Growing DIY

Talk tonight! Thanks Handmade Madison!

Sign for my talk in Madison, WI

A year ago today I set off on two-week loop through the Midwest for a major leg of my book tour for Grow.  It was a chance to revisit places I’d visited several times and loved, like Minneapolis, Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago, and return to other places that I had not been to since I drove across the country three times in two years between 2001 and 2002, such as Madison, Wisconsin and Indianapolis. It was also my first time in places like Tulsa and Omaha.

The trip was an amazing opportunity to see a part of the United States, which honestly, can get a bit of a underrated wrap by people who don’t live there, and to understand better how the landscape and culture unfolds. Driving gave me a much more direct feeling of distance and geography of what is sometimes deridingly called “fly over country.”

I recapped my learnings from my book tour here and shared pictures of my time in the Midwest here.  Now that it’s been exactly a year since I shoved off to hawk Grow in cities I barely knew to a mixture of old friends, new friends and friendly strangers, I started to think about how different my life is since that time. While last year was one of learning and growth that was sometimes painful, today I’ve been thinking about what it has meant for me to have this funny little book full of passion, ideas and bullet points about growing the work and life you want out in the world.

When the book first came out I had this naïve idea that now that I was a “published author” my life would change. While my life has changed a lot, my book did not bring upon those changes. I made changes slowly and gradually, as I implemented the very strategies and lessons I outlined in Grow to strategically define and accomplish a personal, creative vision.

Grow on the scrabble board! #growtour

Grow DIY in Minneapolis at Boneshaker Books

As I traveled the country talking to passionate, creative entrepreneurs I saw clearly that I was no longer passionately engaged in my fulltime job of arts administration and fundraising. While that had been evident to me for awhile, traveling the country and talking to those who were taking the leap to follow their passion made it clear I could not come home and keep doing what I had been doing.

Talking to all kinds of different people and taking in new cities and parts of the United States also reminded me about the importance of following my own curiosity. For several years I had been curious about innovative technologies and how they were intersecting with creative entrepreneurship in New York. As I traveled and got to indulge my curiosity about new places I realized I could do the same at home. This lead me to take a “deep dive” into the New York tech scene (if one can call it that) and explore startup companies where creativity, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation came together.

Lauren from Creative Outlet Studios helps with our sign

(OK, this photos is from California… Creative Outlet Studios)

Long story short: I quit my full time arts administration job, went freelance, took a class learning back end web development, got an internship at a startup, went to what felt like 100s of meetups, went on many, many interviews, wrote many cover letters and finally, ended up at the right place: Shapeways, a 3D printing marketplace and community, as the Community Outreach Coordinator.

But this post is not about how publishing a book led me on a meandering path to my next job and a new career. Ironically, since Grow has come out I’ve written far less, though I did manage to put out a personal zine, and I feel like I have to actively re-engage creativity in my life and start working on the next writing project seriously which is most likely… a novel (gasp!).

This post is about expectations for projects. When Grow came out part of me thought, “That’s it! I’ve arrived, I’m a real author now!” When the impact of the actual book’s publication, and continued existence, felt far removed from my actual life I started to feel like the book had had no impact and, in darker moments that I was a “failure” (and not in the chic way failure is thrown around these days).  I worried that all the writing, editing, revising, designing, crowd funding, touring, and hustle didn’t matter. A year later I can see it did, but in a way that was subtler than I initially envisioned. Grow wasn’t about becoming an author, but building a life that I wanted and one that feels right for me and who I am now. And that’s the essence of the project. I wrote it into existence and hustled to make my life catch up to my words. A year later, I’m happy that it has.

Fifteen Years of Zine Making and Indulgence 12

Indulgence numbers 11 & 12 with Grow at Brooklyn Zine Fest

Indulgence numbers 11 & 12 with Grow at Brooklyn Zine Fest

When I was seventeen and ordering records through the mail from Kill Rock Stars and K Records I stumbled upon something amazing: zines, or small, self-published magazines, that were often distributed by their creators or through bedroom-based businesses called “Zine Distros.” I’ve told this story many times, but discovering these earnest publications where people from all backgrounds, but especially women close to my age, shared their stories, interests, passions, fears and experiences was nothing short of life changing. Growing up in a rural area, reading zines and writing to their creators was a lifeline to a world that was bigger than the one immediately around me.

At 17, like most teenagers, I was struggling to figure out who I would become in this world as a feminist, queer person and a writer. Making zines showed me that I could already be who I wanted to become by sharing my writing and freely expressing my identity. I started my personal zine Indulgence, inspired by an English teacher who declared, “Some would argue we are in an age of the pinnacle of self-indulgent, personal writing” (this was during the mid-1990s memoir craze, blogs were not yet in existence).

Zine fest redux!

Me and Meredith, a zinester friend from Portland, at the LA Zine Fest in February

Zines became central to my life and opened me up to a worldwide network of creative people, many of whom I am still in touch with today. Once I began making zines I felt I found my calling. I threw myself into zine publishing and zine culture, meeting zine makers all over the country and helping to start the Portland Zine Symposium in 2001 when I was taking a “gap year” between high school and college in Portland, Oregon.

My zine production has waxed and waned over the past few years, subject to time pressures placed on me by school, work and general life, but even in this world of blogs, Twitter, Instagram and so many other platforms for sharing, zines are still my preferred format for longer form, personal essays. I’ve always used zines as a venue to help navigate changes in my life and this past year has been no exception. I wrote the pieces for Indulgence #12 over the course of the fall of 2013 and polished them up this winter and got this latest issue ready for the Brooklyn Zine Fest, which took place at the end of April.

Workin' the table at the Brooklyn Zine Fest

Workin’ the table at the Brooklyn Zine Fest

Indulgence #12 explores three major themes in my life: work, love and death. Over the past year I quit my job and shifted my career from nonprofit arts administration to working with creative technology companies, walked away from a long term relationship and experienced the death of my grandmother and the shifts that created in my family dynamic. All in all, it was a year of navigating the choppy waters of adulthood, sometimes gracefully and often times with a fair amount of stress and angst. I’m proud of the essays in Indulgence #12 and think that they are some of my most focused personal writing yet. I’d love for you to pick up a copy. Like all of my zines, the cover is handmade and it is hand bound. It’s $4 with shipping for the US and $5 for the rest of the world. You can order through Shoplocket here.

Crackers the cat loves zines!

Crackers the cat loves zines!

Writerly love for New York City

New York you do not disappoint take 2

Every New York-based publication I’ve picked up lately has had an article about young people, mostly writers or artists or other privileged creative types, packing up their bags and saying “Good riddance” to New York City. Many of them are inspired by the new anthology edited by Sari Barton, Goodbye to All That: On Loving and Leaving New York. The publisher must have had some great PR work because big articles about this “trend” heavily reference the book and have appeared quite notably in New York Magazine and the New York Times. The articles all mention that Joan Didion’s iconic essay “Goodbye to All That” inspired much of the writing (as well as the title) and Didion’s essay is certainly among my favorites ever written about being young and creative in New York City. However, reading all of these articles I felt a kernel of annoyance welling up in me. Of course I don’t begrudge anyone’s decision to leave the city, but I realized that I’ve been through an opposite thought process this past year, and wanted to give the city a little writerly love.

This time last year I was convinced I needed to get out of New York City. I felt done with it and, further more, done with the high cost of living, terrible weather, and the fact that it smells like garbage most of the time. A year ago I was convinced that at present I would be packing my bags and my cat and heading out to sunny Los Angeles.

Before I tell you about my change of heart about New York, let’s review the facts: The New York City is expensive and only seems to be getting more so. Rents are insane, it’s difficult to find a decent place to live, and daily life often feels like one hassle after another. Everything feels intensely competitive, it really does smell like garbage most of the time, extreme injustice and inequality gets thrown in your face almost every second, and commuting on the over burdened subway system sucks.

When I moved here to go to college I told myself I would leave soon after. I kept giving myself “one more year in New York” until I decamped to Portland, Oregon or Paris. That “one more year” became “three more years” became “I’m not going to leave.” I realized that the community I’d cultivated here couldn’t be picked up and moved to another place and that New York offered the kind of opportunities I wanted to find.

This year I felt like I spent almost as much time out of New York as in it. I traveled all around the Midwest, Texas and the West and East Coasts. I made multiple trip to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Portland, Oregon. I was charmed by places I’d never been to before, like Omaha, Cincinnati, and Tulsa. I found that with the growth in appreciation for things that are handmade and locally produced wherever I went to I was never too far from cold brew iced coffee, artisanal cocktails, and farm-to-table meals.  I met inspiring people who are pursuing creative and entrepreneurial projects and working to help others in their towns and cities do the same. I think on the Grow book tours alone I visited 24 different cities, and visited even more when I factor in other work and family travel. So I feel like I got a pretty good sense of the country in a pretty short period of time. And what all that travel showed me is that while I think it’s crucial to get out of the city and that so many places have wonderful things to offer, New York is the only place I want to come back to. It’s the place I want to call home.

New York you do not disappoint take 1

There’s a huge number of smart, talented, driven and creative people living here and those are the types of people who I want to be around. Those are the people I want to meet and learn from and have as my friends. As I work to transition my career from arts nonprofits to creative startups I realized that it’s much easier to do this in a city that is a center of both cultural organizations and a huge, quickly growing number of startup businesses. I also realized that, as much as I complain about it, New York has a great infrastructure in terms of public transportation and is getting progressively more and more bikeable.

Is it hard to “make it” as a writer and creative here? Sure it is, but where is it not? Does one need to live in NYC to write, play music, make art or launch the next cool start up? No, of course not, but I find that is I want to find people who are doing these things, there’s a great concentration of them in NYC. On a typical day here I can write in a bustling coffee shop, ride my bike across a bridge that is an architectural icon, visit a world class museum, browse a farmers market, learn to code, go to a punk rock exercise class, head to band practice and then a dance party that puts an emphasis on fake blood and homemade costumes. This is the way I want to live my life.

Beyond all of this is the feeling that I can be exactly who I am in New York City. The city is vast and diverse and as such, there’s far less pressure to cave into social norms, or to live life according on anyone’s schedule except my own.

I also know that New York City owes me nothing. What I’m able to do here is directly related to what I’m willing to put in. The city does not owe me a living and I fear that those who quit the city with a feeling of “Good riddance!” deep down felt like somehow they were owed something simply because they were young, smart, privileged and wanted to make their way here.

Working job #2. Sunset is a reward for the hustle.

Of course, leaving a city is a highly personal decision. I think New York has something for everyone if you are willing to look for it, but it won’t offer it up without a fight. Whether you stay somewhere depends on your personal goals. For example, I know a suburban or rural lifestyle with a car, dog, yard, house and children is absolutely not for me.

Of course, New York is changing and not always for the better. Is the city better off because of the plethora of glassy luxury condos and Duane Reades that have sprouted up over the past few years? I’d say not really, but I also think that New York has a grittiness that difficult to tame. Does the level of inequality here drive me crazy? Absolutely. But living in New York is messy, complicated, intense and frustrating. It’s also exhilarating, rewarding and completely absorbing. I’m a high energy intense person who loves a good challenge and need a city that matches these qualities in me. So hello to all of this. This is one writer who is happy she’s stayed.

Return of the Zine!

Indulgence 11 CoverBefore I was a world famous blogger and these musings on my life, clothes, travels, and writing were read by millions (or at least by my mom, hi mom!), I poured by personal writing out into a small, handmade publication called Indulgence. I started Indulgence a shocking 15 years ago, in 1998, while I was still in high school and living with my parents outside of Portland, Maine.

The name was inspired by one of my high school English teacher’s snide comments about personal writing – that it was nothing but self-indulgence, as a way to mock that sentiment (I think personal writing is vitally important), carve out a space for my writing, and at the same time, not take myself too seriously.

IMG_2281

Over the years and issues Indulgence has been a place for me to experiment with form, voice, storytelling and risk taking. I came out as queer in its pages in the second issue, did a lot of soul searching about what it meant to move to New York right before September 11th and experience its aftermath in the 7th and 8th, endlessly analyzed my relationship to race as a white woman in the 9th, and recorded the heartache of a New York to Paris love affair in the 10th. Finally, nearly 5 years after issues #10, I finished issue #11.

Even though the zine was dormant for five years, I never stopped identifying as a “zinester” (I certainly relate to it more than being a blogger) or speaking of Indulgence as an active publication. I met my closest friends through writing and trading zines in the late 1990s and early 2000s and am still constantly inspired by zine culture. My experiences organizing zine events, like the Portland Zine Symposium, were a big part of what inspired me to write my first book, Grow. I was even quoted extensively in the New York Times about zine culture in reference to the recent Brooklyn Zine Fest!

However, I felt like all my interesting personal stories had dried up. I was discussing this with Golnar and Mimi after watching a reading during the Race Riot Zine Tour (both of these rad ladies are in their 30s, super smart academics and still make kick ass zines, by the way) and Golnar’s comment gave me the kick in the pants I needed to make a new issue. “My life is way more interesting than it was when I was 17,” she said, “And I still wrote about my life then, so why not now?”

Working on Indulgence #11 at the IPRC

Working on Indulgence #11 at the IPRC

Right, of course. So Indulgence #11 is my way to coax myself back into personal storytelling. I can’t help but feel like the writing is a bit rough around the edges, but it’s a zine after all.

This issue brought my zine making full circle. I laid it out over the course of two days in Portland, Oregon at the Independent Publishing Resource Center’s brand new space (I spent hours at the old, cramped IPRC back in the day making Indulgence issues #5 through #9). When I brought it, hot off the presses, to the Brooklyn Zine Fest a big group of my zine pals from the late 1990s showed up!

My table at the 2013 Brooklyn Zine Fest

My table at the 2013 Brooklyn Zine Fest

So after all of that, I’m really excited to share this new issue with you. It felt good to get gluestick glue all over my fingers again (despite my love of a clean, minimal layout, I will always prefer to do an old fashioned paste-up to a newfangled InDesign layout) and start to put some thoughts and feelings on the page. It’s 28 little pages of stories about music and life in New York City, line drawings, and infographics that try to grasp at the relationship between career, love and money. All in a hand printed cover lovingly stitched together by my own hands. You don’t quite find that kind of love on a blog, right?

You can have your copy for just $3 plus shipping (or a trade). You can order it here!

12 hours left and 10 reasons to support my book Grow!

I can’t believe there are just 12 hours left in my fundraising campaign on RocketHub.com to support my book Grow’s North American tour and the development of workshops for creatives with do it yourself projects to plan for success and sustainability. In these final hours (the campaign ends at 11:59 pm Eastern Time tonight) I wanted to share with you ten reasons why I believe so much in this project and why the support of my community for this project will extend far and wide.

One: Grow supports independent entrepreneurs
Grow is a tool kit for those who want to launch their own business.  Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs in the US according to the Small Business Administration and by giving to Grow you are helping those entrepreneurs develop a road map for success.

Two: Grow helps dispel the myth of the starving artist
Grow helps artists and creative people plan to be innovative and sustainable so they can live their dreams, make art, pay the rent, and put food on the table.

Three: Grow supports independent, print media
You’ve heard the statistics – book stores are closing and large publishers are further consolidating. By supporting Grow you support an independent publishing company  that is not beholden to shareholders or corporate interests.

Four: Grow is the future
With a tough job market and declining funding for the arts and innovative endeavors creative people need to seek new ways to support their projects. Grow shows the way for creative people to support for themselves and how to turn challenge into opportunity.

Five: Grow is the culmination of my education, professional and personal experience
Grow was inspired by my time playing in bands, organizing underground cultural events, writing zines, working as an educator and helping artists find resources for their projects. It’s my chance to share my passion for supporting creative projects of all kinds with the world.

Six: Grow builds community
Grow emphasizes the importance of building and nurturing community. As Amy Schroeder said, “It takes a community to do it yourself,” and Grow needs the support to nurture a strong community of DIY entrepreneurs.

Seven: The rewards are awesome (and made with love!)
I’m making a brand new issue of my zine Indulgence just for Grow campaign supporters! In addition, there are plenty of titles from Microcosm Publishing as rewards so you can build your own DIY library and carry it home in a special Grow tote bag. My cat Crackers has even agreed to sign books for everyone who gives over $100!

Eight: Grow celebrates successful DIY projects
Grow showcases successful DIY entrepreneurs and gives them chance to share the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Independent creatives can feel isolated when they strike out on their own. Grow demonstrates that there’s a community of support available to creative, do-it-yourself entrepreneurs and nurtures their success.

Nine: Grow believes that small is beautiful
Grow shows how individuals with an exciting vision can have a big impact. Even small contributions to Grow make a large difference in being able to go on tour and spread the word about building strong DIY businesses and communities.

Ten: Grow is shaping a movement to help creative visionaries succeed
Supporting Grow means supporting hands-on workshops all over North America that help creative people develop the skills they need to strengthen their DIY projects and launch sustainable businesses. Help spread the message of DIY from coast to coast!

Running this campaign has been an exciting and humbling experience. I’ve felt so grateful that people from all corners of my life has stepped up to support this vision and I would love to count you among them! Thank you, all, for spreading the word and helping to demonstrate the power of DIY community through your support. Visit the campaign here to keep sharing and supporting!

Cats, Crowdfunding and Community: Support Grow!


Oh, hello! How are you? I know things have been a little quiet on this blog lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. I’ve been working like crazy on the crowdfunding campaign to raise $7,000 by April 1st to support the North American tour for my book Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job! , which comes out June 1st. Here’s a little video I made that introduces you to my vision for workshops that will help creative people with do it yourself project plans for sustainability and has a special guest appearance by my editorial assistant, Crackers the cat. I would love to have your support and involvement in the campaign and share the book with you when it’s completed. So have a look, share the link, and give if you can! Thanks for all of your support of all my creative endeavors. My community, both on and off line, means the world to me.

Introducing the Grow book trailer and fundraising campaign!

I’m so excited to share this trailer for my book Grow: How to take your do it yourself project and passion to the next level and quit your job! with you. The animation was created by the talented Mackenzie Katz and it lays out the passions, ideas and experiences that drove me to write Grow. It also highlights what I hope to achieve with this project, from helping creative people clarify their vision and build their own sustainable path to success to working together to build an economy that is supportive of creative businesses and careers of all types.

This book trailer is being released in conjunction with a crowd funding campaign on RocketHub.com to support the production and promotion of Grow. Grow is about building DIY community and your participation during this campaign will enable me to develop and present workshops with other DIY entrepreneurs all over North America to help creative people strengthen and sustain their ideas and businesses.

The campaign is a great time to pre-order Grow and pick up other fabulous titles from the book’s publishers, Cantankerous Titles and Microcosm Publishing, as well as rewards handmade by me, including a special, new issue of my personal zine Indulgence that will only be available to campaign supporters.

You can watch the video, peruse the campaign, learn about all the fabulous rewards, and make a contribution here.

We have until April 1 to reach our $7,000 goal and hope to build as much support as we can in the early days.

Thank you in advance for your support of DIY creativity and for spreading the word about how others can get involved in the growth of the Grow project! The ideas, inspiration, and support I have received from the DIY community has sustained me over the years and I continue to be buoyed by all that my community offers me. Thank you for your attention and support!

Introducing my first book: “Grow: How to take your do-it-yourself project and passion to the next level and quit your job!”

Screen shot 2012-12-27 at 3.03.42 PM

Grow cover design by Meggyn Pomerleau and Joe Biel

Happy new year! I’m kicking off 2013 with some big news: This year will see the release of my very first book, entitled Grow: How to take your D.I.Y. project and passion to the next level and quit your job!. It will be coming out in June of 2013 on Cantankerous Titles, a great indie press from Portland, Oregon. Cantankerous is a part of Microcosm Publishing, a publisher I have respected and admired for years for their support of emerging and established writers and artists with independent, and radical, views.

Grow is a practical field guide for creative people with great ideas for independent projects who want to achieve success and sustainability. Whether their projects are based in independent publishing, music, food, art, craft, activism or community work, it will enable readers to clarify their project vision, get organized, set goals, create a plan, raise funds for, market, and manage their do-it-yourself project. The book is full of real-life inspiration and creative business advice from successful, independent businesses owners and creative people with projects that began in the do-it-yourself spirit.

DIY has been a part of my life since I was a child and my parents taught me to make my own clothes and grow my own vegetables, and I launched an organic gardening business. The ideas to write Grow grew out of my fifteen-year involvement with punk, feminist, and independent art communities. As a teenager the idea of do-it-yourself seemed infinitely logical because I loved to write and play music and was passionate about social justice and feminism. At the time I understood that as a teenager no “real” publisher or record label would take me seriously. “Why should I wait for someone else?” I asked myself. I started a personal zine, launched a record and cassette label, and co-founded a Riot Grrrl inspired group for young feminists in my home town of Portland, Maine.

Since then I have published zines, helped found and run the annual Portland Zine Symposium, played and toured with indie rock bands, edited a queer, feminist art journal, wrote a food blog and hosted artisanal food events, and worked as a media and art educator, programmer, and administrator. With Grow I want to share what I have learned with others who take their ideas seriously and are building a creative, independent life.

This book reflects my vision for supportive communities where people are creatively fulfilled, economically stable, and able to build healthy, balanced lives on their own terms. It’s a big vision, but I know that together we can make it happen.

There’s going to be lots of exciting Grow related workshops, events and web-content leading up to and upon its release, so please visit (and follow) the books’ very own website at Growdiy.com which will be updated regularly with news, interviews and ideas for those involved in DIY culture. You can also “like” Grow on Facebook here and sign up for my brand new mailing list for regular (and infrequent) updates here.

Thank you to all who have supported me (and continue to do so) through the process of becoming an author. In the wise words of Amy Schroeder, it truly does take a community to do it yourself!

Have a happy, healthy and revelatory 2013 everyone!

Fall Writing Round Up

Old and new typing tools hanging out

It seems redundant to say that its been a busy fall. You may have noticed this blog being updated inconsistently, if at all, and wondered, “Hey, Killerfemme? What’s up? Where did you go?”

What’s up is actually a lot of good news as far as writing is concerned. I’ve been busy writing grants and essays for filmmakers, musicians and visual artists as a freelancer.  I’ve also been working on a book project. Yes, you heard me, book project. In the spring of 2013 I will be a published author! Stay tuned, I can’t wait to tell you more, but for now, here’s what I’ve up to in the writing department:

I’ve started writing monthly for Idealist.org’s career blog and offer advice and ideas for emerging nonprofit professionals.  Recent topics have included strategies for cementing the connections you make with people you meet at conferences and events and thoughts about how generosity can further your career. Starting in January I’ll be writing a regular column focusing on taking your nonprofit career to the next level.

I wrote a whole slew of portraits of fifteen innovative arts organizations in New York City for ArtsFwd.org and was impressed with the ideas and programs that these organizations have implemented that are going to shift the cultural landscape of the city.

Once a month I will profile a DIY business for the DIY Business Association, starting with HK Honey, a collective of urban beekeepers, designers, and artists in Hong Kong dedicated to promoting the value of bees and locally produced honey.

I also realized I miss writing about music, so I’ve started writing for a brand new magazine called Boxx, whose tagline is “Where women are heard,” and will focus on lady-powered music. My first review is of the incredible Other Lives, who hail from Oklahoma (I also got to take the pictures for the review, which was a lot of fun).

Thanks for reading and more writing to come and, hopefully, now that the mass of edits is done on my forthcoming book, I’ll be branching out and writing for more blogs and publications. I’ll keep you in the loop!

Crackers thinks hurricanes and updating your blog are boring.

I always write with help from my trusted assistant

DIY White Mountain Writer’s Retreat

View across the valley of Hurricane Mountain

I love my life in New York City. It’s full to bursting with happenings, friends, and new ideas. I love that there is always a corner of the city I have not yet unexplored and new places to check out. However, this year I’ve also made a commitment to focus on my own practice as a writer and to finish a book project by September.

Covered bridge, New England pastoral

With a full-time job and full roster responsibilities and interests, I found that the book project was not getting done. It’s too easy to put off the really important, creative projects and focus on the less important. Watching my time drain away and my deadline approach I decided, “I need an artists residency where I can focus and get this done.”

The white mountains, pine trees, granite: the Mt. Washington valley in a nutshell

Here’s the problem: most artists residencies cost money. I don’t have money to spend on that kind of getaway right now. Many of them also require you apply and have work samples, which I’m still working on developing. So I thought, “What do artists residencies provide? Ah, space, time and a chance to focus.”  Then I realized: the book I am writing is about do-it-yourself culture, so why don’t I take my own advice and create my own residency?

The trail on Mt. Stanton

I took a week off from my day job and friends of my family were nice enough to let me stay in their “chalet” – an A-frame cabin they built in the 1960s in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When I was younger I went there with my parents, my parents’ friends and their kids. We would all pile in to the house for days of skiing and sledding and spend evenings cooking huge communal meals and playing board games. I loved returning to a place I knew as a child and rediscovering it.

Desk du jour

Embarking on my “self-imposed writer’s retreat” made me nervous at first: could I take my creativity seriously enough to devote my days to it? To allay my fears I needed a plan.

Simple lunch en terrace

I created a menu of healthy, easy to prepare meals so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend hours in the kitchen or only eat junk food.  I made a list of the writing tasks I needed to complete and a schedule for accomplishing them. I know I work best in the morning, so I made sure to get up by 7:30 and be writing by 8. I also know that I get really tired after lunch, so instead of forcing myself to keep working when I’m not going to be productive, I took a two-hour hike up a mountain behind the chalet, and wrote for four more hours when I returned. Finally, in the evenings after dinner I did smaller writing tasks, such as blog entries, correspondence and article drafting.

Morning coffee by the river

At the end of my four days in the mountains I had completed a first draft of my book. I also rediscovered the fact that writing, especially writing well, takes intense concentration and is hard work. It’s about sitting in a chair, focusing your mind and putting one word after another, even if it feels painful. I was proud that I mustered the creative self-discipline to pull this off. I also am pleased to confirm that I can, and want, to write for eight hours a day. Next step: make that possible more often.

Casual chalet summer style: J Crew t-shirt and shorts with espadrilles

I also found this: as a teenager I wanted nothing more than to get away from the woods of the northeast, but I’ve fallen back in love with this environment. I’m incredibly fond of the mountains where I spent childhood weekends and it was hard for me to leave the chalet after only four days.

A little beatnik, a little north woods: USMC jacket (stolen from my father), J Crew t-shirt, generic linen scarf, Mavi jeans, Converse sneakers

I loved my days of solitude, where my only human interaction was with the clerk at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store where I went to buy a bottle of Cotes du Rhone one evening. When I arrived at the chalet I felt emotionally on edge from all my running around New York City and constant engagement with so many different projects.  Waking up to dappled June sunlight, the sound of the river, and feeling like I spent my days in a tree house slowly helped me gain back perspective and I left feeling emotionally grounded and creatively accomplished.

A map of the white mountains at the chalet

I might just make my “self-imposed writer’s retreat” an annual event.

And lest you think I’ve become a monk thanks to four days in New Hampshire, on my way out of North Conway I succumbed to temptation, outlet shopping, and that state’s lack of sales tax and bought my first pair of Minnetonka moccasins since the 1980s.
After being a holdout... I buy my first pair of Minnetonkas since childhood!

One more caveat: after reading this entry are you surprised that my favorite book as a teenager was The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac?