Getting better one challenge and frame at a time

standard January 20, 2015 Leave a response

I love my camera. I love taking it out to see the world through its lens. I love the feeling of invincibility I feel when it’s in my hands. And I love, love, love when the photos I take come out looking exactly the way I thought they would come out.

Nikon D3200 red body

That last bit sadly isn’t exactly consistent.

So, one of my goals for 2015 was to find ways to work on my photography. To that end I joined a great group of avid photographers called 52 Frames.

52 weeks. Each week presents a new photographic challenge. You get 7 days to respond to the challenge and you can only submit one photo at the end of the week.

I swear, choosing what photo to submit is by far the hardest part.

This week’s challenge was “Lines.” The goal was to find creative ways to incorporate lines into the photographic composition. Bonus points for using multiple leading lines.

How many times had I thought about lines or leading lines before last week? Exactly zero. How many times do I think about it now? Pretty much any time my eyes are open.

Lines, lines, everywhere!

This is the photo I submitted:

Dog on the bench

This is the photo C wanted me to submit:

Boy on Bike

This is the shot that M wanted me to submit:

Empty Lunch Tables


You can see the entire group’s submissions here. It’s amazing to see all the different ways we interpreted the prompt.

The next challenge is “complimentary colors.” Another eye opener that’s bound to make my photos just a bit better.


13 years later and the circle closes

standard January 14, 2015 6 responses

Back when I was in college I babysat for a woman who worked in advertising. She was hands down the coolest person I knew. Possibly the most unstable, but definitely the coolest, so when I found myself needing a summer internship, I begged her to let me interview at her agency.

This led to my most painful interview memory ever, where, after I had GUSHED about how much I just LOOOOOVED ads, she asked me which were currently my favorite and I completely blanked.

“Uh… the one with… the plane….” I stammered, making a pathetic initiation of a plane flying with my hand.

Incredibly enough I got the job. Hard to turn down virtually unpaid and willing help. And so began my love affair with all things advertising.

I spent that summer filing things, watching endless bits of competition reels, helping them move, from one office to another, and doing basically anything they needed me to do.

The next summer I got another internship  (much better paid, as in, I got some money rather than none) in New York City. I lived in the stark and rather depressing Barnard dorms, navigated the seriously overwhelming and expensive Big Apple as best as I could, and loved every minute of it. It was a smaller agency and I actually got to do some advertising work.

Then I met the love of my life and threw caution and dreams to the wind and moved to Boston instead of going home to finish school.

I hadn’t given up on advertising, I was just willing to let it slide for a bit as I attempted to obtain a Masters while living an ocean away from my school and my teachers, at a time when people were just barely starting to use the Internet.

It took me a few months of working at a daycare center by day and doing class work at night to realize the situation was untenable. I ditched any hope of finishing my Masters like that and found myself an ad agency that would hire me.

Because ad agency.

This was my first real stint as an actual employee of an ad agency rather than just a summer internship. I lapped up every minute of it. The client pitches. The cantankerous creatives. The fun we had even when we were beyond exhausted. I loved the challenge of translating client requests into language the creative teams could use, and then translating the creative teams’ work for the clients. It was hard work, but it was fun.

So, it stood to reason that I was determined to work in advertising after finally finishing my Masters.

Life’s funny though; it never quite goes how you plan.

We moved to California in October 2001. The world around here had essentially skidded to a halt. Marketing budgets had been cut right and left and there were no marketing jobs to be had anywhere. There was one interview that could have gone my way, but something about the team rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t push for the job. There was another interview that for some reason just didn’t work out. And that was it. The doors had shut in my face and I found myself changing tacks.

So here I am, thirteen years later. I’ve made a name for myself as a writer. I’ve published a novel. I do a lot of consulting. And I truly thought my ad days were in my past.

Until a friend offhandedly asked me if I would ever consider copywriting.

In all my years working, living, breathing ad stuff, and later all my years working, living, breathing the written word, it had never occurred to me to blend the two.

I said yes without a moment’s hesitation. Went to my first meeting hoping against hope that no one would guess I was faking it with all I had. Aced my first project. Aced the second. And now find myself once again immersed in the fantastic world of advertising.

People, it’s fun.

Every new project leads me to having to learn something new. Want to know anything about solar power? Flash technology? Data storage? I got ya covered. 

I’m working with creative people. I’m exercising a part of my creative brain that hasn’t had a chance to play much in recent years.

I’m allowed to be as punny as I want. It’s even encouraged. Swoon.

Even better? I’m good at it. Better than I ever was on the client side of things.

Do you know how good it feels to feel good at something? Damn good, that’s how.

They may not be words I’m writing for me, but they’re fun to write and it’s amazing to be working with people again. And who knows, maybe one day, someone driving down the highway on their way to work, will get a laugh out of one of my tag lines.

That’s almost as good as becoming a best selling novelist. Almost.

Fighting through the silence

standard January 12, 2015 5 responses

It’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to write. Write something for me that is. I write every day. I write all the words some days. They’re just not words for me. They’re words for clients. They’re words for Facebook. They’re, occasionally, words for my journal. They’re frequently words for emails. Oh, so many emails.

And then, once all the words have been written, I come to this blank space, this space that proclaims itself for all to see as being my space, my world, a reflection of my life, and I draw a blank.

Who is this Jessica who is meant to have enough of a life to write about?

Who has she become? Who is she in the process of becoming?

I seem to have lost track of myself so much that I no longer even have the capacity to write my own words.

I seem to have been struck dumb.

I always thought that losing the ability to type would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me, but I think this might be worse.

I can type. I just have nothing to say.

I mean, look. This is the first post I’ve published since September. This from a girl who used to blog daily.

Even in the midst of the worst of the last few years, I had words. So many words. So many I choked on them regularly. I wasn’t always able to write them down, to share them, but they were always there, always streaming through my head. Perfect sentences summing up my feelings, fears, worries, and yes, silver linings.

We’re out of the woods now. We’re supposed to be well into our recovery period. And yet, never has it been so hard for me to find the silver linings.

And without seeing the silver linings, I don’t know what to write.

I am a creative person. I feel alive when I am creating, when I am working on a project that is a reflection of who I am, a reflection of a part of my soul.

I haven’t felt alive like that in a while.

I am determined this year to find myself again. To find my way back to that girl who delighted in creating for the sake of creating, not because it was expected of her.

I’m going to push through the disappointment of not becoming an overnight bestselling author and finish my second novel.
I’m going to push through the white noise in my head until I can find the words that shine again.

I’m going to forcibly pull myself up by my bootstraps until I recognize myself again or at the very least until I can see who I’m becoming.

My name is Jessica. This is the space where I share my life. It might change a bit over the next few months as I experiment with what I want that life to be. But I can promise you one thing, one way or another, I’m going to find my way back to the words, because the words are who I am, and it’s time for me to find myself again.

Profile shot

Let parents be parents and kids be kids already

standard September 23, 2014 16 responses

Maybe it's time to let parents be parents and kids be kids.

There is an article making the rounds on the Internet titled “11-year-old girl goes on vacation alone, horrifying parents around the world.” I am no more immune to sensationalized article headers, so, like many people I clicked on the link, somewhat spurred on by the photo of a smiling girl wearing a backpack and holding her thumb up, in what I assumed was meant to make it look like she was hitchhiking.

Turns out, this 11-year-old girl was being put on a plane by her parents and being received at the other end by family members who then would take her into their home for her “vacation.”

Now, I’m sorry, but she’s far from the only 11-year-old traveling as an Unaccompanied Minor and I really don’t think that being on your own (with airline attendant supervision) on a plane is the same thing as “going on vacation” alone.

Let’s set aside for a second the sensationalization of something rather banal in the hopes of getting readers all riled up.

I traveled as an Unaccompanied Minor for the first time when I was four.

I walked to school, going from one end of town to the other, on my own, when I was 9.

I took the London Tube (the subway) and hailed cabs on my own when I was 11.

These things are not crazy. It was not a “sign of the times.” It was not irresponsible of my parents to let me do these things. They taught me to make smart decisions and then let me make them.

That is nothing more than good parenting.

The job of a parent isn’t to solely keep their child safe. It’s to teach them to be ready to live in the world. If we spend all of our time coddling and shielding our kids from the pitfalls that might, maybe, could possibly happen, all we’re doing is making it impossible for them to ever know how to manage on their own.

That’s what’s not ok.

For a time, the phenomenon was known as Helicopter Parenting. You hovered, watched, stood by, darted in to fix things when the situation started to look a bit dicey. Now it’s called Lawnmower Parenting. The parents plow through all possible obstacles, smoothing the way so their child is never challenged in any way.

Does that sound ok to you?

I’ve seen it many times. Kids who are never allowed to explore, never allowed to figure things out on their own, go hog wild when finally freed.

Imagine the teen never allowed even a tiny sip of beer at home going off to college for the first time. Imagine the child never allowed out with friends sneaking out of a window. Imagine the teen never allowed to manage his or her own money finally getting a credit card.

These things never end well.

As a parent, our job is to teach our kids to do things safely and smartly while we’re still in the wings to steer them back on path. 

America was once a great nation of innovation and grit. We had to be. There was no one to pave the road or show us the way. We can’t always be with them, so we’d better be teaching them to make good decisions. That can’t happen if there are never any decisions to make. 

Art, music, science experimentation have already been taken away from our schools. If we take away the ability to play outside, to explore, to discover the world without a hovering parent, we will be reduced to a nation of rule following, line toeing citizens, who have lost the ability to innovate and grow. 

When my kids were toddlers I let them climb onto chairs by themselves, I let them fail, let them try again, and I applauded their success when they finally reached their goal.

These days…

I let my kids play for hours without checking in to see what they’re doing.

I let my kids go to the bathroom on their own in restaurants.

I let my kids play with toys and art supplies as they see fit, even if it’s not according to manufacturer’s instructions.

I let my kids try daring stunts on playground equipment.

I let my kids climb trees.

I let my kids walk home from school with friends.

I let my kids walk to their friends’ house down the street.

I let my kids walk the dog on their own.

I let my kids make their own breakfast.

I let my kids do their own homework.

I let my kids make mistakes, and fix them on their own.

I let my kids have hours and hours of unstructured, unscheduled time.

I let my kids get bored… and then find their own way out of that boredom. 

I consider myself their coach and their encouragement. I don’t do things for them. I don’t pave the road they travel. 

We used to be a nation of problem solvers. If our children never have to face any problems, how will they ever develop that skill? 

We are reaching a ridiculous state where it seems to no longer be acceptable to parent in a way that will allow our kids to grow up strong, smart, independent, and able.

That’s not just a crying shame. That’s a crime.

Child monkeying around at the park