SilverPen News

Newsletter Front PageFor years I’ve heard that, even if you have a blog, nothing can match a regularly published newsletter for connecting with people and letting them know what’s going on with you and your work. And with my annual family reunion fast approaching, I began thinking about how much I sucked for not writing Christmas letters, replying to correspondence, or sending out pictures and updates about April and me. When these two thoughts came together, I decided to start writing my own newsletter.

Since I hadn’t written a newsletter before, the entire process was quite the learning experience for me. I learned a lot about designing the letter by using a pre-built template in Pages ’09, and now feel confident that I can design the next one myself. I also discovered that the content has to come first–when I began with the design, I started writing to fit what I saw on the page and it prevented me from saying everything I wanted to say. In this particular case, the design has to be made to fit the content. Once everything’s in place, I may have to cut a line or a paragraph, but the end result will be a lot better than writing to fill space.

With the family reunion providing my catalyst, this edition has a lot of catch-up information. I don’t regularly see (or even know) most of my family, so this first edition is a bit of an introduction to my website and writing, our house purchase, and our lives with God and the church. Future versions won’t be so family-oriented or focused on what-we’ve-been-up-to.

I want this newsletter to demonstrate a bit of my work, talk about what I’ve been up to and where I’m going in regards to writing, and to share some pictures. It’ll still have some stuff about our family, but I want to demonstrate a bit more polish and flair with the newsletter that I don’t normally put into blog entries. This publication is for the people who don’t read every day or week, but are happy to pick something up every few months and keep in touch.

The newsletter will be available exclusively online as a PDF. This first version was going to be printed for the family reunion, but I just got off the phone with Kinkos a little bit ago and they want $400+ to print 60 copies. Looking around online, I could get 150-250 copies for just under $200. But with it costing too much money to print 60 and my not needing more than that, I’m having trouble justifying printing at all. I might print it myself, but that would still cost almost $100 for 60 copies. Not having a physical copy at the reunion would be disappointing, but I just can’t justify the cost for something I’m doing just for fun. Maybe I’ll make a one page teaser with the address on it and print that to hand out… we’ll see.

If you want to get the newsletter when it drops, just subscribe! SilverPen news will be published once a season, and the tentative schedule for it (after this first one) is March, June, September, and December.

Using a Second Sidebar for Different WordPress Pages

This post was originally written when I was using a different theme. That doesn’t affect the content, just wanted to let you know that my current theme (designed by Ryan Burrell) doesn’t use this particular method. Rather, it employs various templates to display bars as necessary. For more information, check out my guide How to use page templates in WordPress.

I wrote sometime ago about the visual design of a website, particularly a WordPress blog, and lamented the long sidebar that plagues so many sites. Like anyone else, I want to show everything I have to offer to my readers, but I know that my readers don’t necessarily want the same. End-users want the information they want and nothing else that might distract them from that information. Readers want data to be concisely presented and easy-to-read. A sidebar as long as my arm detracts from these goals.

Therefore, when I added some things to my WordPress sidebar (like a blogroll) that made it particularly long, I knew something had to be done. It’s all fine and well on the main page where ten blog entries make for a rather long site (and therefore the sidebar doesn’t look out of place). But when looking at a single post, the sidebar added a dozen inches below the comment box until you reached the footer. No good.

The WordPress Codex has some tips on creating a second sidebar and using this for other pages (such as when viewing just a single post), but beyond giving me the PHP tag for the sidebar, it didn’t do me a lot of good. The theme I use did not have the sidebar statement in the default location (which is normally sidebar.php in your theme’s files), and when I did find the code I needed to change, the tag listed in the WordPress Codex didn’t work.

My sidebar actually extends up from the footer, so it was the footer.php I needed to edit. Removing the standard sidebar tag, I entered the following:

When I first made this change, I discovered that, while it worked great for posts, my pages still had the longer sidebar. Since my Contact page is pretty short, this ran into the same problem as before: the page content had ended, but the sidebar just kept going. Therefore, the code needed to be modified slightly to accommodate pages as well as single posts.

Using an elseif statement, we are able to use sidebar2.php on both pages and single posts. If you have additional templates on which you wish to use a different sidebar (say you wanted a different sidebar on the category, archive, and portfolio pages as well), you might considering using a switch, but with my limited knowledge of PHP, using if/elseif/else statements worked just fine for me.