The Effective Author: Got Aha Moments?

The Effective Author: Got Aha Moments?

© 2017 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.

aha moments

Aha moments come in several forms, and they can be magnificent turning points if we choose to let them be. Sometimes we work hard to get to these realization points. And sometimes they sneak up on us, subtly building in our consciousness until we cannot ignore them any longer. Will you recognize your aha moments and make the most of them?

Sometimes we work hard for clarity on, for example, a decision point. We need to decide what college major to choose, whether or not to go back to school for an advanced degree, even for an ordination. For these decisions, we may make a very conscious, concerted effort, and we are pleased – but not surprised – when we receive the answer we need. Systematic research gets us the answer we seek, at least for the current stage of life.

Sometimes, we are not sure what exactly the questions are. So we go to group coaching, workshops, and retreats that help us sort out our thoughts and feelings. There are even retreats to help business owners sort out the best form their businesses should take. As we open up and hear about others’ processes, our questions become defined and new kinds of realizations will come. Aha!

But sometimes sudden changes in life jolt us, and we are thrust into a new time of evaluation and consciousness. We get an abrupt injection of aha moments. In a personal example: my mother passed away early this year, and although I was expecting her passing, emotions struck hard. I had none (none!) of the “five stages of grief” described by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She said most people tend to experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But, instead of those, I had floods of memories demanding to be reconciled and released. I needed time to handle family business and those floods of memories. So I took bereavement leave from every board, committee, and lunch group, including a prayer team.

Then I had my huge aha moment: my life was surprisingly overcommitted! My aha moment became my transformation moment: I needed to select carefully what I actively included in my schedule, in my life. Complete freedom washed over me. Not only could I wipe my calendar and my commitments and start fresh, but I absolutely had to do so. I became aware that this freedom to choose, while something we all have, would take some months to feel out and live forward. I gave myself complete permission to do this and I knew Mom would think it was a great decision.

A superb way to harvest and leverage any aha moments is to journal every week, even every day. Journal on your iPhone, using the Notes app. Journal on pieces of paper and toss them in your journal drawer. Embrace your stages. Write to yourself: your observations, your questions, and your realizations. You’ll be amazed at what shows up that your pen knows but you didn’t. And now you have awesome fuel for nonfiction writing, as well as character experience material in your fiction writing.

Got aha moments? Leverage them for yourself, your life, and your writing. And now you’re a more Effective Author. Happy writing!

Kebba Buckley Button
is a stress management expert and author of the award-winning Kebba booksbook, Discover the Secret Energized You, as well as the 2013 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition. Her newest book, Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, is available through her office. Just email for more info. Like this article? Buy Kebba’s books by clicking the links! Reach the writer at For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group:

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Targeted Communication

Targeted Communication

by Rita Goldner

We authors often discuss at marketing meetings how important it is to have a Targeted conversationsspecific target, an actual person’s profile in mind when writing marketing copy, designing ads, and posting on social media sites. This target usually corresponds to our reader’s profile (except in the case of children’s book authors, whose marketing target is the adult who buys the books for our young audience). I’m learning that having a specific target in any form of communication is vital to the successful delivery of a message, whether it be marketing, creative writing, or even a simple conversation. After a boatload of presentations, and trial/error at schools, book signings, and fairs, I’ve come up with a few observations:

  1. The recipient of the communication, not the deliverer, gets to decide if it’s interesting, funny, or relevant.
  2. If the listener doesn’t “get it,” it’s not because they’re obtuse or dense; it’s because the information wasn’t presented correctly.
  3. If the audience misinterprets, has their feelings hurt, or becomes offended, it’s almost always the fault of the speaker/writer. (If they deliberately intended to offend, then I guess they were successful.)
  4. A good speaker has to be agile enough to sense changes in mood, distractions for the audience, and their surroundings. (For example, you thought the audience would have chairs and they’re standing; or you thought you’d be indoors and you’re outdoors.) This requires an abrupt change in the delivery, and even the content.

In regard to my first observation, I’ve heard people say “Wait ‘til I tell you this funny joke” or “I have something important to tell you.” I recently received an advertisement email that said in the subject line “from a trusted source.” In all three examples, shouldn’t I be the judge of that?

In the second observation, I’ve heard people say “He’s too sensitive” or “He took it wrong” or “I was only kidding – he has no sense of humor.” In all of these instances, the onus is on the speaker to present better.

My third observation reminds me of a recent presentation I made at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. My hosts were wonderful and accommodating, but told me they hadn’t tried this storytelling model before, and I was their “guinea pig.” Fortunately I’ve learned to be flexible, especially with kids, so I welcomed the challenge. I had planned a reading from my orangutan picture book, which I’ve timed at 7-10 minutes. But I was flanked by a live iguana on one side and a python on the other side, which the kids were welcome to touch, handle, and ask the rangers questions about during my presentation. I was fine with this setup, as I heartily applaud any wildlife and conservation education for kids. But I knew Plan A wouldn’t work, so I shifted to Plan B, which was a conversational style, asking and answering questions. Ironically, in a few instances a parent came over, asked questions, and bought the book while their child was occupied with something else and didn’t even know. I also signed up subscribers for my newsletter Orangutans and More! (subscribe below), and hurriedly handed out free coloring pages as the families drifted away.

As a concluding example of targeted communication, I’ll use a wonderful book I’m reading. (I guess YOU’LL be the judge of that, if you choose to read it!) It’s Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D.Vance. The author grew up in severe poverty as a self-proclaimed hillbilly in the Appalachian Mountains. He escaped his destiny, joined the Marines, and later graduated from Yale Law School. Consequently, his readers range from very well educated people to hillbillies. With such a wide spectrum, he uses a clear, straightforward, and simple vocabulary that appeals to both extremes. A tough balancing act, but he pulls it off expertly. That’s my goal as author and speaker.

Comments welcome!

Rita Goldner

Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book,
Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series. For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.

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Peggy Hull, U. S. War Correspondent: 1889-1967

Peggy Hull, U. S. War Correspondent: 1889-1967

by C.K. Thomas

In 1918, Peggy Hull’s appointment as the first woman to be officially accredited by the War Department as a U.S. War Correspondent changed a longstanding policy Peggy Hullof barring women from such a designation. Certainly to her advantage were friendships with Brigadier General John J. Pershing, who famously pursed Poncho Villa into Mexico in 1916, and General Peyton C. March, Chief of Staff of the U. S. Army.

During the nine months Pershing pursued Poncho Villa, Hull reported to the El Paso Morning Times on the daily lives of National Guard troops stationed in camps along the Texas-Mexico border. Both Pershing and March knew Hull from her Mexico border conflict articles and also from her six weeks of artillery training camp reporting to both the Morning Times and the Army Edition of the Chicago Tribune.

“Her account in the Morning Times of Pershing’s return with his troops is thought to be one of the most descriptive and accurate of the newspaper reports of the event.”* The headline on this Morning Times front page story read: “Pershing’s Ten Thousand Back from Mexico, Silent, Swarthy, and Strong.” On page 4 of this article, a photo shows Peggy Hull on horseback at the front of the column of returning soldiers, captioned, “Peggy Rides at Head of Cavalcade of Distinguished United States Army Officers.” (See the link below to read this beautifully written piece.)**

The names Peggy Hull and Peggy Hull Deuell were pseudonyms used by Henerietta Eleanor Goodnough, who began life on a farm in Bennington, Kansas. Hull started her journalism career setting type and reporting for the Junction City (Kansas) Daily Sentinel. Her career took off and flourished with stints at newspapers in Colorado, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Ohio. Hull’s war reporting took her to Britain and France during WWI and to Siberia in 1918 with the U.S. Expeditionary Force. In 1919 and again in 1921, she wrote for the Shanghai Gazette. During WWII, Hull reported on the war in the Pacific while stationed in Hawaii.

Hull retired to Carmel, California and died of cancer in 1967. Her writing reflected her willingness to embed with the troops, sleep on the ground, and march with them carrying a full pack without complaint. Readers especially remembered her for reporting personal accounts and stories of the hardships and rigors the soldiers endured during wartime.

Peggy Hull’s history begs a deeper inspection. Check out the links below for more.

 *A. Bogart, “Deuell, Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough [Peggy Hull],” accessed May 26, 2017.

**University of Arizona Libraries Digital Collection – Hull’s News Account of Pershing’s Return with Troops from Mexico.

The University of Kansas Libraries;route=ksrlead;brand=ksrlead;query=Peggy%20Hull

Peggy Hull: Her Voice from the Front

___________________________C.K. Thomas
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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Sometimes, Life Gets in the Way!

Sometimes, Life Gets in the Way!

by Joe Carroccio

Some years ago, I created and wrote a book about life’s distractions and interruptions. Law of DistractionThe following is “The Law of Distraction and Interruption.”

Life’s Distractions, if you allow them, will keep you from achieving your goals and dreams. Interruptions either slow you down or completely stop you from implementing what you set out to accomplish.

I try to practice what I preach, but sometimes life gets in the way and you need to slow down and regroup.

Well, this is what happened to Marti and me during the month of April.

Marti – dedicated, loving, first-time grandmother – has been focusing on helping and supporting her daughter with the care of her new grandson, William. It has truly been a full-time job.

Baby William.jpg

She was, however, able to coordinate with our Beatles PR person, Nicole Michael, to do a radio interview in May. And of course, she will still be attending The Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago, and most likely will speak at the event. We are still waiting to hear from festival management for specifics.

So what about me? I’ve been off my feet, with a “pain full” health issue. Not to belabor the details, but it has been a great distraction and interruption in my life. The good news is that I’m getting better as I write this post, hoping to fully recoup sometime soon.

These events will not distract us from our goals. We will accomplish our agenda, not limited to the following:

  • Book signings at Zia’s two Tucson locations
  • Work with the I.M. (Musical Instrument Museum) with regard to Global Beatles Day celebration in June and John Lennon’s birthday celebration in September.
  • Of course, the search is still to locate a movie producer. This is my priority!

Distractions and interruptions will not stop us from achieving our goals or implementing our program. This is great advice for every author!

shades of beatles

Please check us out on the web at We really appreciate any feedback and suggestions.

____________________________Joe Carroccio
Joe Carroccio is the coauthor of 
16 in ’64: The Beatles and the Baby Boomers. Learn more at:

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I Can See Clearly Now… (Darn It!)

I Can See Clearly Now… (Darn It!)

by Mary Ellen Stepanich

Note: This blog isn’t about writing or publishing, but it is about “seeing yourself as others see you,” which is probably good advice for anyone who hopes to succeed in any venue.

First, a little backstory: I have always hated the idea of being cut open. That’s why I charlie to cheer meresist surgery proposed by any doctor – no matter how good she is or how much I trust him. I remember putting off my hysterectomy until the fibroid tumor was as big as a grapefruit. I postponed the pacemaker implant until I was being hospitalized every 10 weeks for atrial fibrillation and tachycardia, culminating in a massive stroke (from which I recovered completely, thank God).

I’ve been squinting trying to see clearly for a few years now, because my regular eye doctor said he couldn’t make my glasses any stronger until I had cataract surgery. (Actually, he flat out refused.) I even went to one of those eye-doctors-in-the-mall, hoping to get a set of “bootleg” glasses. Boy, was I surprised when the examining optometrist shooed away the avaricious eyeglass salesman: “She cannot buy new glasses until she has her cataracts removed.”

When my nearsighted eyes could no longer read the labels on medicine bottles, even with magnifying glasses, I decided to succumb to the inevitable. I made an appointment with a cataract surgeon, Dr. Pamela Williams, who came highly recommended by my primary care provider. She was “in the network,” so the cost would be manageable. But I wasn’t sure my anxiety level could be managed. I researched cataract surgery online, and the description of the procedure terrified me. (I won’t share it here, but take my word for it – it sounded barbaric!)

The doctor impressed me at our first visit. She was kind and obviously knowledgeable.

More importantly, she seemed genuinely concerned about me. We talked at length about the various types of implants that she might use and finally decided on a near-focus lens that would mimic the nearsightedness I’ve had all my life. We agreed on a date, and I bowed to the inevitable – she was going to slice my eye open with a knife, suck out the clouded lens, and implant a new one that would allow me to see clearly.

I won’t dwell on the surgery itself. Suffice it to say that the “bark was worse than the bite.” In other words, the waiting caused me more pain and anxiety than the surgery itself. (As a matter of fact, all I saw during the procedure was light, surrounded by abstract color patterns.) Shortly after the surgery, my friend drove me home. Once alone in my bathroom, I carefully removed the protective plastic shield covering my eye and looked at myself in the mirror.

i can see clearly

I was astonished at what I saw reflected there!

My face was covered in canyon-deep wrinkles that made me look like a 99-year-old hag in a Disney movie. Worse than that, I had a forest of hairs like a tangled bird’s nest sprouting under my chin. How had my friends and neighbors managed to look at me all this time without gagging and throwing up in disgust?

Yes, I can see clearly now, darn it. Life was easier to handle with a soft scrim covering everything – rather like a Doris Day movie. Now, I have to face life as it really is. Worse yet, others will have to see me as I really am.

Maybe I’ll try a burka.

Mary Ellen StepanichDr. Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior. She told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior’s a bit wonky.” Her publications include academic journal articles; stories in Good Old Days magazine; a memoir, D is for Dysfunctional … and Doo-Wop; a novel, The Doo-Wops and the B-Flat Murder; and an award-winning radio play, Voices From the Front. Mary Ellen blogs on her website at, and can be reached via e-mail at

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Top Tips for Using Apostrophes with Letters, Words, and Numbers

Top Tips for Using Apostrophes with Letters, Words, and Numbers

by Kathleen Watson

everyones a critic

The apostrophe helps us form contractions (what’s new), shows us that something is missing (rock ‘n’ roll), and helps us create possessives and plurals.

These examples will help you make the right decision: to add or skip the apostrophe.

Let’s first look at using apostrophes with plurals of letters and words.

When you have a single letter (lowercase or capital) that you want to make plural, add an apostrophe:

  • Mind your p’s and q’s.
  • He reviewed the contract to be sure he had dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s.
  • The Oakland A’s play the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

When you have multiple capital letters, do not add an apostrophe:

  • She knew her ABCs by the time she started nursery school.
  • Four VIPs joined Prince Charles in his private box at the opera.
  • Someone vandalized all of the bank’s ATMs.

Exception: If you intend to show possession for the capital letters, add an apostrophe:

  • The VIP’s wallet disappeared from her desk drawer.
  • The ATM’s keypad wouldn’t work.
  • NASA’s budget will be cut again next year.

When you have a word you want to make plural, generally do not add an apostrophe:

  • He cluttered his presentation with too many ands.
  • His life is full of regrets about should-haves.
  • How many pleases does your child say in a day?

Exceptions: If making a word plural without an apostrophe might cause confusion for readers, add one:

Thank you’s and do’s and don’ts need apostrophes. Yous could be slang — think of Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky and yous guys — and dos could be confused with the Spanish word for two or for the ancient DOS computer operating system.


Using Apostrophes With Numbers

Now that we’ve covered how to use apostrophes with letters and words, let’s look at how to use them with numbers.

When you add an s to numbers to make them plural, do not add an apostrophe:

  • Temperatures dropped into the low 20s last night.
  • There were four 727s waiting on the tarmac.
  • She said both size 9s were too loose.

When writing about years as decades, do not add an apostrophe:

  • She writes regularly about music of the 1960s.
  • He spent three years refurbishing a car from the 1940s.
  • She found her 1980s cheerleading sweater in the attic.

However, when the year is specific and designates possession, add an apostrophe:

  • During 1936’s Olympic Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in track and field events.
  • Funds raised this year surpassed 2015’s efforts.
  • 1929’s stock market crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression.

Other Number Issues

Avoid using numbers to begin a sentence except when the numbers express a year:

2015 was the best year we’ve had in a decade.

Either write out the number or rewrite the sentence:

Incorrect: 95 percent of my day is spent responding to emails.
Correct: Ninety-five percent of my day is spent responding to emails.
Correct: I spend 95 percent of my day responding to emails.

To summarize, do not use an apostrophe when you are making numbers plural (727s) or when referring to a decade (the 1970s).

But when you get specific about a particular year with a possessive construction, an apostrophe is appropriate: The Chicago White Sox were 2005’s World Series champions.

Bonus Tip: Ever wonder about the origin of tps and qshe phrase Mind your p’s and q’s? One source claims the expression originated in British pubs as an abbreviation for mind your pints and quarts. Another source claims that it originated with printers who set headlines in movable type. Because the lower-case p and q are mirror images of each other, a reminder to watch your p’s and q’s meant using care to return the printing dies for those letters to their correct place after use.

I hope these tips save you time from having to stop to look up usage guidelines for apostrophes when your creative juices are flowing. Punctuation isn’t as much fun as developing characters and creating fictional twists and turns, but it is necessary to clearly convey your story.

kathleen-watsonKathleen Watson has nearly three decades of experience as an independent business writer, serving clients in both corporate and academic settings. Her weekly blog, Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor, offers practical word and punctuation tips, as does her recently published book Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor. Contact her at:

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The Lost Art of Letter Writing

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

by Barbara Renner

With today’s technology, not many people or businesses write letters anymore, but there is an art to letter writing. Believe it or not, I taught an entire course on Business Letter Writing at a career college. Did you know there is a strategy for writing a letter letter writing.pngdelivering bad news? The writer begins the letter with a buffer to soften the bad news. This explains the situation, or gives background information, before the negative news is presented. Cable companies use this strategy when they inform customers of a rate increase. They begin the letter with all the services they provide and innovations they have created; then, bam, the rate increase is hidden in the third or fourth paragraph.

In all letters, whether they convey bad news, positive news, or a persuasive request, the three C’s are applied. The writer must be Clear, Complete, and Concise. To be Clear, write to express ideas, not to impress the reader with flowery language or jargon that can be misinterpreted. A Complete message is one that contains all the information necessary to get your point across to the reader. This means going back to reread your letter and edit where necessary. Being Concise is writing the message with the fewest words possible. Eliminate repetition. Replace wordy phrases. Limit the use of modifiers. Minimize the use of descriptive words. Use active voice.

One final strategy about letter writing is to avoid the use of negative words. Instead of writing “Please don’t hesitate to call me” write “Feel free to call me at any time.” Replace “Don’t forget to mail this letter today” with “Please remember to mail this letter today.”

Letter writing has been replaced with emailing; however, the same basic principles outlined above apply, only with fewer words. The best way to organize an email is with a salutation, a focus statement, a paragraph containing details, and a closing. The salutation is written “Dear Ms. Jackson:” or “Good morning, Liz,” The focus statement contains a few sentences that state what the email is going to be about. Then the details are added using short, concise sentences. The closing, followed by your name, is simply “Thank you for your help,” or “I hope to hear from you soon,”

I have two final comments about emails. First, use the three P’s for your subject line. Make it Precise, Positive, and Professional. Second, do not use popular slang acronyms such as BTW, NP, or Thx. Using them is not professional, and they could be misinterpreted. Some of you may have heard the joke where a woman sent emails announcing the passing of her aunt. She signed each email with LOL. When her son asked why she was Laughing Out Loud about her aunt’s death, the woman responded that she thought LOL meant Lots of Love.


What does the art of letter writing mean for authors? First of all, authors are used to writing novels and thousands of words and lots of description. It’s difficult for a writer to be concise and precise. Second, authors may have occasions to write query letters to agents. Queries can be snail mail letters or emails, depending on the agent’s required submission guidelines. In addition to following the advice on letter and email writing, here are some tips:

  • Include the word “Query” in the subject line along with your working title in all caps.
  • Use the name of the agent in the salutation, and ensure the name is spelled correctly.
  • Keep your letter to just one page.
  • Pitch your story in the first paragraph in 1 to 2 sentences. Include a summarization of the key points of your plot and character names.
  • Write copy about your book in the second paragraph. This includes what the protagonist has to face, the tone of the story, and the best explanation of the story set-up.
  • Explain the nuts and bolts in the third paragraph. This includes title, word count, and genre.
  • Mention why you have chosen this agent in the fourth paragraph. This could go in the first paragraph instead.
  • State which parts are included in the email or attached to the letter in the fifth paragraph.
  • Sell yourself with a short bio in the sixth paragraph. List your blog, social media, professional organizations, awards, etc.
  • Thank the agent for their time and consideration.
  • Close with “Sincerely,” or “Best regards,” your signature or typed name, phone number, personal address, and email address.
  • Send one query at a time; do not send an email blast to multiple agents.

It’s very important to follow the agent’s submission guidelines with each query, so these tips may vary. The practice of writing letters may be lost, but the art of letter writing can be applied in other ways.

Barbara Renner and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Barbara RennerBirds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.

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