Collected Fictions

Where culture and communications mingle

Posts tagged ‘#volunteering’

Freelancer winter survival guide

The view from the Glenora Ferry in Prince Edward County this winter.

The view from the Glenora Ferry in Prince Edward County this winter.

Short dark days are punctuated by swaths of bright snow. The city’s filth is muffled in white, faintly lit by streetlights. I admit, I have struggled through the last few months. It feels like I’m finally turning a corner, but between the “holidays”, the cold, and my wavering conviction that what I’m doing for a living makes any sense, this winter has posed some challenges. Freelancing is great when you’re feeling up, but excruciating when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. I haven’t found a magical solution to this, but plugging away at various initiatives on a regular basis seems to help:

Sign-up for something new: So this January I started taking a “house music” dance class at Urban Element Zone. Just saying this makes me chuckle. I’ve always loved dancing, especially to electronic music, so it seemed like a natural choice. My coordination skills don’t quite match my enthusiasm, but trying something new, in a context where income, education, language, and outfits really have no bearing on anything, has been refreshing and liberating. Now I just need to work up the courage to participate in our end of session performance later in March, will keep you posted…

Fabricate a routine: It’s really tempting as a freelancer to sleep in (guilty), work from home and take “me” time as you see fit. While I have done all of the above at times, generally I try to stick to a 10 am – 6 pm schedule, and not work from home. Although I am by nature independent and somewhat introverted, I do love office banter, and the comfort that people around me are also working. At home I am more likely to do laundry, play with my cat, and wonder what is going on in other people’s offices. I am forever in debt to EyeSteelFilm for allowing me to pretend like I work there.

Get help: There is no way I would be able to do what I’m doing without the support of my friends and family. As loving as they are, there are limits to how often I can lean on my husband or good friends to prop me up when I’m down. So this January I amped up my therapy sessions from once every two weeks to every week. While I don’t love going to therapy this often, the benefits are indisputable. If there are no systems in place at your work to deal with mental health, consider recommending getting involved with Partners for Mental Health. They have many resources for companies to raise awareness and take concrete action towards creating healthier work environments.

Cross-country skiing at L'Escapade in Rigaud this January.

Cross-country skiing at L’Escapade in Rigaud this January.

Get outside: While many of us start thinking about travelling south around this time of year, the freelance reality doesn’t always allow for lavish travel. I’m still working on ways to get to SXSW Interactive somehow (maybe next year), in the meantime I am trying to content myself with enjoying the snow. I actually really like winter. Perhaps instilled in me by my adventure-seeking father, I find the idea of downhill or cross-country skiing, skating or sledding quite appealing. While not all Montrealers share this enthusiasm, I find the benefits of a little fresh air to go a long way when we’re otherwise hibernating at home or at work.

Hamming it up with CreativeMornings ladies

Hamming it up with CreativeMornings ladies

Volunteer: Freelancing can be isolating, let’s face it. I’ve been involved with CreativeMornings Montréal almost since it’s founding in 2013, and haven’t looked back. Not only does this ever-growing community provide me with a network of people working in some of Montreal’s most innovative fields, it’s also allowed me to significantly expand my content strategy and writing portfolio. While volunteering has it’s challenges, i.e. occasional clashes in working styles or objectives, overall, like in anything, you get out of it what you put in. If you’re looking for new ways to invest your time, consider joining the board of a cultural organization through Montréal Arts Affaires, or check out Bénévoles Affaires, which matches up professionals with non-profits. Whatever you choose, make sure that it maximizes your strengths and challenges you, otherwise it will not likely stick.

Image: Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens "The Prophets" at the BNLMTL 2014.

Image: Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens “The Prophets” at the BNLMTL 2014.

Take stock: The aspect of freelancing that I find most difficult is managing fluctuating budgets and saving for taxes. While I can sometimes float through a few months without paying too much attention to the  big picture, I’m trying to take the bull by the horns and be more pro-active about managing my money. I love Freshbooks for bookkeeping, and my accountant Dan Lacroix is great at recommending strategies for the self-employed and small businesses. I also recently signed up for Mint.com, in an attempt to actually create and stick to a personal budget. Any suggestions on how to do this better and less painfully are welcome.

Visit your local library: When not braving the cold in the winter months, I love a good novel. Frustrated with trying to manage annoying Adobe digital rights issues in borrowing library books with Kobo, I have been making visits to both the amazing Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and my more modest local Parc-Extension Library. (I just found out that I can return BAnQ books at my local library actually, which will hopefully save me from my usual library late fees!) I just finished Boris Fishman’s A Replacement Life, which I would highly recommend. The protagonist Slava, a young writer, struggles to accept his Russian Jewish heritage and relatives in Brooklyn while attempting to establish himself in Manhattan at the fictional Century magazine. When his grandfather asks him to write letter to claim restitution funds for holocaust survivors, Slava is faced with a moral dilemma. The characters’ mix of pride in their heritage, and humour in facing day-to-day struggles feels eminently relatable. This novel explores some of my favourite issues – the blurry zone between fiction and non-fiction, in how we frame our past, present ourselves to the world, and tell our stories.

Don’t be so hard on yourself: Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, as an eager self-critic, I need to be reminded not to take myself overly seriously and analyze my choices to death. It’s difficult to be your own champion when things are slumpy, but I try and take things one day at time. I still worry about my future, how my career choices will impact my relationship, keeping my clients happy, and diversifying my client base. Some worry is normal. Paralyzing anxiety is not. So try and celebrate your successes, even if this means framing success differently than what you imagined as a child. In my case, it’s not working for a prestigious company, making the big bucks, or dressing in fancy clothes that bring satisfaction, but the knowledge that I’m taking a risk everyday to do what I love.

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Fall round-up

A recent Thanksgiving trip to Algonquin Peak, Adirondacks, NY.

A recent Thanksgiving trip to Algonquin Peak, Adirondacks, NY.

Collected Fictions has had a few technical web challenges lately, so the post below is a conglomeration of many newsworthy items from the past couple months. It’s difficult to choose what to write about sometimes, as I’ve been fairly busy lately, but not only with cultural marketing projects. There is no distinct divide between my personal and professional life lately, so why try and create one here? Below is an attempt to keep you up to date with my various projects in no particular order: buying a and fixing up a house(!) with my dearest Bob Moore, interning with my favourite interior decorator Annika Krausz, being maid of honour at my sister’s wedding, getting a CMF grant to continue working on Burgundy Jazz for the next half year, continuing to collaborate with the talented Immersive Design Studios, officially joining the Creative Mornings Montreal team, and last but not least, getting out of town for some much needed fresh air and inspiration. Details below!

 A major move

A year and half ago, our landlord in Outremont casually told us he was planning on selling our apartment, inquiring whether we might be interested in buying it. Although that was not in the cards, it did get us thinking about whether or not we were ready to buy a place of our own. Many months later, with the help of our amazing realtor Martin Desjardins, Bob Moore and I bought a duplex in Montreal’s burgeoning Parc-Extension neighbourhood. While Parc-Ex can’t boast of the many cafes, restaurants and trendy shops of Mile-End, Little Italy or even Villeray, what it lacks in gentrification it makes up for in affordability and genuine character. I think we’ve both been pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone around here is (literally knocking on our door with welcome to the neighbourhood cakes – thanks Gina, Nathalie and Tony!); and that in the end we don’t really miss the hustle bustle of Mile End too much. The photos below illustrate the progress we’ve made so far on the exterior.

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What the house looked like when we bought it last winter. In need of a face lift! Still haven’t managed to get rid of that pink paint somehow…

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Our trusty team of contractors / demolition crew doing the first of the dirty work this summer. I was happy to discover that the ugly roof over the second floor balcony was not original and that nice brick work was hidden underneath.

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A relatively recent shot of the facade. New balconies, newly pointed bricks, new doors and windows, and a small front garden!

As you can see there is still some work left to do, as I imagine there always is when you own a home. Overall, although a bit exhausted after a few months of renovations (there always seems to be one more project!), I have found it to be very exciting. As someone who has always had a lot of ideas when it comes to interior design, it was thrilling to see them come to life. Which leads me to my next exciting project…

Interior designing with Annika

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Mid-way through our renovations this summer, which were spear-headed by our good friend and talented local designer Annika Krausz, I had a hunch that I wanted to get more involved in design projects generally. Having become an obsessive consumer of design blogs (hello Feedly!), magazines, and an admirer of beautiful spaces in general, I decided to pitch Annika on a collaboration. To my delight, she accepted! The project is two-fold, on the one hand she has hired me to help create communication tools for her clients as well as a more cohesive visual identity. And on another, I’m shadowing her on client consultations and pitching in where I can with advice on layouts, sourcing and measuring stuff. Not sure where this is all leading but I’m having so much fun!

 Jenny ties the knot!

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My little sister Jennifer got married last month! As maid of honour (woot woot!), I got to help out with some of the preparations, including searching for THE dress and organizing a little shower in Montreal at my Mom’s place this summer. After so much anticipation, the wedding day flew by in a flash! Jen moved to beautiful Prince Edward County last year with her (now) husband Jeremiah MacKenzie. They got married at a beautiful little Anglican church in Wellington, where Jeremiah grew up. And the reception was at my favourite county winery: Norman Hardie. The one thing we couldn’t plan for was the weather, which ended up being a bit rainy. The staff at Norm’s was very accommodating, holding the cocktails and charcuterie table right in the winery itself, which immediately created a fun vibe as everyone arrived. Props to the super organized wedding planner Laura Kennedy and talented designer Erin Mills who pulled off a beautiful event, curated of course by Jen herself. The pic below is from the rehearsal dinner, I can’t wait to see the ones from the official photographer!

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The happy couple – Jeremiah & Jennifer MacKenzie

Burgundy Jazz – expanding locally and nationally

Oliver Jones, Éric Lagacé, Norman Marshall Villeneuve.

Oliver Jones, Éric Lagacé, Norman Marshall Villeneuve.

I was happy to hear from Burgundy Jazz Producer Katarina Soukup that our CMF application for Marketing and Distribution was accepted this summer! Continuing to work with Laurent Ropers in Business Affairs, Director David Eng on content, and a new collaborator Kathy Sperberg on the Education side, we are currently developing a three-fold plan to extend Burgundy Jazz to wider audiences. On the local side, we are continuing partnerships with organizations who were instrumental in the launch last spring, such as the Centre Culturel Georges Vanier and the Arondissement du Sud-Ouest. The photo above is from a recent free Oliver Jones concert, organized by the borough. In terms of education initiatives, Kathy is bringing her expertise to developing Burgundy Jazz lesson plans and workshops. Finally, we also aim to expand our partnerships to jazz festivals and organizations across the country, in doing so, highlighting Montreal’s key role as the birthplace of the Canadian jazz scene. This Saturday October 19th, as part of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal, Catbird Productions is offering free guided tours of Little Burgundy. Stay tuned for other upcoming activities!

Immersive Design Studios

Hybrid Space & The Panoramic Screen, Experimental Media and Performance Art Center, New York, 2008. @IDS

Hybrid Space & The Panoramic Screen, Experimental Media and Performance Art Center, New York, 2008. @IDS

I am thrilled to continue to work with the talented artists and innovators Thomas Soetens Kora Van Den Bulcke at Immersive Design Studios. With backgrounds in visual arts, architecture, gaming and digital arts, their projects never fail to push boundaries. We recently collaborated on texts for a promotional brochure, and an extensive a development project.

Creative Mornings Montreal

Helping out at Creative Mornings Montreal Urbanism event at the CCA. Photo by John Bowie http://twitter.com/plank.

Helping out at Creative Mornings Montreal Urbanism event at the CCA. Photo by John Bowie http://twitter.com/plank.

The Creative Mornings talks have been on my radar for over a year now, initially introduced to me by my super digital in-the-know lady pal Celine Celines. Founded by Tina Roth Eisenberg in 2008, what started as a local forum to share ideas amongst the New York design community, has since exploded into an international platform for creative people to get inspired and connect. When I found out that Montreal team had formed, I had to get involved! I initially reached out to the host Steve Bissonnette of Plank, who referred me to General Manager, Louis-Félix Binette of F. & Co. It has since been a pleasure getting the know the entire team. I am so impressed with everyone’s dedication and energy! I am now “Content and Community Manager” for Creative Mornings Montreal, which fits well with my other content strategy and community management projects. Check out a recent interview that I conducted with our upcoming speaker Ghislain Poirier, about PLAY.

Reaching new heights

Sometimes, you just need to get out of town for a bit. Bob and I have been (pre)occupied with house and our usual work stuff lately, so it was great to escape to the Adirondacks this past Thanksgiving weekend. We stayed at the Adirondack Loj, which I highly recommend for it’s authentic woodsy feel and proximity to trailheads, but less so it’s menu or paper thin walls… Quibbling aside, we had an absolutely glorious few days of perfect weather, dazzling fall colours, and quiet amongst the trees. I will always be a city girl at heart, but few things in life beat the feeling of reaching a mountain summit above the tree line. We chose to hike Algonquin Peak, a trail that begins near the Loj. At 5,114 feet, it’s the second tallest in the High Peaks region after Mt. Marcy. My best friend Janet remembered that we had hiked this same peak as teenagers, which I had forgotten. In any case, it was just as thrilling the second time around.

Baby steps

Baby steps

Getting into the Alpine zone, feeling pretty good about nearing the summit!

Getting into the Alpine zone, feeling pretty good about nearing the summit!

At the top of Algonquin Peak with Bobby, Adirondacks, NY.

At the top of Algonquin Peak with Bobby, Adirondacks, NY.

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artsScene Montreal Gallery Tour

PHI Centre artsScene

On April 3rd 2013, artsScene Montreal held its annual gallery tour, introducing young professionals to emerging artists and established  galleries over the course of a lively spring evening. The first event of its kind without former partner the Association des Galleries d’Art Contemporain (AGAC), artsScene took the opportunity this year to work with larger galleries, as well as individual artists. As Co-Directors of the artsScene Communications Committee with Isabelle Demers,  we were responsible for creating a new visual identity for the event, creating invitations, web and social media content, as well as coordinating with all the various galleries and partners.

The evening kicked off in style at the PHI Centre, where participants were greeted and assigned to one to one of five groups, each doing a unique version of the gallery tour. We also had the chance to visit Karnaval: photographic works by Leah Gordon; an eye-opening exhibit into the mystical and ritualistic traditions of the Haitian carnival festivals.  My group then moved on to the gallery Centre Clark, followed by visits to artists David Lafrance and Jean-François Lauda’s studios. I was impressed at the lively discussions, as the painters shared insights into their inspirations and process. Somewhat selfishly, I also enjoyed seeing a more conservative crowd getting out of their comfort zone in a messy studio, worried about getting paint on their expensive suits. This is a feeling I can relate to, sometimes feeling like the odd “creative” at artsScene’s more businessy events. The discomfort always seems to be worthwhile; I try and learn from our differences rather than exaggerate them.

Professional differences aside, at the end of the tour, all participants gathered at the Arsenal gallery, a cavernous converted shipping hangar in Griffintown. We explored the “Like Thunder out of China” exhibit, then hung about for desert, wine and tea. Although the closing party venue seemed too big to get a lively party going, I did enjoy the night, particularly our new collaboration with Mélodie Hébert of Galeries Montréal. An online hub for all Montreal galleries, it aims to promote Montreal’s visual arts by diffusing information about upcoming exhibits and events. A big thank you is also in order to all our Communications volunteers, specifically Isabelle Ouellet, Rémi Paquet, Joey Tanny, and Julie Cler, who were indispensible to the success of the evening.

Photo: Christine Bourgier

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