The Self-Love Book Club is Back (& IN PERSON!)

richmond-magazineReading has played such an important role in my own personal growth and transformation. When there was wisdom I was seeking, when I wasn’t sure where to turn, or what to do next, there was almost always a book to point me in the right direction.

Of course a book alone won’t change your life. We need to turn inwards and tune into what we already know. You can’t learn anything you aren’t ready to hear. But a powerful book can help us look at the world in new ways, offer guidance or encouragement when we’re feeling lost, and reinforce the new beliefs we’re forming.

Self-love is a commitment we make to our relationship with our self. A promise to put ourselves first. A pledge to completely accept who we are, right now, in this present moment. But it doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. By connecting with other people who are on this same adventure and as deeply invested in their own growth as I am, I am led to new insights. My life fills with more joy. And I move along this path of self-love with more ease.

For all of these reasons, I started the Self-Love Book Club. It began as a digital project connecting like-minded women online as we read a book each month, sharing our thoughts, reflecting on how what we’d read pertained to our own lives, and how we wanted to put these new lessons into action.

In August, after one year and 12 books, I put the club on hiatus while I tried to figure out what it’s future would look like. Over the few months while we’ve been dormant, I’ve had continued interest in the group and old and new members of the club have expressed their desire for me to bring it back.

downloadSo, that’s exactly what I’m doing. During the first week of January I’ll be announcing our first book of the new year.

But here’s the really exciting part:

I’m going to be co-hosting an in-person Self-Love Book Club in London with the lovely Nicola. We’ll meet once a month to discuss the book in person alongside the online discussion and monthly recap posts. I love the power of our digital community but I think it’s important to get offline and meet our tribes face to face. To laugh and connect and share cups of tea over deep conversations.

There will be limited places for the in-person book club, so if you’d like to join us, please drop me an email.

If you’re not based in London, never fear. You can always join us on Facebook. And I encourage you to consider becoming a book club leader yourself. For anyone interested, I’ll be sending over a PDF of tips for putting together a book club in your own town and each month I’ll send you over some reflection questions and pointers for facilitating the discussion with your group. Just send me an email to let me know where you’re based and tell me a bit about yourself. Then I’ll together a directory of all the participating clubs, so that you can find out whether there’s one near you.

I’m so excited to get back into the book club and meet some of you for the first time (!!!). In the meantime, let me know: will you be joining us online or in-person? What should we add to the reading list this year?

Hugs and kisses,
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Images by Justin Ryan Vaughan.

A Bumper Holiday Gift Guide for Everyone on Your (Read: My) List

pink-christmasI absolutely adore picking out gifts for people. I enjoy thinking about the people I love and what I could wrap up to put a smile on their face. What I don’t like are crowded shopping malls and the panicked feeling of having to get it all done at the last minute.

Because I was sending most of the gifts I bought back to Canada, I had my shopping done well in advance and to avoid the crowds, I bought almost all of my presents from independent makers online or at markets.

But I know the next two weeks are crunch time for getting last-minute shopping done. So if you’re not sure what to get someone on your list, I’ve put together a gift guide that has something for almost everyone.

glitteratiFor your best friend who can make anything beautiful, blends a mean margarita, and is engaged to your other best friend.

A star-studded notebook for scribbling daydreams and planning out the year ahead.

A Glitterati subscription to make sure that she has the sparkly 2015 she deserves.

An encouraging mug for drinking her morning cuppa.

Metallic temporary tattoos because you know she’s always itching for new ink.

A chunky crystal necklace from Galaxy Rox Jewellery that she can wear as a self-love totem.

decanterFor your younger brother who can quote every line of The Simpons, taught you how to do a pushup, and just became a dad to the cutest baby boy on the planet.

A traditional shaving kit for keeping his ginger beard in order.

A personalized whiskey decanter that you know he’ll probably fill with Jagermeister.

A ‘Crazy Cat Guy’ t-shirt because cat crazyperson status isn’t just for ladies.

A subscription to the Vegan Cuts snack box because man, does that boy love to eat!

A traditional Japanese teapot for brewing is favourite fancy green teas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor your mom who never makes you eat onions, almost always knows the names of wildflowers, and owns more shoes than you.

A National Parks Calendar because she’ll think it’s beautiful and won’t have to use one of the crappy free ones that comes in the mail.

Soap shaped like a crystal because it’s beautiful and practical.

A concrete geometric vase for her to fill with roses from her garden.

A hand-painted owl wing scarf for glamourously wrapping herself up in at parties.

A teeny tiny succulent in a teeny tiny pot to wear around her neck.

Sunday_Suppers_-_Fig_Tart_Honey_RecipeFor your dad who taught you how to make risotto, ride a bike, and create a budget.

A hand blown martini glass to add to his collection.

Black truffle sea salt because you inherited your truffle addiction from him.

A luscious skincare package from Napiers designed just for his masculine skin, because you know he loves a bit of pampering.

The Sunday Suppers cookbook because Sunday night dinners at his house are a family tradition.

mobileFor your nephew who has just learned how to blow spit bubbles and shakes all of his limbs when you turn the page of a book.

Felted fox slippers for keeping his tiny feet warm.

A craftidermy seadog for adding an adorable touch of whimsy to his nursery.

A cloud mobile in hopes that staring at it from his crib will enchant him into going to sleep.

A “My Auntie Has Better Tattoos Than Yours” onesie because it’s true and oh-so cute.

houseFor your grandma who is always making at least 150 quilts, sends you crafts in the mail, and has an addiction to funny e-mail forwards.

A pin cushion made from vintage Liberty fabric

A box set of House, M.D. DVDs for her to binge watch when it’s too cold to go outside.

A copy of The Tale of Hill Top Farm because she loves a good cozy mystery.

A custom name necklace from Punky Pins to celebrate her great grandson.

plateFor your boyfriend who gives you fictional tours of London, speaks up against Internet misogynists, and always knows the right thing to say to cheer you up.

A cheeky plate because eating cake in your ‘pants’ is more fun.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty More because it’s full of veggie recipes he’ll love and maybe he’ll even make you something delicious out of it.

An enormous knitted cowl because he turns into an ice cube outside and it would look adorable on him.

A pick ‘n mix of all the Teapigs brews, because he’s got a growing addiction and might as well try them all.

boxFor your favourite urban pixie who thinks sequins are daywear and likes to dance on the tube.

A subscription to My Little Box because it’s her favourite subscription box and she loves getting surprises in the mail. Each month’s box is full of beautifully designed, thoughtfully packaged gifts that are perfect for that season.

A Leslie Knope ‘Ovaries Before Brovaries’ print to make her smile.

A gold cat sleep mask for sleeping well in style.

A porcelain dollhead planter because every pixie could use some more creepy kitsch in her home.

A copy of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work because she’s obsessed with crafting the perfect morning routine and loves being inspired by how other people map out their days.

How is your Christmas shopping going? Is there anyone on your list you’re completely stumped with?

Love, candy cane forests, & swirly-twirly gumdrops,
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Where The Wild Things Are.

neon-heartbreaker-outfit-photos2Sunday might be my favourite day of the week (I’m terrible with choosing favourites, so I don’t want to completely commit to that).

They always seem to be the perfect combination of productivity, indulgence, and relaxation. I never feel guilty about lying in on a Sunday.

After our urban retreat on Saturday I was so exhausted come Sunday that my brain had turned to mush, every joint in my body ached, and I kept trailing off midsentence for fear I might just fall over. It was kind of glorious though. Being completely and utterly worn out because you’ve put your all into something feels good, even when you’re uncomfortable at the same time.

I spent the day eating a delicious brunch with Colette before she went back to Bristol, picking out a Christmas tree with my housemate, and making a big roast dinner with Matthew before lazing around watching Dr. Who.

I wanted an outfit and some sparkly dinosaur accessories were exactly what I needed to infuse my look with a bit of magic. I liked that clipping my dinabow onto the turban was reminiscent of 1920s styling with a decidedly modern twist.

Here’s a closer look at what I wore…

neon-heartbreaker-outfit-photos1neon-heartbreaker-outfit-photos5neon-heartbreaker-outfit-photos3neon-heartbreaker-outfit-photos6neon-heartbreaker-outfit-photos4I’m wearing a cardigan c/o She & Reverie, a t-shirt c/o Speedway, a Forever 21 skirt (from the #VCSwapShop), tights from Boots, socks c/o Gipsy Tights, thrifted brogues (label: Office), a turban c/o Crown & Glory, a hologram Dinabow c/o Neon Heartbreaker, and dinosaur necklace c/o Neon Heartbreaker.

Suzannah Vendetta is a fellow blogcadette from America who runs an amazing company called Neon Heartbreaker, which is chockablock full of glittery accessories. If you love sparkles, dinosaurs, unicorns, or kawaii – you’re going to love her jewellery.

Her signature Dinabows are what first drew me to her shop, but when we started talking about collaborating, I was so excited to get her to make me a Styracosaurus custom necklace modelled after one of her earring designs. She’s now selling one almost exactly like it in her shop if you want one of your very own.

This lady has got serious style, as you can see from her blog, and anything from her website would make a really unique gift idea or special treat for yourself.

I’d love to know, what’s your favourite piece from Neon Heartbreaker? And how do you like to spend your Sundays?

Love until Niagara Falls,
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Photographs by Colette Hanson.

Tattoo Talk: An Interview with Elizabeth Markov

LizElizabeth Markov, 28, currently at BangBang Tattoo in New York

Liz is one of those tattoo artists who constantly takes my breath away when I see her work pop up in my Instagram feed. Her designs span so many styles and she’s a master of them all, yet she infuses each piece with her own unique style and immaculate line work. I’m really honoured that she agreed to be featured on Tattoo Talk today and I’m sure you’ll all love hearing what she has to say.

How long have you been tattooing?
7 years

Liz4How old were you when got your first tattoo & what was it?
Ha! I was 17 and it was a tiger on by back (which is now covered).

Do you have a favourite tattoo of your own (ie. in your collection, not that you’ve tattooed)?
Favorite tattoo would be the one on the palm side of my ring finger…I need more tattoos.

Liz3How did you get started in tattooing? What was the journey that brought you from there to here?
Always liked tattoos and I drew my whole life…so I was always an artist. It was my 3rd year in NY and I remember I had gotten a new job in this medical office and I couldn;t even survive the whole day there. haha So I just went home after my lunch break and decided to go to a local tattoo shop the next day cause I knew I just couldn’t have a “normal’ job. I was also reading The Secret at the time lol…so…it works. The first shop I actually worked at was in Florida though. I lived and worked there for 2 years..I loved it! Back in NY I worked in a street shop in the city and that’s where I met BangBang and now he has a shop and I am very fortunate to be a part of the crew.

Liz5Did you have an artistic background before you started tattooing?
Yes I basically drew my whole life and I went to art school in Israel. I think every tattoo artist should be able to draw.

How have your thoughts about tattoos and being tattooed changed over time (if at all)?
Well…I am more responsible and picky with imagery and concepts now and I like to keep it simple and classy. I have a different understanding now on what looks good as a tattoo and what translates good into a tattoo design. Also I do believe getting a tattoo is a sacred and personal experience. Not only for the person getting it but for the artist as well. Tattoos have become very mainstream and sort of ‘easy’ now but for me I put a lot of energy in my designs.

Liz2How would you describe your style of tattooing?
My style is illustrative and I like it clean and sharp.

Who or what influences your work?
I like classic imagery, vintage illustrations, art deco flow, and girls girls girls.

Thank you so much, Liz! I’m hoping to visit NYC again in the new year and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have the opportunity to be tattooed by you.

If you’d like to see more of her work, check Liz out on Instagram and visit her website.

Lots of love,
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Writers Gonna Write.

writers-gonna-writeAfter talking about blogging and personal transformation, I dedicated the second half of my talk at the Nuffnang Useful + Beautiful Workshop to offering some advice for aspiring writers.

I no longer work full-time as a freelance writer. Monday – Friday I manage the marketing and communications of a local East London charity, while writing and blogging on the side.

When I moved to the UK knowing no one, I was really craving the community and companionship of a 9-5 job (I know, I could hardly believe it myself). I’d been freelance writing for about a year but all of my clients were in Canada, so the exchange rate was making it really difficult to get by on my earnings. The UK freelance market looked really healthy, but I had no network here at that point. I knew that getting a full-time job was the best way to relieve my financial stress, start building a network, and find the community I was craving.

But I know freelance writing is something many people aspire to – whether for their career or a passion project. My experience editing magazines and working as a writer have given me a lot of insight into the current publishing world, so today I wanted to share some tips if you’re just getting started.

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” – Steven Pressfield

For anyone pursuing a creative career or dreaming of being an artist, I recommend reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Read it, reread it, and then read it again. It’s that good.

The simple fact is writers write. Probably everyday. There are so many reasons why you might want to write – to make a living, to establish yourself as an expert, or because you have thoughts you can’t keep to yourself. But you’ll never move forward by just talking or thinking about writing. You need to set some goals, create a daily writing practice, and get to it.

Admittedly it can be difficult to know where to begin when your dream is to see your name in print, share your unique wisdom through your favourite publications, and start making a buck from your words. Here’s my advice.

Defining your niche
Just like a good blog has a niche, so should a writer. It’s important to think about exactly what kind of writing you want to do and for what audience. Establishing your niche will help you gain credibility and connect with the right readers, while also keeping you focused. What do you want to achieve with your writing? What do you want to be known for? Start asking yourself what you’re already an expert on or have valuable experience in. Whether it’s traveling luxuriously on a budget or how to make the perfect lemon meringue pie, what are three things you know that most of your friends probably don’t? Who would this information help? Keep drilling down until you’ve defined a clear niche that you feel excited about.

writers-gonna-write2Building a portfolio
You don’t have to be a published author to start building a portfolio, otherwise how would any of us get started? If you blog and your writing niche is going to be similar to your blogging niche, start there. Ask yourself, what are the three blog posts you’re most proud of? Where are the gaps in your portfolio? Start creating content to fill them in. If you’re going to be writing about a topic that doesn’t fit with your blog, look for sites you could guest post on before you start pitching to bigger publications.

Perfecting your pitches
Pitching can be a peculiar and daunting beast until you get the hang of it, so set a goal to pitch a different publication each week or month (whatever feels good for you). When you go about writing your pitch, be sure to pitch a story, not just a subject you want to write on. There needs to be a “so what” – why is this going to be important to their readers? This is the difference between writing about vegan food and writing an article on “How to Transition to a Vegan Diet in 30 Days.”

Editors are busy and get a lot of email, so try to keep the pitch to 300 words or less.

Make sure you explain why you’re the right person to write this particular article – perhaps it’s because of your personal connections (someone you know that you could interview), education, first-hand experience, or something else that gives you a unique angle on the subject.

Find out the name of the editor and address them by name. You likely want to pitch to a subeditor rather than the editor-in-chief. You can find this information on their masthead, website, or through some creative googling.

Write the pitch in the tone of voice you intend to write the article in to give the editor a taste of your style and link to 2 or 3 articles or blog posts you have written that are relevant to the pitch.

If you’re still feeling lost or intimidated, I’d recommend taking Grace Bello’s How to Write a Killer Magazine Pitch class on SkillShare.

Knowing your worth
How much you get paid will vary greatly by the type of article you’re writing, your experience level, and the budget of the publication. Unfortunately there are many places who will take advantage of people willing to write for free. When you’re first building a portfolio, you might want to do some writing for free but I would be selective about the publications  – make sure they’re going to help build your credibility and provide exposure that is valuable for you. Eventually, you’ll need to decide what you’re worth and stick to your guns and this will mean saying no to writing opportunities sometimes. To get a clearer on what you should charge for an article, have open conversations with friends in the industry about what you’re all being paid; I’ve found this to be really valuable in terms of blogging and it helps you avoid being taken advantage of.

Find an accountability partners
Whether you’re writing your first book or creating a daily writing practice, finding an accountability partner is valuable for bloggers and budding writers as we don’t have bosses or coworkers to help keep us on track. Find someone with similar goals who you can check in with regularly. My friend Xandra and I email each other daily with a list of blogging tasks we’re going to accomplish that day. It’s great knowing someone else is expecting you to get the work done and to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

These strategies helped me while I was getting my first work as a writer, but ultimately you’ll find your own way through research, trial and error, figuring out what feels good for you and, of course, writing.

Do you have any particular questions about writing you’d like me to address? If you’re already working as a writer, what tips would you add to this list?

Love, fountain pens, & loopy calligraphy,
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Top photograph by Shell De Mar.
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