Blue51 Show and Tell- time for a website makeover

Blue51 Show and Tell- time for a website makeover

As a business grows and evolves, the initial website that showcased a new business can often become outdated and no longer reflective of the business and the audience. Put simply, it needs a makeover! Today’s Blue51 Show and Tell shows how I took a website that had, in the client’s words, ‘multiple spare rooms’ into a website that reflects the business accurately, professionally and compellingly. 

The project:

Writing a beautiful website that conveys the true essence of a business, setting it apart from competitors.

The client:

Arrow Group is a boutique recruitment and HR Consultancy that is unique- because their clients and candidates are. 

When I first met Arrow Group’s Director, Jen Waldron, she told me that she knows that many people have the sense that dealing with a recruitment agency would be right up there with a root canal. She set about to create an agency that was a complete turnaround from any other recruitment agency, one that clients and candidates alike would be supported by and taken care of. 

The client’s target audience:

Arrow Group is unique- not just in their business offering but in that they have two distinct audiences. Their target audience is clients (ie businesses and organisations that employ staff) and candidates (job seekers).

The approach: 

As per above, the Arrow Group project required a slightly different approach than I’d ordinarily use due to the two audience types. Language and copy needed to be accessible to both groups. There was a ton of existing content, and after meeting with Jen and Julie (key staff) at our initial briefing, I was inspired to create copy that clearly highlighted both their business values and their passion for their work, which quite frankly, was unlike any that I’d come across from a professional service before. I really wanted to convey the difference in not just what Arrow Group do (ie pair job seekers with employers) but how they do it. Seriously, how many recruitment agencies do you know that turn up to a workplace with cupcakes to celebrate milestones?

The results:

Arrow Group now has a beautiful new website that clearly articulates their professionalism, their passion and their ability to simply get a client and a candidate.  It was my absolute pleasure to take their ideas, business values and recruitment philosophy and transform them into a logical, extensive website aligned to their broader business goals. 

Tell me, does your website accurately convey who you are and what you do?

Website Essentials Checklist

Please get in touch– I’d love to help out.

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 can’t wait to show you 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.

Apostrophe 101

how to use an apostrophe

How to use an apostrophe? Let me count the ways…

As a communications specialist, writer for business, and a person completely besotted with the english language, aka Word Nerd, nothing quite does my head in like seeing marketing materials littered with incorrect spelling, bad grammar and wayward apostrophes. If I’m wandering down the street, thoughts of sugary, decadent indulgence in my mind, cherub-free (so I don’t have to share), and I see a cafe with a chalkboard proclaiming ‘Our donut’s are the best,’ I don’t care if those donuts are injected with my body weight in nutella, rolled in persian fairy floss and served on the abs of Channing Tatum himself; I’m not buying those stupid donuts. In my younger, devil-may-care days it wasn’t unusual for me to pull out a pen and mark up cafe menus- yep, I was wild, I tell you. These days I resist the urge to defile public documents such as advertising flyers, although it’s not always easy. Instead, I’ll try a different approach to improving the world’s marketing materials, one apostrophe at a time, and give a very quick guide to using an apostrophe. Consider it a community service if you will. 

I know some people get all angsty and uptight about using apostrophes, so to avoid it they write phrases like ‘the results of my client,’ rather than the grammatically correct ‘my client’s results.’   The positive in this circumstance is I can understand what they’re expressing, and can fix it through editing, however the sentences become clunky and lose their flow (and thus the reader’s attention) very quickly.

Here’s the rule:

Use apostrophes only to show possession or to indicate missing letters (contractions).

Here’s how to implement the rule:

Write the word that owns something, add an apostrophe, then add an s.

Don’t use apostrophes in:

•possessive forms of pronouns- its, hers, ours, yours, whose.

•on inananimate objects- the price of wool, NOT the wool’s price

•in Australian place names- Kings Cross

•in Australian organisation titles- Workers Federation of Australia.

How’s that? Clear as mud? You don’t have to face the gut-wrenching of punctuation alone- I’m tertiary qualified in this quagmire and I’ll help you stop shoving apostrophes where they’re not wanted or needed. Give me a buzz and I’ll sort out your apostrophes quick smart.

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Tell me, do you know how to wield an apostrophe?

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.

My five favourite business books- well, kinda…

five favourite business books

Those of you playing along at home will know that each year, for the past three years, I publish a list of the best reads I’ve enjoyed. Some of the books are new, some are new to me, some are those I reread every couple of years because I just love them so, so much.

Here’s a link to 2016’s list, and 2017’s and 2018’s for your reading pleasure. 

You’ll see that only a small percentage of books that have a business focus make my list each year and that’s usually because many of the business books that cross my desk are incredibly unengaging. My criteria for a business book is that it must be well written (or at least, not overly awful) and that it leaves me with at least three actionable, specific things I can take away and implement within my own business and broader life. 

Criteria outlined; let’s get stuck in, in no particular order:

One Red Paperclip: or how an ordinary man achieved his dream with the help of a simple office supply by Kyle Macdonald

This was a funny read that gave me the feels, but also showed the power of PR, bloody well written descriptions and captions and a good news story. Journos would have been jumping out of their skins for this story, and it shows how a bit of creativity in pitching could have fantastic results.

 

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This book had a great impact on my business by highlighting the power that can be gained by saying ‘no’ and by refusing to allow others to hijack your workload. There’s not many feelings at work that are less desirable than feeling busy and yet unproductive, and more than anything else, this is a read that celebrates focus as a gift to productivity. Whilst not amazingly well-written, it’s a quick and easy read with clear take-aways.

 

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This is one of those business bibles that is artfully included in almost every ‘take a tour of my office’ instagram post, positioned in a jaunty angle next to a fiddle-leaf frigging fig or some such greenery. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I could call myself a woman in biz (#girlboss! #eww) without reading it. There’s some really good, practical, commonsense and easy to apply practices that Ferriss recommends. Do I now have a 4 hour work week whilst raking in the cash Scrooge Mc-Duck style? No, but I have limited checking my email to three times a day, so that’s a win.

 

The Miracle Morning by Hal Enrod

Spoiler alert- this book prescribes waking up early which is nothing new for me. I do get up early, 5.30am in fact, but my morning routine has basically involved looking at my phone whilst putting on my sneakers to be at the gym at 6am. The Miracle Morning prescribes a little bit more love and care to the routine to up level your day, your business and your life. It’s six steps that are easy to implement, but may require a wake up time of 5am, which I’m not 100% on board with. I’m still thinking about actioning some of Hal’s steps, but can I see myself repeating affirmations at 5am? Computer says no… it’s a fun, easy read, though- go for it!

 

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

OK, so this read hasn’t actually made it to one of my yearly booklists because I received it for Christmas last year, but it’s already earned itself a place in my 2019 list thanks to the page upon page of to-do items that I wrote as I read it. This is a massive book- would be a fantastic doorstop, in fact- but there is simply slabs of gold within the pages. There’s also some dubious ‘tools’- psychedelics, for example- but I think barely a chapter passed without me making a note for myself give a tool a try. I think that’s what I like most about it- every tool is offered up as a possibility. There’s no draconian must-dos. The content is delivered in an expression and invitation of gentle suck it and see. 

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Tell me, what’s your favourite business book?

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.

Are your business values aligned to your communications?

There was a specific brand that permeated my adolescence and early twenties that was cooler than cool.  It’s not a stretch to say that it played a big part in informing my career choice of communications, all while keeping my skin well moisturised without using products tested on animals. The brand was headed up by a formidable, pure dynamo of a woman that all the girls in my Year 12 cohort wanted to be when we grew up. They used marketing campaigns that compelled us to protect the planet, support community fair trade, defend human rights, support rights for women and remove blackheads. Can I get a hell yeah?

A decade or two passed, and imagine my dismay when walking past one of their stores with my cherubs to see an image bigger than my house of a naked man hiding his bits with a bar of (glycerine cruelty-free) soap. There can be no denying the model was sporting an admirable set of abs, but explicit exploitation, sexualised images and objectification were a considerable disconnect from the brand’s former, long term focus on unshakable ethics. 

Sex sells; there’s nothing new about that. But it doesn’t have to, and for the vast majority of brands and businesses, it’s inappropriate, unnecessary and unacceptable to buy in to the increasing overexposure of sexual advertising.

Business values and brand personality lie at the core of communications. It’s one of the first questions I ask clients at the start of a new project and the two inform each other. If a business values are grace and discipline and temperance then it’s highly unlikely (and molto difficult to implement) to have a brand personality that is cheeky and irreverent. 

As a communications specialist, one of my major goals whilst working with clients is to ensure their communications reflect their values. 

I look objectively at clients’ communications, specifically how they look from the outside. I assess everything against the values of the business, from event promotion, blog posts, websites, email campaigns and social media. Are the messages confusing? Do they align to the business vision? Do they inspire or offend the business target audiences?

Health and fitness businesses are often (unfortunately, and no doubt unintentionally) great examples of a disconnect between values and branding. Health and fitness often have the values of empowerment, motivation, strength and community. Let’s add welcoming, professional and inclusivity into the values mix. Step into the physical space of the business, and no doubt those values are on display via the staff, the equipment and the programming. However, take a peek at their Facebook page, or the posts on their website. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the content is at best male-centric, and at worst blatantly sexist. A lot of content I see is demeaning and irritating, and I’m not impartial to sending a quiet PM to businesses to clean up their posts and stop offending their broader audience.

Communications messages can either enhance or detract. They can support or demolish a brand, and I love the part of my work that ensures communications efforts stay bang on brand whilst hitting the right targets, confirming that the way a business looks on the outside matches its goals and values. I work with businesses to ensure their branding remains unambiguous and their communications methods reflect the nuances and ethos of the business. We use targeted communications tactics to make sure their marketing efforts hit the right people with the right messages, and we work hard to avoid the negative stereotypes, branding and messaging that some businesses simply can’t seem to escape.

If you’d like an objective set of eyes to look over your communications, get in touch. I’ll help you cover up those rippling abdominals.

Tell me, are your communications bang on brand?

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This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock communications, tactics to 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.

Tell Your Story- Emma McQueen

proust questionnaire emma McQueenIt’s my favourite time of my blog schedule, when one of my gorgeous clients takes The Proust Questionnaire by the you-know-whats to reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of their soul… or what they had for dinner last night! Say hello to Emma McQueen! Emma is a human resources leader, business and executive coach with over 20 years’ experience. She has worked in nonprofit and corporate human resources, coaching executives, improving processes, and solving problems. Emma knows how to turn an individual’s performance around through effective coaching and feedback, and not only is Emma my client, I’m also one of hers through her Thriving Women program.

The Proust Questionnaire by Emma McQueen

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Having a plan, being organised, knowing what needs doing and having time to get on and do it. And for that split second when everyone in your family is happy! That’s my perfect happiness!

What is your greatest extravagance?

It’s a tie between my shoes and my doTERRA oil, although the shoes are superficial and my doTERRA oil is an essential in our house. They are amazeballs for getting kids to calm the farm, getting kids to sleep, fighting depression and anxiety naturally. Would you say they are an extravagance? I don’t think so!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

You got this, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress, there is this cool book you should read, you’re not charging enough, you’re worth more… my goodness the list goes on!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I have three children, two of them are my step-daughters (although I never refer to them as that, because frankly, they ARE my daughters) and my third, Evie, she is my biological child, she came to us after two miscarriages and was well wanted in our house. I am so proud of the stability I have created for all my children, but being a mother, that’s the greatest achievement and everything I do brings me back to this.

What is your most treasured possession?

This one is controversial, probably my bible. I love the calming effect it has on me, I totally believe in God. I don’t read it religiously but my aim in life is to be kind, to show kind, to role model kind and I just think Jesus was kind, you know?

What is your most marked characteristic?

Oh, this one is easy; it’s my optimism.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Wonder Woman

Who are your heroes in real life?

My dad, he has such an awesome work ethic. My friend Andrea is a psych and has done some amazing things in her life.

What is your motto?

Be enthusiastic optimistic and energetic everyday – it’s served me well and continues to do so!

What’s Your Story?

I have always been an entrepreneur, coming up with creative ways to help people and make some money. The more people I get to help, the happier I am (like a pig in mud you could say). Most recently, I can see that women don’t back themselves enough, they are too close to themselves to see their true worth and this limits their potential, in both their own businesses and within the organisations that they work within. I want to change that, I want to help them see what the rest of us see, and I want them to feel it, really feel confident about the type of person they are. We all have some gold inside us; my job is to mine it and bring it to the surface.

Emma McQueen headshot

 

Find out more about Emma at Emma McQueen 

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. 

How to move from a jumble of ideas to a full content plan

How to move from idea to content planBlogging is a freaking fabulous communications tactic that I simply adore. Why? Let me count the ways:

  • It’s a way to build brand awareness
  • It’s a way to establish your credibility as an expert
  • It rewards you with Google love
  • It feeds your social media schedule; and
  • It gives you a reason to write!

Spoiler alert- the last one on that list is my favourite.

Hey guess what? This post comes with a freebie that will get your writing juices flowing, big time.

I work with a lot of people who see the value in blogging for their business, but just can’t make it happen. Some are overflowing with content ideas, to the point where it becomes overwhelming, or where they blog about everything and anything but their writing isn’t aligned to their communications or broader business goals. Others simply can’t find anything to write about, which can happen when we’re too close to something. Some of these clients work with me on a content blast to get their content plan created, whilst others simply handball their content marketing to me. Either way, they have a content plan and are putting blog posts out into the world to tell their story and to grow their business.

So, how does one go from having ideas scribbled on post its- or from no ideas, zero, nada, zilch- to a full content plan?

I’m so glad you asked! It all happens with some good old fashioned Word Nerd sorcery and some basic organisation skills. Shall we dive right in?

Let’s start with a bucketful of ideas. There’s two approaches to generate ideas; the first is a wild brainstorm using great prompts like these, and the second is to brainstorm slightly less wildly against your content themes or pillars. Your content pillars will guide your plan and should be complementary to your broader business goals, as well as your communications goals. Is your reason for blogging to share your expertise? Then this will inform your pillar- for example, I have two content pillars within my plan that share my knowledge and experience- Communications Toolkit and Writing for Business. They share very specific information and tips and tricks against those two categories.

Once your bucket is overflowing, sort each individual idea into categories. Some will be obvious- for example, if you’re in the business of counselling women leaders, and you have an idea for a post about equal pay, then you would allocate this to a category that focuses on gender issues. Back to my schedule- each year, I have four pillars in my strategy. In 2019 I have Communications Toolkit, Writing for Business, Tell Your Story and Holly’s Story and all of my blog post ideas fit one of these categories.

Once allocated into a theme, it’s time to decide on your blogging frequency. I blog weekly because maths hurt my head and it’s easy for me to allocate my topics out that way 😉 but monthly is absolutely a-ok too. Regardless of your theme, now all is left to do is to schedule each post across your calendar.

Now, off you go and write! Or outsource of course; that’s always a good idea, and I know the perfect Word Nerd. Spoiler alert (again)- it’s me.

Tell me, do you have a content plan that you’re besotted with?

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.

 

Introducing The Proust Questionnaire- as completed by Holly!

the proust questionnaire- Holly CardamoneHave you heard about The Proust Questionnaire? I first came across it in 2003 when I was completing my Master of Arts in Professional Writing and Literature and I was spellbound. My Creative Non-Fiction lecturer showed it to us as a fantastic way of getting to the heart of an interview subject. It wasn’t created by Marcel Proust, the French novelist and essayist, but he is widely credited for it’s popularity. Confession time- I can’t actually stand Proust’s writing, I find it dense and impenetrable and pretentious, but I LOVE the concept of The Proust Questionnaire. He believed the answers to the 35 questions showed a person’s true character and would ask people at parties to share their answers. They’re a fabulous way to get to know someone beyond the level of superficiality that often comes with interviews, and with business writing in general, and so I have asked some of my clients to complete ten of the questions. Of course, it’s only fair that I should answer them too, so here we go!

The Proust Questionnaire by Holly Cardamone

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A beautiful beach (the North Shore of Hawaii would do perfectly), my family, the sun, the surf and nowhere to be!

What is your greatest extravagance?

Professionally- not working within a niche like most other communications specialists and writers. The diversity of my client list is where the magic is for me, but it does limit my marketing.

Personally- and this is quite shallow- but it’s my hair keratin treatments! Pre-keratin, one gust of wind and I looked like an extra from the Lion King. Not having to constantly have a hair elastic on my wrist is liberating.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I swear like a MOFO and this is not a good quality, nor one which I admire within myself, and it’s something I’m constantly working on with very little response.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My Master of Arts in Communications because I went into it with no communications professional background, but a passion for words and language and people. Of course my family life rate highly too!

Where would you most like to live?

I absolutely love my house in Melbourne, but would I say no to a beach house perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean? Bring it!

What is your most treasured possession?

I have two engagement rings- one is mine, and the other is/was my grandmother’s.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Physically it has to be my smile- I’m Holly and I’m a grinner, something that was only obvious to me in my early twenties and in my farewell card, almost all colleagues made mention of my smile. I had no idea that I walked around beaming.

Personality- it’s my laugh. I love a good laugh and I’m often the person that brings a smidge of lightness to a conversation, quite often inappropriately.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Jo from Little Women. I wanted to be her when I was a child.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I’m blessed with family and friends that I look up to every day, who inspire me in a thousand different ways. I love people doing good stuff in the world, so Oprah with her work is right up there.

What is your motto?

Tell your story! Story and words are at the heart of my life, professionally and personally. Story is everything.

Tell me, have these questions got you thinking?

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This is a post in my Proust Questionnaire blog series. Each month, I share the answers of ten of the Proust Questionnaire questions from 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. 

 

Are you your industry’s best kept secret?

social proof marketing

I have a fabulous content writing client who is twelve months into running her own consulting business post-corporate life. She is incredible at what she does, gets fantastic results for her clients yet feels her work is very much still a secret. No-one knows who she is and what she does, much less that she has the potential to help them transform their business. It’s not uncommon for new businesses to find themselves in a state of anonymity. In communications, we call this social proof, and it can have a massive impact on how you and your work is perceived. The good news is that it can be a quick fix.

Psst- this comes with a pretty cool freebie! Keep on reading, and ye shall be rewarded…

Social proof is an underused communications tactic which is incredibly powerful. It includes reviews, testimonials, your number of clients or customers and your social shares and engagement. It plays a massive role in people’s decision making processes. In many ways, it works like word of mouth marketing, but with the opportunities afforded by the Internet, social proof can be amplified significantly. It builds trust and credibility and validates people’s decision to buy from you or to use your services.

So, how do you build social proof when you have zero?

Ask your existing network for referrals

This can be as simple as a ‘tell all your friends’ message at the end of a transaction, or you could put some more work (and love!) into the process by writing a considered email, detailing the kind of clients you would like to be referred to, and asking if they know of anyone who would be a great fit. I know some people like to incentivise and formalise their referral process with a percentage of sales income, but at the very least a beautiful thank you card with a gift is always appreciated. 

Directly request testimonials and reviews

Send a request for a testimonial and a review as soon as possible after a project completes, and make the process super quick and easy for your clients. Add the direct link to your Google my Business review page, your Facebook page and your LinkedIn profile. Maybe ask your clients to complete a quick questionnaire/survey to glean feedback and information which you can then rewrite into a testimonial.

Use your existing clients’ experiences to create social proof content

Yes, I’m talking about case studies, but depending on the nature of your work and your branding, I don’t mean university-esque case studies with citations and Executive Summaries and all that jazz. Basically, your content can show the problem your client has faced, your approach for addressing it, and the glory that rained down upon them post-working with you. For example, I use a specific blog category, Blue51 Show and Tell, to highlight and showcase my work with clients and the results we’ve achieved.

Highlight your ‘as seen in’ content

Have you been interviewed by a journo? Have you guest blogged for someone? Been a podcast guest? Any media mentions? Include that on your website and in your social media schedule. 

So, where to put all this delicious social proof?

Well, anywhere and everywhere! Don’t be stingy; sprinkle that shiz like confetti! Include it on your landing pages, in your email campaigns and your social media schedule. Build a testimonial-only page on your website like my personal brag page, and link to this in your email signature. Include testimonials in your proposals and quotes, in your new client welcome kits and in your speaking engagements. Toot that horn!

Tell me, are you your industry’s best kept secret?

Get my free ebook Small But Mighty- Freelance Life

Small but mighty freelance life ebook

This is a post in my Communications Toolkit series. Each month, I share insights, hints and tips from my communications bag of tricks. I’ll show you how to rock communications, tactics to 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.

My Top 10 blog posts of 2018

Blue51 best blog posts

Wowsers, what a year in blog land! I’ve had a wander around my analytics, and the following posts are the ones that have been most popular from this year. That said, this is a modified Top 10 in that posts I wrote three and four years ago are still appearing in my most viewed content each month, which shows you the power of good content.

Pstt- this comes with a sweet little freebie!

Without further adieu, or whatever the Italian version of that is, here are the blog posts that have performed the best on my website this year:

The one where I was copied and plagiarised- and no, it’s not a form of flattery

The one where how I shared how I make boring copy sexy AF

The one where I show how to look objectively at your communications

The one where I go over the fundamentals of a content ladder

The one where I go undercover at a client’s event to get a real feel for the experience she delivers

The one where I beg people not to sacrifice grammar for SEO bots

The one where I show how to give good woo

The one where I gush over communications inspo

The one where I take a dance around my Google Analytics dashboard

and finally

The one where I give you some tools for communications clarity.

Not a bad list, no?

It’s safe to say that I bloody love blogging. It’s such a fantastic medium for sharing information and for educating, inspiring and sharing knowledge and a giggle or three. I’m incredibly excited for another big year of content writing!

My Top 10 Go-To Writing Prompts

Tell me, any requests, suggestions or queries for future posts? Hit me up!

My top 10 reads of 2018

Oh, it’s that magical time of year again when I dive deep into my memory banks to relive the books that I’ve loved best this past year. Those of you playing along at home will know that each year, I keep a running diary of the books I read, and at the end of the year, I compile my favourites into a blog post to share my unsolicited opinions on what I’ve read.

Here’s some reading lists I prepared earlier:

My Top 10 Reads of 2017

My Top 10 Reads of 2016

And now, onto the current year! As of today, December 11 2018, I’ve read less books than previous years. I’m currently at 65.5 books inhaled and devoured, which includes almost three weeks of no reading during our California adventure.* Even so, trying to narrow down a top ten out of so many fabulous reads isn’t easy, and as always, I have a mix of fiction and non-fiction/biz books in my list. Except for numero uno, they’re not in top 10 order because, quite frankly, it was hard enough to find ten amongst the gold. The main criteria, especially for the non-fiction/business/PD books is that they make an impact on my life in some way, either with something I can action and implement, or by way of inspo. Some are here because of the sheer excellence of the way words have been weaved. I’ve included the direct links to Booktopia but of course I have no affiliation with them, I just want you to be able to get them quickly and easily!

Another caveat- I’m a writer, so I read as a writer. It’s really hard for me to ignore shitty syntax and crappy grammar so on the whole self-published books very rarely (ie never) make my list.

Let’s get our Word Nerd Book Wormery on, shall we?

1- 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.

2- Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

This was a beautiful book about two teenage sisters who live with their family out of town. When society breaks down, they’re geographically removed from the chaos, until they’re not. It was gripping, poetically written and actually quite harrowing in it’s frightening ability to come true, not unlike The Handmaid’s Tale which I also reread most years. I loved it!

3- 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.

4- The Good People by Hannah Kent

I really loved this novel set in Ireland in the 1800s and the superstitions and beliefs of the characters, people living in borderline poverty. My grandmother, my Nonna, had some seriously messed up superstitions that made no sense to anyone but her, but even she had her limits. This gave me an insight into where they would have originated.

5- 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.

6- 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.

7- The Miracle Morning by Hal Enrod

I read this in January during the long blissful days of summer after having it recommended to me more times than I count, and always with the comment ‘Oh, but you get up early anyway!’ Yes, I do get up early, 5.30am in fact but my morning routine is basically looking at my phone whilst putting on my sneakers to be at the gym at 6am. The Miracle Morning prescribes a little bit more love and care to the routine to up level your day, your business and your life. It’s six steps that are easy to implement, but may require a wake up time of 5am, which I’m not 100% on board for. Eleven months later, I’m still thinking about actioning some of Hal’s steps, but can I see myself repeating affirmations at 5am? Computer says no… it’s a fun, easy read though- go for it!

8- The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

This novel reminded me of my favourite book of all time (kinda), The God of Small Things, particularly the early chapters where the protagonist was a child and has that view of the world. It was gorgeous, poetic, about the links between women, the stories we tell ourselves as children, the perspectives that may not be real but influence how we live our lives as adults. Pure beauty!

9- 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.

10- Our House by Louise Candlish

This was a highly relatable read about how quickly and easily things can escalate. A man attempts to fix one stupid mistake by another stupid mistake and another and another. I read this one quickly wanting to know the what and the how, and I really enjoyed it.

Here’s some more reads that could have made my list:

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck

Storyland by Catherine McKinnon

Goodwood by Holly Throsby

The School for Good and Evil Series– read in a book club with my older cherub

Tell me, what’s your favourite read of the past year?

*The reading absence happened accidentally and it’s the longest I’ve ever EVER gone without reading a novel or twelve, and boy did I miss it! Like banking up sleep over a long weekend- or like I used to pre-cherubs- I plan on making up for it big time over the summer. In fact, the aforementioned cherubs may need to use a broom handle to get a reaction out of me.