Give yourself the first hour of your day

The Artist by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910, oil on canvas, 101 x 76 cm, Brücke-Museum, Berlin, Germany. This image is in the public domain, from WikiArt.

The Artist by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910, oil on canvas, 101 x 76 cm, Brücke-Museum, Berlin, Germany. This image is in the public domain, from WikiArt.

Today, I recommitted to writing for the first hour of my day BEFORE checking email. I’ve made this commitment before but I’d gotten so out of whack in past months that I turned into someone who checked email while I was just out of bed. It was as though I was expecting a limited time offer of a million dollars and I wanted to be the first person to email back.

I felt ashamed that even I had succumbed to FOMO. I didn’t think that would ever happen to me.

It didn’t matter that I never missed anything, except eventually my calm center and next to come, my sanity.

Today, resisting email first thing, was hard. Jumping out of bed and double-tapping the gmail app had become a habit. Hard to break.

This morning, I only had time to write for 15 minutes at home so when I arrived at my office I still owed my writing another 45 minutes.

I wanted to check email.

I lit a candle instead.

My fingers itched to turn on my computer.

I sat next to the candle instead.

That felt a little better.

Every moment I didn’t succumb, I felt a little freer.

Interspersed with these moments of freedom, I needed to check my email to hear from a literary agent, to get an answer to a question I had asked someone yesterday. But the more I resisted, the more my craving for email subsided until the craving stopped. Not giving in, made it diminish, which I never imagined it would. In the moment, it felt like giving into the craving would solve some problem or put an end to something that needed closure. It’s the opposite. Resisting puts an end to it.

I also noticed that the urgency I had felt about an answer to a question faded too. There was no burning building, no life or death, no ambulance. It could all wait.

This is the way back to my writer self and toward my own hand sailing across the page. I had time to watch a black, speckled bird on the treetop outside my window, I wandered over to my writing drawer and sifted through some abandoned projects and found two short essays, I still like. The writer me was back.

Are you spending the first part of your day on what matters most? Are you making it creative and enjoyable? Or are you sounding like a drill sergeant? How do you resist the siren call of email? I’d like to know.

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I found my name at the Letterpress



We set the type, letter by letter, picking up the cold metal squares and placing them upside down and backwards into the “composing stick” which looks a little bit like those metal contraptions used to measure your feet at the shoe store.

As a member of the board at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, I get to take workshops from time to time and this was “Introduction to Letterpress.”

Our first assignment was to pick two words, then choose a typeface and then letter by letter build our words. So, off I went browsing the heavy drawers of metal and wooden type feeling somehow comforted by these old, once ignored, now precious letters.

I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired so I decided to make it easy and set the type for my first and last name. That’s two words, I figured. And because I’ve been planning a revamp of my website, I wanted to see my name in a new typeface.

As a sidenote, I have a long, complicated history with my name. I was actually born with a completely different name but at birth my grandmother nicknamed me “Gigi” and then when my parents divorced, I asked my mother if I could use my stepfather’s last name “Rosenberg” so that she and I could have the same last name. My mother said that yes, I could change my name, but we’d have to lie to my father about it. One day, when I was with him, he discovered and… well that’s another story.

I placed the letters of my name as instructed into the composing stick and carried it expectantly to my teacher. I’d assumed that I would print my name on a card at one of the presses and that would be that. It would be my own private moment with those two words that make up my “found name.”

Instead, the teacher instructed me and then all the students to put our two words all together into one “frame” and explained we’d be printing all the words at once onto one sheet of paper.

As it turned out, I was the only person who chose to typeset my name. Here I had thought I’d have a private moment with my hard won name and instead I was possibly coming off as a raving egomaniac.

IMG_0145 copy

The resulting “class project” read like a found poem or fortune cookie message written just for me. Are these my instructions for 2015? See photo.

“Create art, Gigi Rosenberg” is a pretty great place to start my year. I’m not sure what a Volkswagen (which was my first car), merry, Vera & Charlie, and type love will come to mean. But perhaps more will be revealed as this year unfolds.


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3 ways to capture your best headshot

Gigi on December 18, 2014  Photo by Christian Columbres

Gigi on December 18, 2014
Photo by Christian Columbres

A new year calls for a new headshot.

As 2014 came to a close, I felt a new energy in the air. Last year I carved out time to finish a major creative writing project, fell into the groove as Editor of Professional Artist magazine and limited my coaching to artists who were making a serious commitment to their careers.

So, feeling serious, I wanted a headshot that reflected the tone of this new year.

Then, Christian Columbres showed me the headshots he had taken for a colleague and I saw a quality that drew me: a feeling of grounded soulfulness. When I scanned his portfolio, one black and white photo of a very old woman caught my eye. “I obviously don’t want to look like a very old woman,” I told him. “But there’s something about the quality of this photo that I love.”

He nodded like he understood. The next thing I knew, he was ushering me into his studio as I clutched two long-sleeve t-shirts and a new tube of lipstick. Almost two hours and hundreds of photos later, I had my new headshot for this year.

A headshot is your face to the world. Does yours reflect who you’re becoming this year?

If it’s time for a new one (and when isn’t it?) I have three pieces of advice beyond the obvious ones of get a good night’s sleep and try to relax.


  1. Find a photographer who specializes in photographing people. Faces are different than inanimate objects so even if you know someone who does a great job shooting products for catalogs, he’s not your guy.
  2. Scrutinize the photographer’s portfolio of headshots. Find examples you love and point out exactly why you love them. What’s the quality you see that you’d want in your own headshot?
  3. I was going to advise bringing a friend because I thought that having a friend might make help me relax. But no. I realized that it was best for me to be on my own. Having a third person in the room changes the dynamic. There’s something to be said for the intimacy that’s captured when it’s just you and the photographer. So, choose someone you can be silent with so when the shutter is pressed, your whole self is looking back.

I look forward to seeing your new headshot for 2015!

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Let Your Hands Decide For You

Hand photoThis past Saturday was my last official reading at the Seattle Public Library with the Jack Straw Writers Program that I’ve been participating in all year.

A few days before I was supposed to fly to Seattle, I came down with a sore throat that quickly transformed into a cold. Should I go? Should I stay home? I wasn’t deathly ill, I was even starting to feel better by the time the morning of my flight arrived but should I push myself to go or stay home?

To help me find clarity, I played a decision game that I had recently learned from Vicki Lind. I put my two hands in front of me and formed cups with each palm. In my left hand I put “not going” and felt how that felt. In my right hand I put “going” and felt how that felt.

I noticed that in my left hand, the “not going” felt heavy, constricted and no fun.

In my right hand, the “going” felt light, buoyant and joyful, like it just wanted to be tossed into the air.

I flew to Seattle.

I had written a new open to my memoir and read that. It didn’t matter that my voice was hoarse. Many of the writers in my group, who’ve heard me read different versions of the opening, told me how much they liked my latest draft. We went out to eat and I flew back home, exhausted but happy.

I’m still living off the good energy of our reading and astonished, once again, how encouragement from writers I admire is like jet fuel in my gas tank. The doubts and negativity that sometimes threaten to derail me, shrank to nothingness and my memoir revisions took precedence all week.

Try this exercise the next time you have a decision to make that you can’t bend your mind around. Put one decision in one hand and the other decision in the other hand. Feel the weight in each. What do you learn? What do you decide to do?

Photo Credit: <a href=””>Amrit…</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>


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3 Ways to Expect More From Your Art

261376319_564c41d4bf_oToday in my yoga class, our teacher began the class by asking us if we were expecting too much from our yoga practice. Like was I expecting my yoga practice to ensure that I’d never lose my temper again or feel annoyed at that person who holds the elevator for everyone — even the people outside the lobby doors.

Her question made me ask myself: am I expecting too much from my art? (Which in my case, is my writing.) Am I secretly hoping that if I have enough success from it, I’ll never feel angry or annoyed or sad again?

Or, this is scarier: am I NOT expecting enough from my art? Am I NOT expecting it’s going to make a difference to me or anyone else? Am I neglecting it? Is it running around without a winter coat, in need of a new haircut? Am I spending enough time with it? Time and care that it needs to grow and prosper? Are you?

In a Writer’s Digest webinar I took earlier this week about “How to Blog Meaningfully and Grow Your Audience” with Jane Friedman, she advised to give your blog a year. If you quit too soon, you miss out on what she called the “snowball effect.”

Am I devoting enough time to my writing so that I’ll benefit from the snowball effect of my years of writing? Are you?

I’ve been writing a memoir this year by just focusing on gathering the next snowflake. Now I’m done. In the next couple of months I’ll make minor revisions, research agents and publishers, buff my query letter and perfect my elevator speech.

The heft of the manuscript in my hand is proof of the snowball effect. Those few fluttery first pages have grown into a heavy snowball. If I threw it, it would have an impact.

Jane encouraged us to use numbers in our blogs. So, in the spirit of practicing what I learned, these are three ways you can expect more from your art practice:

  1. Pay attention to it: Show up when you say you will and stick to staying with the practice, even if it means just sitting there. Those emails can wait.
  2. Find 3 new opportunities that your art can snag for you. This could mean: schedule a reading, submit to a new publication, enter a competition. Expect your art to work hard for you.
  3. Expect that your art is going to change one person’s perspective or enlarge someone’s life. Take a look at it: is there some way you can take that painting or that essay further so it will have more of an impact?

Your art can’t make your life easy. But it will change your life if you expect enough from it.

Photo Credit: <a href=””>east_lothian_museums</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

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Guest Blog: How actor and writer Brynn Baron deals with rejection

Brynn Baron

Brynn Baron

As an actor and writer, I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ve been dealing with the failure I seem to be having at auditions and with writing submissions. Rejection is not always personal, but it’s too easy to internalize it and get stuck in a “failure loop” if you let it circle and define you, whether it’s a relationship, job interview, raise or promotion. Here are some coping mechanisms I’ve learned and how I keep on track:

1) Have an interesting life. Always plan some essential or fun activity for the hour after putting yourself “out there.” Go run an important errand, meet a friend you haven’t seen for a while, keep a promise to a child, volunteer. This keeps the audition in perspective and reminds me that life is full and complex. My identity isn’t defined by this one success or failure—I’m a busy, fascinating person with stuff to do.

2) Nobody plants an abundant garden by planting just one seed. It takes a “dandelion” mentality to make sure one’s efforts are spread out and multiplied for the strongest possible outcome. Some soil will be stony and infertile, but not all of it. By submitting projects to multiple people, being rejected on just one submission or audition or attempt at friendship loses its sting. A successful playwright friend would proudly show me her stacks of rejection letters as proof of her persistence. She gained valuable feedback and became a stronger writer as a result. Failure cues us to the fact that we’re growing and evolving into experts with each unsuccessful effort.

3) Be true to yourself. It’s better to be rejected for who you are or for a project that you’re passionate about than to be rejected for some abstract idea of what or who you think the decision maker wants. Something amazing happens when you’re authentic and personal in your work. I always tell acting students that the more personal and specific the work is, the more universally relatable it is. “You’ve got to bring your gift,” says filmmaker Blake Robbins (“The Sublime and Beautiful”), “because what if you’re the only one who has it?” Somebody somewhere needs what you have and has never experienced you before.

4) Realize that the search itself can be your successful outcome. Give yourself credit for continuing. Let go of results and just do the work. It’s the fact that you continue to try and don’t give up on what you’re passionate about—that is success, whether it’s getting work, finding an audience, or a mate. Fall in love with your own valiant life as it is at this moment.

Brynn Baron is a Portland screenwriter, producer of two short films, and a 2014 Oregon Actors Award Nominee for her film and stage work. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and OMPA. She is constantly amazed. To learn more about Brynn, you can visit her on LinkedIn, ImDb, Facebook, @brynnbaron on Twitter, Google +, or watch her in Jacqueline Gault’s Sack Lunch.

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Who Are You Becoming?

As this “new year” begins, I’m thinking about how important it is to make your plans and goals based on who you want to become not only who you’ve been.

If you plan your year based only on what you’ve already done, then the year won’t have enough stretches in it or dreams that ignite your excitement. If you plan it including your vision of who you’re becoming, you’ll build on what you’ve done but it will include room for where you’re dreaming you want to be.

I recently applied this wisdom to my new website design. I was humming along making plans for the new site when all of a sudden it dawned on me that the site design was too narrow. It didn’t include any room for the new areas I’m reaching into. It was more about what I’d done than who I’m becoming.

So, I went back to the drawing board and now I’m in my office sticking post-its to the wall to help me re-imagine the site in a way that holds not only what’s been but what will be.

I mentioned this insight to a graphic designer friend and she said “Yeah. I understand. For me, it was not listing that I could design PowerPoint slides on my resume anymore. I could do it and I had done it, but I didn’t want to do it anymore.” So, the solutions are sometimes simple but the insight is huge.

Who are you becoming? How can you take those inklings of what’s next and have them be part of your plan? For me it was about going back to re-imagine a website design. What is it for you?

If this season has inspired you to sit down and write down your goals and dreams and the baby steps it will take to get there, are you including the vision of who you’ll be in one, two or five years from now? Of course, life will happen in the meantime, but your plans will be way more exciting to you if they include enough room to hold your ambitions. Now, my website design is not drudgery. When I focused on the author I’m becoming, the new design became more fun to imagine. It felt vital and central to manifesting my ambitions for the new year.

How are you leaving room for the buds to bloom in 2015?

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Jack Straw Writers tell “Family Secrets” at Literary Arts on October 2

I’m very excited to invite you to “Family Secrets,” the only Portland reading for this year’s Jack Straw Writers on October 2 at Literary Arts.

I’ll be reading from my new memoir How I Lost My Inheritance and I’m joined by three writers from Seattle’s Jack Straw Writers Program: Claudia Castro Luna, Loreen Lilynn Lee, and Michelle Peñaloza. Curator Felicia Gonzalez hosts.

With this reading’s “Family Secrets” theme, I can promise some raucous, hilarious and outrageous moments.

It would mean so much if you could join me that night and extend a warm welcome to these Seattle writers. Event details:

When: October 2 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Where: Literary Arts, 925 SW Washington Street, Portland, OR 97205

You’re welcome to RSVP on the event’s Facebook page.

If you’re a writer, the deadline to apply to the 2015 Jack Straw Writers Program is October 31. I loved the program in which we published an anthology, received vocal and performance training and hosted readings throughout the Pacific Northwest. My year as a Jack Straw Writer has been a highlight of my literary life.

Building front 2013The Jack Straw Writers Program based in Washington, was created in 1997 to introduce local writers to the medium of recorded audio, to develop their presentation skills for both live and recorded readings, to encourage the creation of new literary work, and to provide new venues for the writers and their work.

On October 2, you’ll meet these writers:

Claudia Castro Luna was born in El Salvador and came to the United States in 1981. She studied French and German, earned an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA and taught Spanish to high school students in Oakland, CA. After years of putting writing on the backburner, she finally decided to get serious and earned an MFA in poetry from MillsCollege in 2012. Her poems have appeared in Milvia Street, The Womanist, andRiverbabble. She has been a featured reader for the Berkeley Poetry Festival and for KALW, an NPR affiliate in San Francisco.

Loreen Lilyn Lee grew up in three cultures: Chinese, American, and Hawaiian. Her memoir The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir tells the stories “I’m not supposed to tell.” She weaves together family secrets; childhood trauma; cultural confusion; and Hawaiian history, geology, and mythology in a journey to discover her authentic self. A Seattle resident since 1986, she graduated from the University of Washington in 1994 as a working adult and began writing her personal stories.

Michelle Peñaloza grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and earned her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Hobart, TriQuarterly, The Weekly Rumpus, and Hyphen Magazine. She is the recipient of the Miriam McFall Starlin Poetry Award, fellowships from Kundiman, the Richard Hugo House, and Literary Arts, as well as scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, VONA/Voices Workshop, Vermont Studio Center, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

Gigi Rosenberg’s current project is How I Lost My Inheritance: A Mother/Daughter Memoir. She’s performed at On the Boards, been a guest commentator on Oregon Public Radio, and been published by Seal Press, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and Parenting. The author of The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing (Watson-Guptill, 2010), Gigi lives in Portland.

Felicia Gonzalez hosts.

Felicia Gonzalez hosts.

2014 Writers Program Curator Felicia Gonzalez was born in Cuba. She believes that language and the act of speaking are not only physical, but also have a geographic presence. An alumna of Hedgebrook Writers Retreat and the Jack Straw Writers Program, her writing has received numerous awards including a 2007 Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship.


Please let me know if you can join us in October 2. I so look forward to seeing you!




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I’m now Editor at ‘Professional Artist’ magazine

The August/September 2014 cover of 'Professional Artist' magazine

The August/September 2014 cover of ‘Professional Artist’ magazine.

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been named Editor of Professional Artist, the business magazine for visual artists. Ever since I was in junior high school, I’ve wanted to edit a magazine so when this opportunity opened, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve been at it since early last month and so far, I love it. All the ideas for marketing and funding that come across my desk now have a home. I can either write about them for the magazine or assign them to one of our contributors. And now, I’m exposed to even more resources I can share with the artists I coach.

Professional Artist is based in Orlando, Florida but I can edit it from my office in downtown Portland. Since it’s part-time, I continue to coach artists, offer presentation coaching, teach workshops and work on my own creative writing projects.

I love running my own business, but one thing I always missed from the days when I had a “real job” was the social aspect of work, of working with a team towards a shared goal. I partner with artists and arts associations in the coaching and teaching that I do but it’s time-limited. After the workshop is over, we won’t talk again until the next time which could be a year away.

Now, I have colleagues – the publisher, the assistant editor of the magazine and our contributing writers. I really enjoy working with them to create the best business magazine for visual artists.

To learn more about the magazine or to purchase this issue or subscribe, visit

You can still reach me at or if you have a story idea, email me at


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Ask your questions, while you still can

 This story appeared in this week’s newsletter. It was so popular – I received dozens of comments about it – I decided to post it on my blog in case you missed it.

My father, the illustrator and painter, Robert Shore, sculpting in his New York City studio in the early 60s. Photo by Ken Wittenberg.

My father, the illustrator and painter, Robert Shore, sculpting in his New York City studio in the early 60s. Photo by Ken Wittenberg.

Since I last wrote, my beloved father, the illustrator and painter Robert Shore, passed away on April 30 at the age of ninety.

Over the years, my father had inscribed and given me many of the books he illustrated including Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling, among others.

After his death, to console myself, I decided to hunt down another copy of Moby Dick and visited which lets you search used books by illustrator. Not only did I find a copy of the Melville classic, I found and ordered several other books my father illustrated that I never knew about.

It was bittersweet when the week after my order, packages arrived at my doorstep each day including Home is the North by Walt Morey and Bitter Victory: A History of Black Soldiers in WW I by Florette Henri among several others.

I’m happy to have these books to hold in my hand, to see my father’s name on their covers, and look at the illustrations inside that are so undeniably his. But I’m sorry I can’t ask him about each project.

On one of my last visits with my father, I told him I was writing a memoir.

“You have quite a story to tell,” he said.

“I’d like to interview you.”

“Hmmm,” he said, sounding a little wary.

“You don’t have to talk to me,” I said. “I’m going to write the memoir either way but I’d rather have your story.”

He was silent for a moment.

“What do you want to know?” he said at last.

“How did you and my mother meet?” I asked knowing he might not want to talk about the woman he’d divorced more than 50 years ago.

He paused.

“You really want me to tell you?”

“Yes, Dad.”

He told me a story that solved a deep mystery in my memoir and is now one of the final chapters.

After the interview, he was full of energy.

“Wow. I feel so much better I told you,” he said. “It’s better to let it out.”

“Thanks, Dad.” I’m sorry now that he won’t get to read it.

What questions do you want to ask while you still can? From a person, from a place, about an event? I’m glad I persevered and that my father sat for that last interview.

Before the year runs out, visit that place, talk to that person, ask your questions. You never know what gold you may find. Then, tell me what happened. I’d love to hear.

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