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Creative Spotlight – Jennifer Kennedy

You might remember that last November I traveled to San Francisco to participate in the studio audience for a Creative Live class (new readers can read my recaps here, here and here!). In addition to learning a ton, I also gained a generous friend and business accountability partner that I want to introduce you to today – Jennifer Kennedy from Teach Good StuffJen recently started working her business full-time (!!!) so I was super excited to interview her for my latest Creative Spotlight.

Sunflower Paperie - Jennifer Kennedy interview

1. What do you do?!

As of two weeks ago, I am working full-time on my own business (Teach Good Stuff). Woohoo! I help coaches and authors package their expertise into online courses and ebooks so that they can make an impact in the world all while making money.

2. How did you get into this line of work?

I’ve been in education for over 13 years. I can’t believe time is flying so fast. I started out as an elementary school teacher, teaching 1st and 4th grades. I was fortunate enough to teach in 3 different types of schools – public, international, and charter. So, I have a diverse perspective about education.

I then decided to get out of teaching and pursue a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I wanted to become a curriculum coordinator for a school district and design their learning programs. Well, my journey didn’t go quite as planned, and I landed a job as a trainer in a software company. I learned loads of skills there – training, video design, writing instructional manuals, etc. After working there for a few years, I realized that I had a lot to offer people. I saw that online entrepreneurs were building courses and workbooks. I just knew I could offer support along their journey! And from there, the dream was born.

Sunflower Paperie - Jennifer Kennedy interview

Click HERE to continue!

Creative Spotlight – Brooke Smith

You may be starting to notice a trend in my Creative Spotlight features… All of the creatives I have interviewed have been current or former students I have worked with (I seriously work with the BEST population – college students rock!)! This week’s interview with Brooke Smith, owner of Brooke Marcella Photography, maintains this trend as Brooke is a recent graduate who I met through work.

Sunflower Paperie - Brooke Marcella Photography

The very talented Brooke of Brooke Marcella Photography

Many of you know that I work with business students at Arizona State University. As you might imagine, professional development is a big part of a business students experience while in college. I met Brooke during my first month at ASU when she was taking headshots for a group of student staffers I work with. Brooke is an Arizona-based photographer who since graduating this past December, is working her photography business full-time. She is super-talented and a delight to work with! All of the photos in this post were provided by Brooke and illustrate perfectly what a fun spirited person she is.

Click here for the FULL interview with Brooke!

Creative Spotlight – Nicole Stormann

Hello! I am so excited to introduce you to today’s creative entrepreneur! I met Nicole Stormann way back in 2009 when she was an undergraduate student applying to be a Resident Assistant for the department I worked in. I can still very clearly remember the first time I met Nicole. Her enthusiasm and sweet spirit were contagious – needless to say, we hired her! I was so lucky to work with her for a couple of years!

Nicole S. - Full Wild Free blog

Fast forward 5 years and she is about to graduate from the same master’s program I completed and I couldn’t be more proud of her! She has become not only a dear friend, but also an inspiration to me.

She started her blog, FullWildFree, last summer and is also the owner of Nicole Marie Photography. Her blog is at the top of my reading list and I can never get enough of her photography! I truly loved reading her interview responses and can’t wait to share them with you. All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Nicole (they are so gorgeous!).

E&J - Nicole Marie Photography

Photo courtesy of Nicole Marie Photography


Click here for Nicole’s FULL interview (and LOTS of beautiful photos!)!

Creative Spotlight – Jay Budgett

I am SO excited to share the second installment of my Creative Spotlight series with you today! If I have said it once, I will say it a million times, college students are the BEST population to work with on a daily basis! Today’s interviewee is just another example of why I love working with college students so much. 

Jay Budgett is a full-time student AND a published author! I met him a little over a year ago and when I started this blog series, I knew I wanted to feature him. While I love reading, I typically wait to read a series until all the books have been published (waiting for the next book is SO hard!). However, I had to make an exception with Jay’s 1st book, The Indigo Thief. I won’t give away too many details, but if you enjoy post-apocalyptic young adult fiction you are in for a TREAT! 

I enjoyed hearing more about Jay’s process and learning what inspires him to be creative – I hope you will too! Make sure to read all the way to the end for a surprise! 

1. What do you do (full-time, part-time, etc.)?

I am senior studying business full-time at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. I write during my spare time (usually early mornings or late nights), and I am currently working on mysecond novel, “The Phoenix Rises.”

2. How did you get into writing? How old were you?

I’ve written casually since I was a little kid. During family road trips, I would write stories in the yellow, lined notepads my dad used for work in the back seat of the car. Usually, these stories ended abruptly after a few pages with “TO BE CONTINUED” sprawled across the bottom in bold letters. Around junior high, I lost interest in reading and writing because it wasn’t “cool” and didn’t pick it up again until well into high school. At the recommendation of a teacher, I enrolled in a playwriting course at my local community college my junior year and have been writing again ever since.

Sunflower Paperie Creative Spotlight - Jay Budgett

3. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?

The song “Lights” by Ellie Goulding is what inspired the scene on the Tube featured in the first few chapters. The song itself has very little to do with what actually happens in the chapter, but for me the song’s immersive nature was a feeling I hoped to capture in the book. From those first few chapters, I plotted out the rest of the story.

4. What’s your favorite part about writing?

I like having the opportunity to connect with both my characters and readers. It’s really fun to write something at your desk on a computer, but feel like you’re being transported through space and time while you do it. It’s also great to be able to give readers that experience as well.

5. What 3 words best describe YOU?

Imaginative, loyal, and ambitious.

6. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

I would meet Roald Dahl. Besides being one of my favorite childhood authors, I think he’s had a big influence on the way I write. He also had an incredibly interesting life before he started writing and seems like he’d be wickedly funny in person.

7. Besides writing, what are your other interests?

I like to swim, travel, read, work out, hike, and scuba dive. Grabbing coffee with old friends is always great too.

Sunflower Paperie blog Creative Spotlight - Jay Budgett 3

8. Top 3 Instagram accounts that make you smile.




9. What are you currently reading (blogs, books, magazines)?

I just finished “The Shell Collector” by Hugh Howey, and I enjoyed it very much. Howey’s been one of my favorite authors for a few years now. When I read his writing, it’s almost PAINFUL—it’s that good. I’ve also been reading “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith.

10. Describe your ideal day.

I’d sleep in relatively late, grab coffee, and head to the beach. There, it’d spend the day swimming, reading, and writing, before grabbing some Italian food on the way home.

11. What business tools do you depend on daily?

I use a program called Scrivener to write my actual manuscripts in. It’s a fairly inexpensive software program that makes it easier to manage characters and chapters without losing your head. I also use Excel to plot out all books, while keeping track of characters and time frames.

12. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to publish a book?

Don’t be afraid to write terribly, especially during the first draft. It sounds crass, but it’s true. I think novel writing’s been glamorized by the media with most people believing that authors sit behind a typewriter, coffee and tobacco pipes in hand, and start typing stories that are ready to be read by the public. This is simply isn’t the case for most writers I’ve studied. It usually takes several drafts before sentences and characters start seeming coherent.

Sunflower Paperie blog Creative Spotlight - Jay Budgett 2

13. If someone gave you $1,000 (after taxes) how would you spend it?

Travelling. I’d love to visit Yosemite when I have the chance.

14. Will there be a sequel?!

Yes! “The Phoenix Rises” is scheduled for release in July.

Edited to add: Giveaway is now CLOSED. Congrats to Nicole for winning! 

Jay very kindly provided an autographed copy of his book, The Indigo Thief, for me to give away to one lucky Sunflower Paperie reader! I absolutely LOVED Jay’s story of writing as a child and ending everything with “to be continued” – I totally did that too! To be entered in the book giveaway, comment on this post answering one of these questions… 

Did you write as a child? If so, who was your favorite main character to feature?

When you know a book is part of a series, do you read each book as it is published OR wait until they are all out (and you can read them back to back)?! 

Make sure to check out Jay’s beautiful website: and if you can’t wait to get your hands on a copy, “The Indigo Thief” is available from amazon in both ebook and paperback formats.

Giveaway details: you can comment as many times as you would like, but each reader can only earn one entry. Entries will be collected until Monday, January 26 @ 11:59 p.m. I will randomly select 1 reader to win the autographed copy of The Indigo Thief. As always, these posts aren’t sponsored, I simply admire Jay and wanted to share his work with you! 🙂

Creative Spotlight – Madison Lytle

When I decided to start my blog, one of my big goals was to feature creative people who I admire and respect. That is why I am SO excited to share the first installment of the “Creative Spotlight” series today! First a little background…

As many of you know, I work full-time in Higher Education Administration. I always joke, that I liked college so much, I decided to make a career out of it! Before moving to Arizona, I worked in the Design Department at The University of Kansas. I loved my job and espeically LOVED working with all of the talented design students, whose majors included: Illustration & Animation, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design and Photo Media. When I started brainstorming Creatives to spotlight, Madison Lytle immediately came to mind! Madison graduated with a degree in Illustration and Animation from KU (where I met and worked with her) and recently opened an Etsy shop (merrylittlepaperco)!

Okay, enough from me! Let’s meet Madison! You will want to read all the way to the end, because I am sharing another Sunflower Paperie “first” today! 

What do you do?

I am a designer for a company called PaperSnaps that designs and produces wedding and social stationery. After my day job ends, I go home and try to focus on how to further my personal illustration career. Right now I’m focusing a lot of energy on trying to rediscover a process for making images that fills me with joy. Long term goals involve a paper-goods brand and licensing my work.

Sunflower Paperie - Madison Lytle interview

What’s your favorite part of your business?

I love how it is an extension of my personality and the potential it has to grow into whatever I choose.

What 3 words best describe you?

Goofy, Down to Earth, Dreamer

If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

This isn’t exactly historical, but I would love to meet Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co. and learn how she gets so much done in a day.

Besides illustration, what are your other creative interests?

Hand-lettering, Surface Design, Stationery Design, Package Design. I love designing things that are functional– having my work licensed and manufactured into toys, children’s bedding, home decor, etc. would be the coolest thing ever.

Sunflower Paperie blog - Madison Lytle, Illustrator

Top 3 Instagram accounts that make you smile.

@augustwren – I love how she is relentlessly painting in her sketchbook.

@elizabetholwenxo – Surface design crush

@katieisadaisy – She’s 27ish, has a baby, mega-productive, lives in the woods, and all of her work is filled with joy.

What are you currently reading (blogs, books, magazines)?

I just finished re-reading one of my favorite childhood books, Redwall. It’s woodland animals meets Lord of the Rings. I also have a typical group of blogs I check in on each day– ohsobeautifulpaper, print&pattern, DesignSponge, papercrave.

Describe your ideal day.

A lot of my musings involve my dream studio that is potentially an extra room in my house, a cozy backyard cottage, or a lovely space above a storefront. It would be filled with light, flowers, plants, and calm. I’d know exactly what kind of work makes me happy, and I’d fill my days building up a paper-goods brand and licensing work to the Land of Nod, Chronicle Books, and Anthropologie.

Sunflower Paperie - Madison Lytle interview

What business tools do you depend on daily?

The internet for research, lots of paper for list making, some how-to books, my OCD “big binder of ideas”, and the advice of my boyfriend and parents.

What one piece of advice would you give to a new creative business owner?

Tap into what really makes you happy. Lilla Rogers says “People buy your joy” and I really connect with that idea.

If someone gave you $1000 (after taxes) how would you spend it?

I would spend it on a drawing/painting/research trip some place exotic.

Sunflower Paperie - Madison Lytle interview

Seriously how sweet and talented is Madison?! Click here to check out her Etsy shop – Merry Little Paper Co. or here to visit her website – (and see even more of her beautiful work)!

Madison has generously provided some of her darling greetings cards as part of the first ever Sunflower Paperie blog giveaway! See the giveaway details below and enter (up to 6 entries per reader!) for a chance to win a box set of 8 greeting cards (entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. MST, Monday, January 12, 2015).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is NOT sponsored, I very truly love Madison’s work! 🙂

The Indigo Thief Giveaway Winner

The Indigo Thief Giveaway Winner

Thanks to everyone who commented on my Creative Spotlight interview with talented author, Jay Budgett. All those who commented on the post were entered in a giveaway for an autographed copy of his first book, The Indigo Thief

I am excited to announce that Nicole won the giveaway! Thanks again to all those who commented, I loved reading every note. Stay tuned for the next edition of “Creative Spotlight,” in February. 

Happy 2016!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on a product link and purchase the item, I’ll receive a small payment.

2016 Goals Planner Pic

Hello! Happy 2016 (yes, I fully realize it is February, make that March, not January 1!)! 🙂 I hope your year is off to a wonderful start. As you might have guessed by my absence from the blog, 2016 is already going quickly!

I have spent the first part of this year thinking about and focusing on what I want to achieve in 2016. Last year, I had a somewhat complex list of goals, that I reviewed quarterly and tried to post about as I met milestones along the way. While I liked this structure in theory, it proved to be difficult to keep up with. When I posted my end of year recap, I realized there were goals I had identified in January, that I had completely forgotten about by December (“Learn How to Sew Paper” – I am looking at you!).

Last December, my friend Jennifer Kennedy recommended I read The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to set goals, but doesn’t ever quite achieve them all. One of the main concepts of the book is that we should start viewing a year as only 12 weeks. By shortening the amount of time we have to achieve a “yearly” goal, every day, every hour and every minute counts more. This also allows us to adjust goals more quickly than waiting until November and realizing we still have a long way to go and subsequently getting bummed and not working towards the goal any longer. This 12 week concept really resonated with me, since I have previously liked setting quarterly goals!


I Get by with a Little Help From my Friends (and Family)!

Happy weekend, friend! Today I am sharing the 4th installment of my 2015 Goal series. Re-connecting with family and friends is something I have been thinking about a lot recently.

For almost my entire life I lived in Kansas – 18+ years in my hometown in western KS and then 10+ years in the northeastern part of the state. I moved to the northeastern part of the state (Topeka) when I started college at Washburn University (go Ichabods!). After college I stayed in Topeka and following a brief stint in banking, I returned to Washburn as a professional staff member. I mention this timeline because it was during and after college that I really established a wonderful network of friends. Additionally, I was only about 5 hours away from my hometown, so it was relatively easy to travel home or meet my family half way on the weekends.

In the summer of 2013, my boyfriend and I moved to Arizona. I am extremely thankful for my co-workers and friends in Arizona, they have truly made this new place feel like home. However, I have proceeded to get really bad at keeping in touch with my friends and family back home (and those who have moved away from KS!). In some ways I feel connected through social media and I am fairly good at texting, but when it comes to actually calling or writing friends and family, I am not doing so well.

Sunflower Paperie blog - Re-connecting with Family and Friends

Each time I do chat with a friend on the phone, I feel SO much more connected to them and their lives (not to mention how happy it makes me!). I also love sending snail mail, BUT I seem to always be a week (or more!) behind! It may seem silly to write about these kind of goals here, but it is very helpful for me to quantify what I have been thinking about and again, the accountability of others knowing what I am working on this year is invaluable. 🙂

Without further ado (sorry this post got so LONG!), my mini goals for re-connecting with family and friends this year: 

Send 1 written letter per week. I actually love writing letters and used to have regular pen pals when I was younger. I also have a small obsession with stationery, so this one should be fun (and hopefully achievable).

Purchase & mail special occasion cards (or gifts) 1 week in advance of their special day. My sweet grandma actually mentioned a great idea to me regarding this goal. She said that at the beginning of each year (when she gets out her new calendar), she adds all special days to the year and writes “mail (fill in loved one’s name) birthday card” 1 week before their special day. This habit is BRILLIANT to me! I have always had my loved ones special days on my calendar / in my planner, but by the time their big day comes around it is too late to get anything to them on time – see “always sending things late” issue above! I am implementing my grandma’s technique this year! 

Call my Mom (hi Mom!) and Dad every week. I used to be much better about chatting with my folks regularly. I love them dearly, so this is a priority for me this year.

Call 1 friend each week. Y’all better pick up the phone! 😉

Alright, hopefully these goals don’t sound too much like a “to do list” that I simply want to check off each week, but more like a reminder to invest some time each week towards building my relationships with those I love the most. 

If you are striving to send more snail mail, I have the PERFECT giveaway happening right now! Click here to enter for a chance at winning a darling box card set of greeting cards from illustrator Madison Lytle.

How do you stay connected with friends and family? I would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments! 

If You’re Happy & You Know it… Keep Doing it!

Why these post titles have taken on a lyrical theme, we may never know, but what I do know is that I sure am enjoying sharing my 2015 goals with you! Thanks for sticking with me (goofy titles and all!)! A quick recap… Monday I shared my business goals, while on Tuesday I focused on health and self-care.

Today’s goal is going to focus on having fun and doing more things that make me happy! This may sound like a complete no brainer to some, but I often find myself enjoying something and thinking “I should do this more often!”

Sunflower Paperie blog - Having more fun!

Read from a book DAILY. Alright, I love reading, always have and hopefully always will. However, I always start out the year with grandiose plans of “reading 26 52 books a year!” And then I pick long books, get busy at work and with my Etsy business and before I know it, I am terribly behind. This year, I am going to be more realistic and focus instead on making sure I read from a book everyday. Some days it may be several chapters and some days it may only be several pages – and I am o.k. with that.

See more live music. I love music and I love concerts! I am lucky to live in a metro area with tons of concert venues. The trick is keeping up with who is coming to town.

Travel more. Again, I am super lucky to have a manfriend that enjoys traveling (and more importantly trip planning!). In 2014, we actually averaged 1 trip per month (we didn’t realize this until we were chatting on New Year’s Day!). A lot of our trips are simply long weekends out of town or built around a professional conference in a fun location, so I definitely want to continue these types of trips.

Watch more movies. I love going to the movies, but am notoriously bad at watching movies at home. This year, I want to catch up on some titles that interested me when they came out, but I missed in the theater. This goal also includes supporting our local (really nice) $3 theater.

I am sure this list is incomplete, so I will add to it as the year goes on! I am also a little behind on my daily posts, so I will be sharing my last two 2015 Goal posts over the weekend. Until then, don’t forget to check out my interview with illustrator Madison Lytle and enter to win a set of her darling cards!