I’m Thankful for Grandmas

Happy Thanksgiving everyone ūüôā

While I was at the Toledo Main Library for my art show, I had a chance to stop in the children’s department.¬† If you haven’t been there, GO!¬† You’re in for a treat.¬† I especially like the fish tank celebrating The Rainbow Fish.¬† But¬†I also saw something new.

The installation in the above photo depicts a scene from the book¬†Abuela by¬†Arthur Dorros.¬† I’d never actually read this book, but I was so moved by the piece that I went home and requested the book from my library.¬† It’s about a girl who is¬†always going places with her Abuela.¬† (Abuela means grandmother in Spanish.)¬†¬†One day¬†the girl wonders what it would be like to fly.¬† Readers¬†are then taken on a flight of the imagination, following this girl and her grandmother on their adventures together soaring above the city.

After seeing this art installation and then reading this book, I could not help but think of my relationship with my own grandmother who passed away last fall.¬† She was one of my first teachers and taught me how to play the piano when I was young.¬† I would not trade anything for our time together sitting at the piano bench.¬† I learned many lessons beyond how to read and play the notes.¬† She taught me the importance of finishing what you started and never giving up, even if that means playing the same refrain over and over because you’ve forgotten the rest.¬† The show must go on!

I know the show must go on even now that she is gone, but I feel like a piece of her is still with me,¬†cheering me on, as I continue¬†on my life’s journey toward publication.¬† I still remember those Sunday dinners together.¬†¬†I will be thinking of her as I sit down with my family for Thanksgiving.¬† I hope you have a chance to be with those people who are near and dear to your heart.¬† Don’t forget to tell them you love them and give them a hug to show you mean it.

We’re heading into the season of wishes and miracles.¬† If I had one wish, it would be to go flying with my grandma, even if it’s only in my dreams…

“The Brand Hand Moment”

We’ve talked about receiving and we’ve talked about asking, now it’s time to talk about giving.¬† But what happens when you give and give and give…receiving nothing in return?¬† Some would say that’s the beauty in giving.¬† But what about when it comes to your career?¬† Should we be willing to work for free?¬† According to Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, that answer is YES.

But it’s not that simple.¬† He has a great post on his website titled “The Myth of Working for Free.”¬† What he suggests is that¬†when you’re first starting a business or working as an artist, that¬†you should expect to put a lot of leg work in¬†to get your idea off the ground.¬† This means time spent networking, researching, investing, creating, the list goes on and on.¬†¬†And¬†even after you do all this, you might not see the¬†initial return in the form of actual dollars.¬† BUT there’s a silver lining.

Because all this time that you’ve been building, you’ve been creating a name for yourself.¬† You’ve¬†received valuable tools and met just the right people to support you along the way.¬† You’ve discovered your own voice and style.¬† You’ve been given the forum in which to share your talent with others.¬† And then one day…

You suddenly swap roles without even realizing it.¬†¬†Fields calls this “the brand hand moment.”

“It‚Äôs the point where the value of your brand and contribution becomes so self-evident or clearly expressed that it gives you enough power and leverage to start getting paid cold hard cash for the very thing you were paying cold hard cash to do the day before.”

I think it’s helpful to think of everything you contribute to your dream as an investment.¬† Sometimes you don’t see a return right away, but eventually you do, as long as you’re willing to stick with it.

Fields says even people who are¬†well-established can benefit from opportunities to ‚Äúwork for free.‚Ä̬† For example, you might agree to speak at a certain conference without accepting any monetary compensation because you know that key people will be there that can help you expand your business either by getting the word out, teaching you something, or marketing you in such a way that will make you more valuable in the long run.¬†¬†So what you do for free now, could create actual money in the future.¬† Hey, isn’t that one of the laws of the universe ūüėČ

Now, I’m not suggesting we all start working for free.¬† There’s something to be said for simply having a steady job and making money to pay the bills.¬† But if you find yourself starting up your own venture, take heart.¬† You may feel like you’re throwing spaghetti at a wall, but eventually something’s going to stick.¬† And when it does, you want to be there to claim that noodle!


Tis the season for giving, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about a new trend: crowdfunding.¬† My husband and I have become hooked on TED Talks and one of them we watched was given by musician and artist Amanda Palmer.¬† It was called, “The Art of Asking.”¬† She started out as a street performer and talked about the experience of asking for money without saying a word.¬† Are we obligated as observers to pay for viewing art?¬† No.¬† But maybe we should be.¬† Most of the time, art shows are free, working on a donation only basis.¬† So how do artists make a living?¬† One answer that more and more artists as well as entrepreneurs are turning to is crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet.”¬† Many successful startups began this way.¬† Over the summer, I attended¬†a fantasy conference in Detroit and crowdfunding was the topic of one of the presentations.¬† Here is what I learned.

Let’s start with some of the companies that host crowdfunding projects.¬† Kickstarter is probably one of the most well-known and will probably get you the widest audience.¬† They have an all or nothing approach where your project is either funded or not.¬† Gofundme is popular for charity projects.¬† Pubslush is specifically for literary projects.¬† With¬†Indiegogo, you get to keep the money you raise, but the organization takes a larger cut.¬† They’re all worth looking into!

What kinds of projects might you post?¬† Anything from selling¬†BBQ sauce to publishing a novel.¬† You also set the parameters¬†for¬†what you’re trying to raise.¬† One author said¬†she only asked for half the money she would need to publish her book.¬† You want to set realistic goals to improve your chances of getting funded.¬† You can even ask¬†¬†for help in funding additional items like marketing and cover design.¬† In fact, it’s important to think about all¬†aspects and possible expenses¬†before jumping in.

Some tips for a successful campaign:

  • Make sure your campaign stands out.¬†¬†One way is through making a video, but keep it short and to the point (2 minutes tops).¬† Projects with a video are more likely to get funded.
  • Make sure you can deliver a good product.
  • Have a completed project to insure success.
  • There’s a pay-it-forward option that allows you to give back to the community that¬†supported you.
  • Have a pre-campaign, as well as one during, and after.
  • Offer press releases to let people know.¬† Use social media, forums, etc.
  • Develop a street team of fans who can¬†create blasts on the internet to get the word out.
  • You want a big push from the start.¬† If you hit 50% right away, you’ll probably get funded.
  • Make sure your rewards for donations can be fulfilled.¬† Also make the rewards fun and enticing like offering free BBQ sauce or signed copies of books.¬† Virtual prizes are also common and free for you.

Here are some specific examples of rewards you can offer:

  • Authors can provide critiques
  • Have someone’s name included in your story
  • Personal video thank you
  • Read tarot
  • Offer to read your story to someone or record it
  • Have a digital book giveaway

Additional tips for writers trying to publish a book:

  • You can choose to self-publish the project using the funds OR use a publisher who manages the details for you.¬† (Cool, right?)
  • It helps to provide author interviews, and you probably won’t have to pay to get them.

*Remember that you can only give what you make.  There are also some rules about giving away food.

Getting back to Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk.¬† As a musician, she almost never stays in a hotel, relying on the hospitality of her fans.¬† But she also¬†makes them a part of¬†the rock star experience in a more intimate way.¬† She’s known for allowing her fans to write comments on her body with markers after¬†a show.¬† That’s what I call trust!¬† So it’s definitely a give and take process, born out of mutual respect.

There’s actually all types of crowdfunding, not limited to the above mentioned organizations.¬†¬†When a writer asks for feedback from fans on a published story and then incorporates their suggestions into the next story, I¬†would consider that¬†a form of crowdfunding.¬† There’s no monetary exchange, but I would argue that you are still asking for donations.¬† You want to make a better book and gain ideas from your fans.¬† In exchange, your fans are involved in the process.¬† Check out the book Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields for details on how this works.

I’ve also seen many artists include simple donation buttons on their websites and blogs.¬† They might ask for help in keeping them supplied with materials like brushes and paint.¬† The downside is that you might feel obligated to produce art in a certain way to please the fans that are supporting you.¬† I’ve toyed with the idea of including a donation button on my blog, but haven’t done so yet ūüėČ

Whatever you decide, to crowdfund or not to crowdfund, it is useful to know there are options out there.  Either way, it is certainly an exciting time to be an artist/entrepreneur.  As we delete the middle man and form more symbiotic relationships between creator and audience, there are no limits to what we can achieve!  And certainly, everyone benefits.



A Reflection Beyond Words

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m feeling grateful.¬† As I mentioned before, my artwork and poetry were recently exhibited at an art show, Beyond Words,¬†in Toledo, OH.¬† Opening night was a flurry of excited guests, yummy treats, and delectable artwork.¬† I enjoyed taking my family and friends around to see my work.¬† I also had the opportunity to¬†overhear feedback¬†on my art,¬†reminding me¬†of the days when I shared my poetry in front of a crowd at an open mic.¬† I even met¬†some of the artists that collaborated with me.¬†¬†One of them chose to¬†write a piece to go with my artwork,¬†Bamboo with Red Bird,¬†because she, too, has¬†an affinity¬†for Japan and¬†even lived there¬†for a period of time.

Then came the icing on the cake.¬† We¬†attended the awards ceremony.¬† Two of my poems received second place.¬† What made this especially gratifying was that the poems were compared to a specific style reminiscent of a famous writer.¬† I had never much thought about my style in regards to poetry.¬† Apparently, I have one…or two ūüėȬ†¬†My poem,¬†Suffering from Poetic License, received second place for the T.S. Eliot¬†Award: Modernist in style with a range of techniques.¬† Another poem of mine, Whose Musing,¬†received second place for the Mark Twain¬†Award: humorous or social commentary.¬† At the end, they announced the People’s Choice Award, which went to a poem written in response to my watercolor collage painting, Giraffes on Reserve, pictured above.¬† Hooray!

Now, awards are a bonus, but not why most artists, including myself, make art.  We do it because we love it.  Because we have a need.  It fills us up.  We feel alive.  It helps us make sense of the world and hopefully helps others, as well.  As I said in my previous post, making a connection is the best part about participating in an art exhibition like this one.

How will you connect with the universe this holiday season?