Shelley Widhalm

Archive for 2019|Yearly archive page

Fast and Fun Tips for Fitting in Blogging

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Blogging Tips, Fast and Fun Tips, Writing Goals, Writing Tips on December 8, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Fitting in blogging into a busy schedule is similar to ducks finding a small circle of water within a snow-covered lagoon.

The holidays are full of busyness, but if blogs are a key marketing tool for your business, how can you fit it in?

If you don’t hire out the blogs, which for greatest impact, should be posted every week or at least once month, how can you find the time and space to write them?

In other words, think about The What and The Where, or the act of writing and the physical place to do it that feels the most inspiring and comfortable. But this comfort shouldn’t limit you to writing only when you have the time and can be in that exact spot.

Instead, sneak in writing in small increments and think of writing spots as being anywhere you can sit or stand. Realize that the setting doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does the writing or the tools—use a eyebrow pencil and a napkin or scrap of paper if need be. And carry a notebook wherever you go, since inspiration can hit at unplanned and awkward moments.

Finding a Writing Spot

To find a good writing spot, ask yourself a few questions, making sure you’re ready to write. For instance:

  • Do you need quiet or activity around you? Do you like having background noise to stimulate you as you work?
  • Do you want to write in solitude or be around other people?
  • Do you like working outside, in an office or in a cozy small space?
  • Do you want your things around you set up in a special way to serve as a source of inspiration or comfort?
  • Do you want to go somewhere away from home and the excuses of chores and whatever else can distract you?
  • Do you have a time of day when you do your best writing? Do you need a routine, or a schedule?

Other Ideas for Writing Spots

Here are a few places you can try: a desk in the bedroom or living room, the library, coffee shops, restaurants, a patio or even a bar.

Once you find the right spot, make that your writing office or special place to engage in and write your blogs. But also think of that writing spot as wherever you have an idea or a spark of a great phrase.

 

The Gratitude Wall (and Being Thankful)

In Gratitude, Gratitude Wall, Thanksgiving on December 1, 2019 at 11:00 am

 

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The paper leaves offer an opportunity to reflect on gratitude.

Have you heard of donor walls, where nonprofits and businesses thank their contributors?
Well, the Gratitude Wall is a take on that, at least at the assisted living center I visited on Thanksgiving Day. I thought it was going to be another year of the Gratitude Tree, where we put something we’re thankful for on leaf-shaped cutouts and adhere them to a tree centerpiece.

The Gratitude Leaves

This year, the activities director of the center, which is in Fort Collins, Colo., left folded orange leaves on the dining room tables. The leaves look like tiny greeting cards with “I am thankful for:” on the front that you open up for two blank spaces. The director told us to list the things that make us feel grateful, preferably before our meal of turkey and the fixings arrived, so we could talk about it over lunch. She asked us if we wanted to read them aloud (a half-dozen people raised their hands), or have staff hang them on a wall somewhere in the center.

Most of the residents opted for hanging the leaves—I imagine the result will look like a donor wall, but I only stayed for a couple of hours after the meal and didn’t see it by the time I left.

Anyway, on my leaves, I wrote, “Reading, Writing, Coffee, My Business, Getting Published, My Family and Friends, and Zoey, My dog!”

My mom said, “I knew you’d put Zoey in there.” Of course. She’s a cute, 12-pound miniature dachshund who is my BFF, coworker and whatever else.

The Gratitude List

My list could have gone on and on, but I placed reading and writing first, because those are my hobbies and the key skills for my writing and editing profession. I said my business, because even though it’s hard to go it alone, you can create your own life if you work at it. I added the publishing bit, because I recently got a short story published in “Rise: An Anthology of Change,” compiled by the Northern Colorado Writers. And I put my family and friends, because without their love, support and advice, I wouldn’t be where I’m at—I would still be at square one of figuring out how to have a business.

I should have put the Loveland Business Development Center, because the consultants there have given me advice, tips and homework, pushing me toward success—though, I feel like I’m in the middle, still striving. I still have a weekend gig job. I have a pile of novels and short stories I want to see published. And I can do better with my business. Lots better.

Next Year’s Gratitude

What makes you feel gratitude? Does your gratitude help you see success personally and professionally? How so? What do you want to add to your gratitude list next year?

For me, it’s a traditionally published novel, an improved blog and lots of business!

Happy Thanksgiving! (and the Gratitude Tree)

In Being Thankful, Gratitude, Gratitude Tree, Loving Writing, Thanksgiving, Writing on November 24, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Thanksgiving is a time for showing gratitude. What are you thankful for?

What traditions get you excited when it comes to Thanksgiving? Of course, there’s the food and with my family … the Gratitude Tree.

My brother, his wife, my mother and I eat the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole lunch at her assisted living center, and then we usually get coffee after. But our tradition became extra special three years ago.

The activities director came up with the idea of leaving leaves or other fall-shaped cutouts on the tables and asked the residents (there’s about 75) to write down one or more things that make them feel grateful. Once they have something, they then place the cutouts on fake Christmas trees or centerpieces, depending on the year. I call whatever it is the Gratitude Tree.

Each year, I put my dog and coffee, but this year, I think I need to be more creative.

What should I say? My business? My writing? Reading? My fairly new car? My dog (yes, I already mentioned her—she’s a 12-pound miniature dachshund named Zoey)? My brother? My parents? My friends? Poetry? Nature?

I could go on and on.

It’s important to show gratitude daily, and health professionals often recommend gratitude journals to make it a regular practice. Plus, writing down something helps put it to memory.

I’m grateful for my dozens of journals and notepads, because I love to write however and wherever I go. I guess my top gratitude would be #writing. What’s yours? What makes you feel thankful?

Anyway, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving with family, friends, joy and gratitude!

A RISE-ing Taste of Authorship

In Anthology, Northern Colorado Writers, On Being a Writer, Quiet Refusal, RISE, RISE An Anthology of Change, Writing on November 10, 2019 at 6:00 pm

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Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services holds up a copy of Northern Colorado Writers’ 2019 anthology, “RISE,” featuring her short story “Quiet Refusal,” during the book launch party Nov. 8 at Gilded Goat Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colo. (Photo by Genese Carsrud)

Have you glimpsed your longtime dream and realized you still have work to do? Lots of work.

I did just that when I attended the launch party Nov. 8 at a Fort Collins, Colo., brewery for the publication of Northern Colorado Writers’ anthology, “RISE, An Anthology of Change,” released Oct. 8 by Northern Colorado Writers, LLC. The anthology features short fiction, narrative nonfiction/ memoir, and poetry from more than 35 writers, and it is up for the 2020 Colorado Book Awards.

The Launch Party

The party was at the Gilded Goat Brewing Co., and I walked in to the buzz of Friday night fun, went upstairs and saw a few fellow writer friends. We exchanged copies of our books to sign, and a couple of clever writers had bookmarks and their own marketing materials to go along with NCW’s stickers promoting the book.

Readers, too, sought signatures, going around the room looking for name badges stating “Writer” or “Editor.” I had “Fiction” on mine. It was my first time signing a book, and it was pretty exciting.

My brother, Brian Widhalm, his wife, Kim, and their friends, Shane and Genese Carsrud, and Shane’s mother, Sherri Carsrud, also came, showing their support. Sherri bought a copy, and we took turns getting photos of us holding up the book.

I put the event on Facebook and immediately got lots of Likes. I realized maybe a few people are interested in my writing, so I figured, umm, maybe I should self-publish, alongside my attempts to get traditionally published. Writers are advised to separate out their work, so anything self-published isn’t something to pitch to agents, unless the book hits the best seller list, then the rules change.

Quiet Refusal

My short story appears on p. 90 and is called “Quiet Refusal.” In 2,500 words, it gives voice to a 93-year-old woman named Christina Walker who stutters following a stroke and can’t get her words out. She believes her children refuse to listen to her need not to be sent to an assisted living facility, and she makes every effort to make them hear.

The book I’m considering self-publishing is a novel I wrote a few years ago about an old man and a young woman who also have trouble being heard and end up saving each other through their uncanny friendship.

If I do self-publish, I’ll have to promote, promote, promote! And also do more of what I love, writing! There’s where the dream comes in—I’ve wanted to be a traditionally published author since second grade and have been working on it since (off and on), publishing short stories, submitting my novels to agent and not giving up.

Anyway, here’s to “RISE” and to dreams!

Where to Get Copies

Copies of “RISE” are available on Amazon .

Short story ‘Quiet Refusal’ publishes in ‘RISE’

In Northern Colorado Writers, Quiet Refusal, RISE, RISE An Anthology of Change, Short Fiction, Short Stories, Writing, Writing Short Stories on November 3, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Shelley Widhalm’s short story “Quiet Refusal” is one of the featured creative works in Northern Colorado Writers’ new anthology, “RISE.”

Northern Colorado Writers will celebrate Nov. 8 the launch of its new anthology “RISE, An Anthology of Change” at the local Gilded Goat Brewing Co.

My short story, “Quiet Refusal,” was among the short fiction, narrative nonfiction/ memoir, and poetry selected via juried entries for the anthology—more than 35 writers have their work featured.

My work is a 2,500-word story about a 93-year-old woman named Christina Walker who believes her children refuse to listen to her need not to be sent to an assisted living facility.

It starts with these words: “I absolutely refuse to move into that assisted living place. I’ve been around too long to have people tell me what to do with my life, especially my own children. I raised them to have manners, and here I am lying in this nursing home with my muscles not obeying my mind, my mouth swallowing my words, and my brain not letting them come together into sentences. I keep telling the nurses where I want to go—just the one word I can get out—pronouncing the “h” with a long, stuttering sound, so my house becomes h-ho-ome.”

Short Story Inspiration

I wrote the story because my mother lives in an assisted living facility, so I have familiarity with the setting, but also because the character came to me full of a big personality but without much of a voice, as she struggles to get out her words.

I visit my mom every other week and feel my heart break a little as I watch seniors with dementia struggle to find their rooms and those with health conditions shuffle as they walk. I usually bring along my dog, Zoey, a 12-pound, long-haired miniature dachshund, and I get stopped for requests to pet her. It’s almost like she’s a therapy dog as the residents smile and tell stories about their own pets.

I’m rambling, yes, but the main point is, please join me and the other writers as we celebrate this new publication. The book is up for the 2020 Colorado Book Awards, and royalties from its sale will help support a new RISE scholarship for aspiring writers to be able to attend the annual NCW conference for free.

“I’m so excited to share this book with, well, everyone in the wide world,” said Amy Rivers, director of NCW, in a letter to the authors about the publication. “It’s full of really inspiring and entertaining pieces.”

Launch Party Details

The 2019 RISE! Anthology Launch Party/ Holiday Celebration will be 6-9 p.m. at the Gilded Goat, 3500 S. College Ave., No. 194, in Fort Collins, Colo. There will be food, drinks and merriment, along with books for sale at a special event rate and authors available to sign their works. The event is free.

Fast and Fun Tips for Blogging

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Blogging Tips, Fast and Fun Tips, SEO on September 8, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Establishing a regular blog is a great way to pick out the best of the best, just like ducklings like to do in their search for bugs.

A blog is like a wayfinding sign for a business that directs online traffic nearly to your front door.

Blogs get attention, create relationships and build brands—just as signs hanging outside a retail store or restaurant direct, guide and welcome visitors to stop in. The difference is that blogs consist of short paragraphs, headlines, subheads and visuals, while signage is about the quick and simple—the business name, logo and identity.

With more than 150 million blogs worldwide, how can businesses compete? With a few fast and fun tips of course.

Blogging Benefits

Blogs position the business owner as a leader and authority on the subject matter—whether it’s cookies, coffee or clothes. They educate and inform. They provide authentic storytelling. They bulk up a website with great content and bring in more traffic. And they create SEO value, especially with keywords helping with rankings.

Plus, blogs separate businesses from the competition and give them a mom-n-pop friendly invitation or welcome mat.

To be effective at blogging, here are a few fast tips and even more fun tips.

The Fast Tips      

  • Blog consistently—most sources say once a week is preferable, but less or more is acceptable, especially when it’s on an expected day or date.
  • Consider length and depth—short is 300 words, middle is 300 to 500 words, and long is 600-plus words. Blogs range from content-mill quality to something that is original, well-researched and handcrafted for the audience and customers.
  • Throw in some bullets—they help with quick absorption of copy and are easier to remember.

The Fun Tips

  • Think about your reasons for blogging and make a list.
  • Figure out where to find content for each blog post and make another list.
  • Come up with some catchy headlines.
  • Include a Call to Action to identify what viewers can do next.
  • Figure out where to share the post after hitting Publish? What are three things that can be done with the blog now or in the future?

Three Final Tips

Remember to show voice and personality, so that the blog stands out, and talk about what’s relevant and enjoyable.

Realize that building up traffic and an audience takes time.

And, lastly, set aside the time to blog, or hire someone to do it for you.

 

Fast and Fun Tips for Writing

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Tips on August 4, 2019 at 5:00 pm

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A duckling snuggles against Mom in July at the Foote Lagoon in Loveland, Colo. Good writing helps keep the words tight and comfortable for the reader.

Writing is not easy, even for a writer, but there are some fast and fun tips for writing that you won’t learn in English class.

Forget the five paragraphs and the introductory and concluding sentences. Go for the essential details and tell your story clearly, concisely and simply. Get in the needed transitions, or those sentences that tie together two seemingly disparate ideas, and forget the tangents.

To avoid veering off subject, figure out what you want to say or write first and identify the message from your rough notes. Otherwise, you’ll lose the reader in your word clutter.

The Fast Tips

There are three things you should do in any piece of writing.

First, identify that main message. What is it exactly that you want readers to take away from your blog, article or social media content? What ideas, perspectives or emotions are you trying to convey?

Second, figure out your audience. Are your aiming to reach high-end coffee connoisseurs or do they prefer a casual outing? Write in that tone? Do you want some humor? Do you want to be casual? Or is being serious more fitting?

And lastly, peg your structure. Do you want to tell an anecdote up front and then tell a story? Do you see a beginning, middle and end to what you have to say? Do you want to segment the content into topics or create a list?

The Fun Tips

Here are some tips writers know but may not want to share (it’s what sets them apart and makes their writing great).

  • Be concise and say what you want to say in one sentence, not three. In other words, know how much information is enough and what’s relevant. Cut the rest.
  • Avoid writing in abstractions and using words that convey only the big ideas. Don’t generalize but be specific in what you want to say.
  • Avoid using jargon and unnecessary and fanciful words. Don’t embellish your language just to sound good.
  • Write in the active voice to keep the writing brief and in the present, so that it feels current and relevant.

Once you achieve quick and dirty writing and put in the time and energy to practice, you’ll be able to fit in writing between the busy hours of running a business. Or you can hire some to do it for you and know that they’ve got the clean writing that brings in customers and clients.

 

How to Keep Up With Summer Writing

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Motivation, Writing Tips on July 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

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During my 2018 summer trip to Florida, I photographed shorebirds at Busch Gardens chasing another bird holding a bun, making it so the bird with the prize couldn’t stop to have a snack. I turned my observation into a poem, taking advantage of summer fun to get in some writing time.

With summer a few weeks in, how do you keep up the writing pace when fun beckons?

Writing and blogging seem to be the kind of practices that if set aside lose momentum. Coming back to the project or a regular posting schedule takes review and discipline, just like setting aside a book and forgetting some of the intricacies of the plot and character.

For writers, bloggers and those who need to post a weekly or monthly blog or article, can the serious work of writing be included in busy summer plans?

Try small chunks so that it doesn’t feel like work. Plan a regular time for writing, a little at a time, or write ahead and schedule the blog online, or turn in the article early before deadline. And then don’t open the laptop or notebook unless there is free time or you feel inspired or motivated to write, so that it is not an obligation.

Think of it as quick and dirty writing: get in, do the work of fast content and return to the fun. The result is a mini-moment of work with a reward of having achieved something.

Methods for Quick Writing

Here are a few tips for quick and dirty, but effective writing.

First off, commit to writing while waiting or between the moments of work, errands and summer plans.

And then:

  • Schedule an hour or two for writing every other day or every three days. Even 15 minutes will suffice. It will add up over time, but if you don’t write, then there will be nothing but the desire to do so.
  • Do the writing in the morning by getting up extra early (or just before going to bed) and treat yourself to the rest of the fun summer schedule.
  • Acknowledge the accomplishment, such as by tracking it on a spreadsheet or a check-off list.
  • Break up writing into smaller tasks. Write for a few minutes and then set it aside to make it feel like less work. Come back to it later.

What I Do for Quick Writing

For me, writing after engaging in professional writing and editing during the workday requires discipline, so I set up a schedule in my planner and mark on my spreadsheet the number of hours I achieve writing. I have a project deadline and a weekly goal of a certain word count or page count, depending on if I’m in the writing or the editing stage of my project.

And then I sit down and write, aiming for an hour but if it’s less or more, I’m fine with it. The important thing is that I write.

Fitting in Writing Time and Space

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing and Mindset, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Tips on June 2, 2019 at 5:00 pm

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Zoey the Cute Dachshund is a key motivator for finding time and space for writing.

A fellow writer said five minutes is enough time to write and a car is a good enough space to pull out a notebook—the key is acknowledging the writing no matter when, where and how.

Writing doesn’t have to have the optimal conditions but can be slipped in, because waiting for the right place and right time can end up being limiting. The ideas or what could have happened get lost in the takeover of seemingly more important things.

I find that I can write for 15 minutes (five doesn’t work for me) and get a poem in, but for stories I do need a half-hour. If I wait for an hour or more, I skip it and do other tasks on my to-do list.

The lesson: just make do so you can write.

Carry a notebook wherever you go, or even different notebooks for different places—I have a mini one in my purse, a small one in my workbag and a few in my house. Inspiration can hit at unplanned or inconvenient moments, but take the five minutes, or even two, to jot down a reminder of what you want to say when you do have the time.

Finding a Writing Spot

For those mini writing moments, establish a writing spot that becomes your writing get-away. To do this, ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • Do you need quiet or background noise from conversations and music?
  • Do you want an area that’s open or a small space, such as a closet converted into an office? Do you like working outside if it’s nice out?
  • Do you want to write alone or be around other people? Do you need to write with a writing partner or a write-in group?
  • Do you want to go somewhere away from home and the excuses of chores and whatever else can distract you?
  • Do you have a time of day when you do your best writing? Do you need a routine, or a schedule?

Other Ideas for Writing Spots

Here are a few places you can try: a desk in the bedroom or living room, the library, coffee shops, restaurants, bars or a porch, deck or patio during nice weather.

Once you find a spot you consider comfortable and also inspiring, make that your go-to place for writing. And then cherish it and the work that you do there.

What Your Writer Won’t Tell You (until you go to a conference)

In NCW Writers Conference, Northern Colorado Writers, Writers Conferences, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on May 12, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Amy Rivers, director of Northern Colorado Writers, right, welcomes writers to the 14th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference during the banquet dinner May 3 in Fort Collins, Colo. April Moore, left, dresses in sailor gear in line with the conference theme, “The Muse Cruise: Let Your Writing Set Sail!”

Going to a writing conference is a way to learn trade secrets about writing, editing and publishing without having to spend years on experience and time and energy on classes.

A few such secrets could be found at the 14th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference, “The Muse Cruise: Let Your Writing Set Sail!” May 3 to 4 in Fort Collins, Colo.

The secrets came about during workshops, panel discussions and editor-agent consultations. Literary agents, editors, authors, freelance writers and industry professionals taught one-hour workshops on a variety of topics, including writing at the sentence level, plotting the scenes of a novel, building a platform and applying film techniques to novel writing.

Writing Secrets

Here is a sampling of a few of the writing secrets (followed by the workshop name and presenter):

  • Find the Intention: If you want to freelance or hire a writer, figure out your intentions. Money? Fame? To keep busy? To promote yourself and what you do? To sharpen your writing skills? That’s the why. The what is your subject matter expertise, such as about current trends or untapped topics. The where is the places where your writing will appear. The how? How much do you want to get paid or are willing to pay to achieve quality? (The Business of Art: How to Make Freelance Writing Work for You, Kristin Owens, freelance writer)
  • Stick with It: Don’t give up if you believe in your writing, and be sure to schedule it in, even in small chunks. Realize that writing is a process. You can’t edit a blank page, but you can edit bad writing. The biggest mistake in writing is to turn it into early before it has been edited or revised. Lastly, remember “Writing is hard, not easy. Only stick with it if you can’t imagine not doing it.” (A Writer at Any Age, Cynthia Swanson, bestselling author of “The Bookseller,” keynote speaker)
  • Come Full Circle: The opening pages of a long project should have a hook to draw in the reader and also mirror the closing pages. Start in the right place where the action is, not with a lot of backstory that slowly leads up to the storytelling. Don’t perfect the beginning over and over again, but consider the middle and the ending as equally important. (Opening Pages That Lead to Yes, Angie Hodapp, literary agent)

Writing Passion

The conference concluded with a discussion and poetry presentation by Jovan Mays, former poet laureate of Aurora, a TED speaker and a National Poetry Slam Champion.

“Honor your passion, your love for words,” Mays said. “Keep your options open about who you are in this life. … It’s not about the about, it’s about the journey.”