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Life Lessons Learned From A Folk Festival

Having recently spent several days in Newport at my beloved Newport Folk Festival (live music again – yay!), I’ve realized why I love it so much beyond the music. It’s about how it’s run which also dictates the amazing community (#folkfamily) that shows up faithfully year after year.

In thinking about things I’ve witnessed or experienced over my many years of dancing around the festival grounds of Fort Adams, I realize that much could be applied to the way we might want to live our lives, run our businesses or even just host our gatherings.

So here are 7 Powerful Lessons You Can Learn From A Folk Festival:

1. Don’t judge people by the way they look or act.

Say “Hi” instead of passing judgment. Your first impression might not always the best indicator of who or what a person is about. What if you simply said “Hello” or asked them a question about your common interests that brought you to this common place. My sister and I met terrific new folk friends that we are sure to stay connected to in the future simply by chatting on the ferry, at the check-in gate and while waiting for bands to take the stage.

2. Get out of your spot. You never know what might happen or who you might meet.

While staking your spot and throwing down the blanket and chairs at a festival is a typical first thing to do, don’t limit yourself to staying put in one spot, or you are certain to miss other shows, acts, people, food or scenes. Go with a sample mindset of giving everything a try if you can – it will greatly broaden your experience and your perspective.

3. Be an inspiring leader. It sets the tone for everything.

The executive producer of the Newport Folk Festival, Jay Sweet, is so meshed into the mission of continuing to the make the festival the best it can be, while carrying on 60 years of legacy, that it oozes out of every interaction he has with his team, the artists he curates, the attendees and with the public in general. He gets the best out of everyone – sometimes even more than anyone knew they could be.

4. Make sure you have a capable, fun team.

Even if you are a volunteer who has to tell people to move or clear a lane, or dump out a water bottle (if it’s not filled with water), it can be done in a fun, safe and community focused way that makes it engaging for all. Make sure your team, whether paid or volunteer, is having as much fun as the people they are supporting.

5. Over-communicate to manage expectations but still leave room for surprises.

From the first day of getting the news we had festival tickets, through the decision to cancel last year and reschedule this year, to showing up at the gate on the first day, every email, social media post and app alert from the festival organizers was clear about what was happening, what we could expect and what was expected of us, the attendees. And even though the line-up was typically announced last minute or “with surprises” that was OK because we had been told that would happen – and we even got excited guessing who might show up!

Photo by JJ and Michael Kingsbaker via Instagram.

6. Always leave room for collaboration and connection – you never know what magic might be made. 

Life shouldn’t be a solo act, it should be one of creation and connection and making things better. That’s what happens when artists from different bands, genres and locations get the opportunity to create music together and sit in on each other’s sets or even create their one-off bands (High Women, Middle Brother) or relationships. It pushes boundaries and limitations and opens up potential that often lasts well beyond a set on a stage. 

7. Fly your freak flag and/or dance like nobody’s watching.

A festival, especially this one, is one of people who are interested not only in the music but also the community. It’s a safe space, so go ahead and be you! Wear your festival outfit (or not), sing at the top of your lungs (even if it’s off key), and dance your heart away (even if your son calls it a bobble-head dance 😁 ). We only have one go around – and I can’t imagine you’ll regret it. 

And if you can’t tell by now, I love music festivals, particularly this one that I’ve been going to off and on since 1990 when I was scooping ice cream from the Ben & Jerry’s cart (see pic above) where I discovered this thing that is the Newport Folk Festival. If you’re curious about going to festivals or learning more about this one, let me know. Also, check out Season 2 of this wonderful podcast called “Festival Circuit” where you’ll hear about the festival as it unfolded in real time.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what life experiences or life lessons you are learning right now!

Head over to my calendar here and let’s schedule some time to chat!

The Ideal Working Relationship Between an Author and Editor

Behind the “Seens” with Brooke White 

While Brooke and I met waayyyy back in our magazine publishing days, she has since worked in nearly every capacity of the book publishing world. She now balances her book work between the roles of ghostwriter and book editor. In addition to being one of the most fun AND funny people I know, Brooke has really smart things to say about helping authors.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Brooke’s journey from magazine publishing led to book publishing work (Hello South Beach Diet!) then a stint with a literary agency and onto a hybrid book publisher, on the editorial side. Now she has her own firm supporting authors as a ghostwriter or editor. 

Authors need a ghostwriter when they have a really great idea for a book but they don’t feel comfortable writing it themselves or they don’t have the time. One of the most important things ghostwriters can do is get into an author’s head and articulate their thoughts and their messages and also being able to do it in the author’s voice so that their brilliance, knowledge and insight comes through. 

Typically, people know when they need ghostwriting help. But for the best success, they need to be prepared to be real, be vulnerable and be raw! Everyone has a story and a why. Brooke likes to help them figure out how to pull that story out – as well as how to present it. 

Often, when working with a ghostwriter, the initial book idea takes a turn and the original story will evolve from where it began. Also, the process typically takes a little longer than expected. And for a truly successful book and rewarding experience, authors should still expect to be involved and collaboratively.

Now what happens if a person has a manuscript and feels ready to go? 


No matter what. 

The role of a book editor is to elevate the author’s words of the book to be the best it can be.

A book editor is that crucial second pair of eyes that can go very deep and will help expose the weaknesses in the story, fix them and make the book so much better. 

When going the self-publishing route (versus traditional publishing when an editor is provided) an author needs to find the right editor. Otherwise, you are uploading a Word Document to be printed! Don’t do this! Also, we explore how a hybrid publisher works in the middle of traditional and self-publishing. 

What makes the best working relationship between authors and editors/ghostwriters

  • TRUST!
  • Respect for deadlines
  • Flexibility and patience for the process
  • Ability to think about the reader

Brooke thinks publishing a book and releasing it into the world is like birthing a baby!

If you are going the self or hybrid publishing path, it’s key to think about who you want on your team (yes, there are so many specialists!) to support you. In addition, to an editor, consider marketing support (yay marketing!) and also start doing your research about publishing partners as soon as you can!

Connect with Brooke by email, Linkedin, or check out her portfolio on her website

Interested in exploring where you are in your writer or author journey? Let’s chat! If you want to learn more about how to be seen, be found, be heard, please connect with me on the socials or let’s set up a call to chat.

Tips & Trends in Good Book Design

Behind the “Seens” with Book Designer George Stevens of G Sharp Design 

Even though George started with his design passion way back in high school and carried him through college, his journey to become a book designer was anything but straightforward. Being part of a publishing start-up out of college George got immediate exposure to client facing work. Nearly 12 years later he had grown into the “Creative Director” position with a staff larger than the entire company when he had started.

He started out on his own as a designer for branding, logos, posters and of course books. But his passion and attraction for book design led him to focus solely on becoming a book design shop, working primarily with self-publishing clients. 

George specifically does not call himself “creative director” now because he wanted to be back in the trenches, more involved creatively and less focused on the admin that had become too much a part of his job at the publishing company. He also has more nuggets of wisdom for designers who want to launch their own companies. 

How is book design different from general design?

What defines non-fiction book design is a balance of subjective and objective. 

Book design is not simply a cover or the pretty part of their book process. It is complex and holistic if done right. There are many pieces, steps and decisions to be made for the design of a book. 

The decision to hire a good book designer goes well beyond looking at a portfolio. 

A good book designer knows the practical application of how to do book design – and how to manage the book creation project. They become a project manager who understands how to work with their client and get the best book published.

What do authors need to know before working on their book design? Or here’s how George works: 

It’s helpful to have a thorough and robust process for creating the book design. 

It starts with an intake process of gathering information and goals for the book, and to learn about the author’s brand and audience. 

Ideally, the author, the designer and the market really LOVE the resulting project.

(And most clients “don’t want their book to look self-published”)

Then there are a few general concepts for review with the client. It’s an iterative process to get everything to the goals.

“Design is a process not a product.”

Book design “ is more than just a cover.”

What makes good book design is thinking about the book as a work of art beyond the cover – think layout, font, image presentation. Reflecting on the balance between subjective and objective, it has to be interesting and compelling – but it also has to work for UX – for the customer / reader experience. 

Also, don’t forget that there are big design differences between a printed book and an e-book. It’s a whole new layer of book design that requires thought, consideration and design. 

What makes great good book design? 

Book design is a speciality – and it is a process. It’s not a quick transaction. 

You need to expect to be involved in it. Being hands-on (in the right way) is key to successful book design. It’s a mindful collaboration. 

Great book design should be enduring. It’s going to look good for years. 

Non-fiction books are often a marketing asset that is part of your portfolio. They need to speak to the quality and caliber of who you are. Your book is a sum of who you are and what your expertise is – so it should reflect that. 

When so much goes into a manuscript, you should consider putting in the extra effort into the design. 

Remember that the cover is the doorway for people to enter into your book. Good formatting and design within your books will be the hallways that readers will travel. Good design is creating a great experience for the reader. 

Ideally, you should start working on your book design or with a book designer as early in the process as you can, but it is unique to each author and what his/ her book needs. As a baseline, however, when your title is defined is a great place to start!

How to connect with George on how to make self-publishing look better!

The best place to start is at his website.
Or connect with George in social media:

Interested in exploring where you are in your writer or author journey? Let’s chat! If you want to learn more about how to be seen, be found, be heard, please connect with me on the socials or let’s set up a call to chat.

Why You Need Brand Strategy

Behind the “Seens” with Michelle Garside, Brand Strategist at Soul Camp Creative

After going through the “brand breakthrough” process with Michelle earlier this year, I was so captivated with her approach that I really wanted her to share it with others. Listen to our conversation, where she explains the concept of branding – in an authentic way that makes sense – and is FUN!

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

After going through the “brand breakthrough” process with Michelle earlier this year, I was so captivated with her approach that I really wanted her to share it with others. Listen to our conversation, where she explains the concept of branding – in an authentic way that makes sense – and is FUN!

She started her first company in 2011 that has now evolved into Soul Camp Creative, her agency of 10+ professionals. 

Over the past 10 years she has helped fitness instructors, coaches, wellness professionals and authors with their brands – building confidence, growing clients and ultimately working for Gabby Bernstein and Teri Cole many other well-known influencers in the health and wellness space. 

Why do people need brand strategies too? 

Everyone needs a brand strategy to differentiate themselves, their messages and set the tone for lives they are building. Michelle helps them build the container to hold everything. If done well, people will get a feeling from your brand about who you are and how you operate in the world. 

Creating a brand where people understand you immediately and identify where you fit into others’ lives. Ideally, they are sold into your brand, not just your products. 

When do you know you need help with your brand?
1. Ready to go from 1:1 to one to many; building a bigger impact
2. Brand no longer fits the current or future situation – looking for a different container to hold the message.

Branding is the foundational component that does not change! It’s about: 

  • Who you are.
  • Who you’re for.
  • Why that matters. 

What is a brand breakthrough? 

A “brand breakthrough” is where you create the foundation of the brand – where you get the blueprint and footprint that can bring to life your marketing and your business.

It has evolved to a two-hour session – a magical process – where Michelle dives deep with you to figure out what your real true and authentic brand is. The deliverable is 6-7 page document that you can bring to life for your marketing. It will inform any designer, photographer, social media support or whoever is helping you with your marketing. 

This work isn’t about a pretty logo. Names, taglines, messaging and brand vernacular and vocabularies are Michelle’s personal jam!
Without a thoughtful and authentic brand strategy that includes this work, you are going to fall flat, and you’ll be inconsistent and often it won’t resonate with your ideal audience.

How to connect with Michelle?

Interested in exploring where you are in your writer or author journey? Let’s chat! If you want to learn more about how to be seen, be found, be heard, please connect with me on the socials or let’s set up a call to chat.

How to Create Space and Grace

I don’t remember when, where or how this phrase came into my lexicon but it’s been a very important one recently and I almost feel like it’s become a mantra, a calling, maybe even a guide.

I mean who doesn’t want more space and grace in their life – right?

Here’s what it means to me – or how I think about “space and grace”.

SPACE [time, distance]
on my calendar, in my office, for myself, with others

GRACE [OK-ness, forgiveness, no judgement, blessing]
for myself, for others, in alignment with higher powers

They feel like they need to go together – don’t they?

Are there steps or ways to allow for more space or grace in one’s life? I’m not exactly sure but this is what it’s been looking like for me:

1) Listening and honoring what I feel, in my heart. Hopefully this is more for heart and inner wisdom and less direction from fear-based ego – that hasn’t figured everything out yet – wanting things to be different but not knowing how, not sure how.
Because of all that we have been through with the pandemic (and not being able to plan), I feel like I could make it to the ½ way point of this year but had to be OK that I couldn’t figure out what the rest of this year might look like.

2) I made the personal as important as the professional. This has been a real shift over the past several years. Not allowing and permitting myself enough time, energy and focus with “personal” stuff in my life was making me crazy. It still feels a bit weird and my inner gremlins love to scold me for not being more focused on “work” but I’m learning that my heart will hurt – and I will feel totally out of whack and unaligned if I don’t make room for “space and grace” here.

3) Looking at my life calendar and taking a big view. No matter what was going to happen with CoVid, some things were going to happen this year.
On a personal level, our oldest would graduate from college, our youngest would be home for the summer from college, my husband would celebrate a big birthday – and I have some fun events that have been rescheduled this year. With work there were several projects I had committed to doing that needed finishing. And I have started to get an “inkling” of wanting to do things new and different as we emerged from CoVid… but I also knew that I needed to give this its own “space and grace”.
Acknowledging all of this – that these things need my attention, planning, emotion and true perseverance…(giving myself grace) I blocked out space on my calendar around them.
I’d like to say it was organized space where I blocked out increments of time on how exactly I would use it – but I didn’t – I haven’t achieved that level of time management zen yet. However, it did look like blocked out times on my calendar where other people couldn’t book time, when I wasn’t taking new work because I didn’t want to create overwhelm or feel unaligned with where I might be headed.
Blocking out time allowed me to work on what was in front of me, it allowed for buffer space. It also kept me from over-committing, while focused on getting a strategic task completed. When I didn’t know what I needed to do or when I simply needed TO BE – – – either by myself or with others — there was “space and grace” for that to happen.

4) Making space and grace to explore, ponder, wonder (my word of the year), think, read and listen. While I don’t know what the second half of this year or beyond will look like, I know that I can’t expect July 1st to get here and suddenly know or have an “a-ha” epiphany and it will all be clear. So I’m listening to inner wisdom (call it God, spirits, guides – I’m in for whoever has something that I need to hear). I’m wondering ALOT. I’m journaling and I’m reading. Coincidentally, I just finished The Listening Path which is an updated, shorter, actionable version of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way which has been really helpful with being open, aware, listening and exploring. I’m also (re)visiting type tests like StrengthsFinder, SparkType and Enneagram.

5) Breaking things down into steps, manageable action items and to-dos. This is soooo not my strength – but I’m getting better (grace!) Yes, I use a project management system. Yes, I have a planner and a digital calendar. Yes, I have an assistant (yay Lizzy!). But that still does not mean my days go 100% according to plan. (I’m happy if I’m making it to 75%). The biggest part is getting better at planning out the personal (vs work); like celebrations or even personal things like exercise, journaling, seeing friends, etc.

6) I’ve gotten support to stay focused and on track. I could easily throw in the proverbial towel and say that I can’t do anything right now (and on some days I can’t) – or I can spin my wheels on things that aren’t important just to feel like I am doing something. But by owning my intuitions of what I value and what I want to see happen – or at least make space to see what happens – I have a desire to move forward with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. With my assistant, an accountability group (thanks Lisa Corrado) and some amazing collaborative work partners (I am looking at you Sound Advice Strategies and the Hayvn community team), I feel supported to make things happen as well as accountable to see them through and best of all, I don’t have to figure everything out by myself.

7) I’m looking to others for help where I don’t feel support – and making space and grace for that help. Whether it’s committing to a trainer to get in better shape or finding the right business coach to help with the next phase of my work, I am excited to find someone who can help me see the things that I can’t see, understand the things I don’t know, ask the questions I’m not asking and know how to help me get to where I want to be and headed next when I can’t see they way there.

8) Space and grace allows me to connect with people I feel need to be in my life. Whether personal or work, there are certain people I’m drawn to and feel that they are meant to be in my life for some reason. I try not to analyze it but instead honor it more than a passing fancy and make a commitment to see what will come in making these connections happen.

Literally, just thinking about what “space and grace” feels like, looks like and can become has truly been a stabilizer so far this year and I look forward to seeing where it will lead.

So what about you? What are you making “space and grace” for right now? I’d love to hear what’s working (or maybe not working) for you right now as we embark on the other half of this year! Head over to my calendar here and let’s schedule some time to chat!