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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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!

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!

S.M.A.R.T. Goals for 2013!

New Year Card 2013While New Years is not my favorite holiday, I love the opportunity for reflection and reinvention brought by the New Year itself. With the upcoming release of my first book in June I have high hopes for 2013. This is going to be a year of transition personally and professionally and I have decided to take this year to embrace change and become the person I really want to be at this point in my life.

To do so I made goals for what I wanted to achieve this year.  Unfortunately, they were really vague like, “Save money, get more freelance work, lose weight again, write more, change my life.” I started feeling daunted by how ambitious they were and I when I mocked myself for making them in a Facebook status and added I wanted to do all this without losing my mind on Facebook, my friend M. spoke up with a suggestion. She, like me, is a graduate of a management program, and encouraged me to make my goals S.M.A.R.T.

For those used to planning for a business or organization S.M.A.R.T. stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely” goals. When you break your goals down into these criteria they become more possible to achieve.

One night I sat down with my Moleskine journal and changed my vague hopes for 2013 into goals that I can conceivably follow, with action steps and benchmarks in place. For maximum accountability I wanted to share my goals with you here (minus a few too personal details). So let’s see what 2013 will bring!

1. Save Money

If I’m going to change my life I’m going to need a financial cushion. And you never know what can happen in this economy. So it’s time to get serious about savings:

Up the bi-monthly transfer to my savings account

Put money I earn from freelance work into savings

Define and stick to a very limited weekly spending amount that includes food and extras, like clothes (so this blog will soon become a blog about being fashionable with what’s already in your closet)

Track my expenses

Pay off my credit card debt

2. Get more project and freelance work

I like the chance that freelance work provides to get involved in different types of projects and creative people implementing a vision. It also helps me sharpen different sets of skills:

Follow up with current clients

When my Portfolio website launches (soon!) make it clear I’m available for grant writing, project management gigs

Continue to talk with other freelancers and self-employed people I respect about how they go their start

Meet up with other freelancers regularly for networking, events and work sessions

3. Lose Weight (again)

I managed to gain 10 pounds since the summer and it’s no secret how it happened – I ate a lot of bad-for-me-food (pizza! burritos stuffed with French Fries!) and pretended it wouldn’t matter. Time for some accountability! I’m hoping to lose those 10 pounds by the time June rolls around by:

Track my eating everyday

Exercise 4 times a week

Go to Weight Watchers meetings at least once a month

4. Write more creative non-fiction

Finish a new issue of my zine Indulgence with at least three substantial essays by the Brooklyn Zine Fest on April 21

Update this blog weekly

Reach out to other venues and publications that publish nonfiction and present essay-driven work

Stay inspired by reading more essays and creative nonfiction

5. “Change my life”

I’m contemplating taking a year sabbatical from New York City in 2014 and spending the winter and spring in Los Angeles and the summer in fall in Paris. I’m looking for sun (in California), adventure, and a change of pace! But there’s a lot of logistics that I have to take care of before that happens!

Break down logistics: Research apartment prices, getting a car (or not) in LA, pare down possessions, look into subletting my NYC apartment

Have honest conversations with the important people in my life about what I’m thinking and feeling and how it impacts them

Be proactive: if there’s something on my mind talk about it, even if it feels daunting to do so

Develop a clear vision for what I want in my life and what makes me happy through journaling and focused self-reflection. As my friend Iris in LA told, “Manifest what you want, be specific.”

What are the goals that you hope to achieve this year? How are you breaking them down to make them manageable?

As a post-script, I’ve also launched a year-long drawing project with my friend Michel in Paris. To practice our drawing skills we will each create a drawing on a similar theme every week and post them on our Tumblr “One Week, Two Hands, 4,000 Miles” or 1w2h4m. Follow along with us and see if we can do it!

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!