This year I turned 44. It’s been 34 years since I received my first camera; 32 years since I wrote in my first diary; 20 years since I completed graduate school; 17 years since I started dreaming of becoming an author; 8 years since I launched my website; 6 years since I bought my dream camera; 5 years since I left my career to pursue writing and photography; 5 years since my husband’s eye cancer diagnosis; 2 years 6 months since we moved across the country; 2 years since my husband’s eye cancer metastasized to his liver; 6 months since it metastasized to his abdomen, rib bones, spine, and lymph nodes; 4 months since my husband passed away; and nearly 3 weeks since I published my first book, The Apple of My Eye.
So where do we go from here?
That is the question I am going to answer for you, faithful readers and clients. That is the question I am going to answer for myself.
First off, I would like to say that this isn’t a post for EVERYONE. It’s a post for ANYONE who has been a part of my journey as a writer or photographer, for anyone who has followed my creative endeavors a bit, but has never really understood what it’s all about. Whether you’ve read one of my posts or all of my posts, you might want to read this. Whether you’ve ordered my book, have it on your nightstand, or finished it in two days, you might want to read this. Whether you’ve done one photo shoot with me or three, you might want to read this. If you’re among the one or two handfuls of people I’ve trusted my deepest dreams and darkest fears with, you will want to read this. If you’re someone who knows me personally and have been following, but really don’t understand what the journey’s all about, I invite you to read this post and hopefully it will clarify things a bit. This post isn’t about inspiring you. This post is about INFORMING you. Here’s where we’ve been. Here’s where we are. Here’s where we’re going. Let’s do this.
I’ve been publishing written articles on this site for eight years now. As many of you know, I just published my first book, The Apple of My Eye, three weeks ago. You can buy it on Amazon if you CLICK HERE. Many of you have asked if my husband, Seth, knew about the book and if I’d been working on it prior to his passing. The answer is YES and NO. Seth knew for 17 years that I wanted to become an author. We conversed and prayed for three years before I left my career to pursue writing and photography. He sacrificed his preference to have me working full-time so I could pursue these dreams. So YES, he most definitely knew about this. But he didn’t know I was going to publish my first book 3 1/2 months after he passed away, and I didn’t know I was going to do that either. That is, until his Celebration of Life service was indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19, and I realized I might have a big enough window of time to get a book published before we rescheduled. Hallelujah! It miraculously came together in the timeline I hoped for.
So where do we go from here? As you might have noticed, I’ve cut back significantly on publication of traditional blog posts the past two years. They are fulfilling, but time consuming to write and edit. While I would love to do it ALL, I simply can’t. I’ve decided to focus my energy on engaging with readers and clients on social media, and writing books which was my original goal 17 years ago and remains the goal when I get real about the writing legacy I would like to leave. I will continue to publish in-depth content here on the website once or twice a month. I will solicit guest posts from readers and writers once a month. And I will continue writing in short form on social media, largely Facebook, but will also be working to increase my presence on Instagram. Last, but not least, now that I have published my first book, I am a LOT LESS HESITANT to do so again. I have several more books in me and am already ready to start working on Book #2. The creative, INFJ, Enneagram 4 side of me wants to get right on it, because it’s ready to go in my mind and I’m pretty confident the time for Book #2 is sooner rather than later. But the practical side of me says I need to focus on Book #1, The Apple of My Eye, getting it out into the hands of the people where it belongs, and ensuring I’m at least breaking even with sales and royalties vs. expenditures. Once I get to the point where I’m breaking even (as far as I understand, this is also a critical point if you’re traditionally published), I will feel confident moving forward with writing Book #2. I’m hoping that could be as soon as September 2020.
How can you help when it comes writing? Follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you haven’t already. Read posts when they come through your feed. “Like” my posts when you enjoy them. Comment as you feel led! This will help get content into the hands of others who need it and are not familiar with my writing. Read when I share a link to something I’ve written on this site and take a risk and share your story if I’m looking for contributors. And last, but not least, buy my new book, The Apple of My Eye, leave a review on Amazon, and share it with others who might benefit from a book about cancer, caregiving, grief, death, becoming a widow, or coming alongside someone going through something tragic in life. The more this book gets out there and the better it sells, the more likely I’ll be able to publish more books for you all.
Right now, I’m in a good place with photography. I was shut down for 3 1/2 months due to COVID restrictions on professional photography, but am now back up and running. I have already done three photo shoots this season, which doesn’t sound like much, but is pretty good considering things just opened up recently, my husband passed away four months ago, we just had his Celebration of Life service, AND I published a book during this time! I took a serious look at my pricing structure this spring, as I am now the sole income provider for our family. As you will note, my prices have increased, BUT I need you to know that my pricing is still less than most of my local competition, I have underpriced myself for quite some time considering how much time I spend culling and editing each photo collection, and I have worked hard to offer packages that meet the needs of everyone.
So where do we go from here? There are so many uncertainties with COVID-19, but this summer and fall of 2020, I will be focusing first and foremost on senior photo shoots as my primary goal, with family photos as a second priority. Based on five years of professional photography, it seems my specialities are becoming families and seniors, but I still do headshots, am interested in engagement, maternity photos, and lifestyle newborn shoots, and would be open to low-key weddings if life led me that way.
How can you help when it comes to photography? Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I regularly share my favorite photos from shoots on Facebook, but as with my writing, I will be working to increase my presence on Instagram in the months to come. If you need photos of your Class of 2021 Senior, let’s get a shoot set up! I will be running various sales throughout the summer and early fall. If you need updated family photos, please contact me. If you hear of someone looking for a photographer, please feel free to share my name and contact info. Word of mouth is HUGE for photography and has been my biggest source of clients to date. Now and moving into the years to come, photography will be my LIFE BLOOD as far as INCOME for our family, so the more referrals I get, the better. The more clients that turn into return clients, the better! I LOVE being your family photographer and I love all the connections that can be made through word of mouth. (If I’m NOT for you, that’s okay. No guilt! But maybe I’m the right photographer for someone you know?!) Photography gives me life and makes me happy. I’ve done the leg work to forecast best business for this photography endeavor, so I know it’s POSSIBLE to make the income I need IF I work hard to earn your business and your trust. If not, I’ll press on anyway and supplement my income elsewhere as needed. Because this is what I love.
Some of you might have noticed that I’ve mentioned retreats here and there. I’ve been dreaming of hosting retreats for several years now, but kept this largely between me and my husband. Now that he’s passed, there’s nothing but me and that dream. So I’ve started becoming a little more open with the concept. This is still a far-off dream, especially with COVID-19 and all the unknowns about how long it will be before we can resume life as “normal.” But I believe my dream of hosting retreats is possible. In fact, God has gone ahead of me and is preparing a way to make them happen. I recently had someone reach out asking if I might consider helping her with something someday; the request was very much in line with one of my long-term visions for retreats. Now it must be said that I’m not anywhere close to being able to actually HELP her execute that task, but the fact that someone reached out to me requesting help – completely out of nowhere – is confirmation I am on the right track.
So where do we go from here? At this point, my dream of hosting retreats is just that, a dream. I’ve learned how to manage dreams and determine what’s feasible in real life. I’ve learned what to bring to God and what to surrender. I’ve learned to discern when it’s time to move forward with a dream and when I need to keep waiting. So I have the tools I need. I just need time. Time to reestablish myself and our family’s income with photography, writing, and supplemental sources as needed. Once that and COVID have been sufficiently managed, I will know when it’s time to move on this dream of hosting retreats. In the meantime, I will keep dreaming and refining what those retreats look like.
How can you help when it comes to retreats? Keep following me. Keep believing in me. Keep encouraging me, engaging with me, and praying for me. And most importantly, keep supporting my writing and photography endeavors, as success with those will ultimately allow me to move forward with retreats someday. Right now, I see three potential groups for retreats: women, writers, and terminal patients and their significant others. Perhaps you’ll pray for discernment and clarity for it all?
I have established Your Story Studio as a means for accomplishing these creative endeavors – publishing books, continuing to establish myself as a professional photographer, and hosting retreats. Someday it will all come together and the vision will be complete. I thank you for reading my words, for trusting me with your photographs, and for believing in dreams yet to come. God bless each one of you. May your story come more fully alive as we journey together through this crazy thing called life.