So, I’m really into this new podcast that has come out from my fellow Canadian artistic entrepreneurs Samantha Beiko and Clare C. Marshall, called Business BFFs. You should go listen to it if you have any interest whatsoever in becoming a creative professional in Canada, ’cause they’re speaking some truth. Here’s the link.
I first heard about this project from the SF Canada online group, and I was immediately intrigued. So few people are out there talking about how to survive and thrive, or even make a credible attempt at making a small arts business work. When I started my small publishing company six years ago, I can count on one hand the amount of credible sources of information I could count on to help me find my way, and most of what I did was through trial and error and the generosity of established publishing professionals who gave me a leg up with much-needed critique. Working in Canada also poses unique challenges for artists, because we simply don’t have the population base or super highly-funded media machine that the U.S. does.
I knew that Samantha and Clare had come up with an amazing idea for a podcast, but as I started listening, I also felt like I had stuff to share. I wanted to join the conversation and add in my experiences for anyone who may be curious. Plus, it’s a great writing prompt. So, welcome to the first episode of my Business BFFs blog along. I’ll be covering one topic per entry. The podcast got a little ahead of me because I was hard at work doing NaNoWriMo when it debuted, so I will catch up over the next couple of weeks and then release the new blog-alongs with each new episode.
Samantha and Clare were kind enough to introduce themselves in this episode, so perhaps I should too. Who is this person offering her completely unsolicited experiences and opinions on small arts businesses?
Well, I’m a lifelong writer and artist who started writing and illustrating her own (construction paper) books in first grade. In fact, I refused to stop after the unit was over and made a total of thirty books before the principal gave me an award to get me to quit and move on to the next unit. That brings me to probably the most important thing about me… I am exceedingly stubborn. I am independent to a fault, and always do the thing I have in my head, even when it’s like rolling a boulder uphill every morning. There’s a story in this, about a disastrous/hilarious ballet recital, but that one really needs to be told in person. I spent most of high school as that weird kid who hangs out in the hallways, skips all her classes and does nothing but read huge novels, mostly Fantasy. I am in love with Hamilton, Ontario even though some of my friends think he smells funny. I am married to a professional freelance illustrator, who is okay with me having an affair with Hamilton. He’s cool like that.
Okay, okay, on to the creds. So, I have two degrees, a Master’s in English Literature with a focus on Contemporary Fantasy and Postcolonialism from Brock University, and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Animation from Sheridan College. I am also a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop, Class of 2006. I personally think that one is the biggest deal. It was certainly the hardest to get into. I’ve had two short stories published in Alien Skin Magazine and the Mystic Signals 3 Anthology, respectively. I worked as a writer for Hitgrab, Inc, creators of the popular online game Mousehunt. I have written a license novel in a video game universe that never saw the light of day (don’t judge me, the game tanked). I spent five years running Pop Seagull Publishing, my own small publishing company where I published myself and numerous other exciting and unique individuals, many of them Canadian indies with important things to say. I have also written a narrative non-fiction book about WWI nursing, They Called Her Canada, which was published by the Mayholme Foundation. As an animator, I have worked on projects for the University of Toronto and was a layout artist on Mike the Knight: Journey to Dragon Mountain. I have also created my own CG short film, Wor(l)d, from concept to completion.
So, you ask, what am I doing now? I’m sure you didn’t ask that, but I will tell you anyway. I work a day job. In a call center. It’s not glamorous, but one thing I’m sure Clare and Samantha will get to is that arts careers have ebbs and flows. I’m lucky that I have a schedule that fits my life and leaves most of my days free for artistic work. I have been a full-time professional artist at many points in my life, when working in animation or games. The problem with all of those jobs was that they were contractually based, and once the contract was up, well, good luck. I also had to make a hard decision at one point to keep a full time writing gig or pursue my dream school (Sheridan) and I chose school. That is a long story for another day.
Right now I am on an exciting path to sustainability with my work, where I am trying to get intermittent revenue coming in from writing and editing, and revamp my portfolio to get a sweet animation gig at a studio that gets lots of work and can keep hiring me. I have a big, exciting animation project that I will be working on for the next year, and I plan on really knocking it out of the park. I am also producing and marketing as many manuscripts right now as I can to try and catch the elusive agent and get my work out to a wider audience. That has been… trying so far, to say the least, but I have an end point in mind and I will either succeed, or do something else. That’s business.
And on that note, folks, I will leave off. Stay tuned for the Episode 1 Blog-Along… Fitness! This is going to be interesting.