A Challenging Month #platchal

A Challenging Month #platchal

The 2015 October Platform Challenge, directed by Senior Content Editor for Writer’s Digest Community, Robert Lee Brewer, has come to an end. Looking back on the month, I can not believe how much I have learned and accomplished.

I have been forced out of my comfort zone – very, very far out of it. I now have a presence on five different social media sites. I have a blog. I understand more about SEO (search engine optimization), and I even make an effort to put into practice what I have learned about it.

I have unified my presence within my writing platform, so anyone looking for the writer Marge Cutter should be able to find me easily, even if they look under Margaret (Cutter) Tesch.

I have forged new friendships and am following many writers, both established and aspiring, whom I did not know a month ago. Through them, I have been exposed to writing groups, tools for writers, and writing websites, as well as agents and publishers of whom I was unaware.

I am organizing my time more efficiently through the use of monthly, weekly and daily planners, and I am getting better at actually sticking to my plans.

I think I have grown and stretched as a writer, and will benefit greatly from all I learned this month.

So, all in all, this has been a very challenging month for me, but a constructive one, and a very valuable experience.

Today’s blog entry marks the end of my daily blog posts, since I have been blogging almost exclusively about the 2015 October Platform Challenge. Starting with my next blog post, I will begin blogging weekly rather than daily. I hope to keep you entertained and engaged with my posts, which will continue to be mostly about my own writing, or issues facing the writing community today. Occasionally, I hope to have a guest blogger step in and give you a break from my posts. Rarely, I may step away from the topic of writing and blog about something else in my world or yours.

So, feel free to stop back from time to time and see what I’m up to. I’ll keep the porch light on for you.

A Halloween treat – guest blog by Eliza Winkler

A Halloween treat – guest blog by Eliza Winkler

Today’s task for the 2015 October Platform Challenge is to write. So, while I go do that, I would like to give you all a Halloween treat. I am going to ask a wonderful writer and storyteller, Eliza Winkler, to entertain you today. I know you will enjoy her tale:

(Every week, Writer’s Digest puts a creative writing prompt up on their website. Here is my story based on this week’s prompt, Halloween Candy Thief Revenge)

At the sound of the doorbell my son Jake comes running from down the hall, hollow plastic jack-o-lantern in one hand as his cloak flutters behind him. He’s already six, and he looks more like his father every day. “Mommymommymommy! Is it time for trick treating?”

I can’t help but smile at my little Dracula’s enthusiasm. He grins at me, his plastic fangs in place as I answer the door. His friend Kenny waits on the other side, along with his teenage cousin. She smiles reassuringly at me. “I’ll keep a close eye on them, Mrs. Crane. I’ll have him back by eight and make sure he doesn’t eat any of his candy before you can look it over.”

My son gives my legs a hug before running out the door, focused on his quest for sugar. I watch from the door until they turn the corner and disappear from sight, my stomach doing acrobatics at his first year out without me. Needing distraction, I pick up a book then set it down and instead settle for my favorite old show on Netflix. I’ve seen it probably hundreds of times, so it doesn’t matter if I pay attention or not. I know it by heart.

The second episode is just beginning when I get the feeling that something is terribly wrong. I’m just reaching for the phone when there’s a knock at the door. My son bursts in as soon as I open the door, tears streaming down his face. His hands are empty, and his cloak is torn and dirty, splattered with what looks like paint.

I scoop him up and he cries into my shoulder. Kenny’s cousin appears at the doorway, looking equally distraught. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Crane.”

“What happened?”

“There were three high school boys that were shooting kids with paintball guns and stealing their candy. There wasn’t anything I could do. I couldn’t stop them.” Her words are rushed, and I squeeze her shoulder.

“It’s okay. Get Kenny home. I’ll take care of this.” I close the door behind her and set my son down. I wipe his tears away and kiss his forehead. “It’s okay, baby, I’ll take care of it. Why don’t you go clean up? We’ll watch a movie and eat popcorn when I’m done.”

He nods and scurries upstairs to change as I dial the nonemergency police line….and get put on hold. I’m still waiting when my son skips down the stairs and hops up onto my lap where I’m sitting on the couch. He’s no longer sad, instead smiling and as happy as he was when he put on his costume.

“Who are you talking to?”

“The police,” I reply. Or I would be if they’d take me off hold.

“You don’t need to,” he says, reaching for the TV remote. “Daddy said he’d take care of it.”

I still, feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach. “Jake, Daddy died when you were a baby.”

He smiles up at me. “He said you’d say that. It’s okay, Mommy. He visits me a lot.”

“Can….can you tell me what this man looks like?”

Jake rolls his eyes, hops down and runs over to the photo of my wedding day that sits on the sideboard and points to Scott. “Him! It’s Daddy.”

”I’m sorry about the delay, ma’am,” a voice says in my ear. ”How can I help you?”

I reply slowly, struggling to remember why I called. “Yes, my son and his friend had their candy stolen by a group of teenage boys who were shooting the little kids with paintball guns.”

”Was this in the Sandy Heights area?”


”It’s been taken care of, ma’am. A gentleman just escorted three teens into the station who confessed to the theft and assaults.”

“Can you tell me what he looked like? The gentleman who brought them in?”

He rattles off a clinical description that’s typical of police reports or news articles, but with each word I feel my nerves wind a little tighter. He could easily be describing the very picture of my husband that I’m staring at. “Is…is he still there?”

”No, ma’am, I’m sorry. He disappeared when they took the kids back for processing.”

“Thank you,” I reply, ending the call. There’s no way…It couldn’t be him….That’s impossible.

“Can we watch Hotel Transylvania?” Jake asks once he sees that I’m off the phone.

I ruffle his hair. “Sure.” At the sound of the doorbell, I get up. “Put it on and I’ll make popcorn,” I tell him as I reach for the doorknob. When I open the door there’s no one there, just Jake’s plastic jack-o-lantern filled to overflowing with candy. As I pick it up I pluck the small sticky note off the handle. I feel as though my world has been turned on its head as I read the words in the bold, familiar handwriting. Scott may have been gone for six years now, but his handwriting is something I’ll never forget.

I told him I’d handle it.

Eliza Winkler has been crafting worlds and creating characters since high school and has written several short stories and poems, which can be found on her blog sheepcarrot.wordpress.com, along with tales of gardening, family, and life in general. She lives in the small town of Shippensburg, PA with her fiancé and two drooly four-legged kids. You can connect with Eliza on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Join ANOTHER Social Media Site?

Join ANOTHER Social Media Site?

Well, either Mr. Brewer is not following my blog, or he is following it, and today’s task is his fiendish response.

The task for day 29 of the 2015 October Platform Challenge is…wait for it… “Join Another Social Media Site.”

Another one? As I asked just yesterday in this blog “how much social media is too much?”

Although I have completed this task – you can now find me at https://www.pinterest.com/margecutter1/ – I really don’t foresee much activity for me on that forum. Enough is enough! I assure you I am not anti-social, I am just too busy!

My frustrations are being echoed across social media by my fellow participants in this challenge. Several people have tweeted or posted that they feel overwhelmed by this challenge, that they don’t know how to manage their social media, and that they don’t know how much time to spend on all these sites.

I have decided that my novels come first – I must spend the bulk of my work day coaxing my characters into revealing themselves, and promising them I won’t feed them all to the dragon if I get frustrated with them. Then, at least once a week, I must craft query letters to carefully researched agents and publishers. I will never achieve my goal of becoming a published author if I am the only one enjoying my characters’ stories.

The time I spend on my “Writer’s Platform,” specifically on the social media portion of the platform, will be a very small portion of my work day. That will change sometime in the future, when I can finally announce the publication of my first novel. Then, the social media will have a more definitive purpose – to help promote the novel and find a larger audience for my writing.

Until then, my apologies to Mr. Brewer, but there is a reason writers need to be coaxed, prodded and dragged into the world of social media. We just don’t have time to be social!

Feel free to stop back from time to time. I’ll keep the porch light on for you. Just don’t trip over any of my characters…and don’t poke the dragon!



Right on the heels of yesterday’s “Get Social,” today’s task for the 2015 October Platform Challenge is “Join Goodreads.”

Goodreads is yet another social media site; but, unlike Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others I am (now) familiar with (and a member of), Goodreads seems to be a social media site with a singular purpose – to share the love of books and reading.

It is, I think, more geared for readers than writers, although both will benefit. Join Goodreads and you will get to see other members’ virtual bookshelves and read their reviews and ratings. You can fill your virtual bookshelves with titles you have read, ones you are reading, and those you plan to read. You can contribute your ratings and reviews, join discussions groups, start book clubs, contact authors and even post your own writing.

Although at first glance, Goodreads seems geared toward readers, it also provides many tools for authors to promote their books. I have already found several authors there I have connected with on Facebook and Twitter, and I will be following them on Goodreads, too.

It will take time to explore Goodreads, and I hope, as a reader, to participate. Maybe even as an author, someday. Maybe.

However, as an aspiring author I can’t help but ask – how much social media is too much? If an author has a personal website does that author really need to join Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Goodreads? Is that author really reaching additional readers with each social media site? Does the author provide the exact same content for each site? If the author provides different content for each of the social media sites, and interacts with fans on each site, when does that author have time to craft books?

Clearly, this dinosaur needs to explore further.

Feel free to stop back from time to time. I’ll keep the porch light on for you. If I’m not here, check my social media.




and now https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/48363787-marge-cutter-tesch

Get Social

Get Social

The assigned task for the 27th day of the 2015 October Platform Challenge is “Get Social.”

To help us with that, Mr. Brewer is again hosting a pair of #platchal chat on Twitter; but he also encouraged us to make new connections, respond to tweets and/or status updates, like and comment on Facebook posts, retweet with a comment on Twitter, and send direct messages to people. As Mr. Brewer pointed out, “Making a concerted effort to get social and forge deeper connections with your target audience and other like-minded writers, editors, and agents can only help bring about more opportunities for success.”

Get social. For the most part, humans are social creatures. Humans generally live, work and play in concert with other members of the human species. And writers are human. So, why do so many writers need so much prodding to “get social” and forge connections? Why do so many writers need a blue-print showing, step-by-step, the necessary tactics for remaining connected with their target audience and others within the writing/publishing community?

Writing is generally considered a solitary profession. A novelist does not work in a cube-farm, lunch with his fellow workers in the company cafeteria, attend endless meetings with colleagues, or engage in most of the activities associated with work in the corporate world.

Writers write. They spend hours pouring over words, transferring them from their minds and imaginations to the computer screen or sheaves of paper. They rarely communicate with anyone during working hours, unless it is to send a proposal, a query, or a manuscript to a publisher or agent.

Writers also read. They can spend as many hours reading as writing. Again, a solitary pursuit.

So, it seems reasonable that writers can forget how to connect with other writers and like-minded people within the industry. Hopefully, The October Platform Challenge has helped one group of writers, including yours truly, to bone up on our socializing skills.

Feel free to stop back from time to time. Maybe we can spend some time socializing. I’ll keep the porch light on for you.

Make a Task List

Make a Task List

For day 26 of the 2015 October Platform Challenge, Mr. Brewer has directed us to make a task list for the month of November, and then continue making monthly task lists each and every month thereafter.

If you remember back to day 14, when our task was to create a time management plan, I made a confession. I admitted that – as a self-employed writer – time management was my nemesis. Without deadlines imposed by a corporate boss, I had gotten lazy with my time management.

Remembering how organized I used to be when I worked in retail management, I decided to return to what worked for me back then. I am now keeping monthly, weekly and daily planners.

The last day or two of the month, I will pencil in all appointments, deadlines (self-imposed and otherwise) and planned tasks for the following month on a calendar page for that month. On Sunday nights, I will fill out my weekly planner for the following Monday-Sunday week, using my monthly calendar as a guide. And every night, I will fill out a daily planner sheet with the next day’s appointments, tasks, and challenges, using my weekly planner as a guide.

And my planner will be color coded. (Perhaps I am going a bit overboard?)

If I have an appointment at a specific time (be it an appointment with my doctor, or an online chat), it will be written in red. If it is a personal task that can be completed at my convenience that day (grocery shopping, laundry, etc.), it will be written in green. If it is a writing task which must be completed, but has no set start time (complete a chapter of the book I am writing, research an agent, craft and submit a query, complete a #platchal challenge), it will be written in purple. I will check each task off as I complete it.

So today’s Platform Challenge task will be completed by the end of this month, and will be continued for each month thereafter.

Feel free to stop back from time to time and see the new, fully organized me! I’ll keep the porch light on for you. (That will be the last task for the day each day, and I will check it off in the appropriately colored ink.)

Pitch a Guest Post for Another Blog

Pitch a Guest Post for Another Blog

Day 25 of the October Platform Challenge, and the task dujour is a doozy! Well, at least for me, it is.

Today, we have to pitch a guest post for another blog. Basically, that means this writer, who just started blogging this month and has a total of 23 blog posts under her belt, has to approach another blogger and say, “Hey, I’ve got this great idea for a post that would be ideal for your blog, and I would like to write it for you.”

Me. The person who has only blogged about the daily tasks associated with the October Platform Challenge. Me. The person who isn’t even sure what I want to blog about once this month and the challenge reach their photo finish.

The blogs I tend to read are written by people who have a lot of success in their field, such as published authors who blog about writing, or naturalists who blog about birding, or award-winning photographers who blog about photography techniques. I read these blogs to learn.

I am not yet a successful author. I am an aspiring author. I am still learning my craft. I have no ideas to pitch to other bloggers who blog about writing. They draw on their own experience and achievements for their blog posts. I have yet to enjoy their level of experience, or achieve their success.

The same goes for my hobbies of bird-watching and photography. I am not an expert in either field; nor do I have the experience necessary to write with any authority on these subjects.

So…does that mean I have met my Waterloo? Ha! I laugh at the thought of defeat! “Surrender” is not in my vocabulary.

It may take me a while, but I will conceive an idea, and create a post worthy of another’s blog. I will pitch them the idea, and smile when they readily accept. Until then, if you need me for anything, I will be sitting in the corner, wearing my thinking cap. (And you thought it was a dunce cap! Shows what you know!)

Feel free to stop back from time to time. I’ll keep the porch light on for you.

SEO again

SEO again

Day 24 of the 2015 October Platform Challenge: write a blog post.

Really, Mr. Brewer? Didn’t you assign us that task before? All the way back on day 4?

Oh, I see…the blog post for today’s task is supposed to build on what we learned yesterday about SEO! Let’s see…what was SEO again? Wait, I remember – it stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it basically means using the right keywords to ensure the writer’s blog post will rise to the top of any searches done for these keywords.

Yesterday, the challenge participants were instructed to make a list of keywords we want our website or blog to be known for. This was probably the most difficult part of yesterday’s task for me. What do I want my blog to be known for?

Right now, I am just blogging about the challenge, and how I approach or complete each day’s task. Once the challenge ends at the end of October, I will change my blog from a daily post to a weekly post, and I will be forced to find a new source of topics. I confess that my editorial calendar for November and going forward looks a tad sparse!

What will I want my blog to be known for then? As an as-yet unpublished author, I don’t have a lot of advice to share on how to be a successful author. I don’t have a lot of anecdotes with which to regal my blog readers, about my first agent, or first publisher, or first book-signing. So I don’t want my blog to be the go-to spot for instruction on success, and I don’t want people to seek out my blog for inspiration for their own writing career.

I suppose I could share tidbits about my WIPs (works in progress) in my blog. I could tell about the characters, or share a favorite scene. I just have to be careful not to give away too many details! Once the novels are actually published, I do want people to have to read the books to discover the stories. What’s the old expression? Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? Well, I imagine I can offer a sip or two, but not a full glass…just enough to whet the readers’ appetite. But, on the whole, I don’t want my blog to be seen as nothing more than a marketing site for my books…until after they are published. Then, marketing my books will definitely be a part of my blog, and something I would want my blog to be known for.

Until then, I could share “the writer’s life” and give my readers a glimpse into my daily routine. But “write for two hours, research agents and markets, craft a query letter and contact a new agent or publisher, then write for another two hours” basically tells the whole story. There’s nothing glamorous or mysterious to share there, nothing blog-worthy.

I could share other parts of my life with my readers – chronicle the two-hour bird-watching hike I took, describe the graceful hummingbird I saw at my feeders, brag on my husband’s grandsons when they achieve something special in school or sports, review a movie or book, complain about the lousy customer service at some store I shopped…

But what do I really want my blog to be known for? I guess, for now, I just want my blog to entertain my readers. That’s one of the main reasons I am writing my series of novels – to entertain people. (That, and to keep my characters from murdering me in the dead of night, as I sleep. I find that as long as I keep writing about them, they remain non-threatening.)

But, getting back to the challenge – what “keywords” do I need to use to achieve the dual purpose of entertaining my readers and keeping my blog posts at the top of search-engine results? To quote Yul Brenner’s character in The King and I, “Is a puzzlement!”

What do you think?

Feel free to stop back from time to time. I’ll keep the porch light on for you.

Thinking SEO

Thinking SEO

SEO. A few weeks ago, I could not have told you what this means. Now, thanks to Robert Lee Brewer and Day 24 of his excellent 2015 October Platform Challenge, I know SEO means search engine optimization.

In Mr. Brewer’s own words, this is just another way to say “what gets your website/blog to display at or near the top of a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.”

Yeah. That’s important. The whole purpose of creating a writer’s platform is visibility. The blog is a big part of that. But what can an aspiring author blog about that would use keywords to allow prospective readers to find her?

This will be a huge challenge for me. I want my audience to view me as a writer they enjoy, someone whose work they seek out. What sort of keywords could I possibly use for that?

I have a lot more research to do on this concept of SEO and keywords. In the meantime, I have done a little sprucing up of my blog. With the help of a good friend who (unlike me) is not a dinosaur, and who understands how these thing work, I have been experimenting with themes, colors, menus and such. Even if I still don’t have the right keywords to get people to seek me out, at least I think the people who discover me will find the place a little more professional looking than before, a little more inviting.

And the rest will come. This is just the beginning of the journey. And I want to thank those who have helped me along the way!

Feel free to stop back from time to time. I’ll keep the porch light on for you.

Presenting a Unified Me

Presenting a Unified Me

Two days ago, I wrote about some mistakes I had made while creating my writer’s platform.

I was Margaret (Marge) Mead Cutter for almost 36 years. Until I remarried a few years ago, all my online accounts, from e-mail to social media, were under the name Cutter. After I remarried, I changed some of the accounts to my new last name, Tesch, but failed to change them all. When I created new accounts, such as this blog, I used my new name.

One of the purposes of creating a writer’s platform is visibility. If I have an online presence of multiple names, it makes it much harder to be visible. So, moving forward, I will attempt to keep my online presence under one name.

Henceforth, my professional name will be Marge Cutter. The decision is one of practicality, not sentimentality. As a freelance writer, most of my by-lines were under the name Cutter. I have completed the first two books of a Young Adult Fantasy series, and sent queries to agents and publishers, under the name Cutter. So, if someone is looking for me, Marge Cutter, the aspiring author, they will probably not be looking under the name Tesch.

I hope that, eventually, all the name changes I have made will take effect. If you have found this blog, then I know this one worked.

Here’s where to find me on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/margecutter

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/margecutter

Google+ : https://plus.google.com/106998583299458022417/about

and you can find my updated WordPress “About Me” page at https://margecutter.wordpress.com/about-me-margaret-tesch/

Feel free to stop back from time to time. I’ll keep the porch light on for you.