Aug 272017

A friend reached out online and asked about making donations to help Houston-area hurricane help without going through some of the bigger, national charities with the sky-high administrative costs. Granted, they make it easy — but, as an individual donor, my friend was concerned with getting the most out of each of her donated dollars.

Who will get the largest part of her donated dollar to help Houston Hurricane Harvey victims? Click To Tweet

Working in the non-profit sector, I was introduced to an organization called GuideStar. More than 2 million nonprofit organizations (both IRS-recognized and faith-based) have developed searchable profiles. In addition to receiving ratings from the Guide Star, individual organizations provide complete contact information, current revenues and expenses, board information, annual reports and detailed financial statements for up to 5 years.

Here are some Guidestar gold-rated organizations that might appeal to you.

AmeriCares saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster so they can reach their full potential. Their site reports response to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year with only 3% administrative costs. AmeriCares establishes long-term recovery projects and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities. Their relief workers are among the first to respond to emergencies and stay as long as needed, helping to restore health services for survivors.

The people in the Houston Area Women's Center 120-bed shelter needed emergency housing BEFORE… Click To Tweet

As I searched for some appropriate gold-level local organizations, I learned that the Houston Foodbank will re-open as soon as possible to assist with disaster relief. Also, domestic violence services are emergency services and will be stressed during the storm and recovery.  The Houston Area Women’s Center maintains a 120-bed shelter. In my experience running a domestic violence and sexual assault response agency, severe weather events make an already difficult job even harder. Remember, those folks needed emergency housing before the disaster; I’m sure, would appreciate any additional support.

Update: (I’ve not looked at these on Guidestar yet.)

I’ve been over on Twitter where I just learned that disaster relief organizations generally don’t provide diapers. The Texas Diaper Bank will get diapers (for babies and for seniors) out to disaster sites as soon as they can.

Portlight provides emergency services for people with disabilities.

This page is an aggregated list of Harvey-related GoFundMe requests.

I’ll add more as I hear from friends in that part of the world.

Wednesday update: 

A Dallas-based friend is soliciting contributions for Jewish Family Services of Dallas, citing their experience and excellent work during Hurricane Katrina.

And Google is covering processing costs and matching donations — until their drive reaches $2million — to Network for Good for The American Red Cross using this link.

Here’s the list GuideStar has posted and continues to update.







 August 27, 2017  Posted by  Special Topics, Thinking 10 Responses »
Aug 222017

One of the best things about working as a writer is connecting with others — especially crappy writers. That’s where the magic happens. Those of us who share lousy early drafts and admit there are times that we stink? We’re willing to expose our soft underbellies and writer’s tics to our peers. We get help from one another: it’s part of how we improve.

I love being around smart people who are good at their craft and want to get better. They inspire me in a way that smugness, complacency, and ego do not. They’re the ones who take courses, go to seminars, and embrace feedback from people they respect. And, while they don’t necessarily use *every* suggestion, they appreciate friends who save them from public typos and egregious grammatical errors. They’re willing to be crappy.

I’m feeling a little frustrated that there aren’t more of them around. I recently attended a seminar by some writers who, apparently, didn’t suck. At all. They seemed to feel free to point out the ways the rest of us fell short but, it seems, were beyond that.


And then there are my online buddies. I certainly believe in supporting and amplifying other authors, but lately, I’ve been struggling for balance; I’ve had to become more selective about what I share.

Here are some recent pet peeves from some non-crappy writers. (And I assume they’re not crappy because they’re not seeking — or using — feedback from other authors.) Here are a few recent, real-life examples that have me walking on the cranky side of the street.

  • Let’s start with the person plastering the internet with pleas to hire her as a… wait for it…  a WRITTING coach? Really? (I cut any identifying info out of the picture above.) Writing coach tip Number One: Proofread.

I'd rather be a crappy writer than a writting coach. Click To Tweet

  • I’d like to write a positive review of a book by another area author. I’d LOVE to. It’s just that I couldn’t read more than a chapter or two once I realized he hadn’t bothered to use an editor and didn’t appear to know the difference between the words “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”
  • How about the “social media expert for authors?” You know, the one with 200 hundred online followers? Why would an author (or anyone) use a “social media expert” who doesn’t use social media? Does she not believe in it? Or not know how?
  • And then there’s the “webmaster” who wants to charge an arm and a leg to build an author website. She sent a link to a sample loaded with typos, grammatical errors, old fashioned graphics and … “no.” Just “no.”

There. They're. Their. Pros hire editors. Click To Tweet

I’m not a completely crappy writer, and neither are the people I rely on and respect. I’d welcome some help sorting out the difference between confidence and complacency. How do you walk the line between “competent” and “driven to improve”? How do you get the feedback you need? I look forward to your comments.












 August 22, 2017  Posted by  Thinking, Writing and Reading 5 Responses »
Aug 092017

When I think about awards, I picture movie stars and media personalities who  “thank the academy” as they run down the mental list of all the people who support them. There are jokes about forgetting important people and occasionally a musical “hook” designed to drag them off of center stage. My recent, personal award experience, however, makes me think of Groundhog Day — not the movie with Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray, but the actual day.

It's summer in north Florida, but I was deep in my best imitation of a hibernating groundhog. Click To Tweet

Not long ago, the incoming president of FAPA (the Florida Authors and Publishers Association) came to speak to our local writers’ group. After an informative presentation about a new venue for sales, she talked about a training collaboration with the Amelia Island Book Festival. She also told us about FAPA’s national book awards and the coming deadline. After the meeting, she engaged me in conversation and encouraged me to submit. “We need more non-fiction,” she said. “Who doesn’t?” I thought.

And then I went back into my burrow.

I worked on a big website and a multi-author project. I pulled up the award application and ignored it some more. I purged a ton of paper. I nested deeper into my office space and did some planning. It was summer in Florida, but I was deep in my best imitation of a hibernating groundhog.

Then I applied.

I think it is important to support my peers and felt good about donating my entry fee to an organization that supports authors and literacy. As far as I knew, that was the end of that.

Hotel ballrooms, playing dress-up, small talk and schmoozing are all outside of my comfort zone. Click To Tweet

You see, while some will dress in costume to promote their work, there are legions of us who would rather be home — writing or researching. It’s not because we are unfriendly. Many of us are introverts. That doesn’t mean we are shy: it means that being in a large group of people drains every bit of our social energy. We need to re-charge in private, in our personal burrows. Like Punxsutawney Phil.

When I was notified that TICA (that’s what we call The Inner Critic Advantage around here) would receive a medal, I was grateful that my friend Nancy Blanton, author of  Irish historical fiction, was also at the top of her category. I knew once I committed to her, I would have to go. And it would be fun.

Traveling to somewhere I’ve been before… hotel ballrooms…. playing dress-up…. schmoozing… all outside my comfort zone.

Authors and publishers in person are a lot like the online version: warm, encouraging, funny, and… Click To Tweet

But guess what? An in-person group of authors and publishers is a lot like an online version: warm, encouraging, funny, and supportive. We swapped tips and wished one another well. We applauded the success of each of our peers, across numerous categories. And, thanks to the loving attention of the FAPA board? Even in heels, not a single one of us fell flat on our faces while crossing the stage.

Friends keep asking how I feel and I can’t help thinking about all those who make writing possible. I’m thinking about those who help me grow and improve. And those who give the swift kick in the butt beta read and proof read and answer Facebook questions that don’t really look like research. I’ve got a long list.

More than anything, I feel grateful. Humble and inspired to do more. So I’d like to thank the Academy… and get back into my burrow, be quiet, and to get to work.


Who’s in your personal Academy?







 August 9, 2017  Posted by  Inner Critic, Self care, Thinking 10 Responses »
Jul 262017

Use social media to share the love.

Has social media ever had you fretting about the difference between a ‘friend’ or a ‘fan’?  A group or a page?  Wished your ‘dashboard’ would get back in the car where it belongs?

When I had Amazon free days a small group of friends dug in and helped spread the word. During that three-day period, they convinced so many people to take advantage of the free download that The Inner Critic Advantage reached #15 on Kindle’s self-help list. Not bad for an unknown author, eh? Hooray for good friends!

And that’s the real point: not to brag but to let you know that, with nothing more than your blog comments, a social media account, some time and enthusiasm you can make a huge difference for any author, artist, business or cause that matters to you. There are a few simple things that anyone with a Facebook account can do to help an author or artist whose work they like.

Once we kick all the scary, techie voodoo stuff out of the way? Social media is simply word of mouth. Think about it… when you see a movie you like or discover a great new restaurant, what do you do? You tell your friends about it. The cool thing about social media is that now you can tell a variety of friends… who can tell their friends… who share with their friends….

I  just finished editing an article for a friend. He wrote about setting boundaries and zealously protecting our writing time. The drive to connect with you wakes us up at dark o’clock.If you think about it, writers walk a funky line: we need to withdraw from our real-life loved ones in order to do the thing that connects us to… you. And, with luck, a lot of people like you… people we haven’t connected with yet.

Your social media accounts can help you focus and express your gratitude.

So, if you’ve read us, know us or love us? Tell your friends. And to help you remember? And you’re cool… so do it with FLAIR:

* Friend, fan, or follow. Whether you use Facebook to connect with your grandparents or Instagram to give us moment-to-moment updates, you might be surprised to find your favorite author or musician on your favorite social media platform. (And most people share different content on each available outlet.) Each platform has a “search” function. Look around. Follow accounts that interest you.

* Like and leave a comment! We love hearing from you — even if it’s only an Instagram heart or a Facebook thumbs up. Remember, any kind of art requires a lot of solitude. A lot. When I find myself editing for hours after everyone else has gone to bed,  a little encouragement goes a long, long way.

* Answer and amplify. Did “your” musician ask a question on Twitter? Did your author use Facebook to ask for feedback on a title? Most of the time, if they (we) do that, it’s not a marketing ploy. We want your input. Could you please take 45 seconds to answer the question? (Also, guess what? Posts with lots of attention generate more attention. It’s how things “go viral.”)

* Introduce and inspire. I don’t know about you but, frequently my online reading brings me to stories of everyday heroes. The guy who organizes kids to mow lawns for single moms and the elderly. The person who distributes dog food to those in need. The cop who went on a child abuse call and ended up adopting the child he rescued. Instead of complaining about how the media doesn’t cover enough good news? BECOME the media. Raise the vibration. Share those good news stories as far and wide as you can. We’ve got the tools to make it easier than it has ever been. And we need them.

* Review or recommend. Read a good book lately? Take a few minutes, hop on over to Amazon or GoodReads and leave a review. (This is one place that it’s a really BAD idea to say you know the author. We’ll talk about that later.) Ask your local librarian to look into ordering it. Suggest it to a teacher or book club.

It may sound like a lot but it’s simple. Social media is about relationships and one way to be a good friend is to do good things for your friends. To share the good stuff.

I’ll see you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, right?


Andrea Patten is the author of  The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head a little book full of big ideas about how — and why — you can learn to love “that voice.”   The Inner Critic Advantage is now available on Amazon.




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