Now available for preorder: The Findlay Market Cookbook.

Findlay Market cooking demoOver the weekend, I did a little cooking demonstration featuring recipes from the upcoming “The Findlay Market Cookbook.” It’s finally on its way to the printer this week, with an expected delivery at the end of October. The book is now available for preorder online, and a launch party is in the works. Now comes the (fun) work of promoting the book to spark sales.

Downloading after the Creative Freelancer Conference.

I’m scratching my head that it was more than 2 weeks ago that I was in beautiful San Francisco for the Creative Freelancer Conference and HOW Design Live.

The interim has been hectic: First, my little vintage recipe project on my food blog scored some national media attention, which derailed work for a few days (in a very good way; more on that to come). Then, there was a holiday-shortened week. Now, as I’m about to head off for vacation, I’m swamped.

I was humbled that Ilise Benun of Marketing Mentor, the brains behind the operation, asked me to present at CFC for the first time, after 5 years in various hosting and programming roles. The session was, at its core, about roadblocks—in the form of money (the harsh realities of billing for your work and paying taxes), minutes (the ups and downs of the freelancer’s workload) and marketing (that we need to be realistic and not too hard on ourselves).

I talked about how well-prepared I thought I was when I launched my freelance writing business, and about how I’ve nonetheless run into all the roadblocks I thought I’d drive right past on my way to fame, glory and success.

In fact, my CFC presentation was a metaphor for its content: I hit a roadblock, in the form of technical difficulties that prevented me from seeing my notes on the podium laptop and left me rattled. I didn’t meet my own (perhaps overly lofty) expectations for the presentation, and I was disappointed.

But I learned two lessons: 1) print your notes, knucklehead! And 2) expect and prepare for technical difficulties.

What is a conference if not a learning experience, right? Even though this was my sixth CFC, I continue to glean nuggets of wisdom from it. Here are some ideas that really stuck with me:

The Arc of Failure: Intro and closing speaker Luke Mysse talked about the progression we go through when we’re reaching for a goal, no matter how big or small. We start off at launch with a lot of momentum, work uphill until we reach a plateau … and think: I’ve worked so hard; now what? Why isn’t this as good or interesting as I expected? We then enter a downhill slide into disillusionment, at which point we have two options: recommit or settle. What do you do when you hit that plateau?

The Importance of Values: Supersmart Sarah Durham talked a lot about values, both personal and professional (and the intersection of the two). Values—like balance and decency and collaboration—should drive business decisions, underpin the work and unite the team and client. Note to self: Add a list of my top 5 values to my website.

You Be Cool, I’ll Be Cool: The wildly talented illustrator/designer Jessica Hische (who’s also ridiculously cute and funny) talked about this as a guidepost for every contract. In fact, it pretty much informs any client relationship.

Content, content, content: Good thing I love to write, because Mark O’Brien says we should all be adding 2,000 words per month to our websites, through blog posts, white papers, pages, etc. I figure this post gets me a quarter of the way there for July.

And then there was keynote speaker Austin Kleon, a writer who draws and author of “Newspaper Blackout” and “Steal Like an Artist” (upon which his presentation was based). Wow. I was so incredibly inspired by this guy (and images from his session appear throughout this post). Austin gave everyone permission to be inspired by work done by the people who’ve gone before us, to borrow the best from our creative heroes and make it our own.

Worth Reading

I’ve seen a number of great recaps of CFC and HOW Design Live, including:

From Jill Lynn Design (my web design partner)

From Loretta Robinson

See what you missed via Pinterest

Upcoming speaking gig: Creative Freelancer Conference.

I’m super excited to speak later this month at the Creative Freelancer Conference, part of HOW Design Live in San Francisco. I’ll be presenting a session called “What to Expect When You’re Freelancing”—and it’ll cover a range of joys and frustrations that indie creative pros face.

In crafting my presentation, I’m coming at it from a position of humility. I don’t have expertise in marketing and finance for indies—but I do have experience, which I’m willing to share in spades.

I was kind of geeky about seeing this in the conference newsletter yesterday:

Interested in learning more about the event? Visit for scoop and registration.

A conversation about local food.

I recently had the unbelievable good fortune of interviewing Paul Willis, live onstage (or rather, on a picnic table).

Paul, the founder of Niman Ranch Pork Co., was the featured speaker at the community pig roast that kicked off the Ohio Valley Greenmarket. This wonderful first-time event celebrated local food and sustainable living, and was sponsored by Edible Ohio Valley magazine (my delightful client), the Hamilton County Park District and Hamilton County Master Gardeners (of which I’m a member). With about 125 people in attendance, Paul and I had a conversation about the present and future of sustainable food.

Paul is an inspiration to anyone who’s interested in eating whole, healthful, high-quality food that’s produced in an ethical and sustainable way. A third-generation Iowa hog farmer, Paul raises animals the way his family’s always done it: outdoors, in a way that lets the pigs be, well, pigs. No less an authority than Temple Grandin has approved of Paul’s practices. Niman Ranch Pork Co., a network of more than 650 family farms, supplies Chipotle locations around the country and many fine restaurants; you’ll also find their products at stores like Whole Foods.

I wanted to share a few highlights of our conversation:

  • People often talk about local food in absolutes—as in, setting a geographical boundary (like, 50 miles) for local. In fact, Paul says, every farmer is local somewhere.
  • Scale is important in farming. Just as there’s too big—as in, big agribusiness—there’s also too small. Paul talked about the efficiencies that mid-sized food producers can realize: It’s more environmentally friendly (and economical) to ship a whole truckload of pork from Iowa to California than it is for him to transport a single pig from his farm to his processor.
  • We as consumers need to be informed and take responsibility for our purchases. “Get to know where your food comes from.”
  • Want to make a difference in our food system? “Be a farmer. Plant a tomato. Every little bit counts,” Paul said.

Dinner that night was fantastic: Napoleon Ridge Farm provided the pig; the folks at Savor (part of the Relish Group) did all the cooking using produce from Carriage House Farm and other growers. OYO served up a delicious grown-up stone fruit-vodka lemonade. Great Crescent beers were on ice.

Under a picnic shelter at Cincinnati’s Winton Woods park, over a meal of local food, in the company of new friends, under a nearly full moon, it was a remarkable evening. I’m so glad I was part of it.

photos © Bill Magness

Speaking gig: Ohio Valley Greenmarket

If you’re at all interested in making sure your food comes from sustainable sources, then you’re probably familiar with Niman Ranch. The company began in the ’70s with a Northern California property that raised beef cattle in a way that was determinedly humane and sustainable, and delivered high-quality meats to a select group of high-end restaurants. In the mid ’90s, the company added pork to its offerings, thanks to a partnership with Paul Willis, a hog farmer in Thornton, Iowa. These days, a network of more than 675 ranches and farms works on contract with Niman Ranch, according to the company’s strict guidelines for humane animal treatment, sustainable agriculture practices and quality product. Paul Willis continues in a leadership role in Niman Ranch while he manages his own hog farm.

On Friday, August 3, I’ll have the pleasure of a conversation with Paul Willis, as he’s the featured speaker at the Ohio Valley Greenmarket. This three-day event is co-sponsored by my friends at Edible Ohio Valley magazine and the Hamilton County Parks Department. I’ll be sharing a question-and-answer discussion with Paul and taking questions from the audience.

Learn more about the Ohio Valley Greenmarket and purchase event tickets here!

Virginia Creeper covers an old barn and silo at Peach Mountain Organics; photo (c) Bryn Mooth