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.

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The Great American Road Trip Part 2: West Coast

The modern travel way, Olympia, Washington

The modern travel way, Olympia, Washington

My epic summer travels continued this month up and down the West Coast. After two weeks in the Midwest, the West Coast felt like familiar territory. I used to live in Portland, Oregon on-and-off between 2000 and 2004 and I’d recently visited Seattle and San Francisco. Unlike my Midwest adventures, I for this trip I relied more on public and mass transit to get around, except in Seattle and Olympia where your flexibility is limited by the public transit options and I find that in Seattle, like LA, people obsess over talking about traffic and parking.

The sweet, seductive architecture of SE Portland

The sweet, seductive architecture of SE Portland

My sweet, borrowed PDX ride "Banana Lightening"

My sweet, borrowed PDX ride “Banana Lightening”

While it has a reputation for being a rainy climate, the truth is, summer in the Northwest is glorious. Days are overall sunny with warm days that cool off at night. It’s the perfect temperature to dreamily drink an iced coffee, ride a bike leisurely around the city, meet your friends for a picnic in the park, or sip cocktails on the patio.

Sharing a table with Meredith at the Portland Zine Symposium!

Sharing a table with Meredith at the Portland Zine Symposium!

Zinester mail from @nicolejgeorges xoxo!

Zine symposium mail from Nicole Georges!

The Portland Zine Symposium was a big reason why I chose to be in Portland when I did. It’s really amazing to see a project I helped start 13 years ago continue with such vigor and be taken up by a totally new team of people. I feel like that’s the exact legacy I hoped to create with the symposium and I’m so glad to see it worked out. It was also nice to return as a participant and not have the stress of an organizer.  However, much of Portland reminded me of that heady time in my early 20s when I lived there. I would be biking along a street on my borrowed, bright yellow, vintage folding bike named “Banana Lightening” aka “Banana Question,” and remember a feeling I had in that same place over ten years ago. I felt amazed that I had grown up, but still half way convinced that I was going to encounter my 22-year-old self around any given corner.

I love Olympia!

I love Olympia!

I felt a similar feeling in Olympia, where I hadn’t spent too much time since attending the Yo Yo A Go Go music festival in 1999 when I was 18. Then I was a giddy teenager fresh out of my small town. There I saw acts like Elliot Smith, Quasi and the Need play the historic Capitol Theater and spent time blissfully sleeping on a motel floor with four other indie rock fans and meeting up with my zine pen pals from all over the country.

Capitol Theater, Olympia, Washington, where indie rock history was made

Capitol Theater, Olympia, Washington, where indie rock history was made

Olympia now has a strange, sleepy vibe, though it is still home to a very dedicated creative community. The staples I remember like Dumpster Values thrift store, Rainy Day Records, and K Records homebase, are still there, though they have moved. There’s plenty of new, cool places, like the Northern for all ages shows (and good coffee in the morning from a coffee bar called Bar Francis) and Quality Burrito for delicious tacos and cocktails. One of my favorite places to re-visit was The Reef – greasy spoon diner in front, dive bar in back, where the bar tender played KARP on the jukebox in an evening that felt perfectly fitting for Olympia past and present.

An Olympia classic

An Olympia classic

Karaoke pandas, Olympia, Washington

Karaoke pandas, Olympia, Washington

My last day in Washington State got a little cloudy, so it was quite a big change when I hopped an Alaska Airlines flight down to hot, sunny and flat Sacramento. It was my fifth time in California in the past year and it felt great to be back in the Golden State. I got to learn about the growing creative community in California’s capitol and present at the sweetest nonprofit, Hello XOXO, a new space dedicated to fostering women’s creativity and entrepreneurship.

Hello XOXO - a nonprofit fostering women's creative community in Sacramento, CA
Hello XOXO – a nonprofit fostering women’s creative community in Sacramento, CA
Decor love at Hello XOXO

Decor love at Hello XOXO

I wasn’t long in Sacramento though, and after just a quick afternoon and evening I headed to Berkeley to browse the selection at Amoeba records, and meet up with my favorite California boys, Torches, who were touring up the West Coast while I was headed down. It was great to compare road notes over sandwiches and mimosas and think about how much we have all grown creatively since meeting about a year and a bit ago.

Tour highlight: lunch with these rock stars @torches_music

Lunch with Torches, also on tour, in Berkeley

After sending the boys off I took the BART into San Francisco, my last tour stop. I love how San Francisco’s hills rise up over the bay, how the fog blows across it in strange wisps, and how the pastel buildings tile up its impossibly steep slopes. That said, by the time I reached San Francisco I was feeling a little tired. I was ready to go home.

Brunch seriousness

French “Soul Food” brunch in San Francisco!

Fortunately, if you’ve got a friend in San Francisco, they usually know what you need. In this case, Amy took me to Brenda’s, an amazing French Soul Food influenced brunch joint, and then bought a bottle of champagne that we drank out of plastic cups in a park full of palm trees, lavender plants and cute dogs. It was the perfect end to my travels.

Champagne in the park in the 3-D Nickey Hayden glass

Last day of tour and living the San Francisco park life

Seeing new places, returning to places I love and meeting up with people I love in these places, is one of the most life affirming things one can do, in my opinion. At the same time, I’m happy to have a solid home base in Brooklyn, a place where I can nurture my own creativity and reach out to the world from. Being on tour especially means being on almost every waking minute. It means putting your best foot forward always and being open to possibility and risk while getting what you need to do accomplished. My summer was hardly relaxing or carefree, but it was a hugely absorbing journey that’s left me so grateful for the opportunity I was able to create to talk about my passions and projects and remember what’s valuable to me: community, connection, and creativity. And it’s through that kind of risk taking that we learn and grow.

Who Dares Wins

My new motto on the wall of the Makeshift Society

The Great American Road Trip Part 1: Midwest

Somewhere in Missouri, en route to Tulsa

Somewhere in Missouri, en route to Tulsa

“Killerfemme, where have you been this summer?” “Where haven’t I been?” I think, at this point. I’ve spent the past three months visiting 17 states and 23 different cities on a book tour to connect with DIY and handmade business owners to promote my first book Grow: How to take your do it yourself project and passion to the next level and quit your job! Besides getting to meet rad creative people all over the country, I’m really grateful that Grow gave me a reason to travel to places I hadn’t been since 2002, the last time I took a cross country road trip, like Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. It also took me to places I’d never been before (and hope to go back to) like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska.

Art changes everything in Minneapolis and everywhere.

Art changes everything in Minneapolis and everywhere.

In front of Mickey's Dining Car in St. Paul, Minnesota

In front of Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul, Minnesota. Open 24 hours a day for nearly 70 years!

The lure of the open road has been immortalized in American literature and culture, with John Steinbeck to Jack Kerouac being some of the most prominent. Of course, as an angst ridden teenager I was deeply influenced by the later and wrote a whole faux road trip novel at age 15 having barely left Maine or and only visited New York City once. This summer I was really excited to set out in mid-July to “middle America,” or “fly over country” as it is so dismissively called by some ignorant coastal souls. This trip was hardly a drug-fueled whim like those of my beatnik brothers (are you kidding? I was driving! I hardly had a drink!), but a journey with the explicit purpose of promoting Grow. I wrote about what I learned about DIY and craft business on the Grow blog, but of course, one can’t work 24/7. So here I wanted to share some more personal images from the lovely places I visited.

Nice neon! Madison, Wisconsin

Nice neon! Madison, Wisconsin

One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to connect with friends I had met through publishing zines and the underground, punk community over a decade ago. Some of them I had figured I’d never see again, but instead, here they were, living full, beautiful, inspiring lives. For me, seeing these women again showed me why the concept of DIY has remained so compelling: when you are committed to making something, adding value to your community, and forging a genuine connection with other creatives, those relationships last.

Zine Grrrl reunion at Quimby's in Chicago: Nicole Wolfersberger, me, and Rebecca Ann Rakstad

Zine Grrrl reunion at Quimby’s in Chicago: Nicole Wolfersberger, me, and Rebecca Ann Rakstad

Ohio river crossing, Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio river crossing, Cincinnati, Ohio

I shouldn’t have to say it, but the Midwest suffers a bad wrap from those on the coasts, even though so many people living here are from there. It’s a diverse place and full of history. It contains key locations along the Underground Railroad (don’t think that walking across the Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio didn’t give me chills), to battles fought in “Indian Country”  over questions of slavery versus freedom and Native sovereignty in Kansas and Oklahoma, to current events, as Detroit declared bankruptcy just days after I visited (it’s not my fault!).

Grow workshopping, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Grow workshopping, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Steakfinger House, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Steakfinger House, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Midwest is also breathtakingly beautiful. Though it may not boast the drama of the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Coast, it has a sky that stretches on forever, rolling green fields, and dusty roads that scream, “Take an adventure, America!” While I am a reluctant American, spending two weeks in the Midwest reminded me that I am very much of this country. I appreciate the pioneering and the “Can do, make to” spirit of the people I met in my travels.

Train crossing on the Oklahoma/Kansas border

Train crossing on the Oklahoma/Kansas border

Little Freshie, fresh slushie in 101 degree Kansas City, Missouri

Little Freshie, fresh slushie in 101 degree Kansas City, Missouri

Also, breaking news: Brooklyn, NY and Portland, OR are no longer so original or special. Do you think I had to give up fair trade, cold brew coffee or organic, local produce while I was on the road? Quite the opposite! Cities and small towns all over the US are bursting with local goodness and it’s exciting to feel like “local flavor” actually means something again.

Celebrating a tour well done, Omaha, Nebraska

Celebrating a tour well done, Omaha, Nebraska

However, I also found myself enjoying some mass produced pleasures, like the fact that you can get 20 different kinds of iced tea for under $2 at a “gourmet” gas station like Quik Trip (thought I just got black, unsweetened tea). I mean, thank you, America, this iced tea kept me awake through some long drives and was delicious to boot. So, if you ever think, “Should I visit Tulsa? Or Omaha?” the answer is emphatically,
“Yes!”

Morning, Omaha, Nebraska

Morning, Omaha, Nebraska

This tour brought to you by vats of Quik Trip Iced Tea

This tour brought to you by vats of Quik Trip Iced Tea

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!