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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 Your Own Publishing Company

Behind the “Seens” with Kayleigh O’Keefe, Founder and CEO of Soul Excellence Publishing

Interested in learning how to take an initial step into the world of book publishing? Kayleigh O’Keefe has some answers. She generously shares her personal experience (and now career focus) in multi-author book publishing. Listen and learn how this approach might just be the next best step on your journey to becoming an author.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

How she started her publishing company
How a third-grade passion brought Kayleigh back to writing and publishing.
Working 14 years in corporate and start-ups helped her create her entrepreneurial approach.
Seeking a change and direction in her own life, she had the opportunity to become a published author without producing her own book.
It was a simple invitation for her to share her story which really opened her eyes.
She had the “a-ha” moment that “publishing was the path” for her to help people share their own stories with this new model of publishing of leadership and multi-author books.
Kayleigh knew she could hold the vision of her company and build the community, but she sought out the right team to support her in the actual book publishing tasks: editing, formatting, book design, etc.

How to be an author without your own book
An easy way to break into getting published is for people to participate in a multi-author book.
It’s less time, less commitment.
It gives you a taste of writing on a topic that is deeply touching and allows you to get your message out.
Once you have the confidence, you can see the path to your own book.
It also builds community.

How does the multi-author book process work?
Do the participating writers have to be perfect writers?
The most important thing in deciding who makes the cut into these books is their vulnerability or willingness to share.
Deciding if you are going to participate or be invited to participate is most often a “gut yes or no”
In addition to Kayleigh’s company, Soul Excellence, where are or how do you find these multi-author book opportunities? Look for communities and collectives that are aligned with your passions.

Kayleigh’s first book published was Leading Through The Pandemic: Unconventional Wisdom from Heartfelt Leaders
Wanted to find out how leaders had to change, move forward and grow?
Evolved out of Kayleigh’s passion for wanting to learn more on this subject.
Includes the message of 24 leaders from around the world and hit best-seller status on Amazon in several countries.
The time frame for the book was September to December 2020 and published January 2021.
With multi-author books you are able to capitalize on the momentum of the moment and get it done.

Kayleigh started recruiting for next book before she had even published the first one.

Next book up for is Significant Women: Leaders Reveal What Matters Most
It’s about how women define success on their own terms. How do these accomplished leaders make decisions, what guides their paths, and what’s most important to them.
It is coming out April 16, 2021

And now she is already building and recruiting for her next book, School’s Canceled: How Working Parents Fought For Their Children’s Education During the Pandemic. Education is a personal passion and she wants to hear and learn from parents who made it work over this past year.

How Kayleigh decides what her next book will be about? It’s two-fold: a response to what’s going on in the world and who she wants to meet and who she wants to learn from.

Favorite line:
Publishing isn’t the end game. It’s this beautiful way to create community and to collaborate on something tangible in the real world.

How to connect with Kayleigh?

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.