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Have you ever been an inspiroror? Are you unsure what one is? Well, my almost-nine-year-old niece Marie seems to know. We share the exact same February birthday along with an affinity for writing stories. A few months ago, when Marie’s mom attended Back-to-School Night, she spotted this and texted it to me:

“My aunt Cathy is the writer of: the art car. She is an inspiroror. I love love her, and her writeing.” — Marie.

Come on! It would be hard to feel rejected after that kind of praise. Marie loves me; she was spot-on drawing my poofy brown hair and art car t-shirt. And after seeing this mini-article she wrote, I was motivated to write my own blog post (this one!) after a long dry spell.

Inspiroror-ation comes from unexpected places. I’ve never drawn a comic strip, but in October, I was motivated by the morning news of all things. I watched Chris Cuomo and Carol Costello on CNN as they reported on several random stories. My brain strung them all together, and I drew a cartoon to illustrate what the news felt like that day.

I’m not going to post my lame drawing, because I prefer to avoid politics. Plus, it’s just really embarrassingly bad! At the time, I thought it was the CNN anchors that inspired me, but I now believe it was one of my writer friends, Lisa Sinicki. Lisa is a public relations professional in Atlanta, and author of My Mother Served Gouda When Company Came: Scenes from a cheese-lover’s life. You can find it on Amazon.

We became friends through an online Mastermind facilitated by Dan Blank, founder of WE GROW MEDIA. Lisa and I, along with a few others from that Mastermind group, have kept in touch and continue to support each other. Lisa draws playful cartoons, which she regularly posts in her newsletter. I recommend you buy Lisa’s cheese book (it’s gouda!) on Amazon and that you subscribe to her newsletter: Queen of the Chronic Overthinkers.

One of Lisa’s recent comics called “A Visit From the Idea Fairy” had my husband and I cracking up. I wrote to tell her the good news: “Lisa, it made us spit soda out of our noses! Someone needs to buy them!” She replied that she submitted some of her cartoons to The New Yorker: “I sent a couple of early one-panel things that got rejected. I recently sent in five better ones. I imagine that IF I keep submitting eventually something will stick.” I admire Lisa’s positivity, because I’m sure she’s much like me and other creative professionals who struggle to stay confident in the face of rejection.

For me, I think it was a large dose of false confidence that propelled me into action on my CNN/Lisa-Sinicki-inspired comic-strip-drawing day. I finished my masterpiece, and I should have quietly filed it away; instead, I sent it to The New Yorker. Wait, what? Yeah, I did. I guess I wanted to be like my inspiroror—Lisa! Then, I waited. And waited. And then, I got rejected!

Are you familiar with a site called SUBMITTABLE? It’s an app where writers and artists can submit their works for possible publication. Check it out and you’ll find yourself going down a literary rabbit hole. Before I could mutter “submittable,” The New Yorker rejected my first-ever political cartoon. Undeterred, I submitted a few writing samples to other publications. As a result, an online site called Parent Co. accepted my personal essay called “If These Scars Could Talk.” It was published on Nov. 4, 2017 as a part of their November writer’s contest based on the word prompt: gratitude. YOU CAN READ IT HERE!

ME: I’m on a roll! That thinking led me to submit some more. I’ve had a short story called “Yellow” sitting in my computer for about a year. I sent it out to a few publications, and an online literary magazine called STORGY accepted it (to be published on Feb. 16). In both instances, I chose to adopt Lisa Sinicki’s mantra: “If I keep submitting, eventually something will stick.” (This should be a meme for creative professionals).

“Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car” is my first children’s book.

My first—and last!!—political cartoon wasn’t published in The New Yorker, and I don’t know what sort of response I’ll get for my short-story “Yellow” once it appears on STORGY. But some positive wins have happened since I launched my children’s book last year. Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car was awarded first place by the Texas Association of Authors in the category of Children’s Picture Book—All Ages for 2017. I’ve also spoken/presented at more than 35 elementary schools since launching my book. And the biggest win happens at that sweet moment when a student tells me, “You inspired me! I can’t wait to get home and write my own book.”

So, who is your inspiroror? Are you inspiroror-ing anyone? And as always, Be Amazing!

By: Laura Oles | January 19, 2018 Originally published in Writers Digest

For the last twenty years, Port Aransas, Tex., has served as my weekend retreat. When life gets hectic, my family leaves the hill country for the Gulf coast. I know where to find the best coffee, the freshest shrimp and chicken tortilla soup so flavorful that it has its own fan club.

Over the years, I began to imagine an alternate universe to Port Aransas. Stories surfaced in my mind like dolphins dancing between the ferry boats in the nearby ship channel. I took my beloved family-friendly beach retreat and created Port Alene, a fictional sister town with a darker side. As I watched my kids fishing in the ocean, my mind built a new world filled with characters making deals, sharing secrets and selling something extra at the local bait shop.

I realized that my coastal hideaway was the perfect setting for my new Jamie Rush mystery series. Jamie is a skip tracer—someone who tracks the missing and those who wish not to be found. DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN found its story anchored in Port Alene’s dual personality, one that combined a tourist destination with a grittier underworld. While I didn’t have a master plan, I did establish a few guidelines.


When creating Port Alene, I decided it would not be an exact replica of the locale I loved. It was important that Port Aransas not be merely plucked out of real life and dropped into my mystery with little more than a name change. Instead, I took key areas—the main road running through town, a neighborhood I know well, and the beach area by mile marker 77—and played with them until they fit into the story. I drew my own maps of Port Alene, fashioning roads and landmarks, bars and restaurants, bait shops and trinket traps. My protagonist needed these locations because they would prove important in her life. She just didn’t know it yet.


The sensation of beach life is something that lingers long after your toes leave the sand. I wanted to capture the town’s essence. The humidity follows you like a jealous boyfriend, even moments after you’ve walked into an air-conditioned room. There’s no such thing as a good hair day, and you couldn’t care less. And most everyone wears flip-flops and shorts, even in the winter. Port Alene is as important a character as any other in my book.


The term “island time” is meant to remind guests to relax, to not be in a hurry unless there’s a fire or happy hour at Trout Street is about to end. The only people in a rush are the fishermen up long before sunrise to claim the best bait. It takes twice as long to drink a cup of coffee than it does on the mainland; locals get work done without racing the clock. The challenge was to honor the concept of island time while keeping the story moving at a quick pace. The action needed to escalate while the town took its own sweet time.


Several of Jamie’s preferred places are inspired by my own, including the best Tex-Mex restaurant south of San Antonio. Hemingway’s Pier, Jamie’s favorite haunt and also her home—her apartment is located in the bar’s loft—is my way of giving the characters their own version of Cheers, but with lousy lighting and a beloved bulldog named Deuce. He loves the jalapeno poppers.

While Port Alene remains as I left her, Port Aransas, her inspiration, has not been so fortunate. On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey tore through the heart of the town, the eye hitting with such force that little remains. Harvey scattered boats like leaves—in front a beloved coffee shop, in a nearby neighborhood, beached on a random patch of grass. Homes and businesses remain damaged or destroyed, and the community has been left to rebuild without the benefit of media attention. Those who claim Port Aransas as a second home know it will return stronger than ever, with the help and support of locals and volunteers from near and far. But it will take time.

For now, I’m keeping the coastal refuge I love alive through Jamie Rush and her dangerous calling. It’s my way of celebrating Port Aransas until it can once again welcome its residents and guests with open arms and open businesses.


Net Neutrality is a political hot button that is used to divided our nation even further. While we don’t want to get into the Republican vs Democrats points, what is critical is that this issue can cause Indie Authors, and even small press Authors to lose valuable sales.

With internet providers now being able to charge both the providers of content as well as those who receive the content, this gives them the ability to manipulate what you see. Not only is this a free Speech issue, but it also relates to if and how an Authors website is viewed. The providers can charge each individual website an extra fee to be able to be delivered to homes at the normal speed, and if you don’t pay, then you get downgraded to a slower speed, which let’s face it, this means the person downloading an authors site will give up waiting for it and move on. That means YOU LOSE!

In addition, the provider can charge more for a site to speed through their system and be delivered quickly and effortlessly. This, then gets passed on to the users of that system, such as Amazon sellers. More cuts into the profit margin of Authors and sellers.

This is BAD for everyone with higher costs to promote their products, means higher cost to purchase their products. Net neutrality from our perspective as small businesses is bad for everyone: Buyers and Sellers.

Publishers Weekly encouraging publishers to step up and fight the change that was implemented by the FCC last month. We encourage you as small businesses to step up and let your Congressmen know how it will affect you.

Below is an article that appeared in Publishers Weekly encouraging publishers to step up and fight the change that was implemented by the FCC last month. We encourage you as small businesses to step up and let your Congressmen know how it will affect you.

It’s Time for Publishers to Join the Fight for Net Neutrality

by Publishers Weekly | Jan 19, 2018

Supporters of net neutrality marked two important developments in recent days. On Tuesday, January 16, it was revealed that 50 senators have now committed to a bill that would block the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) December repeal of net neutrality rules. In addition, as the New York Times reported, more than 20 states have now begun a battle in the courts to block the FCC’s repeal.

Codified by the FCC in 2015, net neutrality rules were created to keep Internet service providers from favoring certain websites or content over others. But, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Corynne McSherry explains, the FCC’s repeal last month now paves the way “for an Internet that works more like cable television;” a “pay-for-play” system where content providers could be forced to “negotiate with multiple ISPs to avoid their content being buried, degraded, or even blocked.”

Polls and public comments show the move to repeal net neutrality is broadly unpopular. It is also potentially dangerous. In comments to the FCC, a coalition of the nation’s top library associations stressed that preserving an open Internet is “essential to our nation’s freedom of speech.” And, in a letter to the FCC, 1,838 members of the Authors Guild demonstrated that American authors also unequivocally recognize the danger of the FCC’s action.

“As authors, we rely on the Internet to make our voices heard,” the guild letter states, concluding that the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections “will harm the free speech of American writers.”

But a key voice remains noticeably absent from the net neutrality debate: publishers. Despite widely expressed concerns that the FCC’s action could negatively impact free speech, and in contrast to concerted efforts to preserve net neutrality by others in the publishing ecosystem—including the library community, authors groups, and dozens of media and public advocacy organizations, including PEN America—the Association of American Publishers has yet to release a single statement on the issue and has taken no formal position.

We recognize that publishers and the AAP have limited resources and must prioritize the issues they choose to take on. However, supporting free speech is one of the AAP’s core policy areas. Which is why publishers can no longer sit this one out.

Following the FCC’s repeal, restoring net neutrality protections is going to be an uphill political battle. But it is not too late for publishers to stand up for free speech, and to stand with their readers, their authors, and the library community.

With the battle headed to Congress, now is the time to make that stand. AAP president and CEO Maria Pallante is widely known for her policy acumen and her relationships in Congress. And as widely recognized champions of free speech, a strong, unified statement from America’s book publishers can make a critical difference.



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