Tell your story- Lisa from AJ Stafford

tell your story holly cardamone

My goodness, I love sharing my clients’ stories via The Proust Questionnaire! Today we have gorgeous Lisa from AJ Stafford. AJ Stafford Property Services provides a seamless, one-stop process for people selling property from the decision to list through to settlement and beyond. 

The Proust Questionnaire by Lisa Stafford, AJ Stafford Property Services

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sitting on the beach watching the sunset

What is your greatest extravagance?

Floating in a tropical pool with a cocktail

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?



Oh my God!

Oh yeah

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being a mum

What is your most treasured possession?

My engagement and wedding ring for what they stand for and their sentimental value

What is your most marked characteristic?


Who is your hero of fiction?

Wonder Woman

Who are your heroes in real life?

Naomi Findlay

Steve Irwin 

Susan Alberti

Donna Hay

What is your story?

I’m an ex-real estate agent turned sellers advocate, and I bring passion and commitment to the service I provide that helps create success. With a combined 25 years in real estate and the building industry, I decided to harness my natural flair for design and I completed my studies in Home Styling.  It was this progression that inspired me to develop my own business to help my clients with the whole real estate process.

What is your motto?

Tomorrow is a new day

Find out more about Lisa and AJ Stafford Property Services here. 

This is a post in my Tell Your Story blog series. I love shining the spotlight on some of my clients and colleagues. If you’d like to know more about my work, or would like the full 35 questions from the Questionnaire, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll respond in a jiffy. 

My Top 10 Reads of 2019

Whoop, there it is! Another wonderful year of reading captured in a top 10 post that actually shares 16 reads that have rocked my world. Confession time: this year my reading count is down by a minimum of 10 books on previous years due to more than a few binge sessions of some incredible Netflix series and movies. My book count as of today, 19 December 2019 is 56 with another six books sitting on my bedside table and a long, long reading list to take into the next decade.

Before we jump in, here’s my 2016, 2017 and 2018 best reads lists. I haven’t counted, but let’s assume there’s at least 10 on each list (and there is!), then including this post, you have 40 books to consume. Enjoy, my pretties, I know I have!

Here we go, in no particular order because ranking them would do my head in, as it’s hard enough nominating a top 10, and with Booktopia links with no affiliation (because, eww) but for simplicity of obtaining:

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinham

I’ve been reading Gloria Steinham since my early teens, and certainly long before I understood the concepts of her books. Her writing is sublime and this was such a beautiful memoir of an incredible icon. 

Educated by Tara Westover

I read this in two days, forgoing sleep and maybe a touch of hygiene in the process. I love love LOVED this memoir and it has stayed with me long since finishing the last page. My older daughter read it too and we’ve had some wonderful discussions about the power of education and the conflict within families. 

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

I read a profile piece on the author of this novel which made me initially pick it up. Once I turned the first page I was completely and utterly besotted with the characters and the narrative. Again, the characters stayed with me beyond the book and it was so beautifully, perfectly written. Pure joy of language. Bliss!

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

Finally, a business book, I hear you cry! This is a massive mofo of a book and would be a suitable weapon of choice during a home invasion (suitable for both invading and protecting). I’m a sucker for a sneaky peek into other people’s routines and lifestyles. There are elements that are … well… batshit crazy- psychedelics, I’m looking at you- but some really great strategies, tips, tricks and actions to implement in one’s quest for a productive, fulfiling life. 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Well, duh, of course this is in my top 10. If you haven’t read it, why TF not? My mum has, my daughter has, everyone I know has. It’s incredible. 

Help Me: how self-help has not changed by life by Marianne Power

I shared my love of this book on Instagram and almost lost my poo when the author responded! This was such a good read; funny, sad, evocative and had that rare quality of inspiring snort laughs alongside a ton of self-reflection. 

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson

I’m not sure why it took me so long to read this book because I’ve been a huge fan of Sarah’s writing way back to her Sunday Life column days. This book is incredible, harrowing, uplifting, life changing. Read it. 

The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady

An incredible YA novel that was creepy as hell, beautifully constructed and language that was perfection. 

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

Tim Winton is my ultimate, the best writer in the whole wide world and he could write a shopping list and it will be in my top 10. That’s it. 

Footsteps- The New York Times Anthology of Literary Pilgrimages Around the World

If you were under any illusion that I’m a cocaine-guzzling, nightclub hopping cool kid, this anthology of fellow word nerds taking trips around the world to see where their favourite authors did their grocery shopping will demonstrate that I am, in fact, not a cool kid. Not in the slightest. This made my top 10 because each piece was incredibly well written (New York Times writers, am I right?) and because I’d happily geek out at each and every destination. 

So that’s my top 10 and because I can’t resist, here’s some more reads that could have made it in, but for the hair on my chinny, chin chin:

After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson

Fake by Stephanie Wood

Rushing Woman’s Syndrome by Dr Libby Weaver

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan 

And one more, just because I love the author more than life:

Change by Stealth by Melitta Hardenberg

Tell me, what’s been your favourite read(s) this year?

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Banishing wardrobe angst with Nicole Vine Personal Styling

Banishing wardrobe angst with Nicole Vine Personal Styling

I read once in Vanity Fair that as President (and probably prior and post) Barack Obama only had two types of suits in his wardrobe in a bid to reduce the amount of decisions he made each day. This makes complete and utter sense to me, but I also find incredibly boring and limiting! That said, I’m no fashionista, and I never really have been one to use style to express myself creatively. Stylish and put-together certainly doesn’t come easily to this mum/writer who spends most days in Lululemon so whenever I have a face to face meeting the decision fatigue is beyond frustrating. Until recently, I’d find myself standing in my wardrobe completely uninspired, and felt  like everything I owned was drab, boring and uninspiring. 

I’m all for outsourcing one’s weaknesses. Enter the pure brilliance of my beautiful friend Nicole Vine.

I met Nicole this year- she’s a Thriving Woman, just like me- but I’d been stalking her Instagram for quite some time. Nicole is a lawyer, personal stylist, mum to three and a slave to a cheeky cocker spaniel. Speaking of thriving, she has a thriving styling consultancy and her personal branding expertise is extensive. Nicole is known as the thinking woman’s stylist (I’m a looker AND a thinker, you see) and her focus is on helping women experience effortless stylish dressing for their days, allowing them to stand out for all the right reasons. She’s vibrant, vivacious, caring, clever, and funny AF. Put simply; I love her guts so she was the only option for when it came to getting some professional support in bringing me out of my style rut. I also knew she’d make the entire experience wonderful. That’s putting it mildly! 

Nicole doesn’t know this, but my styling session with her wasn’t my first. I had my first personal styling session when I was 17 years old in year 11, when a group of my friends, using varying levels of tact, suggested I pair my Levi 501s with something other than a band tshirt, and especially not my favourite Sex Pistols top.

Nicole’s process was a little more indulgent, empathetic and professional.

First, I completed and extensive online brief before Nicole came to my home and assessed my wardrobe; assessed, not judged, I must add. We explored my needs, my wants and my preferences, then a week later, as directed by Nicole, I drove my car to the valet parking desk at Chadstone, then stood outside Tiffany and Co until a blonde goddess come to life glided towards me, enveloped me in a giant hug, then took me to a private dressing room to get my gear off. 

I had a wonderful time- Nicole had plotted out a course around Chadstone that took care of everything I needed. We were greeted by racks upon racks of clothes she’d preselected, all completely personalised and tailored to me, my style (or desired style) and my lifestyle. It wasn’t just trying on clothes- there was a massive educational component as well. She was respectful yet gently insistent in supporting me as I leapt out of my comfort zone, and she had just the right amount of grunt to help me dislocate my shoulder to extricate me out of a jumpsuit that really could have done with an extra button. She pressed her phone, and a valet attendant whisked away our shopping bags so we didn’t have to schlep them around the centre. Once everything on Nicole’s list was ticked, she gave me another hug, then sent me off for a coffee to finish off my day.

That was all incredible- no doubt about it, but the hits kept on coming.

Nic came back to my house, complete with her own giant green screen to create my lookbook. The lookbook is the pièce de résistance of Nicole’s signature service. This is where the magic happens- she’s basically created me a lookbook-cookbook of the different combinations of outfits now in my wardrobe, organised by categories. I’m not exaggerating to say there are more than 150 individual outfits from head to toe. I never have to wonder what to wear again- I just pick a photo and off I go!

Personal style is so much more than what we wear, so, so much more. It’s not about the clothes. It’s about how we see ourselves, how we want others to perceive us. Yes, after working with Nicole I now have a different outfit for every day of the week for a year, so my decision fatigue in this regard is gone. Beyond this? I have confidence, clarity and more than a little swagger! 

I couldn’t be more grateful and I highly recommend Nicole’s styling to anyone wanting to elevate their style and invest in themselves. Investing in Nicole’s services was hands down one of the best investments I’ve ever made both professionally and personally. Find out more about Nicole here, and go for it! Just remember to wear good knickers. 

Holly Cardamone bio

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

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From surviving to thriving: adventures with a business coach

From surviving to thriving: my adventures with a business coach…

You’ve heard of the relationship 7 year itch? It’s a psychological concept of feeling restless and bored after a period of time in a relationship. A slump, if you will. Whilst my marriage is stronger than ever, possibly a little too much so, according to the faux gagging* sounds by my cherubs at any and every PDA between my husband and myself, I’ve felt that discontent and dissatisfaction professionally. 

There are always peaks and troughs, slumps and highlights in life, and business is no exception.

However, a rut is not a fun place to be in. At the five year mark of working exclusively in my business I was feeling flat and stale. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the work I was doing and the clients I was working with, but I felt a distinct lack of spark. I knew I needed a little somethin’ somethin’ to bring back that lovin’ feeling, but what? More importantly, who?

Disclaimer time- I’ve had a fairly decent sized scepticism about business coaches for a long, long time.

Whilst I’d never be so rude to as openly eye-roll someone at a networking event, I believed (and still believe, whilst we’re being completely honest) that the real deal are few and far between. I know from my own experiences of having my IP ripped off by self-proclaimed content experts that there are a lot of crooks and wannabes out there. 

At this same time, I was moving in similar circles, online and in real life to a business coach (perish the thought), Emma McQueen. Emma and I happened to meet up for a coffee and hello- real deal! She joyfully and proudly detailed her qualifications, accreditations and endorsements with no hard sell or expectation of working together and I think we were both pretty happy to have a no BS woman in each others’ corner.

A couple of months passed by, and Emma engaged me for a Tell my Story Content Blast session. She brought along her trusty side-kick, Jess Randall, and for three hours I dug deep into the Emma story in the context of her content. As I was listening to these two powerhouse women bounce their thoughts off each other I was struck by not only how clever and insightful they were, but how they were just genuine good people. That afternoon, I booked a Clarity to Chaos session with Emma to give my business an injection of clarity and a basic slap across the chops. The session? Transformative. The sense of lightness and relief that came with clarity was almost tangible, and completely reinvigorated and refreshed my business, and by default, my broader life. 

That was just one coaching session. A month later, I signed up for Emma’s year long Thriving Women program and hand on heart? It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business and for my life in general. 

Imagine this:

  • A group of like minded women from a mix of sectors, backgrounds and industries, self-employed in businesses of 1 or from massive organisations, all with each others’ best interests at heart. 
  • Personal and professional development on crack.
  • Support, reciprocity and topics of conversation that alternate between life changing and so fucking funny there’s snort-laughs aplenty. 
  • Knowing that with these formidable women behind you there’s absolutely nothing, nothing, you can’t achieve in this one precious life.

Now, Emma doesn’t know I’m writing this. In fact, she’s overseas at the moment and has been expressly forbidden to check in, so this is completely unendorsed, unsponsored and unsolicited. I’m just sharing my experience for no other reason than to share. I get asked all the time about my experience working with a business coach- often by people who’ve been shafted by those dodgy AF ones- and honestly? If my business was down to it’s last gasp I’d invest whatever I had left on coaching with Emma. 

Tell me, have you experienced the real deal?

* I assume they’re faux gagging?

Holly Cardamone bio

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Why Blue51? The story behind my business name

It’s interesting- at least once a month I’m asked about the story behind my business name, Blue51 Communications. I’m a sucker for a good brand story myself- or any story, really- hence my business tagline- tell your story.

Before we can deep dive into the why, let’s do a quick skate over the what.


Blue51 Communications is a sweet ‘lil boutique communications consultancy with one core focus- the power of story. I wholeheartedly, emphatically believe that words are at the heart of good communications. The whole crux of my business, inclusive of all of my services (communications advising, strategy and writing for business) is helping my clients communicate better with their audience. Bottom line: I help people in business say something (ie their story) and have that message heard by their intended recipient. 

I’ve been working as a communications specialist and a professional writer for over 25 years now (sheesh!). In fact, my business, Blue51 Communications, started life as Holly Cardamone Communications and Freelance Writing.  In this capacity, I wrote freelance pieces for magazines, journals and newspapers whilst balancing contract and project roles with large organisations, mostly government agencies. Before that, and in between launching as Blue51 Communications, I worked as communications manager and as director for a number of different organisations. I also brought a couple of cherubs into the world as well (no mean feat).

It’s those two said cherubs that largely influenced my why and my brand story.


Here’s the thing- the working mama juggle ain’t always a big bucket of champagne. Work/life balance makes an appearance on a lot of company profiles- I should know, I write them 😜- but in reality, I know that it can be an illusion. I’m not suggesting that there’s no such workplace as one that has true flexibility, I’m sure there are plenty, but I also know from my experience and that of my working mama friends, that they are a rare and much coveted breed. If my cherub is up for a student of the week award and I want to go witness that moment of seeing her eyes light up, then damn it, I’m not running that by anyone.

When I rebranded Blue51 Communications, a huge part of my why was walking the tightrope between my work and my family commitments, however, it’s not the main why, the why why, if you will. 

I wasn’t particularly familiar with the world of small business (other than other freelancers such as graphic designers and web developers) until my last in-house communications role. I managed communications for a not-for-profit membership organisation, where a lot of that client base were people with small businesses. When word got out that I was leaving, a number of members contacted me for outsourced communications and writing support for their own small businesses. These were people who had seen how I had turned around that organisation’s communications and wanted to see what magic I could work on their business. I caught a glimpse of a need requiring fulfilment. 

When I looked around to see what communications services were around to help people like this, I was really quite shocked to discover a big, fat gaping hole in the market. Well, honestly, it was a mix of shock and delight- I’d uncovered a fabulous opportunity for my work life. It really struck me that there was a need for no BS communications and writing services that cut to the core of what a business needs, and excluded all the crap that they didn’t (highway overpass advertising, I’m looking at you). Businesses need to tell their story in a way that connects to their audience. I love little else other than telling a story. Add growing a business with beautiful communications and I’m one happy Word Nerd. 

But who to offer my skills and expertise to? The diversity of a client mix appealed to me greatly opposed to the relative static environment of in-house communications. People who were approaching me had fantastic business offerings, but lacked effective messaging to get their ideal client to take notice of them and see their value. There’s a lot of people who lack the skillset in communications to showcase their business effectively, but rather than work with just anyone, I wanted to be considerate and deliberate about who I worked with. A couple of key clients cemented this- I only wanted (and still am committed to this) to work with people who are doing good stuff out in the world in their special zone of bliss. It’s very Jerry McGuire-esque, but more than anything, I wanted to be inspired in my work life.  Ooh, do I spy a who? Why yes, indeed!

Boom- my why and my who and my what clarified! Now, what to call this mofo and close off this brand story?


I wanted some distance between myself and my business (work/life balance, y’all). I bid farewell to Holly Cardamone Communications and got out a big sheet of blank paper and some coloured textas, which is where all the good stuff happens. 

I was on holiday on a beautiful tropical South Pacific island, reflective and serene, when the word ‘blue’ kept rising to the forefront. Blue water, blue skies, blue cocktails. Blue is calming and ordered yet makes an indisputable impact. Think of a splash of blue against a white backdrop, or the slash of a white cloud on a blue sky. Packs a punch, yes?

Without getting too esoteric or woo-woo (soooo not me!), blue is the colour of water, the sea and the sky with all the associated symbolic references of calm, peace, stability, security and loyalty. It’s associated with depth and stability, symbolising trust, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth and integrity. Whilst in my communications I make sure cliches are avoided like the plague (get it, get it, see what I did there?), they often have a basis in an elemental truth. Blue skies are emblematic of optimism, creativity and opportunity and are full of positive meaning in almost every culture- after all, we live on the blue planet. It was decided- the word blue had to be front and centre of my refreshed business name.

As for the meaning of 51, I wish I could give you a symbolic reference to the deeper intention of numerology, but alas. They’re a pair of numbers that were the respective favourites of two Blue51 cherubs I know.

So Blue51 Communications is my business name; my tagline is ‘tell your story’. Why? Because nothing connects like a good story, and as a Word Nerd, story is at the heart of all my communications. 

Tell me, does your business have a compelling brand story? If you’d like help telling yours, please contact me. It’s my second favourite thing to do. 

Holly Cardamone bio

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Tell your story- Jen from Arrow Group

Tell your story- Jen from Arrow Group

My goodness, I love sharing my clients’ stories via The Proust Questionnaire! Today we have gorgeous Jen from Arrow Group. Arrow Group is a boutique recruitment and HR business in Melbourne’s beautiful East. 

The Proust Questionnaire by Jen Ramage, Arrow Group

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To enjoy good health and be able to do something with my life that not only earns me a living but also makes a contribution back to the community.

What is your greatest extravagance?

A couple of years ago I headed overseas, as part of a girls’ trip to celebrate my best friend’s 50th birthday.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“I was just thinking”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Apart from my gorgeous children, I consider taking the risk and starting my own business as being my greatest achievement.

What is your most treasured possession?

My Thermomix because I love to cook.

What is your most marked characteristic?


Who is your hero of fiction?

I don’t have a particular hero of fiction however; I am thoroughly enjoying Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming”. An intelligent woman who was a  key force in the success of the Obama Presidency.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Olivia Newton-John: because she is talented and passionate about creating a holistic approach to health care.

What is your story?

I have enjoyed a successful career in sales including the recruitment and labour hire industries. Frustrated with the lack of  commitment and care, I felt the industry could do better. Enter: Arrow Group a niche business which focuses on providing a fully personalised service to both clients and candidates. We never take our position for granted and are continually striving to be better in ourselves so that we can make other people’s dreams a reality.

What is your motto?

Live for today, tomorrow has already gone and the future will unveil itself in due course

Find out more about Jen and Arrow Group here. 

This is a post in my Tell Your Story blog series. Each month, I shine the spotlight on some of my clients and colleagues. If you’d like to know more about my work, or would like the full 35 questions from the Questionnaire, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll respond in a jiffy. 

Blue51 Show and Tell- Content Clarity

do you have too many content ideas

So many ideas; so little time! Blogging is such a fantastic way to tell your story and grow your business. Like any communications tactic, blogging and content marketing is most effective when delivered within a strategy, and not just for the sake of it. 

Today’s Blue51 Show and Tell is an overview of working with a business who needed to take control over their content to share strategically and effectively. 

The project:

A Content Blast with Julie Cliff, Professional Organiser at Space and Time. 

The client:

Space and Time provides help for professional working mums who need to find more time, are drowning in clutter or simply need help getting their time and their space organised.

The client’s target audience:

Space and Time works with professional working mums who may be struggling with overwhelm as they juggle all the pressing demands in their lives. 

The approach: 

Julie from Space and Time is a beautiful writer and enjoys the process. However, she found she her writing process was quite sporadic and unstructured- which for a professional organiser, wasn’t a great feeling! Julie had a ton of ideas but they felt a bit fractured and she didn’t have a strong sense of how to evaluate an idea in the context of her audience.

Enter my Content Blast!

I sent Julie my client questionnaire to complete, and then Julie and I got cracking on creating a content plan that would put a sparkle in her eye, a spring in her step and, most importantly, a ton of clients in her work schedule. We worked together over the course of a massive three hour session fuelled by carbs and coffee and accompanied by approximately 50,924 post it notes.  We started our session together with a discussion of Julie’s business and communications goals, as well as the ins and outs of her target audience, using her questionnaire as our foundation. The next part of our session was generating ideas. No idea was too silly (actually, a few were, weren’t they, Julie!). Then we got stuck in curating the ideas and as we did so, they fell into a natural structure of four themes which became her content pillars. Boom!

Julie wanted to blog weekly as it is something she enjoys, but was also in a situation where it was taking her far too long to actually draft her blog posts. I shared an outlining tactic with Julie that I use to write my content that Julie now uses to write a blog post in less than an hour. 

The results:

At the end of our session together, Julie had a content plan against four pillars with just under 60 potential blog posts. Her content now goes out to her audience strategically and is aligned to her broader business goals. She has a clear understanding and a structure to follow which provides the what, how, when and why for sharing her insights. Her content writing is now a joy, not a source of strength, which makes me one very happy Word Nerd. 

Tell me:

do you have a sneaky suspicion that that you’re not expressing yourself the way you’d like to in your content marketing, and thus not selling your business effectively? Is writing your blog a source of constant blah? Want a guiding hand and some fresh, practical ideas for your content? Yes, yes and hell yes? Please get in touch– I’d love to help out.

Holly Cardamone bio writer communications specialist


Psst- need some content ideas?

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

This is a post in my Blue51 Show and Tell blog series. Each month, I share some of the projects I’m working on for my fabulous clients. I love sharing both the work we’re producing, as well as the amazing results they’re achieving in their businesses. There’s more unabashed bragging on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help.

Why I love a good old fashioned copy deck

why use a copy deck

Have you ever worked with a copy deck? I do, all the time, and haven’t really thought much about it as a process. It’s just what I do. Recently, I handed over a writing project to a client and her response was less about the content (it was fantastic, naturally 😉 ) but she really, really liked the structure of how I presented her project- ie the copy deck. She’d never encountered the structure before, which initially I found surprising. When I thought about it, however, it made perfect sense. Why should she be familiar with a process specific to my profession, any more than I should be familiar with one of hers?

The first time I encountered a copy deck was when working on a MASSIVE writing project almost 20 years ago now (fark… how did that happen? Did I join the corporate sector at 6 years of age?) and the Director of the Corporate Communications Unit implemented their use as a non-negotiable. Control freak moi fell in love with them. Basically, it’s a template or a structure to keep every person involved in a project absolutely clear on its end structure, everyone from graphic designer, to writer, to developer and everyone in between. They’re a tool that most agencies use, and one that I continue to use today for all projects, from big, multi-page and multifaceted websites and even the smallest such as proposed SM captions and email campaigns. 

They’re slightly different for each project, but basically hold all the necessary information on one simple document.

My copy decks always include:

  • Client
  • Project
  • Date

Then, depending on the project, I have a variation of the following:

  • Header or Subject Line  (Page header for websites)
  • Intro copy
  • Body copy- within the body there may be elements that need to be bolded or highlighted which I label
  • Call to Action copy
  • SEO/Keywords (where appropriate)

Some writers put notes/commentary to their clients and colleagues within the copy, but I personally find that really distracting and disruptive to the flow. Rather than clog up the copy deck with my scintillating bits and bobs, I use the comments feature. This means my explanations of word choices, my suggestions for backlinks and my questions to the client about specifics within the copy are included but don’t take away from the sheer brilliance of my words. Ahem…

Clients love copy decks because it is easy for them to visualise how the end project will look, read and flow, and it’s an easy copy and paste for them to use the copy for projects they can implement themselves. Colleagues (designers and developers) love them because there is clarity about the project, and what goes where. 

Tell me, do you love yourself a good structure? Or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantster?

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This is a post in my Writing for Business blog series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my writing bag of tricks gained after almost twenty years of experience (oh Gawd) and my two Masters. I’ll show you how to rock writing a range of products, tactics to online communications glory and how to use communications and PR to solve your business marketing problems.  If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Some of my favourite non-fiction reads…

Some of my favourite non-fiction reads…

Each December for the past two years, as the summer holidays approach, I start getting messages that become increasingly pushier from people wanting my latest best reads list to plan out their summer reading. In 2016, I started publishing a list of my favourite reads from the year before, and if the antsy messages in my inbox and my analytics are correct, it’s a post that is well-received, and so I’ve continued the tradition. Who doesn’t love a good read? If you don’t, then back away slowly. There’s no place for you here at Blue51 HQ. If you do, here’s a link to 2016’s list, and 2017’s and 2018’s for your reading pleasure.

In mid 2015 I wrote a note to myself during my quarterly review and planning session- ‘For the next 12 weeks read solely for pleasure ie read absolutely nothing business related.’ You see, I had relaunched my business as Blue51 the year prior, and threw myself back into the world of small business, reading and devouring anything and everything. The problem is, a lot of business literature can’t really call itself literature. I wanted to read with no other outcome than pure feeling and enjoyment rather than a list of action items. I have over the past few years found a few pearls in the piles of blah, but I found myself really craving some bloody good writing.

The best thing about good writing? It makes you a much, much better writer.

I discovered that first hand in 2007 when I commenced my dream course of study- Master of Professional Writing and Literature. This was the university program I promised myself when I made the ‘smart choice’ in Year 12 when I selected a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree over an Arts degree and I was so incredibly excited to immerse myself in words and language. One of the subjects I selected was Non-Fiction Writing, thinking it would be beneficial to my career, even if I didn’t think it would put stars in my eyes like poetry. Ten minutes into the first lecture and I realised just how wrong I was- I was as inspired and thrilled and enthralled by the non-fiction writing as I was with poetry. Good non-fiction writing uses the techniques of fiction- plot, pacing, characterisation- and it’s one of my favourite genres. Here, for your enjoyment, are some of the best non-fiction reads that have made my lists for the past two years:

Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Oh, Gawd, Helen Garner could write a shopping list and I’d be gushing over it. She’s my favourite writer, and if I ever met her I’d probably wet myself, forget my name or mutter incoherently, or all three. I love Helen’s non-fiction- it’s creative, literary and beyond all that her insights into the minutiae of day to day life- as well as her deconstructions of the big things in life- make my heart sing.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book fell into my hands at the library, and was bloody hilarious. I’d seen and read a lot of Anna’s interviews and love her self-deprecation, her smarts and her refusal to buy into the BS of the world she inhabits. This is the sort of book I’d give to my daughters to read when they’re teenagers as she’s a great role model for working hard and staying cool.

What happened? by Hillary Rodham Clinton

This book was incredible- not just the best book of my year, but right up there with the best books I’ve ever read. It was bloody hard to read in terms of the sheer frustration of the content, and it put me in a bad mood for a good two weeks. It was beautifully written, insightful, scathing and so, so clever. I gave my mum a copy and I’ll be giving my daughters their own copies as well to read and be inspired by. At the same time I was reading What Happened?  I saw one of those nauseating Instagram hustle posts that said something like ‘If you’re not working for yourself, you’re making money for someone else.’ I wrote a snarky comment asking what about teachers, health workers, policy makers, people dedicated to serving the broader community, and then hit unfollow. What Happened? is not just a memoir of a truly horrid time in history but it’s a call to action for all of us to focus on something bigger than ourselves. Loved it.

On Life: My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville

Disclaimer: I love Kate Grenville and everything she writes, and this book was no exception. It’s Kate’s homage to her mother, examining from a daughter’s perspective her mother’s life and its seasons. Love, love, loved it!

Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis

A memoir similar to Wild by Cheryl Strayed (in my top 10 in 2015), Girl in the Woods is another tale of a woman solo tackling the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to out-walk her demons and craft herself a new life. I read this in one night, sitting up way past idiot-o’clock, willing this young woman on her journey. It was sad and exhilarating and so evocatively written. I just wanted to hug Aspen; instead, I recommend you read her book.

Bill Bryson– anything and everything

I read a Bill Bryson book in my late 20s, and now in my early 40s am making my way through his books. They’re funny, insightful and more than once I’ve startled a small child snuggled next to me by laugh-snorting.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl quite clearly has lived our worst nightmare- written after the sudden death of her husband, this is a book that weaves her personal story with theory about facing adversity and building resilience and the steps she takes to support her family to find joy in the aftermath of such heartbreak. Sheryl is a fantastic writer and after reading Option B, I reread Lean In, another freaking good read from a few years ago which is filled with amazing one-liners that can keep a Word Nerd’s social media strategy fed for years, as well as inspire and confirm my business and life philosophy.

Land’s Edge by Tim Winton

I’m a water baby, and I grew up on a farm on the coast, where I went to sleep to the sound of king tides. When I moved to the city at 18, I used to pretend that the traffic white noise was the surf. This beautiful memoir not only makes me want to walk on the beach after a storm, it is writing that is pure perfection that makes me adore language and simple, sparse prose. Bliss…

Butterfly on a Pin by Alannah Hill

This was such a surprise to me. Alannah Hill is an incredible writer, first of all, and secondly, she completely busted any preconceptions I had about her. I knew her reputation as quirky and driven but I had no idea that her business success was underpinned by a lifetime of abuse. It was raw, it was sad, it was funny in places, but man, the strength it must have taken her just to put one foot in front of the other some days. It shows you that ‘success’ can be all smoke and mirrors, especially in the business world which can be pretty much built on illusion.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Gosh, my non-fiction writing lecturer in my Master of Arts and Literature suggested this book to me over a decade ago as an example of creative non-fiction- using the techniques of fiction and storytelling (pace, prose, character, setting, plot etc) to write a piece based on fact. I can’t believe it took me so long to get it off my ‘To Read’ list and onto my ‘OMFG That Was Good’ list. Far from giving my adventurous spirit the kick up the bum to go venturing in the wild, the sadness, the desolation, the isolation was so evocative I’m never likely to set foot solo in a Kathmandu store, let alone go off track in the bush.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

This book made me laugh so hard that my older cherub nearly called an ambulance when she saw me on all fours, choking with laughter and sucking in oxygen. It’s basically a hilarious account of the writer’s fight with depression. Read this for no other reason than for Jenny’s description of Japanese toilets.

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This memoir was recommended to me by someone in one of my Writer’s Toolkit Workshops earlier this year after I told my story about how I moved from Registered Nurse to Word Nerd (thanks Jen!). Thankfully, nothing I came across in my nursing career was like the scenarios played out in this book which I read in less than 24 hours. It was harrowing, distressing, gobsmacking and in many ways inspiring. How can you fail to be inspired by someone who is raised violence, neglect and poverty, who has a gender reassignment in a time when it wasn’t even really a ‘thing’ (not my words), who moved from prostitute to trophy wife, then launches a wildly successful business cleaning trauma scenes and hoarders’ homes? Sarah, the author, shares Sandra’s story in such a beautiful way- she actually won the Premier’s Literary Award for this piece, amongst other awards. It’s a tricky read, though, just from the descriptions of the scenes of the homes to be cleaned, so if you’re slightly squeamish, give it a miss. The violence is distressing too.

Tell me, do you love a good read? Are you non-fiction leaning or strictly fiction all the way?

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

This is a post in my Holly’s Story blog category. Each month, I share some insights, thoughts and behind the scenes shenanigans from my communications and writing for business adventures. If there’s something specific you’d like to know, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help, or address it in an upcoming blog post or on my social media platforms.

Tell Your Story- Denise from Gosh & Co


It’s my favourite time of my blog schedule, when one of my gorgeous clients takes my revised version of The Proust Questionnaire! Say hello to beautiful Denise from Gosh and Co. Denise owns a multi-award winning salon in Mount Waverley and manages a team of dedicated and caring hair professionals. I love working with Denise on her communications and was utterly, completely thrilled when she took out the Corporate Responsibility category of the Monash Business Awards. She’s a good egg and not only is Denise my client, I’m also hers. I’m forever grateful to Denise and her team for introducing me to keratin; without which I look like an extra from the Lion King.

The Proust Questionnaire by Denise Maddaford, Gosh & Co

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To see the beauty in all things, and to be grateful grateful in the good and bad times.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My car, even though it’s now old. I still love it!!!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Huh!!! No just kidding!!! It’s all good 🎈

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My team and the environment we have created together. Also my marriage, I love how we work together to get to the goal.

What is your most treasured possession?

My faith 💗 because all things are possible through him who strengthens me.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Oooh, my ability to see /understand other people’s point of view.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Mary Poppins

Who are your heroes in real life?

Joel Osteen for his teachings. He’s helped me to change the way I see life. People who bring out the best in others.

What is your motto?

Team Work makes the Dream Work!

Find out more about Denise at Gosh and Co

This is a post in my Tell Your Story blog series. Each month, I shine the spotlight on some of my clients and colleagues. If you’d like to know more about my work, or would like the full 35 questions from the Questionnaire, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll respond in a jiffy.