Online forums for several years, so we were really good “virtual” friends. Geting to meet Gwen in person was such a bonus!

This is not the first time we have had a “live” get together with the inspiring, exciting women we have met on Mompreneurs Online. A couple of years ago, one of our most active members, Janene Jarosek, arranged a mini-reunion in Chicago for about a dozen Mompreneurs from our online community. We were already bonded through the exchange of ideas and experiences in our online community, but this gathering so strengthened our bonds as we shared personal and professional challenges over two days….and had so much fun in the process. We’ve also coordinated a luncheon in NYC for moms in the metropolitan NY area and another of our members, Danielle Zeitlin Hughes, arranged a memorable evening get-together at a restaurant.

What this all says is that you can form really valuable friendships through shared interests and nurturing support in an online community, and we are so grateful to all the women we’ve met over the years at Mompreneurs Online. You have made our community so vibrant and inspirational. We hope to meet each and every one of you in the near future so we can further cement these bonds of friendship and shared experiences.

Category : Uncategorized

What’s going on in our heads when we sing the National Anthem?

Posted by at 7 February, 2011, 6:56 pm

Yes, Christina messed up the words. Jeez – give her a flippin’ break. Take it from someone who has sung plenty of National Anthems in front of crowds up to 80,000 + people – singing the National Anthem, at the Super Bowl no less, and trying to time it with a fly-by ain’t easy.

What is going through our heads? “Smile. Get the right words. Oh man, the wind just blew dirt in my throat, don’t choke! My heels are digging into the ground, and I’m sinking! Note to self: Next year no heels. Which verse am I on? Emotion, Cher – help them feel the words, and relive the story. Wow. This is a lot of people. Smile. Whew – I’m on the right ver – Crap! My shirt just blew off my shoulder – hope my bra strap isn’t showing. Pronounced “per-i-lous” Not “per-o-lis”. Do I have the right hand on the right side over my heart? Or left hand. No. Heart is on the left side. Smile. Smile! My Spanx aren’t on right. Timing. Don’t speed up. Smile. You’re not smiling. Where are those jets? Did they forget? Where is Mom sitting? Make eye contact with the crowds. Ok – we’re over the hump, and still no jets. Stretch that out, s-t-r-e-t-c-h on “freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, and the hoooooooooooooooooooome” – big pregnant pause, hope Gene is with me here, still no jets… “of the” Gene , really big pause, hold on – Jets? Jets? Where are the j – yaaaay here come the jets! “Braaaaaaaaaaaavvvvvvve.” Smile, wave, keep smiling, cameras are still on, rolling, rolling, and cut.

Exhale and exit.

Category : Uncategorized

It’s a New Day

Posted by at 7 February, 2011, 9:45 am

Rewind to the year 2007, the year Stardust was released, the year hubby’s freelance work started to dry up, and life for me in Omaha was turning a little…well, wacky…

Hi. It’s me, Cher – back to the present, and back in full swing, after a couple of rocky, odd years.

I really believe that we all have a purpose for being on this planet. And without getting all metaphysical on you, let’s just say that I believe we all have an “inner voice” that speaks to us, and if we allow ourselves to listen, we can choose to follow it or choose to ignore it. My inner voice has been screaming at me for as far back as I can remember, leading and guiding me, but after high school I didn’t know how to appease it. I didn’t know where to go, musically. Music is such a wide – and tough – arena, but creating music is my one true passion. As a teen in the Midwest, nobody in my circles seemed to know where to go with a musical kid. My high school counselor advised me to “teach music” or “go into social work.” My Mom told me that a degree in music would get me nowhere, and that I should study Engineering (the civil, electrical, petroleum kind of engineering), so I “would have something to fall back on.” Or go into Nursing.

My brother, Gene, and I sang at over 600 weddings. We sang in clubs. We wrote songs. I went out on the road and sang with a band for a year. Gene went to college and joined the swing choir. I studied Engineering. Gene studied Business. We sang in more clubs. We wrote more songs. I got engaged to a really wonderful guy, and tried to just “fit in” and “be normal.” But I was always restless. And after putting down a non-refundable deposit at the reception hall, that inner voice just reached out, grabbed me by the throat and slapped me upside the head, letting me know me I’m not following the path I am meant to follow.

I never became an engineer.

After selling all my belongings, and at the suggestion of a friend who played in a country band, I moved to Tennessee. Gene followed suit, and we began making our living in music “wearing many hats” as singer/songwriters, publishers, composers, roving artists, performing artists, arrangers, “marketeers”, choir directors, all the while honing our songwriting skills…all because there is nothing else we could ever be happy doing. We were dirt poor, but we were happy. We lived in Nashville, on the road, out of vans and in hotels, then finally, after I married hubby Ben, we all settled in L.A. Ben and I had our boy, Benjamin. Being on the road with a baby in tow, however, wasn’t what we wanted our new family life to be about, so when the opportunity for Ben to “work from home” presented itself, we returned to Omaha where our son would have a sense of roots. The day we moved out of L.A., I felt a small part of me die, but I buried it. For the good of my family.

Back in Omaha, we recorded, released and marketed Stardust, we wrote and arranged a lot of new music, wrote and sang jingles, performed for several high-profile events that didn’t pay a dime, sang at house concerts, and recorded more music. To make ends meet, Gene and I took on two extra jobs, directing music at a church and at a high school, and although we loved the people we were getting to know in the choirs, it wasn’t filling my spirit. Ben’s freelance work had all but disappeared (a sign of what was to come in the economy), so Ben started commuting from LA to Omaha on a weekly basis, switching from The Simpsons to Family Guy and then back to The Simpsons. I was essentially a single parent, and our lives had become utter chaos.

One night, I was soaking in the bathtub reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. I suddenly and uncontrollably burst into tears. I realized that the inner voice that, in the past, had guided me in pursuit of my purpose had all but gone silent. In my pursuit of making a comfortable, “normal” home for my family in Omaha, I had lost my way. I had become “comfortably numb.” (Thank you Pink Floyd.) I cried all night.

The next night, I allowed myself to listen. To be still, be quiet, and really listen for my inner voice. It was still there – and it was forcing me to remember what I had set out to do when I first left Omaha all those years before. It actually hurt to remember. But it became easier, as I began to imagine the possibility of moving back to L.A. I became restless again but I was really torn. I loved Omaha. My family, my house, my friends, my neighbors and my huge backyard – all in Omaha. I didn’t want to move to all the traffic, the pollution, the lousy L.A. school system. But I couldn’t stay. I hadn’t signed up for single parenting, my son was unhappy at his school, and there weren’t any animation studios opening up anytime soon in Omaha. And it was becoming clear that staying in Omaha directing choirs, or singing cover tunes in a church or a bar was a musical and spiritual compromise.

Thankfully, it all came to a screeching halt in November when we sold the house. There was no turning back. In December, Ben, Benjamin and I relocated to Los Angeles.

Fast forward to last night. I’m in a room with a dozen or more composers and songwriters for film and television, together for an evening of pizza, wine, face to face sharing, talking industry, talking shop and I realize we are all swimming together happily in the same aquarium. This is what I have been missing. The relationships, the camaraderie, the stories, the laughing, the interaction with like-minded people in the same field. Being in a city energized by creative people who make their living being who they were put on this earth to be. Being in a place where the value of music, and the composer, and songwriter is a given. Where it is understood that Music is a legitimate, serious business to serious musicians.

It is February 5, 2011. I am now back on track, moving steadily forward, on my journey as a singer/songwriter and composer for film and television. I’m a newbie to the field, and I will keep you posted on our progress. And for the first time in my life, I am not restless.

Regrets? Naaa. But I’ve learned a few life lessons.

What do I know for sure? Never Again will we sing for 80,000 people and “be fine” with not getting paid. And Never Again will I allow a high school principal to equate the value of what I do as a composer to that of a temp who sharpens pencils, without firmly decking her squarely across the jaw.

“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Well put, Mr. O’Shaugnessy.

I’m home.

Category : Uncategorized

Beat the holiday stress

Posted by at 14 December, 2010, 8:13 pm

We’re all in the midst of the crazy holiday season, when shopping, cooking, decorating, family tensions, hyper kids, bad weather and other forces converge on us all at once. Not to mention that you’re trying to work double time so you can take some days off when the holidays actually get here. What’s a mom to do….especially a mom who juggles work and family under the same roof?

Most of all, remember that you can’t do it all. You don’t have to be the one who bakes dozens of cookies from scratch for the cookie exchange or school party. Compromise a little and buy slice and bake dough or purchase holiday cookies in a nice tin. Instead of buying gifts for every family member, do a “secret Santa,” choosing just one name. There’s still time! Or rally the relatives and have everyone agree to donate whatever they would have spent on a present to a good cause, like Share our Strength, which feeds the hungry, or The Water Project, which brings water to African villages, or KIVA, which gives women in third-world countries seed money to start businesses.

If you can’t get your kids everything on their wish list, why not plan a family day as one of the gifts? Ride around one evening and look at all the fabulous holiday lights and the ways neighbors decorate their homes for the holidays, then go out for hot chocolate. Take the kids ice skating or bowling or to an indoor mini golf range. These memories will last longer than the batteries in the new toy under the tree.

Why not take an afternoon off before the kids are out of school for the holidays. Meet a few friends, go out for lunch, go to an art exhibit, get a pedicure, take a yoga class—do something for yourself. You deserve it!

As far as decorating goes, you don’t have to be Martha Stewart this year. Time and money is tight, and the kids are fine with just the minimum….stockings, a small tree and a few lights. Give yourself a break! And try to take some time off from your business. Start the new year feeling a little less stressed!

Category : Uncategorized

‘Tis the Season for Client Cards & Gifts

Posted by at 16 November, 2010, 8:18 am

Every year around this time, I try to find new and creative ways to show my appreciation to the editors who keep me so busy writing all year long. Though I don’t give gifts to everyone I’ve ever worked with, I do send something to the special people who hire me consistently throughout the year. These are usually editors with whom I’ve built solid relationships with over time. The rest of my business contacts get holiday cards, and I admit spending WAY too much time picking out just the right design that will make people remember me!

I’ve been doing the holiday card and gift thing for over 20 years as a homebased writer/mompreneur. Here are some of the festive tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t Go Overboard on Gifts. I recently heard one of my favorite editors say that she thinks it’s weird if writers give her something extravagant. And if someone she’s only worked with occasionally sends something, she thinks they’re sucking up. The moral? It’s not necessary to shower everyone you’ve ever worked with (or want to work with) with presents. But do be sure to show your appreciation to clients that hire you most often.

Keep Gifts Small and Sweet. Boxes of artisanal chocolates, brownies, cookies, or small fruit baskets will always be greatly appreciated. It’s even better if the treat benefits some kind of good cause (check out cookiesforkidscancer.org). I also try to pay attention to what clients like when we’re out for lunch or coffee. For example, I once bought my tea-loving editor a gourmet sampler tied to a handmade tea caddy. She loved it! I gave handmade floral notecards to another editor who had mentioned she missed letter writing. They were a big hit.

Slip Something in the Card. If you’ve got a lot of gifts to send, you might try slipping a Starbucks or Sephora gift card into the envelope (I still have the very cool eye liner bought with the gift certificate my iVillage editor sent me years ago!) Sure you could email these, but there’s still something wonderful about actually getting a mailed card to open—especially in this high-tech, impersonal age. I’ve also received many cards where the sender has made a contribution to a charity in my name—a great way to have your gift do some good!

Personalize Your Postage. Did you know that you can actually make postage stamps with your company logo? The PictureItPostage peeps just gave me the chance to try it out for free, and I have to tell you…it’s very very cool! It works like this: Go to http://pictureitpostage.com/business/ and design a stamp using a jpeg logo from your photo file. I used a picture of our red-headed Mompreneur character from the homepage, and then adjusted the postage part of the stamp to match the teal background. Pretty cute! I’m going to go make one with her in her Santa hat too! The .44 stamps are 18.95 for a package of 20; and PictureItPostage is offering our community a coupon to get $4 off your order. Go to http://pictureitpostage.com/business/ and use Coupon Code: MOTHERHOOD .

Category : Freelancing | Uncategorized