guest contributors

grow :: story, wisdom, and lessons to share


art and words by Jennifer Parker

“The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love.

What seeds will you plant there?

The ancient Taoists observed five forces of cyclical movement in nature, which translate as the Five Elements. We are currently residing in the wood element. Wood is “rising”—upward and outward energy—it is the time for personal and creative growth, inspiration, motivation, rebirth, planning and follow through.

Life is cyclical— it ebbs and flows. For me, both professionally and personally, the past three years have been a period of growth. In my early thirties, I was safe and comfortable—the common illusion of stability. I loved my job, my boyfriend, and I pursued my passion for travel. I was in the flow. But by 2009, my foundation started shaking. The Northern California satellite studio office that I managed closed and my seven-year personal relationship ended. The ebb was devastating!

Wood is rooting yourself to earth, standing tall and rising above your fears, and persevering through the uncertainty and heartache. In 2010, I was ready to rebuild my life. Wonderful job offers started to flow into my life. I felt ecstatic (and a little overwhelmed) with so many options and opportunities blossoming. Unfortunately, all of the job offers required relocating — I was happy in the Bay Area and wasn’t ready to make that commitment. And energetically, I felt a nudge (perhaps a shove or push) to reach higher. The universe whispered: “You’ve worked hard and you deserve it! You now have permission. Claim your personal creative power and create the life you desire!” So, I took my passions—travel stories, spirituality, my collection of artworks, photography—and mixed it with my 15 years of career experience in vintage design to create my own personal style.

Supporting myself and barely making ends meet, I chose the path of licensing and decided against using an agent. I wanted to learn everything firsthand. Determined and confident, I naively jumped into the business world thinking I knew enough about the stationery industry to make a go of it. I was securing contracts, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the obstacles that lay on my path.

I quickly realized that it is not an easy task to reinvent myself and become one of a kind in the market today. Even though I am able to use my career experience as leverage with manufacturers, most consumers are unaware of my extensive design background with the vintage style. An abundance of vintage paper companies have surfaced in the past decade that are using the same or similar antique art resources I have used for most of my career. Comparisons were evident and unavoidable.

So, how does an artist become recognized as unique and original when artists are influenced by the same design trends? As I stare into the crowded vintage ephemera fishbowl, I ask, ”Where do I go from here?” My reflection appears in the water. It seems to say, “Stand tall and grounded in your truth and passions. Create from your core, the place that feels true and flows naturally. Nothing else matters.” Like the Five Elements, we are kindred spirits on the same cycles – we are all connected and actually help each other succeed.

In order to grow, I needed to make mistakes, test my creative passions, and accept the comparisons. I am becoming stronger and wiser for choosing the true path. Learning how to stand tall in midst of the growing pains is one of the greatest blessings —the quickest pathway to inner freedom.

With care and dedication, my tree is beginning to bloom. As we move into the next cycle, the FIRE element — “forceful” energy expresses itself as joy, expansion, love, laughter, transformation and enthusiasm. The rays of sunlight are fostering my creative growth and I can see the results of what I’ve planted. I am ready to celebrate my progress and accomplishments thus far as I continue on this journey of personal and professional self discovery


{Stand Tall greeting card is available for purchase on my website}


What I’ve learned in the past few years about growth:

1) Be true to and believe in yourself. Compromising your heart’s natural creative expression because of how others may perceive you is like death to your spirit. Be bold, be nice, but don’t hold back. Be fierce in your truth.

2) Mistakes WILL happen! Mistakes are opportunities to LEARN and GROW. Most importantly, you must forgive yourself, then others, and then move on.

3) When the going gets challenging or confusing, just keep going, knowing you are always doing your very best.

4) Be open to re-evaluating your goals, making adjustments when things feel strange or you feel stuck. And feel free to let go of what is not working.

5) If something doesn’t feel right, back off and let it sit for a few days. The answer will eventually come.

6) The universe always provides what you need. Trust the process.

What are your experiences of creative/life ebb and flow? What are your experiences of creative/life ebb and flow?


Jennifer Parker is an innovative graphic and mixed media artist from Mill Valley, California. She has been art directing and designing gift products for over a decade. Her extensive knowledge of vintage imagery “ephemera”, coupled with a mastery of digital collage, have set Jennifer’s signature style apart in paper product design. Jennifer’s designs are inspired by her global excursions, spiritual interests, and her sensitivity to natural materials, layered textures and nuanced colors.

Many of my designs are inspired by personal stories. I weave a passion for travel, life experiences, and spirituality into my art. My resources include copyright-free images, natural or found objects, ephemera artwork that I’ve purchased while traveling abroad or at antique paper shows in the US. I also incorporate my own photographs of rustic walls, doors, and wood for background textures. When appropriate, I weave in an empowering message to complete the design tapestry. My deepest wish is that my artwork inspires women to envision, explore and express their unique gifts with the world. Please read what others have to say about my work.

I’m happy to announce that my Etsy Store officially opened last month. My art prints make meaningful gifts for yourself, a loving family member or a dear friend. There are many formats and prices to choose from. Acid-free Laser Art Prints, Premium Quality Giclee Prints, Art Boards, and Framed Prints. Stay tuned for handmade glass trays and plates. If you interested in purchasing greeting cards $4 including shipping, please visit my website.



an american artist in paris :: exploring inspiring new places


by bridgette heidi newfell

{my paris address}

{along the river}

{town hall carousel}

{metro station, and huge glass beads… design is everywhere!}

{me… very happy… in sensory overdrive…}

{top of the Pompidou Museum of Contemporary Art, cafe}

{forms for decoupage in the department store!}

{even mc donalds looks lovely!}

{beauty in the grocery store too}

{sacred places… beauty that made me cry}

{night cafe in parisian pink and gold}



Recipe For Press :: creative collaborations


by Amy Flurry

Creative collaborations are great fun, but they’re also a smart marketing move!

It is easy to get people excited about DIY publicity (it works!) and about opportunities that come of sharing your story with thousands of people (for free!) But if you’ve made your passion profitable, you also know that the business backend can be a time vacuum and zap the creative juices you once called on to keep your marketing efforts fresh.

That’s why I love and encourage collaborating to keep create content –like blog posts, mailers, newsletters—engaging. In fact, I devoted an entire chapter to the idea in my book, featuring Rebecca Wood, owner of R. Wood Ceramic Studio ( in Athens, Georgia and friends. Instead of letting their need for editorial-style content become a burden, she treated it as an opportunity to get together with friends with businesses and to share inspirations and bolster their outreach efforts. They choose a day each quarter (so pictures reflect the changing seasons) and a different location each time to finish projects, style vignettes with their products, cook, craft and eat together.  “Make beauty, inspire each other, photograph it all,” says Wood. “It’s like a retreat, with a purpose.” At the end of the day, they have enough photographs to spice up their social media needs and to keep fans engaged in their story and brand lifestyle.

How does this approach also help in landing press?  The first thing media influencers look at when you reach out to them is the picture associated with the pitch. After reading a pitch, editors then visit your website, poke around the About page, your blog, Twitter feed or inspiration board to get to know your brand better. They are looking for a compelling story, one that, if they covered, would inspire their readers and even better the publication by inviting you in to their community.  A good brand tells a story through how it handles every single photograph along the way.

Collaborating like this can have even broader perks. Recently, some friends who were also jewelry designers threw a party in New York as a way to better get to know some influential bloggers and to introduce those bloggers to their brand. The designers invited friends from home to join them, to share the ride and rise; a stylist served as the group’s muse and model in the lead up, and a photographer made her first trip to New York to document the behind the scenes, other happily contributed products to fill out the goodie bags and to also enjoy the marketing opportunity. When it was all said and done, each participant blogged about it with their own spin, shared images with their own communities and expanded the reach of the host designers substantially. And they had a good time doing it, developing new friendships along the way.

How do you collaborate in business?  Are you in the habit of photographing it? Before you know it you’ll have a deep well of images to pull from to keep your customers, friends, and vendors captivated and coming back for more.


Amy is a longtime freelance editor and contributor to Country Living, Lucky, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, Daily Candy, Conde Nast Traveler, Paste, Jane and others. She also co-founded Paper-Cut-Project, a company that conceives highly crafted installations in paper for companies including Hermes, Cartier, The Bay, Christies, Kate Spade and Korres.

Her new book, Recipe for Press, pitch your story like the pros & create a buzz, represents Amy’s irrepressible desire to share with small business owners, designers, crafters and local brands how to create fruitful relationships with media influencers and score valuable press. It is a “how-to-be-your-own-publicist” guide to all of the information a seasoned editor wants to share with you before you pitch your story.

Available on Amazon and at for $23.95



84 Miles


by kat pevzner


“Feel yourself being quietly drawn
by the deeper pull of what you truly love”

~ Rumi

84 Miles. That’s how far it takes for me to find my place. I drive 84 miles one or two times a month. My car creaks out of the dusty driveway, bombs into the city while my supplies rattle around in boxes, bags and cases in the back of my old Subaru. I’m off to Wishstudio. I’ve been spending a bit of time up there as artist in residence. I’m planning my paper cutting (and other chaos) as the miles roll by.

From the moment I turn out of my little Plumfield Lane to just about 10 miles in I’ve already compiled my “to do” list for the week. I make a mental note of a few groceries we need, a few phone calls I haven’t returned, camp enrollment packets that I’ve had to remind myself (for the 10th time!) to fill out and which kid needs to be dropped off at whatever place on whichever day… blah blah blah… head noise.

Miles 10 to about 22, I’m wondering if I turned off the heat… did I? Didn’t I? Did I? Didn’t I? I turn on NPR and geek out for a spell while I try to quiet my inner heat miser. Yes, I seriously spend 12 miles freaking out about my electric bill. Hard times… you know?

Miles 22-38… ahh… the city… it starts with a few low buildings. I notice the windows, the dimension they bring to the façade. I notice the rise, the frame-outs, and the reflections. I realize that I MUST HAVE A WINDOW in the work I do today. The road rises, it curves, the speed picks up a bit and suddenly the sun takes a perfect turn and lights up the sky in a delicious warm, sleepy kind of way right before I dip into the tunnel….

The tunnel… twists, dims, vibrates. I think about how steady I have to hold my hand when I work with an Exacto knife. One wrong move and someone could lose an arm! A star could lose its 5th point.! A sparrow could lose its tail! I could never find peace like that in a rumbled tunnel such as this. One last swoop and then… SPARKLE! … into the LIGHT at the end.

Miles 39-52… over the bridge and straight onto RT 1. The lines of the bridge strike me as poetic. Think to myself, “I could cut a bridge if I wanted”. I could measure out the braces and the barriers wield my knife into the grating and make sharp lines, lines that are strong enough to hold up. It would be strong like this bridge that cushions and floats my car over the water. Dear bridge, thank you for holding me so safely as I ride up to Newburyport.

RT 1… oh you crazy beast! Cars careening in from the right, businesses jam packed together and huge overbearing chain restaurants line the street like parade goers. Vehicles weave intricate patterns in between each other, all over the road making a statement that goes something like, “I can drive this way because I’m from MA”. While this madness goes on all around me, I see colors work their way into the corner of the piece I started on my last trip to Wishstudio. I was really unhappy with how I left it. It was too “cute”, too “crafty”. I wanted it to say something important… and I left that day feeling like I didn’t get to speak my mind. I know that I can spend miles 50-52 scanning the color department of my mind until my finger stops on…… something dark! That’s it… I need to be a dark color. There… new direction.

Miles 53-54… let’s review. What have we got so far: windows and dark colors. Check.

Miles 55-70… the crammed businesses give way to green. The tree line gets taller. To the right is a cliché of a farm yard. No lie- two silos with a marquis, “Alfalfa Farm’. Brilliant! After a while NPR gets boring (I know… funny, right?) so I switch to WERS, an Emerson College radio station. I catch the tail end of the Unitarian Universalist church service broadcast. I happen to be a UU, so it brought familiar humble warmth into my car as my odometer ticked off the miles. The speaker was reflecting on “truth”. She spoke about how to get people to believe your truth, and whether your truth was the same as someone else’s truth. It was a profound enough moment for me, but suddenly it was enhanced by a giant hawk, diving into the median and tilting to the right in an upswing right in front of my car!

Truth: I almost peed my pants.

More truth: once I calmed down, I knew I had to ‘put a bird on it’ when I got to the studio.

Miles 70 to 75… I’m thinking about what I left behind the last time I was at Wishstudio. I’m thinking of the feeling I was left with. I’m thinking of all the things I plan for today. I’m thinking that I’m going to make it count. I’m thinking that I have a much better plan this time.

Mile 76… I’m thinking, “I just blew past my exit!”. Crap.

Miles 76-84… finally, back on track. I sail off the exit and take a straightaway into Newburyport. I round a corner and BAM… there’s the harbor; there are the oven baked brick buildings, the cobblestone streets, the funkalicious little business. One more left turn and there it is. A red lamp hangs over the door. A beacon that welcomes me. I see Her Royal Pinkness, Mindy sitting quietly as I do the slow drive by to park. I gather myself. I gather my supplies.

I gather.

I’m here. I’ve arrived.




Tending Inspiration :: how to inspire yourself


by Tara Swiger

I just finished the longest project of my life – my first book. During the process, I was vitally aware of inspiration – I needed a daily dose to keep writing and to keep living my life.

You hear of writers going into these lock-downs, where it’s just them in a room with a laptop and maybe a gallon of black coffee.
But that’s not my life and I didn’t want it to be.
I support my family with my business, and I like my work, so I didn’t want to put everything on hold to write the book. I wanted to still live my life and write the book; I wanted to create this big beautiful thing IN my life, not take a break in order to make it.
In order to do that, I needed stay inspired, but not get distracted.
Instead of looking outside myself (at Pinterest, Twitter, magazines, books), I started turning inward for the inspiration, both for the book and for the rest of my life.



The experiment taught me that I’m actually more inspiring than everything else there. Not me, really, but my own work, and the community around me.
Instead of checking in on blogs and twitter each morning, I fired up and started to write my words. In the beginning, I wrote 750 nearly every day…but as the deadline and my own panic loomed, I upped it 2000/day. By the end of the book-writing, I was easily writing 3,000-4,000 words everyday in the same time it took me to write 750.
Putting my own creative work first taught me that my work can nourish itself. The more I worked on it, the more ideas I got. After I started writing more each morning, I found that I’d get epiphanies every afternoon.
If I hit a particularly gnarly spot, I’d skip it and move onto something else…and on my days off, the answers would hit.
And this is true of any creative endeavor – the more attention you give it, the more ideas you have. Sarah J Bray says “What you appreciate, appreciates.” Whatever you spend time cherishing, grows more and more loveable with each day. Spend some time with your art and you’ll find you have ideas for 50 more projects.



Just as important as working and doing is not-doing. I took the weekends off…or at least I tried to. Nearly every time I sat down for a cup of coffee, I was hit with some new clarity about the book. When I slept late and read novels, I  untangled Chapter 7.
If you feel stuck and the work isn’t inspiring more ideas, get away from it. Instead of turning to the inspirational pull of Pinterest, Twitter and magazines (where it’s easy to compare and get jealous about everything everyone else is accomplishing), turn your attention to something non-creative. Drink a great cup of tea.



Admire the flowering trees.



Smile at your dog.

How do you stay inspired during a long project?

*** Tara Swiger is a maker, writer and Starship Captain.  read more about her creative pursuits and life on her website and blog



navigating how to begin


by jennifer belthoff

Do you have glimpses of ideas

Popping up here or there

Slivers of moments shining in

Shooting a quick burst of love and energy into your heart


Do you know how to act on these feelings

The steps you have to take

The work you have to do

Bringing that little flicker of light to fruition


Do you forge forward

Carving your path

Setting things in motion

Doing what needs to be done


Do you let it marinate

Slowly coming to life

Allowing time to do its magical work

While you continue on with your day to day living


Do you struggle with what to do

How to get started

Where to go

How to put it all into action


Navigating how to begin can be a difficult task

Sometimes you may need a strong push

Or a gentle nudge from a friend

To get you started


Put one foot in front of the other

Jot down your ideas and little ways to make them happen

Share your thoughts with a friend and brainstorm together

These little actions is all it takes to begin

jennifer belthoff is a writer and photographer giggling in the rain and dancing through the raindrops… read more about her life and work here on her blog.



on creativity and patience


the canvas

Enough has been said about that blank space, the pause

of possibility pointing to a still-unnamed story. We don’t need

another poem about potential, or the way we bend at the knees

toward the dark tunnel we hope might lead to greatness. Instead,

I want to celebrate the opening mark of the pen, the infant half-inch of paper

glued to the upper right-hand corner. The inaugural dip of a soaked brush

that lays a line of paint down flat. The “yes” that finally tilts the doer

into doing. This poem is for that plucky charge into the gauntlet, the dogged push

through all those voices arrowing critique. This is for the stroke that bursts the bubble

clinging us to fear. The hand that reaches in not for beauty, but for rubble.

I always think art lives in us long before it comes out of us. Things take time to percolate, to take shape, to find their edge and expression. A poem can be inside of me for days, for weeks, before I finally throw my line into that great river of mystery and fish the words out.

Now, for example, a poem by the title of “crooked mouth” is swimming around in there somewhere. I’ve had those two words swirling in my mind, and occasionally when I’m driving or doing laundry or taking care of the grocery list, a little thread of the poem they’re containing reveals itself. I know…that is to say I trust…that at some point, enough threads will appear that it will be time to sit down and sort them out. And what I ALSO know and trust is that to hold myself hostage in front of my laptop before the poem is ready to be birthed is an exercise in futility and self-flagellation.

I have come to understand each poem, each work of art, is a being all its own, gestating for an indeterminate amount of time before it’s ready to materialize. I never know how long it’s going to take, only that time is the decider here, not the urgency of a blog that needs an update or a literary journal that’s bearing down with a deadline or the fact that it’s a quiet house and raining outside and a cup of coffee is to my right and what better setting to make the writing happen?

There are certain kinds of work for which imposed deadlines make me hustle in a good way, intensify my focus and powers of imagination, wrangle my skills expediently. But personal creative work is a different animal altogether, and I’ve learned that what’s required of me to write – more than a dazzling display of linguistic acrobatics or an impressive vocabulary or a large body of knowledge about poetic form – is the simple act of patience.

I say “simple” but patience is often anything but. In a world where quickness is king, it’s uncomfortable and even terrifying to have to wait for anything, and it’s easy to feel pressure when other people around us are birthing a multitude of creative projects, painting and publishing and putting their work out there as if it took no effort at all. The dizzying landscape of creativity that’s floating out there in the world can bring a false sense of immediacy and pressure to producing quickly. And so taking any time whatsoever can give us the feeling that we are falling behind, which in turn creates the worst kind of self-flagellation of all, that we are not enough.

But patience isn’t idleness. It’s not laziness. And it’s not impotence. I see patience as a vital limbo between ideation and fruition, a necessary field of space and energy where a lot gets decided, where the architecture of our work begins to assemble its bones, and where we are subconsciously sifting through our material and locating the heart of what is asking to be expressed.

It’s true that for some people, the time gap between when an idea moves into tangible form is very short. And it’s true that some ideas will take less time to be actualized than others. But I’ve found it vital to listen more closely to what my poems are telling me by giving them more space and time to find their voice. Because when the moment comes – as it inevitably does – for the piece to emerge at last, it’s more like an assembly, a transcription, a threading together. There’s a peace to it. A communion between inner and outer worlds, the fishing line taut and ready to reel the mystery in.

MAYA STEIN is a poet and creative nonfiction writer. She has published two collections of personal essays, “The Overture of an Apple” (2003) and “Spinning the Bottle” (2004) and, most recently, “Enough Water,” a collection of poetry and photographs (2006). She has been published in a number of print and online literary journals, including Margins Magazine, Culture Star Reader, and, as well as the anthology “Lust For Life: Tales of Sex and Love.” Most recently, she appeared in Six Word Memoirs’ “It All Changed in an Instant” and also won first prize in Alimentum’s inaugural poetry contest. Her weekly “10-line Tuesday” poems reach nearly 900 people around the world. Maya also recently completed “Tour de Word,” a two-month traveling poetry project that brought writing workshops to children, teenagers, and adults in 25 states. Maya facilitates writing workshops online at Her poetry can be found at



embrace your YOUness


146 Poems of Love book project :: call for submissions


by amber morris

“Love protects. Love defends. Love restores. Love empowers.” These are the defining words behind Love146 ( – an organization that works in the prevention and aftercare of trafficked and exploited children, and is ultimately working toward the complete abolition of child slavery. It is also an organization that is driven by love. I am inspired daily by the work they do in the lives of children around the world. It is amazing to see so many very broken people changed forever through actions prompted by love. (You can see more of the Love146 story here:

The 146 Poems of Love book project was created as a way to honor the children who might have forgotten what real love feels like, or maybe have never known it, but will hopefully find it very soon. The project is a collection of love stories from around the world, told through poetry and pictures. My hope is the book will become an inspiring and beautiful definition of what love means to each of us.

I have been overwhelmed by the works that have flooded my inbox – poems, collages, photographs, paragraphs of poetic prose, and even songs – each telling stories of heartbreak, longing, joy, courage, risk, fear, loss…the very raw and beautiful things that we all experience in love.

I invite you to share your own love stories in the form of poetry and art during the month of September to add to the 146 Poems anthology. A portion of proceeds will go directly to Love146. There is no monetary compensation, but each person chosen for publication will receive a copy of the book.

The project is open to all ages and countries. Art/photography submissions should be in JPEG format, and poems can be sent as a .doc, .docx, or PDF. All submissions should be emailed to More information can also be found on my website:

Here’s to discovering the love stories in our lives, and to creating them in the lives of children looking for one of their own…



18 guideposts for your personal journey


by carolyn rubenstein

  1. It’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to wear (and own) your imperfections, and to fall flat on your face – as long as you keep reaching out for support and maintaining the courage to put one foot in front of the other.
  2. Actions speak louder than words.
  3. Learn to say no as much as you say yes. Less is more. Replace “Could I do more?” with “Would I like to do more?”.
  4. Mistakes are powerful gifts. Don’t leave the lessons within them concealed – gently unwrap a mistake to gain the wisdom within its rough exterior.
  5. Ask why before you ask how. Intention is required to create your compass.
  6. Action deflates fear – always.
  7. Recycle. Don’t fix what’s not broken. Reuse what’s worked before.
  8. Trust your intuition. Resist second-guessing.
  9. “Success” cannot be defined by others or even put into the hands of others for evaluation. If left unguarded, your success could be taken away at any moment. If you equate success with your intrinsic worth (even subconsciously), then you will be left broken apart.
  10. Be more proactive and less reactive – to better align your reality with your vision.
  11. Attempting to avoid negative events and situations proves an exercise in futility – negative things happen to everyone.  However, adversity can often provide an opportunity to strengthen character, deepen emotional fortitude, and increase your overall sense of self and self-worth.  These life lessons can only come when you decide to channel through difficult circumstances while relying on the gift of embracing self-empowerment.
  12. Time and energy are not equal. Improve their interaction by learning their unique characteristics.
  13. Don’t get stuck within the details. Whisper to yourself the words of Terri St. Cloud: She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.
  14. Remember to breathe.
  15. By acknowledging when you don’t know the answers and shed light on your vulnerabilities, you are creating space for your authentic self to live wholeheartedly and courageously.  We learn the most about ourselves from the moments in which we let down our guard and admit, “I don’t know all the answers. I am uncertain and that’s okay. How can I transform this experience from one of self-doubt to one of self-compassion?”
  16. When the journey gets tough, remember the words of Margaret Thatcher: You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
  17. Gratitude is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.
  18. Greatness is never achieved. It is something you must intrinsically bestow upon yourself.

Carolyn Rubenstein, author of Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors (How Young People Turn Fear into Hope and How They Can Teach Us To Do The Same); non-profit organization founder; authenticity advocate; Huffington Post and Psychology Today blogger; believer in resilience, gratitude and respect; and graduate student.


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