And now...at last...our Smart Woman Online, Nancy Mills from the Spirited Woman blogsite, offering advice on empowering women - a topic very close to our heart. Nancy has an innovative spirit that helps others connect - to each other but, even more powerfully, to their inner being. There is so much of value in this interview, we know you'll savor each portion, as much as we did:
Lip-sticking: Give us a short history of Spirited Woman. Tell us about the manuscript you mention on your blog-centric website.
Nancy: I began my writing career as a travel journalist. Yes, it's true. Not a bad life, but after logging miles upon miles, and having a good bit of success, one day when I realized I didn't know which country I was in, I decided it was time for a change. So, I packed it all in, and after much soul searching, changed writing paths and became an inspirational writer for women. That's when I wrote the manuscript "Spirited Woman." Written in a long chant form and completed right after September 11, I forwarded it off to agents in New York and on the West Coast, and met with, "I'd like to work with you, but what's with the fun and the format?" After 40 or so rejections (not to mention that my timing could not have been worse), I went for a long walk on the beach in Santa Barbara, CA where I lived at the time, and decided my manuscript would be good for fish food. I'd fed it to the whales, dolphins, whatever. [we can relate!]
Of course, I came to my senses, and since my book concept was all about empowering women (and I needed to listen to my own advice), I decided to stick with it. Just in a different form. A friend had suggested earlier turning the manuscript into the basis for a workshop. And I thought to myself why not?
So, I did just that. I put up one flier on one bulletin board in Santa Barbara in October 2002 and a woman called to sign-up. Since then, over 600 women in over 18 cities have come to the Spirited Woman Workshop. I'm doing what they advise you to do in the publishing world - which is building a platform for my book - only it is usually done the other way around. Next year, I am sure I will either self-publish my book, or cut a deal with a publisher – since the timing now feels right. Looking back, I am so glad I went this route. I'm in a much stronger position (both financially and mentally) than when I first completed the manuscript.
Lip-sticking: Speaking of blog-centric -- what's up with that? We kinda like it, but...what does it REALLY mean?
Nancy: When blogs first began in the dark ages (a few years back), the basic concept was to have a way online to creatively express yourself – a personal journal if you will. Then as blogs caught on companies started using them for a variety of purposes – selling products, as a content rich resource tool to add to their website, and more.
Spirited Woman has taken blogging one step further. Since we are an ever-growing involved community of women, with 2,000+ subscribers to our newsletter, we needed a site that I could update and change easily and frequently. Also html is a foreign language to me and I instinctively felt website development was moving in the blog direction. So, I decided to use blog-based technology powered by Typepad to create an ENTIRE website, not just a blog. Pretty neat. You might want to read what I have to say about it on my site.
Lip-sticking: One of the things we just LOVE about Spirited Woman is the COLOR! Life is too drab here in the North, for the long winter ahead. Visiting your blog-centric website makes us smile. What convinced you to be so original with your use of color and design?
Nancy: I am fanatical about color. I just love the colors of the rainbow. So when I hired my very talented logo designer to design the logo, I said, "USE COLOR." Of course most web designers thought I was nuts. Each browser is different they said. Each screen is different. And on and on. But, I felt that it was essential for Spirited Woman, which is based on fun, empowerment, inspiration, and creative playfulness - to be inspiring and have a look. What a concept!
I also went out and bought my first digital camera (remember, I had taken many pictures as a travel journalist), and I just started shooting. My workshops are filled with colorful costumes - so I shot the women in them. And I was so lucky, because I had a whole community of "real’ spirited women who had taken the workshop to model for my e-store products, which are all based on color too. I also knew instinctively to make the background of my site white since I knew that way the colorful pictures would pop out. So all in all, without knowing anything about web design, I used my gut to design my site and I am very pleased. Thankfully, the women seem to be too. And once again, I sort of bucked the trend. [we like the way you work!]
Lip-sticking: We especially like the availability of interaction on your blog. Give us an overview of all the ways visitors can connect with you, with their inner spirited woman, with each other.
Nancy: What a great question! Spirited Woman is a new movement for spirited women everywhere. That means it must be an accessible, user-friendly, and an easy to use woman's community - since women of all ages log on to the site. Almost all of the "blog pages" on Spirited Woman are not open for comments. That was done intentionally, so that women would post on our GO BLOG, BLOG, BLOG page where we do accept comments. It is our way of creating an interactive place to convey your thoughts and ideas to other spirited women.
Most of our women have never posted on a blog, and it is a learning curve. But, more are doing so. Right now, I am contemplating a Spirited Woman "author's blog," where I would invite several women to write blog entries either on a daily or weekly basis. We'll see. And in terms of contacting me, I am a firm believer of putting your phone # and/or e-mail on every page and making it as easy as possible for women to get in touch with me directly. I want them to feel appreciated and welcome.
And that I am not some faraway person, but available and real.
Lip-sticking: We see some celebrities mentioned on your site because you have interviewed them for the Spirited Woman E-Newsletter. How do you get these women to talk to you? Tell us -- are they friendly and approachable...or, are they merely just friends of yours?
Nancy: I consider myself a lucky woman. As a freelance travel journalist, I was given the chance to interview many celebrities for major women's magazines, such as MORE. Also being a native of Los Angeles where I currently reside, and a resident of Santa Barbara, where I recently moved from, it sort of comes with the territory. You'll see many celebrities at events or parties or gatherings. And yes, to answer your question, I find many of them very friendly and approachable. And yes, several have become friends. I think the key here is "trust" and writing a "good, accurate story." Since I had worked with them in the past, they were willing to go to bat for me when I changed fields and moved into inspirational writing for women and started publishing the Spirited Woman E-Newsletter. Their generosity is one of the reasons Spirited Woman is growing as rapidly. And I truly appreciate them for it.
Plus, their stories are really inspirational! So it's a win, win. Before I forget, I urge your readers to check out the newsletter. They can subscribe for free on the website.
Lip-sticking: Let's play a game -- imagine you're sitting on a hillside in November, in New York State. It's cool out, not too cold. The trees are luxuriant in their fall reds and oranges. The sun is warm on your back. You toss your sweater over your shoulders but you don't button it. What are you thinking? How long will you sit there? Who would you invite to be there with you?
Nancy: I'm thinking that I want to get back to California and be at the beach, my toes in the sand. Yes, I am a California girl at heart, and in so many ways my website reflects that. When you go to my site I want you to feel transported to a place that is bright and sunny and inspirational. But getting back to your hillside in New York, I’d also sit there for an hour or so and think about ways to make Spirited Woman a bigger movement – which is what I envision it to be. And finally, who would I like sitting next to me - Jack Canfield (the co-author of "The Success Principles" and "Chicken Soup for the Soul") - a truly inspirational guy, who will motivate me to keep going and going like an energizer bunny. [gosh, can you get us an interview with HIM???]
Lip-sticking: Now, give us some pointers on how to be a true spirited woman...as you are. Share just a tiny portion of a workshop.
Nancy: I can't give you pointers on how to be a true spirited woman. YOU ARE A SPIRITED WOMAN. Every woman is born a Spirited Woman. Your spirit is your aliveness, your birthright, what lives inside of you. And it is free. YOU ARE ENOUGH AS YOU ARE. You do not need to be fixed or learn how to be.
And that is the underlying philosophy of what the Spirited Woman Workshop is all about. It is a wonderful combination of fun, empowerment, creative playfulness, and inspiration. A place for you to embrace your "Dancin', Shakin', Rockin'" self and your "Don't Mess With Me Warrior Queen" persona and more. It's a great time.
Lip-sticking: We believe! Now, tell us when and where you're having your next workshop?
Nancy: My next workshop is a special Mother/Daughter Spirited Woman Workshop at the Black Box Theater in Los Angeles on December 10. It's going to be great.
This is the second time we've done a workshop exclusively for moms and daughters and it is really a co-empowering experience for both and a very special way to share an afternoon (the workshop is three hours). Then next year, I will be going back on the road again. One of the wonderful things about the workshop is that women across the country "host" them. It's a great way for them to get publicity and to network with other women. I'm always looking for new hostesses and locales. If anyone is interested they can contact me or go to our hostess page.
Lip-sticking: Shopping online - we know you approve, you have the Spirited Woman! Store on the blog. What kinds of things, new things, will you be offering in 2006?
Nancy: In terms of what's new for 2006, let that be an adventure. It’s funny you should ask that question though – since we have just asked our subscribers to complete a survey about new things that they want to buy online. Right now we sell Spirited Woman scarves, journals, t-shirts, story bracelets and Spirit!Boxes.
The one thing that I am sure of is that Spirited Woman is on a growth curve, and I am interested in partnering with new business associates with expertise in select fields - such as merchandising, publishing, web-marketing and more. I've reached a point where I simply can't do it all. And in a way I'm glad. I'm ready for fresh new ideas and to meet new people with expertise in areas that I do not have. Yes, let it be an adventure. Isn't life anyway?
Lip-sticking: An adventure - that's compelling, don't you think, dear readers? To be spirited and adventurous...what's not to like about that?