Creative Ladies: Kelsey Macke

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Kelsey Macke is a writer, a singer/songwriter, and a Youtuber, so she basically puts us all to shame with all of the awesome stuff she does. I mean, not only did she write a book, Damsel Distressed, but she’s also releasing a companion album along with it!
You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, and Youtube, or you can check out her website and the website for Damsel Distressed. Also (exciting!), the cover for Damsel Distressed was just revealed over at MTV Act! After you read Kelsey’s interview you’ll definitely want to read the book, so go ahead and preorder a copy.
Even thought she’s obviously super busy, she still found time to answer my questions about her process, her inspiration, and her role models. Thanks for talking to me, Kelsey!

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

Currently, most of my creative mojo is being funneled into my big 2014 project: My YA book and its companion album of original songs inspired by the book (Damsel Distressed + Imogen Unlocked).

On any given workday, I’m wading through some aspect of the editorial process, revising, re-writing, or implementing notes, and my husband, Daron, and I (our band is Wedding Day Rain) are working on writing songs, recording in the studio, and producing the record at the same time. It’s challenging, certainly, because being a writer or being in a band is often a full-time gig on its own. That said, I’m so excited that I have the chance to do both, especially since they’re so deeply intertwined in this project.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

I LOVE being a YouTube content creator. I suppose that some day, it could benefit or be a part of my career, but as of now, it’s a labor of love. I adore making and editing videos and being apart of such an incredible community of creative people. In addition to writing, music, and youtube, I’m an occasional actor, crafter, poet and intermittent baker.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

As a writer, I have to say that most of the stories I want to write are inspired by my students. I am a teacher, and my primary discipline is working with adolescents with emotional or behavioral differences. My main character, Imogen, is loosely inspired by over a dozen of my own students and also other young people that I’ve known or worked with.


On the musical side, I’m inspired by my love for musical theatre. I think that while our music, as a band, isn’t as literal by way of story telling, we strive for the same sense of emotion and conviction that is often found on the stage. Additionally, I love listening to other musicians and bands and reveling in how a finite number of notes can be woven together in so many incredibly different ways.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Honest, Balanced, Eclectic. (Also Vulnerable. Cause I had 4. And clearly, I’m a rebel.)

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

Certainly candy is one of life’s greatest inspirations. Though I might argue that cheese is a superior form of brain food.

As I’m constantly creating different things (paragraphs, choruses, videos, monologues, etc.) the process is almost always different, but I think one common thread is a willingness to be completely open and connected to my own feelings. When I’m writing something sad, if I feel like crying, I let it happen and refuse to judge myself for weeping at the creation of my own words. When singing a newly written harmony line with my husband, if I burst into a ridiculous grin from ear to ear and mess up the line because I’m giddy with joy, I don’t reprimand myself.

I wear my heart, not on my sleeve, but boldly right across my face and if it hurts or stings or sings, so be it.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

A recent creation that I’m proud of is a short PSA I filmed for my favorite charity, I created a video for their organization during the 2013 Project for Awesome, and it was used to raise awareness of their organization and also the critical need for mental health equality.

One creation from AGES ago (over 12 years ago, actually) that I’m proud of, is the song I wrote immediately following the events of 9-11-01. As the song spread from Texas to New York, and lots of places in between, I was privileged to perform it at numerous events benefitting first responders, firefighters, and police officers, and the sale of the single meant that I was able to make a donation to the Red Cross during a time when I (and many others) felt mostly useless.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

I’m sure there are lots of poignant and sweeping stories of falling flat on my face that I could share, but the one that first popped into mind happened when I was in eleventh grade.

It was the big basketball game. The one that had packed stands on both the home and visitor sides. The one that had coverage from the local station and was surely being broadcast on some local cable channel.

I was the lucky duck who’d been given the privilege of singing the National Anthem before the (kick off? first swing? toss up? IDK. I don’t do sports.) game started.

I was all gussied up and feeling rather badass. I would be singing in front of most of my school and much of our community too. I took the microphone and began the song. I hit the first line in stride, the sound of my voice echoed off the wooden floor and smashed back into me, coating me in a thick layer of self-satisfaction.

My delivery was slow. Too slow. I wanted to show everyone how emotional and powerfully I could sing. I wanted to add runs and trills and impress everyone into tears and ovation.

And then somewhere around “dawn’s early light” I forgot the words.

I had been so enamored by the drama of my own performance that I’d forgotten what I was singing about, what I was singing for, and what being a singer really means.

Sharing music-sharing your voice-isn’t about making yourself feel good. It’s about getting your own ego out of the way and communicating so that someone else can feel good (or sad or hurt or free or whatever you might be singing about).

Some kind man behind me, (I think he was a ref) muttered the line (“what so proudly…”) behind me, and I took off singing again. This time with much less flourish, much more humility, and much greater understanding.

From then on, I’ve sworn to never again let my ego impede my art in any way.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Oh, wow. I am pretty much in love with dozens of women who inspire me regularly. I think that I’m lucky to be connected and surrounded by so many incredible women who are routinely showing me new facets of beauty and creativity every day.

My agent, Jessica Sinsheimer is a creative genius. She is the queen of “DREAM BIG.”

My friend and critique partner, Annie Neugebauer is a staggeringly gifted horror writer, poet, and crafting GODDESS.

And I’m part of one of the biggest, most exciting groups of creative and intelligent women on YouTube: Wonderly. These girls are, literally, the embodiment of “creative ladies.”

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am a sickeningly peppy morning person. If I wasn’t me, I’d hate me.

We’re talking full on dancing and singing and smiling before the coffee pot is even ON.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

I must admit that I’m a TV lover. I never miss an episode of Game of Thrones, Sherlock, or Glee. I can lose myself in the internet for hours, and I think that in some ways, it’s an effective way to reset my brain. Being that I’m involved with so many different ideas and projects at one time, I really love being able to scroll through the endless sea of tumblr and always have some new pretty thing to keep my mind from snapping back to the work I may be temporarily trying to escape.

(My secret recharge night includes a scalding hot bath with a lush bath bomb, and catching up on my YouTube subscriptions.)

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

I love reading books for inspiration-even when those books aren’t massive novels or touching memoires. I find popular children’s books, poetry anthologies, graphic novels, and even magazines can be just as inspiring as the latest Laini Taylor (omg. I adore her.) or Rainbow Rowell (I LOVE HER TOO.).

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Reject any notion that you can only do one thing.

If you’re a poet and you want to create a short film, DO IT.

If you’re a crafter and you’ve an idea for a short story, DO IT.

If you’re an actor and you want to write a song, DO IT.

The only limit is your own fear.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Love, create and appreciate beauty with reckless abandon.

Live with passion. Every day.

3 Responses to “Creative Ladies: Kelsey Macke”

  1. Annie Neugebauer

    Crafting goddess, eh? *preens* But seriously, thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I love this whole interview, especially the singing story! Oh man, I’ve felt that way before (though I don’t sing). And I have another friend with almost exactly the same story, too. Really good lesson!


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