Writing Non-Fiction Posts

Recently I’ve had two blog posts on Write Non-Fiction Now, a blog started by Nina Amir.  For me having the opportunity to write articles about non-fiction writing is an extra perk. As I’ve done with so many of the posts I’ve written over the years, I start out with an idea, followed the train of thought through research, and looked then for the information I thought other non-fiction writers could benefit from reading. Of course, there’s the writing, too. And naturally, editing. It’s a delightful process!

What’s at the Root of Your Writing Impasse?

How Writers Write: Lessons Learned from Monica Hesse

Delightful Art Adventures

artful adventures
Nathalie Kalbach’s artwork has appeared in the magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors, and on videos on Artist Network TV.  I’ve been a big fan, and have eagerly been awaiting her new book, Artful Adventures in Mixed Media that focuses on “techniques inspired by observation and experience.” I’ve been thinking about observation a lot lately—the ways in which I’m moved and in awe of cityscapes, the natural world, and in particular, the magic that comes from seeing a place or a thing for the very first time.

Nathalie addresses observation in brilliant ways. One perspective in particular that resonated with me was the importance she places on details, colors, shapes and other elements e.g. different shapes that can be found in the patterns of ironwork doorways and windows, graffiti on city walls.  Nathalie encourages using our smartphone cameras to help record patterns we notice, to make notations about background sounds and scents, and on the go sketches.

I find that using observations in this way can make me feel more alive, more present in my surroundings. They help foster “be here now” type experiences and combined with favorite mark making tools, observing real-time can be the type of creative experiences that will often set me free.

Artful Adventures in Mixed Media offers thoughtful explorations. Ones that are often so difficult to articulate and describe in writing but fortunately for us, Nathalie Kalbach does it with great ease and clarity.


Instagram: Tips and Strategies to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

instagramInstagram, the online photo and video sharing and social network platform made its debut in 2010. Purchased by Facebook in April 2012—Instagram is perhaps every developers dream come true.

Over the years the platform’s popularity has continued to grow exponetially with milestone additions such as hashtags, filters, profile pages for mobile and Web, expansion of languages, videos, sponsored photos and videos, live video, and the ability to post up to ten pictures or videos at the same time, Instagram stories, business profiles  and the ability to turn Instagram posts into ads directly from the Instagram app itself. (source).

I’ve returned to using Instagram more frequently myself and was overdue to revisit the platform. (My last article about Instagram was in 2013. Eons ago on the socialsphere!)

In this article I’ll discuss a number of tips and strategies for getting the most bang for your buck on Instagram with examples from Instagram profiles for retailers, H&M and TopShop, and one Instagram influencer, Steven Fingar.

Special thanks to JustMetrics who generously provided access to their software for this article. As a result, I was able to easily pull-up invaluable analytics and insights about profiles: number of followers, likes, comments and published posts. Including time of day, top hashtags, top tagged users, top filters used, post type-photo or video and the posts lifespan.

Why Use Instagram?

Instagram offers businesses a creative communications strategy to drive users to their landing pages. It’s not too surprising but like all social media platforms, some businesses do a better job than others.

A recent article by Karen McCandless provides noteworthy insights for utilizing effective techniques on Instagram:

  1. know your audience;
  2. connect with other brands, products, people, places and businesses relevant to your company and start liking and commenting on their content;
  3. offer exclusive incentives;
  4. test calls to action;
  5. make your hashtags memorable;
  6. stop selling so hard;
  7. use multiple photos (clickable) to send followers to your landing page;
  8. measure your efforts;
  9. and explore third-party social media marketing apps to help drive conversion from Instagram to your landing pages. (e.g. four, soldier, social rank, and repost.

In addition to Instagram’s popularity with individuals and businesses, other observations about the platform have been made—most notably, the quality of the photos, composition, precision and editing have come a long way. (source)

Beautiful photos of all subject matters can be found on Instagram making it a great place to find inspiration of all kinds.

Instagram’s Learning Curve

Staying on top of announcements, updates, and best practices via regular reading of Instagram’s business blog can further one’s knowledge of Instagram and lead to better engagement.

For instance, one recent article describes a study around biometrics that shows how people react physiologically to ads on Instagram finding that respondents focused their attention more on the image portion of the ad than on the other parts, such as the text associated with the ad. This information supports the importance of sharing quality, artistic photos.

Building an Instagram Strategy

An Instagram strategy that includes detailed information about what, when, and how-to’s for your posts will also go a long way. Think hashtags, captions, choice of photos and videos, number of posts published per day, and mentions.
Strategic use of niche influencer-generated hashtags will foster better user engagement (source).

Avoid hashtags that contain over five million posts or so. That way your image will not be bogged down within seconds to a “black hole” of no return on that hashtag feed, because many users are posting that same hashtag at the same time as you. (source)

Create a hashtag with your brand name to leverage visibility and uniqueness.
For example, retailer TopShop uses #topshopstyle vs. #style. H&M uses #HMLovesCoachella vs. #Coachella. Steven Fingar used #jcrewdenim which demonstrates how the right hashtag will get a brand’s attention. In the example below, you can see how @jcrew saw the post and reached out to Fingar about using the photo in their marketing efforts.

justmetrics stevenfingar hashtags-640


steven fingar jcrewdenim.png
In this photo you can see how @jcrew saw the post with the hashtag #JCrewDenim and reached out to Fingar about using the photo in their marketing efforts.


Writing a good Instagram caption is key– one that provides context, adds personality, and inspires your followers to take action.

Good Instagram captions can be a short and sweet caption to a longer, in-depth storytelling post (up to 2200 characters.) (source)

One statistic by Simply Measured finds that posts that mention other users in the caption average 37% higher engagement.

captions top shop.jpg
An example of crafting a good caption. This one from TopShop includes a hashtag that points out their insta stories and promotes their weekend pop-up. We can see from the stats on this post that it had very high engagement for TopShop.

Frequency of Publishing Posts
Top brands now post 4.9 times per week on Instagram, an increase of more than 50 percent over 2015. (source)

Finding your posting sweet spot will go a long way.

*Data on JustMetrics showed that TopShop, H&M, and Steven Fingar all met or exceeded the 4.9 times per week.

Bios and Usernames
Your username and bio are the first thing visitors will see when they land on your profile—they’re important and should be crafted carefully. (source)

h-m profile
H&M includes hashtags users may follow and refers to their other Instagram pages, @HM_Man and @HM_Home, along with the URL for their website.

TopShop’s bio invites users to post photos with their hashtag #TopshopStyle and be featured on their Instagram.


Two things that are often forgotten: email and location. Depending on your type of business you may want to include your email to show potential clients and peers where they can contact you (for work or collaborations), and add a location so they know where you’re based. (source)

steven fingar profile
Steven Fingar does a great job including important contact information. And that he uses iPhone only.


Keep in mind when you build an audience that the majority of it will expect you to keep posting the same kind of images. You shouldn’t restrict yourself in posting only one genre, but try to be consistent in your posts. This will ensure that your images always reach the optimum number of people. (source)


justmetrics steven fingar coffee-640
Steven Fingar shares a lot of photos about coffee, coffee shops and their interiors. His followers love his photos of coffee .


justmetrics stevenfingar coffee2-640
Steven Fingar is wonderfully consistent about coffee photos while also exploring other areas of interest, too.  As he says, “Being consistent with the content you are posting as well as being authentic with the voice and moments captured are both equally important to maintain or grow an audience.”

Competitive Analysis
Evaluating your business and  businesses in your industry use of Instagram can help provide a competitive edge—noting what’s working, what’s not, and building those findings into your approach.  Using an analytics program like JustMetric’s will help make you explore the territory more deeply.

Here are a few examples from retailer H&M’s analytics:

This graphic from JustMetrics shows H&M’s hourly engagement rate–showing that one of their posts had peaked at 2 pm.  They may decide to post at this time on a more regular basis. Competitors in their industry could also take note of the time of day that users were online and active.


H-m followers
Based on JustMetric’s analytics, H&M would most likely want to see why there was so much fluctuation in their followers from one day to the next.
h-m top hashtags
H&M’s use of hashtag #hmlovescoachella provided an edge over other hashtags. But with Coachella being a time-limited event, they will need to focus on their next best options.


Instagram is an active, dynamic social media platform that can be adapted by businesses of all types, sizes and industries.

Run your Instagram profile like a well-oiled machine and you’ll be way ahead of the game–with successful posts, hashtags and engagement!

What ways can you improve your presence on Instagram? What steps will you take next? Leave your thoughts and comments in the space below.

Book Review | Besties

What I had hopedscreen-shot-2016-12-05-at-8-44-36-am to find in Besties by Leah Reena Goren were more generic relatable examples of best friends and value of friendships and relationships across generations. The book is more millennial-based (and perhaps a little too specific in my opinion to Taylor (a girl) or Moses (a cat) then this book is dedicated to.)

Every page of the book is illustrated, some more pleasing than others—and contain messages that are more universal such as “I can always count on you to help me make important life decisions.” And, “Even when we’re lost, we still have each other.”


If you’re a millennial and fortunate enough to have a best friend then this book will be for you.

Disclosure: I received this book from the
Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Mindfulness: A Journal

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-6-34-05-pmSerendipitously I was dreaming-up something like this for a journal I’d want to keep and lo and behold here it is, in a book form: Mindfulness: A Journal by Catherine Price.

I’ve wanted to return to journaling but was hesitant since I felt that if left to my own devices I’d use a journal as a dumping ground for negative thoughts or things I was hoping to sort out.  This book offers a mindfulness approach to writing and maintaining a journal that will be an excellent way to stay present and focused, and prompting users to stop and notice things in the world around us.

Catherine Price writes a lovely contemplative introduction to the book and has provided wonderful quotations and writing prompts. The recommended resources at the end of the book contain a number of authors you might hope and expect to see there along with a host of others whose names are more vaguely familiar.

The look and feel of the book was well-conceived, too.  A very pleasing subtle color and design. Perhaps the only thing I would have liked to have seen would have been stich binding, but that being said, this book is a real gift.

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.


Book Review | Think Happy by Karen Salmansohn

think-happyInstant pep talks to boost productivity aren’t the only thing you’ll get from Karen Salmansohns’ book Think Happy.

The book culls great information from a range of sources: brain researchers, psychologists, philosophers, motivation researchers, research studies, and folktales. The artwork is colorful, playful and even happy, too.  The book can be read cover-to-cover, or open a page any page to receive memorable quotes, meditations, lessons-learned, assignments, tips, and reminders.

Keep the book on your coffee table, on your night stand, or within your tote bag to help think happy.  I find myself thinking about Karen’s pep talks and telling other people about them, too.  Makes a great gift!

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Lessons in Classical Painting

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. Cliche? Maybe. But even holding the cover of the book, Lessons in Classical Painting: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier by Juliette Aristides in your hands, the reader knows that the text they are about to embark upon is a very good stand-in for not studying in a studio and that by learning from a book, this book, they will take a very valuable journey.

The book includes high quality whole-page prints, sometimes even 2-page pictures which hold high appeal to readers of art books. Great choice of pictures make it very appealing to the reader! The text is a good length, not too long, and coupled with many shorter passages makes it easy to read, and keeps the usability focus on people interested in the arts.

From the beginning of the book you go step by step into the process, at your own pace, which is important because it’s a book that can be read and then re-read many times.  It’s an educational process, one where the reader just like an art student will stop, look, question, go from foundational studies to discover their own process and what speaks to them in art making You get the feeling you get closer into the authors atelier the more you read, becoming more and more practical, messy and contemporary, what I like!

The book fits right into the art studio, and as a beautiful piece on a coffee table where artists and their friends are invited into a very special world.  Overall, I highly recommend, Lessons in Classical Painting!

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Wednesday Wisdom

Who can’t benefit from a little more focus in their life?!
Simply, focus helps me write, create, listen and be.

I’ve carved out a small area in a sunny room in my house. Set-up an altar of sorts with a tiny buddha, yoga statues, beach glass, shells and rocks I’ve collected along the way. And surround myself with books about writing, art and yoga, along with a myriad of magazines.

How do you create focus?


2 Essential Tips For Improving Your Website’s Searchability

BACK TO BASICSBusinesses often fall prey to caring about the next shiny thing for social media marketing but very often they’re missing the boat on key optimization for search engines.

As soon as I start talking with a client about their online presence the first thing I do is to check the title and description tags of their websites. A very nice program to help you find what you’re looking for in the html code is Knowem’s free social media optimizer tool.


Enter the name of your website (or a competitor’s for that matter) into the field on the top of the page and then select the tab Standard SEO.

Google used to weigh high relevancy on keywords but in the past few years that’s become less important.

Having a strong and relevant title and description of your website is key! Be sure too to pay attention and adhere to recommended number of characters.