Chasing Waterfalls & Alt Summit

Ricketts GlenI spent the weekend without internet or cell service in a super rural part of Pennsylvania (like, even more rural than where I grew up, which is saying something). I peed in the woods, hung out around a campfire with friends, hiked to some waterfalls, marveled at the incredible number of ferns surrounding the campsite, and went to bed when it got dark and started raining. It was grand.

Ricketts GlenThere was time and space to just be, without scheming or planning or striving. It felt really good. I’ve been feeling a little disillusioned with the internet/social media/blogging world lately. I’ve been wondering about the end game, or if I even have one. And maybe it’s ok not to. And if I do have an ultimate goal behind this screen, what do I do if I reach it? What comes next? Will it feel empty?

Ricketts GlenThis disillusionment is kind of inopportune, since I recently found out I was accepted to speak at Alt Summit in a couple weeks. Even though it might not sound like it, I couldn’t be more excited and grateful for the opportunity. I’m hopeful that the impromptu conversations I’ll have with kindred spirits I hope to find will be energizing and motivating. I’m also really excited to host my roundtable discussion, Don’t Be Afraid of Your Website. I’m planning to cover the basic moving parts of a website, using WordPress as an example, and how they all come together and leave plenty of time and space for questions. You can take a closer look at the fancier description and the other sessions here.

If you’re there too, please say hi! I’d love to meet you. Let’s be friends. If it’s your first (or second or third) time and you’re a little nervous, I’d like to offer up these posts to help you get excited & collect yourself a bit.

Life Lately

Life LatelyIt seems I’ve taken a bit of an unplanned break from this space, but I’ve been wanting to get back into it! I blinked and April was gone. It was kind of a weird month for me, and I’m not sad to see it go.

After returning from Texas Style Council, the real world felt just a little too harsh, which made it too easy to retreat — to just jump back in to a very busy life packed with conferences, Philly Tech Week, a bit of travel, and a jumble of uncertainty.

But for now, I’ll just recap what I’ve been up to and where I’m at now.

Just finished: House of Cards Season 3. Giving this presentation on Sublime Text at the Philly Women in Tech Summit. The two are unrelated.

Working on: Revamping this website! I’ve been working with Sarah on designs for integrating this here personal/lifestyle blog with my portfolio and hopefully some more technical writing! I’m going to start development on it soon, and I can’t wait for it all to come together. I’ve also got a few new freelance projects in the pipeline that will keep me plenty busy. And! I’m hosting May’s LadyBoss event with Heart and Dash.

Listening to: Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell. I think I listened to this pretty exclusively for most of April. Named after his mother and stepfather, the album is all about his relationship with his mother, who died of stomach cancer in 2012. It’s stunning in its beauty and sadness, with elements of playfulness. We saw Sufjan perform it and a ton of other stuff at the Beacon Theatre a few weekends ago and it was transcendent. We almost went back for one of his Kings Theatre shows, but it’s kind of a hassle to get to Brooklyn on a Friday night.

Reading: Just finished Marilynne Robinon’s Lila, which was everything I’d hoped for and then some. If you haven’t read Gilead, Home, and now Lila, I highly recommend them. I also recently finished The Thrill of the Chaste by Valerie Weaver-Zercher, which deals with the  popularity of Amish romance novels. It dealt really well with issues that have been bothering me a lot about the fascination with the Amish — tourism, exploitation, appropriation, and inauthenticity — while still being fair and kind in its treatment of the genre’s readership.

Dreaming about: Moving to Spain for three months. Buying a house in Lancaster. Moving to State College. None of these things really go together. I’m getting restless for things I never thought I’d want. Hopefully it’s a phase.


Reflecting on Texas Style Council

Texas Style CouncilIt’s been quiet here. It hasn’t necessarily been intentional or planned, but after what can only be described as an insanely fast trip to Austin for Texas Style Council, followed by no time to allow for an introvert hangover recovery time, I’ve needed a few days to collect myself.

I remember years ago, sitting at my desk in our bedroom in West Chester, waiting for the next part of my life to start, I’d sprinkled in some fashion blog reading throughout my normal online rotation. I always secretly admired the fashion bloggers for their zero effs given. They wore what they liked & weren’t afraid what people thought. Feeling vain and self-conscious never held them back! They had things to say and things to share and it didn’t seem like they ever doubted whether anyone cared about what they wrote. Not in a bad way — they just did it because they liked to. I thought I’d never be able to pull anything off like that.

I remember seeing them all head to Austin to hang out with each other at this thing called Texas Style Council, and wondered about how awesome it would be to have a crew of amazing, creative friends from the internet to hang out with in person once in awhile. So last winter, when Chrystina told me what an awesome time she had last year, it was a pretty easy sell to convince me to go to the last one there ever would be — an epic retreat of a weekend at a Girl Scout camp outside of Austin, where we’d be focusing on relationships and connections over numbers and stats.

There were new friends and old friends and friends whose faces I’d only seen on screens until that weekend. There were people I’d just met at Alt! Rather than frantically trying to figure out how to get more eyeballs on our stuff (which I kind of almost always feel sleazy and weird about), there were frank talks on things like making more connections in person, what to do when it feels like nothing’s working, the importance of finding (and being!) a “friendtor,” and how to take an honest-to-goodness rest when you need it.

But more than anything, this is what I’m taking away from Texas Style Council: There are people who care. There are people who want to read your words and hear your stories when this internet writing thing feels like shouting into a void. There are conversations that spark new ideas for projects, for essays, for photographs and collaborations. There are people to whisper things into your ear to remind you. Things like strong, beautiful, friend, talented, genuine, so that when you head back to the real world and things feel just a little too harsh, you have something to remember. There is enough for all of us, especially if we’re willing to be honest.

Huge thanks to Indiana and the whole team for the insane amount of work and resources they’ve put in to this event over the years. While I’m sad that 2015 was the last of it, I’m very grateful that I was able to attend. I’m coming away from it refreshed and challenged and intrigued by new thoughts. If you want to get a visual feel of the whole weekend, Chelsea captured it perfectly. There are also more recap posts over at TxSC.

I recently set up a redirect over here from my old url. If you haven’t updated your Bloglovin’ feed yet, now’s the time to do it!

Lunchtime Reads

Pablo HoneyIt’s been a little while since I’ve put together a Lunchtime Reads roundup, maybe perhaps because it’s been such an incredibly long time since I spent my lunch breaks hiding in my car, soaking in every minute of peace and silence while reading the internet. Ahhh, the (not-so) good old days.

Aside from tons of stuff about contracts and front-end style guides and Sublime Text, these are some things I’ve been reading of late. Enjoy!

I was so nervous-excited and starstruck to meet Erin Loechner at Alt Summit back in January. She’s been churning out such gems lately, and I’m super excited to see her again this weekend at Texas Style Council. Even though her life looks amazing online, like a total dream, she reminds us that if her highlight reel makes us feel inadequate, we can stop reading. Not out of annoyance, but out of mutual respect and admiration for the different paths we’ve chosen: The Apple Slice

She’s not the only heavy hitter who’s calling out the way the internet has changed us. Grace Bonney has now moderated over 200,000 comments, and shared what she’s learned: Negativity Online: An Essay Inspired by 200,000 Comments

Paige asks what would happen if we’d act as if it’s the real thing? I bet it’d make a difference for most of us.

You know those amazing Instagram feeds you see? Ever wonder how much time those people spend shooting? This was enlightening.

Today’s Pastry Box entry on burnout in the design & development industry is striking. I’m fairly certain it’s applicable to most industries. “We don’t want burnout, but we talk hustle. We don’t want burnout… and then we do.”

And! Congratulations to Brenda for winning last week’s giveaway of a spot in Prompt Club! If you’re still interested in joining us, it’s not too late to hop over and register!

Prompt Club & An Interview with Jennifer Snyder

Prompt Club

Courtesy of Jennifer Snyder

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me about writing, journaling, or creativity, I’ll bet you’ve heard me talk about morning pages. So when Jennifer Snyder, writer, editor, consultant, and podcaster, asked if she could interview me about my journaling practice for her upcoming ecourse, Prompt Club, I was pretty psyched.

Prompt Club is an eight-week journaling course that’s designed to feel more like a club. It’s for anyone who considers themselves a writer, keeps a journal, or doesn’t keep a journal but wants to start! I really enjoyed chatting with Jennifer about my history with writing and journaling, so I thought it’d be fun to ask her a few questions, too, to revive my very inconsistent Interviews With Interesting People series. And! She’s offering a free spot to one of you to join us. Get to know her a little bit below, and read on to find out how to win a spot in Prompt Club.

What’s your favorite type of work to do? Your favorite type of non-work?

This is such a great question! I tend to do a lot of different types of work, but I think what really gets me going is the act of sharing stories. Whether I’m writing a very personal nonfiction essay, interviewing someone for my podcast or writing an article for publication, my heart is happiest when I’m sharing a story that matters. If rounding up my favorite spots in Sacramento helps someone plan their trip, I’m happy. If chatting with a maker and airing their story on my show helps their business in some way, I’m happy. If I share something about my own journey that offers up a “me too” moment for someone else, I’m happy.

As far as non-work goes, get me outside. I feel a very strong pull toward nature and the more time I spend outside exploring (preferably with loved ones!), the better I am at life. Truly—I’m no good if I’m cooped up for too long. Ask my husband!

What prompted you (tee-hee) to create Prompt Club?

Good one!

Well, to be frank: writing is hard. So often we can get in our own heads about things—life, work, etc.—and journaling really helps clear out that mental clutter.

That said, sitting down with a pen and paper can be downright intimidating. I have trouble getting out of my own way every time I start to write. So, I wanted to create a course that offers a bit of guidance for those of us who sometimes need a little push.

Journaling has become a place where I can unpack all of things that life throws my way, but as a writer I tend to self-edit before I even begin. I’ve had to be very intentional about giving myself the space to write badly. My journals (and word documents—I often use different mediums to journal) are full of terrible entries. Sometimes, however, tiny bits of great writing shine through. Then, I can use those bits for a larger purpose. Other times I just work through whatever is on my mind and then tuck it away, never to be read again.

What are you most excited about regarding Prompt Club?

I’m really excited to see how others respond to the prompts! I don’t necessarily expect people to share their entries, but I’m curious to see how they decide to approach each prompt. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Will they take it in a direction I never thought was possible? I think that will be the most rewarding part for me and for others taking the course.

What are you most excited about outside of work right now?

To be honest, I’ve been sort of structuring a lot of my life around the work I’m doing. It isn’t always the healthiest thing to do, but I’m pretty passionate about my work at the moment and that line is a bit blurry.

I think taking my podcast on the road is going to be a really wonderful experience. I love to travel, so combining the two is pretty perfect.

I’m also pretty excited about the bits of time I’ll be spending with family and friends this year. I don’t always get to spend enough time with loved ones who are spread all over the country, but even a small amount of time can create pretty stellar memories.

How would you spend the perfect day?

Oh gosh. This is a tough one! I think the perfect day would include copious amounts of caffeine, a solid breakfast and several hours spent hiking someplace beautiful with my husband and pups. Again, get me outside and I’m a new woman.

Thanks, Jennifer! If you’re interested in joining us in Prompt Club, be sure to register by March 20. She’s also offering a spot for one of you to join in for free! If you’re interested in entering, let me know in the comments what you’d be most excited about in the course, what your history with journaling has been, or your thoughts about the ecourse. Be sure to include an active email address so that we can get you added to the course if you win! I’ll choose a random winner next Tuesday, 3/17.

EDIT: Congratulations, Brenda, and thanks everyone for your comments! I hope to see you all over in Prompt Club in a couple weeks!