Monday, May 18, 2015

I'm Speaking at Alt Summit Summer 2015

Last year I attended Alt Summit Summer 2015. This was the first summer event Alt had hosted and it was lovely! You can read all about my packing plan an experience from last go round.  I'll be hosting a round table discussion on Wednesday and Friday about hosting events off-line! Yes, people you gotta get out and meet face to face, I promise that is where the magic happens. I am so happy to be on my way to Utah to hug in person the many amazing women I've met online and at the conference last year.

I'll be sharing all I've learned about HOW to begin, WHAT to do, and ways you can collaborate with others to have a successful event at any scale. Let me know if you have any questions about this process and I'll do my best to answer them!  Also there will be goodie bags, because what's a party with out 'em?

PS If you are a creative type, entrepreneur type, blogging type and spend any time trying to grow ourself and your cause online, you really should consider finding a conference to attend. Not only will you learn more than you can take in all at once, but you also make connections with real people in real time and this is not only build your platform and credibility, but now you will have a crowd to source from. This has made a HUGE difference in my business and also my confidence as a creative entrepreneur. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Art of Being an Artist

I don't know why it is... but I have this conversation with myself a lot. I often combat with my artistic side vs my super organized type-A personality. I wish I knew why. Then maybe I could win the battle and just roll with it. Acceptance is the first step, right? 

After mulling this over this last week, and expressing my stress with my husband he said to me, "You're not an entreprenuer, you're an artist." 

I smiled, laughed. Then I lay awake thinking about it for hours.


If I accept this what does this mean for me? Does it fit right with my heart if I just embrace it? 

I know I am artistic. I have an eye for color. I like to make creative messes and am blessed to have a home studio where I can do whatever I want and just close the door on the mess when company comes. However, I've never been able to just "let go" and not clean it up or worry about what it's going to become. I've never been able to just let the medium guide me. Perhaps this is why I didn't go to art school, I have to have my space tidy before I begin a new project and the paint splatters on the floor would just kill me.

So I'm gonna try it. (except for the paint splatter thing... my OCD won't let me)

The next few weeks I'm going to let myself wander more and worry less. More dreaming. More storytelling. More open heart more acceptance of my love of color and fun and bright hope.  In the same token there will be acceptance of my organized self too. Who says an artist can't be tidy, neat, and simple in their approach to space? Perhaps my studio cleaning is more of a creative ritual and not a compulsive need to have things in their place. Looking at it from the perspective that this is part of my process feels so good. 

I tidy so I can create. 

Is there a part of you that you fight against? Why do you suppose that is? I'd love to hear how you are learning to embrace this facet of you makes your heart feel. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Art of Being You: Interview with Kirsten Varga of Smiling Eye Studio

After graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Illustration from the University of Arizona I dabbled in freelance graphic design, taught classes at a local scrapbook supply store, worked at a print shop and was the in house designer at a local invitation shop where I designed and created custom invitations and announcements. From there I made the choice to stay at home when I started having children. Four daughters later and I am ready to put more focus on my art and make steps back into the workplace. My daughters are 9, 7, 5, and 3 so I am learning everyday how to balance studio time with my parenting and household responsibilities. Our family recently moved to Southern California so I have a new horizon of inspiration waiting for me. 

Why did you first start Smiling Eye Studio? How long have you been painting?

I have been creative for as long as I can remember. My favorite book as a child was the Make & Do volume of an old Childcraft series. It was full of all sorts of creative projects using all sorts of materials. It was 70's crafting at it's best! I love making things with my hands. When I decided on a Fine Arts degree from the University of Arizona I felt right at home. My focus was on Graphic Design and Illustration. Over the years I have found that I enjoy mixed media art, bookmaking and pen & ink drawings. I also dabble with making leather cuffs. I love to create!

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

I grew up in several states as a result of my father's employment. Not military, just trying to provide for his family. I think it has influenced my creative inspirations. I tend to include houses and people in alot of my work. My home changed often so the concept of having one home with many memories is fascinating to me. I have met alot of people over the years and had alot of practice making friends. Some of my work deals with friendship and family but I also want to see what I am apart from those experiences. I am still discovering my personal symbols and that is exciting.

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?
Not entirely. I have spent the last 9 years being at home with my children and during those years my level of active creativity dropped significantly. My youngest is 3 now and I need to take charge of my time and allow myself to grow creatively. I have realized that in making my creative practice a priority I have the opportunity to be a good example to my daughters and show them possibilities of what can be accomplished beyond laundry and meal planning when you work hard and go for it.

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?
It is a winding one, for sure. I loved my college experience and the few jobs I had before I committed to being home with my children. I do think back and realize I should have made more effort in working with my craft while I was having children but I was caught off guard by how overwhelmed I was with motherhood. It threw me off my creative path and I lost myself. I see now that I would have been strengthened in my role as a mother if I had taken charge and made more opportunities to pursue and use my talents. I hope as I put the work and sacrifice in now that I can pass that lesson on to my girls. 

How would you describe your process?

Usually I start with just sketching. I take out some copier paper and a pencil and start scribbling. The key for me is not to expect too much at the beginning and remind myself that I need to warm up. In college I remember filling a large sheet of paper with over a hundred little thumbnail sketches when working on a concept for a logo. Then we would pick a few and spend time doing a hundred more sketches. After messing around making marks I start seeing a pattern or a concept comes to mind. Occasionally, just to keep things interesting, I just dive in with pen on a pretty piece of paper and sometimes magic happens. Right now I am trying to stay open and just keep drawing. If I mess up, no worries.

What is your favorite medium?
Paper. Because there are so many things you can Make and Do with it. :)

Where do you find your inspiration?
My fuzzy memories, my children and friends, quotations, books, magazines, photographs...

What do you do for fun?
Currently, I think it is fun going to an art store by myself! But I also realize the need for me to get my homebody out the house with my children and do some exploring. It is amazing what you can learn from seeing your children experience the world around them. We recently moved to a new state so I have no excuses. I guess the answer to this question is in-progress. :)

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?
The moment I found out my artwork was accepted for a published book I felt I *could* make it. I don't think I have progressed far enough or put myself out there enough to say I have officially "made it".

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?
This is another thing I am working on as I emerge from my self-imposed full-time mother persona. Step by step I am learning how to do this. So far I am taking time in the morning and evening for creative pursuits. Next I think I will benefit from making a schedule and writing down specific goals to work towards. Some examples are submissions to magazines/books/companies, building my portfolio, recreating my resume, etc. I am working towards having more structure to my daily creative practice as I gain more experience balancing my other responsibilities.

What is the most difficult part of Being You?
Wanting things to be perfect the first time I do them and never wanting to disappoint others. Those things tend to make me freeze up and nothing fabulous comes from that!

What is the most rewarding part of your day?

BEDTIME! I made it! My children are safe and sound in their beds and we have survived another day. LOL! I am only partially kidding. I think the serious answer to that question is when I have a moment of realization that I have made progress towards being me again and I am sticking to it. Basically, when I really work at something, I don't give up and I appreciate the outcome.

What do you have in the works?

I can sum it up in 3 little words: MAKE SOMETHING EVERYDAY. More specifically I am working on an illustration project for a friend that has me using watercolors. I also have a bookmaking project bouncing around in my mind and I try to work daily in my art journal.

Who do you admire?
Women with confidence and a strong sense of self who accomplish what they believe in, no matter what others might think. They follow their heart and that is inspiring. I see women like that in my everyday life as well as "celebrities" in various art communities.

Kirsten, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! You can find more of her gorgeous colorful art at:

facebook: Smiling Eye Studio

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with Gilit Cooper of the Bannerie

Gilit Cooper is the boss at the Bannerie where she sells glitter letter banners for awesome people. She also blogs at Shoes Off Please about Parties, Decor, and DIY. 

Why did you first start the Bannerie? 

I've wanted to have my own business since I was little, but the Bannerie came about because people kept asking me about the banners I was making for our kids' parties. I opened 1 year ago, which seems crazy now!

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

I grew up moving around but spent most of my childhood in Manhattan which I think really gave me a sense of independence and of knowing that there is so much I could do.

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively? 

Not quite yet. I love what I do and that I get to be creative every day, but I think I'm on my way to what I will ultimately do.

(image thebannerie)

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?

I spoke to a lot of people, did a lot of research online and with books, and listened to podcasts to prepare for opening my shop on Etsy and then once I did it was just learning on the job and making new connections.

How would you describe your process?

I work best first thing in the morning. I'm not naturally a morning person in that I'd rather sleep late if my kids magically decided to and I didn't have anything to do, but once I'm up I am ready to go! I get things started and then print out new orders, respond to e-mails, and go back to the actual work. I try not to do any one thing for too long or I get really antsy and I find that I'm much more productive that way.

What is your favorite medium?

I worked really hard to find media that I like, a sturdy card stock that has pretty color glitter that doesn't shed too much and my twine which is neutral but still has a little sparkle.

(image thebannerie)

Where do you find your inspiration?

It sounds cliche, but life. I try to listen to myself and be in touch with my experiences and how I respond to them because Bannerie customers respond to that more than anything.

What do you do for fun?

A good cup of coffee or meal with my husband or friends is the best! I try to read every weekend to take a break and to expand my mind and while I hate actual flying, I love traveling and seeing new things!

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?

Ha! Not nearly there! Though there were some moments during Alt Summit that felt so surreal, when someone would come up to me and say they had been wanting to meet me or when I would go up to someone to introduce myself and they knew who I was already. That was pretty rad.

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?

I'd like to think that my creative self is present in all aspects of my life, as a wife, mother, blogger, occasionally good cook, and someone who loves home decor.

(image thebannerie)

What is the most difficult part of Being You?

Too many ideas, not enough time!

What is the most rewarding part of your day?

At the end of the day, when I've set aside my work, I go to pick up my kids and they light up and run to me. That car ride back home with the cuties in the back and my work officially done for the day (though I never really stop) feels pretty amazing.

(image thebannerie)

What do you have in the works?

I don't like to talk about it before it's all set up, but I can say that the Bannerie is expanding and it's exciting :)

Who do you admire?

Too many people to list! I've found that in the past year and a half that list has included so many women who are entrepreneurs and leaders in different ways and sizes but that's clearly something I respect and look up to from Sheryl Sandberg to Lisa Congdon.

Thanks friend for the peek into the glittery world of The Bannerie!

Shop: The Bannerie
Instagram: @The Bannerie

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with McCall Humes of McCall of the Wild

McCall Humes works as a Pinterest influencer and social media consultant from her home in Nevada. She is an unwitting homeschooler and recovering craft addict who now runs the blog McCall of the Wild on which she shares stories about the adventures she squeezes into her life during naptimes and on weekends.

Her tag line on her blog reads, "When was the last time you did something for the first time? She is inspirational, bold, and is seriously living her life out loud!

Why did you first start blogging and how long have you been doing it? 

I’ve been blogging about my adventures for around a year.  I started McCall of the Wild to shake off both a sense of loneliness and a lack of creativity in my life.  I am a mom to two boys, a seven year old with special needs and a toddler. I love my kids more than anything in the world, but after several years feeling overwhelmed by being a stay-at-home mom, I started losing my sense of identity outside of that role. There were many lonely and emotional points before I started my blog when I felt a bit lost outside my own house. I had always been an outgoing person and being semi-confined with little adult interaction was a real challenge for me.  For a long time, I was the only mom in my limited social group and when I did get a chance to be around my peers, I felt like all I had to bring to the conversation was stories about was my children.

I decided to start taking some “me time” in the form of mini-adventures away from my kids. The idea of blogging about my experiences made these little outings feel productive. Having something tangible to show for it, lessened my self-inflicted “mommy guilt” for taking that time away.  I know now that my peace of mind is reason enough have a hobby, but having something tangible was instrumental in the transition to recognizing that. I kept the blog because I found that I really enjoy writing.  

My blog has helped me connect to what made me happy before kids and now that happiness more present in my parenting. Writing has been a therapeutic way for me to examine my own definition of who I am. It has also made me more aware of what examples I am setting for my kids. I now make conscious efforts to show them the importance of balance in life and how making one’s own happiness a priority can make you more enjoyable to be around. 

What do you do for fun?

I constantly seek out first time experiences! I write McCall of the Wild motivated by the question "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" It is about how I am living an adventurous and rewarding life through a series of first time experiences.  I share a First on each post.  Some posts are about small firsts, like getting my eyebrows threaded, some are bigger (learning to kick a field goal, a glass blowing class) and some are full of adventure (bobsledding, flight lessons).

Where do you find your inspiration?

My “Firsts to Try” come from a list I wrote when I started last year and has continued to grow with suggestions from readers and friends.

What is your favorite medium?

I love sharing my adventures through storytelling with a sense of humor. I openly embrace my own limitations and try to convey the fun I am having as I find myself in these often ridiculous situations. I want my readers to feel like I am telling them about my experiences the same way I would if I were chatting with a friend. I enjoy my informal posts the most and love when I can make people laugh along with me without having to try to be funny. I have also had the opportunity to share a few videos on my site. Those have been really fun as well. 

What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?

I got married young and moved away from home. My husband and I spent over a decade working with blind and visually impaired kids. I had expected we’d stay on that path when it came time for us to start our own family. But when we had our first son, the financial struggles of the education field started to feel a lot more real.  It also became obvious that our son had some unique challenges that would prohibit him from being in a normal childcare situation while I worked. My husband decided to go back to school and change careers and I decided to stay home. We returned to Vegas where The Hubs taught during the day while going to law school at night. Out of necessity, I became a near equivalent to a single parent.  After four years of highs and lows, The Hubs graduated and re-joined the land of the living. That’s when I started realizing it was time for me to do the same and the idea for my blog was born. 

Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

I grew up here in Las Vegas, Nevada. We have moved away several times, but it just keeps sucking us back in. This time around we have been here for about six years, 
This city has been through a series of renovations in my lifetime. It sticks with what it knows works while trying to improve upon itself. Ever-changing while simultaneously remaining devoted the idea of “Classic Vegas.”  Certainly this is a mentality I share with my community. I constantly yearn for excitement and newness while holding fast to my roots. This city never runs out of new things to try, making it the perfect place for me to have a blog which revolves around exactly that. 

Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?

Wow. Can I answer that with yes and no? I feel like I have found the realm in which I want to be creating. I love sharing these amazing experiences and evolving as a writer and photographer.  But I have a lot to learn. I hope to never stop evolving.  I believe that the art of finding yourself (whether as a creator, a writer, or just a person) is not an arc or an incline. It’s more of a rippling wave. Each move affects the next and what was once a high point, evens out to make way for the next rise or fall. The goal is to stay in motion.

Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it? 

The first time I felt I made it the very first time someone I didn’t know told me they enjoyed my blog post. 
The second time was when I didn’t care if anyone else enjoyed my post because I had. 

What is the most difficult part of Being You?

My son has come a long way, but he still faces a lot of challenges. I want so badly for him to have an easy and carefree childhood, but it isn’t something I can just will into being.  My inability to just wipe all of that away for him is something that constantly weighs heavy on my heart. 

How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?

Like I said before, I started creating this little world for myself to restore inner balance. I have definitely found that it does that for me. So, I try to make it a priority. But life is hectic and there are times when my own outlets just can’t take the forefront. When that happens I do my best to reassess and adjust. I do my adventures when I can and when something has to give, I let go of writing my story in order to live it. As my kids grow I hope I am more able to share these experiences with them and that melding the two parts of my life will add to that balance.

What is the most rewarding part of your day?

Bedtime snuggles. Hands down.

What do you have in the works? 

My husband recently took me on my first trip overseas and I am working on writing posts about that amazing adventure. Other than that, my plans are just to keep enjoying what life has to offer and sharing stories of all the fun new experiences I am having.  

Who do you admire? 

I know I spoke about my son here, but on my blog I rarely speak about him or the struggles that led me to do what I do.  I never write specifics or break down our day-to-day issues. There are, however, some great blogs written by other parents of special needs kids that do exactly that. I really admire those bloggers.
In every parent’s story, there are times of self-doubt. We are all just trying our best to do right by our kids and no one is perfect. For special needs families, choices about schooling and medical interventions can be terribly difficult to make and the wrong ones have the potential to lead to overwhelming consequences. The fact that there are people strong enough to share the details of their experience with such things leaves me in awe.  
These parents willingly share a huge, raw vulnerability with perfect strangers. They often take criticism about how they handled their biggest challenges from people who can never fully understand their experience. Their doing so helps bind our community and in times of real hardship, they have been the ones to make me feel less alone. I admire them and I am thankful to them.

I am so grateful to McCall and her willingness to share her story and encourage all of us to live our lives to the fullest. You can find her at:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Art of Being You: Interview with Rachel Formaro of Blu Pagoda

Rachel has worked in marketing and advertising longer than she’d like to admit to. She started out working with advertising agencies in Toronto, Canada and then founded her own agency. After going client-side for a number of years, she has recently returned to her entrepreneurial roots, opening a marketing and communications agency, Blu Pagoda LLC. In addition to running Blu Pagoda, she is also a creative writer. Her short stories, creative non-fiction essays, and poetry have been published by small journals, and she writes regular blog contributions on a variety of subjects, including books, cooking, and life as a newcomer to the Midwest. Rachel, her husband, Tom, and their daughter relocated from San Francisco, California to Des Moines, Iowa just a few years ago.

Q. Why did you first start Blue Pagoda? How long have you been writing?

Have been writing for as long as I can remember! Put together my first stories and “books” in my tweens. First started marketing/advertising when I was in my teens—designed a logo for a new financial company on a “take your kid to work day”! Have pretty much been doing writing, marketing and advertising ever since, both agency and client side. Recently returned to my entrepreneurial roots by starting Blu Pagoda LLC.

Q. Where did you grow up? How do you think this influenced your creativity?

All over the place! Born in the UK, moved to Canada when I was 3 years old, and then proceeded to move every 1-2 years on the east coast until my family finally settled on the outskirts of Toronto when I was in my teens. I think the frequent moves inspired me to reinvent all the time, not to mention making sure I became pretty adaptable to new situations.

Q. Would you say that you have “found yourself” creatively?

Yes, finally! I used to have a hard time saying I’m a writer, because I didn’t think I was good enough. Now I do say I’m a writer.

Q. What kind of a path did you take to get to where you are now?

A. Always keeping an open mind to what lay in front of me. I knew early on I had business sense, but didn’t necessarily want to purse a business education.  Instead I focused on what I loved—English, History and Archaeology. All three have served me surprisingly well!

Q. How would you describe your process?

A. Iterative. Write something. Give it some air. Edit. Give it some air. Final edit. Publish.

Q. What is your favorite medium? 

A. Used to be just the written word, but in the last couple of years, the combination of photographic imagery and letter arts.

Q. Where do you find your inspiration?

A. It starts from my “inner circle” and goes out—my husband and daughter, my family and friends, everything I read. And again, looking at art and photography. I love Unsplash, and use the images to trigger something I’ll write.
(image from

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. Boy has the answer to that question changed in the last few years! Now that I’m a mum, I love doing something fun with my daughter. She reminds me to have fun. We go to the zoo quite often, the science center, do crafts, etc. I love to express myself, and my love for family and friends, through cooking. Since moving to Iowa, I’ve actually had time to greatly improve my cooking skills.

(image from

Q. Can you describe the moment when you felt you had made it?

A. The confidence I felt in starting my new venture, and the support of all of my family and friends around me. Seeing my abilities and experience reflected in their words made all the difference.

Q. How do you balance your creative self with the rest of your life?

A. Setting my expectations appropriately. I may not have the chance to write creatively everyday. Sometimes it might be once a week. Also, a writing session may only be 30 minutes. I do my best to find the quiet in-between times—early in the morning before everyone has woken up—and do my best not to get frustrated with myself if I’m not writing as much as I’d like.

(image from

Q. What is the most difficult part of Being You?

A. I can get fragmented with wanting to take on too much. Focus, focus, focus!

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your day?

A. Doing great work for my clients and they love it. Publishing something I’m really pleased with.

(image from

Q. What do you have in the works?

A. Too much (see fragmented comment above!). A Valentine’s Day event for singles that I’m co-producing with a friend. A “litcrawl” this summer (I’m not saying any more than that!). And a new division of my business—a speaker’s bureau.

Q. Who do you admire?
A. My husband, and fellow writer, Tom Formaro. My parents Sally and Paul. My sisters Charlie and Liz. It sounds cliché to name your spouse and family, but I really mean it! Outside of that, Seth Godin, Bernadette Jiwa, Holly Lynn Payne.

Rachel, thank you so much for the peek into your process and inspiration. As a gift to you Rachel is offering Special offer: 10% off the first project for your readers - offer code EVASREADERS

You can find Rachel at 
Twitter: @rachelformaro
Instagram: @rachelformaro
Pinterest: @rachelformaro

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Art of Being Still

We live in a world that is so busy, and whirling, and all technology buzz can be consuming. This can be overwhelming to your soul and you don’t even notice until you are stressed out and fall into creative blocks.

Take time to be still. Doing nothing but daydreaming or doodling in quiet is nourishing. Paint, sing, take a walk, sit down. 

I personally am a true introvert (with extrovert tendencies). I like my occasional party atmosphere and meeting others, but when I feel drained it's usually because there is too much noise, both visually and auditorily. I recharge by doing things alone in quiet. I hardly turn on music or movies when I really need to concentrate, and this is when I typically get my best ideas. I like to wander by myself through antique stores and think about the people who used to own the things I love. I read. I doodle, I daydream and get lost.

Even if your not an introvert and thrive on the bustle of day to day, find a moment to pause and listen to the silence for a beat to what is in your own heart.

It's amazing what you can hear when you are quiet.