Category Archives: business

Luminaries: Maisie

This is the third in a new series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who are guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1 and 2.

feet in converse sneakers

Maisie’s A-Mais-ing Newsletter, The Barefaced Brief

What comes across when you meet Maisie is a zest for the life she’s living. She relishes her work, and continually commits to savoring the fact that she got herself to the place where she is: sole owner of a boutique writing studio with clients who are ready to push the envelope.

(Okay, enough with the foodie verbs)

Maisie is the brain and heart behind Audacious Muse Writing Studio (which has the awesome #amwriting hashtag in the url! bodacious). I sat down with her last month to talk about what makes her tick and how she pursues her own path.

First, what does she do?

In her own words, she “uses marketing juju to marry business and storytelling” so that the business client can get to “the big Why.” I didn’t know this when I met Maisie, but she chooses to work only with clients who are ready to go deep into work on themselves, which I thought was awesome and courageous! Imagine if we all challenged the people we worked with to get in touch with their feelings and motivations and passions?

Brilliant.

Second, what has she learned? Several things, it turns out, that might help YOU.

Balance is a Myth

(We might differ on this one, but I like her argument)

Oh, my kingdom for some balance! How often have we heard people saying that they want more balance? Maisie says it’s a false idol. She works in spurts, either focusing on work or business growth, while maintaining daily goals of family time and reading time.

Her daily routine looks something like this:

  • Wake at 8 or 9
  • Work on personal writing material for first hour (no social media)
  • Work on client projects for next 8 hours
  • Break for dinner with family
  • Family time
  • Back to writing time

And she recently introduced a no-client-work-on-Wednesday rule, so she can work on fiction projects, the blog, or reading during that time.

I like the Wednesday idea for sure, but couldn’t keep up with her idea of a “spurt.” My idea of a spurt is 3 hours, max. After that, I need to switch gears and either change my location or change my task.

Which end of the spectrum do you fall on?

 

A Moment of Knowing

Maisie had a moment of clarity in which she knew what she was meant to do in this world (not to be grand about it, but YES). It happened during one of the workshops of WDS 2013, held by Pam Slim. While she was waiting for the speaker to start, she thought up the name of her company, Audacious Muse Writing Studio, and heard the words, “You are going to be a writer.”

She searched for the Godaddy domain registration right there on her phone, and bought it. Details like a safety net and the structure of her business would come later, but, by gosh, she had an address on the Net!

Just like she demands of her clients, Maisie had to ask herself some troubling questions in order to get to a safe place with the business. Battling demons of people-pleasing and perfectionism from childhood, she had to weigh the goal (writing badass content) against the cost (instability and insane hours).

She had to trust that she had what it takes to achieve her dream.

pema chodron quote we already have everything we need

Well, you may ask, how did she maintain this tiger-like focus on her dream through the weeks, months, years of school trips, parking permits, and grocery shopping? (She has a teenage son) She has three tools.

Set deadlines and stick to them. Maisie has the curse/superpower of always being aware of time. This motivated her to get good and fast at writing copy and brainstorming, which is essential when you are a starting-out freelancer.

Use the Pomodoro technique. A common technique for many writers, the Pomodoro technique uses a timer (preferably silent, not ticking) to remind you to stop working after 25 minutes, and take a switch-gears 5-minute break. Then you’re back on!

Know yourself and your habits/ limitations. Here we are in complete agreement! If you know you need to eat every 3-4 hours, take a break to make a nutritious snack. If you know you do tend to lose track of time, set that timer. If you can’t work with distractions, don’t try to be all hipster and work out of coffee shops!

hipster dudes working in a coffee shop

***Final caveat to this list: Always come back to being gentle with yourself, not just a taskmaster.

Avoid This

What does Maisie recommend avoiding? Three things:

Don’t work with people who you don’t respect. I.e. People who havent’ done the hard personal delving you have to know their values, but expect to connect with their own clients/customers on a deep level. Good luck with that.

Don’t be mainstream. As she says in her weekly email, you need to “be fearless in your weirdness.” She knew she’d managed to reach people on that deep level with her content when she got her first haters,  because it had elicited emotion. That means she took a risk and was vulnerable online. (Sound familiar?)

Don’t be held to others’ expectations. (That gets a Sing It, Sister!) Like when she got her first haters, Maisie had to cross a line in her thinking. When she would write something and a voice in her head would say, “What would Mom think if she read this?” she decided to tell that voice to shut up. She wan’t writing for her mother!

Recently, Maisie has even taken her own discoveries about how parenting styles and community values color what we think we should do with our talents, and started using that as a way to explore where her clients are coming from… fascinating, right?!

It all comes back to this: examine your own expectations. Do that deep work. Where are they coming from? If they come from fear, banish them like the Ghostbusters.

And if you find weirdness, let it out!

 

Images via Maisie, NextHipsterTrend, and Minta on Pinterest

Passing along Southern Italian Foodways to You

**Announcement!**

I would love to host you at my final cooking class of the summer in August, so email me now to reserve a space!

This class will focus on Southern Italian foods and cultural foodways, which, as you’ll see below, I learned a lot about while in Naples, Sorrento, and Sicily this spring. It was gorgeous. In fact, this was the sight that greeted me from the window of the hydrofoil as we docked- quite amazing.

Pozzuoli and Napoli held their own charms- views of the sea and charming locals high among them- but the next stage of my trip launched me into the independent mode of travel. From the seaside you see above, I scaled the cliff (ok, climbed the stairs) with my suitcase, and getting some advice from the tourist office, I scouted out a few small hotels before deciding on one.
The night of my arrival I wandered around the small town of Sorrento, glimpsing citrus trees in every yard, people in every cafe, and a bustling center of town, which included this gated corner alcove, apparently an ancient men’s club (so unfair).

I walked and walked until I was so hungry I had a hard time making a dinner decision… ending up with this spread, so I didn’t end up too badly…
Whole fried anchovies (unless they were sardines? I can’t find a good way to tell them apart when battered and fried), octopus, shrimp, and more- all celebrated the generous gifts of the Mediterranean Sea. Perfect for my sampler nature.

After a couple days like this, I went to see one of the most famous historical sites right nearby: Pompeii. Having gotten a good look at Vesuvius on the hydrofoil journey crossing the bay from Naples to Sorrento, I was excited to see this city that was buried in an instant, so long ago.

What bowled me over about the site was not the professionalism of the preservation or the views of the countryside (although the site was well managed, the surrounding suburb was rather scrappy), but the unbelievable detail brought to us whole and untouched from that distant culture. Here is a frescoed wall from a bath house. Such colors, thousands of years of ash and dust later!

I recently had “atavism” explained to me in an online course, and it was connected to the idea of a discontinued past, that past which is not linked to our present because we perceive it to be too different. Pompeii was nothing of the sort- the people living here had road ruts under repair, were building extensions on their houses, and had decorations lovelier than many expensive ones I’ve seen  in our own time.

Mosaics laid so precisely.

Signs lettered so carefully
and in recognizable script!

It made the tragedy of the deaths in the settlement all the more real. Here, the archaeologists had left their mark, finding the bodies burnt to ash, essentially vacuuming them out, and making plaster casts of how their bodies were found. It was both eerie and compelling to see the models, composed of some of the ash of the bodies themselves, on display in their final, frantic positions.


But since the one plaster model I saw was placed near the entrance I used, I had a couple hours after that of wandering around the narrow streets and peeking through other courtyards to sweep out the sad thoughts. Marvel at the art and society of this little town was the foremost emotion, and by the time I finished, I was ready for switching gears.

What did I jump to? My cooking lesson with Chef Lucia!

She had a menu planned and printed out for me, and we mixed it up a bit as we went along. Chef Lucia took me through an immense amount of details as we made our way through rolled beef, stuffed eggplant, and rolled eggplant (I requested the eggplant- love it!). One of the highlights of the class was the ballet dance of languages we all did, as her son translated for me, I tried to understand Lucia’s Italian, and she mostly understood my English. It made 2+ hours of standing on my feet in the little kitchen fly by, and that is saying something!


Chopping.

Tearing.

Mixing.

Heating garlic in oil!

There are proper ways to do everything, and traditional ways, too, as in whether you peel your cucumber completely or in stripes- one way gives you the Napolitano version, the other, the Sorrentino.


One of the add-on items on the menu was fresh pasta from potatoes, usually known as gnocchi (that is a link to an excellent tutorial with step-by-step pictures- go see for yourself!).

We used a pasta machine, the kind that clamps on the counter and cranks by hand, which led to some more ballet-like hilarity among the three of us. We also used a tool like the one shown  in the linked tutorial above, which looks like a miniature washboard. It is obviously a skill learned through repetition, to drag two fingers with a dollop of gnocchi dough over the wooden board in such a way to create the classic shape. I tried, but my pasta didn’t win any beauty contests!
It was a lot of fun, and even though setting up the class was stressful at the last minute, and finding the place was another adventure, it was all totally worth it.

Now I have this precious experience to share with you!

Have you taken cooking classes on vacation? How did it give you a different view of the location and the region’s people? Did it help you connect the region’s past with its, and your, present?

It’s magic!

Let us hear about it in the comments…

The 411 on the TLT Cooking School

I’m happy to hear of the interest in the armchair-travel style cooking courses (and thankful to all the friends spreading the word! :-), so I thought I would provide a few more details about what the night will include.

Pub Short Ribs, an American view

  • Three-course (minimum) meal consisting of traditional researched regional food, adapted from authentic recipes
  • Quality organic, seasonal, and local produce and other ingredients, as much as possible

Ah, the simple joys of hosting!
  • Being hosted in my home, an apartment in the Logan Circle neighborhood
  • Explanation of cooking techniques involved in the preparation of the meal
  • Tidbits of historical and cultural interest about the food, the region, and the culture
Another theme to look forward to…


I’m really looking forward to diving into the next research project, which will involve a certain boot-shaped mass of land… I will say no more!
…except to say that having just returned from a week in Napoli and Sicily, they will be influential resources!

If you’re interested and live in the DC area, please feel free to drop me a line at margaret [at] taste-life-twice [dot] com and I’ll be happy to accommodate you!

If you’re interested but living outside the DC Metro area, tell those you know about the idea!

Also, I take suggestions, and would love to chat about food and/or travel, so don’t hold back in the comments.
Ciao for now~!