Blog to support the book "Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs" by Kristen Fischer

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Location: Point Pleasant, New Jersey, United States

30-something Jersey gal working as a freelance writer. Starbucks addict, beach-lover, kitty mother.

Creatively Self-Employed Website

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

When I heard about Squam Art Workshops, I thought it would be the perfect way to spotlight creatives doing creative things. So I caught up with Elizabeth MacCrellish, the Director of this creative hub located in New Hampshire.

Tell us about your workshops.

SAW is an annual event inspired by an alternative arts gathering called Artfest (http://www.teeshaslandofodd.com/artfest2008/info.html) that takes place each Spring in Port Townsend, WA. There is a vibrant arts community on the West Coast (San Francisco, CA, Portland, OR and Seattle WA, in particular) and one way that these personal and professional connections have been developed is through weekend workshops and retreats. So, I wanted to see if we could emulate that here on the East Coast. I thought it would be wonderful if we could have art retreats that had all the magic of an arts colony, but that would be open to everyone, not just artists.

The campus where the workshops take place is called Rockywald-Deephaven and it is an utterly beautiful set of turn-of-the-century cottages along Squam Lake (www.rdcsquam.com).

SAW runs from Wednesday through Sunday on the second week of September. Each day is one full class (six hours: 3 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon) and then in the evening there are optional events including a bonfire, an Artist's Panel discussion, and Vendor Night.

One of the very best ways to sum up what this workshop is all about was sent to me in an email by Jen Gray (www.jengray.com):

"I guess what I want people to know is that SAW isn't just for artists-that it is for anyone who just wants to have a creative experience in a beautiful and supportive atmosphere--to consider this an adult summer camp.

I have not previously signed up for other art fests because I never felt like I had the talent and or the experience in many of the classes offered. What is great about Squam Art Workshops is that this doesn't matter ~

This is an opportunity to explore all different arenas of art and have the guidance of amazing teachers to guide and assist you. The truth is, we are all artists, designing our own life so an art workshop actually applies to us all."

You've assembled a great collection of instructors. (There are a few CSE contributors!) How have you crossed paths with them? Do they come up with the curriculum?

The teachers are what make SAW so utterly unique and fabulous. Many of them have their own followings (via their websites) and they are, each of them, a source of great creative inspiration. It is a tremendous honor for us to have such a roster of talent at SAW.

I know the people who will be leading the workshops through their websites/blogs. As someone who lives in a very remote corner of New Hampshire, the blog world has been a life-saver for me as it connects me into a much larger and more diverse world.

For the most part, I had an idea of what general area of focus each teacher might want to bring to the table, but they created the actual content and curriculum of what they are offering. And, it's a funny thing-- when they saw the full list of classes, several of them said to me, "Oh man-- I want to take these classes . . ."

I love that there is so much shared inspiration.

Do you run the center full-time? How did you join them? What had you done previously?

No, this is a side project. My primary focus through the year is on my job where I teach English and Writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (www.nhia.edu). I formed SAW in 2008. This is our first year.

Prior to teaching at NHIA, I worked in both the non-profit world as a Program Director for a university arts outreach program and in the corporate world as a Commercialization Manager, so I have a strong background in project management and event planning.

What's your typical day like?

Mornings are pretty much consumed with emails, processing registrations and putting together confirmation packets that get shipped out in the afternoon. As this is our first year, everything has to be created from scratch, so I spend a lot of time developing our systems, database, website, etc. With any luck, once all of that is in place, I can focus more on developing and expanding the kinds of programs SAW will offer and less time on the nuts and bolts.

Afternoons are focused on details of the different events such as venue and equipment for Vendor Night, writing press releases, and putting together kits for potential sponsors.

What does the center have to offer the creatively self-employed who are already making a living at what they do?

Creativity is an energy that needs to be fed and nurtured just as we care for other aspects of our well-being; people who are creatively self-employed know this better than anyone.

The whole purpose of Squam Art Workshops, its essential nature, is to provide a safe place to tap into your creativity. Each of has our own spark. I’m not sure why people lose touch with the magic of their unique self. I do know that once you get the creativity going it feeds your life—whether you pursue an interest in color and texture, gardening, painting, cooking, writing, fashion, sewing, knitting, what have you. Creativity is the spring under a vibrant life and, in my opinion, it promotes deeper empathy with others, greater interest in the natural world, and more compassion for animals. Having more of it alive in your day is not about making “art”—it’s about being alive with passion and joy and pleasure--which, I would assume, feeds directly into a satisfying professional life.

So, to answer your question, I believe that SAW offers all of us a chance to jump start or invigorate our creativity and carry that energy, and the friendships or connections we make with other attendees, back into our regular lives and enjoy that support all through the year.

link | posted by Kristen at 3:17 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One of Christine's prints...fabulous!

Penelope Dullaghan posted recently about checking in with yourself. I think this is so vital for creatives. Checking in can mean different things to all of us. For me, here are some of the ways I check in:

1. Write in my journal. I find that pen on paper brings out different emotions and feelings and release.

2. Exercise. Make sure my body is getting the activity it needs to stay healthy and in a strong state of mine.

3. Lying in bed. I often flop down on my bed for a few minutes each day to lay down and look at the window. Watch the breeze. Take a moment to relax.

4. Cooking. About once a week I feel very culinary and take the time to prepare a nice meal. It helps me slow down and appreciate the little things.

5. Porch time. I love to sit on the porch and watch Bobbie walk around the porch and in the bushes. She's like a kid--she wants me to watch her and it's good thinking time to help me prioritize, etc.

How do YOU check in with yourself??

link | posted by Kristen at 9:38 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Snaps, congrats, and happy dances to Claudine Hellmuth--she's releasing another book and it looks adorable!

From her blog:
"It's a little different from my other books. It's not even really a book in the usual way one thinks of a book. It's more of an idea jump starting kit with a card deck and a matching little book. It does not have techniques in it, but will be full of inspiration and exercises to get your ideas flowing, whether for scrapbooking, journaling or whatever project you are working on.

I am extra excited because it has LOADS of contributors! Donna Downey, Kal Barteski, Christina Lazar Schuler, Ashley Calder, Gen Simmonds, myself of course! and TWENTY SIX others! I can't wait for it to come out and I hope everyone will enjoy it!"

I love watching all "my creatives" (people in the book) succeed! And now that's opened up more avenues--hit me with your latest news and keep me updated on what's going on!

kristen AT creativelyselfemployed.com

link | posted by Kristen at 12:49 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it possible to find meaning in our day-to-day existence? Can wisdom be attained while we run errands, do the dishes and pay our bills? Ordinary Sparkling Moments, a joyful combination of the writing, collage and photography of Christine Mason Miller, explores these questions and more, celebrating the deeper truths that await our discovery in some of life's most mundane moments.

And I got to interview her! Read on to learn more about her latest creation!

Tell us about the new book. What's it about? Who is it geared to?
The book is about finding wisdom in everyday life. It is about realizing that we all have the answers to our deepest questions within the fabric of our own lives, within the tiny mundane details we experience each day. It was written for anyone interested in creating a passionate life, a life that reflects one's most important values and priorities.

That's awesome...I can feel the passion in your book already. So give us the lowdown on publishing. How did you start the process?
This has been an interesting journey, and, believe it or not, the most important aspect of the entire process of bringing this book to life. I was approached by a publisher last year who wanted me to submit a proposal. I created a proposal for Ordinary Sparkling Moments and the response was wonderful. The editor I had been working with was very complimentary and loved what I presented, but explained that her editorial board believed the market for books this "personal" had gone down in the last few years, so they were passing.

I was not devastated when this happened, as I decided before I sent the proposal that my goal was to create a proposal I was proud of, and beyond that it was out of my control. Even though I had a good attitude about this, after this initial rejection I was a bit paralyzed as to my next steps. I had solid leads on other editors, publishers and literary agents through friends who were also published authors, but I just couldn't bring myself to re-submit my proposal to anyone. Not because I feared rejection, but because I was still considering the idea of self-publishing.

After many months of being stuck trying to decide what to do, I finally made the decision to self-publish, and ever since then everything has clicked into place perfectly, astoundingly so. The fact that I am self-publishing is becoming one of the key elements of the book people are fascinated and inspired by. I have been writing about it on my blog and the response has been amazing. Not only are people interested in the process, but they are also eager to help me in any way they can with my promotions & publicity.

The story of this self-publishing process is actually becoming the epilogue of my book, the piece of this puzzle that has given it that extra special dose of depth and meaning.

I hear you on self-publishing. So now that you were on your own, how'd you pick the right resources?
I chose to work with the printer I used for all of my Swirly printing. I have had a relationship with them for over a decade and they do extraordinary work. Over the years I have worked with other printers for different projects and I have always regretted it.

The best advice someone would give in this situation would be to shop around and get a few different price quotes. I would still say this to anyone, but I will be honest and say I did not even bother for this project. My printer is not the cheapest and I know this. I could have found a less expensive printer or even gone overseas where it would have been a fraction of even the lowest cost in the states. But this project is so important to me and I know my printer will do everything they can to create a perfect book.

When I was struggling with feeling like I should shop around, it finally dawned on me that my priority was not just to make as much money as humanly possible. My priority was to create a beautiful book. Once I took the focus away from what I felt like I should do to my real priorities, it was an easy decision.

How long did it take you to create the book?
I have worked on the book on and off for a little over a year, but this is hardly working on it full time. During this time I've moved, traveled, created work for other art shows, etc. so it has been a work in process in the midst of a lot of other projects during this time.

Are you doing your own marketing--what resources have helped you with that?
My number one resource is my creative community. This tribe of incredible, creative women-- including YOU!!--is not only full of valuable insights, information and access to a wider audience, but they make me feel like I can pull off this crazy idea successfully. Without them this book would never happen.

What advice do you have for other creatives who want to publish a book?
DO IT. There are so many resources available to self-publish in so many ways. The world needs more stories like these--stories of making a dream real on our own terms.

What are you hoping people will get out of the book?
As far as the content of the book is concerned, I hope readers will learn that their own lives are full of all the wisdom they need to create a passionate life. I do not want to show readers that I have any special answers, I want to show them that they have the power, inspiration and wisdom within themselves.

As far as the book itself is concerned, I hope readers will learn that they don't always have to jump through the hoops they think they have to jump through to make a dream real. This was the key reason I decided to self-publish; to send this message.

I hear you! What's on the horizon for you as an artist--and now as an author?
Finish the book in the next three weeks and then get ready for the book release this fall!!

Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Christine! xoxo

link | posted by Kristen at 3:49 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 09, 2008

Me, Tim and Mom

I had my first book signing for Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life on Saturday. Let me tell you how different this book experience has been than when I was promoting CSE. I'm more on the ball, and having the backing of a publisher has helped. I only wish a publisher would pick up CSE and I could tour the freaking world to spread the CSE love.

Don't get me wrong, self-publishing is great, but I think it's more effective when you can focus solely on the book. I wish the book had gotten half the promotion that Ramen is getting.

I am eager to promote the new book, though, and I certainly am loving to continue to promote CSE. I am sure you will hear more on the creative world from me as far as writing goes.

For now, I'm loving this new creative venture--and thinking of more to come!

link | posted by Kristen at 8:51 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

This is a little off topic, but I wanted to post information from Christy Sheffield's blog.

Please Pray for the Chapman Family

As many of you have heard, Steven Curtis Chapman's family experienced a grave personal loss last night. His youngest daughter was killed in their driveway on May 21.

Maria Sue Chapman 2003 - 2008
Photo by Mary Beth Chapman

"Last night Maria Sue Chapman, adopted and youngest daughter of Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman, was killed in a tragic accident in the family driveway. She was LifeFlighted to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital but for only reasons God can explain she went home to Him... not back to Franklin as we all so desperately wanted.

We are all humbled by the incredible outpouring of love and support at this difficult time. I have watched you, the Chapman friends, overwhelm website servers and jam phone lines with your gracious words and heartfelt prayers. The Chapman family is so grateful. Obviously, we cherish your prayers for all in the Chapman family, and we welcome you passing this along to others to pray and encouraging them to sign up for Steven's e-mail list to receive continuing updates.
  • If you'd like to express your condolences and get a glimpse of this beautiful little girl through a short video clip,click here.
  • Mail to PO Box 150156 Nashville, TN 37215
  • In lieu of flowers, the Chapmans request any gifts be directed to Shaohannah's Hope, click here.
  • In closing, as many of you know, the song "Cinderella" was written by Steven to help him (and us all) grab a hold of the special moments with those we love we might otherwise rush by. It was inspired by a bath time that Steven tried to "hurry," Maria and her sister Stevey Joy were not exactly cooperating. : ) Let us all be reminded again today what Steven compels us to with the lyric of this special song.
    Maria, we already miss you so much, and we only take comfort in The Hope that assures us we'll see you again soon.

    On behalf of the Chapman team and family,

    Jim Houser (Manager)

    link | posted by Kristen at 7:35 AM | 0 comments

    Monday, June 02, 2008

    Talked to a great gal from HOW Magazine today and she told me about this conference. I'm not a big conference person but I wanted to pass it along. Lots of people from the book are involved including the awesome Jeff Fisher and Ilise Benun. More details are at http://creativefreelancerconference.com

    Speaking of Ilise, check out her latest book, The Designer's Guide to Marketing and Pricing. It's a great tool and I plan to do a full review of it shortly!

    And while I'm on the topic of great creative resources, what is your favorite creative book? Share it here. Or find me on GoodReads.com, another great site I'm loving!

    Stay tuned--a new newsletter is on the way shortly!!

    link | posted by Kristen at 8:16 AM | 0 comments