Three Life Lessons I Learned from my Mentors

A mentor is a guide, an advisor, someone you trust (and sometimes imitate) before you find your own way. I’ve been lucky to have had many mentors throughout my life, and I’d like to join Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland (PS I’m the new Marketing + Communications Manager there) to celebrate the lessons I learned from my mentors.

Three Life Lessons I Learned from My Mentors

My Mentors

Lessons from my Mentors 01 :: Your Voice Matters

Every mentor I’ve had has been brazen and bold, unafraid to speak their minds. But what’s more is they encourage others to raise their voices as well. As women, we’re often taught not to speak unless spoken to, and when we do our opinions get dismissed based the the apparent mood of the moment. (That’s been my experience anyway). But, through my mentors, I’ve learned how to tactfully and effectively communicate my opinions, thoughts, and expertise.

For those of you still uncertain of your voice, learning to speak your mind doesn’t come easily. I’ve made many enemies, burned a few bridges, and embarrassed myself countless times. But it was worth it to get to a point where I trust my voice.

Lessons from my Mentors 02 :: Let Your Gift Shine

Another lesson we learn as women is to hold back our talent so that we don’t make others feel bad. This was a common self-sabotage I inflicted on myself until my mentors began celebrating my talents. I became aware of the way I downplayed my successes and brushed off compliments as if they belonged to someone else. Through my mentors, I learned that the best way I can make a positive impact in the world is by following my dreams and letting my gift shine.

Lessons from my Mentors 03 :: Have Fun

As a perfectionist, it used to be hard for me to have fun at work. Sure I laughed, made jokes, and had friends, but inside I was analyzing every moment of my day. My mentors knew that having fun was part of what made them successful (+ able to hustle when the time came).

September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month

Celebrate Big Brothers Big Sisters month with me by sharing your stories of mentorship. Share your experiences on your own blog, or on social media using hashtags #MyMentor, #MentoringMatters, and #BBBSMonth. And, if that doesn’t curb your appetite, become a mentor and see firsthand the impact that mentorship has on young people.

Five Canadian Authors on my Reading List

For a writer, I don’t read nearly enough. But I do have a bookshelf, a nightstand, and some drawers full of pages waiting to be turned, most of them written by Canadian authors. Here are five Canadian authors on my reading list. Now if only I could stop time and jump into these books!

Five Canadian Authors on my Reading List

Canadian Authors to Read

Photo by Sov Sylvester Sin

Canadian Authors on my Reading List :: Kim McCullough

When I took UBC’s writing mentorship, Kim McCullough was the MFA writing student who helped me finalize my story. She’s been published in Room Magazine, Grain Magazine, Prism international, and more. Her novel, Clearwater is next up on my reading list.

Canadian Authors on my Reading List :: Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore judged Sarah Selecky’s Little Bird Writing Contest this year. Her first two books were nominated for the Giller Prize, which is one of literature’s most prestigious prizes. I’ve placed them both on my reading list, along with February, which was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

Canadian Authors on my Reading List :: Jane Urquhart

I first heard about Jane Urquhart when I was studying creative writing in university. Her compilation of Canadian fiction was our required reading and I devoured every story assigned to us. Jane Urquhart is a Canadian author with over 15 titles to her name. It may be a challenge to read all of them, but my reading list is now plentiful thanks to her.

Canadian Authors on my Reading List :: Elizabeth Hay

A Giller Prize winning Canadian author, Elizabeth Hay came out with a new novel last summer. I’d like to put that on my reading list, but with nine books in her bibliography (only one of which I’ve read), it’s hard to choose where to start.

Canadian Authors on my Reading List :: Annabelle Lyon

Annabelle Lyon had just come out with her novel, Sweet Girl, when I was first looking into taking the UBC MFA in creative writing. Her work can also be found in Jane Urquhart’s short stories anthology mentioned above.

Canada has no shortage of talented writers, but as an emerging writer, it’s important for me to read more Canadian authors. Read more from my other favorite Canadian writers.

My Favorite Canadian Writers

With the United States as our neighbors, when it comes to role models, it often seems like Canada lacking. However, when it comes to literature, we are plentiful. Maybe it’s because I’m ingrained in the writing community, but I’ve always felt like Canadian writers are the ones to beat. Here are a few of my favourite Canadian writers (PS they’re all women)!

My Favorite Canadian Writers

My Favorite Canadian Writers :: Alice Munro

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Alice Munro is a Canadian writer who has mastered the art of short story writing. Her stories are rich, tragic, and thoughtful. I once saw an interview where she admitted she often felt like she wasn’t a good enough writer when she first started out. She won the Nobel Prize Prize for Literature in 2013.

My Favorite Canadian Writers :: Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood is the iconic Canadian writer. She’s written novels, short stories, creative fiction, and poetry. She’s one of those writers who has created an enterprise of her work. I’d love to have a career similar to hers, and to one day have my work studied in high school classrooms, like hers was when I was behind the desk.

My Favorite Canadian Writers :: Sarah Selecky

Sarah Selecky has the writing business I long for. She’s created an online community where she both teaches and creates. I often felt like writing was a bit of a misfit, not quite seen as an art form and not quite seen as a valuable commodity. Sarah Selecky has shown how writing is both, and how it can be a lucrative career.

My Favorite Canadian Writers :: Margaret Laurence

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Margaret Laurence is another iconic Canadian writer whose work is studied in high schools across the country. My favorite are her Lake Minnewanka characters that pop up amongst many of her stories. She created a world that was both unmistakable Canadian and entirely fictional.

My Favorite Canadian Writers :: Ann-Marie MacDonald

Ann-Marie MacDonald is best known for two of her novels: The Way the Crow Flies and Fall on your Knees. She is also a host of the CBC Doc Zone series. Her stories navigate traumatic realities that many girls face with an elegance and truth that lingers long after the pages have turned.

The Best Places to go in Vancouver

I was talking to a tourist recently who asked about the inside scoop on fun in Vancouver. I had so much fun imparting my local knowledge I decided to share my favorite best places to go in Vancouver.

The Best Places to go in Vancouver

Best Places to go in Vancouver

Ice Cream

Craft ice cream is a thing in Vancouver. I’ve spoiled myself so much with these delicious venues that I can’t even enjoy regular store-bought ice cream. My favourites are:

Meals

There’s no way I could list all the amazing food in Vancouver. I drool just thinking about it. But,the places you shouldn’t leave without visiting are:

Booze

Like food, the selection of booze in Vancouver is overwhelming. Craft beer, craft cider, and custom cocktails abound. Check out these venues:

Beaches

Vancouver has some pretty nice beaches, but many of them get super busy in the summer. Here are my favorite beaches:

  • Third Beach (for a quieter day)
  • Kits Beach (if you want to meet young, hip, active locals)
  • Second Beach (if you’re with your kids)
  • Wreck Beach (it’s a nude beach)

Art

One of the best things about Vancouver is the art. We’ve got a wide range of art galleries, from big to small, and private to public. These are the art galleries I go to often:

Neighborhoods

Take a stroll around these Vancouver neighbourhoods to get a feel for the local culture:

  • Mount Pleasant
  • Gastown
  • Lynn Valley
  • Hastings Sunrise

Souvenirs

If you want to pick of something nice to take home with you, I recommend these souvenirs:

Meet Brianne Nord-Stewart, Writer, Director, and Editor

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Photo by Lung Lui

Photo by Lung Lui

Tell us about yourself.

Make the first question a little harder why don’t ya! Well, I’m a filmmaker. I write, direct, produce and edit various works of film and media. Mostly scripted, mostly comedy. I love collaborating with musicians on music videos, whether concept, or live videos. The goal is to have most of my focus on sole directing, both in TV and feature films, while remaining a creative producer, and co-writing, or working with a writer to build the project together. Outside of that, I ride my bike, do yoga, borrow dogs and cars for hikes, dream of owning a boat, and travel at every opportunity.

What drew you to becoming a filmmaker?

As a seven-year-old actor once said to me, “I want to be a director like you so that I can tell everyone what to do.” I was lucky enough to write and direct my first short in high school. I knew right then that I wanted to be a director, and I was more than capable enough to pursue it. From then on I just pursued a a director career and didn’t leave space for any doubt in as to whether or not it would work out. I then started writing so that I would have something to direct, and edited because no one else around me was interested, nor got my humour. Now I have too many ideas to execute them all, and while I know how to edit, and I’m good at it, and others pay me to do it for them, it would be fantastic to find a collaborative editor who gets me, gets my comedy, and makes it even better.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

Real life. Real life x 1000. Or the over caffeinated version of real life. At this point, I will stay longer in almost any situation that I don’t particularly like just to find out: what happens next? Online date that is making animal noises at me, sure. Let’s stay awhile, this might be reaaaaal good. If you look through my body of work, you may come to the same conclusion that my grandpa did, “you seem to make a lot of films about sex, eh?” I think I just want to bring the relief of laughter to situations most of us are too uptight to laugh about. I’m currently working on some serious dark subject matter and calling it a comedy. There is a theatre show on tour that is a comedy about rape, by and for victims of sexual assault. I hope it’s hilarious, and I would love to see it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start filmmaking?

You need to be seriously flexible with your lifestyle. You need to know how to save when you have a pay day, and make it last when you aren’t making any money, so that you can use that “not making any money” time to really hone in on your craft, and invest in yourself, to finance your own work.

Also, don’t be a prick. No one wants to do favours for a prick, and you will need a fuck ton of favours to get your indie whatever made.

Know what other people’s jobs are all about. If you don’t know what an editor is up against, you are doing yourself a disservice as a director. I have learned so much by editing my own work. I can hear myself directing on set, times when I did well, and times when I should have shut the hell up and let the scene carry on. You also get to see all your mistakes and shots you should have gotten over the ones you did.

What are the biggest challenges for filmmakers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

Making movies is fucking expensive. That said, you can make films for practically nothing now, and a good script is far more valuable than fancy equipment or fancy locations. Story comes first. Finding out that your story isn’t that great while you’re in the editing room, is a seriously expensive mistake. Show people your script. Pay for a script doctor. Make the film, show people, and do it again. As your skills with each project, you can also grow your budget (or not).

You also have to be self-motivated. No one will hold you accountable to write your own first feature. No one cares if you sell it. Only you do. So do yourself a favour and work hard. As for favours, make it better, and try like hell to make it.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

My house (either my desk, my kitchen chopping block, the dining room table, or the old lady chair in my room), my office (on my office mates’ desk), JJbean on Bute & Alberni (the space chairs upstairs are so comfy). When it’s just me and my notebook, Happy Hour at Waterfront Station’s Rogue Wet Bar.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

There are really so many, and every year I just add more. William F. Whites has been HUGE in supporting my productions and I look forward to studios paying them millions in the future to rent their gear for my productions. Women in the Director’s Chair has mentored me since university, Telus and Telus Optik, Harold Greenberg Fund, BC Arts Council, The Movie Network, Movie Central, SEED in Northwest Territories, the NFB, have all financed a film, music video, or my professional development. The people I met at my old yoga studio got me more contract video work than anyone from university or otherwise ever did. I’m a hustler and have either found or created most of my paid work in the last seven years. I’ll be getting an agent very soon and hopefully I will be credited them for a lot in the near future.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I just wrapped Season One of a new comedy web-series, YOUNG & RECKLESS, written by Andrea Shawcross, which will be available on Telus Optik VOD, YouTube, and more come the fall. I have one or two new videos coming down the pipe with singer RYKKA, and my first with Vancouver’s Sadie Campbell, which will be out mid June.

I have three other web-series/series in the works, my short BEAT AROUND THE BUSH is killing it at film fests across the continent and now spilling into Europe, as well as a feature film of the same concept in development. You can keep up to date with all the things at www.Nord-Stewart.com.

Anything you’d like to add?

Please recycle. Eat real food. Respect the outdoors, and laugh at my goddamn movies.

Did you connect with Brianne? Check out my interview with Melanie Jones or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Samantha Landa, Founder of Brandcafe

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Samantha Landa on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a full-time content, branding, and writing professional (samlanda.com) who’s launching a new company (brandcafe.co) this summer. That’s “by day.” I’m also a metal drummer “by night.” Born and raised in Richmond, I now live in Mount Pleasant with my boyfriend and husky. I have a dusty geography degree from UBC and I love meeting new people. Overachievers unite–you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

What drew you to the content and branding world?

I’ve been writing all my life–I’m pretty sure I was born with a pen in my hand. That later became a Windows 3.1 PC. And that later became a MacBook. As a creative writer, I always dreamed of being a novelist. I may not be one yet (although I finished writing one a few years ago), but I do get paid to do what I love, which at the moment is helping companies tell their stories and find an interesting voice–especially those in traditionally non-exciting industries.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I love a great ad campaign, especially one that makes me think or makes me laugh. There are a million ways to promote a product, service, or cause, but there are only a few ways to do it right. Most of all, however, it’s people who inspire me, both in my content work and my music. I love making people happy.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start doing what you do?

For those wanting to write for businesses: volunteer a lot, if you aren’t walking out of school with a communications degree (and even then, you should get experience your own way). There are plenty of people looking for writing help, and you can plump up your resume very quickly. Go to networking events. Check Meetup.com. There are tons out there!

For those wanting to quit the day job and work for yourself: do it. But have a plan, and a backup plan. Start moonlighting and meeting people who could become potential clients. Just don’t let the planning get in the way of your dreams. It’s never going to be the perfect time, which means now is the perfect time.

For those wanting to learn drums: you’re going to suck after just a few tries. Don’t give up. The number of people who say “I’m a horrible drummer” but have only sat down on the drums once, is astounding. I was a terrible drummer for a long time, and I’m a musical person; I just didn’t want to practice enough. Find your passion and do whatever it takes to get there, no matter how long you need to struggle. Rent an hourly rehearsal space (there are plenty in town) and get a good teacher.

What are the biggest challenges for writers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

The biggest challenge for many writers–especially freelancers–is setting one’s self apart from hundreds of other Vancouver writing professionals. There are many of you out there, but there’s more than enough work to go around. Shake hands. Get outside. Make and receive referrals. Be a good writer (“maybe she’s born with it”). But most importantly, be genuine, and people will respect you and trust you to do good work. Then go in there and prove how awesome you are, champ.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I’m biased, but I work a few days a week (when I can) at Spacekraft, a great coworking space in Burnaby. It has everything I need to be productive, but it also provides the social setting I miss from when I used to work in a corporate office.

Also, my patio is awesome.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

The most helpful resource I’ve found so far has been a closed Facebook group called Girl Gang. I’ve found clients, contractors, referral partners, and friends through this group. I highly recommend finding Meetup groups like this, or starting your own accountability group, especially if you’re a solopreneur or a new small business owner.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I’m launching my company, Brandcafe, this summer. It takes the SaaS package business model and applies it to the content world (to the uninformed, it means businesses sign up for a package to get ongoing custom content every month). And my band is recording our second album!

Did you connect with Sam? Check out my interview with Sara Bynoe or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Melanie Jones, Filmaker and Artist

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Melanie Jones on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Melanie Jones. I am an artist and filmmaker and my “day job” is Assistant Professor of Sculpture & Extended Media at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford. I grew up making art and pursued a BFA and MFA. After all that I decided to throw it all aside and go to film school! I’ve been making films for about 10 years now. I went to Langara College for my film education. Since then I’ve made 13 short films and just completed my first feature film called “FSM” which played at Vancity Theatre Apr 16 and 18 during Canadian Film Week and was featured on the cover of the Georgia Straight last week.

What drew you to becoming an artist?

I have wanted to be an artist since I was a kid. So I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creative or trying to be. It’s in my DNA I think. My parents were both musicians (jazz and opera) so I grew up in a house where creativity was highly valued. My parents also both became teachers and I’m certain that influenced my decision to pursue a teaching career as a parallel path to my creative work. It gives me just enough free time to pursue my own projects, while still feeling grounded and able to pay my rent.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I have a deep desire for honesty. I think that some of the best art in the world is about truth-seeking. That’s what always draws me in. I personally find it very hard to lie, which has sometimes gotten me into trouble. So I think it’s just part of who I am. I like truth and a certain kind of raw vulnerability that comes from art-making and storytelling in the mediums I’ve chosen. My goal in filmmaking is always to find the honesty of the scene or the moment. To get there with the actors. My biggest criticism of other films is when the acting feels like “acting.” It’s gotta be genuine to make that deep imprint on us. Now that I’ve started writing, I’m searching for that kind of honesty on the page in the subjects and dialogue in my films.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start making films?

Start. When I decided to apply to film school I looked up the nearest film club and jumped on set as a crew member. I’ve always been a bit of a keener in school and I was worried about going to film school and knowing nothing about being on set! Haha. But it really was an amazing way to learn and begin to network. I still know and work with people from that very first film. In Canada, and especially Vancouver, there are so many opportunities to make films—Crazy 8’s, Hot Shot Shorts, Whistler 72 Hour Showdown, Raincity, Storyhive—and you don’t need a lot of money to make a short film. You need realiable friends and some gear. Even then, you can shoot on your phone nowadays. It might not be the most beautiful film you ever make, but you learn every time you make a film and that experience is invaluable. It’s important to recognize that film is a collaborative medium. If you have ideas but no interest in compromise or working with others, then film isn’t for you—better to choose another art form where you can be in total control. Me, I love that part of making films—it’s the “two heads are better than one” idea except you literally have hundreds of “heads” working on solutions to the challenges that arise. It transcends what any one person would be able to do alone. I feel energized by working with others and encouraging everyone to bring ideas to the table and shine.

What are the biggest challenges for filmmakers? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

Almost always it’s money and time. People who want to be filmmakers often end up working in the industry in other positions and the hours can be long—leaving you with little time or energy for your own projects. I decided to go a different route with my “job” so I would have more time and energy for my dreams. But you have to live, and living in Vancouver is expensive. And films can be expensive to make. How else do you raise money to make one? There’s stiff competition for real funding, and not everyone can crowdfund successfully. It’s a tough balance to strike. For female filmmakers, it’s unfortunate but true that there is an uphill battle. The stats are abysmal. But there’s hope. I think we just have to rally around each other and keep busting down that door, as many times as it takes until the funders and studios realize they are actually missing out on something by not supporting literally half the human population’s stories. I believe it will get better, and I just hope to be part of it.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I wrote my first feature film, “FSM,” almost entirely while sitting at the Granville Island Tea Company. But they’ve gotten rid of their seating area now so lately I write more at home. I do have a new-ish favorite spot because it has no wifi, so I don’t get distracted when I go there to work. It’s busy a lot so sometimes can be hard to get a seat. That’s why I’m not sharing the location…haha.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

The indie film community in Vancouver is actually pretty rad. There are TONS of groups for support and networking. I find it exhausting actually so it’s best to probably pick a couple that you like and not try to do them all. There’s Celluloid Social Club, Cold Reading Series, Women in Film and Television, Raindance, Cineworks, and plenty more on Facebook that you can join for jobs and networking. I have my own group called FADE IN where I host script reads sometimes—just with a few friends. But I’ve attended or been a member of all of the above at various times in the past decade. I also really love this online newsletter called Mentorless.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I’m editing a music video for a Vancouver artist named “ROYAL,” hope to release that in May. And writing my next feature called “Switchback”—it’s a wilderness thriller set on the West Coast Trail here in British Columbia. I’m building the funding application for that right now—looking for funds and investors so I can shoot it next spring. FSM is off to Nice, France next.

Did you connect with Melanie? Check out my interview with Laurel Brown, Founder of Cinema Spectacular, or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Ciele Beau, Vancouver Creative and Musician

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Ciele Beau on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I always have the hardest time answering this question. I always feel like there is so much to boil down. I do a lot of things. My name is Ciele, and I am a maker of things and a creative thinker. I spend a lot of my time making music (under “Ciele”). Right now I am dabbling in writing for electronic producers, but also working on my own music which could be defined as electronic alternative-pop.

When I’m not making music I split my time making art. I am a professional painter, graduating in 2013 with my BFA from UVic, majoring in Visual Arts. I am currently working a lot with my experience of synesthesia; a condition where the stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory pathway, for example I experience colour when I hear sound. (Examples and further explanation can be seen here). I also started my own art and design company this year, Honey and Heart Co., which focuses on freelance graphic design and illustration, as well as an etsy shop! I opened up my etsy shop a few months ago, so you can check out some of that either on Etsy or on Instagram. I am currently attending Emily Carr University, getting my 2D Design certificateto brush up some skills, which I will hopefully have completed in the next year.

What drew you to becoming a musician and creator?

Ever since I can remember I have been creating, constantly doing crafts and drawing, and singing at every waking moment. My friends call me the walking jukebox because I often start singing whatever song reference comes to mind based on a single word someone has said. I grew up being very shy, and introverted, and relatively private when it comes to my emotions and feelings, so I found a great space for expression in art, of every medium. I have been striving to make my art my main profession in my adult life because that is what makes me whole. For a few years after graduating university, I was working some minimum wage service jobs and found myself getting really depressed because not only was I broke, working full-time, but I also didn’t have a lot of energy for my creative passions, and what I actually wanted to be doing. So the last three years especially has been a journey of getting to a place where I can work creatively and be more fulfilled in my life doing things I love.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I’m very influenced by the condition of the human heart, and the way we connect to each other. Ideas of acceptance, diversity, honesty, and the meat of human emotion and what rocks us. In my music I write a lot about the human condition, and from experiences I have been in. I try to be as honest as possible so people can relate to something real. In my art I try to do the same thing but in a bit of a different way. While my music is a bit more serious, my art is bright and poppy, and I use a little dark humor here and there to get my point across about something I’m feeling or an issue that’s important to me. I’m influenced by nostalgia, and being present. By small moments, and quiet conversations. By loud colours, and natural phenomena. By people’s laughter, and by their tears. By the human bond that moves between each and every one of us.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start being an artist?

This advice seems a bit cliché, but honestly you just have to keep working hard and truly believing that you’re on the right path. The arts, in general, can be an “off the beaten path” profession regardless of which creative avenue you’re following, but if you believe it’s what you’re meant to do, and you can find a way to express yourself authentically , than GO FOR IT. I read something a while back that talked about how often times its not about how talented you are at something but how long you committed to doing it, because along the way, no matter what, people will give up, and it’s the people who stuck it through that end up “making it” (whatever that means to you). So, keep at it. Allow yourself days when you simply feel like shit and don’t have energy for anything else, and then pick yourself up the next day, and get back to the hustle. Stay curious, and inspired by the small things around you, and the people you see every day. You don’t have to fly halfway across the world to get inspiration (but if your work takes you traveling, hallelujah! ENJOY IT!) And, most of all, remember to play, to keep things fun, and try not to take yourself too seriously.

What are the biggest challenges for artists? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

A huge challenge for artists/musicians/freelancers is the common expectation of working for free. Which I think is pretty ridiculous. I’m sure many of you have seen a meme or video on the internet showing what it would look like if you asked professionals in other fields to work for free and how silly that looks. I think in all professions there is a point and time where you are the “student” and you need practice, so sometimes you do it for the experience. I would say in situations like that, if you don’t want to charge money, perhaps it could be an exchange of services with the other individual, or something that makes it an energy exchange versus a financial exchange. At a certain point though, you can’t just be doing jobs for free–you’ll never actually make money if you aren’t charging for your services/paintings/vocal features.

How can we overcome this? It’s such a hard question. If you’re a non-creative person who ever requires the assistance of someone creative, please pay them. Value their time, and skill set, and put a monetary value on it. Creativity isn’t all about monetary gain, but like anything it’s a job and these wonderful, magical, creative people have rent to pay and families to support. If you are a creative type–I want you to think about this. If someone asked you to sit in a room for an hour, doing nothing, how much would that hour be worth to you in dollars? 20? 50? 100? Now try applying that to how long it takes you to make your art, or write a song. I bet the amount is a lot higher than you would arbitrarily charge someone for your craft. Don’t be afraid to charge for your time and your work. You are valuable. You are worth it. You are a unicorn.

Where’s your favorite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I live off Commercial Drive, so within that area, I am a regular at Continental, as well as Moja (which has great tables for setting up camp and working). I also really love Elysian near 7th and Quebec. It’s tucked away, and usually pretty quiet. And Kafka’s on Main and Broadway. I could go on… but I also really love coffee so… that’s a different conversation!

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

Hm.. a lot of my resources have come from online communities, either through Facebook, or Soundcloud, and even Instagram at times. And most often through the people around me. I haven’t had a lot of outside help from bigger organizations, or grants. One artist I have found particularly inspiring is Lisa Congdon. She is an artist based out of Portland now, and she wrote a book called Art Inc. which I found helpful and a great resource on how to make it as a painter/fine artist especially. Look it up! Also the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, if you’re in need of a major pep talk. That book is now highlighted and dog-eared like nobody’s business.

What’s in the works for you right now?

Music-wise, I just released a vibey electronic-pop version of Work by Rihanna (on Soundcloud & Spotify), and am recording a lot of demos at the moment in preparation for an EP of some kind. Art-wise, I am putting together some proposals for art grants and gallery shows, and also creating a new painting series of works based on the discomfort and stress of every day life pressures. And coming up with some new illustrations to add to my Etsy shop!

Did you connect with Ciele? Check out my interview with Zoe Welch, a Vancouver visual artist, or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Heather Vince, Founder of True Work

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Heather Vince, Founder of True Work

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Vancouver “orig-i-nal” who gets far too excited about Indian, Filipino, and Thai food. I’m passionate about accessibility, girls’ rights, travelling, design, and dogs!

I’m hard of hearing and wear two hearing aids. People ask me all the time where I’m from. They say “I can’t quite pin down where your accent is from.” They’re always surprised when I say I’m born and raised here. I love the stories and artwork that come out of the Deaf community, and I wish more people knew sign language so they could have the same appreciation. On the other hand, I’m a huge music fan with too many instruments for a person who can’t play a single one. I’m trying to learn the harmonica but my dog hates it. Music is cathartic and healing and I’d like to start a project to make music accessible to anyone who wishes to learn by creating a skill-sharing and instrument lending community (Hit me up if you’re interested in getting involved)!

What drew you to become an advocate for the Deaf community?

I was born hard of hearing, and while I was fortunate not to be teased by my classmates about my hearing aids, I knew I was different from my peers and that I had different needs—I also had the superpower of being able to lipread, so that gained me some serious cool points!

In grade nine, while working at my first job as a bus-girl at a restaurant, a deaf family came in and I practically abandoned my work to eat dinner with them—I felt like I had met my “people.” From that day on, I did everything I could to learn more about deafness and American Sign Language (ASL). I also quickly recognized my privilege in being able to step out of the Deaf world and back into the hearing world when it suited me. It bothers me.

In my high school, we could learn French, Spanish, or Punjabi, but ASL wasn’t an option. I teamed up with another young man who was on a mission to add ASL to the British Columbia education curriculum, and together with some friends, deaf and hearing, we collected thousands of signatures and took them to Victoria. The Government approved it and today students can choose American Sign Language as an elective course. My activism began when I was 15 years old.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

Anyone who is a Dancing With the Stars fan, or perhaps enjoys America’s Next Top Model, will know the name Nyle DiMarco. Nyle is a phenomenal role model for the Deaf community in that he celebrates his deafness and takes pride in his language and culture. And he’s done really well. His exposure on these two widely-watched shows has given him a platform from which he can educate hearing people on the Deaf experience of stigma and oppression. But his message is very positive in that the more we know, the more we can all come together to support one another.

In the Deaf community, there are many Nyles. Some of the most intelligent people I know are Deaf and it’s so frustrating to see limits placed upon them. I’m a big believer in accessibility and equity and I would love to see Vancouver become an inclusive city for the Deaf community.

What advice would you give someone who wants to learn American Sign Language or more about Deaf culture?

Do it. There are tons of ways in which you can learn sign language but please know there is a lot of misguided education coming from hearing teachers who have no business teaching a language that does not belong to them. Be an ally—support the Deaf community by learning from a qualified Deaf instructor. Vancouver Community College has some intro courses as well as the ASL/Deaf Studies program, and QueerASL is a queer and transgender positive space to learn with awesome, fun instructors! You won’t regret learning, I promise.

What are the biggest challenges for the Deaf community? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

We live in a phono-centric world, which means we place a lot of value on the ability to hear. The way hearing people take in the world, the way they navigate it and communicate is through sound, so they pity those who can’t hear because they can’t imagine life any other way. But deaf people are in no way missing out—the biggest hurdle for them is not that they can’t hear, but the world refusing to meet them halfway.

I think if more people were open to learning from the Deaf community about what it’s like to have important decisions made for them, have opportunities taken away, to be kept out of conversation, and always told “no,” we could begin to make some real change. And I would love to see more people making an effort to communicate. Lipreading is not dependable, so using your phone or pen and paper is best. Hey, try gesturing!

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

I have a dog and I would give anything for an office that would allow me to bring him in with me. Until then, I can be found working at home with him and my computer on my lap.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

+Acumen! The first course I took was the Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centred Design and it’s changed the way I approach problem-solving and solution-finding. They have some great courses on leadership, storytelling for change, marketing, social enterprise 101, and business models—just about everything for anyone looking to create social impact in their communities.

I was also a cohort member of Groundswell, which gave me an amazing opportunity to collaborate with some of Vancouver’s biggest hearts and brightest minds. You need mentors? They have’ em. Also Groundswell is a social enterprise café with a really great working space if you need a place to work and get caffeinated.

(Also, Girl Gang – holla!)

What’s in the works for you right now?

I just got True Work up and running. I have a vision for a new workplace, one that is inclusive and embraces new ways of communicating. True Work is an initiative to showcase professionals in Vancouver’s Deaf community and highlight the work they are doing and their personal projects. I want businesses and organizations to have an opportunity to get to know these incredible individuals, and have my website be a way to connect employers to highly qualified candidates.

I also want to have it be a catalyst for learning about the Deaf community and its vibrant culture, by sharing news and current affairs happening in Deaf communities worldwide.

Anything you’d like to add

If you or someone you know has an organization with a mandate for inclusive hiring, I’d love to chat! If you’re interested in learning more about ASL or the Deaf community (or travel, dogs, music, Indian food – anything really), I’d be thrilled to meet you.

Did you connect with Heather’s story? Check out the rest of the interview series or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

Meet Sandra Garcia, President of Conscious Public Relations Inc.

It’s tough to make friends in adulthood. Without the confines of a classroom to force you together, forging new friendship relies on extending out beyond your comfort zone. Enter Vancouver Neatos interviews, where I introduce you to a new face in Vancouver every week (ish). Want to take part? Drop me a line.

Sandra Garcia Conscious PR on Stylings and Stories

Tell us about yourself.

I’m 34, the President of Conscious Public Relations Inc., a transcendental meditation practitioner, yogi, runner, self-development junkie, and film buff. I also like to dance to old-school hip hop, bake, watch HBO + Netflix original TV series, and am an aspiring vegan. I love sweets but I am making the effort to cut refined sugar out of my diet this year. Also am taking up hiking, French, and getting married in July.

What drew you to becoming a PR practitioner?

I graduated from English literature and film studies in 2005, and was interested in film communications at the time. The administrator of the film department at UBC passed me an internship for a PR firm that specialized in events for the film industry, so that really intrigued me. After the internship, I got hired at the company, and pretty much learned everything about PR on the job. I ended up going back to school and taking some courses at BCIT, but felt that what I was learning in school was already becoming outdated. After I left the company in 2007, I didn’t feel like applying to other PR firms, so I opened my own business in 2008.

Is there anything that particularly influences or inspires your work?

I’ve always had a love for language since I was a child, though I didn’t admit it until later in life. I was reading and writing from a very young age and I think that’s what’s carried me through to corporate communications. In 2012, I rebranded to Conscious PR Inc., which specializes in PR for socially and environmentally responsible companies and individuals who are changemakers and disruptors, so people who are actively changing the world for the better are who inspires our work. I also am in awe of marketers who are ahead of the industry and leading the charge, because associations are so slow to see the changes happening in the marketing world. So people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Mitch Joel, and Sunny Lenarduzzi inspire me because they share their knowledge so openly so that the rest of us can follow suit.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start public relations?

Know that you’re a good writer and don’t stop practicing. Blogging is an easy way to do that. Also, internships are the best way in to getting work experience, and most PR programs in the Lower Mainland have practicums as part of their programs. Even if you go the traditional route and get a degree first, you can still supplement your education and volunteer or get summer internships so that you’re ahead of the game when you graduate. Have a thick skin (don’t take your work personally), and be prepared to offer service with a smile, even though you might be gritting your teeth behind it!

What are the biggest challenges for Public Relations? How do you think we can overcome those challenges?

I think the biggest challenges are the new developments, tools, and methodologies that the digital world and social media have hammered down on the PR practice. I don’t want to say that schools are behind, but they’re certainly not ahead, and neither are industry associations. Everything is changing, and you have to look ahead to keep up. At Conscious PR, we have a no news release policy because it’s so old fashioned and media don’t tend to read them.

Trying everything out to see how it might benefit our business or our clients is what we have to do to stay ahead of our practice. This is why I’m on Snapchat now! (Plug: Follow me @sandragarcia604!) For people who aren’t PR practitioners, there are SO many resources out there and we often share a lot of those on our Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

Where’s your favourite spot in Vancouver to set up a laptop and get shit done?

Before moving to Main Street, I would have said any café on Main Street. But now that I live here, I love my office and getting shit done at home. My office has natural light and if I need to unplug, I can go for a walk in the park. If I do want to post up in a café, I walk to my neighborhood Roots Café on Main at 49th.

Can you share any resources you’ve found most helpful in your career?

Mentorship programs all the way. Early in my business, the mentor I received from Women’s Enterprise Centre’s Mentorship program, Cathy Kuzel, was hugely instrumental to me. She helped me create my first sales funnel and we overhauled everything from my business plan to email templates and business cards. Two years later when I rebranded, I was a member of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) and had a mentor, Dawn Bowles, through their program, who taught me the ropes of where to network with social ventures, enterprises, and green businesses. She helped me a lot when we started offering social media management as a new service.

What’s in the works for you right now?

I’m finding the competition for public Relations clients is rising, so I’m moving to more of a tiered vs. full service model whereby we can offer a DIY online course and offer a combination of online courses and coaching. I am also excited to bring on our first Director of Good Media who will be solely responsible for managing client projects and other staff. We’re also waiting B Corp Certification and are excited to join the 1600+ companies around the world who are committed to ethical business.

I’m also planning my wedding in July and having a lot of fun with that. It helps when your fiancé also has event planning experience!

Did you connect with Sandra’s journey? Check out my interview with Lucy of Salt Design Co. or drop me a line and join the party. Here’s how you can get involved.

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