real talk: bloggers, quit complaining, get a thicker skin + choose your words wisely

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Over the years a woman has grown tired. Her life has shifted, and along the way she loses her verve and she knows it. Her blog has devolved into an orchid she has to tend to because it’s her sole source of income and she needs this money. How did she get to this place, she thinks. She takes on partnerships — some of which leave her readers shaking their heads and doing a double take — because the money’s good and she’s got the traffic, and one day her readers start to leave comments about this shift, about a voice that has fallen to a whisper, and a blog that no longer inspires. Long-time readers leave lengthy comments lamenting the fall of a blog that was once so great, and then something else happens — a slew of other women attack the detractors, call them haters (Ignore the haters! You’re awesome! I <3 you! Read my blog! Your hair's so shiny! Where did you get that shirt?) and bullies (Stop being a mean girl!). Those who cared enough to leave a thoughtful comment recede; the curtain quietly falls and the motley lot remove the blog from their Google readers. The blogger responds in a series of exclamation points that she’s trying! her! best! OK!

A sister duo pen epic posts defending their expensive finery. So much so that these posts, their heated defenses and endless rationales, become a weekly occurrence, and readers start to express their exasperation. They call out the shameless shills and posts, which feel forced by the hand of a marketer’s enviable budget. Readers remember what the blog used to be — creative, fun, a place where one could find the unfindable — and are heartbroken that the energy that once drew them to this space has dovetailed to SEO tactics and ad banners. The comments section is the equivalent of a high school cafeteria where a host of women shout, “girl on girl crime” as if they have Tourette’s. Apparently, any form of feedback or dissension is immediately dismissed as unfounded hate and cruelty, detracting from a “positive, supportive community.” The bloggers get upset, stomp their well-heeled feet. No one understands what they’re trying to do!

PLEASE STOP THIS BULLSHIT RIGHT NOW. RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Bully. Hate. Girl on Girl Crime. These words and phrases are potent; they have the power to hurt and maim. They’re weapons that should be examined with care. “Slut shaming,” posting nude photos or images that disparage a woman’s character or body, rallying a group of people for the sole purpose of humiliation and torture, stalking through social media, threats, consistent, systematic abuse — these are but a few actions that fall under the auspice of bullying, hate, and girl on girl crime. Leaving constructive feedback about the evolution (or devolution) of someone’s blog, unequivocally, does not. Telling a blogger that her site has become a haven for shills is not girl on girl crime, it’s real truth.

Three years ago I started collaborating with the president of the agency in which I worked. Although I technically didn’t report to him (as a partner, I reported into the CEO, who was not a deft manager), the president stepped in and assumed the role of mentor. For three years, he consistently pulled me into his office and gave me feedback. He called me out on my bad behavior and bullshit, and then showed me how I could have handled the situation in a different way. He gave alternatives, suggestions, and solutions. At first I was annoyed. Even though I endured nearly fourteen years of performance reviews, I felt offended and singled out. In the heat of the moment I mentioned as such — I stomped my little feet and did the offline equivalent of calling him a hater, who didn’t understand the CLEAR GENIUS THAT WAS FELICIA SULLIVAN, to which he responded: I’m investing in you. This is my time, my asset, and I’m using it to help you be a better leader. Would you rather I not invest in you? Is your ego that great? Because I can take my time and use it on someone else.

You guys. That was some real truth.

You better believe I shut the fuck up. Since that conversation, I proactively asked him how I could have handled every meeting, conference call and pitch, better. During performance reviews, I nodded my head impatiently through the praise and asked, How can I do better? It was only when I took a measured stepped back and objectively evaluated my actions, it was only when I set aside my ego and fear, did I become receptive to constructive criticism and feedback. I sought it out and used what made sense for me in order to be a better leader. In three years I grew a thicker skin than I had cultivated in fourteen. Now, this man is my dear friend and mentor, even after we both resigned from our respective positions.

A few weeks ago I listened to Grace Bonney’s podcast on “Choosing Your Words Wisely,” and it reminded me of our immediate, visceral tendency to defend ourselves when confronted with words that challenge or call out our actions. Instead of listening to what others have to say, we wait for our turn to speak. We immediately negate, dismiss, eliminate, instead of taking a breath and trying to understand someone else’s perspective. This weekend I read my friend Alex’s post, on a bunch of men who left negative reviews of an establishment (“In what can only be described as a coordinated attack on a small business, a group of 15 primarily white privileged males left a number of negative reviews citing discrimination on the basis of Google Glass. I’m forced to assume they have little actual understanding of the word, discrimination”). Alex also wrote about another community that labeled a loving father who took nude, playful photos of his child, a pornographer. Pornographer, discriminator — these words are real, powerful and bear consequences. Think about the words you say and how you use them.

Time is a precious commodity, and if someone uses their time to help make you a better blogger, professional, or business owner, consider their feedback the equivalent of a performance review, an investment in you, and don’t you owe it to them, to yourself, to pay attention? Hearing less than complimentary things about oneself is hard, but does that mean we close our eyes to it? Does it mean that we only let in the light and flee the dark? Does it mean we misuse the harshest words to silence our best critics?

Words are powerful, don’t abuse them. If your readers, consumers, bosses, peers, and prospects take the time and effort to give you constructive feedback, listen to it. REALLY LISTEN TO IT. Examine yourself objectively. Ask yourself how their words can help you be a better person or deliver a better product, and discard what is useless and irrelevant.

Constant light is beautiful at first, but its glare is deceptive and ultimately blinding. Think about that. Think about the permeance of blindness, of living a life of imbalance.

freelance life + careers pick my brain the gathering kind

the artist as a lifestyle aesthetic: on trying on artist for size {long read}

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Diptyque candle holding a lone peonie {check}, aviators {check}, an Etsy mug filled with coffee + an expensive lens that’s able to capture the rising steam {check}, the gleaming MacBook Air and accompanying iPhone with a glittery case {check}, glasses perched on a head {check} and a lady preened to dishabille perfection {checkmate} — do these images seem familiar to you? Perhaps because you’ve seen it, or a variation of it, on countless blogs, Instagram feeds and on photoshoots profiling small business owners and artists. This look was a magazine photograph we once pored over, a page we ripped from from its binding and posted on our vision-cum-Pinterest boards. We wanted our room of one’s own (as instructed by Virginia Woolf), and we thought if our room was beautiful, the words and magic would invariably come.

We’ve seen this whitewashing of an artist’s life proliferating the online space, so much so that it feels practiced, carefully composed, and overtly stylized — yet devoid of any actual, substantive meaning. I’ve endured countless blog posts featuring bloggers turned authors who dress up, apply lipstick to puckered lips, and don Warby Parker glasses, as if intellectualism was an outfit that they wanted to try on for size. Perhaps they think, this is how an artist at work should look to my readers, and this puts me to thinking of an excellent piece I just read, which speaks of the dual masks we wear — our practiced online personas versus the real lives we lead. Rarely are these masks reconciled, rarely do we see the innards of one’s life, only the representation of parts of it. Never do we bear witness to the whole until we meet this person “in real life” {ever think about that term, “in real life”? As opposed to what? Our “fake ones”?} and then, after a time, we think, Wow, this is you. We curate this enviable life, down to the suns settling into the dark water and our tawny, lithe legs crossed at the ankles during a day at the beach.

Perhaps part of us regresses, thinks, I’m projecting a version of me that’s slightly better than you.

I remember a blogger I used to revere a decade ago. She was blonde, European, artistically inclined and seemed to live this magical life, jettisoning to castles turned hotels and living a life out of an Anthropologie catalog. My god, did I want this life. I wanted out of my sterile cubicle with its foam grey walls and a computer that required constant coddling from an IT specialist. I wanted my organic teas and ginger-encrusted chocolates, and I sought out her friendship because, frankly, I idealized her life and I was a wannabe. We became fast friends, but our friendship soon became a mirror that shattered into pieces, with each broken shard revealing a more nefarious aspect of her personality. She lived, breathed, and believed her own fiction, and I stepped away from that friendship realizing that what I was missing was the beauty in my own life, which I had so assiduously attempted to fill with hers.

We want, we covet, we desire, we need — this is our nature as humans, but sometimes the desire for another’s life becomes a burden that is too overwhelming to bear, and it ultimately threatens the one thing that is real: our life, as we live it.

Last night, my dear friend, Summer and I had a slumber party, and we both woke at 5:30 this morning and spoke for hours about art, words, and the lack of authenticity in the online space. I revealed the reasoning behind changing the title of my novel to Follow Me into the Dark because it’s the most powerful kind of love I could imagine, yet hardly know. A love that puts your heart on pause, and when the object of your affection is threatened, you don’t hesitate, flinch or think about sacrificing the one thing that is truly yours: your life. This is what I imagine most mothers feel for their children. You will follow your beloved into the dark, and attempt to sacrifice yourself as a means of rescue. This is real love, and I hope to one day be privileged to know it.

I offer up this fragment of our conversation because it elucidates something larger — most people are terrified of the dark. So much so that they tether themselves to anything that resembles light, figuratively and literally. Sadness, loss, ugliness, fear — these are countries most don’t want, or know how, to navigate. They’re myopic in terms of the media they consume, and talk about how desperately they need their reality television shows and fluffy books because they need to escape. But I think about this, and if they close their eyes to the dark so wholly, so completely, what is it then that they’re escaping from? Last year I suffered a tremendous loss, my Sophie, and I was SO MOTHERFUCKING ENRAGED by people’s responses to her passing {and the platitudes they’d throw out like wrapped sweets} that it drove me to write about it. Because that was a time when the two masks were reconciled.

My cat died, I relapsed, and things got really fucked up. And many people in my life {online and off} couldn’t handle it.

This is a circuitous way of saying that this practiced life, this projection of light and beauty, can be dangerous. If the online space is a means for us to connect with others, why is it that we create this severe delineation of self? Naturally, there are lines I don’t cross — I don’t speak of my love life, or the lives of my friends and family without their expressed permission — but as an artist I find it impossible to not communicate the light and the dark because we need both to live a real life. As a writer, I NEED both to create. There’s no other way.

Above is a picture of my writing space. It’s cleaner than usual because I had a guest over, but know that it’s normally an atrocity composed of paper, books, magazines and random plates of half-eaten cake. My writing space is messy, unattractive, and you might notice my uncapped bottle of allergy meds, but I don’t think about styling my space to create — I just think about the act of creating in and of itself. Of course there are things I need — a comfortable seat {my sofa}, liquid {so I don’t pass out after hours confined to a single seated position}, and a remote {for those moments when I need to see The Twilight Zone because I can’t write ANOTHER GODDAMN LINE} — but I’m not attractive when I write, and when I’m in the thick of a story the outside world recedes. There is no other world other than the one I’m creating, and that’s the magic. Not the composition of what is perceived to be magic.

Someone once told me that my blog will never be “big” because I wasn’t mass market. I don’t appeal to a wide audience of people because I don’t constantly present pretty and my writing is sticky, messy, dark and strange. At first, I wanted to punch her in the face, but then I realized that she paid me the greatest compliment. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I don’t want the staged photos snapped with a Canon 5D Mark II camera.

I just want my work.

book buff freelance life + careers

making connections, building your kula over two plates + blocking the barnacles

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When it comes to people I have a very simple rule: if I can’t share a meal with you I don’t want to know you. Regardless of age, industry or income, food has the magical capacity to bind us, allowing for real, meaningful connections even if we don’t realize it. What we reveal about ourselves when faced with a table, napkins, flatware and plates goes beyond words — it’s something kinetic, visceral. We are our truest selves when exercising the most primal of acts: nourishment. We eat to sustain; we eat to comfort an ache and complete something within us that’s missing.

Whenever I meet someone I rarely go for coffee because it’s cheap and quick, and I’ll never truly know the kind of person you are until you’ve held a fork in your hands, until I see the shape of your face shift after you’ve taken your first bite. Do you fall deliriously in love with what’s on your plate? Are you present to appreciate the color and texture and taste of what you choose to put into their house? We have this one body, our home, and are you the kind who cares about how you’ve outfitted it {have you given care to the selection of fabric and wattage of the bulbs}, or do you just purchase exquisite finery to only discard it to the floor? Do you eat without tasting? Do you swallow without savoring? Do you spend your meals only for the sole purpose of getting a contact or lead, or do you genuinely ache for that spark, that hiss and spit of flame that happens when you’ve talked about the things that matter. The things you carry.

Over the course of a meal, I learn many things about a person. How attentive they are to the wait staff, if they reach to refill your glass before theirs, and if there is a pregnant pause after that first bite, because regardless of what’s being said, can I just tell you how good this is?

So many bloggers and experts and networkers will talk to you about acquiring fancy business cards and working a room. They’ll talk to you about follow-ups and how to work the rolodex, and while I appreciate the methodical nature of this hustle, it’s not my bag. While a large part of being a freelancer boils down to hustle, I focus more on cultivating what in yoga folks call a “kula” or community. I build the village around my house brick by brick. I mix the cement, I lay the foundation and I choose which bricks go where. I focus on how much I need and how I will build a village that will sustain me, that will lift me up, inspire me, and catch me when I fall.

I don’t own cards. Large groups of people give me vertigo. I tend to forget people’s names, and the idea of asking for favors outright feels unseemly. Instead, I meet people individually, and get to know them as people, and in that process projects, connections, favors are organic and thoughtful. I seek out my kindred spirits and collect them, and as I selflessly help them with no expectation of a return favor, I find that in the end my relationships keep me going, even when the darkness obscures everything in view. And these relationships are built on trust, mutual respect, reciprocity, creativity — not on a shared Google doc. Do we marry on the first date? Then how do we expect to unload ourselves, our platonic hearts, after one meeting? In a culture consumed with personal velocity, we don’t want hear that things take time, that we have to put in the work. We want the now, the immediate, the can you connect me with…

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Have you ever asked yourself: do I know the people I know? Do I know what wakes them up in the morning and how they take their coffee? Did I make the effort to know this person for who they are rather than what they can give? Have we thought about what we can give?

I spent the day with two markedly different, yet equally brilliant, women. We talked about mentorships, our respective affections, and spent our time simply to suss one another out. Perhaps auditioning ourselves for the role of village member. We spoke about the mistakes people make: not making their intentions clear at the first meeting {someone once rolled up to a lunch with their resume in the guise of loving my blog, while another ambushed me with mentorship questions even before the menus hit the table}, or assigning us homework after. Our lives are so hectic that the idea of leaving a first encounter with an epic task list and a request to comb through your contact list is exhausting, and I tend to cut the barnacles before they’ve formed their spindly attachment. I remember a meeting with a woman who I really admired. She’s creative, smart, ebullient and had an enviable online presence. When I met her I was bummed that she had already defined our relationship as mentor/mentee, simply because of the fact of our decade age difference, and all the while I just wanted to be her friend. Mentorship is organic, not forced, and while I know we need to be strategic about our careers, our lives, I can’t help but want to pull back, to pause, and continue to build my house, my village, keeping out the folks who take rather than nourish and give. Folks who ignore the food on their plate. Folks who want to meet for a quick coffee. Folks who just don’t have time.

But isn’t time the one thing we should preserve? Shouldn’t we swathe our clocks in blankets and hold them close to our quick-beating hearts? If we value this time and we have so little of it, why not spend it meeting people who inspire you to go back and build that house rather than heading home and collapsing on the pavement?

Perhaps this is a long-winded way of saying I had a great day with great women and I expect nothing other than the excitement of getting to know them more.

Breakfast @ Egg | Late lunch at The Fat Radish

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freelance life + careers new york eats

on feeling lost + writing your way back

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We are taught that when we’re young there is so much possibility. You spent your whole life wanting to be older, desperate to be legal, to be an adult, to get out, and when you finally get to the age you desire, you pause, turn every which way, and wonder if this is actually it. {The bills, cramped apartments, roommates and their nocturnal habits, visions of stapling things to employer’s heads, money and how there’s never enough of it, the bone-crushing commute — we wanted this?} If all the rushing to get out of your childhood, out of the house was worth this, shouldn’t we have enjoyed all the days that came before, more? Shouldn’t we have wanted to linger in bed a little longer, cling to the days a little harder?

Why is it always that the young race to press time forward to only find that we spend our whole adult life trying to rewind the clock back? I wonder about the age when we’re actually present, 25, 26? Does this age actually exist, or are we forever oscillating from one extreme to the other — the provenance that comes with being being older or the magic in climbing our way back to childhood?

If we set aside the talk of generation, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think of work, of a singular vocation that promised prosperity. Born in the halcyon 70s, raised in the greed-stricken 80s, our plan was written right out of the womb: college, job, marriage, kids, house, retirement — in that order. While girls were giggling about condoms in grade school, I clung to my books {yes, I lugged around a backpack of at least six library books} and even asked the janitor at my elementary school to let me in early so I could study. My “sex” talk consisted of my mother telling me that sex got you pregnant or “VD,” and pregnant women don’t go to college. In retrospect, I find it at turns amusing and sad that my first idea of sex, an act of pleasure and love, was inextricably tied to punishment. So I kept to myself, kept away from the boys, and worked.

When my childhood consisted of summers subsisting on a bag of potatoes and a stick of butter, it’s no wonder that I saw money as the salve to every ache and need. In college, I remember watching Wall Street, pointing to the screen and saying, I want that. I want Wall Street. For the whole of my life, I operated under two masks: a woman whose sole purpose was to procure a job that would pay vast sums of money, and a woman who wrote.

So I got my fancy job at a merchant bank {right when Glass-Steagall was being repealed}, got recruited by an even fancier investment bank, and I finally made this money, finally had the DSPP, ESPP, and every money-related acronym you could imagine, but I was miserable. I worked through school, endured countless accounting and finance classes in college when I could have been reading books, for THIS. FOR THIS. To wear suits that fell just below the knee and crunch numbers in a spreadsheet all day. To this day, I hate Microsoft Excel.

While employed, I applied to MFA programs because I was curious if this other half of me, this writer, was someone worth meeting. When I resigned, my managing directors were baffled. First, they thought MFA was a finance degree of some sort {these are the same people who penned my letters of recommendation} and more horrifying was this: writers don’t make money.

Felicia, writers don’t make money, they said. (more…)

freelance life + careers

thinking about a life of intention + an invitation for feedback on this space

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When I read this quote on my friend Summer’s space, I was seized. My heart suddenly stopped, and I was met with a flood of ideas. One of them is so strange so not Felicia, and I keep talking myself out of it, so much so that it makes me think that this is an idea worth considering. For the past two years, I’ve served as a mentor to dozens of people, and the fact that people seek me out and really listen to me, is humbling. I actually like the fact that I play a small part in someone’s bloom and can help them find ways to find their passion simply. Part of me wonders if this is something I can do as a side project, professionally. Give one day sessions on how to find + start on a path of intention, using social media as one of your most valuable tools. I don’t know what form it would take, and I’m not blind to the fact that there are a million sites, books, and professionals who are actually trained as life coaches and the like, but…but…I still think about it. I don’t have the answers yet, but at least I’m thinking.

Speaking of listening…

On Monday, you might have noticed that I was tinkering with the design of this space because I felt bored. I temporarily changed the design to an all-visual format, and queried my friends on Facebook to gauge their thoughts. While some adored the clean layout, some of my friends gave me very constructive feedback, which made me revert back to the layout you see now. Some folks actually like the way I marry image + type. Some folks appreciate the austerity of this space. Who knew?

While I write a lot of what excites me, sometimes I feel as if I’m moving in the dark. Am I intimidating? I want to do so many things on this space {ideas of interviewing women who run small businesses, foodie and fitness profiles, and a lot more travel pieces}, but I wonder what’s clicking for you. If I judge it by my “likes per post” {terrible gauge, I know}, you guys love the food + recipes. But is there something I’m doing right or something I could be doing better? I really appreciate and respect your feedback, and since I have no plans to EVER monetize this space, the fact that this space is a virtual dialogue between me + you means that I value your voice in the conversation.

So tell me — what is it that you love about coming here? What do you wish you could see more of? If you’re shy about leaving a comment, feel free to leave it anonymously.

Image Courtesy of Summer Pierre. If you don’t visit her blog and buy her art, you’re bananas.

freelance life + careers

the view from up here: on being a leader + drawing that “line”

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There will be a time when you will be discreetly removed from the chain of funny emails. Your invitation for drinks will conveniently get lost in the void that is Google chat, and you will become the person they talk about rather than the person with whom they drown their proverbial sorrows. The shift will be slight, almost imperceptible, but you will wake one day and realize you are a boss. You are no longer one of them, rather, you are accountable for them. There will come a day when you will have to fire someone and have to remain calm in the process. Even as you watch the clock for the moment when you can escape to the bathroom and cry your eyes out. Only then will you allow a release. There will come a day when you realize the person sitting next to you wants to punch you in the face but they can’t, because you are their boss and you have power over their livelihood. Instead they’ll cave, retreat; their sounds will be monosyllabic and their blinking will be violent. You’ll notice these shifts too.

This “power,” if one could call it that, is a tricky thing to navigate and takes some getting used to, as well as several layers of skin. Especially now when we live in an age where someone will leave your desk and tweet a series of sad faces, and you’re left wondering where to even begin in managing the situation.

With the exception of my early 20s, for most of my career I’ve drawn and managed a very definitive line between my work and personal life. Never did I forge personal relationships with my direct reports in fear of being perceived as showing preference. Everyone was treated equally, and I kept my favorites to myself. I was a curtain that could be parted to one side, a window that people could peer in, but never leap, through. I was semi-permeable, amiable, congenial, and sometimes severe. I set a bar and expected everyone to meet it. I kept my tears neatly tucked away, and I knew, to a certain extent, what people thought of me — that I was tough, exacting, particular, not easy to penetrate and befriend — and I had to keep that hidden, too. I’m not here to be your best friend; I’m here to make you the best you can be, was my constant refrain, and I genuinely meant it. I was the boss who was surgical with my edits, but one who spent hours, hours, empowering people to find their way to a solution. While many appreciated and respected the investment, sometimes I’d grow frustrated with those who wanted more, or didn’t see the value in someone delivering constructive feedback of their work, which would have made it, and by extension, them, better. There were those who wanted softer words I wasn’t equipped to give.

I wasn’t cruel, mind you, but I wasn’t going to smooth your hair.

In retrospect, I think I could have been gentler to some, I could have been a little more permeable, but this is the work: defining what kind of leader you are, and this work is a journey in and of itself. I still believe in a line, but I won’t draw it so rigidly. A great leader is one who allows someone to shine publicly, but guides their way, privately. A great leader understands that this is business, but these are people.

This is a long-winded way of responding to this HBR piece, “Why Young People Are Miffed About Being Considered Junior.” The article, and referenced study, talk a lot about the perception of age (how the young feel old and the old climb their way back to the womb), and part of me wants to tell everyone that being an executive isn’t all about a title, salary and an office, it’s about being fiscally accountable, it’s about making tough decisions, it’s about sitting there and knowing that while your staff may not love you, they respect you — and this is hard work. These are the days when you look at a spreadsheet and fight to not reduce people to a line item. These are the tough calls that you have to take (and make) because otherwise you’ll lose the deal, relationship, revenue.

So why rush it? Why not enjoy the process of accumulating accountability? Why not simply enjoy the time you have sending those mass emails and having those happy hours? Looking back, I really enjoyed the time when I lead small teams and had a modest amount of responsibility. I was able to figure out how to manage varying personalities and styles without being in the glare, exposed.

Down the line, the glare becomes blinding. The stakes become higher. You are forced to make painful decisions that are labeled as “business decisions.” Your every movement or errant remark falls under scrutiny, simply for the fact that you are the example. People model off of a leader’s actions, whether they realize it or not, and your actions matter in a way they hadn’t previously.

So why grasp for all that when you’re young? It reminds me of the time when I was in college and I wanted to be 21. And then I turned 21, and then what. And then I wanted to be a published author, and that happened, and then what. When you put all of your weight in achieving something that is a perceived future “marker,” you stop being present. You stop working on the person you are now, only the person you’re trying to map yourself to be. What if those two don’t reconcile?

At some point, I will have to make the decision whether or not to return to something full-time. I’ve turned down a few lucrative opportunities because I’m simply not ready. I’m still in reflection. I’m still working on the “me” of right now. I’m still wondering what that line is, or if one truly needs to exist.

So perhaps this is a long-winded way of saying that being “senior” is not a shiny object. Enjoy your life right now, as it exists, only in this moment. The rest of it, I pray, will sort itself out.

freelance life + careers

designing your life: bad-ass entrepreneur, persia tatar von huddleston’s sucre bleu

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Imagine living a life of your own design. You bolt out of bed each day because every day is now an awakening. Every day is finally yours. Some time ago someone told me that you can either work for your dream or someone else’s. This year, my friend Persia and I decided to pursue our dream. Over the past year I’ve been privileged to see her idea — a line of high-end luxury religious chocolate {Jesus sprinkled with sea salt, can you even?!} — bloom, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see her dream realized. I asked Persia, my dear friend and badass entrepreneur, to talk about what lead her to make this auspicious leap. Below, she shares a bit about her journey.– FS

A few years ago I left a job that was just ok, for what I hoped was a job that would make me happier, have less anxiety and actually look forward to Mondays. That never happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked every job I’ve had to-date, I met awesome people who are now friends and mentors, created some cool things and learned a ton, but the joy and happiness just was never there. Maybe that’s alot to ask from something that affords you a living, but I don’t think it’s a lot to ask from something that takes up such a large percentage of our lives and our thoughts.

This winter, over coffee, Felicia told me that I need to do what makes me happy with such assertion and certainty that I had to listen. I finally realized I needed to stop trying to find a job that was my perfect dream and create my own. My new assignment was to connect things I love with something that I could love as a business. I came down to a few things: food and art. As I went through my daily motions I would meditate on how I could fuse these together in many ways…until one day it hit me.

caf71dde231b11e3bf4822000a1ddbe2_7A flicker of a dream I had as a kid came to me – to create a chocolate Jesus (yes I’m serious), this is something I had always wanted to do growing up. I realized this childhood idea is the fusion of food and art for me, in the form of delicious sculptures.

This summer I took my savings and created the first prototype Jesus working with the amazing people at Tumbador and am now launching on Kickstarter! From idea to reality in under a year! The process to get here has definitely been challenging, but I can say this is the most fun I’ve had in my life and I now look forward to my Mondays!

About SUCRÉ BLEU: We’re artists and pop culture enthusiasts who want to make the world sweeter and more deliciously irreverent. Through our company SUCRÉ BLEU we’re creating a line of absurdly delicious chocolate figures of our culture’s most revered icons.

Our aim is to provoke, amuse, entertain, and compel you to blurt out: “WTF? This is crazy, awesome, beautiful, weird AND delicious. Why would anyone make that?!”

Our debut product will be a seven-inch 72%, 5oz dark chocolate Jesus on a cross, sprinkled with sea salt. Each luxuriously rich chocolate will be packaged as a super mod museum sculpture and include a personal handwritten note from Jesus. Our limited-edition run of 500 will be sold on Kickstarter for the holidays — each box will be signed and numbered.

Support my sweet friend’s venture on Kickstarter by clicking here.

[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/persia13/your-own-personal-chocolate-jesus width=480]

freelance life + careers

carrot cake cupcakes + cream cheese frosting + some thoughts on money

donotreblog

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Recently, one of my friends told me, point blank, that she wants to be filthy rich. When I pressed her on it, she talked about having the ability to pay for her children’s college tuition {which will likely rack up in the hundreds of thousands in twenty years time}, and live the life she wishes to live, in comfort, without fear. I was quiet for a time, and said, that’s not about being filthy rich, that’s about not peering over your shoulder in fear of debt collectors, that’s maybe somewhere down the scale, way down, from rich. Or, I could be completely off the mark.

I’ve been thinking about money lately, and what it can and can’t afford you. Next month marks a year from the time I tacitly made a decision to leave comfort behind in pursuit of something other. I would leave behind a handsome paycheck, equity {although it was doubtful that I’d ever get it}, health benefits and the stability that comes with swiping your keycard in the same office building every day. I would step into the unknown with little savings, credit card and student loan debt, but I knew I had to do this. And I had to be confident that I would always find something. That I wouldn’t be my own undertow.

Nearly a year later, and I’m making enough to get by and that’s okay. I can pay my rent, mail in my student loan and credit card payment checks, and there’s a little bit of money leftover to buy a fancy meal here and there, and that’s okay. While I do have minor panic attacks about when I’ll secure my new project, or god forbid should I get sick since Cobra is a MILLION DOLLARS, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I’m no longer anxious or broken down or stressed out or snapping at people or angry or crying in a bathroom stall. I’m writing, thinking of new side projects {how I’ll fund this magazine, who knows}, and being present for myself and my loved ones. I am no longer the woman who constantly apologizes for not being there because I’m there.

So while I’m not making a MILLION DOLLARS, I have time on a Thursday to make carrot cake cupcakes. I have time to read articles and books. I have time to think, and I guess that means more to me that a fancy handbag or some lofty title.

My god, how I’m changing. Ask me this three years ago and I would have likely said something completely different…

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INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
For the cupcakes
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown {or coconut cane} sugar
3/4 cup canola {or safflower} oil
3 tbsp buttermilk {or almond milk}
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 cups tightly packed shredded carrots
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the cream cheese frosting
12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (left out for at least 4 hours or microwave for 30s)
1/2 cup {1 stick} unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS
For the cupcakes: Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium high for three or four minutes or until mixture is light and thick. (This step will take about 8 to 10 minutes with a handheld mixer). In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk {or almond milk} and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most the of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogeneous. Pour the batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake the cupcakes for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and springs back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pan on wire rack.

For the cream cheese frosting: While the cupcakes are in the oven, start cracking on your frosting. Using your stand mixer {or handheld} Beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth {about 1 minute for the stand mixer, 3-4 minutes with the handheld}. Add the butter and continue to beat for another minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar. Beat for 1 more minute, or until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours to firm up enough to spread on your cupcakes. The frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

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cake + sweet loaf recipes freelance life + careers sweet recipes