Sunday, December 31, 2017

7 Reasons Why 2017 Was An Awesome Year

  Feel free to join me in the existential crisis that is December 31st, 2017 as we together wonder WHERE IN THE HECK HAS THE WHOLE YEAR JUST GONE????

  People all over social media are convinced that 2016/17 were like, the worst two years in the history of ever, which may be true on some fronts (I feel like they aren't really, but I haven't experienced every year of ever), but for me they both rocked - particularly this year. And though some of the big changes and events that have taken place in the last 12 months are more than a little hard in many ways, I wouldn't trade this year for anything. It has been truly awesome and full of truly awesome things. What things you ask?? Well, I'm sure you can guess at a few, but if you are interested in seeing just what big things have happened for me in 2017, read on, my friend!


  Tbh, this one is still a little weird for me to think about. I've mostly come to terms with sharing a home with a boy, but thinking about the fact that we're like, married, and had a wedding, and all that good stuff is still a tad strange. However, we did have the most awesome wedding on the planet so there's that. ;) Yes, I may be a little biased, but it was a fabulous time and a beautiful day and I loved being surrounded by family and friends for such an important milestone. We just got our wedding photos back a couple weeks ago as well, so I've been enjoying going through them and re-living the day - also, they are absolutely gorgeous. Joanna (who I featured here a couple months back) did an amazing amazing job.
Jonathan and I also celebrated our third year together this October, that was pretty crazy.

Photo by Joanna Vandervalk, Lifesong Photography


  This one is also pretty trippy, occasionally I forget that it actually happened because it's been something I've been dreaming of so long! In case you didn't hear earlier this year, I self-published my first novel "The Sorceress and the Squid" through Amazon in June. The experience, though convoluted in many ways and a tad stressful, was really cool and I got to interact with readers and share and have people both that I know and don't know reading my work on a wide scale. Some people have even read it multiple times and that's insane to me. Like, people actually enjoy something I created THAT much?? Wow...
I did not finish any other first drafts this year due to the volume of editing, but I am looking to publish again in the New Year if possible, so stay tuned for news of that!


  Three cool trips to be exact. First, an in-law family roadtrip to Quadra Island off the coast of Vancouver Island in May, then our honeymoon roadtrip (spanning Waterton AB, Idaho, Washington, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and Kelowna), and finally our holiday to Mexico just this month. All three were really cool, I took hundreds of photos, saw new things, met great new people, had a couple revelations on future things I wanted to do with my life, and overall just had a really enjoyable time. Though I am ultimately a homebody I love to travel and see new things as well, a good balance of both is what I like, and this year certainly delivered.

L-R: Quadra Island, Coeur d'Alene, Puerto Vallarta


  Along with getting published, I completed my U of C Creative Writing certificate and had it delivered in the mail to me. It was an intense 2 years of courses but I really learned a lot and am so thankful for the opportunity to take the courses.


  I took a step this year to get baptized during my summer camp's staff training week, which was pretty cool. Sharing my testimony with so many and being able to share about the things that I've struggled with and having that open doors to connect with other girls with similar struggles was really wonderful. Also, it was the right time for me to commit to God before committing to marriage. It was really great to get baptized in the river by our camp director and have family and friends there to witness.


  Yep, this was the 6th summer I spent working at Camp Little Red as a counselor/wrangler. I love this camp, the people I've met, the things I've learned, the person I've become. So much of my life is tied up in this place, especially my teenage years. Why, we even opted to get married out there! So yeah, even though it was very busy with a wedding to plan and moving out to be done and I couldn't quite do the entire summer (I missed about 4 days of 33), I was very thankful to be able to be there, sharing and growing and learning again.


  When fall came around this year and I started to settle into my new, weird, city, married life, I started up an online photography course which I am planning to continue into the new year. Though it was challenging I'm hoping it will really help me to take my photos to the next level and learn a lot more about quality photography - something I'm very interested in. I also began an internship at my riding barn with my trainer, which has proved to be a really excellent learning experience with lots of horsey opportunities. I've gotten on dozens of horses this year, some that I hated and some I adored, worked with stallions, ponies, ex-wildies, horses with traumatic pasts, kids in lessons, and more! I got to do more jumping this year, getting more comfortable with higher fences and learning better how to put a horse together for a fence. I got to work more with my mare, addressing her wiggling issue, helping her to relax at a canter and develop a nicer transition, and even rode her bareback and bridleless which was new to me. All in all, it's been a very horsey year.

  As we come to the end of yet another year, I'm slightly blown away by everything that has transpired in what seems to be such a short time. The last three years especially have been so full of change I can hardly wrap my mind around all that has taken place. 2015-17 have been transitioning years, a period of newness, opportunity, and challenge. In a way, I consider them almost a prologue or first chapter of my adult life, and the epilogue of my childhood/teenage years. There is bittersweetness in that observation, but also excitement as I open on Chapter One of my 20's and see just what kind of road I am headed down. I'm sure it will be crazy and wonderful and terrible and beautiful like every piece of my life so far.

  So this New Year's Eve finds me a little nostalgic, looking back on a large piece of my life that I have left behind and wondering what on earth could possibly be better? I am very keen to find out.

  Happy New Year to you! I hope 2017 was completely awesome in your corner of the universe. What were some of the year's highlights for you? Let me know in the comments below and see you next year! :DD

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Merry Christmas + Hiatus Announcement

  Hello everybody! It's December (CHRISTMAS TIME) and everything is super busy around here and I'm sure around your home as well. I honestly love this season, the nostalgia and spirit of Christmas and the hope it gives, the time spent with family and friends, the looking forward to a new year and looking back on the old, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

  That being said, it is also terrifically full, for some with shopping and preparations, with get-togethers, trips, and parties. For me this year, I am going on a holiday to Mexico next week, followed by tons and tons of Christmas celebration with friends and family which I am greatly looking forward to. As such I won't be around on the blog much throughout December, but I will be back in full force in the New Year, and maybe a little before, so I look forward to catching up then!

  As a side note, can you believe that it's already the end of 2017?? What a crazy, whirlwind of a year, it will definitely go down as one of the best ever for me. How about you? How was your 2017? And what kind of awesome Christmassy plans do you have coming up? Do you have any weird or cool family holiday traditions? Let me know about them in the comments below and I'll see you all in 2018!!

  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from me to you!

  "The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God." - CS Lewis


Thursday, November 30, 2017

October/November Highlights '17

  I had to skip last month due to my Indie Authors Week posts, but now that the end of November is upon us allow me to curl up in a corner and cry over my existential crisis at how quickly time is passing these days.



  Okay, and now that I've had that, let's move into the happenings of the past two jam-packed months, shall we?


  • NEW JOB//I got work in October as a nanny for 3 kids and though it's challenging, it's not a bad line of work overall. I'm mostly excited to finally be employed by someone who's not my dad. :P
  • NEW CAR//Jonathan and I had to get a new vehicle after his was smashed and so we got a "new" silver Volkswagen that's pretty cool but the seat is stuck in a far back position so I haven't been able to drive it for a few weeks because the universe has conspired to keep me driving my crap car all the time no matter what forever.
  • INTERNSHIP//I'm interning at my barn and so go out 2-3 times a week and work lesson horses, my mare, and some of the horses in training. It's been really cool and I've learned lots of new stuff and been on the backs of lots of horses even in the last couple months.
  • IMAGINE DRAGONS//Jonathan and I went to Imagine Dragons in Calgary and it was SO SO GOOD. Even better than last time, I absolutely love Imagine Dragons concerts, guys. 
  • CANADIAN THANKSGIVING//Being married/dating means that you get to have 2 Thanksgiving dinners, so that's always a bonus.
  • CAMP//There have been a few rentals and camps these last couple months, including Boys Rocket Camp and MORE camp. Both of which were pretty fun, a lot of cleaning has been happening for sure.
  • 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY//Jonathan and I celebrated being together for 3 years and honestly I don't understand where the time has gone at all. We took a walk and went to Value Village cause that's how extra we are.
  • ATLA MARATHON PARTY//Having your own house lends all sorts of perks, like hosting a day-long marathon of Avatar: The Last Airbender season 1. :DD
  • STRANGER THINGS 2//Was finally back and I was not disappointed! AHHH!
  • YOUTH GROUP HANDBALL TOURNEY//My old youth group vs. the one at my current church, I played for my old team and despite the fact that the majority of us were 13 year old girls, we really and truly slaughtered.
  • MY SISTER'S 16th BIRTHDAY//I surprised her with some of our friends by going to West Edmonton Mall for the weekend, we stayed up late watching Buzzfeed Unsolved Mysteries and I got a new outfit and some new books. 'Twas pretty fun.
  • PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS + PHOTOSHOOTS//My photography class is nearly done this term and though it has been hard it has also been really stretching and I'm really enjoying some of my new skills and abilities - as well as my new photos.


  I've been working mainly on two different projects: rewriting draft 2 of Faithless and trying to finish up The Wandering: Part One by the end of the year/for NaNo. So far I've made quite a few improvements in Faithless that I think will work out really nicely, I'm beginning to be slightly proud of the travesty that it was when I first penned it. The Wandering is a slow process, despite me trying to move along for NaNo. I definitely won't be making my goal by today (the end of the month), but I got about six chapters done and that's quite a bit when it comes down to it. I'm currently at 19,600 words and hoping to write a couple thousand more today. I'm not convinced I can finish up by the time Jonathan and I leave on our trip and Christmas comes, but at least I've made a sizable dent.


Fevre Dream by George RR Martin 5/5
I found this book while Jonathan and I were in Seattle on our honeymoon and when I sat down to read it, I found it super enjoyable, chilling, and full of thrills. George RR Martin is a very good writer, no matter what people may say about his subject matter at times, he really knows how to pull you into a story with fantastic world-building and totally believable characters.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass 3.5/5
Tbh, I was really drawn in by the cover of this book and its series. It is really popular and I feel like I would have quite enjoyed it when I was younger, but it wasn't a big sell for me. It was good, but not great. The best part was the sarcasm for sure.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 5/5
My last read of the month, which I picked up at the aforementioned West Ed. I've read Kelly Barnhill before but I think that I like this one even better, the characters were quirky and cool and the story felt very whimsical and classic but still had serious, mature tones that made you really think. It reminded me of the tone of my novel! ;)


  I was on top of all my posts these past two months, had a few that I quite liked, and got to go through my Indie Artists Week feature, which was super fun. I really enjoyed showcasing some awesome independent artist friends - I really hope you guys enjoyed reading about them!

  Also, I've gained a couple new followers, which is super exciting! :DD


  Goals for October/November

  • Finish Faithless rewrites // I technically finished a first (short) round of edits but I'm working through again and nearly done, but I'm much more satisfied this time around.
  • Read 2 books // Look at me, surpassing this one with a measly 3 books. XD But hey, at least I met and surpassed my Goodreads Challenge!
  • Promote Indie Artists Week // I did do this, probably not as well as I should have, but I did!

  Goals for December

  • Attempt to finish The Wandering: Part One // Hopefully by the New Year so I can put it aside again and work on something else. 
  • Read 2 books // I've been attempting to do this every month and since I've got a long couple of plane rides next month, I feel like I have a good opportunity to get more reading done.
  • Attempt to finish Faithless rewrites // Hopefully I can do this, but I may set it aside til January so I can give it the proper attention and not be distracted by The Wandering. However, I will be on the lookout for betas soon! I know I keep saying that, lol.

  And that about wraps up these crazy past two months. It's been pretty good overall, though I'm still attempting to adjust to city life and married life. It's interesting, some bad, lots of good, but it's a learning process. 

  Also, who's excited for Christmas??? I know I am, although I'm stunned that this year flew by as fast as it did, it feels like we just had Christmas 2015 a couple months ago! Time is weird, especially when you become a boring busy adult with life responsibilities that make days and weeks fly by much quicker. 

  How has your October/November been? Do you have any special Christmas plans? Let me know below!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

7 Ways To Organize Your Bookshelf (That Totally Aren't Biased)

  As an avid bookworm with more books than sense who happens to be married to a fellow bookworm with slightly more sense, the act of organizing the now mutual collection of books has become an issue of epic proportions. When we moved into our house and set up the shelves (that I supplied, I must put in) and began to fill them up it became, well...interesting.

  All I will say is that if your relationship can survive the emotional distress of fusing together individual book collections it can probably survive anything.

  This is all to bring me to the point that different bookworms have different methods of organization. Perhaps you are on the look-out for a fresh new way to show-off your children? Allow me to present a few different types of book organization.

*most* of my shelves, couldn't fit it all in the pic

  1. Color-Coordination

  This is for the truly aesthetic types who have bookstagrams and take photos of their shelves and have the skills of an interior decorator from HGTV. I don't understand them, I admire them, but I am not them. The act of separating my books from their fellow series is one that causes me physical pain. It's simply not something I can do. However, looking at other people's rainbow shelves is very pleasing to my eye, I just can't look too close or I'll see the messed up order and all hell will break loose.

  2. Alphabetically (by title)

  This is pretty basic, simple, straightforward, but still takes some thought and sense of organization. This is a much more logical, practical method of organizing, appealing to less creative bookworms (my mother for instance). Do I use it? No. There is NOT ENOUGH OF THE ORGANIZE HERE!

  3. By Genre 

  THIS is how you organize books, people. Honestly, I can't imagine setting up my shelves any other way.

  From the beginning of time my books have been placed in order of their genre: Fantasy*, sci-fi, YA, contemporary, classics, historical fiction, Christian fiction, graphic novels, horses (yes, this is a genre for me), and non-fiction. This will not change. Not until I have shriveled up like a raisin and died clutching an armful of my closest books against my chest. But if you change my shelf arrangement when I am gone I will haunt you, I swear.*

*The two top rows of my shelves are actually just Tolkien and Lewis fantasy which I think is a totally legitimate sub-genre

*One of my "friends" once came into my room once and rearranged a few of my books and I don't know who it was or how long I went without noticing but to this day I mistrust ALL of the friends and do not let them near the books

  4. Alphabetically (by author)

  This is how the bookstores do it so obviously it's a legitimate way to host your own collection, but it's very basic and boring and kind of meh. And I mean, do you really want your bookshelf to be the same as the bookstore's? It's kind of like moving into your own house and making the kitchen look exactly like your mom's because you don't know how to do your own thing. Honestly, just a bit sad. INDEPENDENCE, HUZZAH!

  5. In Piles

  Some people start on the shelves and then subsequently run out of shelves and run out of room for more shelves and the floor becomes a "temporary" option that's actually permanent and you just lying to yourself.*

  Piles have a slightly messy look but can still have a sense of organization, sending the message that "yes, I recognize my collection is literally flowing off the shelves" but with a slightly smug expression on one's face because you know what it's about, son.

*Haha me

  6. Chronologically

  You'd have to be super weird or have super weird books to do this for your WHOLE shelf but chronological order is actually kind of nice - especially for your historical sections. Or for authors like Tolkien who only really wrote about one universe but you have to organize those books by chronology either in order of him writing or in order of how they happened in the universe. This is also a DIFFICULT DECISION I must add.

  6. The Combo

  When you take two or more of these organizing principles and apply them to your shelves. For instance, I go with Genre and Chronology in a lot of cases. I'm too lazy for alphabetical, especially since they have to fit and the more specific you get the harder it is. You can make a combo with basically anything, except color-coordinating, because that's a very limiting method for very aesthetically pleasing results.

when your 2 things work together

  7. What Even

  This is me @ my husband's ideas of "organizing". Though he is the bookwormiest boy I've ever met, he is very stereotypical in the organizational categories, read: teenage boy typical. I have had to fight him in some very truly awful things, such as...

  • having his series lined up from end to beginning rather than beginning to end
  • no genre organizing at all
  • no color-coordination
  • no real bookshelves
  • really absolutely no organizing to speak of
  • except having the series together. backwards.
  During our bookshelf decorating I did nearly come to tears on several occasions because this lack of concern and effort was A LOT TO HANDLE and the emotional distress I mentioned previously was large.

  And there you have it! 7 Ways to Organize Your Bookshelf that were - let's face it - quite biased. :P Tell me, how do you organize your shelves? Or are you a monster like my husband who doesn't organize ANYTHING? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How Is NaNo Going? *cries*

  This is a brief post to check-in on my fellow writers participating in whatever way in the month of NaNo craziness. Of course, checking into Twitter kinda shows me what's happening on that front.

  A lot of caffeine, crying, screaming, and words. A LOT of words.

  A lot more than me. Le sigh.

  BUT...and this is hard for me to believe and to accept. This is OKAY. This is ACCEPTABLE. Not everyone can write a whole novel in 2 days of NaNo (coughcoughPaperFurycough). And not everyone can write a whole novel in 2 weeks. I have always been a slower writer, and I can't even finish half of half of my novel in 2 days or 2 weeks. But again, that is okay.

  And if you're in that same place, know that it's okay too. Take encouragement from me and my slow writing and know that it's okay to not speed through your writing process. It's okay to not get carpal tunnel and it's okay that you're busy or stressed or struggling. It's really, truly okay.

  I've got 9 more chapters left to write this month - long, complex ones. And yeah, I probably won't make it. But I'm content with that. My ultimate goal is to be finished by the New Year, which I'm confident I can do. At the time of writing this I just finished one whole chapter in a day - which is pretty good for me.

  I'm a busy person. I have a lot of things to do and get done, a couple of jobs to work, horses to work and ride, a husband to hang out with, friends and family who I want to spend time with, other hobbies to pursue, a house to kind of keep in somewhat of an order, homework, Christmas to prepare for, 2 other projects, and a whole host of other things going on any given day. I need to learn to give myself a break.

  And if you're like me, take a moment to breathe and do the same. It's okay. Really.

  So, where are you at in NaNo? I hope you're still enjoying the process? Tell me about your WIP! I love, love, love hearing about new novels in the works!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What I've Been Binging On Netflix

  So Jonathan and I recently invested in Netflix, which was one of the best decisions of our marriage so far. And since my opinion on things, particularly shows, is obviously invaluable, I am here today to talk about some of my favorite shows that I now have access to because of Netflix, and why you should be watching them too!


  If you haven't seen this yet, then I'm not sure what you've been doing with your life* but clearly you should get on it because NOSTALGIA! MONSTERS! TELEKINESIS! CHILD ACTORS THAT DON'T SUCK! I could go on. Basically, it's the coolest. And you should be a cool kid and watch it too.

  Favorite Characters? Hopper and Eleven - especially after this last season.**

*probably good, productive things like a useful human being
**Jonathan and I just finished season 2 and I just AJHJAGFAJFHJAKF


  We started watching this as soon as we got Netflix cause we'd both heard such good things about it. Everyone fangirls over this show and I was really curious about it. WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED. This show is intense, dark, and totally gripping. Every episode I am on the edge of my seat. Also, the VILLAINS!! Cannot say enough good things about the villains they've crafted.

Favorite characters? Foggy, Matt, Wilson Fisk and the Punisher.


  This is definitely one of my favorite shows. The villain here is also very well done, but differs from those in Daredevil in that you absolutely despise him because he's so well-done, whereas you almost feel sorry for the Punisher and Fisk in many ways. Still, Jessica Jones herself is fantastic and a character you can really get behind. This show is pretty jaw-dropping in a lot of ways, I enjoy it immensely.

  Favorite characters? Jessica and Patsy.


  Please don't hate me for not having read the books yet. I know, I know, I'm a terrible person. But I have every intention of reading the books when I can collect them all for cheap*! I really enjoy the show though, the dry, dark humor, the cinematography, the casting, it's all great. And I am really looking forward to a second season and also to reading the books themselves.

  Favorite characters? The children, Count Olaf, and Uncle Monty.

*Because there's soooo many and they're soooo expensive for their tiny-ness

  Welp. There you have it, a small list of the things I have been binge-watching lately. Have you found any cool new shows, movies, or books? I am always adding to my ever-growing, eternal list of media to consume, please, help me sink deeper into my hopeless hole!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Indie Artists Week Feature #6 - Joanna Vandervalk (PHOTOGRAPHER)

  Hey everybody! I'm here to brighten your day with one more indie artist feature. Today's artist is photographer, Joanna Vandervalk. Joanna is another personal friend of mine and actually took both my engagement and wedding photos - and did a stellar job! I have worked at camp with her and she has been camp photographer along with many other wedding and family shoots, but her main focus is landscape photography. Along with being a photographer, Joanna is a talented sketcher and a fellow bookworm, so we are kindred spirits! Keep reading to learn more about her and to see our interview.

Joanna Vandervalk is an Alberta based landscape and portrait photographer. She is an avid traveller, book reader, tea drinker, and adventurer. She believes that timing is everything in photography. When working with clients for weddings and portraits, her aim is to capture all the fleeting little moments of life in the most authentic ways possible. She works to make it so that her clients don’t feel like they’re being photographed, but rather that they’re sharing intimate, precious moments. She’s always trying to push her creative boundaries and create images that help viewers see the beauty in the small things and the big things of human nature and of nature in itself.  

  You can find Joanna on her:


  *As an aside, here are some of my favorite shots she took from our wedding/engagement shoots:

A testament to her skills: we don't look nearly this good in real life. :P

Q: When did you first start photography and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: I was 12 the first time I knew I was interested in photography. I’ve always been a rather artistic, romantic-at-heart kind of person, so I think that transferred quite naturally into capturing the beauty of the smallest human interactions, and the vastness and majesty of our ever-changing landscapes here in Alberta. I didn’t start taking it seriously as a career option until just the last two years or so when I was being requested more and more through word-of-mouth advertising as a wedding and portrait photographer and as I’ve seen how much business growth you can create and obtain through the world-connecting element of social media.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was what you wanted to do?

A: I don’t think there was an exact epiphany moment… It’s been sort of a gradual fire building inside me over the years and now when I think about doing it as my career, it gives me this sort of profound almost unexplainable fierce feeling deep in my soul (there’s the romantic coming out!). The more I go out into the mountains and go hiking, the more I see the inspiring work of other creative visual artists, the more I get to capture precious human interactions and see the photos come out in the end, the more the fire inside me grows.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to taking your shots? How do you usually begin a shoot?

A: It kind of depends on what I’m shooting. If I’m prepping to do a wedding or engagement shoot I will usually spend some time going back through old photos I’ve taken - remembering what worked and what didn’t, and what ‘pings’ I used to get authentic emotional responses from my clients. If I’m going out to shoot landscapes, usually I make a whole day of it: wake up and head out around 4am, depending on the time of year, to capture sunrise, then stay out shooting until sunset (and into the night! Landscape photographers don’t get much sleep haha!). For landscape days, I plan out what hikes I’m going to do and what places I want to visit beforehand so that I can be sure to get the best light at the right times. A lot of times, I’ll have a certain kind of shot in mind that I want to achieve and so I’ll try to create that shot. It doesn’t always work out the way I envisioned, but when it does, it’s so incredibly satisfying!

Q: What kind of camera(s), lenses, editing software, etc, do you use? Tell us about your equipment and why you’ve chosen it.

A: I’ve been shooting on Canon since the beginning, so I’ve sortof just stuck to using that. It’s amazing quality gear and I’ve invested a lot of earnings into buying the best that I can afford, so at this point even though I’d love to switch to a mirrorless Sony system (like the A7R IV that was just released!!), it just wouldn’t be worth the cost right now.
I currently shoot with a Canon 6D, and I have a number of different lenses for different situations. I actually just purchased my first non-Canon brand lens last week! It’s a Sigma ART 35mm prime lens with a very high light sensitivity. It’s my new portrait lens and I’m in love!
For editing I only use Adobe software. Mostly right now I stick with Lightroom (which I love because I can develop presets that sort of define my particular style, especially in portraiture, that I can then tweak to fit each individual photo). The software has advanced so much that I only need to switch out into Photoshop if I’m working on something really complex that requires layers and masks etc.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as a photographer over the years?

A: Just going out and doing it. Forcing myself to be creative when I’m feeling in a slump. Seeing other photographers’ work on social media. Interacting with other photographers and creatives. I could list lots of things that have influenced my growth, but I think that networking with like minded people is a huge part of growth. (Speaking of which, there’s this organization called Socality (@socality on Instagram) that aims to do exactly that! It’s an organization specifically created for building community among creatives with love and acceptance being the central building structure! I only recently discovered how awesome it is! If you’re a creative, I highly recommend checking them out and joining a group in your area!)

Q: I know you do landscape photography as well as weddings and family shoots. What is your favorite things to shoot and why?

A: Ohhh you can’t ask that question haha! Too hard to answer. They’re so different! … I guess the main difference is that portrait work is fleeting and you have to be speedy to capture the moment, while landscapes are ‘slow’  in comparison.  I love doing portrait work because I get to witness all the tiny, fleeting moments that make human life beautiful - that almost kiss between lovers where they breathe each other in, the tenderness between parents and children, the laughter and joy in friendship, the shenanigans of siblings. All those little glimpses are so precious and essential to portrait work and they’re why I love it. For landscapes, I love that every time I visit a place it’s different and unique, and it’s always there but always changing (environmentally too). Landscapes are also endlessly forgiving. They’re not going to be upset if you miss a moment or don’t edit a certain way, or what have you…

Q: How would you describe your photography style?

A: In a word: colourful. There are a lot of trends that go on in the photography community now that social media has made creative work so easily accessible. The biggest trend right now is desaturated photos with dark tones. I’m not really a trend follower, and the current editing trends are not what life is like. Editing is an art in and of itself. When I edit, I try to recreate not just the way that the moment actually looked, but also the emotion I felt in the moment. I love this Ansel Adams quote “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed, and is, thereby, a true manifestation of what one feels about life in its entirety.” Overall, my photos tend to be bright, colourful, and warm - because that’s how I look at life.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: Nope. I’m self-taught mostly (I took a few courses in highschool), but I’d like to pursue a design or business degree in the future (after I finish my current degree perhaps) (If I have any money left).

Q: How did you go about perfecting your artistic skills? Were you self-taught?

A: ‘Perfecting’ is a tricky term haha! I’m definitely not perfect at photography. I learn a lot by just doing (and failing!), and I learn a lot through exploring social media work by other photographers. I’m always trying to push myself out of the norm by finding new ways of framing, processing, and shooting in general. There’s also this nifty thing you probably haven’t heard of called youtube that’s quite an excellent tool when you’re trying to do something but you’re not quite sure how, it can be quite inspirational too.

Q: Which is your favorite book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy?

A: Two Towers. Definitely.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young photographers? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Don’t worry too much about what other people are doing. Find your own style and make a niche of what you’re photographing. Your photos are not going to be hugely affected by the quality of your gear when you’re starting out. Despite what many people think, your camera does NOT “take great pictures”. You do. You make the camera go and you capture your own unique perspective of the world. My biggest piece of advice though is to immediately start shooting full manual and in RAW only. Doing this will give you so much more creative space with your photos and editing!

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of photography?

A: My favourite part is doing it! Any time I’m out taking photos or networking, I’m totally in my element and I adore every moment of it.
Talking about money with clients is my least favourite. It’s always a struggle because people have certain ideas and expectations of what photography costs should be and what they think is involved and they don’t understand the true value and cost of it. When you see a price for a service like photography, it’s not just for the photographer to “click a button all day” (huge pet peeve!). The price includes things like travel, gear, software and hardware, editing time, professional development, and many other things. It’s the behind the scenes that most people don’t understand.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as an artist, especially an independent one?

A: I think each of the creative sectors have their own specific problems to deal with. This totally goes along with my least favourite part of photography/being a creative. I’d like to see a change in how creativity, creatives, and creative products are viewed and valued as a whole and in general. Without creativity, you don’t have culture and culture is part of what makes us human. Creativity needs to be more highly valued in society. Creatives look at the world in a different way, they problem solve in a different way. That’s what our society needs. No more of this ‘fitting everyone into a societal mold’ garbage. Creativity is what makes us different and what makes the world exciting! We were made by the Creator, He invented it - so I think as a Christ Follower this is part of my worship and calling. (If you want to read more about this, definitely check out the upcoming book Called to Create by Jordan Raynor!)

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: People outside of the community accepting, appreciating, and understanding the value of what creatives contribute to society; then, not complaining about the cost of our creative products.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your photography career?

A:  Oh geeze. So many people. Too many to mention them all, but here’s a few: Chris Burkard, Kilian Schoenburger, Alex Strohl, Paul Zizka, Michael Matti. Really any photographers or visual artists that are out there pushing creative boundaries and doing cool projects.

Q: Where do you see/want to see your photography career in five years?

A: Hopefully growing my client base for weddings and portraiture, being an adventure and travel photographer, and doing ‘in-action’ product shoots for environmentally conscious outdoor gear companies that are working on sustainable product innovations.

Q: Aside from photography, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: I drink a lot of tea and read books. And draw sometimes. Also lots of hiking. Swing dancing. And nerding out about nerdy things, in general. Star Wars! I adore travelling and have set a few different goals in terms of exploration. My two most recent are: to visit and photograph every national park in Canada within the next ten years, and to visit and experience every continent! There are only a very few people in the world who have visited every country, so that would be cool too. I’m currently at 10 countries that I’ve lived in/visited.

Q: What is one (or a couple!) shot you consider your best work? Why? Do you mind sharing it/them?

A: Hmm. I think that changes a lot every time I go out shooting. I think it’s more that I get a few new favourite shots per year. I got two new favourite landscape shots this year and then pretty much every portrait shoot/wedding I do, I find new favourite portrait shots (though those are harder, because each portrait is so different according to the people I’m capturing).

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?

A: Ha! Have I managed it effectively? That’s a difficult thing to do when you’re a full time student in university. For instance, I’ve still got 1.5 weddings to edit through from this summer before I go and shoot another wedding in Mexico on November 7th. One thing I do try to do though, is when I’m feeling smothered by too much school and homework and not enough creativity, I’ll take a morning to myself and go out to the mountains for sunrise. Doing that usually gives me a fresh burst for creative energy and I can cope for a while longer.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: Yep. It’s always hard not to play the comparison game - seeing other creatives that you think are ‘better’ than you or more successful. Wondering if you’ll ever get to that point. Hoping that you’ll get to that point someday. It’s hard to see past that sometimes.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for photography?

A: I enjoy reading photographer biographies when I get a chance - especially ones from classic photographers. You learn a lot about what it was like shooting back in the day and gain a ton of appreciation for how relatively easy we have it today.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: To be able to fully sustain my living and travel off of work provided by my client base.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: It’s hard to pinpoint something specific. I don’t know if I’ve had a specifically defining moment. I feel like every time I go out with the specific intention of learning and being creative, I push my creative journey further along. As I travel the road, what I experience defines and refines me.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Making a decent living, and having your work stand out in an oversaturated market.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: For me, seeing how much my clients love their photos and seeing the comments that other people make about them. Words of affirmation are my love language, so it’s a very important part of my work to know that what I’ve created is appreciated and loved by others as much as I love it. Happy clients make a happy me!

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: Hopefully when I finish my degree next year I can really start focusing on growing my client base and building my portfolio. Finishing my website is a big key to that - I just haven’t had proper time to devote to it at this point.
In terms of exciting things, I get to shoot my first destination wedding this month in Mexico. Plus, I get to be there with two of my best friends (Brooke being one of them. She has a previous interview on here with Emily that you should definitely check out!) and my brother. Pretty stoked about that. It’s going to be epic! 

  Thanks for the great interview, Joanna (even if I was piling on more things for you to do XD)! I hope you guys have really enjoyed this week, Joanna is our last feature - so be sure to tell me your opinion of Independent Artists Week and what medium of art was your favorite to learn about? Thank you so much for following along with this venture! I have had a blast, hope you did too! :DD

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Indie Artists Week #5 - Brooke Rosales (PHOTOGRAPHER)

  It's Day 5 of Indie Artists Week and I have yet another kind of artist to feature today - meet photographer Brooke Rosales! Brooke is a good friend of mine who has worked with me and before me as a counselor and wrangler at my summer camp. Brooke is a bright, bubbly person with lots of talent, skill, and charm. Not only is she a fantastic artist in multiple mediums, but a great person to spend a summer alongside. Honestly, she is a huge inspiration to me in so many ways, I can't sing her praises enough!

  Here is a little bit about Brooke:

Brooke is a freelance photographer currently based on the west coast of Canada. Holding a Bachelor of design from the Alberta College of Art and Design, she specializes in landscape, documentary, and lifestyle photography. Brooke loves capturing quiet moments and is fascinated by the connection between people and the spaces they inhabit. With a passion for people and a love of different cultures, climates, and creatives she’s always looking forward to the next adventure!

You can find Brooke on...

Her website
Her Facebook
Her Instagram (#1)
Her Instagram (#2)

  I really looked forward to interviewing her, and she gave some fantastic answers into life as a photographer and independent artist. Check it out below!

Q: When did you first start photography and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: I started taking photos as a hobby in junior high. My dad got a digital camera and it fascinated me. It didn’t take long before my parents got me my own little point and shoot so that Dad actually had a chance to use his own camera!

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was what you wanted to do?

A: I started considering photography as a possible career when I was in grade 11. That year my school introduced a photo course and I did quite well. We had a career counsellor come to the school one day and when she heard I was thinking about becoming a photographer she scoffed and told us that there was no possible way to have a successful career as a photographer. Right then the part of me that is thrilled by a challenge decided that I was going to prove her wrong. My career test said I should be a heavy equipment operator and I started looking at art schools.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to taking your shots? How do you usually begin a shoot?

A: It totally depends on what I’m shooting. For more styled shoots (fashion, product, food) I start with a mood board that helps solidify my idea and acts as a reference for stylists, makeup artists, models, etc.
For project based work (documentary, fine art) I journal. I start by reading scholarly articles on the subject and then research work done by other artists regarding the same or similar subject. I analyze which parts of their work I found successful and which less so. That’s normally as much as I do for documentary projects as you can’t plan much when you want to communicate the genuine atmosphere of a place. For more structured fine art work I add an extra step of developing a mood board. I keep all the articles, other people’s work and mood boards together in that project’s journal so that I can continue referencing it throughout the project. The journals also work well for those “what was that guy’s name again?” moments.
Other than that, while I shoot I’m mindful of how many horizontal vs. vertical images I’m getting, ensuring I have different compositions that will work well together, and maintaining a uniformity in the atmosphere of the photos so that I have good options for layouts and such.

Q: What kind of camera(s), lenses, editing software, etc, do you use? Tell us about your equipment and why you’ve chosen it.

A: I just upgraded to a Canon 5D Mkiii this year. I shoot mainly with a 50mm prime lens (that I got for $60 on kijiji, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to work!) as I feel it makes me consider my composition more carefully and the compression of the 50mm works well for both portraits and landscapes. I also shoot polaroids with my SX-70 whose name is Peter. The unpredictability of them is good for perfectionists like me. Plus, I am starting to shoot more 35mm colour film on an old Praktica MTL 5 that I mainly use with a Carl Zeiss (fancy) 50mm lens. I haven’t decided which film is my soulmate yet but currently the Fujicolour 400H is my front runner because both it’s warm and cool tones are beautiful and it’s a little more subtle than most films.
As for software, I live and breathe Adobe, as most photographers do. I edit in Photoshop and I use Bridge to organize my files and cull shoots. InDesign is a favorite for creating layouts with my photos and whatever other artsy bits I want to throw in.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as a photographer over the years?

A: I think it’s important in any creative field to:
Inform yourself by studying others’ work.
Create things you enjoy, don’t just make stuff you think other people will like.
Allow your previous work that you now despise to teach you.
Just make stuff, it doesn’t have to be perfect and not everyone will like it but you can’t let that stop you.

Q: I know you do a lot of portraiture as well as some weddings and landscapes. What is your favorite things to shoot and why?

A: Documentary/landscape is by far my favourite. Attempting to capture the essence of a place, people, or time is so intriguing for me. It’s a challenge but at the same time I find it almost meditative, very calming. You have to learn what’s at the heart of whatever you’re photographing and sort of photograph around it in order to describe it. That probably sounds very artsy, strange, and abstract but it’s an abstract thing that I’m trying to capture. You have to fill in the gaps around it until the space in the middle describes the thing. The ultimate beating around the bush! Except if the bush was invisible because then you’d have to beat around it to know if it was a hedge or a little shrub or a crazy topiary. Ok, that might be the worst example ever, but like I said, it’s an abstract idea!

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as an artist, especially an independent one?

A: I would LOVE IT if people regarded creativity as a “real” career. Just today someone told me “...but you don’t REALLY work five days a week.” They’re right, I work six, often seven days a week but it’s hard for people to understand that. I think this stems from the fact that the work of creative people is incredibly undervalued and people don’t understand how it contributes to society. As a Christian, I think creativity plays a vital role in society. In his book Every Good Endeavor Tim Keller describes creativity as us “...continuing God’s work of forming, filling, and subduing. Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and ‘unfold’ creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.” Acts 3:21 says that God will restore everything. The gospel isn’t only about redeeming our spiritual selves but all of creation, to the point where there is, as the Bible describes, a new heaven and a new earth. The restorative quality of creativity is a part of that redemptive process and is one way we emulate Christ and bring Him glory on earth.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I have a Bachelor of Design with a major in Photography from the Alberta College of Art and Design.

Q: How did you go about perfecting your artistic skills? Were you self-taught?

A: I am always perfecting my artistic skills because they’ll never be perfect! I went to university but I do hope, as cheesy as it sounds, to never stop learning. I am always studying the work of others, and trying to learn new techniques.

Q: You have lived in quite a few different locations in your life. Tell us about them. Which one have you enjoyed living in the most? Which did you find most inspiring? Which really feels like home to you?

A: Cornwall has my heart. I love the weather, pace of life, history, food, and landscape and it does hold sentimental value as well. I gained a lot of direction in my creative and spiritual lives while I was there and I’m still learning from my time there. I find each place I live informs my creativity in a different way and I love it! It might sound cliche, but I really find wherever I am at the moment feels like home. Making anywhere feel like home is quite fun for me and I think it’s important to feel at home in order to be able to fully experience a place.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young photographers? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: The best advice I’ve ever received was from one of my drawing professors in my first year of university. I hated drawing. I’m not especially talented when it come to proportions or perspective and that’s what the class was focused on. I kept getting very frustrated with my work not meeting my standards and my prof pulled me aside one day. When I told him what was agitating me he told me, “In order for your hand to develop, your eye has to develop.”
Being able to see flaws in our own work is an important step in progressing our skills. But, progress rather than perfection is the end goal. We can’t expect ourselves to be perfect, we don’t live in a perfect world!

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of photography?

A: I love the honesty of photography. That might seem like a contradiction in this golden age of photoshop but there isn’t another medium that allows you to capture things so exactly. Unfortunately, the world is so oversaturated with images that people don’t value photography very much.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your photography career?

A: I have quite a collection of artists that inspire me. Finding time to spend with other people’s work is a big part of my creative process. Someone whose career and work inspire me is Joe Greer. I actually initially encountered his work on Instagram (@ioegreer).

Q: Where do you see/want to see your photography career in five years?

A: It would be fun to earn a Master’s degree, do packaging design, design product, shoot large scale projects, there is just so much to do in the world! I am really open to whatever has come my way by then, I just hope to be in a place where I get to be creative in a way that helps others.

Q: Aside from photography, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: There’s quite a few so I’m just going to list them…
Illustration, watercolour painting, swing dancing (well most dancing), hiking, running, biking, horseback riding, tenor banjo, knitting, sewing, leatherwork, bookbinding, embroidery, learning Japanese and Spanish, flower pressing (yes that’s a hobby), calligraphy, general crafting, thrift store hunting, jewelry design, reading, gardening, baking.
That’s at least most of them.

Q: What is one (or a couple!) shot you consider your best work? Why? Would you mind sharing it/them?

A: This always changes, normally the photo I use as the landing page for my website is one of my current favourites. Currently I’m really enjoying the work I did in the Philippines. My landing page at the moment is a favourite from the Philippines, I like serenity of the photo and the intricate details that seem rather abstract from further away. I also love the colours and how limited the colour palette is.

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/travel/etc?

A: Despite being a free spirit at heart I have learned the value of a schedule. When I assist other creatives the hours tend to be a standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. I schedule time to workout, learn Japanese/Spanish/banjo, and do house work around that workweek structure. The work I do day to day changes and I do have to be flexible but that basic structure gives a bit of a routine. I work on my own projects in evenings and on Saturdays and I’ve found that breaking my work into smaller, more manageable pieces helps me work quickly without feeling overwhelmed.
Also, taking Sunday off is key in order to keep my work from feeling too much like a chore. Having a day without deadlines or to do lists helps me go into the week feeling refreshed and inspired. This is also when I enjoy a lot of my hobbies, flexing my creativity in a zero pressure environment. It’s kind of my creative palette cleanser.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: It would be great to see the creative community be less hostile towards Christians. I think creativity is a big part of Christianity and vice versa. The creative community prides itself on its inclusivity of different genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. I wish it showed the same attitude toward different spiritual beliefs since spirituality and creativity are inextricably connected.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: EVERYDAY. I am a perfectionist. Perfectionism isn’t just the cute answer you give when an interviewer asks you what your greatest fault is, it’s debilitating for a creative because it keeps you from making and sharing work. I have to remind myself all the time that perfection isn’t something I can achieve and rather I have to try to harness my perfectionist tendencies to improve my work. It’s actually given me a big appreciation for more raw and organic qualities in art.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for photography?

A: I’m inspired by many different artists, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, painters, etc. One of my favourite things to do is spend a day at an art gallery or library. Conveniently, in Vancouver, the art gallery and library are rather close together with a bubble tea place in between. Instagram is also a great resource if you make sure you’re getting more out of it than you’re putting in.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: The dream would be flying around the world spending weeks at a time with groups of different people, trying to capture the essence of their lives in photos. So, you know, nothing crazy! *sarcasm*

Q: How would you describe your photography style?

A: Quiet. Minimal. We are surrounded by heaps of ‘in your face’ imagery as everyone vies for attention spans that are getting shorter and shorter. Quiet images that allow us to pause in the maelstrom tend to hold our attention longer. At least that’s what I’m going for. In the end I think how others describe my work is more important as that indicates how effectively it’s communicating.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: That’s tough. Everywhere I’ve been and everyone I’ve met inevitably influences my career. If I had to pick one thing it would have to be living in Cornwall. It gave me a way broader understanding of the world and also taught me a lot about my own process.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Paperwork. I don’t enjoy how much time I have to spend sending invoices, chasing unpaid invoices, emailing prospective clients, sorting receipts, doing taxes, etc.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: When people “get it”. When they mention they saw your work and tell you that it made them think.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: I’m going to Mexico in November! I’m excited because I’ve never been there before and I get to go with two friends that have been part of my creative journey since the beginning! (Joanna being one of them) Other than that I feel like I’m in the calm before the storm right now. It is frustrating that I’m not working on the “end all, be all” project but I’m learning so much and really enjoying what I’m doing. I’m trying to practice patience, soak up as much knowledge as I can, and take this time to hone my skills.

  Thank you for your time and insight, Brooke! And thank YOU for reading. Please check out Brooke's website and her instagram accounts for some truly beautiful photography that will visually delight you.

  It's the first day of November today and that means NANOWRIMO! Who's started their projects? Are you ready for the month of crazy? How have you enjoyed these interviews? Let me know below!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Indie Artists Week #4 - Rachel Hardy (MUSICIAN)

  Today's feature is with a totally different kind of artist than I have yet covered - our first and only musician of Indie Artists Week - Rachel Hardy!

  I say that I know Rachel personally, to a certain degree. We have never met in person but our grandparents got together and chatted about us and we got each other's contact info and became a sort of penpals. Since Rachel and I have quite a few similar interests it was pretty easy for us to hit it off. I've truly enjoyed seeing Rachel's music career develop over the last few years, she has a beautiful voice and a real talent for music!

Here is a little bit about Rachel:

Rachel Hardy is a 19-year-old composer and songwriter. She has received a professional certificate from Berklee College of Music and is currently in her second year of University studying Music Composition. She hopes to one day write music for film and television.

You can find Rachel on...

 Her website
 Her Facebook Page
 Her Youtube Channel
 Her Patreon

Q: When did you first start singing/playing and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: I wrote a few piano pieces when I was 8 or 9 and my parents and friends really encouraged me to keep writing. I got my notation software in grade 10 and fell in love with writing for orchestras. I’ve always been obsessed with film scores and would say that a lot of my inspiration has come from composers such as John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Howard Shore, John Powell etc. I composed a lot all throughout high school, and really started considering studying it as my grade 12 year came to an end. After completing my certificate with Berklee, I just knew without a doubt that I made the right choice to pursue this as a career. It will for sure be challenging, but I’m doing what I’m passionate about.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was something you wanted to do?

A: My first assignment when I started my certificate program was scoring for a trailer. (It was the trailer for “Troy”, they had just stripped the original music out of it.) I had so much fun writing music to line up with the events on the screen; it was like solving a really exciting puzzle. I remember feeling so confident with the finished product, and showing it to my family. I think we all just kind of knew at that point that this was what I had to keep doing. I think that’s when my mind shifted from thinking of composing as a hobby to wanting to pursue it as a career.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to composing? How do you usually begin a project?

A: Composing for film takes a bit of planning ahead. I usually create a cue sheet, where I write the timecode of important on-screen events that would require a musical ‘hit’. (E.g. a change in the drama, or a notable climatic moment like a punch). I also have to watch the scene a number of times to decide what feeling or emotion I want to portray through the music. After establishing where the musical hits have to be and the feeling of the sound I want to capture, I start to structure the rest of the cue around those things. There is a lot of trial and error… it usually takes a handful of ideas that don’t work to find one that fits.

Q: What kind of tools do you use as a musician (computer programs, websites, specific instruments, reference books, etc)? How do you use them? Do you recommend any of them for other musicians?

A: I’m the kind of composer who likes to hear how something will sound. I am more hands-on than technical, so I tend to do a lot of midi-editing through what are called sample libraries. These are computer programs that trigger very realistic-sounding digital instruments, which I control through a keyboard. This way, I have everything I need -- strings, woodwinds, brass, soloists, percussion, etc -- at my fingertips. I use a number of sample libraries, but a few of my favourites are Spitfire Albion, True Strike, Symphobia Lumina, the Giant, LA Scoring Strings, and Action Strings. I could talk forever about the strengths and weaknesses in each of these programs, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.
I also have a book called “The Study of Orchestration” by Samuel Adler which is the bible of composition. I would recommend it to anyone interested in composing. It answers every question about what each instrument can and cannot do.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as an artist over the years?

A: When it comes to composing, for film or just in general, connections are so important. The more people you know in the music industry the better. If there are people out there who believe in you and your work, jobs are more likely come to you. I think confidence is also a big necessity. I know it can be difficult for artists to show others their work -- it requires vulnerability. But you have to be confident in what you have to offer in order for others to be confident.

Q: You do both covers of songs and write your own music. What got you into composition? Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

A: Singing covers is a hobby of mine. I find it fun and YouTube provides me with some money for me to invest back into my music. I don’t really prefer one over the other, but I am studying composition because there is more of an industry there and I think I would enjoy it more as a job.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about writing your own music vs. making covers?

A: Writing my own music requires so much creativity. It is really hard, exhausting work, but it really pays off to be able to hear something I made completely from scratch. Covers are a bit tricky. I enjoy recording them, because who doesn’t like singing… but all the mixing and editing and filming is very, very boring. I have hundreds of covers recorded, but only so many make it to YouTube because I just hate the editing process.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as a musical artist, especially an independent one?

A: One thing that I have really noticed, surprisingly, is the lack of confidence film directors and crews seem to have in female composers. I’ve always wondered why the number of working female composers is so incredibly low, and after reading study after study, it seems that people subconsciously assume that females cannot handle the stress of the tight timelines of film composition as well as males can. I think this is absolutely stupid.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I have completed my Professional Certificate in Composing for Film and Television at Berklee College of Music online. I am now pursuing a degree in music composition.

Q: Have you taken any music courses or classes in the past? Were you self-taught?

A: I grew up taking piano lessons, but was self-taught when I started composing. I spent hours listening to film soundtracks and tried to imitate similar sound combinations in my own music. In the past few years I’ve been a full-time music student and have learned so much more about the more technical aspects of composition.

Q: What are some things you did to develop your skills as a musician over the years?

A: I’ve really learned how to keep an open mind. I’ve had to study so many different kinds of music that I would never have otherwise listened to on my spare time, from Gregorian chant to music so abstract I didn’t even know what was going on. Even if they’re not all my cup of tea, each style of music has so much to offer. There’s always something to learn.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young musicians? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Just go for it. Work hard at the things you love to do. And really pursue your own style. Many composers -- myself included -- have felt like their music had to sound like other successful composers’ in order to be successful. This isn’t true. Your individual styles and ideas are what will make you really stand out. One of my professors told me it takes a thousand mistakes to come up with a really great idea. He taught me that making mistakes and coming up with no-good ideas are okay and that that’s how we really learn.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of music and music composition?

A: My favourite part is the reward of creating something from nothing. My least favourite part is the creative block. One time I didn’t write for months just because I wasn’t inspired. It was awful.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your musical career?

A: Beethoven. That might sound weird. But that guy kept writing music, even when he couldn’t hear it or enjoy it. My goal is to have that kind of drive to do what I love.

Q: Do you have a favorite musician/song that has really influenced your own work?

A: There are so many composers that have inspired me so much of the years, but I think one of the most inspiring has been Alexandre Desplat. I think my style of writing is most influenced by his style.

Q: Where do you see/want to see your artistic career in five years?

A: I’d love to be attending a film festival of some sort, seeing a film I got to compose for shown for the first time.

Q: Aside from music, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: Acting, archery, photography, blogging, watching movies, and making crafts.

Q: Do you have a particular piece you consider your best work? Why?

A: I don’t think I have a favourite. Each piece I write has something in it I’m proud of and usually something I’m not as proud of.

Q: I understand you have done/do modelling as well as music. What got you into that world and what do you enjoy about it? Is there anything about it that you find has benefitted you as a musician?

A: I got into modelling when I was in high school because I needed a job. It’s been such an interesting experience. It’s always changing, which I really like. I also love to work with other people. Modelling has done wonders for my confidence talking to new people; I used to be incredibly shy, and I’m definitely not anymore. I took a year off after high school to travel, model, and work on my certificate program online, and it was an incredibly inspiring and rewarding experience.

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?

A: It’s really hard. It’s difficult to balance music I don’t really enjoy (like theory homework) with music I do enjoy (like writing and listening). Sometimes all the different kinds of music activities I have to do blend together to the point where I’d just rather nap and forget about music for awhile. I usually function best when I schedule different tasks into different days.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: I guess I wish there were more opportunities for artists (especially locally) of all kinds to join together and collaborate in new ways.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: Absolutely, all the time. Going to school for music has been a really tough thing for me, because you’re surrounded by people who have similar goals and dreams, many of whom just know a lot more than I do. Sometimes I find myself feeling really behind. I don’t know as much about music theory or classical composers and pieces as many other music majors. The best I can do during these times of doubt is to just keep pushing through and trust in my strengths. But yes, there sure are days where dropping out of university sounds tempting.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for music?

A: A lot of my original pieces are fueled by what’s going on in my life at that time. Life is full of all sorts of experiences and feelings to find inspiration in. That’s the vulnerable part of composing… sometimes you’re in love and sometimes you’re heart-broken; sometimes you’re on top of the world and sometimes you’re just downright depressed. That all comes out in some way or another in my music, and although that vulnerability isn’t always comfortable, I believe it’s necessary in creating something really special.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: In a perfect world I’d want to be a composer for Disney or Dreamworks.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: I can’t think of one right now, but hopefully there will be a few someday soon.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Finding work and self-promotion/networking is quite hard for me. That’s something I’m still getting used to. Staying motivated is also really difficult, especially when doing projects for free to build a portfolio.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: Again, hearing that finished product is always worth the hard work.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: I hope to be working on a few small local film projects in the upcoming year. Right now I am focusing on school, but I can’t wait to get out there and do what I’m passionate about.

  Thanks for your participation, Rachel! I hope you guys enjoyed hearing about the ins and outs of being an independent musician! Are you going to check out Rachel's Youtube channel to hear her lovely voice? Please do, and let me know how you're enjoying Indie Artists Week in the comments below!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Indie Artists Week Feature #3 - Aimee Meester (WRITER)

  We're back again today with yet another totally awesome indie artist for you to learn about! On this fine Monday morning I am featuring fellow writer and blogger, Aimee Meester!

  Learn more about Aimee through her personal bio...

Introductions are lame and I'm not very good at them.

Which is a great way for me to introduce myself to you, isn't it? "Hi, nice to meet you, I really hate doing this." But I've always felt that it's impossibly difficult to sum yourself up in a few nice paragraphs on the internet in a way that interests people. You might have already clicked away from this page. I don't really blame you. I have some more interesting things in other corners of this blog. Unless you just clicked away from this blog entirely, in which case I still don't blame you, I just think you're missing out, because occasionally I have things to say.

Anyway. This is me. I write lots of words. I read lots of stories. I consume even more stories, because Netflix is a thing, which is unfortunate for the writing lots of words part of me. My favorite genre is "weird" or just flat-out sci-fi. I have Opinions about probably everything. I'm running out of things to say. I like cats. Also, chocolate.


You can find Aimee on...

  Her website.
  Her blog.
  Her Twitter.

Aimee is the writer and producer of the Bright Eyes podcast, which you can learn more about and listen to by following this link.

"For nearly fifty years, the Athena Institute has remained faithful in its mission to expand the boundaries of the known universe and better the human race. State-of-the-art programming and rigorous training combined with a unique application process result in a generation of humanity's finest pilots, military leaders, and researchers devoted to excellence. Graduates remain highly esteemed and highly successful. 
The final test of this education finds itself in THE BRIGHT EYES PROJECT. 
Painstakingly created to challenge our students, this year-long final project revolutionizes the concept of teaching through experience. Aspiring-graduates will live out a carefully-simulated version of the life they can expect among the stars, ranging from mock assignments to curated emergencies.* This high-pressure experience offers a chance to apply training and take risks within the confines of Institute-controlled space, before they step out into the real world beyond. Successful graduates find themselves confident, prepared, and eager to step out into a future career, serving both the public and the Institute in our quest for higher learning." 

  I highly recommend you check out and support this independent project! It's fantastic!

  Keep reading for my interview with Aimee below...

Q: When did you first start writing and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: It sounds cliche, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! I remember working away on never-finished novels at around age 10, and I know I did little stories before that. As for considering it as a career... I’ve always played with the idea of wanting to be an author when I grow up, but it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve realized I could actually realistically make it happen and that I have lots of options for that. It’s been a wild ride.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was what you wanted to do?

A: Wow, I’m not sure I could pinpoint it to one moment! But it was definitely significant for me when I started to receive feedback from some professional people on my work, and I realized that I maybe had what it took to make this thing work. That gave me a lot of confidence and the ability to visualize some professional next-steps I could take toward achieving what I wanted.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to writing? How do you usually begin a project?

A: My process mostly leans toward “get the darned thing on the page already” more than anything else, honestly. I almost always begin by sitting down with something I’m excited about and slapping a first draft onto the page. It’s never really good, but I have to get all the junky aspects of the idea out before I can start fleshing out the good ones, and I love  that first-draft rush of creation without worrying about editing yet. I’ll let myself get an unfiltered draft out there, and then I’ll come back to the beginning and usually re-write all of it with a more specific vision in mind this time.

Q: What kind of tools do you use as a writer (computer programs, notebooks, reference books, etc)? How do you use them? Do you recommend any of them for other writers?

A: Most of the time it’s just my computer and Google Docs! I’ve always felt that fancy writing programs or tools can be fun, up until they start to get in your way and distract more than they help. The only tool you need for writing is something to write on, whether that’s Google Docs, Word, Scrivener, whatever else you want to use. I do all of my planning and drafts and such on Docs, but for random scribblings I like to use notebooks. When I do novel planning or outlines, it’s almost always on white printer paper, not notebooks or lined paper or anything, oddly enough.

I’d recommend something to write on more than anything else. Specific, I know.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as a writer over the years?

A: FINISH THINGS. Sorry to use all caps, but it feels necessary here. So often I see writers my age or younger bouncing from one project to another, getting way ahead of themselves, posting early drafts online as they write them, and so on, and I sort of cringe internally a little bit. It’s hard to persevere and finish, especially if you’ve been at it for a while and the project isn’t fresh and thrilling anymore, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t learn how to sit down and pound something out until it’s done. You can’t work with or improve on a work if you don’t have it in the first place. Learn how to finish things, learn how to push aside distracting new ideas, learn how to focus on what you’re doing in the moment.

Also, don’t post early drafts of things online. Just… don’t, guys. Save yourselves the self-loathing later on. It’s easy to get sucked into needing validation to want to continue what you’re doing, but it’s not worth not putting your best work forward first.

Q: Though you have mainly written novels, you have recently taken to writing scripts, specifically for your podcast “Bright Eyes”. What got you interested in script-writing?

A: I love scripts! I’ve always been inspired by movies and TV a little more than novels (as much as I love reading books) and it’s something I’ve wanted to delve into for a while now. I’m fascinated in original ways of creating stories and formats different than just words on a page. Scripts come with their own challenges and perks, and require a different part of your brain, and I love that challenge. With podcasts specifically, I started listening to a lot of fiction ones and realized that this kind of audio format allows for a totally new kind of storytelling. I wanted to see what it would be like to bring a story to life using only audio.

Q: What are some of the challenges in writing scripts vs. writing novels?

A: It really does use a different part of your brain and creativity! You don’t want to bore your audience to tears by writing down ALL THE DESCRIPTIVE THINGS, and with something like a podcast, you’re not going to have visuals, so the challenge lies in giving people a coherent picture of what’s happening and where you are while still letting it sound natural. You’re also working with people who aren’t you, and writing dialogue that someone else is going to say out loud, so it’s important to know who you’re writing for and how they talk so you can adjust. Audio dialogue reads much differently than dialogue that’s meant to be read.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as an artist, especially an independent one?

A: It would be great if we could recognize the importance of paying people for the things they’re creating, you know? Creating anything — art, music, stories, podcasts — takes an incredible amount of time and effort, even if it seems like we’re just pumping it out effortlessly (I wish), but so often people expect us to be able to churn out content that we’ll provide for free. Art is for people to enjoy, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to hand it out for free. It’s a job like any other and a service like any other and as such, it has value. By all means freely admire the art we put out there for everyone to see, but if you want something specific from us, you’d better be prepared to compensate us for it.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I do not! And it’s not a popular thing to say, but I don’t intend to even go to college, so pursuing any sort of English/writing/etc degree isn’t something I think about. Lots of people have done that, and it works for them, but all artists are different and we all learn in different ways, so I don’t believe that a college class is what’s going to work for everyone. I’ll be pursuing writing all the things and learning that way, for the most part.

Q: Have you taken any writing courses or classes in the past? Were you self-taught?

A: I’ve attended courses and conferences in the past that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! For the most part, though, I’ve learned by consuming art and making art and consuming art and making art and getting art critiqued and learning from that and consuming art and so on and so forth, in that infinite cycle. (It sounds boring when I type it out, but oh well.)

Q: What are some things you did to develop your skills as a writer over the years?

A: I sort of said this earlier, but I’ve persisted! I’ve forced myself to slog through things I didn’t want to finish and come out stronger for it, even if that particular work didn’t go anywhere after that or turn out to be a masterpiece. I’ve been working at teaching myself self-discipline and the value of doing things even when you don’t want to, and that’s improved my writing incredibly.

I’m also big on the value of trying new things! That could be a different medium, a new format of storytelling, a different writing style, a genre you wouldn’t usually attack. Do something you’re not comfortable with doing and try to get fairly good at it. Practice. Push yourself.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young writers? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Consume ALL the art. There’s this Stephen King quote that essentially goes “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write” and I believe that’s true. Don’t just write, READ. Watch movies. Watch shows. Go to plays. Listen to music. Whatever field you’re in, consume a lot of it. Not just the good, but the mediocre and the really bad, too! Don’t spend all your time on Netflix and say you’re writing, but learn how to recognize stories and devices and tropes. Learn what works and what doesn’t, and why it does or doesn’t. The more I consume other content, the better I am at my own, I’ve discovered.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of writing?

A: My favorite and my least favorite are both everything about writing. Not gonna lie.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your writing career?

A: I don’t know that I can name a specific person, somehow. There are lots of authors and creators that I admire, and there isn’t a specific one who’s inspired me in a special way.

Q: Do you have a favorite book/books/author that has really influenced your own writing?

A: Again, I don’t think there’s just one or two things that I could point out… I’ve been a huge reader for as long as I can remember, and I think it’s that kind of habit that’s influenced me more than anything else. (That being said, the works of Neal Shusterman, Pierce Brown, and a lot of classic literature have inspired and influenced my writing style lately.)

Q: Where do you see/want to see your writing career in five years?

A: I would love to be working in some capacity in TV — I don’t know if that will happen in five years, since it’s a tricky business to get into, but that’s a career I’m working towards at the moment and I would like to see myself at least closer to that goal. Obviously I want to be a better writer, and someone who’s still persisting and writing lots of things even when it’s hard. I’d like to be better at discipline, too. That’s a struggle at the moment.

Q: Aside from writing, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: I do martial arts! I can’t say I’m the best at it but it’s something I enjoy quite a lot. As of late I’ve dabbled in boxing, too.

Q: Do you have a particular story you consider your best work? Why?

A: My Bright Eyes podcast is something I’m proud of story-wise, though I can’t take all the credit for that one. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever put together. Novel-wise, I have a steampunk mystery novel I’ve been working through for a few years now that I think is genuinely good at this point.

Q: Do you have an absolute favorite comic book villain? Why are they your favorite?

A: You really can’t get any better than Magneto, can you? He has so many fascinating moral layers and grey areas, and I’m always interested in characters that aren’t so much black and white villains as they are sometimes-antagonists-sometimes-almost-heroes. (His powers are also objectively the BEST MUTANT POWERS EVER, don’t @ me on this.)

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?

A: I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

Right now I’m juggling my senior year of high school and a part-time job along with all of this creative nonsense, so I’ve had to learn how to prioritize and use my time wisely. I don’t watch as much Netflix as I used to. (A bummer that no one wants to hear, but there you have it.) I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I give myself breaks so I don’t burn out. I break things up into manageable chunks instead of trying to fit ALLL the things into one day. Cramming and hustling constantly isn’t cool, it’s unhealthy, and it’ll burn you out a lot faster than giving yourself some grace to get things done at a slower pace.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: We like to have this attitude of intellectual superiority over others, like our art is important and world-changing and we have the responsibility to educate all these non-artist-people who don’t know what beautiful things really are. I think we need to step down from that and realize that we’re not going to save the world, and when it comes down to it, it’s a job, isn’t it? That job is to entertain. To write good stories. It’s NOT to preach and tell people what the right thing to think is.

You’re not important. You’re just someone with a talent.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: I mean, this is probably true for every single artist ever, isn’t it? (If you don’t worry about this, I’m a little worried for you.) For me, however, I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m not pretty enough - I don’t have that #aesthetic, y’all. I don’t have a nice desk space where I sit down and write. I don’t write poetry. My writing style is more blunt and to the point than it is lyrical. And that’s okay, even though most of the time, it doesn’t feel like it. But it’s hard to push through the idea that it’s all right to have my own style, and people are going to like it even if that doesn’t seem like that’s what popular now. I can’t force myself to do someone else’s thing just to get attention. It’ll come across as fake (and rightly so), which is the opposite of helpful.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for writing?

A: TV shows! I’m a huge reader, but I also love TV quite a lot, and I’ve seen a good amount of it in a wide variety of genres. It’s easier to find shows in the genres I enjoy for whatever reason, and something about getting visuals helps my brain work in a way that reading words doesn’t. If I need inspiration, I’ll find myself going to a show I love (Firefly, Star Trek, LOST, etc.) and binging for a little bit, to get my brain jump-started again.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: It’s been a goal of mine for a while now to be able to write/direct a movie. (Hopefully both at once but I’d take one or the other, too.) Filmmaking intrigues me in so many ways and it would be just the coolest to try my hand at it.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: Launching this podcast of mine! It’s the first thing I’ve done that has been really professional and promoted and put-out-there, and the first project I’ve pursued further than just writing it. I’ve collaborated, managed something, and turned it into a real thing I can be proud of, and that’s sort of made it click that I can do these things for real.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Not worrying about what other people think. We want validation — I want validation constantly — and we want people to love our stuff right here and right now, so it’s a challenge to step back and realize that you’re not in a rush and you should focus on your work. Not getting sucked up into that takes time and I still have yet to perfect it.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: Getting to create! I don’t know if there’s anything that feels better than the simple act of playing around with stories.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: Obviously the podcast is getting exciting results, and that’s the big thing right now. We have some *coughcough* exciting developments coming on that front…

  Thanks for being with us today, Aimee, and thank you all for checking out this third installment of indie artists week! Be here tomorrow for #4!

  How are you enjoying the series so far? Did you check out Aimee's podcast? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!