kindness-by-gina-sekelsky-studio New Year’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. For starters, we host a dinner party every New Year’s Eve, so I wake up to a clean house and can settle into a whole day of daydreaming, eating yummy leftovers, and playing board games. Here are a few things I’d like to share with you about my year ahead (and hold onto your hat, because the first one is BIG): 1. You probably already know that my creative work has fueled my adult life (25 years in May, if you’re counting). I was blessed with a lot of work from the very start, and I ditched my day job at the tender age of 27. For years I believed that having a “day job” was a sign that you had failed at your vocation. (Didn't I learn anything from my art crush, William Carlos Williams--doctor and poet?) On and off during all these years, I’ve been asking myself the same questions: Are there other ways to live creatively? Have I allowed some skills to flounder while others have flourished? What’s the best way to use my gifts? A few months back I shared that I was teaching one or two days a week in a local arts high school, feeling out a new way to be creative and enjoying some time away from my (sometimes lonely) studio. Well, one thing led to another and as of Thanksgiving, I’m teaching nearly full time—definitely not what I was planning for, but I’m embracing it full-on. (That’s big, right? It feels big!) The best part is, I feel more creative than ever. I’m bursting with ideas and have some exciting projects in the works. So no, I’m not closing Lettergirl. (You could say it’s my lifeline.) But I’ll be doing more of my work on evenings and weekends, and I’ll be sending fewer, fuller newsletters this year. I hope you’ll keep me company as I navigate these new waters. (Or, please use the link below to unsubscribe if this content is no longer relevant for you.) 2. I’m looking into some changes on my main website this year, which will also mean changes to this blog. (You may have noticed that I’ve been letting that slide a bit these last few months.) I’m having way too much fun with Instagram, and not feeling like the blog format is working for me right now. What do you think? 3. Next week I’ll be sending out the first quote in my 2017 Quote of the Month Club. It’s not too late to subscribe! Choose quotes with a Faith/Scripture theme or Nature & Hope theme. (Yes, this year’s theme started as simply “Nature.” But as I compiled my list of quotes ideas for the year, I was more and more drawn to words of hope. So I changed it to Nature and Hope. Ta da!) 4. My favorite books of 2016: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It lived up to the hype! Now I’m on a mission to read everything he’s ever written. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Read it with a box of tissues and a highlighter. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listened to this one on walks to the studio early last summer. Perfect for putting spring in your step (literally and figuratively). My YA pick for the year is Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin. I learned something new & it fostered family discussions about race and leadership. Highly recommended for reading aloud! 5. How do you feel about the ending of 2016? My heart ached deeply last year, but I also felt a call to be my best self. I’m grateful to every one of you reading this, for supporting me in the work I love and for bringing light to my days. Thank you! And I hope 2017 will be a year to revel in. Gina
I'd love to see you today at my (rescheduled) holiday open house! I've stocked up on calendars and cocktail recipes, I've got cider ready to warm up, and I've printed some sweet new prints. Cheers! Tuesday, Dec. 6th from 4:30-7:30 @ the Lettergirl studio (280 & University in St. Paul) cocktail-set-by-lettergirl-on-etsy
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Mt. Olivet Sale Saturday, November 5th 9am - 2pm 50th & Knox in Minneapolis

Morningside Holiday Market Saturday, November 19th 9am - 2pm Calvin Christian School - 40th & Inglewood in Edina (note, new location this year!)

Lettergirl Open House Tuesday, November 29th 4:30-7:30pm @ the Lettergirl Studio 2500 University Ave W, St. Paul :: I'll be donating a portion of my sales in honor of Giving Tuesday ::

I'm also looking forward to hosting a new Handwritten Workshop with the stunning Christine Hoffman of Foxglove Market & Studio. It's called Pen & Pine, and we'll be combining handwriting with local flora to inspire you in your holiday gift giving and table setting. Get more details & register here. P.S. Sorry about the longest blog break ever. I've got something up my sleeve for blog posts in 2017 that will make it more manageable for me and more fun for you. Stay tuned!
august books by gina sekelsky studio My 2016 Summer Reading Program wraps up today! Send your reading list or worksheet (SRP Worksheet by Gina Sekelsky Studio) to me today to claim your prize, a set of two reading-themed temporary tattoos.  (Send via email today or postmark by today if mailing.) The second book in the stack above is a recommendation from a participant in this year's reading program. (Thanks, Deanne!) What's on your list?
lettergirl birthday sale Friends, I've always loved that my birthday is the last day of the month! I like celebrating all month long and looking forward to my big day. This year is a wee bit of a milestone, so I'm ushering in the occasion with a sale on everything in the shop. Use coupon code FIFTY as often as you like before Monday, August 29th, for 20% off everything. (That's right, coupon code fifty. See what I did there?) Of course, having a birthday at the end of the month, and therefore thinking about it all month long, means I do more than my fair share of pondering about where I'm at and where I want to be. I've been thinking long & hard about my art, how I've navigated the terrain of my rich inner life, and frankly, whether I want to move on to Act 2. I don't know what Act 2 is, I just feel strongly that I need to push my boundaries a little further out. See what I'm capable of. Keep growing and learning and trying not to let the intensity of modern life overwhelm me. Another plus to having your birthday at the end of the month? After dwelling on existential questions for 30 days, I'm usually content by my birthday to just be in the moment I'm in, not looking back or planning ahead. I'll get there.
srp logo blog size Welcome to the 5th year of my Summer Reading Program for Grown-ups! To participate, you just need to tell me about five books you've read this summer. (I'll have a couple of fiction titles on my list, and some non-fiction, including one awesome cookbook.) Here's how: srp worksheet by gina sekelsky studio Download the worksheet here: SRP Worksheet by Gina Sekelsky Studio. (I may not have loved them at school, but these days I think worksheets are pretty sweet.) OR, send me an email with the following info: the titles & authors of five books, a mini-review of each (a sentence or two will do it), and your mailing address. Send your book list by August 31st to get this year's prize: 2016 srp prize by gina sekelsky studio Two handwritten book-themed temporary tattoos. (Love them but not going to get around to writing out your book list? You can also purchase the tattoos in my shop.) *Please note, supplies are limited for the prize. First come, first served. If I run out of tattoos, I may substitute another equally-awesome prize. Handwritten, of course! My favorite part? Poring over your lists and choosing what I’d like to read for fall. I’ve added some favorites to my bookshelf thanks to your recommendations the last four years. I'm hoping this will be our best year yet. Ready, set, go!
july books by lettergirl First, the read-alouds. I'm so grateful to Jennifer, the reader who suggested The Port Chicago 50 earlier this month. It is exactly what I was looking for: tense with action, but equally thought-provoking. The boy and I have had several impassioned conversations while reading it (and at least one other, hours later, on the couch, because it lingers in your mind). A+. Long road trips this month have called for long books to read aloud. We're still working our way through a re-read of the Mysterious Benedict Society. We finally got to the good parts of book two on our long drive home last Tuesday. I love a good book about reading, so picked up The Pleasure of Reading with my usual high hopes. Essays by forty authors about their love of reading and the books they love most. While a few of the essays are down to earth and engaging, most everyone else is anxious to tell you they adore T.S. Eliot and can't be bothered with the modern novel. Worth a skim, or read the essays by authors you admire, and call it a day. Belgravia, how I want to take you with me on vacation next week, but alas you're due back at the library and I haven't even opened you up yet. That's because I started Everyone Brave is Forgiven first, and I'm much too absorbed to give it up. Yes, another World War II book, but a fresh perspective if that's possible. Sweeping, intimate, quietly compelling. What's missing from the stack? They May Not Mean to, But They Do, which I started (in fact, read nearly half of) before I set it aside. I kept it from the library another two weeks, but do you know in that time I never missed it? Never wondered about the characters, never thought of one of them in their kitchen while I was in my kitchen. So back to the library it goes. My favorite for the month (a bit of a dark horse, actually, as I didn't expect to be so enamored) is Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. I started reading Eat, Pray, Love when everyone else was reading it, but it just didn't work for me. After a couple of years, I tried the audiobook instead and that did the trick. What sounded entitled and indulgent when I read it became self-deprecating and endearing when she read it. So that's where I started with Big Magic: the audiobook. I listen to 15 minutes a day as I'm walking to work each morning and I am full-on inspired by the time I reach my studio. I'm going to pick up a copy as an early birthday gift to myself and underline the heck out of it. This past week I also wrapped up my 100 Day Project, wearing handmade everyday from April 19-July 27. I wish I had a major revelation to share, but really I chose the project because it was easy (I have to get dressed anyway) and in the end it was...easy. 100 days of feeling anchored, 100 days of acknowledging my own history, 100 days of selfies: 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 12 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 11 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 10 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 13 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 09 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 08
2016-17 planner by lettergirl on etsy 01 Introducing my newest planner design! I've been giving this layout a test run for the past six months and it's been working swimmingly for me. There's room for your weekly to do list on the left, lots of room for your daily schedule, an inspiring quotation every single week, and extra space to doodle or jot notes. 2016-17 planner by lettergirl on etsy 02 Whenever I think of something I need to accomplish in the future, I turn to the corresponding page in my planner and write it down on the lefthand side. This technique has been a great time management tool for me: when the lines start filling up, I know to tell customers (or friends!) that I'm not available that week & I can look through my planner for a week that's more open. You may remember that on Fridays, I like to have a "Staff Meeting," a little time intentionally set aside for me, my planner, and a cup of tea. Here's what I do with my planner during my weekly meeting: I use the doodle box on the right hand side for what I call "Big Work:" projects that aren't deadline-based, new things I'm working on or longer term projects that I don't want to slip between the cracks. Right now, I'm juggling a lot of new ideas and I write down just ONE task I need to do each week to stay on task. For me what's been working best is to only write this list at the end of the preceding week, that way if I didn't manage to do something, no harm done, I just rewrite the same task the following week. (I've only been trying this the last three weeks...but so far, so good!) 2016-17 planner by lettergirl on etsy 03 Next I write down all of my commitments for the week. Not a lot going on this week, thank you summer! 2016-17 planner by lettergirl on etsy 04 Then I try to fit all the things on the lined list into the days available. I usually try to schedule my days with like-tasks together, administrative stuff one day/crafty stuff another day. Tuesday this week, I grouped all of my client-related creative work together. (I'll have a spring in my step on the way in on Tuesday!)  I was able to fit most of the items from my list onto the first two days of the week, so I stopped there. Now I know I can fit in an oil change later in the week, edits to the custom work I'm starting on Tuesday, and  lunch with a friend on Wednesday. I noted "Hot!" on Thursday and Friday because mid to high 90's are forecast those days and I don't have air conditioning at the studio, so I'll need to plan ahead: work I can either do at home or in my studio neighbor's space. One of my very favorite parts of this design is the little colored box at the bottom of each day. As you can see, I haven't written anything there yet for this week. I use that space for recording my business mileage. That's been really helpful for me, both as a reminder to actually write it down and as a very obvious, consistent location for recording that necessary info. But you could just as easily use this space for something more creative: *a focus before the day begins *appointments or things you absolutely don't want to forget *your dinner plan *a gratitude, remembrance, or highlight at the end of the day The planner runs from August 2016 through 2017, and includes individual planning pages for the months of August 2017-December 2017. You'll also get monthly lists & grids, mini calendars for 2016 & 2017, and a few other inspirational pages for good measure. 2016-17 planner by lettergirl on etsy 05 New this year:  In addition to the downloadable version of the planner, I've printed and bound just ten copies  so you don't have to do anything to get started. Now you can choose what's easiest for you! Both options are the standard 8-1/2 x 11 size that I use, but if you're interested in a smaller version, I hope you'll reach out & let me know. If there's enough interest, I'll set to working on that before the end of the week--since I know I've got some time on Wednesday and Thursday, thanks to my planner. 😉
srp logo blog size My kids have gotten a lot older since I first wrote about my love of reading aloud and we're still reading aloud together. A few weeks ago we were returning from a weekend in our Airstream and my husband wasn't feeling well, so I took the wheel for the four-hour drive home. How lucky and grateful and content I felt when my daughter took up our family book and read aloud almost the entire way home. Now that's what I call bliss. This summer we were planning to read a sort of "greatest hits" of the last 14 years of reading aloud together. But with the tragic event in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, last week (just a few miles from my studio), I can't seem to stop thinking about the racial privilege we take for granted as book-loving, middle class white Americans: our good fortune in having the time to read together, the access we have to literature because we feel comfortable and at home in our local library, and the opportunity given to us through generations of support in education and in just getting through the day. Sure, we've read some classic tales of diversity through the years. And we've had more than one conversation about race. (Our school district is roughly 75% non-white.) But while we still have time together, I'd like to add some more thought-provoking selections to our summer, something that will get us talking, even if it's awkward or calls me out on hidden prejudices. We may start with Between the World and Me, but I would love to hear your suggestions, too. For more about what to do as a white ally, read On Racism and Silence from artist Lisa Congdon. book garden quote by lettergirl on etsy 01 Meanwhile, I've got some new cards in the shop for all my reading friends. I've written this quote and printed it on folded notecards: the perfect way to reach out to anyone in your address book who might be feeling lonely this summer or who needs a bright spot in their day. (Available as a 5 x 7 print, too.)
  books by gina sekelsky studio Every year I create a page summarizing my reading for the year, and I typically identify which reads were my "favorites." When it comes down to it, my favorites are really just the ones I'd read again. (Writing this, I remembered a handful I wish I'd never read at all!) Number the Stars is the only duplicate from last year, though truth-be-told I read Station Eleven twice in one year (once to myself, and once aloud to the boy). This passage from Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, sums up my love of re-reading pretty well: “Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?" Mo had said..."As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar.”  I remember re-reading My Antonia a few years ago, astonished that my 20-something self had felt so differently about the title character than my 40-something self. I like re-reading especially when I'm under the weather. There's nothing quite so comforting as a familiar book. Are you a re-reader? What tops your list? P.S. Want to see more of my Book-Book? Get inspired with more than a dozen pages in Studio Yearbook One. Summer Reading Program Update: Sign up here (lower right) for updates via email, or leave a comment on any post & check the box to receive future posts via email. I post updates once a week & will send you a reminder about the deadline in August.