A varied portfolio
Operating as the Creative Person In Charge for The Idea Garden, our founder Sheelagh Matthews has developed quite a varied and creative portfolio over the years. Thanks to administrative positions held in the performing arts, property management, law, fraud investigation, literacy, lobbying, and politics, Sheelagh’s breadth of experience makes it easy for her to generate ideas and connect the dots…all the better to best serve a wide variety of causes and clients.
Check out our virtual and varied portfolio below.
The opinion-editorial is Sheelagh’s favourite form of writing. In 750 words or less, In Our Best Interest monthly columns are where she gets to share different ways of looking at common social, political, and environmental concerns.
Sheelagh’s columns have been published monthly since 2005 by the Okotoks Western Wheel, an award-winning Alberta community newspaper, as well as other weeklies.
She was also the lead writer for three op-ed columns for the Calgary Herald (2005) commissioned by the Pembina Institute to see how well (or not) Alberta was doing according to the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) in the province’s centennial year.
Wow! Sheelagh has written 11, count ’em, 11 books for the Canadian and American divisions of this educational publisher catering to youth. Each book was way more work than she had counted on, but she always learned tons from writing them. She always tried to make sure that environmental issues received special mention in each book, too. (Ah, the power of pen…)
- Exploring Countries: South Africa
- Canadian Ecozones: Shields
- Canadian Industries: Mining
- Canadian Business: Air Canada
- Canada Past • Present • Future:
Trade and Global Impact
- Remarkable People: Bono
(yup, the lead singer of U2)
- Remarkable People: Steve Irwin
(aka The Crocodile Hunter!)
- Remarkable Writers: Gordon Korman
(Canada’s favourite kids author)
- Structural Wonders: Beijing National Stadium
- Structural Wonders: Pyramids of Giza
- Structural Wonders: Sydney Opera House
Monday Morning Writers Group
Then there’s Sheelagh’s work associated with a writers group that she has been involved with for many years. The members of Monday Morning Writers Group (MMWG) published a book, Hope in the Colour of Orange: Dutch Civilian Memories of War and Liberation, as a fundraiser to help pay for a local WWII veteran’s trip to Europe. It was his first trip to Europe since the war, and while overseas he learned just how much his military service meant to the Dutch and Belgian people. Sheelagh served as the editor in this project that captured the memories of 24 Dutch civilians who experienced what living through war was really like.
NOTE: The print copy of “Hope” is now sold out. There is a possibility that MMWG might eventually create an e-book to keep these incredible stories alive, but all that still has to be figured out.
Sheelagh has had the honour of contributing to a few books, too. Here are a few opportunities that gave her an opportunity to write about the environment from completely different angles.
- Eureka! There’s a New White Gold! – a chapter [about recycling white bond paper] appearing in EcoLiving: Working Together For a Sustainable World, published by Regina EcoLiving Inc.
- A Leading Lady – story about a magnificent elm tree’s history appearing in Heritage Trees of Alberta, published by the Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada
- Two chapters, Good Health is Your Business and Wildlife Crossing, in NorQuest Reader 1, a multimedia Deaf reading resource published by NorQuest College
While living in southern Alberta, Sheelagh was contracted to develop two research packages for the Helen Schuler Coulee Centre, a wonderful nature centre nestled in the Oldman River valley in the heart of the city of Lethbridge. These compilations of material were later used to create interpretive displays, activities, and lessons for visiting school children.
- Deer – Our Living Legacy
- Chasing, Swooping, Pouncing & Gnashing:
Vertebrate Predators in Lethbridge and Area
As a contributor to lifestyle and faculty alumni magazines, as well as a magazine about Alberta’s medical research, Sheelagh has interviewed some of Canada’s hottest innovators and covered a more than a few stories on sustainability over her writing career. A few examples of her work include:
- Contributor, Canadian Cowboy Country – story on Healing with Horses
- Contributor, Sustainability section (2009 – 2014) – Okotoks Living
- Various stories for Research News, the magazine of Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions, including Cancer, Aging, and Immortality and A New Superhero in Town
- All kinds of features and cover stories (1997 – 2004) – Lethbridge Living
Corporate Writing and Editing
Trying to make a living as a writer also had Sheelagh involved with various types of corporate work. With her background as an executive assistant, Sheelagh has also served as a scribe on occasion, taking notes and minutes at board retreats and AGMs. Her writing and technical editing projects supporting this sector include:
- Manuals (training)
- Proposals (responses to RFPs and RFQs)
- White Papers
- Newsletters (editor, contributor)
- Scripts (for workplace training videos; for characters in the award-winning EnviroSquad animated interactive environmental learning modules for Grades 4-6 for The City of Calgary)
As a technical editor Sheelagh has been involved with the creation of several manuals authored by various consultants. A few examples of her work in this area include:
- Community Economic Development Training Program – published by Economic Developers Alberta (seven course manuals, plus accompanying PowerPoint presentations)
- Online Job Search Strategies – Presenter’s Guide Book
and Job Seeker’s Workbook – both published by HCM Advantage Consulting Ltd.
- Community Economic Development Training Program (CEDTP) Participant’s Manuals – published by Economic Developers Alberta (six volumes)
Workshops and Presentations
Sheelagh has made author visits to schools, and facilitated workshops and given presentations on topics about writing, PR, and communications as well as her environmental interests. A few of them are listed below.
- Author Visits – Canadian Authors Association
- Youth Writing Camp Workshops – Writers Guild of Alberta
- Water Presentations – Okotoks Women’s Day, Elementary School Classes
- Media Relations Presentations – Calgary Technologies Inc. (now Innovate Calgary)
- Writing Presentations – Sheep River Library, Professional Writers Association of Canada
It seems there’s always another idea being scribbled down in a notebook somewhere. Here are a few of Sheelagh’s projects in various stages of completion.
- A book of quotes to inspire the environmentally and socially conscious
- A children’s multi-denominational book about prayer
- A series of communications how-to guides and webinars
Sheelagh is also the co-creator of a series of weekly 15-second long cartoon Eco-Tips, all eco-themed animations perfect for online presentation. The Idea Garden is proud to be the exclusive distributor for this series of giggly and guilt-free green tips!
Yes, there’s more. Just like you’d expect of any living and breathing ENFP. And, in case you haven’t guessed, our founder is one of them.
Let’s just say Sheelagh has done quite a bit of writing, editing, and communications consulting and coaching since she started down this communications career path back in the 1980s. And, all signs point to her adding to her portfolio in one way or another.