Creative Ladies: Beth Scorzato

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Beth Scorzato works for Papercutz, a kids’ graphic novel publisher. Coolest job ever? Possibly. She talked to me about about creative work, the soothing power of coloring, great books, and finding inspiration in other female creators. You can find Beth on Twitter @girladactyl.

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.

I work as a Production Coordinator for Papercutz, a kids’ graphic novel publisher. We’re a small company so I wear a variety of hats from proofreading to creating files for ebooks to making graphics for web and social media, but my primary job function is to make sure the books actually become books. I try to keep the practical side of the publishing on schedule.

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

I really love coloring! I started experimenting on my own with digital coloring a few years ago and I’m actually just starting an online class to try and level up my skill on that front. I can’t draw at all, but I find coloring very soothing and rewarding.

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

Other female creators! As cheesy and feminist as that sounds, I work in a heavily male-dominated segment of the publishing industry. Even with “nerd culture” becoming more mainstream, within the community there is still a lot of the same pushback against women that has been going on for years. But there are so many phenomenal female creators that I look up to that are willing to stand up and say, “No. I am good and what I do and I deserve to be here and anyone who’s not on board can GTFO.” Seeing work by other awesome creative ladies always gets me fired up to go out and make something awesome.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Make great art.

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

It definitely involves a lot of coffee. I’m a procrastinator to the extreme, but it’s become a part of the process for me. I work well under a deadline and I find the longer I wait, the more my brain subconsciously ruminates on a problem. I’ve cracked many a storyline (I used to work as an Assistant Editor for Paper Lantern Lit) and written many an article in bed at three a.m. When I do finally sit down I tend to find it all just rushes out of me all at once and I usually end up with something I’m pleased with. Of course it still needs secondary editing but I never tend to find that as hard. It’s certainly not a process that works for everyone and I’ve had people tell me it sounds incredibly stressful, but I’ve found a lot of great work, personally, in essentially building up pressure and popping the cork.

Beth's workspace (and her cat, Akima)

Beth’s workspace (and her cat, Akima)

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

For about three years I ran Spandexless, a website dedicated to the review and feature of indie comics outside the superhero genre. It’s a project I was and still am passionate about and I am incredibly proud of the site and community we built around the works that we covered. Unfortunately it’s a project that I’ve had to put on hold, but I’m always thinking of what the best way to bring it back and make it viable will be.

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

Ironically this is probably also Spandexless. I’m so disappointed and dismayed that the site ended up falling to the wayside. It was a serious lesson in time-management and a problem I’m still trying to solve. It was a huge undertaking and I wouldn’t take it back for the world, but next time I need to come into it with a better plan.

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

Kelly Sue Deconnick. Hands down. She’s absolutely amazing.

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

I guess this goes hand in hand with the “popping the cork” creative process but I find my best work happens between about 2 and 5am. It’s not the most practical but sometimes it’s just got to happen! I’m least creative right after I get out of the office for the day.

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

Read! And drink tea! With my cat! I’m such an old lady.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Oh man this is a dangerous question because I have a tendency to read things from all over the map. In terms of comics I would highly recommend Habibi by Craig Thompson, but only if you’re already familiar with reading comics because it’s some heavy-duty graphic stuff. If you want to read a slightly less intense comic I’d recommend The Unwritten or Fables. If you want something aimed younger I’d go with Princeless. In terms of regular novels? I’ll always swear by anything by Neil Gaiman or Nick Horby. But that one book that I buy every time I find a copy just to give it to other people is How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanyan Egan Gibson.

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

Just keep applying and keep learning. Comics is such a small segment in an already insular publishing agency. But if you are talented and qualified it will show. Good dedicated workers can be hard to find in any industry. Prove yourself. Put your work out there. The Internet has become the greatest tool for an aspiring comics artist. Get yourself out there and constantly strive to be better and never let anyone tell you you can’t do it. Not everyone is going to work at Marvel or DC but there are so many other amazing publishers out there that want to work with new talent. Don’t give up!

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

If it’s worth doing then it’s worth doing right. You don’t have to be perfectionist every time, but don’t waste your time on personal projects you’re not proud of.

Wednesday Link Party!

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So I don’t think I ever told you guys that H. and I had a rabbit, and that’s because it was mostly H’s rabbit. Gypsy (named after a Fleetwood Mac song because duh, of course Stevie Nicks was singing about rabbits) didn’t like me very much, and she bit my feet on multiple occasions. Actually, the only person she liked was H. Still, I was super sad that we had to put her to sleep last week. Putting a pet down is always rough! It’s not any easier just because they actively wanted to cause you harm. Anyway, I’ve been basically laying low this week, but I hope you’ve all been kicking ass and taking names (metaphorically, obvi). On with the links!

I am obsessed with Nicole Dieker’s new series about making a living as a freelance writer on The Billfold.

This essay, about how some fringe religious groups use homeschooling as a front for abuse, is fascinating.

Y’all know I’m into writing about fitness this week…so is Alicia over at Jaybird! She wrote about her thoughts on health as part of her Love Your Body Resolution.

This advice from Rookie about writer’s block is a couple years old, but it’s still great.

How to Do Something Really Scary You’re Sure You Can’t Do. As someone who is scared to do, well, most things, I found this helpful.

MORE advice from Rookie, this time on achieving your goals by taking small steps.

SNL. Dancing. Beyonce’s ‘Partition.’

10 Lipsticks That Have Legit Cult Status. Brb, buying all of these.

Let’s Do Some Yoga!

30 day yoga challenge

I guess I’ve inadvertently turned this into Fitness Week on Welcome to Ladyville. This was totally unintentional and it probably makes you think I’m in better shape than I am. A million lolz to you if you think I’m in shape. I’ll be back to posting stuff about writing and/or Taylor Swift soon, but until then, let’s talk yoga!

Yesterday I wrote about my semi-new running hobby. Well, the thing about running is that it kind of hurts. And if you’re not so good about stretching (like, ahem, ME), it really hurts. So I’ve also been trying to do yoga every day.

I have some yoga DVDs I really enjoy (particularly this out of print DVD set starring Mariel Hemingway, which is absolutely weird, awesome, and effective), but it gets boring doing the same DVD over and over. But then I found this 30 day yoga challenge online! It’s hosted by someone totally normal (not annoyingly chipper OR annoyingly breathy), it only takes 10-20 minutes, and it really, really works. My running-related back pain went away almost completely. I am BY NO MEANS an expert at yoga. Actually, I’m not really any good at all, but this 30 day series is super fun so far.

Even if you’re not attempting to become a runner, it’s still pretty fun! It’s challenging enough without being totally impossible. Well, parts of it are kind of hard. As this one Youtube comment that literally made me laugh out loud puts it, “Is this supposed to be for beginners, I was really excited to commit to this 30 day challenge but I literally can’t do any of this at all. I spend the whole time collapsing.”

“I spend the whole time collapsing” is a phrase I really need to work into more conversations. Anyway,what about you guys? Do you have any favorite yoga DVDs, podcasts, or Youtube videos/playlist? Let me know!

What I’ve Learned From Running

I’ve always looked at runners with a mixture of awe and confusion. They looked so awesome…but how were they doing that? It seemed impossible, but I was still intrigued. I imagined myself nonchalantly saying, “I’m going to go for a run,” before lacing up a pair of super-cute sneakers and flying out the door.

But I knew that was never going to happen. I’m about as unathletic as you can possibly get, and I always have been. You know how, in movies about losers, the losers are always picked last for dodgeball? That was literally me in elementary school and junior high. It would always get down to me and some other chubby, uncoordinated girl, both of us just dreaming of the day we could leave gym class and never do any physical activity ever again.

The thing is, though, that you can’t actually avoid exercise forever. I mean, you can, but you’re going to be really unhealthy. So in my adult life, I’ve made sure to get some physical activity in. Biking, walking, yoga, Jillian Michaels DVDs (don’t knock ‘em until you try ‘em)…but running? Yikes. It still seemed completely unattainable.

I attempted the Couch to 5k program a couple of times, but the thing is…it was hard. Like, really hard. I was struggling to do even the first week with my tiny corgi legs. It can’t be this hard for other people, I thought, thinking about those long-legged, tight-pant-wearing gazelles I saw tearing down the street even under the harshest of weather conditions. How were they doing that, when I could barely run a minute without feeling like my lungs were going to explode, my heart was going to burst, and my legs were going to give out?

But then, a couple of months ago, something just snapped. I woke up thinking, “I need to finish Couch to 5k,” and then I started it again. Well, first I made a super-weird, mostly Taylor Swift playlist, and then I started.

The difference between this time and the other times I tried? This time, I didn’t stop when it got hard. I didn’t think, “There’s no way it should be this difficult. I must be doing something wrong. I’m just not a runner.” I repeated weeks when I needed to, took my time, and went at my own pace. Now, I’m on week 5.

Okay, okay, so if you’re a real runner, like someone who runs half marathons and eats energy bars and stuff, you’re probably like, “Um, doesn’t that only involve running for 8 minutes at a time?” Well, yes. And that is not that much for some people! But for me, it is insane. It took so much work to get here, and it’s still incredibly difficult. Corgi Legs over here still has a really hard time with running, but the thing is…I’m doing it anyway. I don’t know how good I’ll ever be, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to run a 5k, but I plan on going slow and steady until I do the best I can.

The truth is, I really enjoy running. Well…I enjoy parts of it. Parts of it still suck, but I like taking a few minutes a day to completely block out work and my thoughts and my worries and focus on nothing. For someone with a high level of anxiety, this is heaven. Just listening to my weird playlist and being totally by myself is so, so nice. And when I finish running, I just feel calm. Endorphins are real, guys! This is the best stress relief I’ve ever found.

I’m very (perhaps irrationally) proud of myself for reaching week 5. I still have so, so far to go, but it feels great to be working towards a goal. In fact, I’ve learned a lot about goals from running. Here are three things that stuck out:

1. Setting a goal and achieving it has repercussions all through your life. Yes, this is a physical goal that has nothing to do with writing or work or my relationships, but knowing that I can work hard and get something I want encourages me to take other chances. Is that a little cheesy? Sure, but who cares! I never thought I could even get this far, but I did. There is power in setting goals and working towards them.

2. Slow progress is better than no progress. In other words, go at your own pace. Like I said before, I repeat weeks of Couch to 5k. Occasionally I don’t make it through a whole workout. But it’s okay! As long as you keep going, it doesn’t matter how slow you are.

3. Do it the way YOU want to do it. I have a lot of anxiety about working out around other people. I always assume I’m going to metaphorically get picked last for dodgeball, you know? So I work out under the cover of darkness in our basement on our treadmill. That’s a little weird. I get it. It makes me feel like some sort of physically fit subway rat. But it works! Running with other people or running in public is way too intimidating for me, and it wouldn’t help me reach my goals. Someday I hope to run outside, but until then, I’ll keep doing it my way.

4. It’s hard in the beginning. It’s work. That’s okay. Part of the reason I failed at running before is because I assumed some pain and (really) hard work meant I was doing something wrong. Not necessarily! Sometimes new things just feel uncomfortable and shitty, and sometimes they’re harder for you than they are for other people. There’s nothing wrong with that. Part of the reason why I wrote about this (even thought I’m a little embarrassed to write about running, since it’s really personal and private for me!) is because I wanted any of you who are on the fence about trying running to know that you can do it, even if it’s hard. Trust me, if I can do it, you can, too. It just takes some work.

I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m happy with my progress so far. Yeah, reaching a goal feels great, but sometimes working towards it is even more satisfying. What about you guys…do any of you run? If you’re a Serious Runner, please don’t make fun of my meager progress. But I’d love it if you’d share your running experiences with me, especially stuff like:

-What sort of running clothes are you into?
-What shoes do you wear? I’m planning on getting new ones in a few weeks.
-What’s on your playlist? Mine is embarrassing. There’s some Sara Bareilles on there, and when I’m struggling to get through my workout I think, “All Sara Bareilles wants is for you to be brave. THAT IS HONESTLY ALL SHE WANTS. Don’t let her down, for God’s sake! Just run those last three minutes!”

Creative Ladies: Katie Cotugno

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I was so excited when Katie Cotugno agreed to be this week’s Creative Lady. She’s the author of the awesome YA novel How to Love, and can I just say that I’m SO excited about her next book? You’ll read about it in a second, but seriously, it combines all my favorite things. Katie was nice enough to take the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and the challenge/nightmare that is public speaking. You can find Katie on her website, her Tumblr, and on Twitter @katiecotugno.

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.

I write contemporary YA fiction–specifically HOW TO LOVE, which is out now from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. It’s a character-driven romance that’s told in alternating before and after chapters about a couple falling in love twice, three years apart.

My next book, 99 DAYS, is about a girl who comes back to her hometown in the Adirondack mountains the summer before college to face the mess–and the two boys–she left behind. It’s kind of an homage to some of my favorite 80s movies–Dirty Dancing, Mystic Pizza. I’m having such a ball with it–I can’t wait to share.

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

I bake a lot of no-knead bread, honestly. I hate the kind you have to knead.

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

Rambly walks around my neighborhood. George Strait pandora. Cop shows about partners who are Partners.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Messy, realistic romance.

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

I’m the slowest writer ever, oh my God. I write a paragraph, I go look at Kilim rugs for sale on Craigslist, I write a little more, I get up and make a pb sandwich. I delete what I wrote the first time, I creep on some random stranger’s Pinterest board for their four-year-old’s birthday party decor and sometimes judge them a little. It is excruciating, I’m so slow. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

HOW TO LOVE being an actual book in the world that people can buy.
howtolove-final-cover-21

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

A thing I think I wasn’t counting on when I sold HOW TO LOVE was that then I’d have to go out and actually talk about it. I’m terrible at public speaking, I hate it, and I also think that as ladies we’re kind of conditioned to not want to talk about the things we’ve accomplished. Having to get comfortable saying, hey, I made this and I want to tell you about it has absolutely been the toughest thing about this journey for me.

(Also hey, if you want to hear me talk about stuff I made, I’m out and about on the Story Crush winter tour March 1-5! Details are here.)

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

Shonda Rhimes. Barbara Kingsolver. Kathleen Kelly. Tassie Cameron. Nora Roberts. Every last member of the Fourteenery. Olivia Pope. My mom.

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

I tend to work in stuttery little pockets all day long, but I’m definitely not an up-all-nighter. I’m totally useless after like eleven or so. I melt down like a small child.

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

I watch a lot of TV, which I know is supposed to sap your creativity, but that’s not been my experience at all. I drink kind of a fair amount of beer. I recognize that I just described Homer Simpson.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

I’ve heard such great things about Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and haven’t had time to get to it, so let’s all just read it together, okay? Okay good talk.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask for things. Don’t get discouraged by rejections. So much of this job is just pressing on a little at a time.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Shut up and write, Cotugno.