What makes a good blog?

Blogging isn’t a science. There isn’t an exact way to make people read and like your blog, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It’s relate-able. If you write about an experience or an activity that a large amount of people have shared, they’re going to want to read your account to see how it stacks up with their own, as well as get and/or receive advice.
  • It tugs at emotions. Whether your blog is funny or sad, people are going to want to read it, especially if it’s sad because it’s funny.
  • Post a lot, just don’t write a lot in each post. Lots of short and sweet posts will keep readers hooked, very few long posts will turn people away.
  • Don’t be afraid to use lists and rankings. They’re easy to read and people like them, why do you think magazines use them so much?
  • Use photos. It can be a pain, but readers like photos. A picture is truly worth 1,000 words.
  • Be true. Good stories are good because they actually happened. Don’t fabricate to be sensational, you’ll just get caught in your lies.

If you’d like to start an Areavoices blog, contact Katherine Grandstrand at The Dickinson Press via email (kgrandstrand @ thedickinsonpress.com) or phone (701.456.1206). Your blog could be featured on The Press and other Forum Communications Co. website.

Things I wish we had in Dickinson

As Dickinson grows, there are more and more things I wish we had here. This is my list, feel free to add to it if you like!

  • Target
  • An ice cream parlor (as much as I love Dairy Barn, soft-serve and hard ice cream are two different beasts)
  • A candy store that makes their own delicious chocolates
  • A fancy bakery that doesn’t use Baker Boy, but makes their own things from scratch. This should include but not be limited to: bread, cakes, cookies, cupcakes…
  • A place to get a decent, moderately priced bikini wax
  • A Greek restaurant
  • A sushi restaurant
  • Best Buy
  • A “pet” groomer that does cats (I have a cat who struggles when we try to trim his claws)
  • Different bars – not necessarily increase the amount, but most of the bars in town fall under the “dive” category – and don’t get me wrong, I love a good dive bar.
  • An Irish pub that serves Irish food and has Strongbow on tap, along with Guinness and Harp
  • A beer bar – the kind with lots on tap and lots more in bottles from all around the world!
  • A 24-hour chain coffee shop up near the mall – I love the local coffee shops here, but it’d be nice to have one open when I get off work at 9:30 p.m.!
  • A moderately priced clothing store for 20- and 30- something professional women. If one of the existing stores started carrying this stuff, I’d be happy. The stores here seem to cater more to teenagers, the mommy set or the grandma set. The rest of us need clothes, too! and even mommies and grandmas need cute, professional clothes for work…
  • An up-scale grocery store
  • A bigger farmer’s market
  • Safeway (or other Safeway-owned grocery store)
  • Noodles & Co.
  • Jimmy John’s
  • Nine West
  • Macy’s
  • A produce-and-deli market… the type of place the specialized in FRESH
  • A decent place to buy women’s athletic gear – the girls need to be strapped in when I run!
  • A book store
  • A music store
  • Ulta or Sephora or both – women live here, too!
  • A brow bar
  • Dentists that actually take new patients
  • A dermatologist
  • An oncology department

I’m sure there’s more, but if you have wish list of businesses and other that you would like to add to Dickinson, let me know in the comments! Or, better yet, contact me at kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com or 701.456.1206 and ask about starting your own Areavoices blog.

Wanted: YOU

Here’s the thing, I know Dickinson and the surrounding communities are full of interesting stories and interesting story tellers. Why are you not telling these stories to the world with an Areavoices blog? If you can write an email, you can write a blog. It’s that simple!

Have you moved up here to work in the oil fields or for many of the other opportunities available for workers?

Do you have an interesting hobby you just can’t shut up about?

Do you think you don’t have the time? Do you have a smartphone or tablet computer? Guess what! you can blog on the go.

WordPress (the company that powers Areavoices) has a mobile application for several platforms. (Click on the link to see if an app is available for your phone or tablet.) So if you’re an oil worker who has some down time or a crafter sitting in a waiting room, whip out your phone and tell us what’s on your mind.

If you want some help getting started, contact me, Katherine Grandstrand, at kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com or 456-1206 or just stop on by. If you plan on stopping by after hours, just call or email ahead to make an appointment.

Happy Blogging!

You’re never too old!

If you’ve considered starting an Areavoices blog, but thought you were too old, think again.

Forum Communication Co.’s own Marilyn Hagerty (Grand Forks Herald food critic) recently wrote a review of Grand Forks’ newest restaurant, which just happened to be mega-chain Olive Garden. While many consider the eatery the equivalent of Italian fast food for it’s presence in every suburb across the nation, the people of Grand Forks and the surrounding area (where I’m from, by the way) have been waiting for one of these chains for many, many years. For as long as I can remember, Grand Forks has wanted an Olive Garden.

But I digress, Ms. Hagerty’s review went viral as food snobs made fun of her review, wondering why anyone would take the time or effort to critique something so mundane, chalking it up to an undeveloped pallet or her Midwestern naivete. Others came to her defense, which has led to the opportunity of a lifetime for the 85-year-old columnist.

As we speak, the career journalist is in New York reviewing the finest restaurants the city has to offer. And she and her FCC associate have created a blog so the general public can track her travels.

So if an 85-year-old can start a blog, so can you.

If you want to start an Areavoices blog, contact Katherine Grandstrand at kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com or 701.456.1206.

Already started an Areavoices blog and want it featured on The Dickinson Press website? Email kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com with the URL of your blog and a photograph you’d like used as your avatar.


New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions and blogging go hand-in-hand. Why? you might ask. Because there’s no better way to stick to something than to tell the whole world about it. There’s an automatic accountability built in to the publicizing of your goal. It’s one thing to tell understanding family and friends, but when  you put yourself out there to the whole world, perfect strangers could come up to and ask how [insert resolution here] is going, it makes you want to REALLY try.

Plus, the blog can become and outlet for the frustration that comes with certain resolutions. Vowing to stop smoking? Every time you crave a cigarette, write about it. Trying to lose weight, but just broke down and got McDonald’s? Write about it. Trying to save money, but just found a “great deal” on that expensive something you’ve always wanted? Write about it.

Sometimes taking a moment to write about why you’re about to break your resolution will give you the will power to keep going. The craving will pass, you’ll see why  you want to stick to your goal.

The best reason to blog about your resolution? You’ll have your whole community supporting you.

Do you want to start an Areavoice blog about your New Year’s resolution? Contact Katherine Grandstrand at kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com or 701.456.1206.  She’ll even be here New Year’s Eve to help get you started!

Shopping, saving and spending

November and December are BIG spending months.  There’s Christmas gift shopping, Christmas decoration shopping, Christmas food shopping and Christmas me shopping. It’s easy to budget for the gifts, and even for the decorations and the gifts, but then that thing you REALLY want comes on sale at an amazing price. When you’re a single adult, there’s really no one to get that for you as a Christmas present, so, it’s up to you to buy it.

In college, when I’d come in to the office I worked at bragging about how much I had “saved” on the new shirt I was wearing, my boss would set me straight, because you never SAVE money when you’re shopping. While it’s taken me a few years (the 20-year-old me couldn’t grasp that concept… the sign said SAVE 50%!) it really is true, you only save money when  you don’t spend it, and as nice as it is to get something for less, you’re still spending and not saving. Ignore what the signs say.

So stick to your Christmas shopping budget as closely as you can, and if you’re like me, and you know that you’ll need to give gifts to yourself, work that into your budget, too.

Got something to say? Have some great holiday shopping tips? Tell the world with an Areavoices blog! Contact Katherine Grandstrand at The Press by phone (456.1206) or email (kgrandstrand @ thedickinsonpress.com) (copy-paste and remove the spaces)

We’re so informal!

I was up in the archives today, digging for info about North Dakota’s first oil boom (in 1951) and realized two things: Dickinson had more grocery stores then than they do now, and 2) Society is so informal these days.

I mean, did sweatpants even exist in 1951? (I write as I’m at work [after business hours] in my work out clothes for my pending sweat session)

Nobody gets dressed up anymore, actually, no one gets dressed anymore. They put on clothes, but they don’t get dressed. If you’re a Mad Men lover, there’s a great episode, For Those Who Think Young, Season 2, Episode 1. In the opening sequence, Peggy, Joan and other characters are seen getting ready. And they’re getting ready. They put me getting ready to shame. They all have on this complicated but gorgeous set of undergarments that, no matter what your size, clothes would look great on top of because your underwear has created a great shape for you. And because of said undergarments, there would be no wardrobe malfunctions. Everything would be kept where it should be… underneath.

We don’t get dressed anymore, we throw on clothes. There is no planning, no layering, no building an outfit. It’s all slapped on. Or worse, instead of hitting the closet, we just roll out of bed.

Sure, it started with jeans, but jeans are not the problem. Jeans would be great on most of the people I see out in public. People complain about the fashion world, but there is no fashion. It’s hoodies and jeans or some work-acceptable variation of that. (And I am totally guilty of the hoodie-jean-flip-flop combo most days.) Put on a skirt! Put on a tie! Make some effort in your wardrobe. We have so many more devices that make our lives easier than they did 50 years ago. We have the time to put ourselves together.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, keep your jammies at HOME. Jammies do NOT belong out in public. If you really REALLY need something at Walmart and a shower would just take too long, at least throw on jeans and a t-shirt, maybe a hoodie. Ladies who need extra support, a sports bra is both comfy and restrains the girls. Brush out your hair, and if you’re like me and are greasier than a T-Bird, spray a little dry shampoo in and pull that hair back. Finish up by either washing your face or swiping a toner over it and brushing those teeth. Guess what, you’ve spent maybe 5 minutes getting ready and you look way more presentable than you would have just rolling out of bed.

Your clothes, your hair, your make up, your body, they present an image to the world. And you shouldn’t care about what someone says or what they think when you’re put together, clean and confident. Who cares if you mix purple and lime green with brown houndstooth pants and denim shoes? Is everything washed? Does it fit well? Did you take a shower? Guess what, eff them! But when you don’t care enough about yourself to practice basic hygiene, it tells the world you don’t care, so why should they?

It’s one thing to not care about what the world thinks. It’s different when you want the world to think you don’t care about yourself.

For Jack Donaghy’s take on the deterioration of American fashion, click here.

Has something changed that you wish hadn’t? Is there something you miss about times-gone-by?

Blog about it on Areavoices!

To start an Areavoices blog, contact Katherine Grandstrand at 701.456.1206 or kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com.

Dear Netflix

It’s Day 2 of what could be called “Netflixgate,” but no one is calling it that. Maybe Qwickstergate? Nah, that’s somehow worse.

Anyway, there is no withdrawal, no change in policy, no further explanation of why. Meanwhile, people are leaving your service, your stock is plummeting further. Those of us who decided to stick it out after the price increase are now questioning whether we want to stay with a seemingly lame duck service. I like streaming, and it’s what I use most, but I like having access to DVDs as well. There are those great older movies that aren’t available at Redbox and it was nice to have access to those, even if I didn’t use DVDs that often.

But you’re not retreating, you’re not going back to the way things were, the way we liked them. Drop Qwickster. It’s like that girlfriend you think is great but EVERYONE in your family hates. Guess what, Qwickster’s pretty strange and a bit of a skank. Keep Netflix the way it is. We need to integrate DVD and streaming. For example: I had Breaking Bad on my DVD queue, and was notified that it was available for streaming. Another great example: Last summer I was somewhere in the middle of The Office when I went to stay with my parents for two weeks. Their Internet connection was not fast enough to support streaming, so I switched to DVDs mid-series. That would just be a pain in the butt on two websites.

So Netflix, I’m not sure if I want to stay with you. I like some of the things you do for me, but I often wonder if their aren’t others out there that could do the job better for less. I’m thinking there are.

As America contemplates breaking up with you, just asking you to change, keep things the way they were, what are you going to do?

Are you bothered by something? Is there anything you need to get off your chest? Try blogging!
To start an Areavoices blog contact Katherine Grandstrand at kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com.



I love pumpkin. Pumpkin and autumn goes hand -in-hand like peanut butter and chocolate or football and pork rinds. The smell of it, the taste of it, the color of it just screams AUTUMN! FALL! LEAVES!

You know it’s autumn not when the leaves change color and fall off the trees, not when it starts to get colder, but when coffee shops and bagel joints start to pimp everything pumpkin. Pumpkin coffee? (check) Pumpkin donuts? (check) Pumpkin cream cheese? (check) It’s a glorious seasonal flavor that is not only delicious, but good for you, too.

I really want to make pumpkin roll-out cookies in the shape of pumpkins and top them with pumpkin flavored cream cheese frosting, or is that too much?

Oh, I don’t care. I just want to consume as much pumpkin as I can before it gets too close to Christmas and peppermint is the “it” flavor of the season.


UPDATE: I forgot about one pumpkin treat, pumpkin beer! I know it sounds strange, but if you want to try something new, give it a chance.

Do you have something you need to get off your chest? A favorite treasure or pet peeve? Share it with the world with your Areavoices blog!
Don’t have an Areavoices blog? Want to start one? Contact The Dickinson Press special projects coordinator Katherine Grandstrand at kgrandstrand(at)thedickinsonpress.com or 701.456.1206

Wanted: Food bloggers

Do you wish you could share your cooking with the world?

Do you have an opinion about everything you eat?

Are your meals as pretty as they are tasty?

Then we’re looking for you!

If you want to blog about what you make and/or eat, let me know. It’d be great to get a few different western North Dakotans to represent the state’s culinary tastes. Whether you want to share your favorite recipes or critique your favorite (or not so favorite) dishes at restaurants, we’d love your gastronomic expertise.

If you’re interested, leave your email address in the comments and I’ll give you the information you’ll need to get a food blog set up. To avoid spammers put in this format: name(at)server(dot)com.