Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Strong Girl, Brave Girl: A Q&A with Author Kelsey Baldwin

If you caught last week's gift guide, you may remember I recommended a new book: Strong Girl, Brave Girl. As I mentioned previously, the memoir chronicles Kelsey Baldwin's journey through divorce and single motherhood, but it's about much more than that. Since Kelsey's my friend "IRL", I had the privilege of hearing her say "I think I want to write my story" and seeing her follow through — all in the process of about a year. There are so many things I admire about Kelsey including her ability to react with grace to unforeseen circumstances (which you'll read about in the book), but also her determination to set a goal, work toward it and achieve it. Strong Girl, Brave Girl is a book for any woman navigating a life that looks different than the one she'd expected, and this Q&A with the author is for any individual needing some encouragement to do the thing. 

Ana: "Thanks for grabbing coffee with me and agreeing to share a little about your year of book writing! First up, will you explain what the book is about for someone who hasn't yet read it?"
Kelsey: "Sure, it's kind of a story of my life over the last several years... being married, going through a divorce and a pregnancy at the same time, and then the aftermath of that. It's about all the changes I went through and transition, learning to live in a life that doesn’t look like what you had expected, and feeling like you’re in the middle of your story when it’s not all wrapped up in a bow in the timeline you hoped for... or at all. It deals with reconciling your expectations and reality; and it’s also not just for moms, it’s written for any woman going through any big transition."

A: "What prompted you to write it? Was it part of an overall business/career strategy or more of a personal goal?"
K: "I always wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know what I would write about. As [my pregnancy and divorce happened], I was just surviving for a lot of years. I started an Etsy and an online business, Paper + Oats, to support myself and my daughter, Poppy, while I was pregnant with her. Once I felt like I had a little breathing room and my business was steady, that seemed like the obvious thing I would write about. I worked through a lot of it while blogging in 2015, and it resonated with a lot of people and I got messages from people in similar situations, or even people who were in different situations but just appreciated the perspective. Feedback from smaller things like a blog post or an Instagram caption let me know my story was helpful to people and they wanted to hear about it. And when I was going through it all, it was helpful to hear other women’s stories or something similar. Family and friends could say things that were trying to be encouraging but they didn’t always "get it". Some people get it from experience, and if I could be that voice for another woman, it would almost be like paying it back to women who were that to me.

"So it was more of a personal goal for sure; I didn’t expect to make any money off of it, and I still don’t really count that toward income goals. It doesn’t fit into anything I do in my business — I teach design, and I wrote this book that has nothing to do with design. I think part of me could see I want to write more books, so maybe I would take my business in that direction eventually. I don’t plan very far in advance anymore," she laughs.

A: Fair! So, if it wasn't part of an income goal or related to your business, did you have a hard time prioritizing time spent on it? What did you sacrifice to make it happen in a year?
K: "I definitely had to work it into my schedule to plan writing time and think about how long it might take; I had no clue how long anything would take, so I gave myself lots of time. I had to physically add it into my calendar to make sure I was getting it in, but since it was something I've always wanted to do, I don't really feel like I 'sacrificed' too much for it. I wrote mostly at night after Poppy went to bed, so I didn’t feel like it was taking away from her. I would say it certainly took time away from my business, but since I planned my whole year [around writing it], I was OK with that.

"I’m sure that's different for me having a daughter at home since when she’s in bed, I’m stuck at the house, so it was sometimes what I looked forward to as the day ended. I’m one to watch a lot of shows in the evening, so other times I had to force myself to work on the book instead. I tried to give myself enough time where if I had it scheduled, and I was forcing it or wasn’t feeling creative then I wouldn’t make myself sit there and write. But at the same time, I’ve heard a lot of authors say the way to write a book is to sit in the chair and write the book. There has to come a point where you have to stop planning around it and know that maybe it’ll be a busy year, but it’s something I wanted to accomplish, and when I look back it’s just a year out of my whole life. It’s several months of intense work, and now it’s done. That was worth it to me."

A: "What's one thing you would recommend to someone else who wants to write a book?"
K: "First, know why you want to write it. But a more practical piece of advice might be to write down every single task you would need to do to finish it, or to get through one big part of it. There's at minimum a writing phase, editing phase, design and marketing. For me, it was overwhelming to think about all of it at the same time, but if I was just going to focus on writing I could see how quickly it would go and think I could be done with 70,000 words in 3 months or whatever. I would just focus in on one phase, break down what I needed to do and dump it on my calendar. When I got to the next phase I would reassess and dump those steps on the calendar. It’s taking it in one chunk at a time."

A: "Did you ever deal with imposter syndrome, or feeling like you couldn't do it? If so, was there anything within your control that changed how you felt about your ability to write the book?"
K: "I think my feelings changed about every other day. One day I'd feel like 'this is stupid; nobody cares', and then I would get an encouraging email or message from someone who had read one of my blog posts and that made me feel like I can write, and people care.

"I don't know that I could change the narrative within my head, but one thing that was really motivating for me was knowing that I had committed to it. So even when those feelings crept up of 'I can't' or 'I shouldn't', I had already made the decision to do it. I can think of other big projects I've done where I've posted on Instagram that I'm working on it, and the people pleaser in me wants me to keep going so I don't let anybody down. It’s motivating to have people ask how it’s going, and I think it’s helpful in terms of marketing too for others to see the origin story because they feel like they’ve been following it from the beginning."

A: "What's the biggest thing you've learned through all of this?"
K: "Through my story, I would say the biggest thing I've learned is about being content with where I am right now and not dwelling on the past or wishing for the future. That, and being OK with the fact that it might not all end up the way I think it will, because nothing ever has.

"Through writing, I've found our stories are more powerful than we give them credit for being. Even if you think you don't have anything significant that’s happened in your story, it’s powerful to share them. It’s how we connect to other humans."

Kelsey's book, Strong Girl, Brave Girl, is available on Amazon. You can keep up with by reading her blog or following her Instagram.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Queen City Gems: Your SGF-Based Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays! Whether you consider this season the most wonderful time of the year or simply the most expensive, I hope you're finding joy in these chilly December weeks. Personally, I love this season and I gain so much excitement from hunting for the perfect treasure to show a loved one I care. The only thing I enjoy more? Using my dollars to support small businesses and people I love! So if you're like me and want to show Springfield a little appreciation this holiday, here are 7 gifts I recommend, all with a Queen City tie-in.

Himalayan Pink Salt from Sneaky Greens

I had the opportunity to meet Laura Greene-Johnson, co-owner of Sneaky Greens, when I interviewed her for this month's issue of Biz 417. The article was focused around how to get your products on Amazon, but when I met with Laura, I found myself even more excited to discover the spices blended with organic kale than to get the 411 on America's largest retailer. Personally, I'm always looking for a way to sneak some greens in, and I think this would be the perfect stocking stuffer for any foodie on your list. Check out the Himalayan pink salt, and bonus! It's all available on Amazon Prime.

The SGF CO Frisco Cap

If you're a resident or fan of Springfield, MO, and you like cool stuff, SGFCO is an obvious choice. I've talked about this company in a former post, so you may remember this project launched back in May. Since then, they've collaborated with Brooklyn-based artist Daniel Zender and added a few new items to their site. They have a whole slew of products you can choose from; my personal favorites are the "This Place" tee and the Frisco Cap.

Strong Girl, Brave Girl

Kelsey Baldwin's world was turned upside-down when her husband asked for a divorce, and just a few hours later, she found herself alone, facing the surprise of a positive pregnancy test. Kelsey writes "Strong Girl, Brave Girl" from the "messy middle", having overcome some big obstacles while acknowledging there are still aspects of her story that don't yet have their storybook ending. She's an inspiring person and a talented storyteller; I'd recommend this book to any gal in the middle of a transition (even if that transition is simply your 20's). Get it on Amazon.

Oui Fresh's Beauty Boxes

Oui Fresh is the retail branch of A Beautiful Mess (one of my favorite blogs!), and for those who may not know, this powerhouse of a brand started in Springfield. Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman co-own and operate both of these companies, plus my favorite photo editing app, A Color Story. Anything from Oui Fresh is sure to impress, and for clean beauty fanatics, a beauty box subscription is the gift that keeps on giving.

Emerson Park's Maple and Bourbon Diffuser

Emerson Park carries beard oils, solid cologne and aftershave for the men in your life, but for anybody in your life, I want to recommend their diffusers. I've had one of these for close to a year, and I'm still impressed every time I walk by and notice its sweet scent! You can order any of their products (I like the candles too!) from their website.

Askinosie Sipping Chocolate

You can't go wrong with anything from Askinosie, but a holiday favorite is their Sipping Chocolate. It makes for an extra-cozy treat, and The Wall Street Journal calls it "pure, satiny ganache", so that's worth noting! Another product from Askinosie I have my eyes on is their newly-released Dark Chocolate + Avocado & Rosemary bar, which would make a great stocking stuffer (husband: hint!).

The Market

Of course, if I'm going to recommend Springfield-based gifts, I have to suggest you take some time to walk around The Market this season! For those who don't know, I'm one of the gals who buys for this sweet shop, and if you're looking for Rifle Paper Co. or any other gift suggestions, it's the place to go.

I hope this was a helpful gift guide for anybody looking to give a little local love this season! Let me know in the comments if I missed any of your favorite SGF-based businesses. xo!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Behind the Scenes of the 'Backstabber' Music Video

Wait… What’s the “Backstabber” music video? Glad you asked!

Dragon Inn 3 is a sister band to the Springfield favorite, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and they released their debut album, Double Line, this August. It's a really wonderful homage to the '80s and early '90s both in sound and style. For their album's release, a handful of Springfield artists and filmmakers made music videos for certain songs to create a visual album which premiered at the Moxie.

Locke and Stache, the production company my husband Austin owns with two of our friends, Chris and Josh, decided to tackle the song "Backstabber", and I got to do the production design! Recently, the video was released on NPR's World Cafe, which was such a fun "pinch me" moment to see a project we worked so hard on earn a spot on a site we really admire.

Here's the video. The blog post that follows is a little bit of a "behind the scenes" insight for you, reader-friend, into how this got made... and a little bit of a page for my own digital memory book.

If you’re like me, you get distracted while watching TV and movies. So, so distracted. I think this happens to a lot of people who have some interest in cameras or lighting… gearheads, or whatever you want to call them. I’m occasionally plagued by these questions, too (was that “outdoor” scene really shot outdoors?), but most of my inner-movie-monologue revolves around production design.

My degree is in English — reading, understanding and dissecting literature — and one huge part of story is setting. In the real world, you can learn a lot about a person based off where they hang out and even how they dress themselves. For these reasons, it was so fun to take the incredible script Josh wrote and do a deep dive into setting.

Photos by Bradley Balsters
Parts of it were challenging. I was around in Springfield during the summer of 1992 (the setting for the music video), but, like... in a stroller. I wanted to really explore what our hometown would have looked like in those years; a lot of what comes to mind when we think '90s is more 1995-1999. For Detective Shepard, Chuck, Hank, Mr. Business, etc. in our video, the late '80s were certainly an influence in their appearance. I also wanted to depict these settings as accurately as we possibly could 30 years later. Some of my favorite little details we were able to throw in were the McSalty's pizza boxes, fictional newspaper clippings in the "crazy wall" scene and all the familiar Springfield faces and locations we could squeeze into three minutes. I studied crime scene photos from the "3 Missing Women" scene to do our best to accurately depict who these women were in the few seconds this concept plays out on screen. It's a small way to show respect to their human dignity, but I believe it's meaningful.

Let's talk about sets: Two of the sets were built in the Locke and Stache office, and those guys are so innovative I'm convinced they can pull off anything. The "mom's basement/crazy wall" scene was built in 4 hours, and this photo of Kaylinn and me gives a glimpse into what we were working with in that room. We took down the set the very next day to prep for the "Mr. Business" scene, which left the office covered in champagne and confetti. Whoops! 😂

Photos by Josh Pfaff

Let's talk about donating a lot of time and energy to a "just for fun" project with a group of people: Do it. If you have the opportunity, do it. If you don't see an opportunity, consider heading one up. For this music video, we shot five days in a row, sometimes until 3 a.m. or even later because many of the scenes were set at night. During the day, we hunted for any last-minute props and worked ahead on the next scenes. It was exhausting but worthwhile, and getting to know crew and other creatives on a more personal level is insanely rewarding. I've gotten to do prop styling on editorial shoots (both for photo and video), and exploring this new avenue of styling with more of a narrative to consider was really fun for me.

Let's talk about how talented EVERYBODY I KNOW is: I'm always impressed when I look around at our "little" city and how many big ideas live here. Every single person who was on this set made it better, but special shoutout to Kaylinn Clotfelter and her killer instincts on set. My job would have been a lot more challenging without the help of her and Isaiah Satterfield. Keep an eye out for those two and photographer Bradley Balsters; they're in a fun stage of life and able to be involved in a bunch of creative projects right now.

Annnnd, that's a wrap! Thanks for sticking with me if you've made it this far. 🤗

Photo by Bradley Balsters

Photography by Bradley Balsters, graphic design by Logan Triplett
p.s. If you want to hear more than just my take on the behind the scenes of this production (which I'm sure you do!), head over to Locke and Stache's BTS video released today.

and p.p.s. If you want to read more about Dragon Inn 3 (you should!), check out this News-Leader article. Big thanks to Phil and the band for making some great music and giving us the opportunity to work on this project.