Category: Blog

Let’s Get Real – Creating Authentic Connections

As a content marker and online publisher a lot of the work I do is in the digital and social media world.

We often hear (and tell people) that we need to be ‘authentic’ in our storytelling, that we should create ‘authentic’ connections with people meaningful to us and our business.

I totally agree.

The thing though that has been stumping me for some time though is exactly HOW can we create REAL, AUTHENTIC and MEANINGFUL connections with people in a digital world?

Sure we can start conversations and engage with others like we’ve never been able to before.

In many ways we are more connected than ever – in a technological sense – but is it the same type of connection we get from meeting someone in the flesh – IRL? Are we in some ways more disconnected then ever? Is social media in fact anti-social media?

How can we recapture the same feeling and instant feedback loop we get when speaking to someone who is physically in the same space as us? Is it possible?

I was determined to get to the bottom of this and speak to people who are doing this as part of their work, as well as experts in human behaviour and communication.

I decided to create My Let’s Get Real Project – to pinpoint how to create the In Real Life Feeling (IRLF) in any communication circumstances.

Then on the very day I start formulating this project I reached for my latest word – and out of the hundreds of words I could have randomly chose I picked ‘authentic’.

Spooky right!

So consider this project started.

If you have any input or ideas you’d like to add to My Let’s Get Real Project .

‘Authentic’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my 

Risk Averse or Risk Taker – Why You Don’t Need to Choose

There’s a great series of ads here in Australia from an insurance company featuring ‘Captain Risky’.

is a self-styled Evel Knievel wannabe who says: “I’ve always been drawn to risk – like a moth to an oxy-acety-lene flame”.

He performs crazy stunt after crazy stunt and has some epic fails along the way. Yet he goes on undeterred.

“One thing I do know is that sometimes you gotta go out on a limb – ‘cos that’s where the fruit is.”

There’s some real wisdom in that.

Sometimes you have to take a chance, take a risk – the magic happens outside your comfort zone, but what if you’re risk averse by nature…

I’m a safety first type of person.

Always unplug the iron after you’ve used it. Put the hot iron somewhere safe in case an incredibly powerful gust of wind suddenly materialises out of nowhere and blows it over. Go back and check it three times to make sure it is off, unplugged and hasn’t been knocked over.

Okay so that’s really just being sensible and a ‘little’ OCD.

Does being safe though mean I’m risk averse?

I don’t like going on scary rides, I have no wish to jump out of a plane, swim with sharks or bungy jump. I don’t particularly like flying.

Risk averse? I’m not sure.

I do know that I don’t like the feeling of something being completely out of my control and I also don’t like the feeling of puking everywhere – motion sickness is the number one reason I don’t like scary rides.

But this doesn’t necessarily make me risk averse.

In my life I’ve taken some BIG risks.

I’ve left a good job in a small country town and moved to Tokyo, not knowing a soul there or speaking any Japanese. All after living in only two country towns my whole life.

I have packed up my life and moved to cities of strangers several times with no job or income lined up.

I started my own business and several entrepreneurial ventures, some which have paid off and some which haven’t.

I have spent years working on fictional novels that may never be seen by the world.

So I take risks.

Why?

Because the If Onlys scare me way more than the What Ifs.

Just maybe the risk will pay off…just maybe.

But I’m probably what you would call a calculated risk-taker.

I like hedging my bets.

I like to thoroughly research something first and have a solid plan of attack, followed by Plan B, Plan C and an exit strategy.

I do know that real risk takers don’t have a Plan B necessarily, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not me. I’m a Plan B kind of girl.

My risks are probably a bit tamer as a result, but they’re still risks.

So from this day forth I would like to to be known as Captain Calculated Risky!

And as Captain Risky says…”Kick It and Rip It”….after a thorough risk assessment of course.

‘Risk’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .  

 

The Biggest Content Marketing Mistake You Need to Avoid

5 Life Changing Books Every Writer Needs to Read Today

I love being a writer. It is all I have ever wanted to do, but doing it for a living and balancing it among other work and life priorities can be downright hard. Whenever I do need a boost, inspiration, motivation or writing tips I turn to a few key books – here are what I think are the top books every writer needs to read.

1. Living as a Creative –

I’m a scaredy-cat by nature. Many writers I have come across are. For me, fear goes along with my overly active imagination that always asks ‘what if?’.

It’s great for fiction writing but not so good for getting over those fears of ‘am I really any good at this?’, ‘should I just give up?’, and any version of the ‘I’m a fraud’ factor many of us are regularly afflicted by. 

What I love about ” is that it deals with all of these fears and more. Gilbert encourages the writer to accept fear and invite it along on your journey, but never to let it in the “driving seat”. Beautifully written and packed with useful heart-felt advice on how to live a creative life.

2. Making Money as a Writer – 

One of the most quoted lines from this book is ‘Beauty is good, but coin is better. You can’t eat artistic integrity. It tastes like sawdust.’ It is the perfect summary of the theme of Birmingham’s book.

If you’ve ever wanted to make money from writing, be it as a freelancer, a features writer or author, then this is the book for you.

Notice though I didn’t say it was for poets…Birmingham doesn’t have any useful advice for poets, but he does have a wicked sense of humour – he really knows his sh…stuff.

There’s plenty of expert tips and laughs along the way starting with the tongue in cheek full title: : Who Smashes Deadlines, Crushes Editors and Lives in a Solid Gold Hovercraft.  

Topics covered include ‘How to slay writer’s block’, ‘What the hell is workflow?’, ‘How to write 10,000 words in a day’ and ‘The best apps for writers’. Hard-core, real-world practical advice. Read it if you dare!

3. Mastering Language –

is a guide to mastering language, written by the master himself.

Helpful advice, tips and instruction on using language is threaded among personal anecdotes and memoir.

King uses his life and writing experience, as well as examples from his own novels, to illustrate technical writing points. He shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work. If you’re a Stephen King fan you will get a serious kick out of this. Even if you’re not – and I don’t read much of his stuff (I told you I’m a scaredy cat) – you will still find it incredibly helpful.

For one, I share King’s hate for passive voice. If you catch me doing it feel free to tag me with a narky tweet. Scratch that. For all I know I’ve dropped a few clangers in this post. 

He also declares war on adverbs, which has led me to revisit my own work and weed out the little buggers but also live in perpetual fear of them. So I’d say King’s ‘On Writing’ mission is accomplished in terms of improving my writing.

4. Putting Yourself Out There – 

I have mentioned this book more than once in my blog posts, for several reasons.

Firstly, I have a massive writing and marketing crush on Seth Godin. Love your guts mate!

Secondly, this book is freakin’ awesome.

 is an urgent call to action to writers and other creative types to stop waiting ‘for their turn’ and to send their art out to the world.

He goes further, saying we owe it to the world to share our craft, whether the world likes it or not. It’s not the world’s job to love us, it’s our job to just put ourselves and our art out there – embracing all the challenges along the way.

I love how Godin simultaneously inspires and gives the reader the kick up the butt they need while also delivering necessary reality checks.

5. Understanding Story – 

Ursula Le Guin has created this deceptively simple guide focusing on the craft of story and narrative.

 covers the main components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view.

Le Guin combines illustrative examples with her own witty commentary, as well as exercises. She also includes advice on working in writing groups.

These are just some of the books I have loved and found incredibly valuable for improving my writing.

What books for writers do you recommend?

**Stay in the know about my writing projects and receive regular writing tips and articles like this – .**

Truth. Can you handle it?

I’ve always been fascinated with the truth.

First there’s the concept of telling lies.

As a general rule I don’t tell lies.

White lies at times perhaps. Omissions maybe.

But not big fat porky pies.

For one, I’m a little scared of being caught out.

I do subscribe to Sir Walter Scott’s quote:

I also pride myself on being: what you see is what you get.

I’m not great at pretending to be something I’m not and I don’t enjoy it.

I try hard to lead an authentic life and be true to myself.

Truth for me means finding your purpose in life and following it.

It means saying something the way it is, though sometimes it’s necessary to focus on positives and a little bit of sugar coating, which, on a whole, is better than lying even if you forgo self-preservation.

I guess what I find most interesting is individuals who habitually lie…so much so that they actually believe their lies.

Whether someone is lying to themselves or others, I feel bad for them because there is nothing as fulfilling as knowing you are living and owning your truths, even if you don’t like them sometimes.

‘Truth’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 

The Big Bad Truth about Blogging and Content Marketing and Why Your Business Should care

Content marketing and blogging remains one of the most effective marketing strategies for businesses.

Your online content has never mattered more.

In fact it REALLY matters. cites numerous studies that show:

  • Small businesses with blogs get 126% more leads than businesses without blogs.
  • 77% of internet users read blogs.
  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.
  • Websites with blog content have 434% more search-engine indexed pages – making your business easier to find on Google.
  • Content marketing generates 3 times the leads and 6 times the conversions, while costing 62% less than other marketing methods.

I know this first-hand because I regularly work with global marketing specialists and agencies. I also ghost-write for one of the world’s leading Content Marketing Experts, featured numerous times in Forbes magazine.

So what’s BAD about what I’m telling you?

It’s not bad if your business already has a content marketing and blogging strategy.

However, if you aren’t creating and distributing valuable content – preferably original content – then you may be missing out on valuable lead generation and sales opportunities.

I’m not talking about advertisements or blatant brand promotion. I’m talking about useful and interesting content, such as blog or online articles, relevant to your target audience.

The intention of the content, of course, is to stimulate interest in your brand and result in the reader taking an action, but this is achieved by being helpful as opposed to salesy.

How to Get Started

Regular blogging via your website, or publishing online articles on sites such as  is relatively simple when you work with a .

You can get high quality blog articles and online content in a cinch – and it will only take 10 minutes of your time.

Check out our . You may also like to check out my blogging .  for high quality content.

Pause. A short stop can change your journey for the better.

Take a temporary break or rest.

At this time of year things seem to really speed up.

Work. Family. Social events. They hit a crescendo at Christmas time.

If you’re anything like me you have set an ambitious list of tasks that need to be finished before Christmas, so when it gets to Christmas you can take a break.

But the problem with this approach is you can burn yourself out preparing for a break, and when you do get to the break it doesn’t feel like one at all.

This is why you need to pause every now and again.

Pausing from a long project or intensive period can be critically important.

Taking a short break can actually make your work more effective as it allows you to re-energise, regroup and unpack anything that’s been troubling you.

It enables you to see the wood for the trees.

And if you are looking for a relaxing and carefree Christmas break, then take a moment to pause…pause right now…today.

‘Pause’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 

Getting My Drive On For the Week

I don’t think I’ve ever had a significant issue with drive.

Driving as in motor vehicles in my younger days perhaps—for the record I’m an ‘Excellent Driver’ now—but never motivation.

Drive: a determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need….an ambition to achieve something.

Sure I occasionally have my bad days when I’m less motivated than others, but on the most part I’m fortunate enough to have drive.

I am curious though. What exactly gives me the drive—especially on a Monday morning, under the weather from a sinus infection and a long list of tasks for the day—to just get on with it.

A person’s motivation is a combination of desire and energy directed at achieving a goal. It is the cause of action. Influencing someone’s motivation means getting them to want to do what you know must be done. (U.S. Army Handbook, 1973)

It seems that drive comes from desiring something enough and taking action that you believe will satisfy that need or want.

I think drive takes passion and a certain leap of faith.

You have to passionate about what you want and believe you CAN make it happen—that the universe will provide if you create positive energy and action. 

This requires you to believe your needs are important and that you deserve those needs to be met. It takes a feeling of self-worth. It takes a belief that the world isn’t against you, despite any prior experiences to the contrary.

Sure lots of factors come to play when it comes to drive.

There’s beliefs, values, interests, fears, health, mental energy and conflicting priorities, so it’s never going to be simple.

Sometimes Mondays kinda suck! Sometimes other days, weeks or months kinda suck.

But even on the tough days, my belief that tomorrow may be my day, is stronger than the fear that “I’m not going to satisfy this need”.

So on the kinda sucky days, start doing something today, start right now, no matter how small that action is. That’s drive. And you never just now…you might just get exactly what you desire.

‘Drive’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .  

The New Me – Flash Fiction

New. “Today is the start of the new you.” My mother’s words are an earworm burrowing into my mind. What’s wrong with the old me?

In the mirror she stares at me, daring me to defy her. My inner voice screams to defend the current me. My mother flashes me a Sale of the Century model smile, and I stay silent. I’m 37 but the child in me is eager to please.

My mother had arrived on my doorstep an hour earlier after I had ignored her last nineteen messages. She had even taken to posting ‘there’s nothing as strong as a bond between a mother and daughter’ style posts on my Facebook timeline.

“I thought you were dead,” she had said.

“I’ve been busy with work.” I was a merger and acquisitions lawyer. I worked long hours but I loved my job. A point lost on my mother.

“If you didn’t work so much, Tom wouldn’t have escaped to the desert.”

I take a deep breath. “I’ve told you, Mum. The break-up was a mutual decision. Tom had a great job opportunity in Dubai.”

“Maybe if you made more of an effort…” Her eyes went to my unwashed hair, pulled into a low ponytail, before landing on my leggings and Ugg boots. “You could get some style tips from your sister.”

I groan, readying myself for the great list of achievements. A muscle under my mother’s eye twitches momentarily, and then the mask is back. “Married and two children, all before the age of 32.”

“There’s still time…” My voice is a strangled whisper. How is it that I can bring CEOs of multi-million dollar companies to their knees, yet this woman can still render me a self-doubting mess?

My mother’s eyes flash in triumph. “I have a present for you.”

The ‘present’ was an appointment with my mother’s hairdresser, Rhonda – a woman whose 80s poofed hair was reminiscent of Spike from Degrassi Junior High.

As Rhonda’s scissors hover, I open my mouth to protest, but my mother is prepared. After all, this was premeditated torture. 

“You do want to do something before it’s too late?”

I give a dutiful nod and in one fell swoop my ponytail is dropping to the floor. In no time Rhonda has transformed me into an eerie mash-up of Hillary Clinton and Sharyn Osbourne. It is my mother’s haircut.

My mother beams at me. “Much better.” She trots off to the counter to make a show of “treating my daughter – she’s had such troubles you know.”

I feel a fury buried deep within me begin to rise. I am watching myself from afar as I reach out for a set of clippers. My hands seem forged in steel as I run the clippers through the side of my hair, leaving a trail of bare scalp. I can see my mother in the mirror flapping like a dying fish, and I keep shaving. “You’re right, Mum. This is the start of the new me.”

Writer’s Note: This story is pure fiction. My mother is amazingly awesome – she told me to say that : )

Defying The Odds with Dystopia

We’ve all heard the big names; Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth and James Dashner. Thanks to their wildly successful novels and blockbuster film adaptations, these authors are the ones to look to when it comes to dystopian fiction. Over the past few years, this particular genre has skyrocketed in popularity among young adults and they can’t seem get to enough of it.

Guest contributor, and dystopian fiction fangirl, Elka Van Eden, explores why teens are so obsessed with the end of the world.

It’s Our World

There’s nothing like immersing yourself in a new universe, yet with dystopian fiction, this world is our own. The concept of this particular literature style is not only to entertain readers, but challenge them to consider deeper societal and moral issues, present within the real world.

Dystopian novels have a strange uniqueness and familiarity about them, which is what makes them so immensely intriguing to readers. Previously, dystopian novels tended to target an adult audience who were presumed to have a greater understanding of how the world works. Classic dystopian novels like A Clockwork OrangeAnimal Farm and 1984, while read in some high school English schools, are heavily skewed towards adult readers.

Lois Lowry’s, The Giver (1993), is credited as the first dystopian novel written from a teenager’s perspective and since then, almost all dystopian fiction is written in this style. It is one of the leading factors that has allowed this genre to grow and become as well-known as it is today.

The characters in the stories, just like their teen readers, have to deal with highly relatable concerns and problems, including friendship, family, betrayal and death. As well as this, dystopia is like a drastically flawed version of our own society, leading teens on the path of real world issues. These direct comparisons to today’s world, give the readers a shared moralistic goal of preventing the horrors that the novels illustrate, just like the fictional protagonist.

Dystopian novels also provide adolescents with an escape from our social norms and standards, to a more fast paced and exciting environment, even if it the dystopian world is eerily similar to the world we live in. Today’s young people are surrounded by threats of terrorism and a 24/7 news cycle where social justice issues and violence are the main headlines. It’s little wonder, the books that teens are drawn to echo the times they are currently living in.

Teenagers love for the dystopia has been alive and thriving for years and is not only re-awakening their imagination but allowing them to address problems within our own civilisation. The real question is, will this genre continue its popularity, or slowly disappear from our shelves to become just another fad in literature?

Why not pick up a dystopian novel and decide for yourself?

My Top 5, Young Adult Dystopia Picks

 Due to dystopia finding its way into mainstream fiction, you don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy this genre. Here are some dystopian novels I believe stand out from the rest.

  1. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

This action-packed trilogy has got it all. Corrupt governments, a deadly disease, crazy powers and rebelling youths, it really is dystopia to a tee. This month marked the release of its all-star film adaptation, which is a definite must-see.

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government ‘rehabilitation camp’. She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.”

  1. Slated by Teri Terry

If corrupt governments weren’t enough, try corrupt teens… with no memory. This story really does embrace real world issues and provides an almost simple solution. The puzzle throughout this trilogy really does get you hooked.

“Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost forever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist and that they are giving her a second chance – as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?”

  1. The Call by Peadar Ó ’Guilín

Set in Ireland, this novel is a take on classic folklore but with a dark and gruesome twist that keeps you guessing. Imagine The Hunger Games, but instead of only one group of kids a year having to go, every single teen has to go at one point.

“Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?”

  1. Vitro by Jessica Koury

While this isn’t exactly a reflective future of our own, this novel takes a look at science when it goes too far. A handful of interesting conspiracies and twists, along with a villain whose motives are entirely believable, make the novel captivating.

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists charter pilot, Jim Julien, to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for.

In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.”

  1. The Silent Invasion by James Bradley

This soon-to-be series, really is classic dystopia. A disease sweeps the nation, and the main characters do whatever they can to find a cure. Despite being a relatively short novel, the plot really is unpredictable and unique.

“It’s a decade from now and the human race is dying. Plants, animals and humans have been infected by spores from space and become part of a vast alien intelligence.

When 16-year-old Callie discovers her little sister Gracie has been infected, she flees with Gracie to the Zone to avoid termination by the ruthless officers of Quarantine. What Callie finds in the Zone will alter her irrevocably and send her on a journey to the stars and beyond.”