Empowered to Network

Month: December 2014

Short Story – How Salsa Saved My life

Writeon had a challenge on writing a story in which Dancing helped you get out of a sticky situation. So, just for fun, I would like to share with you the short story that I wrote.

Salsa is an integral part of our Latin culture and we often celebrate the Holidays with a little twist and turn. And if you get a chance to get the original music from Joe Cuba, “Bang, Bang”, also recently portrayed in the movie Chef, I hope you enjoy it!!!

Bang, Bang
“Bang, Bang”. I’m startled by the loud music that blasted from my seventeen year old brother’s room. My parents left me under his care for a few hours. I had to finish my multiplication homework, but I was too distracted– the rhythm of the bongos, the loud noise from the trumpets. My fascination for the beat was unstoppable. Determined, I tip-toed down the hall to find my brother’s door slightly open, tempting my mischievous, inquisitive nature. I ignored his DO NOT DISTURB sign and peaked inside.
His exquisite, choreographed Salsa moves with his invisible dance partner filled me with envy. I pushed open the door with caution, just to get a closer glimpse of his class act performance. But the loud creak of the old, wooden door interrupted his concentration. He saw me. Oh no, here it comes. He screamed, “Gloria!! How many times have I told you…” Frozen in fear, I listened and waited for him to finish his rhetorical sermon. This time, I knew I was grounded for life. Think fast, think fast. And like magic, I found my voice. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you are the best dancer in the world. I wish I could do some of those moves. But the kids just laugh at me when I dance,” I pretended to cry and turned around to leave the room.
“Wait, do you want me to show you?” he replied. Speechless, I turned to face him and with wide open eyes, nodded. He grabbed my left hand and placed it on his shoulder, then my right hand, on his waist. His eyes and head movements directed my footsteps, backward then forward. We began dancing slow at first, but gained momentum as I loosened up my body, mainly my hips. “Bang, Bang, Ah, Beep, Beep”– the music still played in the background. Though not an expert, I became his invisible partner. My ear to ear smile thrilled him, as he sang louder and louder. He lifted me up by the waist and swirled me around until we became dizzy. Once he placed me back on the floor, we tried to keep our balance, but couldn’t and fell on the floor. We laughed, hugged, bonded—and then, it finally hit me, my first and best dance ever, but phew..that was a close one, “Bang, Bang”.

Song by Joe Cuba – Bang Bang


“Your Book Sucks!” (How to Take Criticism) by Amy Spahn’s Series (BIYC)

Amy Spahn is a freelance writer who encourages aspiring authors by providing exceptional constructive criticism to help them produce compelling work. In the beginning of this year, she started a series of Book in a Year Challenge (BIYC) and every month she published segments related to publishing and more. One of my favorite articles is titled, “Your Book Sucks!” (How to Take Criticism). For me, it was timely and insightful. I hope you it enjoy it as much as I did. For more information on Amy’s Blog, refer to the tab on my blog named “Great Blogs”.

Are You a Writer from The “Sandwich Generation”?

Services at Home

The reason why I chose the title of my blog Writing&More is because it will give me an opportunity to discuss subjects from my earlier professional life as a Health Care Administrator and Business Owner. And healthcare is a topic that affects everyone, including us writers.

If you have ever been told you are from the “sandwich generation” then you are or will be facing many challenges when it comes to having a balanced life. When I started to write part-time, not even in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine the complexity, effort and persistence that it takes to become a professional writer. Well, take that effort and multiply it by ten and you have arrived to the “Sandwich Generation”, those who care for their young children and their elderly parents. All is well and then, you’re parent’s need more help, one you can’t provide on an ongoing basis either because of time, money or the demands of your young children. Your heart is in the right place but the logistics are close to impossible.

In my experience, as a past owner of a home health agency, I received many calls from “Sandwichers” at a very late stage, with very little time to spare, forcing the family into crises mode. As a writer, your parents’ sudden change in health can change your life and perhaps force you to place your dreams on hold for a long time. So, if you and your elder parents are in a good place in your lives, consider the following steps as you prepare for the inevitable journey into aging:


Evaluate getting a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. I was lucky enough to get one for my mother at age 65 and now, at age 82 afflicted with some dementia and other physical ailments, I am able to financially support a certified nursing assistant every day of the week. It was expensive, but looking back, it was worth it, especially when I also got a Ryder (addendum to the policy) not to pay the premium if she became disabled. Nowadays, policies like my mom’s rarely exist or be very expensive. The market has changed considerably. And now, know, at least as of today, Medicare does not cover for personal care. So if your parents need help with any of the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, dressing, walking, and other, you are on your own unless you pay privately for those services.


Conduct National Background Checks on any Assistants you hire for your Parents. If you decide you can’t afford a Home Health Agency or Registry (later explained) and decide to hire a private person, you should investigate their background. At the time that I owned my agency in Florida, one of the stricter States in policies that protect the elders, they required a State background check. Not too thrilled with the idea, I expanded my search to include the other States. To my surprise, I had a few cases where the State had approved the home health aides yet they had criminal cases in other states. It’s worth the investment even if the person is a referral by a friend or family member. Also, you can do random drug checking. There are inexpensive saliva kits that you can use. If you plan to use a kit, make sure you get the home health aide to sign a documents releasing you from any liability in performing these tests.


If you decide to hire professional help, learn to distinguish a Nurse Registry from a Home Health Agency. IT IS NOT THE SAME. A Registry is more like a temporary employment agency with some perks; they will conduct the criminal background but in many cases they will not cover for worker’s compensation or liability insurance. If a worker gets injured in your home, and they may hold you liable, your home liability insurance will be your best bet to help you cover for medical expenses. However, you need to confirm this because in some cases they may need you to add an umbrella (additional coverage). Also, a Registry verifies that the home health aide carries their own liability insurance with low limits of coverage. Many Registries do not have good systems in place to verify that the home health aide’s liability insurance is valid so there is always a chance that your parents will not be compensated for any damages should the aide be responsible and their liability insurance has expired. The Home Health Agency must cover both, worker’s compensation and liability insurance, with higher limits of coverage.

In many Registries, the home health aides don’t report to a nurse. A nurse will develop a plan for care for your parents and the aide must follow it. In an agency, a Home health aide reports directly to a Nurse and the Nurse makes sure the plan is being adhered to or updated, when necessary.

    An Aide is not an aide, is not an aide. A home Health aide has an estimated 40 to 80 hours of education while a certified nursing aide has as much as 120 hours of education. There are some functions a Home Health Aide cannot perform; i.e. taking blood pressure readings.


Registries are not typically required to be accredited by recognized accreditation companies. However, in many states, Home Health Agencies are required to be accredited by thirty party agencies, forcing the agencies to adhere to stricter guidelines and protocol.


So why then not go with a Home Health Agency versus a Registry? Price. A Home Health Agency can be between $5 to $7 more per hour.


Familiarize yourself with programs that are geared to protect the elders in your state. If you use a Registry or Home Health Agency, they are required by law to give you pamphlets that would include information about governmental help and elder agencies. In Florida, all you have to do is dial 211 for Community Services. Other States most likely have similar programs that can help you with community services from A to Z for the elderly and others in need of help.


Veteran Aid and Attendance Program. This is a program rarely known to the public and not used to its potential. To qualify , if your parent is a veteran and has been in active duty for 90 days and one day beginning or ending during a period of war, Then he or she and their spouse maybe eligible for the Veteran’s Aide and Attendance program.  There are other eligibility requirements like assets needing to be below $80,000 excluding your primary home and vehicles, etc. If your parent’s or elder relatives qualify, they can receive up to $1500 per month to spend on services related to activities of daily living. However, it can take 5 to 9 months to process the paper work, especially when you do it on your own. The Veterans Administration does have select locations that help in completing this paperwork.

The time to prepare is the time before crises. If you are a “Sandwicher” and do not have a plan in place, start one soon. If you would like more information, please feel free contact me vtowersauthor@gmail.com.


Wishing all of you a very Happy Holiday!


Some of the Best No-Fee Writing Contests in 2015

There are no sweeter words to me than those of my 11 year old daughter telling me, “Mommy, I like that story in your book.” That with the emotions and passion that I feel when I write are priceless. That’s the best award I can ever receive.  But having your work recognized among peers and writing contest sponsors add icing to the chocolate cake.

As most writers are already aware, getting recognition as a writer is difficult. With the advent of ebooks and self-publishing, the marketplace is more cluttered than ever, making it harder and harder to stand out from the crowd.

Writing contests are, therefore, highly relevant to the writer looking to make a splash in his or her niche; while the compensation for many of these contests tends to be moderate in nature, they are an invaluable means of getting one’s name out there and adding a feather to one’s cap when it comes to self-promotion.

Writer Award

Likewise, contests provide the chance for recognition not just among other writers and potential readers, but also among family. Placing well in a contest often draws the attention of these people; once you have such credentials to your name, they take a whole new interest in what you do, which can be incredibly validating.

There is one caveat however: Many writing contests charge an entry fee, and while these fees may look small at first glance, if one plans on entering many contests, these fees will quickly add up. To help writers avoid this pitfall, the following list of no-fee writing contests for 2015 is being provided:

• FreelanceWriting.com (http://www.freelancewriting.com/creative-writing-contests.php) provides an extensive list of upcoming contests, some of which offer substantial rewards (the The Danuta Gleed Literary Award, for instance, awards $10,000 to its winner, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize offers $7500). One can easily filter results by date and genre, making finding the right contest for one’s specialty a snap.

• Writerviews.com (http://writersviews.com/writing-contests.php)  also offers several contests with excellent compensation, including a rather unique Sitcom Writing Contest which awards $10,000 to the winning script, plus the possibility of it actually being picked up for use on television. There are also plentiful poetry contests, which makes this an ideal place to look for no-fee contests if you’re a poet. Plus, humor writers with a bit of bite in their style will be delighted by the Satirist Comedy Writing Contest, which seeks “the next George Carlin”.

• Chanticleer Book Reviews (http://chantireviews.com/) features a list of “Blue Ribbon” writing contests for 2014-15, spanning several different genres and promising international exposure.

• Poets and Writers lists a number of contests which are hosted by very prestigious faculties, such as Yale. Many of these contests focus on themes, such as the impact of music, and there are quite a few options on the list specific to poetry.

Also take a look at http://chantireviews.com/contests/ and http://www.pw.org/writing_contest_updates for information on additional contest.

So get involved and give it a shot.  You have nothing to lose, especially when it’s free to enter.  Good luck and Keep Writing!


2015: Planning will create success

I am hoping that 2015 will be a year filled with excitement and new developments for all of us.  But unless we take actions to plan for the new challenges, we perhaps will waste some precious time.  I have included an article by Matt Newnan who has some good ideas on how we can start the year ready preparing for what lies ahead of us.  I hope you enjoy it s such as I did.

“Writing isn’t planned, it’s creative and writers just sit, stare out at landscapes and pen their words; they don’t really work”

“Writers cannot work with structure; they need to be a free spirit”

Both of the above are fairly true but the most successful authors have a plan in place and they stick to it. Yes creativity strikes when creativity strikes but to ensure the inspiration doesn’t just equal perspiration with limited results structure is needed.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” and this is as true for a writer as it is any other profession, and whether you are a full-time, published author or just dabbling in writing, without a plan you are heading very close to nowhere. A plan for a writer need not be complex but to gain success in the year ahead it is essential; even if it is just a list of objectives that you need to complete it is needed.

When writing a book or when submitting a simple article such as this a deadline is given and must be met. Deadlines serve a purpose to help the publisher manage their side of the written word to ensure your work reaches the right people at the right time. The deadline impacts budgets, there are always costs when writing and managing these is where deadlines come in. More importantly where there is a deadline their needs to be a plan, there must be structure as writers can be and usually are easily distracted and often lost deep inside their work. The plan is a reminder that something needs to be done.

When you begin any work that you want published, whether it be self-published, published via a literary agent or publishing house, a magazine or even a blog, the first thing that needs to be noted is the deadline. Once this is known, and especially if you are working on multiple projects as I am – my novel, my website content, my magazine articles and this post – having a clear plan of work is essential. Just having a simple spreadsheet or even diary not just with deadlines but a countdown towards your deadline can make a tremendous difference to the success of your writing.

I personally work of a spreadsheet that contains submission dates, subjects, editor’s notes and publisher’s notes. I keep the document on Google Docs as well as on my laptop and can access it from my cellphone so I am always aware of where I am. My writing, whilst creative is managed as if I am running a tight sales operation. The spreadsheet is the first thing look at every day and when I complete a task, as I will do with this post, I check off the item and mark it as complete. It takes only a minute or two and it frees up hours of my time each day. The spreadsheet allows me to be kept up to date and keeps me focused and gives me the peace of mind to know that I know what is on time and what is falling behind.

Managing your deadlines will make 2015 a success

If you can do one thing to get yourself better positioned for 2015 then manage your deadlines better by putting a simple plan in place with deadlines, even if you set the deadlines yourself, you will become much more productive. You will also find that your creativity soars, the peace of mind knowing you are on track and even ahead of a deadline is such a powerful thing. Make 2015 the year of being planned, take a few minutes

Having spent 18 years in Sales and Marketing management internationally, Matt Newnham lives in Cape Town and is a motivational speaker who writes for a variety of publications and websites globally. Currently writing his first novel – The Seed Shepherds – he writes both fiction and non-fiction.

each day to plan and your creative time will become more prosperous and you will have started a habit that changes your writing life!


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