November 24, 2015

An Interview with Producer Mary Katherine Rooker

I met Mary Katherine in 1995 at Middle Tennessee State University where we shared a sorority, a major and an astrological sign, #TeamTaurus. We've been friends for 20 years, and in that time I've watched her work her way up from intern to producer, all at the same station, which is not only difficult, but incredibly rare.

Mary Katherine and I share a degree and a sliver of work experience, and I still have only a slight grasp on what she does all day. Producing a news show is a big, multi-faceted job that includes some stuff you probably know about and a lot of stuff you don't. Welcome today's bitch, Mary Katherine Rooker!

What is your job title and where do you work? 

I am a producer at WSMV Channel 4, the NBC affiliate in Nashville.

When did you first learn about this field of work? 

I first learned about the role of a producer in one of my electronic media journalism classes in college, when we delved into how much it takes to get a show on the air.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do? 

I didn’t know this was what I wanted to do. Like many in my field, I started down this path wanting to be a reporter. Katie Couric was in her heyday at the Today show and I aspired to sit in that same seat. However, when I interned at Channel 4 and saw all the producers in action, I thought, “Wow, they’re cool! They’re doing everything and the entire show is theirs.”

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now? 

I graduated college thinking I was going to be a reporter. I sent resume tapes everywhere (including Alaska) and got nowhere. After three months of looking, my parents said, “We love you and we support you, but you have to get a job doing something.” I worked administrative jobs through a temp agency for a couple of months and then Channel 4 had a position for a part-time associate producer. Remembering how much I loved working with the producers, I applied and got the job.

When I started, I worked a 13 hour shift on Saturdays (4:30am - 5:30pm) and on Sundays I worked 7:30am - 3:30pm. During the week, I was considered “on call” and got called in whenever I was needed. I worked my way up to full-time associate producer, then weekend producer and finally a Monday - Friday show producer.

I’ve been at Channel 4 for 16 years; it’s the only station where I’ve worked, which is extremely rare in this field. Every boss who’s come in since I’ve been hired has always said, “You’ve been here how long????”. That’s when I have to explain that when I was growing up, Channel 4 was the ONLY station in town, as far as my family was concerned. When I was hired, I couldn’t believe I was working at the same place as Dan Miller, Demetria Kalodimos, Rudy Kalis and Bill Hall. The first time Demetria complimented me on my writing, I almost fell out of my chair. For as long as I could remember, Channel 4 was the station of record and I was grateful to work at a place with such a distinguished reputation. Also, I love Nashville! My family is here. I see my mama every Sunday. Nashville is the best, which a lot of us knew long before it became an "It City".

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise? 

“It’s not that deep” and “Don’t cry because of insert-person’s-name”. The best advice I’ve received is not really advice, per se, but a strong work ethic I learned from my parents. I was raised to work hard and do my best, and your word is everything. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work? 

It’s not really a failure, but something that goes back to the “don’t cry…” statement above. News is a brutal business. I’ve encountered some nasty people over the years. I’ve learned that I can’t be responsible for the happiness of others. All I can do is my best work. I'm fortunate to have an incredible network of family and friends in my corner.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day? 

I would read more, get a good work-out schedule going again (provided I can get rid of this plantar fasciitis) and my house would be spotless!

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life? 

Every time there’s a kick-ass show, it’s exhilarating! I’m really proud of the times I’ve been able to field produce special coverage for the station. I like being challenged and it’s fun to get outside the station, envision how you want the content to look and then help gather all the elements to bring the stories to life.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning? 


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

Barre class and wine!

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious? 

What’s not obvious to most people is how much goes into getting a show on the air. We begin our day with our morning meeting, where we go over the big news of the day. This is also the meeting where reporters and producers pitch story ideas. Then, we decide on what stories we’re going to cover and assign reporters. After that, we begin working on our shows. There is communication throughout the day about how the reporters’ stories are turning out. Of course, there may be a lot of changes. A reporter and photojournalist may start on a story and by the 6pm news, they may be on their third story of the day. You can work on a show all day and it can go by the wayside in a matter of minutes if there’s breaking news. It takes a small village to get product on the air:  assignment managers, producers, reporters, photojournalists, show editors, live truck operators, graphic artists, directors, anchors, studio crew. And then for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or three hours, it’s go!, go!, go!. It’s not always pretty, but it’s never boring.

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

People don’t know what I do, so they get a lot wrong. When you tell someone you work for a news station, their first questions is, “When can we see you?” They assume I’m on TV. They also assume the anchors write everything (“What time do they come in to write all that news?”). Wrong! That’s the producer. The best way I’ve found to explain it is the producer is responsible for the whole show, start to finish - the good, the bad and the ugly. The reporters write their stories, and the producers write everything else. We select sound bites, put in graphics and are in the control room timing out the shows.

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

Sex and the City!!!! I love that show and will forever defend it from its detractors. 

Snack: I don’t really snack a lot. I take a snack for mid-morning, but it’s nothing consistent. I guess my “snack” is my never-ending almond milk latte. Thanks to my Yeti cup for keeping it warm all day!

All photos courtesy of Mary Katherine Rooker

November 21, 2015

Morning Ritual

Months ago, I found a podcast by Todd Henry called Accidental Creative. It's a podcast for people like me who are 'accidentally creative', and it's filled with tips and advice for structuring your work day, finding your voice, and interviews with professional creatives. I recommend adding it to your podcast library, and I highly recommend listening to this episode:  The Power Of A Morning Ritual.

It's either in the podcast or on the cheat sheet, but Todd describes the morning ritual he goes through before the start of every work day. I didn't realize that since starting my own business and working from home, I no longer have a morning ritual. And I really need one. So I created one!

Morning Ritual:

wake up
turn on coffee
10-minute meditation via Headspace
make a cup of coffee
20-minutes reading something business-y
10-minutes reading something inspirational
10-minutes free writing
5-minutes prep for the day

At this point, most days I drive to a work-out and then come back home and start working. Sometimes I even take a shower and put on pants!

I've been doing this morning ritual for three months and I can tell a difference in both my mood and productivity. You'll notice that "check email" is nowhere on this list. That's on purpose. I do not get online or look at my phone until after I've done my morning ritual. In fact, I set my phone to Do Not Disturb until after breakfast. Gone are the days of waking up, looking at my phone and letting whatever is in my inbox or on Twitter dictate my mood for the day.

What am I reading? Glad you asked! Turns out, it's hard to find business books, so I'm stretching the boundaries there. Also, by "inspirational", I mean self-help. Help yo' self! No? Okay. Here's what I'm reading.


Rework by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Louder Than Words by Todd Henry

*You're My Favorite Client by Mike Monteiro

How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The Elements Of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane

On Writing by Stephen King

*Everyone who works with clients should read this book.


The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin' Sad by Adam Gnade

Introduction To Yoga by Richard Hittleman

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle

For the most part, I've enjoyed all of these books. Feel free to find me on Goodreads to see more info, and my ratings/reviews.

Let's talk about free writing. I'm probably not doing it "right", but here's what I do:  today's date, 3 content ideas, and a list-form brain dump. The lists look something like:  Anxious About, Excited About, Proud Of, Grateful For, Reach Out To, etc. It helps to clear my mind before my work day starts. I highly recommend doing this, and there are all kinds of guided free writing workbooks and notepads on Amazon. I'm using blank Moleskine notebooks, but if my free writing well runs dry, I may try one of the guided ones.

So this is what I do every morning! I love it! I start my day in a great mood, inspired, and with a list of ideas I can get creative with later. Listen to Todd's podcast -- create a morning ritual -- report back!

November 16, 2015

An Interview with Artist Manager Marne McLyman

For a long time, I've had the idea to write a Q&A-style series highlighting my coven of badass bitches. These women are my family. They're unique, smart and inspire me daily with their passion and creativity. Thanks to sheroes like Grace Bonney, Shannon Fitzgerald and Sarah Von Bargen, I've realized I love learning and reading about other women, and what they do and how they do it. I'm hoping you will, too.

Today's bitch is Marne McLyman. I met Marne in 2010 when she rolled up to Book Swap on her bike, in full spandex. I immediately wanted to be her friend. Marne moved to Nashville in 1998 to break into the music industry and has worked her way up from getting coffee and refilling the candy bowl to managing some of Nashville's top country artists. Marne, thanks for being my first bitch!

What is your job title and where do you work?

Artist Manager for Terri Clark and Brooks & Dunn. I work at an artist management 
company called Maverick. We also manage Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts. There are other Maverick offices outside of Nashville that manage artists from other genres.

When did you first learn about this field of work? 

In high school, I was on a path to go into sports medicine or physical therapy, but changed my mind after touching a lot of sweaty feet during an internship. At the time, I was pretty obsessed with country music (yay for 90’s country!) and figured there had to be an industry to support the music. I found Belmont University and made it my mission to get in.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do? 

I don't think I knew for sure, but I knew I loved music, so that was a good start. I figured if I went to college and ended up hating it, I would still have a degree when I left. The music was what had me hooked though. I remember winning an Amy Grant poster in 5th grade of her “Heart In Motion” album and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! From there, I discovered Mary Chapin Carpenter and then the ultimate, Reba McEntire. 

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now? 

Belmont was the only school I applied to and luckily it worked out that I was accepted. I moved to Nashville in August of 1998 and dove in headfirst. I worked in the Curb School of Music and organized the Vince Gill Celebrity Basketball Game and Concert for two years. The summer after my freshman year, I interned at Starstruck Entertainment, Reba’s company. Go big or go home right?! I jumped from creative services, to publicity, to publishing, to the studio. After a year interning at Starstruck, I met Clarence Spalding. He came to Belmont to talk to our class about artist management and I walked up to him, handed him a business card and told him I wanted to intern for him. I got a call that same afternoon and spent the next year interning for Clarence and his business partner Bob Titley.

When I left Bob and Clarence, I told them I’d be back after graduation and to save a spot for me. I graduated in December of 2001 and got a call from Clarence and Bob that same week telling me they had an assistant position to fill. I jumped at the opportunity and officially started with Titley Spalding & Associates in January of 2002.

I started as an Office Assistant and worked 30 hours a week in the office and 10 hours a week picking up Bob’s girlfriend’s kids from school. I did anything and everything. In 2004, Clarence and Bob split and Clarence started Spalding Entertainment. I went with Clarence and became his and Kix Brooks' Executive Assistant, Office Manager, Guest List Coordinator, Marketing Coordinator - everything. In 2013, I was promoted to Artist Manager to handle the day-to-day operations for Terri Clark and Kix Brooks. 

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

  • Don't over-analyze things to death. Make a decision and move on.
  • If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.
I find that I get further with people by being nice instead of being a jerk. In the end, everyone is just trying to do a job. Be respectful and be NICE.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

I struggle with self-doubt from time to time, which can make me cautious about making final decisions. I’ve learned (and am still learning) that I need to have the confidence to make the call and if it’s the wrong one, I’ll learn from it. It’s not the end of the world.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Workout and nap! I’ve struggled the last two years with getting my workouts in consistently. If I just had 2 more hours!

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life? 

I had a “full-circle moment” recently that made me pause and realize how much hard work has really paid off for me. In June of this year, it was opening night for the Reba + Brooks & Dunn residency at The Colosseum in Las Vegas. I am one of the Tour Managers for the show and was sitting in our office waiting for showtime. I realized that my very first concert was in 1995 and it was a Reba McEntire concert. In 1998, I went to my last concert before heading off to Belmont and that show was also a Reba and Brooks & Dunn show with Terri Clark as the opening act. So here I am, ten years later, opening night in Vegas for Reba and Brooks & Dunn, while in Michigan we had a sold out Terri Clark show. Talk about a motivating moment! I have done a lot of really awesome things in my career so far and have had several moments where I thought: “How in the world did I get here?” The thing I’m most proud of is how all of the hard work I’ve done up to this point has paid off and will hopefully continue to do so. And that I’m nice. Sometimes that’s hard to find in this business.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

I check my email and then scroll through all the social apps:  FB, Twitter, IG. 

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

Lately its been beer and dinner with friends, but I need to get back to doing workouts, too! TV time with my dog Cooper is always a winner.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Artist Managers have to be able to multitask as if their life depends on it. We have to be able to look at the big picture, but also look at things at a microscopic level. Our goal is to make things happen seamlessly even if it's chaos to get there. If you have more than one artist, you’re doing this for all of them.

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

It’s not all sex, drugs, and rock n roll - or country. While we do get to do a lot of awesome things, we work our tails off to keep everything on track and moving forward.

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

I can only pick one?! My all time favorite TV show is Friends. Snacks…. I’m a Food Giant, so technically I like all the snacks.

All photos courtesy of Marne McLyman

November 11, 2015

MyFitnessFoe: Je Suis Fini Edition

I've written 76 (now 77) posts under the label "Weight". It's true, I counted. That's roughly 9 posts a year on my weight. I turn 40 in 2016. I'm lucky to have friends in their forties (and fifties) who are kicking ass at life, and none of them are talking about their weight. You know why? Because they're busy running businesses, raising families and BEING INTERESTING. If their jeans don't fit, they buy new jeans. They don't sit around for 2 weeks wondering why their jeans don't fit. This? This is who I want to be. I want to be the person people talk to because I'm funny and have interesting things to say. I don't want to be the person people talk to because I lost a lot of weight.

I went off of MyFitnessPal in August, breaking an 890 day streak. Like a lot of things I've thrown myself into 300% (oh, hey, Ironman), calorie tracking evolved from a healthy habit to a borderline eating disorder.

It's real tricky when the thing harming you is "healthy", or worse, celebrated and envied. Now granted, when I started this, I weighed 200 lbs, which was heavier than I wanted to be as a 5'6" woman with a petite to average frame. I worked hard and lost 40 lbs. But when everything was finished, when I completed Ironman Augusta and when I went months without regaining any weight, I didn't move on. It's like I was taking medicine for an illness I didn't have anymore. (That's my therapist's analogy. I'm not that smart.)

So I quit taking the medicine. And yeah, I totally didn't need it. I haven't weighed myself in 3 months. Do I wonder what I weigh? Daily. Do I trust that if I weighed myself I'd use that information for good instead of evil? Nope. I still work-out, honestly probably too much. And I still pay close attention to what I eat. I've been counting calories in one form or another for 20 years. As much as I hate it, I have the calorie content of every food memorized. But it's the hard data that breaks my brain. That number on the scale serves one purpose for me:  shame. And ain't nobody got time for that.

Around the time I quit weighing myself and tracking my calories, a magical thing happened. I started having ideas. Ideas about things I wanted to write about, people I wanted to talk to, new things I wanted to do, new things I could do. I felt like a whole new wing of my brain opened up.

Another thing that happened, albeit less magical, is a hypersensitivity to messaging. A lot of what I read online has an undercurrent of, 'hey girl, you could be skinnier' or 'hey girl, don't forget to be skinny'. I'll click on something about healthy snacks and 5 minutes later, I'm shaming myself for that handful of tortilla chips I ate, and thinking, 'man, if I just started eating radishes, my jeans probably wouldn't be tight anymore'. My shame is always on the side-lines, jumping up and down, begging to be put in the game. I have to be real thoughtful about what I let in, which is taxing when you just want to cruise Pinterest and watch Scandal.

I'm a lot of things. I'm a lot of conflicting things. But I don't want to be the girl who lost 40 lbs anymore. Lately, I've been interested in finding a hip hop dance class. Maybe I can be the girl who learns how to twerk in her forties. I don't know. I'm going to work it out. Rita, call me.

November 3, 2015

2016 Planners: An Investigative Report (Not Really)

It's the time of year when I buy my 2016 planner. Actually, it's a month past when I buy it because I can't decide what I want. I think I'm over Erin Condren. I've used her LifePlanner for two years, but it doesn't suit my needs anymore. I need more space to write and make lists. And I need the pages to be broken down by time.

P.S. If anyone wants $10 off their Erin Condren order, you can use this link.

Passion Planner

A month or so ago, I bought a 2015 Passion Planner as a test to see if that's what I want to buy for 2016. Now this planner, I like. But it's not cute, like at all. There are no bells and whistles. It's just a legit planner. But it's great for someone like me who's using a planner to track my time, set goals, make to do lists, etc.

Rifle Paper Co

I haven't seen this planner in person yet, but I've had two friends tell me this is what they're buying. It's the Rifle Paper Co. 17-month planner (Rifle's website is down). This planner is, of course, gorgeous. It would look great on my desk and in pictures, but it's similar to the Erin Condren planner in that it's primarily a place to write down appointments.

Plum Paper

So a thing that most planners don't have, and I really like, is the day broken down into 30-minute increments, as opposed to "morning, afternoon, evening". One planner that does this is the planner by Plum Paper on Etsy. (The Passion Planner also does this.) My friend has this and it looks like the Erin Condren planner, but you can break your day into times, you can add pages like "To Do List" and "Blog Planning Section", and it's affordable.

I use Google Calendar for my schedule, so I don't need a planner to write down appointments or work-outs. As a small business owner, I need a planner to stay on track. The Passion Planner is good because it takes your goals and breaks them down to monthly, weekly and daily steps. And the weekly layout has sections to put in the week's and day's focus, personal and work to-do lists, good things that happened and a brainstorming space. I love the functionality of the Passion Planner, but I wish it had some pizazz. And I kind of wish it was spiral-bound.

Launch Pad

On a related note, I bought this Launch Pad on a friend's recommendation and am really into it. I have about a million ideas a day that I do nothing with. I'm hoping this helps me see some of them through to development. I'm also interested in it's companion, Make It Happen!: A Workbook & Productivity Tracker for Getting Stuff Done.

Bitches be planning!

October 17, 2015

Chili Weather!

It's fall! Let's make chili! Here in Nashville, the leaves are starting to turn and we're under a freeze warning. You know what that means? Crockpot season! I feel like we all have a go-to chili recipe, but sometimes it's fun to change it up. I scanned Pinterest and found these recipes. I'm excited to try them!

Crepes of Wrath
Spiced Turkey and Chickpea Chili

How Sweet It Is
Spicy Chicken Chili with Pumpkin Beer Biscuits

Nourish Atelier
The Loyal Lentil Chili with Pumpkin

Gimme Some Oven
5-Ingredient Chili

Half Baked Harvest
Crockpot Italian Chicken and Broccoli Rabe Chili

Gimme Some Oven
5-Ingredient White Chicken Chili

Two Peas & Their Pod
Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

P.S. Hey! I'm on Bloglovin', so now you can follow me and save or share this post!

October 13, 2015

Social Media: A Day In The Life

The Blonde Mule Media
During a recent election, I was fortunate to manage the social media for two candidates, and do outside consulting for a third. It was a great fit for me because with ten years of political experience, I knew the audience, the language and the candidates well enough to speak in their voices. Also, I'm funny, which, according to the latest OFA Social Media Summit, is a powerful part of an effective social media campaign.

I was busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest, and I loved every second of it! I thought it would be neat to pull back the proverbial curtain and show you what goes into political social media. Here is what a typical Saturday looked like for me.

Saturday, August 2015

Drive to Candidate 1 event

Stay with Candidate 1 at event
Live-tweet, take pictures, post on Instagram and Facebook
Talk to other candidates, candidates' staff, share pictures, etc.

Part ways with Candidate 1
Gas station lunch!
Change out of Candidate 1 t-shirt and into Candidate 2 t-shirt

Drive to Candidate 2's house

Drive Candidate 2 to speaking event

Stay with Candidate 2 at event
Live-tweet, take pictures, post on Facebook

*Canvass district with Candidate 2
Live-tweet, take pictures, post on Facebook
Drive around to find campaign volunteers and take pictures of them canvassing

*canvass means walking the neighborhoods of the voting district, knocking on doors and talking to voters

Drive Candidate 2 to his house
Pet Candidate 2's dog
Drive home
Lament the absence of drive-thru daiquiri shops

Upload the day's pictures to Dropbox
Create photo collage, write 'daily wrap-up' and post on both candidates' Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages

Monitor and respond to activity on both candidates' Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages

Collapse on couch and refuse to do anything you told your husband you'd do that night. And... scene.

A lot goes into making a day like this work. The most important thing is finding out who decides the candidate's schedule and making that person like you and share information with you. The same goes for the handler. Higher level candidates have handlers - people who drive them to their events and stay with them. You need that handler to like you and communicate with you. Schedules change, people run late, and you need a dedicated person you can call and get an ETA.

You also need to be organized. I had three other clients in addition to these two candidates, so I had to work smart during the week to make sure I could dedicate all day Saturday to these campaigns.

Lastly, and most important, you need all the chargers. I have a car charger for myself and a fancy multi-plugin portable charger for my candidates' phones. Attending events and live-tweeting is great and obviously needed, but being able to charge your client's dead, five year old iPhone is what gets you a high-five at the end of the day.


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