A Well-Read 2019

Before January ends I wanted to do a quick post to celebrate my love of language and storytellers in 2019. I must confess, when smartphones came out I joined millions of others who eschewed books for that hypnotic little screen. It had long been my habit to read before bed each night, but between Twitter, texting, emails and Words With Friends, my annual book count probably dropped to the single digits after 2010.

So embarrassing for someone who claimed to be an aspiring novelist.

In recent years I’ve made a concerted effort to read (and listen) to more books, explore genres outside of my comfort zone, and jump on recs from people whose taste I admire. Audio books were a godsend when I was commuting and I’m so appreciative that my local library offers an online app for audio versions, as well as eBooks. I’m a visual person so I love when an amazing narrator/performer elevates a story from the page to a vivid mind movie.

I will always schedule around Karin Slaughter and John Sandford new releases because nothing else gets done until the last page is turned. Christina Lauren is a romance writing machine that somehow creates new, individual and interesting characters with each new book. Jen Sincero and Brene Brown have articulately helped me steer my life and business these past two years. The last few pages of A Head Full of Ghosts scared the holy crap out of me!

I heard of a funny podcast about murder but I don’t do podcasts. So knowing nothing, I listened to the hosts’ book when it came out and then proceeded to binge three years of My Favorite Murder in mere weeks. Books – the gateway drug to podcasts??

Below is the mostly complete list of books I consumed last year. Lots of thrillers, romance, personal growth and a few memoirs. The majority are written by women and I’m committed to including more diversity in the line-up this year. I thoroughly enjoyed most of them, however there are stars to indicate my personal favorites. Please, let me know in the comments any titles you think that I MUST read in 2020!

2019 book list

Vision 2020 – with a Glance Back

I’m of the school that believes we are beginning a new decade in 2020, if only because it sounds so cool and futuristic. Also because the previous decade was a wild, bumpy ride and I’m looking forward to, well, looking forward! I had to close my art gallery in 2009 and spent the next several years fighting a tremendous sense of failure, but also learning from my mistakes, I hope. Briefly, here are some of the highs and lows from the past 10 years:

  • Got back in the newspaper biz.
  • Won some awards.
  • Wrote a novel-length story that published online.
  • Made new friends and met some of them in Forks, “under a near-constant cover of clouds.”
  • I fell in love – hard.
  • Moved to Arizona.
  • Stepfather passed away.
  • I found a dream job.
  • Had my heart broken. Ouch.
  • My closest cousin took his own life.
  • Mom moved in with us.
  • My sweet nephew took his own life.
  • Sold my house in Colorado.
  • Took several fantastic trips with Lacy around CA, CO, NC, AZ.
  • New baby in the family – such joy!
  • Dad died suddenly.
  • Left dream job to begin my own venture.
  • Mom passed away (much too soon but on her terms).
  • I launched Suzu Creative.

Running through that, I see there was a lot of loss, but I can close my eyes and easily remember all the fun, triumphs, adventures – and gratitude. I’m thankful that my daughter and I are healthy, and that I’ve successfully committed to being there for her by working at home. I truly appreciate all the friends – old and new – that make up my solid support system. And I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner.

Looking ahead to 2020, I’m already aware it’s going to be a year of significant change. In 2019 my business tangibly turned the corner from “I hope I can make this work” to “of course, this is going to be successful,” even if it didn’t always look like I originally envisioned. In fact, some major changes and choices at the end of the year has me mapping out an exciting new direction for Suzu that will include more writing, making art, and advocating for others in the creative sector. Stay tuned!

Personally, my little family is marking the year with big milestones. My baby graduates high school in May and I hyperventilate every time I think about it. My own high school will hold its 40th class reunion and I don’t understand how THAT happened in the blink of an eye! I’m making time to travel more this year, with plans on dividing my time between Arizona and Colorado in the near future now that a school district won’t determine where I live.

And of course, I hope the election in November brings about great change as well, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for Twitter or over multiple glasses of wine with friends.

Ultimately, my 2020 vision is focused on high hopes, new adventures, and making fulfilling connections. I think optimism is a choice and I will always choose to enthusiastically believe in the power of big magic, love, and the creative spirit. Join me, won’t you?


Is anyone else dreaming wildly, and more vividly than usual during this pandemic? 🥱⁠⠀
Some dreams hit you on the head in the morning letting you KNOW there’s a message in there you can’t ignore.🔨⁠⠀
I recently stumbled upon notes about one such dream that took place when I was in the process of starting my business. In the dream I was discussing a potential job with a woman who seemed to work for Apple🍎. She was enthusiastically explaining how much money I would make and what a huge asset I would be. She said, “you’ll be responsible for catching my butterflies and making them pretty!”⁠⠀
As a designer and a writer, I’m used to being given concepts or words and then asked to ‘make them pretty’ so I was excited and confident. However, I had misunderstood: I was to help organize her brilliance but NOT in a creative capacity – as a personal assistant to her and the team. In spite of the promised riches, I declined the offer because I knew I could do so much more.💸⁠⠀
I awoke knowing that rather than working for someone else’s dream, I wanted to work for mine – and yours. Join me where creativity takes flight and lets make something special.🦋⁠⠀

When working for free works in your favor

Put your ass where your heart wants to be. – Steven Pressfield

Since launching Suzu Creative last year I’ve had to crank up my networking game. However, it was a social weekend that made me realize my ideal clients may not be found at business mixers. Artists and creatives are “my people” and spending a day at one of Arizona’s many art festivals reminded me that’s who I love to help and work with.

Which takes me to the day not long after when I received an email offering free lunch and a T-shirt to attend the Scottsdale Arts Festival. Cool! I love free stuff plus acres of art punctuated by live music and a lobster truck!

Oh wait – I had to volunteer to get the free stuff? Before I could make the sad trombone noise and hit delete, I reconsidered. I’d get to meet other art lovers, enjoy a day in the not-too-hot-yet Arizona sun, and maybe get in some networking and research with other creators. I accepted.

I would have volunteered at the bar tent but was either too late or my reputation preceded me. So I decided to work in the community art studio where vendors host hands-on, interactive booths featuring various art projects. It’s no secret this is where parents bring the kids to make something fun and messy when they’re getting bored of stall after stall of “Don’t touch that!” but I was feeling brave.

The volunteer coordinator directed me to the Marble Mountain installation to help a lavender-haired girl named Kayla Newnam who was busy directing her dad on dividing up RIT dye containers. Combined with the cans of shaving cream, I could see right away that this would be the messy portion of the program.

Kayla Newnam in her element.

As I took in the marbled patchwork tent housing numerous stuffed creatures for story time and photo ops, I thought “How cute!” When I saw the basket of little booklets with an endearing plot about the monsters of Marble Mountain that Kayla wrote and illustrated, I thought “How clever!” As she explained the different art projects and objectives of each day, I thought “WOW. This young woman is talented and imaginative!”

Curious about her journey to being tapped to create such an enchanting installation at a major arts festival, I learned Kayla is a Phoenix native with a BFA from the Pratt Institute of Art and Design in NY. An accomplished painter, she was volunteering at Canal Convergence – one of my absolute favorite annual events – when she discovered there were actual paying jobs for what she was doing for fun. She was soon hired as Public Event Coordinator and that position increased her visibility in the arts community, leading to the Scottsdale Arts Festival invitation.

Kayla’s monsters and Magic Mountain were a hit with children of all ages, so it’s not surprising that her art portfolio and mural projects are all vivid and bright celebrations of whimsy. She is fearless in her use of shapes and color, sometimes including elements of surrealism and psychedelic desert themes.

Kayla recently began an exciting new position as Public Art Curator and Artist in Residence with True North Studio but hopes to still be involved with Canal Convergence this fall. She inspires me as she steadfastly continues to put her ass where her heart is – something I wish I’d learned much earlier in my own career(s).

Personally, I know I’ll be pursuing other opportunities to volunteer and participate in activities that feed my soul – not just my business. Because it all ties together if you’re paying attention.

Where does your heart want to be, and is your tush in the right vicinity?

A Spiritual Workout

For years I read a myriad of self-help books and sought enlightenment on everything from relationships to business, and parenting to procrastination. As a heartsick teen I found empathy and support from the book How to Survive the Loss of a Love. In my 20s I spent a few weekends immersed in the est training (don’t laugh). The Secret movie and related books taught me the law of attraction and the power of gratitude.

I’ve read books, attended workshops and watched webinars, presented by people who seemed to have their shit figured out. However, until recently I didn’t often discuss my interests unless it was with the person who had specifically pointed me in that direction.

Self-empowerment and the dogged pursuit of happiness was my little secret.

Who hasn’t been a little self-conscious when buying a radical diet book or listening to a podcast on love languages or seeking group consciousness in a drum circle? Self-help or self-improvement implies there’s something wrong or broken and we’re naturally reluctant to broadcast that.

This perspective shifted for me earlier this year when I fell in love with the latest book rec from a well-read friend. In You Are a Badass at Making Money, author and life coach Jen Sincero encourages the practice of self-realization, referring to it as the spiritual gym.

Rather than working out your glutes and abs, the idea is to stretch your potential; make the blood rise in your aspirations and intentions; do the work to get where you know you’re meant to be. This may look like a stack of Wayne Dyer books, or a workshop on financial freedom. It could be a deep dive with a therapist, or some conscious play time for your creative spirit. Your gym might even look suspiciously like a church or a temple.

The point is not to feel like you’re lacking as you self-help your way into being a happier person. The point is that we’re evolving, brilliant, interesting human beings with endless resources of tools and inspiration to aid us in being more of who we want to be. So give your soul a daily workout and don’t worry what anyone thinks.

A few of my favorite workouts include: • Meditation • Vision Boards • Mel Robbins’ Instagram • Coloring Books • Success Coaching • Listening to Rise Up by Andra Day • and Swing Sets

Tell me in the comments, what does your spiritual gym look like?