March 27, 2017

An Interview with Author Courtney C. Stevens


As a lot of you know, recently I managed the social media for a book festival. This opportunity came to me via a Bitch, natch. Erin Alvarado handed me the gift of this job back in September and I spent six months getting to know the forty authors who would be at the festival. But I got to know them as the festival, not as myself. So when I met them, I was like, 'Hi, I know everything about the last six months of your life and until this moment, you didn't know I existed'. Totally normal interaction, right?

Luckily for me, authors are nice people! And a few of them had already met me because I would show up at their events and take pictures for the festival's social media. One of these authors is today's bitch. I looooove Courtney! Watching her interact with the 2,000 (!!) kids at SE-YA Book Festival was inspiring. I expected Courtney to have passion for writing and for talking about writing, but I was blown away by her enthusiasm for the kids and her ability to connect with them. She has a unique gift and I can't wait to make her be my friend. Meet today's bitch, YA author and my future rock climbing instructor, Courtney C. Stevens!


What do you do and what are the name of your books?

I name tattoos. I own bandsaws. I climb rock walls. Oh, and I write books with fun relatable titles. Here they be: Faking Normal, The Lies About Truth, and Dress Codes for Small Towns.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Did you know Carolyn Keene isn’t a person? She was a bunch of people. What!?! The day I figured that out--say college or so--I thought, well, huh, real people write novels for money. I wanted to be real too, (like Pinocchio, but taller.) I figured out writing was my career when I realized I would write for free.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

I once heard editor Jordan Brown say, “You can do whatever you want. As long as it works.”


Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you write?

It’s not a crafty lesson, but I try to remember that I type sitting down, and I write standing up. If I write from the overflow of a life actually lived, rather than a life imagined, my imagination will have more life.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Study screenwriting.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

They caught it on film. It’s that scene early in The Hunger Games where I put my hand up so they won’t kill my sister. It was a small thing, but I had to do it. Honestly, I can’t think of anything that writing has cost me that I wouldn’t have voluntarily given.


What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of?

Oh, how to pick. The time machine I built in my basement or my new found ability to apparate? Hmmmm. I think I should go with having the opportunity to partner with the next generation of world changers through the written word. So, basically, what every author is doing, and I’m super glad I get to do it too.

Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

I appreciate brushing my teeth a great deal. And after that, I’m one of those writers who wears jeans instead of pajama pants. So, before I write, I dress in real clothes, have a Diet Coke, and turn on my playlist.

How do you decompress at night?

I snack in the shower, read, and watch part of a TV show on my iPad.


What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

If I’m stuck, I usually exercise. Physical movement turns my gerbil brain wheel. My current favorite quote is from Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
What does self care look like in your life?

Time and guilt are the enemies of self-care. So, self-care is first about understanding my yeses and nos. Before I tell someone I will do something, I ask myself: Does saying yes right now get me where I want to be? If the answer is yes, then I commit. If the answer is no, I politely decline. If I keep that boundary in place, I do a much better job of protecting my physical and emotional time.

To battle guilt, I have two grounding mantras. One, shared by my friend Ruta Sepetys, “Who do you love and who loves you?” She encouraged me to ask myself that question as a way to minimize work guilt. We are human beings not human doings, and making myself consciously say “Who” rather than “What” keeps my soul in better condition.

The second mantra comes from my faith life, because I find that it’s easy to get caught up in sales and external measurements. When my brain starts to tick that way I’ll say, “Hey, Stevens, God will never ask you how many books you sold. But... He’ll probably ask you who you loved. Are you loving people?” That helps me keep the main thing the main thing. Beyond that, I exercise four or five times a week. I wrote a thing about time management and artists, and you can find it here if you are interested in my jabbering ideas.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

Absolutely. I believe everywhere you see a successful woman, you can pretty much bet on the fact that she is standing on the shoulders of other women. I wrote about it in this post: The Chasm of Can’t and The Women Who Could. If I start naming names, I might never stop.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I’m currently watching The Good Wife as my iPad show. With my roommates, I’m following two shows this season: Supergirl and Big Little Lies.

In the snack department, I love a good Cheez-It, (but I don’t recommend them for the shower.)

All photos courtesy of Courtney C. Stevens

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Parnassus Events and Marketing Director, Niki Coffman!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

March 14, 2017

The Story of Linda, Part One


Today is my dog's birthday. Our guess is she's 13 years old, but who knows. I've been working on a short story about my dog, and I hadn't planned on sharing it, but it's her birthday and a special girl deserves a special birthday. This story is unedited and unfinished. Maybe I'll keep writing it and keep sharing it. Enjoy.

***


Linda is my dog. Full name: Linda McCartney [Baldwin]. She hails from Pegram in Cheatham County. When John and I got married and bought a house, I immediately started looking for a dog. I grew up with dogs and had been waiting until I lived somewhere where I could have a dog again. This was in 2009, and the website Petfinder was one of the best ways to find a dog. I spent my days scrolling Petfinder, looking at “corgi mixes”. I wanted either a corgi or a cattle dog. Turns out, I got both of those things, all in one glorious, ridiculous dog.

When I found Linda’s picture on Petfinder, I knew she was the one. She was a black and white corgi Australian shepherd mix with a cloud eye and floppy ears. Her Petfinder name was Sophie. Sophie was five years old, house-trained, current on all of her shots, and being adopted out by a rescue group called Cheatham County Paws.

I inquired about Sophie and was told she would be at an adoption fair that coming weekend. I asked if I could see her before then. I assumed she lived on a big farm where this rescue group kept all of their animals. Wrong. Sophie was at Cheatham County Animal Control. When I learned that, I got in my car and drove out there.

I don’t know what the animal control facilities are like where you live, but where I live, they’re notoriously pretty terrible, and this one was no exception. It’s basically like visiting a dog in jail. The woman in charge was sitting behind a glass partition eating takeout from McDonald’s and was visibly aggravated that I was there. The place smelled like nothing I’ve ever smelled before, like dog shit and despair. I told her I knew which dog I was looking for and, without getting up from her lunch, she told me I was welcome to go back to where the dogs were kept and look for Sophie.

Again, none of this is what I expected. I thought Sophie was running around on a farm eating homemade dog treats from a commune of women who drive around looking for stray dogs. When I opened the large steel door that led into the kennel, the stench almost knocked me out. I had to cover my mouth. My eyes were watering. The cages went floor to ceiling and were filled with pit bull mixes, all except one. Sophie was the only dog in her own cage, and the only dog who knew to shit in one corner and sleep in another. I had found my dog.

A teenage boy appeared out of nowhere and asked if I’d like to take her outside while he cleaned her cage. He put a rope around her neck and handed me the end and I walked out the way I came in and took Sophie outside to the piece of grass between the parking lot and the Cheatham County Animal Control sign. She was wet and trembling and looked at me with eyes that said, “Lady, I’m going to die in here if you don’t take me home with you.” Message received. I took some pictures of her to send to my husband and drove back to my office. A few days later, my husband and I drove back out there and adopted her. She cost $150. I imagine that buys a lot of combo meals at McDonald’s.

The rescue group was in the process of getting Sophie spayed. The appointment was made and paid for, we just had to take her. We brought our new dog home, named her Linda McCartney and she spent one night with us before we were to take her to her vet to get spayed. The vet’s office was great, they knew Sophie/Linda because they had already given her all of her shots and they worked with the Cheatham County Paws rescue group. They told me the regular vet was on vacation and a visiting vet from Knoxville would be doing Linda’s surgery. They would call me that afternoon to tell me how she did. So I went to work. At this time, I worked in the state legislature, and they were in session, so when I got the call from the vet that afternoon, I was sitting behind my boss, a state senator, on the floor of the senate in the state capitol building. It was in that seat, behind my boss, who’s mic was on, when I said into my phone, “You gave her an abortion?!”

I learned a lot about animal reproductivity that day. For instance, did you know that if a dog is pregnant and gets a rabies vaccination, that pregnancy is no longer viable? The vaccine deforms the in-utero puppies. I know. When the vet called me that day, she said, in this order, “The surgery went fine. Linda is in recovery. She was pregnant.” She also told me that Linda appeared to have been impregnated by a pit bull, and that they guessed that this would have been her fifth litter of puppies. Linda’s been around the block!

Hilarious side story. I have young nieces and when they met Linda, they were fascinated with her rows of nipples and asked me if Linda was a mom. Shit. They always ask me questions that I don’t know how to answer. So I told them that yes, Linda was a mom, which of course led to a line of questioning about where her babies are, does she miss them, is she sad, etc. They kept lovingly stroking her head and cooing, “Oh, momma Linda, don’t be sad.” It was very sweet, and very funny.

I learned from the rescue group that Linda had been at animal control for months. She was a stray that the dog catcher caught and brought in. Because she looks primarily like a corgi, they assumed she was missing and made flyers for her and took her to all of the adoption fairs, but no one ever called about her or claimed her. Someone had owned her because she was house-trained. A few years later I was talking to a County Mayor, who was also a farmer, and he told me that his county’s animal control office gets dogs who are riding in the backs of trucks that are driving through town - the dog jumps out at a red light, the owner doesn’t realize it, the dog ends up in animal control, and the owner has no idea which town he left his dog in. I showed him a picture of Linda and he said, “Oh, she was a farm dog.”

This story of Linda being a truck-jumping farm dog is hard to believe because of her short stature, but it’s better than the alternative. That she was a stray dog in Cheatham County, living on the streets, eating trash, drinking rain water, and raising five litters of puppies. She’s house-trained. She had to have lived with someone. I’ll never know.

One year passes. We love Linda and her presence in our house, even though all she does is sleep. We don’t think anything about it, she’s a five year old dog, she’s not an energetic puppy. We tell ourselves she loves us even though she she’d rather stare at us from across the room than sit next to us and let us pet her. Herding dogs, am I right?

It’s time to take Linda back to the vet for her one year checkup. Instead of taking her back to the vet who performed her surgery, I took her to a “value” vet that all of my friends convinced me was a perfectly legitimate place to take my dog. A well woman appointment for a dog includes taking her weight, administering her state-mandated rabies vaccination, and checking for heartworms.

No dog likes the vet, and Linda was having a strong reaction to being in this facility. She was shaking, whimpering and had her tail between her legs. They also took her away from me and performed all of these procedures while I sat out front in the waiting room. A technician brings Linda back out to me and tells me she has heartworms. They want to run the test one more time to make sure, so I wait. While I’m waiting, both the tech and the front desk clerk tell me how “very, very sorry” they are. They keep petting Linda and asking me how old she is, which is followed again with how “very, very sorry” they are. It finally clicks and I realize they’re sad because they know I’m going to have to have Linda put down. The vet comes out and confirms this - that Linda has heartworms, that it’s advanced and at her age, there’s not anything else they can do. Then they try to ask me if I want to go ahead and schedule the appointment to have her put down. Not on my watch, lady. All of the maternal genes I’ve spent my whole life ignoring kick in, I pick Linda up and run to my car, tears streaming down my face. I call my husband, sobbing, “They’re trying to kill Linda!” I don’t even remember where he was working during this time, but wherever it was, he left and was at our house by the time I got there with Linda. He had a friend who’s family had a veterinary clinic in Georgia who, astoundingly, was known for saving the lives of dogs with heartworms. We called and they could take her, so we got in the car and drove five hours to Georgia.


To be continued....

March 13, 2017

An Interview with Parnassus Events and Marketing Director Niki Coffman


It's no secret that I'm an avid reader. There are many a Instagram Story of me going to and fro the library. But what you may not know is that I go to a lot of author events. It was at these events that I became aware of today's bitch. Niki has been there as long as I can remember, complimenting my outfit and taking (amazing) pictures of me with the authors. One day I walked into Parnassus and she was there with Mary Todd Lincoln, who was wearing a party hat, because it was her birthday. Of course. While gushing over Mary Todd, I thanked Niki for A) being good at her job, and B) being patient, kind and a good iPhone photographer.

Since then, I've been chatting with Niki every time I run into her, which is often. If you've never been to a Parnassus author event, please go and meet these incredible authors they are bringing to Nashville, but also go to watch Niki take a huge crowd of excited, eager fans and organize them into a line that moves fast despite the fact that she's taking approximately 17 pictures of you with the author. I'm not kidding, I have 17 pictures with Andy Cohen. I have so enjoyed getting to know Niki and I think you will too. Meet today's bitch, Niki Coffman!


What is your job title and where do you work?

I’m the Director of Events and Marketing at Parnassus Books.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do? 

I was an English major who didn’t want to be a teacher and didn’t want to live in my tiny town and work at a bank my whole life. I ended up at the Columbia Publishing Course, which is a 6 week intensive course about book and magazine publishing offered through Columbia University’s Journalism School. And after 4 years at a literary agency in NYC, I moved down to Nashville. Once Parnassus was announced, it seemed like a natural use of the skills and relationships I’d built during my time in publishing.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Don’t be upset about starting at the bottom - use that time to make yourself invaluable to the organization.


Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

Probably that forming positive personal relationships with anyone with whom you work begets positive professional relationships. So much of what I do relies on my ability to get along with just about anyone.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Is it so lame to say SLEEP? I’m constantly staying up too late, and if I had a spare two hours, I’d probably use it for a nap.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

My greatest success is in seeing how happy Nashvillians are to meet the authors I help bring to Nashville. It’s a really meaningful thing to be able to introduce people to the writer they most admire, especially when you consider how books can change lives.


How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

I like to read or browse the internet while some kind of sporting event plays on the TV in the background and my pups cuddle around me.

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night? 

Honestly? Fears of inadequacy. In all areas of my life. I know it’s irrational, but I’m always worried I’m not doing enough, not being enough at work, at home, or with my friends. My heart drops into my stomach just thinking about it.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

That I’ve read the books of all of the authors that come to Parnassus. We do over 250 author events a year -- there’s no way I could read all of them!


What does self care look like in your life?

It’s so important to my mental health to make time to see my friends. And to travel. Travel keeps me curious about the world.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you? 

I like to talk through my problems with trusted friends or coworkers. Usually, if I’m stuck, it’s just because I’m not looking at a situation from all angles. Getting someone else’s perspective almost always unsticks me.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

Oh, without a doubt. I think every success I’ve ever had has been because of another woman paving the way. Specifically, Ann Patchett is the most obvious way-paver for me - she’s been an amazing mentor, not to mention a dear friend. But I’m really, really lucky to work at a woman-owned business, in a woman-dominated industry, with truly amazing female coworkers.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I don’t watch a ton of current TV, but when I want to watch a show, I’m inevitably constantly drawn to The West Wing. I think it’s the smartest show ever written. Give me the Bartlett Administration and a cheese plate, and I’m the happiest person on earth.

All photos courtesy of Niki Coffman

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Jewelry Designer, Jenny Luckett!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

March 6, 2017

An Interview with Jewelry Designer Jenny Luckett


Welcome to the third installment of These My Nominated Bitches! Today's bitch was nominated by OG Bitch, Shannon Miller. Shannon, take it away!

***

I met Jenny a long time ago, back when I used hair serum and thought that cellulite was a plant-based sweetener. One night, my then-boyfriend-now-long-suffering-husband-and-baby-daddy Buckley, wanted me to meet his “old college friend” at Robert’s. When we walked in, I was expecting a dude in a half-zip and hemp bracelets to come at us with fist bumps and a lot of cologne but instead, it was Jenny, who looks like an actual mermaid disguised as an Anthropologie model. One of the first thoughts I had upon meeting her was, “Wow, I bet that girl never throws up when she drinks.” And to the best of my knowledge, 10 years of friendship deep, she doesn’t.

Jenny is quite simply an astounding human being, perpetually warm, cerebral, effortlessly artistic, SERIOUSLY great hair. Her and her husband, Mike, are some of our dearest friends and watching our kiddos grow up side-by-side has been one my greatest joys. As far as I can tell, her biggest flaw is her borderline reckless generosity (Get it together, Jenny!). Before you start liking her too much, I should mention that she’s a wildly talented jewelry designer. After she had her son she decided she was going to start her own line of baby safe, mama minded accessories (because who doesn’t want to build a business from the ground up on three hours of sleep?). So deep in the throes of early motherhood she went ahead and did it. She developed a collection of modern, arrestingly beautiful teething jewelry called January Moon that quite rightly people are going a little bit nuts over. For the record, the only thing I’ve developed since having kids is a nervous eye twitch.

Readers, meet Jenny Luckett, you’re going to love her (and secretly hate her just the teeniest bit).


What do you do and what is the name of your business?

I am a jewelry designer and the name of my business is January Moon. I have been working in the jewelry field for the past 8 years as a designer for local jewelry artist, Judith Bright. After having my son 3 years ago, I created the concept for January Moon, which is to make high quality teething jewelry that stood on it’s own as modern jewelry. I make ultra safe, functional and durable jewelry that is intended for teething babies to gnaw on but also appeals to a modern mother.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I have always, always wanted to work in the arts! I got a degree in Art and Design from Pepperdine University in 2004. Then I moved to Nashville and looked for ways to bolster my art education, and my drinking tolerance. I found Watkins and took some of the upper level thesis classes and also immersed myself in the Nashville arts community. All the while, I was taking every art job I could find or create. I’ve painted murals, face painted, worked in the downtown galleries, was a seamstress at a puppet factory, and then finally found Judith Bright. It was the perfect fit! Even though my jewelry background was limited to stringing seed beads as a kid, I had the right meticulous mindset to really thrive at the detail oriented craft. I excelled quickly in the company and became a lead designer. Judith would bring me a sketch and I could figure out how to make it a wearable and functional object. I loved it!


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

I was in the 2016 Periscope class and one of the best parts of the entrepreneur accelerator course was to be paired up with a mentor. My mentor, Katrina Welty, has given me incredible advice. One of the most important pieces of advice she gave me was to confront the truly scary stuff. I would go to meetings with her loaded with these big questions, like how do I safety test the materials, what if my materials don’t arrive in time for a sales event, how do I give a 30 minute presentation without barfing and she would always walk me through the possible outcomes. Even if the outcome wasn’t favorable, it was better to prepare for all the possibilities and then have a contingency plan or an educated way to communicate the setback.

She also helped me understand the growth process of a business. I spent 2 years developing the product! I had to find a bead manufacturer and create custom mold shapes, design safety hardware with mechanical engineers and then manufacture the custom hardware, create custom tools to assemble the jewelry, put the materials through safety testing, create the visual brand, form an LLC, apply for a patent and on and on. So when I finally launched in December, I naively and hopefully thought that I had already done the hard work. What she reminded me was that I needed to spend at least half the time spent developing the product on developing and implementing a marketing plan! So that meant I needed to focus and build my marketing plan for at least a year before I would start seeing real results.


Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

Ah geez, since I’ve launched in December I swear the only way I’m learning is through mistakes and hard lessons. Those mistakes are definitely memorable and I won’t repeat them again! I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to check, double check and triple check everything. There are so many new platforms and mediums that I have to learn to cover all the aspects of the business that sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in new information and passwords. Squarespace, Mailchimp, Quickbooks, Google Adwords, social media sharing, directing photoshoots and preparing print ready files... I’ve sent the wrong marketing email template to my mailing list. I didn’t have a discount code ready for a promotion and lost multiple sales from people frustrated with the mistake. I sent the wrong file to the printers and had the same image printed on a double sided insert. All of this could have been avoided by slowing down and purposefully checking before approving.

Another lesson I’m learning is to listen to my voice and express it. The first photoshoot that I did was so overwhelming that I relied on the professionals to read my mind. They would ask questions of me and I felt kind of paralyzed because I actually didn’t know. I was scared to tell Perky Bros, the amazing branding agency that I worked with, when I didn’t like something. I would say something was great, then I would have to come back a couple of days later and say that I actually wanted to make some changes. I was a frustrating person to work with. I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t totally happy, but I was too insecure to express my concern. So I am learning the important lesson of truly thinking through what I want and then having the guts to communicate it honestly. And also to say, “Can I have some time to think about it?”


What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

This isn’t a very balanced answer but I would probably keep working. Or cleaning and organizing. I am not good at relaxing and I’m definitely the person on a beach vacation that is looking to do anything other than sit on the beach. Being a working mom adds extra special challenges to the work day. My incredible, busy, into everything 3 year old son is in daycare 4 days a week but those hours go fast! As soon as I get in a flow, it’s time to pick him up and completely change my mindset. He doesn’t care that I’m in the middle of a mechanical engineering meeting, he just wants to play at the park. Oh the things I could accomplish with two more childfree hours.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

This is a double whammy, social life and sleep. Since I am a mom first and Shep is my number one priority, I have to be prepared to drop everything if he’s sick and always finish my work day at 2pm. What that means is that I get a majority of my work done at night! I work 6 nights a week and only allow myself 1 night off. That does not leave space for fun social events! And it keeps me up late! And guess who’s running into our bed at 6am every morning? There is no time in between for sleep.


What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

I am so proud of being a vendor at the Holiday Market at Porter Flea last December. When I first attended Porter Flea 4 years ago I promised myself that I would one day be a vendor. At the time, I didn’t have a son, a company or any idea what I would do to participate, but I knew that I wanted to be part of the creative entrepreneur community. I wanted my own creative endeavor. After having Shep, it took 2 years of product development to finally produce the final necklace. I applied for Porter Flea and got in, but I still did not have all the components needed to assemble a necklace. The components arrived 2 weeks before the show and I spent the next 2 weeks making as many necklaces as possible, finishing the website and launching the business. All while moving!!! It was the most intense time period of my life and I’m so proud that I survived Porter Flea. I’m an introvert and I was nervous about all the face to face interaction, but the experience was so positive that I could have kept talking for days.

Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

That’s a good idea. But no. My son runs into our bed at 6am and we put on his favorite TV show, Paw Patrol, so that we can get a little more sleep. So my morning ritual is bad sleep with even worse jingles playing in my head. Then it’s a race to get him to school on time and then I can start my work day.


How do you decompress at night?

After we get my son to bed, we crash in front of the TV and eat our dinner in blissful brain dead silence. Then as soon as dinner is done, the kitchen is cleaned and Shep’s lunch is packed for the next day, I get out my computer and squeeze in 4 more hours of work. Is that considered decompression?

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

When I am stuck I go on a walk. Sometimes by myself, but mostly with the whole family and dog. All of my best ideas and inspiration come when I’m in motion and in nature. Mike and I talk through ideas and I think the rhythm of walking and deep breathing, allow new thoughts to surface.


Also, we make it a priority to take little trips. If we have a free weekend, then we are looking to do something that will inspire us. The memories made in those 2 days are forever and leave a deep impact. I can tell you all about the overnight trip we took to Sewanee but when we stay home, those memories all run together. We love camping, state parks, small towns and antique malls. Stepping away, turning off my phone and spending time with my family is the best way for me to catch my breath, get clear and open myself up to ideas.

What does self care look like in your life?

Not super. Self care goes through phases in my life. Sometimes I eat well, cook all my veggies from the farmers market, exercise, go to acupuncture, counseling and get adequate sleep. But to me, that is very hard. Especially right now. I’m 6 months pregnant and all my good intentions raced out the door as soon as the pregnancy nausea, food aversions and sciatic nerve pain kicked in. At this point, self care has to be self acceptance.


Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

An incredible and unexpected outcome of starting January Moon is getting to be exposed to, meet and work with incredible women entrepreneurs. Here’s the list of the phenomenal, hard working, talented, bend over backwards supportive team I’ve been surrounded by:  Cara Jackson, business strategist; Lindsey Laseater, designer at Perky Bros branding agency; Fairlight Hubbard; Ashtin Paige and Amy Hobbs, photographers; Shannon Miller, copywriter; Annette Medcalf, CFO; Kate Brown, founder of Morton & Mabel; Van Hoang, clothing designer; Andrea Barrett, musician; and Ashley Earnhart, marketing consultant.

All photos courtesy of Jenny Luckett

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Shop Owner, Jessica Maloan!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

March 3, 2017

Friday Links


READING THIS WEEK..

It should surprise none of you that I had a therapy appointment recently about this exact same topic. There's probably a blog post coming.

If like me, you've been aggravated by the praise lavished on the producers of La La Land for their 'heroic' handling of the Oscars screwup, this will help.

The framing of this is irritating, but I appreciate GQ's attempt to rally male support for Planned Parenthood.

You can have my undying love for Oprah when you pry it from my COLD, DEAD HANDS.

I've been waiting on this movie to come out since the trailer was released a million years ago. Hopefully I'll have time to see it this weekend.

WATCHING AND LISTENING...

On a random weekday in late February, RuPaul's Drag Race disappeared from Hulu. I thought it was a glitch in my Roku, turns out it's because the show is moving to VH1. Ugh. Can I stream VH1?

I cannot stop thinking about Sunday's "American Bitch" episode of Girls, so imagine my glee at reading this New Yorker piece by Emily Nussbaum, *prayer hands emoji.

Do you guys know Katie Couric has a podcast? It's pretty good. In general, I'm loving Pod Save America and Put Your Hands Together. I've been listening to PYHT while I walk the greenway. The people behind me probably think I'm nuts because I'm walking alone, laughing and snorting. The February 16 episode with Maggie Maye - fire. Legit lulz. She's one of my favorite comedians.

I ENDORSE...

Seances. Yes, seances.

Drunk girls in bar bathrooms.

The men of Moonlight.

lulz...


WHAT WE'RE FIGHTING FOR...

Trans Teens on What 'Bathroom Anxiety' Really Feels Like
Caitlin Moscatello, The Cut

Four Transgender Murders in a Week "Alarming Trend"
Bill Morlin, Southern Poverty Law Center

INSPIRATION...


via Twenty Four Hour Woman

EVENTS...

Katya at Play Nashville
Fri, March 3, 9pm
Play, 1519 Church St

Music City Burlesque presents "Little Show of Horrors"
Fri, March 3, 9pm
The Crying Wolf

Nashville's First Saturday Art Crawl
Sat, March 4, 4pm
5th Avenue of the Arts (Downtown Nashville)

Feminist Trivia Night + Tarot Readings
Sat, March 4, 4:30pm
The Lipstick Lounge

Wedgwood/Houston Art Crawl
Sat, March 4, 6pm
Nashville - Hagan Street

Don't Lose Touch: 10 Years of Nashville DIY Photography
Sat, March 4, 6pm
Fort Houston

Merrilee Challiss Opening Reception
Sat, March 4, 6pm
Julia Martin Gallery

Body by Cheese, Whiskey by Corsair
Sat, March 4, 9pm
Corsair Whiskey Distillery

We Are Watching Rally at the Capitol - #MoralMondays
Mon, March 6, 3:30pm
Tennessee State Capitol

Local Options to Stop Deportations - Nashville Community Forum
Mon, March 6, 6:30pm
Vine Street Christian Church, 4101 Harding Pk

Conversation on Anti-Racist Feminism
Tues, March 7, 7pm
1327 5th Ave N

Planned Parenthood Takes the Hill
Wednesday, March 8, 9:30am
Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St

SE-YA Book Festival (free)
Sat, March 11, 9am
MTSU, Student Union Bldg

February 27, 2017

An Interview with Shop Owner Jessica Maloan


I have admired today's bitch from afar for probably six or seven years. I have a sister from another mister who has been active in the Nashville craft scene since that infamous first Porter Flea in a parking lot in East Nashville in 2011. Since then, I have known of and been around Jessica, always with a feeling of really liking her and really wanting to be her friend.

Jessica is just about the nicest person you can meet. She's a uniter and plays an important role in the community of makers and artists that makes Nashville Nashville. Her store is probably my favorite store in Nashville. Every time I like something on Instagram, Jessica's like, 'I have that in my store!'. So if you and I have the same taste in pins, patches and feminist-based crafts, and you haven't been to Gift Horse yet, what are you even doing with your life? Meet today's bitch, Jessica Maloan!


What do you do and what is the name of your business?

I own and run Gift Horse, a retail shop in East Nashville that specializes in paper goods and handmade gifts. When time allows, I make screen printed paper goods called Pine Street Makery.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I guess I’ve been kinda building up to this for awhile. After college I traveled around to craft shows selling my printed goods and kept wondering why we didn’t have a modern craft show in Nashville. We’ve always had great markets for traditional crafts, but we were missing out on a regular market to showcase the talented printmakers and designers in our community.

In 2010 I started trying to plan an event here in town. I met Katie Vance, a fellow crafter and event organizer, and together we founded Porter Flea in 2011. Since that first market in the Porter Road parking lot, I’ve been working with artists and crafters and I’ve really enjoyed helping them exhibit their work. The maker community in Nashville is full of really talented folks that have been incredibly supportive of each other. I think our city has transformed into so much more than Music City USA.

After the Porter Flea summer market in 2015, I decided to resign and reconfigure my life plans. My boyfriend and I took a trip to Pittsburgh and walked up on a wonderful shop called Wild Card. We walked in and Andy said, “Ohhh, thiiiiis is what you want to do,” and he was right. Porter Flea always provided a great opportunity to pick up unique gifts, but what were we to do the rest of the year? There was a real void here for a certain type of gift shop. We had our fair share of reclaimed barn wood but surely there had to be other people that loved color, print and pattern.

In December 2015, my friends at Sawtooth Print Shop let me host a holiday pop-up shop in their space. Several local makers brought their work over, so we had a great selection of prints, jewelry, ceramics, etc. It was well-received and I was encouraged by the turnout. It validated the need for a brick-and-mortar location specializing in paper goods and handmade gifts.

We started looking for a space and we found our current location on Fatherland Street. We signed the papers and opened the doors on August 13, 2016.


What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Hmm that’s a tough one... I’m hearing my older sister in my head yelling, “It’s NOT about YOU!” when I whined about having to shop in department stores with her when I so desperately wanted to go to KB Toys.

I hear my former boss saying, “You are not your customer,” which has proven somewhat true. Running the shop is still so new, I often fret over the price of something or if it will work well in our store.


Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

OOF. I’m learning to say no and stop apologizing. I’m also learning to make time for myself. Having the shop is helping me with this because I sometimes have to be forward and tell someone we’re not interested in their strange cell phone plan or their monogrammed hair bows (both real). I have so little free time that I realllllllly value it now. I feel less guilty not attending things that I don’t want to go to.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I’d like to say that I would spend more time making things or riding my bike. Unfortunately, since opening the shop I really haven’t been able to do much drawing or printmaking, but I’m going to change that soon. I’d also spend more time with my friends.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

I’ve had to walk away from certain ventures because they were no longer fruitful. It’s hard to let go sometimes. If I’ve been able to muster up the courage, it’s always been for the best and served me tenfold.


What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

I’m going to say running a gift shop with my best friend and partner, Andy. I’m usually tired and I don’t have near as much free time, but I haven’t regretted it one bit. Sometimes when I’m locking the doors up at night, I remind myself that I did this. It’s easy to get discouraged when so many Nashville staples seem to be closing up, but I’m trying to add something that is missing. I’ve always wanted to carve out my own spot and now I can say I truly did that.

Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?

My ritual has recently changed per our new Presidential situation. I used to wake up and listen to NPR while I was making coffee, but I’ve had to take a break from the news. It was putting me in such a bad place and I couldn’t keep starting my day so angry. Now I’m trying to go for a walk in the morning and watch a little The Price Is Right when time allows. It’s much better for my mental health.

How do you decompress at night?

I’m usually pretty keyed up when I leave the shop. I try not to check my work email after I leave. I usually slug on the couch with my dog Max and watch brainless TV. I do love a good board game or a round of Tetris when I get the chance.


What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

Be Your Own Rainbow - it’s silly but it’s true. This is something I’ve been saying since college that I try to live by. You’ve gotta be in your own corner. I used to look to others for my happiness and I have to remind myself that it’s not anyone else’s job.

I’ve also realized that a lot of times I just need to walk away. And maybe take a nap. I get my best ideas in the bathroom. Maybe gross but true.

What does self care look like in your life?

Great question. I’m having to revisit this subject since becoming a shop owner. I used to listen to lots of podcasts and spend a good bit of time alone, which is something I’ve learned that I really need. Sometimes I just walk around Target and I feel better. I went to see my old therapist recently and asked her how to manage the daily anger and sadness that I’ve felt since the Cheeto-In-Chief arrived. She helped me sort out what I can and cannot do. I really enjoy hosting and making people feel welcome, so right now I’m focusing on that because it feels manageable.

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

So many. I’ve had lots of incredible hard-working females in my life. I had two wonderful grandmothers. I’ve been so lucky to have so many creative and self-employed women friends that motivate me just by doing the damn thing. I had a wonderful teacher in high school, Mrs. Cheryl Boyte, that encouraged me to get out of my small town and meet new people. I’ve always called these women “my pillars” because they help hold me up and cheer me on.


Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

My favorite topic! I love snacks. I eat my weight in hummus quite frequently. I also love a good cheese plate.

I’ve been binge watching late '90s/early '00s TV shows that I missed during their heyday. We just watched the entire run of The Sopranos and I really loved it. I picked up a lot of gangster lingo. I also love Fargo and I always want to watch true crime documentaries.

All photos courtesy of Jessica Maloan

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Fine Artist, Ashley Doggett!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

February 24, 2017

Friday Links


READING THIS WEEK...

If you only read one thing, read this. Shero, Jennifer Justus highlights six refugees living and working in Nashville. Jennifer tells stories in a way that makes you feel like you know, and want to meet, the person she's writing about.

This is a long read, but it's a must read for Roxane Gay fans.

Still trying to figure out how/what to do in this political climate? Here's a handy guide.

Tennessee town halls in The New York Times.

Basically, I am Eileen Fisher. Purpose chair? Yes. Elastic waist jeans? Yasssss.

WATCHING AND LISTENING...

I watched Season 5 of Veep this week - the entire season. I love that show so much. And I finished Season 5 of Girls, so I'm going to start Season 6 this weekend. I don't care what anyone says, I think this show is genius.

My podcast game was fire this week. I recommend two different episodes of Sooo Many White Guys: #15 Phoebe and Issa Rae Super Black It Up, and #16 Phoebe and Alaska Are Casual yet Impressive. And the Pod Save America episode “Card-carrying badass" with Katie Couric - yes.

I ENDORSE...

Downloadable #resistance postcards.

Cammy's Lil Sweeties.

Baby goat farm tours.

Breakup photo shoots.

lulz...


WHAT WE'RE FIGHTING FOR...

Janet Mock: Young People Get Trans Rights. It’s Adults Who Don’t.
The New York Times

Oklahoma Lawmaker Calls Women 'Hosts' While Defending His Abortion Bill
Brittney McNamara, Teen Vogue

INSPIRATION...


Via Natalie Soud

EVENTS...

NFC Disability Justice Caucus meeting with Alison Kafer
Sat, Feb 25, 10am
123 Buttrick Hall, Vanderbilt University

Lovers Vs Fighters
Sat, Feb 25, 9pm
Delinquent Debutantes, 3723 Charlotte Ave

We Are Watching Rally at the Capitol - #MoralMondays
Mon, Feb 27, 3pm
Tennessee State Capitol

TEP Williamson County Meeting
Mon, Feb 27, 6pm
Frothy Monkey, 125 5th Ave S, Franklin

TEP Wear RED Against SB127
Tues, Feb 28, 10:30am
Legislative Plaza, Nashville

SURJ Faith February Meeting
Tues, Feb 28, 6:30pm
The Temple, 5015 Harding Pk

Love Is Love Nashville Pride Mixer
Wed, March 1, 6pm
Sinema, 2600 Franklin Pk

SURJ Cross Class Solidarity and Anti-Racist Organizing
Thurs, March 2, 7pm (8pm EST)
National Conference Call

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