Category Archives: creativity

Luminaries: Laura

This is the fourth in my 2015 series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who seem to be 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, Interview 2, and Interview 3.

quasar luminary wiki commons  We have a bit of a switch-up at this juncture!

Laura Stanfill, gracious interviewee #4 for this series, tugs the covers in the complete opposite direction from my other subjects in terms of life path-taking.

If Ward is on one end of the spectrum, with his do-everything curiosity for life, Laura is on the other end, with her insane commitment to being the best writer she can be, no matter the assignment, no matter the time pressure. But let’s start at A Beginning…

Our beginning was at Stumptown Lit 2014, where I was having my first book exhibited as a member of Oregon Writers Colony — so exciting! I was searching for less-cliche, less-network-y ways to engage with people at the event, so when I arrived at the Forest Avenue Press table, I asked Laura, “What made you decide to become a publisher?”

And she had a wonderful, self-aware answer, johnny-on-the-spot. I made a mental note: this gal is the Real Deal. So I was over-the-moon delighted when she agreed to do an interview for Taste Life Twice. I was also delighted to find out that her own publishing career started off with a series of similar interviews with a wide variety of writers in the Pacific Northwest (Brave On The Page).

Coincidence??? I hope not…

laura stanfill pub photo red chairLaura has achieved success in every arena she has entered. That comment I made above, about “no matter the assignment”? She once had a freelance job writing for a school district that needed more funding from the local Board of Supervisors. She turned it into a 296-page school district masterpiece, resulting in the Association of School Business Offices’ Meritorious Budget Award, but more importantly, the first time the schools received what they asked for in recent memory!

When I sat down to pelt Laura with nosey questions last month, I realized that she must possess some sort of crazy magic substance (like lembas) to sustain such a drive for excellence and constant innovating: from overachiever school newspaper editor at Vassar College to Publisher of her own press for the last four years, it’s always been about writing. She neglected to mention a source for the lembas (darn!), but said that she’s been a perfectionist forever, and motivated to exceed people’s expectations since before that.

Thankfully, as a parent, she’s learned to turn on her personal ‘Creativity Valve’ when she has a spare ten minutes in order to edit, write, report, or otherwise grow her business, an effort that has always been about strengthening the literary community here in Portland, her adopted city.

One of the points that some of the other ‘Luminaries’ have expounded upon is the breaking away from other people’s expectations as a break for freedom. For Laura, it seems to be more of a synthesis: when the expectations align with her own desire to write, she puts love into the project, and great things happen.

Lucky duck!

laura stanfill pub photo zany authorOne of the most important questions for Laura was the one about balance: What balances you out in life? At first, she couldn’t think past her perfectionist tendencies. But then the little things, those activities that can seep into the cracks of life, showed themselves. Reading for pleasure. Writing her own fiction. Knitting (in a community of knitters). And oh, what’s this in my back pocket?

That’s right: an annual retreat with a few women writer friends, where they isolate themselves in individual cabins for several days, coming together for lunches and dinners to discuss their current works.

Doesn’t that sound divine? (If you are interested in such a thing, DO NOT HESITATE to contact me. I’m totally starting my own!)

One of my other regular questions is about a defining moment, some memory that points the way to what you know you’re meant to do. For Laura, this occurred very early on, and she had a beautiful anecdote about how her passion was lovingly reinforced:

For a 4th grade writing assignment on an everyday object, she chose a red rubber ball. And what did it do? It went on a journey to the Black Forest of Germany and had adventures. The Schwarzvald, people! The teacher conspired with the school librarian to get the story ‘published’ for the school library.

Ms. Stanfill has been writing ever since.

laura stanfill pub photo blue hat

 

Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Laura Stanfill

Converted Churches find Inspired Uses

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Luminaries broadcast to bring you this very interesting trend:

Churches Converted for Creative Uses

I haven’t been to any churches lately for the purpose for which they were designed. Mainly because the churches of Portland are NEVER OPEN.

nw trinity church portland oregon

But my all-time favorite, due to geographic location, has to be Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness, Scotland.

leakeys bksp fb page cover

Leakey’s has got it all: bloody history as a witness to the aftermath of Culloden, a roaring fireplace in the middle of millions of fragile pages, and not to be outdone, the best millionaire shortbread I’d ever had, at the cozy, 2nd level cafe.

What if you’re tied down to the East Coast of North America however, but you’d like your own patch of stained-glass sunlight, filtering down to entrance you as you peruse works of art? Never fear. Enter Colouratura, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada:

colouratura art gallery nova scotia

(By the way, I discovered Colouratura on my 2012 road trip to Nova Scotia, which also resulted in a certain Dulci’s Legacy…;-)

But what if you still can’t avail yourself of this pleasure, since you live all the way Out West, perhaps near Portland, OR? A-ha! On a Craigslist run for an armchair one day, I  came across this beauty:

battleground wa coffeehouse and deli

I asked about a casual, local spot, and the folks with the chair directed me toward a bunch of chain restaurants. Then they bethought themselves of one other place that I might like, ‘if I went in for that sort of thing.’ Boy, do I ever!

Let me tell you, their deli sandwiches are delicious, and hearty. And it seems like they’ve got some serious latte art going on, judging by their Facebook page. It was hard to get everything in for an interior shot, but here’s my attempt.

interior battle grounds cafe WA

 

So what do you think- will you be haring off to experience on of these finds What’s the best converted use you’ve seen for a church?

Images via BoomerPDX, Leakey’s Bookshop, Colouratura Gallery, and Taste Life Twice

 

 

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