Inspiring lifelong learners to change the world.

Sandra Foyt is a travel writer and photographer who inspires lifelong learners to change the world. After living in Buenos Aires, the Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Southern California; she now makes her home in Northeast NY with two teens, an outdoorsy husband, and a well indulged Chocolate Lab.
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Apples on the Branch

Latest

Borderline

Family travel to Dajabon Market Haiti, teen poses in front of stream of Haitian carrying wares.

Dajabón, Haiti – July, 2011

Blogged at In The Heart of Haiti – Bloggers Make a Difference

Singing Sands

mojave-desert

Singing Sand – Kelso Dunes of the Mojave Desert

galveston-texas

Galveston Beach – Texas Gulf Coast

Blogged at Film Locations: Texas to Italy In The Tree of Life.

It’s That Time Again – Apple Picking at Good Orchards

Apples on the BranchBlogged at How You Like Them Apples?

 

Ready, Set, Go Query!

As noble as the image of the starving author may be, it’s not for me. I want the fame, the glory, but also the cold, hard cash.

I’m kidding about the fame and the glory, but not about the pay. It’s important to me to earn a living from writing, not only because I would like to be self-sufficient, but also because it impacts the weight that is given to my words.

Recently, I completed the third in series of classes offered by Writer Mama Christina Katz, Pitching Practice: Write Six Queries in Six Weeks. Every one of her classes has been stupendous (and I don’t say that lightly!) This one fulfilled its mission by setting me up with several queries that are ready to go, and the confidence to send them out.

While I’m off fulfilling my destiny, I’m going to share these writing tips from the master.

Prospering in the Gig Economy: Simple Habits for Writers That Pay Off Quickly

By Christina Katz

Money is what writers earn for their time and energy. Furthermore, writing careers are built over time not overnight. So don’t put your career in jeopardy by paying attention to everything else at the expense of your bottom line.

Here are nine prosperity-increasing tips that can quickly become habit and put more money in the bank for the same number of hours you already work or maybe even less:

  1. Make a list of paid work vs. unpaid work, if you don’t have one already and update it monthly. Add to-dos like upcoming deadlines and prep for future efforts, to make sure you don’t have to scramble later.
  2. Prioritize the work you do that is paid over the work you do that is unpaid. This doesn’t mean the unpaid work is not important or doesn’t need to get done. It simply means that you will get the paid work done first and then tackle the unpaid work.
  3. Spend time with other writers who make money writing. If they are too busy (making money) to spend time with you, sign up for their newsletters, read their blogs or connect with them via social networking whenever possible. When contacting successful writers, keep your expectations realistic. There’s a reason they make the big bucks and it’s not because they are just hanging out all day. When you are working, whether online or off, be aware of folks who drain your energy or co-opt your time. You simply don’t have time for those people when you are supposed to be working.
  4. Don’t confuse "nice" people with profitable people. Let’s say one writer invests all of his time trying to make sure everyone knows what a great guy he is, while another writer invests his time landing assignments, delivering on deadlines, and landing the next gig. Who is the more successful writer? I’d say it’s the more productive writer (the second example). And he’s the one I’d be more likely to trust, as well. So go ahead, broadcast your success!
  5. Tackle the types of assignments that pay directly. Forget about any kind of writing job you "might" get paid for. Also don’t count writing you do for exposure as "paid." And when someone offers you vague future money for today’s actual work, take twice as much time to carefully consider the offer. Why not just take on the sure-thing assignments, which are the projects that pay you directly for your work? If you keep things simple, you are more likely to prosper in both the short run and the long run.
  6. Spend the most time doing whatever you do best even if that means doing a few different things. For example, I don’t only write because if I only wrote all day, I’d soon be bored out of my mind, no matter how interesting the topics were that I was writing on. A restless person like me needs to do a variety of things. So I also teach and speak and the three efforts feed each other and increase my overall value as a writer.
  7. However, don’t spread yourself too thin. I do a lot of different things but I’ve noticed that I can only do so many things before I hit overload, especially since I am a busy mom and wife, as well as a working professional. This overload point is going to be different for everyone and can change with your life circumstances, so adjust your expectations accordingly. You want to do everything you do well, not just scrape by.
  8. Capture all of your business expense receipts as the year ticks along so that you can benefit from every deduction available to you when you pay your taxes. I am not the queen of filing things, so I just get a big basket and toss all my receipts in there until I’m ready to sort and report. If you need a primer on the specifics of what you can and can’t expense, pick up the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest magazine and check out the article, "Taxpertise For Writers" by Bonnie Lee. In fact, the theme of the issue is, "Your Economic Survival Guide," so why not read the whole thing?
  9. Be timely. Seek and adopt the simplest systems to help you meet your deadlines, pay your bills, get your taxes submitted, etc. It doesn’t matter which system you use. What matters more is that you make good use of the systems that work best for you and switch when one method stops working for you.

I bet you want to spend as little of your time as possible being inefficient, so that you can get back to writing. So keep things simple: write, earn and prosper. An efficient writer is a profitable writer.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing deadlines to meet.

Christina Katz is the author of the forthcoming Writer’s Digest book, The Writer’s Workout, 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach. She also wrote Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids. A slightly extroverted introvert and online social artist, Katz holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in English from Dartmouth College. A  “gentle taskmaster” over the past decade to hundreds of writers, Christina’s students go from unpublished to published, build professional writing career skills, increase their creative confidence, and succeed over time. Christina hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and far too many pets.

Interested in learning more about Christina Katz and her online writing classes? Head over to Christina Katz ~ The Empowered Writer.

My Big Hairy Audacious Goals

dutch_girl_webMom Central is running a contest that will reward one lucky mom blogger with funds to grow their personal brand. Anyone with a blog can enter, but only those who are truly committed to success have a shot.

The contest entry demands that you dig deep to articulate your vision, as well as current and future plans for achieving it. And then, you have to be willing to ask everyone and anyone to vote for your entry.

So, before we go any further, please take a second to click HERE to help me win this contest.

The competition is fierce and my chances of winning are slim, but it was worth doing this if only to galvanize me into verbalizing my big hairy audacious goals.

Brand

Blog: Albany Kid

Other Blog: http://TheJourneyMom.com

Twitter handle: http://twitter.com/#!/SandraFoyt

Vision

The vision behind your personal brand:My vision is to inspire lifelong learners who want to change the world.

At fifteen years old, I had been working in the family business for years: assembling puka shell necklaces in a Virginia basement, minding the store and my younger siblings in Old San Juan, and bookkeeping for the first in a long line of failed enterprises in the Virgin Islands. But traveling to Bogota, Colombia to deliver a cash payroll to another short-lived venture, a leather factory in the slums of the city, was my defining moment.

I saw homeless children begging on the streets, and my life was changed forever.

Intent on a career in Human Rights Advocacy, I became the first in my family to head to college. Many years later – I’m embarrassed to say how many- with semesters in class alternating with semesters spent earning the tuition to return, I completed an undergraduate and graduate degree at Columbia University.

It was a proud moment when I was able to use my training in Latin American studies and Human Rights to write a policy paper on Latina rights for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

And then I became a full-time mom. When my husband was accepted into a prestigious surgery residency in southern California, I packed up our New York City apartment, two-month old baby, and career aspirations to follow him.

Two years later, when he joined a surgical practice, we packed up the toddler, two retrievers, and camping equipment and drove across Canada to our new home in upstate New York.

Those first years of mommyhood were a whirlwind. The baby girl was joined by a baby boy, and I kept these high-spirited, non-napping kids entertained by exploring Northeast New York.
This was the early 2000s, before social media blasted off, and often I felt isolated, a culturally confused Latina Virgin Islander living in a Wonder Bread world.

Then my children entered school, and I joined that community as an avid volunteer. I taught weekly Spanish classes, assisted in class centers, chaperoned field trips, and chaired various committees.

I put my heart and soul into school volunteering, to the point that friends asked if I was a full-time employee. I wasn’t paid, but it was rewarding.

To this day, kids and their adults remember the year that I organized the Enter the Kingdom of Reading Book Fair with a semester-long series of medieval history events that earned our school a first place finish in the Scholastic Book Fair Contest and brought Pam Muñoz Ryan to speak at our school.

I was doing exactly what I had always wanted to do, advocating for children, and inspiring them to want to read and learn.

The next school year would be our last at the public elementary school. Despite our successes, my own children were not thriving without sufficient funding or support for school enrichment and gifted education.

In 2007, my daughter entered a private middle school, and I started homeschooling my son. This worked out well for my children, and I discovered a new community of families who shared my passion for lifelong learning.

Through my homeschool blog, OnLivingByLearning.com that later morphed into www.TheJourneyMom.com, I also discovered the world of homeschool bloggers, where families around the world connect to share and learn from each other.

It was awesome! I wasn’t alone, my tribe existed just a click away. Blogging freed me to become the advocate that I was meant to be, locally and globally.

As I moved between public school, private school, gifted education, and homeschool communities with my own family, I started to realize that I had an opportunity to build bridges between these groups. I could offer a way for families taking different paths to learn from each other. And I could better serve all these local communities by sharing fun and accessible ways for families to add educational enrichment to their lives.

In January 2010, I started a local resource blog, www.AlbanyKid.com, about fun and learning in New York with kids. Later that year, I became the teen columnist for a regional parenting publication, Kids Fun Plaza.

Now, I would like to broaden my reach through audience development and expansion of my platform.

Let me illustrate why this is important.

Last fall, I tried to help our district high school win the Bing Our School Needs Contest so that they could get more funding and support for Operation Graduation, which targets the rising high school dropout rate.

Despite community support, it was disappointing to see the final ratings. Many never heard about the contest because we didn’t have a way to reach them. Sadly, a hierarchical and patchwork-like communication network makes it difficult to share a message.

I believe that an essential element in fulfilling my vision is to find ways to bridge the gap between creators and readers of online sites and traditional print mediums. Everyone benefits when we can share our experience and knowledge, but there are still a lot of parents who don’t or can’t go online to connect with the vast networks of mom and dad bloggers. That’s why it’s vital to promote a partnership between print, online, and mobile media.

The potential for connecting parents locally and globally to achieve real change is awe-inspiring.
In sum, my vision is to inspire lifelong learners who want to change the world by building bridges between publication mediums and families, both locally and globally.

Aspiration

What do you aspire to do next?I aspire to create a platform centered on inspiring lifelong learners who want to change to world.

The threads of this tapestry include, but are not limited to: blogs, freelance journalism, and a transmedia platform.

Albany Kid is a blog that I created to write about fun and educational family travel in Northeast New York. We have begun to recruit bloggers who are new to writing and blogging, but who are adding a diversity of voices to the site. Over the past year, we have built a strong foundation of articles, and are starting to be well-known in the local community. I plan to further audience development, not just by increasing subscriptions but by engaging readers in the communities found in our social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter. I am optimistic that Albany Kid will be not just a source of helpful information, but truly a connected community.

As a freelance journalist, I’m submitting articles to regional parenting publications, working my way toward building a substantial clip file. I hope to publish articles in more general markets, and to develop a platform – including speaking engagements – to support publishing a book. My goal is to become a recognized expert on educational family travel.

In partnership with Kids Fun Plaza, I am working on developing a transmedia platform that includes a print and online presence. We are reaching out to local bloggers to create a regional network, with plans to develop these connections nationwide.

These are big, audacious goals but I find that with the connections that are made via social media networking, there are truly no limits.

Grant Funding

The purpose of this grant is to assist you with your vision. How will you use this grant to better your influence and personal platform?This grant would fund several items on my list, but I would like to start with the big ticket items.

I would like to begin by offering payment to Albany Kid contributors as a way to encourage writers who may be new to blogging. Then, I would like to hire a web designer to create a professional logo for Albany Kid, and to help me tweak my blog and professional sites so that they have a cohesive look. And I would like to purchase promotional items featuring that logo to hand out at conferences and local events.

For all platform development, but especially to promote freelance journalism, I need to get a professional head shot. Additionally, I am planning on attending several journalism and blogging conferences this year, including Type A Parent, Bloggy Boot Camp, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and will require additional funds for those whose expenses are not already covered.

Brand History

How long have you been engaged in creating your own personal brand?5+ years

What have you already done to achieve your goals for your blog? This will show us your commitment and dedication.

Albany Kid was built on a firm foundation of on-the-job learning at my first blog, The Journey Mom. Now in March of 2011, Albany Kid averages 7000 pageviews per month and it is achieving name recognition in the Capital Region. Albany Kid benefited from The Journey Mom because I knew what I wanted to achieve, how to do it, and I already had an audience base.
Nevertheless, I constantly work to promote and improve Albany Kid.

Online, Albany Kid receives inbound links due to my frequent freelance and guest blog posts elsewhere. I also comment on a variety of blogs, and participate in Social Media events such as Twitter parties and other community sites.

In person, I network at local events as well as at national conferences.

As far as ongoing blog development, in addition to following best blogging practices regarding site customization, I have also created a media kit and ad rate sheet. I have received several PR offers, and have promoted giveaways on the site. Recently, I’ve also started to receive requests regarding advertising, and I look forward to featuring sponsors in the near future.

Additionally, I never stop trying to make the blog stronger and better. This month, I’m taking an Advanced Social Media class at Columbia’s School of Journalism. Currently, I am working with a SEO expert to optimize the site. Since last spring, I have been taking a series of writing classes with Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, to improve my ability to write short articles and to develop a platform.

I put into practice what I teach about lifelong learning, and Albany Kid reaps the benefits.

Challenges

What have been your biggest challenges in achieving your goals for your blog and personal brand?

The biggest challenge in achieving any of my goals has been to define my mission. I have been writing and revising my mission for years; although it was always some variation of “Inspiring lifelong learners who want to change the world,” trying to explain what I meant by that was extremely difficult.

And, as you know, if you can’t define it, you can’t achieve it.

I’m a very creative person, who is inundated with information that sparks ideas, and I want to tackle it all. Everything I do, to a greater or lesser extent, ties in to my overarching goal. But, without the process of defining the vision and articulating a plan for achieving it, it’s too easy to get lost in the details of a million and one great ideas.

Recently, I took a platform development class with author Christina Katz that forced me to go through the gut-wrenching process of discovering my specialty and defining my mission. With her gentle guidance and whip-cracking follow through, I started the ongoing job of outlining the steps I need to take.

I could not have filled out this application without all that soul searching, and regardless of the outcome, I am grateful for the opportunity to put my plans in writing in front of the world.
Because now that we can all see my vision, it’s that much closer to reality. And this also helps me to hone in on the problem areas that need to be addressed first.

For example, I am prioritizing one of our greatest areas of weakness on Albany Kid which is to encourage moms to write for the blog. I think some are intimidated by the idea of putting their writing in front of an audience, but others worry about the technical aspects of blogging. I’ve had some success in helping moms turn their writing into blog posts, but this is still a challenge area.
Additionally, my audience includes a lot of parents – mostly women – who are not tech-savvy; some don’t even have their own email account preferring to share a family email-inbox. Helping them to find and utilize Albany Kid is a work in progress. I do a lot of outreach and education within homeschool, school, Girl Scout, and other community organizations to talk about parenting kids through social media because the only reason many older moms (like me) go online is to monitor their kids. And I’m also considering organizing a local chapter of an organization that empowers girls and women online.

Audience engagement and education will continue to be an area of challenge until we can encourage more parents to cross the digital divide.

Why You Should Vote for Albany Kid

Tell us why the public should vote for you and your blog?

You should vote for Changing the World because we hold a common interest to inspire lifelong learners who want to change the world. Through the blog and in my professional platform, I build bridges between families and schools, old and new media, to share fun and educational things to do with kids in New York, and beyond.

Where else will you find the uniquely compelling content found on The Journey Mom?
• Everything you need to know to homeschool in New York.
• How to Educate 21st Century Students.
• Top 5 Mommy Blog Design Inspirations.
• Before Blogs, There Was Graffitti.
• Taking the Scat Test.

Or discover how to make family time both fun and educational as in these Albany Kid articles?
• Get the Message! Explore Graphic Design with Kids.
• Guide to Enrichment Classes in the Capital Region.
• Travel Tips for Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.
• Maple Syrup in the Capital Region: Get Ready for Sugaring!
• Ice Skating in the Capital Region: Indoors, Outdoors, & Year-Round.

And let’s not forget some of the gems you will find in print articles on Kids Fun Plaza!
• Desperately Seeking New Moms, and Finding Mothers Support Groups.
• Teen Summer Rite of Passage.
• Who Is Your Teen Going to Call If Something Sad Happens?
• The Secret of Joyful Family Holidays.
• 10 Ways for Teens to Shine at Thanksgiving.
• Tips for Teens to Do Good at Halloween.

Tips for New Bloggers

What are the top 3 things you’ve learned along the way in building your brand and platform, that you feel are invaluable to offer other moms who are just beginning this journey?

When I started my first blog, I followed a couple of blogging gurus, hoping to discover the secret to a successful blog. Many tell you to pick a niche, purchase a self-hosted site, and state your mission.

Well, those are all true and important pieces of advice, but when you are new to the world of blogging, or even to writing, this advice can paralyze rather than empower. In the words of Nike, you’re better off to “Just do it!”

Get a free blog on Blogger, and play around with it. Treat it like a journal and write for ten minutes each day, whatever comes to mind. Grab a camera or a camcorder, and shoot some film. Learn how to upload media from the infinite wisdom of Google.

Try something new each day. Join one of the many blogging communities. Go to a blog conference.

On the job training is the only way to really understand how to blog, and for many of us, the process of self-discovery that takes place as you blog is essential to figuring out your mission. And it is only after you understand your mission that you can begin to build your brand and platform.

Last Word

Free text box! Feel free to tell us something else that might help your chances of winning!

When I was in high school, studying at the College of the Virgin Island’s library, I ran into our school’s accountant taking college classes. He was an elderly Black man, his hair long turned white, who likely had to surmount significant social barriers to earn a college degree, and here he was still taking classes at his advanced age.

I asked him why he was taking classes, and he replied that, “When you stop learning, you start dying.”

The power of education had taken him so far; and yet, he wasn’t learning to get a job or a promotion. A love of learning was simply central to his life.

That’s what I want to share on Albany Kid, and beyond.

The New York Times Travel Show Disappoints

morocco_boothI had high expectations of The New York Times Travel Show. After all, it is the big, splashy annual event that has been drawing travel professionals from all over the world  to meet in New York City for the past eight years.

Perhaps if I were a travel agent, I might have thought differently. As a travel writer specializing in family travel, I was not impressed.

I attended the travel show on Friday, when it was only open to travel professionals, to sit in on  the Travel Media seminars in the morning and explore the exhibits in the afternoon. Since it wasn’t open to consumers yet, the exhibits did not include the Family Fun Pavilion. But, I don’t think that would have changed my overall impression as this was intended to entertain children, not to inform the public about family travel.

There were a couple of booths that would interest families – Disney Vacations and some of the regional outdoor adventures come to mind, but it seemed so paltry.

Surely in this grand meeting of the industry’s best and brightest there could have been some effort extended to provide creative ideas for family travel?

Frankly, creativity was in short supply altogether at the travel show.

sri_lanka_dancers

Some of the exhibitors made a little effort to put on an entertaining display, featuring folk dancers or booths with a local flavor.  Most were downright boring.

The Anguilla booth drew in a crowd. A two man steel pan combo played calypso tunes, while smiling hostesses handed out Mango Rum Punch and Blue Velvet Cupcakes. That’s right. Blue Velvet Cupcakes. With all the delicious local cuisine available to them, they handed out a pastry that had nothing to do with the Caribbean. Maybe I’m too harsh, but how hard would it have been to hand out fry cakes or Vienna Cake instead?

It’s hard to see what’s missing, when it’s not there in the first place.

Am I missing the boat? Am I the only one who thinks a travel show should make you want to drop everything to explore the world? And shouldn’t a travel show present appealing options for traveling families?

What do you think? Do you like to travel with your family, or not? What kind of family trips appeal to you? What would you like to know about family travel?

© 1965-2014 Sandra Foyt All Rights Reserved