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Challenge Interview: Denyse Whelan: Forging Friendships – Link by Link

Challenge Interview Series #17

Hi, I’m Marsha Ingrao and my blog is Always Write. Welcome to the Challenge Interview Series. Today I want to introduce my friend Denyse Whelan, who has hosted tons of link parties.

Bitmoji coffee cup

In addition to meeting the hosts of writing and photo challenges, this series also includes some of the wonderful participants who make the Denyse’s Link Parties successful. Each linked name goes to a different post. As you go through the interview, feel free to veer off the course and check out some wonderful bloggers’ posts.

Today we will learn the difference between a challenge and a themed link party.

“Link Parties are not really challenges, but they do have suggested themes like challenges.”


Sometimes she participates in other bloggers’ challenges. Below is a photo from Denyse’s response to Sunday Stills Challenge prompt, Favorite Vacation Spots.

Life This Week

Life This Week is Denyse’s weekly link up that runs from Mondays-Wednesdays Australian time, Sundays through Tuesdays United States time.

Denyse initiated the link up, Life This Week, and has kept it running 51 weeks a year since September 2016. Within the Link Party, Denyse offers a series of regular optional prompts for bloggers to choose from. In this section, you will find links to Denyse’s posts and comments from some of her participants as well as a link to the post they attached to Denyse’s Link Party “prompts.”

Prompt Weeks

Each week for her Link Party, Denyse shares a challenging prompt to stimulate her reader’s posts. (Note: Unlike a regular photo or writing challenge Denyse’s prompts are optional.) Anyone may link one of their own blog posts, no matter what the topic. A link party is simply the opportunity for her blogging community to showcase one of their own posts and have at others in the Life This Week Community besides Denyse respond to it.

“Over the years I have come up with in excess of 240 optional prompts. This is a link up that I treasure as it keeps me connected. There are ONLY two link ups now that are Australian Based. Mine on Mondays and my friend Leanne’s from Deep Fried Fruit for Thursdays.”


(Note: The linked post is Leanne’s “Goodbye” post on her blog, April 22, 2021.)

In the following example of her optional prompts, Denyse shares her own post on the meaning of “Leaving.”

Saying good bye to her long-time home.

Interesting, we both see leaving as a good and a bad thing. Very sad leaving people, or people leaving us. Nice post, though a little distressing for you to work through it again, I imagine. But hindsight makes us see through a different lens, and we can never judge decisions we made with the knowledge we had at the time with that extra layer.

Lydia C. Lee

A very touching post Denyse which brought tears to my eyes. Many similarities between your Mother’s end-of-life-story and my Mother’s last year. I love the images and fun of taking the grandkids to see their new sibling in hospital. As a mum, this is always a beautiful moment as I am sure it was for you as a grandmother.

Jody @ Six Little Hearts

Share Your Snaps

Every 5th week, Denyse invites her link participants to join in Share Your Snaps.

In this prompt Denyse posts some of her pictures, and then other bloggers link to share theirs as well. Her blogging community then can leave comments like the two below, and then in the link form leave a link to a post of their choice.

I love all the colours and flowers in this post. What a great idea to visit a local nursery for photos of flowers. I would never have thought of that. I’m loving the autumn colours at the moment. Your smile is beautiful Denyse

Jennifer Jones

I love colour, being outside and photographing too Denyse! Your photo collages are wonderful and I fully understand the fun you would have had in compiling them. I hope Hamilton was everything you’d hoped it would be, I’ve heard a lot about it from lots of sources. Four years ago must seem like a lifetime in many ways but it’s well worth remembering and looking at how far you’ve come in that time. Keep smiling 

Debbie Harris 

Self Care Stories

Every 7th week Denyse offers a chance for her participants to post a self care story or update: Self Care Stories.

That was an excellent self care wrap up Denyse! I love your list of things you’re grateful for. I really need to do this and yes I have said this several times before. I will do it eventually! That must’ve been exciting to see Hamilton. I’ve heard such good things about it. I guess I must be in my 6th decade then as I turn 57 soon. It shocks me how quickly I have got to this age. Only seems like yesterday I was 37! I’m so glad that things are going well for you health wise now. I hope it stays that way. You’ve reminded me that here are a few health checks ups I need to get done! Have a great week Denyse! xo

Min @ Write of the Middle 

As Lydia said, new niggles and issues appear out of nowhere! My post this week illustrates that.

But back to your very detailed post…..I admire your skill of being able to ‘dissect’ your life and look at how some pieces relate to others. Someone once told me what we do each day is irrelevant to how our our life will pan out…..if only they could read your words and see how much each day is linked to each other.
Take care


Taking Stock

Taking Stock pops up on Denyse’s blog every ninth week using some word prompts to sum up life over the past months.

  • Admiring:  the skills of all those who helped to do my upper mouth reconstruction
  • Becoming:  such an advocate for spreading the awareness of head and neck cancer because it IS rare but it is also growing in numbers of people diagnosed in Australia and around the world
  • Curious:  about how I ‘got’ this cancer …at times
  • Delighted:  to be well in my recovery at almost 4 years down the track

What prompted you to begin to host a writing/photo challenge? 

This link up started in September 2016 because a friend who was blogging with her own link up each Monday decided to stop both blogging and the link up. I had been thinking about adding a link up but did not want to do so till I believed I was ready. I already knew hosting a link up took some time but I also hoped, if I hosted one of my own, I would gain more readers who add their blog post and comment.


What is your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it help photographers/bloggers/writers?

My purpose in having Denyse Whelan Blogs and now this link up is to connect with others. The longer name for my blog is Denyse Whelan Blogs To Connect. Like all new bloggers, I used to be concerned about no-one reading my posts nor commenting, as comments are, as I say “blogging currency”. Hosting my own blog link up helped me achieve this goal.


How much time does it take to prepare and follow up on your post? 

Often it is the writing of MY post that can take the time. I usually have it done a few days in advance. As time has gone on, it takes less time. It may be half an hour to an hour to write my own post, and then set up the link up using the scheduling tool on the blog. I chose 5.00. a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time because it’s been published before I get up AND the link up has been active for early-to-rise bloggers to add their posts.

On Wednesdays when I respond to each person’s blog post they linked up, it can take around 10 min minutes per post. I sometimes take a break in between. 


What steps do you take to get your challenge ready? 

I am a very organised and creative person and coming up with the optional prompts for the year ahead is fun. The thing is that I keep the prompts optional. Some people like to link up a post on prompt but not all. At times, I will not use the optional prompt myself as I may have a post in my series for Head and Neck Cancer, or Telling My Story to get out. I am happy to accept posts, old or new but only one.

This year for example I have used a one/two word prompt with each letter of the alphabet….e.g. A-Announcement; B – Back to; C – Cannot.


How did you attract people to participate? 

Getting people to participate needs to be by word of mouth…via social media and other blogs. Because I have a self-hosted blog rather than a blog, I have to work a bit harder to know when the newer blogs I follow are published. I hope by commenting on those blogs, that the person may be curious enough to come to my link up and join in.

Participation was somewhat helped initially by the blogger who gave up her Monday link up, letting her followers know where the new link up would be. I also post the link up to Life This Week each Monday morning on both my personal and blog facebook page, and via twitter. Over time, as I have become better known with bloggers from other parts of the world because I follow their blogs and comment, some are now finding my link up that way.


Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post?

No, but I do ask people to use my widget or a link back to my link up if they can, in their posts. I am not overly strict on this as I do not show others’ widgets but prefer to have a ‘roll’ of links to those I follow and who take part in Life This Week. It’s on the side bar of my page.


What about a Facebook group or page, or a group in other social media? 

My blog has a facebook page and I regularly post there, definitely when I publish and in between times if there is any update I think my audience might find of interest. I have an Instagram account (private – ask for follow) @denysewhelan_blogs and that is linked to a widget on the blog and shows up. I now have my twitter feed (@denysewhelan) doing the same and my facebook page similarly.


What specific bloggers do you admire and want to give a shout out to?

There are so many. When I started blogging in December 2010, the blogging community in Australia was just getting going and I attended the first ever Aussie Bloggers Conference in March 2011. Many bloggers and I attended events and conferences to learn more about blogging. The thing that was the most important from those years is how many friends I have made.

Being a blogger, blogging as I do now on a variety of topics, I am so glad to have become amongst friends of all ages…even though I am by far the oldest at 71…I would never have met without being a blogger. I invited some of those original blogging friends to a morning tea in 2019 to help celebrate my 70th birthday. Some I had not “met” in real life till that day!!



Denyse Whelan earned a B.Ed M.Ed and has almost 4 decades of experience as both an educator and parent in the Australian schooling system, specifically N.S.W. Public Schools. She retired as a K-6 Principal from NSW Australia. She has been blogging for more than 10 years. Denyse is also very well following a head & neck cancer diagnosis in May 2017.

Denyse believes in life-long learning and that learning takes place formally and informally in our lives every day.

Facebook:  Denyse Whelan Blogs     

Twitter: @denysewhelan1

Instagram: denysewhelan_blogs

54 replies »

  1. That was such a great interview. I need to check out more of Denyses parties, etc. She is so inspiring, as are so many I have been following and reading since I started to work at getting back into blogging this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Kirstin, that is very kind. I am enjoying spreading my blogging friendships wider too and getting to ‘meet’ people such as yourself. Thanks again to Marsha for her excellent job doing this!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. marsha / i read the first comment from Densye and have to say ditto – the thoroughness of this post was a nice tribute to her and you really are a friendship blogger!

    Liked by 1 person

      • yeah – that word does fit better
        but then it still might not apply to the mass of bloggers- in my vie
        many folks are here for different reasons – and sure we have the group that does challenges – or the link ups as this post noted the difference –
        and while some type of convection is usually involved – i still blogging hard to put into one adjective ir one category
        it seems that you (and maybe Hughe) connect and assist many type of bloggers who are here for challenges and friendships (and maybe hobbies!)
        but when i consider the blog world overall i see a vast assortment that are neither hobbyist nor friendship minded
        for example – Patter is a wordpress blogger i discovered many many years ago
        she is a professor from england and her blog offers tips for dissertation students.
        in fact – the first tile i heard of that blog it was from students raving about the practical and easy to folks tips trust were offered for free! she is not a hubby blogger and friendship does not seem to be there like it might for the retirees and others
        instead Pat thompson is a scholar who uses her blog to maybe give back- do our reach in some sort of generativity
        i also follow “all about work ” and numerous blogs trust are offered by scholars
        then there are the business blogs
        and the individual business owner trying to get connected
        i have encountered politicians and folks wanting to see their photography or writing.
        so you see
        – maybe what we experience in our blog circle ⭕️ depicts the blogosphere a certain way – i think there is a vast amount of circles that just do not fall under the word hubby blogger or friendship blogger.
        and this might sound snarky- but the term friendship blogger has a trite vibe to it.
        even if that is subtly what people want – by calling it that can be dismissed or diminish some of the scholarship and talent and skill that some of these expert folks bring to their blogs.
        seriously – even those that say they are here for the connecting – to call them a friendship blogger feels like a downgrade
        for example – bush boy and his professional photos and astute posts – he is a professional photography and nature advocate with decades of seasoned experience and his blog is art! it is professional and his posts are such high quality that calling him a friendship blogger or hubby blogger would be akin to thinking of Pollyanna skipping across my lawn.
        and i also think of Clive and his tuesday tunes post.
        the research he does to provide these posts about music with stats and band facts – comparing britain’s results with the US and then offering some personal stories to go with the scholarship – to call him a friendship blogger would insult (IMHO) his sholarly approach to blogging – even tho the connecting with his readers is what fuels him to continue –
        but even tho we have connections it is also a leap to call these friendships
        i know with me – many of my connections are acquaintances and that word friendship might be tossed around too much.
        it is like the word love – in english we use love for “i love food – love my spouse – love my children and love my neighbor ”
        but greek words like eros (passion love) agape- storage – and phileo- sometimes let us few more specific –
        so the word friendship is vague and means differ t thugs to different people making it a poor choice for a category of “friendship blogger”
        do you know what i mean?

        and with that said – i do feel a nice friendship with you dear marsha – a bit more than the acquaintance but still that blog kind of friend – if tat makes sense
        – and i smile when i think of you because i have had the pleasure of seeing your heart of gold and seeing how part of your mission is to connect with bloggers through enriching the blogosphere and edifying others! you aim to serve and you are a bit of a force to be reckoned with as you invest time and energy into your mission and blog presence

        Liked by 1 person

      • Friendships whether we meet IRL or not are why I blog. I love the connections I get to make and continue with people from my home country, Australia, and via your blog and others, North America and The UK & beyond.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Denyse, Yvette and I have an ongoing conversation about defining who I am as a blogger. I’m glad you have discovered a way to connect with people that you love and admire. I get enjoyment from doing it. That’s about all I can say. I love to write, take pictures, and connect with people.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Marsha and Denyse – it’s so good to read your interview with Denyse! Your words portray Denyse so well, she is a kind caring and generous blogger and I am proud to call her my friend, despite us not having met in person yet! I love participating in her link up each week, usually I write to her optional prompts but often I share a post I want to get more traction on.
    I’m so pleased to read these types of posts and you are also a very generous blogger! Thanks again for all you do to share bloggers’ work from around the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yay, so great to see Denyse here on your blog, Marsha! I love how we all support each other in our challenges/link-ups with our perspectives on our own happenings! I’ve been meaning to join the weekly link-up but moving and the internet got in the way! No more! Speaking of being educators, my cousin, who recently lost her dear husband (she 53, he 58) is the vice principal of a Portland area high school and is in charge of graduation. Whew! I admire those folks, compared to that being a university lecturer was a walk in the park, LOL!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Which high school. I graduated in Portland. My brother still lives there? I am so sorry for her loss. That is way too young to lose a husband. Tell her my prayers are with her and her family.

      Liked by 2 people

    • So lovely to read your kind words and yes, Marsha is very generous sharing others’ work in this blogging world we inhabit. I need to pay tribute to Deb who inspired me to post on your Sunday Stills back in January, and then I got to know Marsha via her hosting when you moved house! Love that community feel!


      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve not participated in Denyse’s link-up, to date anyway. As you know from my own interview, I try not to take on too many challenges, and I confess I hadn’t realised the difference between a challenge and a link-up until reading this! But I do pop into her blog from time to time and always find something to interest, intrigue or inspire 🙂 Great interview!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My goodness Marsha, that was a very thorough, comprehensive & all-round kind & caring post about my blog, my community and me. Thank you so much for your generous words, your amazing attention to detail and utilising both the words of my kind blogging community & my images. As I write, it’s 10.23 pm on a Winter evening & yes, I am in bed, commenting on the iPad! Lovely way to start my long weekend. Many thanks again & love that we bloggers connect even with many thousands of km distance between.
    You ARE indeed a friendship blogger!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I’m glad to do it, Denyse. Interviews are fun, but it does take time to explore the blog of the one being interviewed to really understand it. Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you once again. I have now added the widget for the series and a link back to the post on the sidebar of my blog. Yay for technology I can make work.

        I will be back over the weekend to continue to respond to comments.

        Delighted with the outcome…and have a wonderful weekend yourself.


        Liked by 3 people




Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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