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Monday, June 17, 2013

She's Becoming Gold: Meet Karen

Today I'm so happy to feature my fabulous friend Karen in the third installment of She's Becoming Gold. If you missed the first two installments be sure to check out Leslie and Andrea's stories as well. The feedback I've received from readers about this series has been amazing! There are clearly a lot of people, and not just women, who are connecting with the need to make a change in their lives for the better. 

When I was thinking about who I wanted to participate in this little project Karen was the first on the list. Not only is she a generous and caring friend, but she also inspires me with her tenacity and has truly been a mentor in my life. 

Meet Karen....

Creative Shift: Graphic Design/Advertising to Blogger and Award-winning Author


1. When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was all over the place on this. Teacher. Journalist. Actress. Painter. Veterinarian. Writer. Baker. I think it's more telling what wasn't on the list. Nurse. Government worker. Data processor. Insurance/accountant/actuary.

2. What expectations were placed on you growing up regarding your eventual professional and personal lives? In retrospect, did they inspire or stifle you?

My parents, my dad especially, used to jokingly tell me, "You can't do that, you are a girl!" Consequently, I never looked at many things as being gender specific. I was encouraged to be well-rounded (which is why it was tough to pick a profession). Both my parents pushed what they called "The Big E"- education- but that didn't necessarily mean a four-year degree or a PHD. It was meant I should read, travel, acquire a skill or two, and study history, English, math, etc.. It left me an open forum to be, go, and do.

3. Describe your mentors and how they have affected you?

My mentors have come in and gone out of my life when I needed their counsel the most. They have been both male and female and not always older than me- sometimes it was friends younger than me that leant a fresh perspective. Mentors helped me rise in my career, not reach so high in my career, go through divorce, into new relationships and my own business, etc.

I think mentors are like most things in life. You have to be ready to hear the lesson, and most importantly you have to be willing to apply the teachings. If all you do is read and listen and then go off  to do the same old thing, a mentor, no matter their wealth of knowledge, is worth absolutely nothing.

4. What was your first "grown up job" that you landed after college and what did it teach you?

It was a production job in the graphic design field where all I did was prepare other designer's files for printing. It taught me that I hated doing production. I stayed there six weeks. It was a rung on the bottom of the ladder, but I had to show up on time and do my job...that's what you meant by "grown up" right?

5. What was your worst job and what did it teach you?

I ran the creative department for three years for a major furniture manufacturer. I learned about interior design, running a national campaign, creating an award-winning brand, and how to allow a corporate environment and a flaky boss to turn me into the nastiest version of Karen ever. I found me again after I resigned: a kinder, gentler sort of Karen.

New Directions

6. You decided to forge a new path by taking a different direction in your career and/or creative life. Describe the moment you knew you were going to pursue your passion and why?

I love this story, because it's sad, but true. I had been in the graphic design/advertising business for about 15 years. I was working on a newspaper ad campaign for a client. She was nice, but the pressure and deadlines were horrendous. I busted my butt for that project and it did turn out great. Two weeks later I was volunteering at my local SPCA. I was cleaning out the cat cages early one morning, and a little grey tabby had pooped all over the bottom of her cage- it was lined with my newspaper ad. My work was fodder. If I wanted to impact more than the grey tabby in this life, it needed to be doing something other than advertising. I donated more design work to the SPCA, and started writing a book. I've always loved to write, and knowing how books have impacted me, it made sense to pick up the pen. I had stories to share.

7. Tell us about your new venture.

It started poorly. I wrote a children's novel for National Novel Writers Month that went nowhere- the characters were fun, but the plot was broken and unexciting. Then I wrote a few freelance articles, then a blog. Out of that came my first book, Bonjour 40Then I got a regular column on the website Shelf Pleasure called Will Travel For Words. That gig made me feel like a real writer, because I was asked to do it.

Now I'm almost finished with an historical fiction book about the Declaration. That's been nearly a five-year project, and I maintained my design business most of that time. In the space of what I hope will be a long life, the five-year transition won't feel quite so long perhaps. Not all change is easy, or quick, but the passion was there so I simply had to do it. 

8. Any new step is a risk. How do you stay motivated during the difficult moments?

My partner, Ted, is a huge cheerleader ( I swear he carries pom-poms in his pockets). I also think back to my moment with the SPCA tabby and remind myself how poopy it all was before. I also work out, run, bike and take trips. Travel reminds me that I have to make money at writing so I can travel.

The Fun Stuff

9. Coffee or Tea?

Love iced tea, but beginning the day with Ted or friends over coffee is charming.

10. What do you do to unwind after a hard day?

Snuggle. Is that too cheesy? Cook. And now I garden. I like getting my hands in things and moving around after sitting hunched over the keyboard all day.

11. If you could have dinner with any woman throughout history who would it be?

Jane Austen....Meryl Streep.....My grandmothers.....Cleopatra....yes, maybe her. That woman had some serious chutzpah.

12. If you could give any piece of advice to yourself at 20 what would it be?

He is not the one. Do it if you must, but let yourself grow in spite of it. And get the hell out of Texas (I was living there.)

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