Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As food lovers, we try to consume as many food articles and books we can get our hands on. We are big fans of Anne McBride’s writing, and we were very excited for the opportunity to talk with her about her career in the food industry and as a writer. Having grown up with grandparents who were farmers and gourmet home-cooks, Anne has been exposed to the pleasures of cooking and how food brings people together. Being surrounded by food throughout her childhood made Anne comfortable when it came time for her to cook.

We love that Anne is a constant learner and serious about her work. Not only is she working toward a PhD in Food Studies from New York University, but she is also an adjunct professor there. Additionally, Anne is the Director of Experimental Cuisine Collective and is the Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America. In her spare time, she writes articles and books about food. To say we are impressed would be an understatement! Read on to learn more about Anne’s career, what each job entails, and the skills she believes you need as a food writer.

Name: Anne E. McBride
Education: B.A. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Follow: annemcbride.net / @annemcbride

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Anne E. McBride: Making the most of all the open doors you face when you are young and at the beginning your career. Not being afraid to take risks. Not over planning the next 10 to 15 years (regardless of which age you are!).

CJ: What did you major in at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette? How did you determine what to study?

AM: I majored in print journalism, with a minor in history. As soon as I decided to go to college (only a small percentage of the population goes, in Switzerland) I never considered another major. I wanted to write.

CJ: What did your post-college journey look like?

AM: I got a job as an editorial assistant at a book publishing company working on cookbooks and travel books (I had blind-emailed them my resume and they called me a couple of weeks later) and stayed there three and a half years. It was a small company and I worked really hard so I was quickly promoted and by the end was running the editorial side, but still had a huge amount to learn. I did a quick stint in restaurant PR, then in communications at the Institute of Culinary Education for two years full time, followed by another five years as a freelancer for them. About three and a half years ago I started working for the Culinary Institute of America.

CJ: What sparked your passion for food and cooking?

AM: I grew up in a very food-focused environment but was not aware of it until time came to look for a job. My maternal grandfather in Switzerland was a farmer and we spent nearly every weekend on the farm (my very first job was picking grapes in his vineyards); he also loved restaurants and took us along whenever we were there. My paternal grandmother in France is a gourmet home-cook who plied us in foie gras, calf livers, heads-on shrimp, homemade mayonnaise, and the likes whenever we’d visit. My mother is a very adventurous cook, and my father loves great food. All this stressed, in a subconscious manner, the importance that food has in creating bounds among people, in this case my family and whoever shared our table, and how much both pleasure and culture can be communicated through food. And always seeing so much cooking around me made me comfortable cooking myself when time came.

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CJ: You are currently working toward your PhD in Food Studies at New York University. What drew you to this program?

AM: I had been looking at a variety of PhD programs, mostly in sociology, for a couple of years, but then I started working more and more around food and meeting people who told me to check out NYU. I sat in on a few classes and there was no question that I had found a home. I wanted to put rigor around my study of (and work around) food, get credentialed for my academic study of it, and commit to food as my career. 

CJ: You are also an adjunct professor at New York University, where you teach classes that include Food in the Arts: Experimental Cuisine, Food Issues in Contemporary Society, and Food Studies and Nutrition Communication Workshop. What have you enjoyed most about teaching, and though others are learning from you in your classes, what have you learned from your teaching experiences?

AM: I love being around the students the most and learn so much from them. It’s so rewarding and inspirational to see former students attaining high-level positions in the food world and achieving great things, whether in their careers or in their personal lives. It keeps me motivated and forces me to constantly see the food world from their fresh perspective, and from a scholarly perspective ensures that I am always up to date on the latest material. I like my classes to be a place of exchange—of course it’s not an entirely equal one since I grade them, but nonetheless I think that the experience is richer for everyone if they feel that they can express their opinions and ask any question they’d like.

CJ: You are the Director of Experimental Cuisine Collective, an interdisciplinary group of more than 2,500 scientists, chefs, media, scholars, and food enthusiasts that examines the connections between food and science. This sounds very interesting! What does your role as Director entail?

AM: This is a volunteer-based organization (our meetings have always been free, since we launched in 2007, since we want to make knowledge as accessible as possible) and it’s really just three of us, so it entails doing nearly everything from finding presenters and working with them on the content and format of their presentations to updating the website and communicating to our members to running errands and picking up whatever we need for meetings. We have presentations on a nearly monthly basis, with the goal of using food to better understand science and science to better understand food. Our speakers and our audience are equally diverse and the content is thorough and serious, so I always encourage presenters to speak at a fairly high level but take questions as they go to clarify what’s needed, which makes for very thought-provoking and engaging discussions.

CJ: You are the Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America where you work on program development for industry leadership conferences. How do you go about organizing and developing these professional forums, which have included Worlds of Flavor and reThink Food.

AM: The process starts by identifying the theme or areas of focus for each program for that year, brainstorming what this means in terms of potential conference sessions, how it relates to the current concerns and interests of the food industry (all the programs I work on are for industry only), and who would be great presenters for it. Then over several months all of that gets developed further. I reach out to potential presenters, work on the specifics of their contents once they are confirmed, craft the overall program and tweak it as needed. I look for fresh perspectives, whether it’s getting experienced presenters to talk about their expertise in new contexts or finding new angles to cover a well-known subject. I spend a lot of time attending other conferences to add to my understanding of issues and cuisines and to meet new potential talent, and also a lot of time at my desk emailing people. And do a lot of research by reading books and articles on the topics of the programs I work on. It’s a combination of macro, more intellectual elements and micro details and logistics. It’s a very demanding job and because my whole life informs what I do in that role, I don’t get to clock out very often, but I wouldn’t trade any of it and a huge reward is that I get to work with amazing people from all over the world.

CJ: You regularly write on topics related to professional and experimental cooking, and have contributed to Food Arts, Gastronomica, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, and Food Cultures of the World. You write for your blog, Pots and Plumes, and you were the editor and writer of the Institute of Culinary Education’s tri-annual publication, The Main Course, for seven years, and the director of the school’s Center for Food Media between 2008 and 2011. Additionally, you have co-authored many books including Payard Cookies, Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes and Confections for Everyone, Bite Size: Elegant Recipes for Entertaining, Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home, and Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food. What is your writing process when it comes to articles and co-authoring cookbooks and books?

AM: For articles in particular, it’s all about wanting to share a great story. I don’t have much time to pitch so don’t write articles nearly as regularly as I’d like to, but the good thing is that I get to only focus on the stories I really want to tell. So it often starts with something in a conversation that strikes me or something I observe when traveling for example. Then I do tons of interviews and research, ending up with way too many notes, and I struggle through it all until an article I’m happy with emerges, which is often the second version of a piece rather than the very first one I write.

For books, it starts by developing a concept with the chef I’m working with or thinking of working with, shopping a proposal, and then once the book is under contract work with them on translating “chef knowledge” into home-cook knowledge. My job is to ask all of the questions that someone at home with no experience would have when looking at their raw recipes and write them up in a way that makes complete sense when you are alone in front of an open cookbook. For that I spend time in the kitchen with chefs but mostly a lot of time alone at my computer. Michael Ruhlman, the food writer, once said that your body has to be capable of being a writer, so being able to sit for countless hours, and that has always stuck with me. I can definitely sit at a computer for 18 to 20 hours a day, which is a very useful skill to have while on deadline for a book!

CJ: What top three skills do you need as a food writer?

AM: Curiosity is huge, it what keeps you asking the right questions—both the fun and the serious type of questions. It’s the base of good researching and reporting, and what ensures hopefully that you keep digging into a story and into a subject. Curiosity also is the opposite of jadedness, which is important to me. Connected to curiosity is food knowledge, or perhaps better stated as a proper understanding of the world you cover. I don’t mean that you necessarily have to have cooked in a professional kitchen, but you need to understand the world that you cover, including its business structure, whether you are covering chefs, artisans, farmers, or corporations. You need to know ingredients, cooking techniques, flavors, etc. You don’t need to be a policy or labor expert but you need to understand the current issues of the food system and know where to go look for answers.

It’s a question of respecting your subjects and also of treating food like a proper beat. And last, you need good writing skills. It sounds idiotic to even mention, but the downside of food being such a familiar, and a popular, topic is that many people feel very comfortable writing about it, and perhaps not everyone should.

CJ: Your book, Culinary Careers, is an incredibly useful read. In it you provide exclusive interviews with people in the food world. What advice would you personally give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the culinary world?

AM: Always remember that it’s a small world, so work hard, don’t burn bridges, and you’ll create a solid network for yourself. You could do lots of things that will make you richer than working in the culinary world. But not many will make you happier or will let you work with better people.

CJ: With everything you have going on, how do you stay organized and manage your time?

AM: My life is run by Google Calendar and my notepad, which has a good old-fashioned to-do list I can cross off as I go. I’m also, for better or for worse, a workaholic, so I just work all the time, which is probably not the healthiest time management or organizational principle but it works for me!

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AM: I’m trying to carve a little more time for relaxation and time away from my desk. There’s always another email to write (and no matter how hard I try I can’t keep up with the insane volume of my inbox), or more recipes to edit, or more work to do on my dissertation. So going kayaking for a few hours on a Saturday is actually good for my mental health and my productivity, not lost work hours.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AM: Don’t stress about things out of your control. Take all the risks you can while you can.

Images by Carpe Juvenis

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Berkleigh Rathbone has been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from her own backyard all throughout her life. When it came time to choosing a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, Berkleigh chose to write a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. In the book, a girl named Karlein plants, grows, and harvests pumpkins. The process of creating the book took about 10 months, during which Berkleigh wrote the story, edited, drew illustrations, and worked on the layout of the book.

Higher education is important to Berkleigh, and she is planning on majoring in Psychology at the University of Washington. Having been a part of the Girl Scouts since fourth grade, cookie sales are Berkleigh’s favorite part of Girl Scouts as it helped her hone her entrepreneurial skills. Read on to learn more about this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Berkleigh Rathbone
Education: Planning to major in Psychology at the University of Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Berkleigh Rathbone: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as making the most out of your life and actively preparing yourself as a teenager for the increasingly competitive world that you enter in adulthood. Simply said, seizing your youth means seizing the day, every day!

CJ: What will you study at the University of Washington, where you’re starting school in the fall? What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

BR: I am planning to study and get at least a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology since I have always been interested in the mind and how it functions. Higher education has always been important to both of my parents, so I promised them that I would go to college after I finished high school.

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BR: I joined a Girl Scout troop as a “Junior” in fourth grade. In addition to troop meetings, I loved all of the activities (such as summer camps, weekend trips, troop activities, cookie sales, etc.) that were available to me through scouting. If I had to choose my single most favorite part of Girl Scouts it would be cookie sales – not only are the cookies delicious, but by doing sales I additionally strengthened my interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BR: 1. Always be prepared, no matter what.
2. Volunteering is extremely rewarding.
3. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you wrote a published a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. Your book includes a resource guide with a glossary, discussion questions, and information about donating to food banks so everyone can access fresh produce. You have shared your book with libraries, schools, and food banks throughout the country and via an online video you created. How cool! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BR: Choosing a topic for my Gold Award project was hands down the hardest part – I could have chosen to do almost anything! I decided to go with the theme of gardening since both of my parents love to plant and grow vegetables and flowers in our garden. All throughout my life I have been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from my own backyard, which is something that I will be forever grateful for. Furthermore, my mom happened to have a rough draft of a story she had written about a girl named Karlein who planted, grew, and harvested pumpkins that she had grown. So the idea to (re)write and illustrate a book for my Gold Award seemed like a no-brainer!

My initial project started out small. I would write, illustrate, and publish my book, put it into a few public locations (schools, libraries, etc.), and wait for readers to respond to discussion questions via an email I put in the back of the book. However, as the project progressed I realized that my project needed more oomph! in order to get necessary quantitative results for my before/after project impact analysis. That’s where the online video and remodified discussion questions, etc. come in.

All in all, this project was probably the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. From the time I stated until the time I finished, the total project time was about 9 to 10 months. Not only did editing the story take time, but so did creating and editing the illustrations, in addition to figuring out the layout of the book. I also put a lot of time into communicating with several different people, mostly by email, in order to sort out different logistics of where to send my book, who to send it to, and how many copies to send.

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CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BR: In order to keep my project organized I put together a list of tasks that I had to do, and in turn organized that list on a timeline in order to get a rough idea of how long my project would take me to complete. As far as balancing my school schedule with my Gold Award project tasks goes, I decided to treat my Gold Award project itself as an extracurricular activity. I had few school obligations and at the time I was not working, which really allowed me to dive into working on my project. Once my Junior year of high school ended I took advantage of my time off from school to catch up on task deadlines and evaluate the progress of my project.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BR: I’m not quite sure. Yes, I do know a good amount of people, and yes, I have learned quite a bit by talking to these individuals. However, I think that my mentor takes on a more inanimate form: life experiences. By learning from both the mistakes of others (myself included) and also the lucky risk-taking strategies of self-made successful people, I feel as if my life experience of interacting with people and hearing their personal stories has helped to advise me on what steps to take at what times, in addition to how many steps to take at a time without overworking myself.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BR: Good leaders are like backbones:

  1. Without good leaders, society, like our body without our spine, could not function.
  2. Good leaders, like our spines, are simultaneously flexible and strong.
  3. Just like how the spine connects the upper and lower parts of the body, good leaders find ways to connect people in a group/society in order to establish a sense of unity.

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CJ: How do you define success?

BR: I define success as meeting/exceeding a previously set goal. For me, success can come in the form of money, health, happiness, wisdom, love, or any other aspect of life that I have my eyes set on improving.

CJ: What is a book you read in high school that positively shaped you?

BR: Tiny Snail by Tammy Carter Bronson – the author actually came to my school when I was in second grade and talked about the process of writing and illustrating her own book!

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BR: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Absent by Katie Williams, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BR: Break out of your comfort zone. Voice your opinion – if you feel afraid to do so in front of your friends, find new friends. Take advantage of extracurricular activities at school. Meet more people. Spend time cooking meals; enjoy the food that you’re eating. SPEAK UP. And, most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Berkleigh Rathbone Qs

Images by Berkleigh Rathbone

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Mike Curato, author of the popular children’s book series, Little Elliot, is incredibly talented and creative. Mike was generous enough to let us into his workspace to see where the magic happens of making a children’s book and adored character come to life. His shelves are lined with children’s books that serve as inspiration, artwork illustrated by many of his talented friends, and plush Little Elliots. 

Having studied Illustration at Syracuse University, Mike’s passion has taken him all around the country. He worked as a graphic designer in Seattle while simultaneously doing small freelance gigs. Now Mike’s time is dedicated to creating the world of Little Elliot, as well as other creative endeavors. Mike is no stranger to hard work and dedication, acknowledging the fact that sometimes we have to take jobs we don’t want or eat Ramen noodles for months. We are so inspired by Mike’s hustle and for never giving up.

Read on to learn more about the steps Mike took to achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a published author and illustrator of children’s books, where his love of storytelling comes from, and the fantastic list of resources he recommends both personally and professionally. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the second book in the Little Elliot series, Little Elliot, Big Family.

Name: Mike Curato
Education: BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University
Follow: www.mikecurato.com / @MikeCurato

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Mike Curato: I’m presently in my mid-thirties, which sounds ancient to a 20-year-old (at least I thought it did at that age). I still consider myself “young,” now that I have a broader perspective, and while I’m not “really old,” I’ve been around long enough to experience a chunk of life. Looking back, I’m amazed at how much work it took to get to where I am, not just professionally, but mentally and spiritually. I think “seizing your youth” means not to waste any time living your life. You’ve got stuff you wanna do, right? Find out what you need to learn in order to make whatever that is possible. Live for quality moments. Find genuine people to hang out with. Don’t be content with the status quo. What can you do right now to make a difference in your life and others? Find out who you are and own it. I used to hear “old people” saying, “it will all go by so fast,” while I was growing up, to which I would roll my eyes and grunt, “uhuh.” Now that I am one of those “old people,” I am telling you, IT’S TRUE!

CJ: You received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from Syracuse University. Where does your love of illustration come from and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

MC: I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Many of my childhood memories involve drawing. It made me feel special as a child, and still does. I went to art school because I was ready for challenges. I knew I had the potential to grow as an artist. I also wanted to be around other artists, both teachers and students, people who I hoped would understand me.

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CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from? What stories have greatly influenced you?

MC: I am the oldest of three, and there’s a considerable age gap. For seven years, I was an only child, and I really had to maintain an active imagination to entertain myself alone at home, making up stories and acting them out. Then, when my sister and brother came along, I liked telling them stories.

Probably the stories that influenced me the most as a child were from a compilation of Golden Books – Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories. My mother says that when I was little, I made her read me The Little Red Caboose ad nauseam.

CJ: You spent time in Seattle working as a graphic designer. What did you do as a graphic designer and what did you learn from that experience?

MC: I started working in graphic design because it is so hard trying to be an illustrator right out of college. It was a way to pay the bills and still be creative. I started out at the very bottom as an unpaid intern, as I had no design experience even from school. Then, I started doing small freelance gigs for little or nothing while I worked as an office admin at a creative staffing agency. I really got to know the industry working behind the scenes, and eventually, I became one of their hired hands. I contracted at companies like Cranium and Microsoft for several years. Eventually, I became a full-time designer for Geocaching.com, where I eventually became the design manager. From there, I went back to freelance, working for companies like Amazon and Capital Group.

I learned so much being a designer that has influenced the way I make books. I have a strong sense of typography and layout now, which has strengthened my compositional skills. Meanwhile, working in corporate America taught me a lot about how businesses work and how to interact with a team to create a product.

CJ: You were the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Queer Getting Married, a wedding stationery company that provided invitations, save the dates, and more. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

MC: The funny thing about our little start-up is that my business partner and I opened QGM as a means to make a living working for ourselves while we tried to get published. However, I got my book deal before we even launched! We just closed our cyber doors several months ago, as both of our lives have changed dramatically since opening. My biggest takeaways are:

  1. If you’re going to start a business, it really has to be your one and only focus.
  2. Advertising and marketing are key. We had a great product, and no advertising money. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but without investors, it’s really hard to compete with the big dogs.
  3. It’s hard to predict what the consumers will want when you’re trying something that hasn’t been done before. We were trying to cater to a niche market, and it turns out that most just wanted the same old invites as everyone else. You can do all the market research you want, but sometimes, you just won’t know how sales will be until it’s out there.

Mike Curato Cover

CJ: Your lifelong goal of becoming a published author and illustrator of children’s books was achieved when Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan) offered you a 3-book deal featuring the adorable Little Elliot. How incredible! What steps did you take in order to achieve this lifelong goal?

MC: Well, the biggest and hardest step was creating work for myself that I loved. It’s difficult to come home from a full-time job and commit to doing even more work. But, we have this one life, and so you just have to push through it. I booked a show at a local cafe to give myself a deadline, and then set about creating images for an exhibit, which ultimately became my new portfolio. The show was a success. A month later, I attended a conference by the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Attendees can submit their work into a portfolio showcase there, which is seen by many art directors and editors in the children’s publishing industry. I ended up winning first place, which got me a lot of attention. Elliot appeared multiple times in my portfolio, and everyone wanted to know what his story was. The next day I had emails and voicemails from editors, art directors, and agents. From there, everything eventually fell into place!

CJ: When writing and illustrating books for kids, what things do you take into consideration? How do you approach word usage, language, and visuals?

MC: Well, making a picture book is much like a dance. I usually start with some rough sketches, then write some words, and I go back and forth for months until a story emerges. Though I think picture books are for everyone, they have to be inclusive of early readers, so much of the story is conveyed via the illustrations. The words are there to support wherever the images need help conveying the plot, which is why my texts are usually very sparse. A lot of redundancies are edited out.

Mike Curato Cover 2

CJ: What is your book writing and illustration process? Do you have a routine or a strict schedule?

MC: I do not have a strict schedule per se. Every book is different. Some days I work a lot, some days the magic is just not coming. Meanwhile, deadlines are great motivational tools for me. I try to break a project down into milestones to keep me on track (and also to feel some form of accomplishment on the long road to the finished product).

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

MC: Ha! The days of the week are quite abstract to me. I work when I need to work, and I take off when I need to take off. I actually enjoy working weekends and taking off on a weekday. I guess “Monday” is the day I need to get back to work, which can be challenging. I need to trick myself into getting to work. I set little goals to coax myself back into the groove.

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CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a children’s book author and/or illustrator do now to set him or herself up for success?

MC: Well, most importantly, an aspiring writer/illustrator needs to read as many children’s books as possible. You need to know what’s out there. What are the classics? What is current? What speaks to you?

Then, you have to do your industry homework. One needs to remember, though making books is usually born out of a passion, it is still a business. You wouldn’t show up for an interview at Apple and not know what an iPod is. Look up your regional Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators chapter and try to get to some meetings or a conference. Find out how a book is constructed. Keep tabs on what publishing house the books you like are with, then try to find out who edited them. If you’re an illustrator, start sending out promotional materials to art directors. If you’re a writer, find a writing critique group. If you’re an artist, try to get feedback from an art director (I actually was able to get a lot of feedback as a student from real art directors because I wasn’t looking for work, so take advantage of that generosity while you can).

I would also stress the importance of having an agent in today’s publishing world. It is very hard to get published without an agent, as many houses do not want unsolicited manuscripts. If you don’t know how much you’re worth and how to demand that worth, you need an advocate who will fight for the best deal. Most literary agents take 10-15% commission, but will most likely be able to get you more money than you would on your own. Finding an agent also requires researching an agent to make sure they’re legitimate and a good fit. What authors/illustrators do they represent? What books have they gotten deals for? What houses do they have connections with? How long have they been doing this? Also, do you feel comfortable working with this person? If all goes well, you’ll be together for a very long time.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

MC: The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators really is the go-to resource for “pre-published” authors, as they like to say.

Get acquainted with the major publications about children’s publishing:

School Library Journal

The Horn Book

Kirkus

Publisher’s Weekly

Booklist

There are some really great “kidlit” podcasts out there, where you can learn about the industry and hear from working authors and illustrators:

Let’s Get Busy

Brain Burps for Books

PW KidsCast

The Yarn

There are tons of blogs dedicated to talking about children’s literature, mostly book reviews and author/illustrator interviews. These are written by librarians, who are perhaps authors & illustrators’ greatest advocates. This list is the tip of the iceberg, but these are some of the best:

Watch. Connect. Read.

Sharpread

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Librarian in Cute Shoes

Kidlit Frenzy

Read, Write, Reflect

Teach Mentor Texts

Nerdy Book Club

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CJ: When you’re not working on your next book or other design projects, how do you like to spend your time?

MC: Eating, sleeping, karaokeing, and watching movies – not necessarily in that order, preferably with friends.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

MC: As someone who works at a desk all day, I have been trying to really take care of my body lately. I’ve been going to yoga and pilates several times a week (luckily there’s a studio around the corner from me), and I’m trying to eat healthier. I also work from home, so it’s important to get out of the house at least once a day for a walk.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

MC: It may sound corny, but “don’t give up!” When you’re fresh out of school, survival is usually at the top of one’s list. Sometimes we have to take jobs we don’t want to do. Sometimes we have to eat Ramen noodles for a few months. But I think it’s important to have a dream to motivate you to better yourself. Working towards the dream makes all the crappy jobs and Ramen noodles worth it in the long run.

Mike Curato Qs

Cover Image by Mike Curato; Images by Carpe Juvenis

Book PostsCulture

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorite reads from and about this unique and awesome country. Each year on September 16th Mexico celebrates its independence with parades, parties, delicious food, and family and friends. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Mexico and its culture, take a look through our book suggestions below.

mexico books

  1. The Years with Laura Diaz
  2. Mexico: Democracy Interrupted
  3. Pedro Páramo
  4. Frida: A Biography of Frida Khalo
  5. History of the Conquest of Mexico

What is your favorite book? Is there one specifically related to Mexico’s history? Let us know @carpejuvenis on Twitter!

Cover Image: Flickr

 

Book PostsTravel

There’s no shortage of activities and sites to see in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital is an energetic hub of history and progress. Whether you’re attending school, interning on The Hill, or landmark hopping, D.C. is an exciting place to be. The last time we were in D.C., we were earning our Congressional Award Gold Medals. Before and after the ceremony, however, we took advantage of being in close proximity to iconic memorials and landmarks.

You likely won’t be able to fit in all that the city has to offer in one trip, so we narrowed down our list into the top 10 must-see places, both popular and off the beaten path.

1.  The White House

2. The Lincoln Memorial

3. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

4. National Gallery of Art

5. Smithsonian Museums

6. The Roof of the Kennedy Center

7. Arlington National Cemetery

8. Visit the Library of Congress

9. Hike or bike along the Potomac River

10. Explore Dumbarton Oaks

What are your favorite things to do in Washington, D.C.?

Image: Vadim Sherbakov

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

In today’s competitive academic climate, attending classes isn’t always enough to give you the boost you need to land that dream job. Interning is an extremely popular way to beef up your résumé and gain valuable skills in the process. One person in particular has made the most of her college experience by constantly staying engaged in work and internships.

Esther Katro is the Queen of Interning. Seriously. With over 10 internships under her belt, Esther knows a thing or two (or three!) about working hard and building her portfolio. Having recently graduated from college, she now works as a TV News Reporter for 5NEWS in Arkansas. During college Esther would commute several hours each day for internships in New York City from Philadelphia, all while maintaining a big smile. Esther’s upbeat and go-getter attitude is contagious, and she undoubtedly seizes her youth and makes the most of each day.

Name: Esther Katro
Education:
Broadcast Journalism from Temple University
Follow:
Website/@5NEWSEsther

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Esther Katro: Waking up early! College gives you the convenience to schedule your classes late in the afternoon, but take advantage of the all the hours in the day! I’ve completed six internships that were not in Philadelphia, where I went to college. I had five in New York City, and one in Washington D.C. In order to complete these internships, I had to wake up at 5AM to catch the Megabus to get to work in the morning. I didn’t think I could do wake up that early and still be productive the entire day, but I learned that I have so much energy as a young twentysomething, and it’s important to take advantage of all the energy you have at this age!

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CJ: You majored in Broadcast Journalism at Temple University. How did you decide what to study?

EK: I grew up with parents who were Christian missionaries, so as a baby I grew up sleeping on airplane floors and was constantly being exposed to different people and cultures around me. I always knew I wanted a job where I interacted with different people everyday to tell their stories. My family watched the evening news each night, and when I saw the reporters sitting down and interviewing people, or chasing people down the street, I thought that’s what I want to do! I want to be a television reporter.

I chose to go to Temple University because I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and wanted to stay in the 4th media market and be able to give back to my community by covering stories in the area. I wanted to concentrate my studies in international relations after traveling to China and filming a documentary called “Esther Goes to China.” I believe that the more places people go and expose themselves to, the better they can understand how the world works to then make a difference in it and help solve problems. I hope I can do a lot of international work as a working journalist.

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CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

EK: I’m a water advocate, along with Matt Damon! In high school I got involved with the group H2O for Life, which educates Americans on conserving water and then helps build wells and provide water to people in developing countries, where water is limited. Within this topic, I’m most passionate about women in these developing countries whose job it is to fetch water daily. This activity takes up to six hours of their day, and so they can’t get an education because they’re spending so much of their day traveling to get water from the well and bring it back to their families.

I’m very passionate about women getting an education, and hope that my platform as a journalist can also serve as a women’s rights advocate. I believe that every woman should have the right to a good education all over the world.

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CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2013. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

EK: When I joined H20 for Life, as mentioned above, the woman running the program also ran the Congressional Award program at my high school. I was already doing a ton of community service, and through this organization I was going to be doing a ton more!

The Congressional Award seemed like the perfect place for me to log my hours, and also meet like minded people who share my desire for community service and outreach. I’ve made friends at the community service events that I’ve attended or led that have become some of my best friends.

Through H2O for Life, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to speak and film about water issues in the country and overseas. Working with people who were just as passionate about the World Water Crisis as I am, but also inspiring people to get involved with the water crisis, was one of the best experiences I have ever had.

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CJ: You have had many internships over the years. Which ones stand out the most to you and what did you learn from those experiences?

EK: I knew I wanted to be a broadcast journalist after I watched the kids news show Nick News with Linda Ellerbee do a special on how girls who were my age didn’t have the opportunity to go to school where they lived in Afghanistan. At 11 years-old I wanted to make a difference.

As a sophomore in college I had the amazing opportunity to intern for Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, the show that inspired me to become a journalist, which is incredible! As an intern for her show, I was able to be on set when we interviewed Seth Myers, right in Linda’s home! I also got to act as a production assistant when we did a studio show at HBO Studios with Gloria Steinem called “Are We There Yet?” where we discussed if women have achieved equality to men yet, or if there’s still improvements to be made. This was my first internship in New York City, and it exposed me to so many successful people in the industry. The people who work at Nick News feel like my New York City family, and Linda Ellerbee has taught me some of the best interview techniques that I’ll carry with me for my entire life.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in pursuing a career in multimedia journalism?

EK: Intern everywhere. Seriously. I’ve had 15 media internships in both print, online, and broadcast journalism that all have been very different and have made me a well rounded journalist. I’ve taken sports internships, morning news internships (where I’ve had to be at the studio at 4 a.m.!!), and even wedding and food writing internships.

The more you expose yourself to as a journalist the better, and I think the most structured way to get that exposure is to intern. I think that traveling and opening up your eyes to as many people and cultures helps, but I strongly believe that interning in this industry is the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s important to know how to write clean copy quick and accurately, and to meet your deadlines, but it’s also important to know how to use a camera, to edit footage, and to talk in front of a camera. A multimedia journalist needs to be able to effectively accomplish every job description in a newsroom, and the only way to get good at that is to intern.

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CJ: You’ve done a lot of commuting from school to your internships. What are your commuting tips and how do you stay productive during that time?

EK: I call the Megabus my mobile home, because I probably spend more time riding a bus than I do at my actual home in Philadelphia. I’ve had five internships in New York City and one in Washington D.C., and I took the Megabus to commute to all six of those places. It’s fun! You get to meet so many interesting people on the bus, and learn what they’re doing at these cities. But sometimes the person sitting next to you doesn’t want to talk, so in that case I try to get my homework done since the bus has Wi-Fi and power outlets.

I love to catch up on my reading with my Kindle which is great because the Kindle lights up so I don’t have to turn on the headlight above me and disturb the person sleeping next to me. I love to write on my iPad too. I love to write about my day. Barbara Walters once said that her greatest regret is not keeping a diary. When I read that quote, I thought, I’ve got to keep a diary of what I do everyday because as a journalist, commuting, everyday is so different and exciting!

My number one advice for commuting is to never ever sleep! Just look out the window and you’ll see the city lights lit up if you’re traveling at night, or you’ll see people just starting their day if it’s the morning. Or just people watch inside your bus or train. It’s really awesome to see how the world works and the many different people inside of it.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

EK: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (because there are some days when I felt I lived her life).

CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?

EK: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on school, internships, and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

EK: No two days are the same. Ever. Which is why I love commuting and why I’m a journalist. I love change. However, on a typical Monday I would get up at 5AM. Well, technically 4:58AM because I set three one minute alarms until 5AM. I pick out my clothes the night before so I get ready in about 10 minutes.

I drive to the train station which is about 10 minutes from my house and take a 40 minute train into Center City Philadelphia. From there, I hop on the Megabus, and take a 2-3 hour bus ride (depending on traffic) to New York City. I have a 30 minute walk to my building. I put in a full day of work at my internship, and then from there I do the same commute in reverse to come back home. So at least six hours of my day are spent commuting!

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

EK: My life is so fast-paced, so I often don’t have time to sit and think about what I should improve on except when I’m sitting in the bus commuting. I often think about my day too much in the bus or talk to the person next to me that I don’t get to write about everything that happened during the day. I regret that. I want to focus on writing more about my days, which requires a lot of discipline. I hope to one day compile my writing into a book of all my internship experiences…I just hope it won’t turn into a promotional ad about the Megabus.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

EK: This is going to sound like I’m not human, but I can’t recall the last time I had a bad day and needed to unwind. Sometimes I’m convinced I’m a robot made in the bottom of a news basement somewhere. I just always have a very positive outlook on life, and it’s really hard for me to get bothered by something because I’m always looking ahead, and I never dwell on anything bad that happened. I’m always looking for the next story or the next internship.

But I will say that finding at least one person at your work or internship that can be a close friend is always very helpful, if you need to get something off your chest or just unwind. I’ve always been able to find other intern to become really great friends with, who I can share any dilemmas I’ve having with. Also, fro-yo always helps. Bad day = a big cup of frozen yogurt. It’s healthy right?!

CJ: What made you decide to go to Arkansas?

EK: I sacrificed a lot, if not all, of my college career for internships. I took internships at all hours of the day. I would drive to unpaid internship at 3am when I would see my college peers just leaving the bars. And while I learned a lot about journalism and the personalities in the business, I only saw the top of the field. I was only interning in top 10 markets. The opportunity in Arkansas, was my first on-air job offer. My gut told me not to take the job. I thought this was just the first of many offers. However, a big benefit to having so many internships is that I had so many different mentors and contacts in the business to go to for advice. And everyone told me to take the job.

One of my former internship bosses told me, “There’s only one New York, Philly and D.C.–the rest of the country is Arkansas.” Although it was scary to move so far away from home on the East Coast, the journalist in me knew I had to see this part of the country. I also didn’t want a break from college to entering the work force. I wanted to sit at graduation, knowing that after the ceremony I would hit the road with my parents, on my way to my first reporting job.

I guess you could say you need a crazy passion to work in television news, and I never wanted a day off.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

EK: Stop chewing gum! It’s going to get stuck in your braces and totally extend this whole metal inside your mouth process. Also, to stop wearing UGG boots, and to not pop your own zits because more will grow back! And I guess, I would tell myself to write everyday, be confident in myself, and to be nicer to my parents…they will be your best friends in your twenties and hopefully for the rest of your life!

Esther Katro Qs

Images by Esther Katro

Book PostsYouth's Highest Honor

We are thrilled to share with you the final cover of our book, Youth’s Highest Honor: Your Guide to Earning the Congressional Award and Building Life SkillsIt’s pretty crazy to us that our first book will be released into the world in a little over a month (August 17th!). We loved writing this book and putting it all together. This cover has been through numerous variations and concepts, and it’s been a fun process and huge learning curve.

In Youth’s Highest Honor, we offer a roadmap to optimizing the Congressional Award experience by explaining the Award program areas and guidelines in an easy-to-understand format and by providing real-life examples of what to do – and what not to do. This step-by-step guide – filled with useful tips, advice, and resources to consult when needed – demystifies the process of earning the Congressional Award.

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CultureEducation

Last June, Lauren and I went to Washington D.C. to celebrate her achievement in earning the Congressional Award Gold Medal from Congress. I was placed in this year’s ceremony so we had the opportunity to go back and enjoy the wonderful ambience of the country’s capital again.

I have been involved in The Congressional Award program for many years. It is a program that changed my life in so many positive ways and it was an honor to be presented with my Gold Award at the Capitol on June 17th. My sister, Lauren, and I even wrote a book about how influential the program was for us and how you can benefit from it too. There were less than 300 people who earned the Gold Medal this year, so I had the opportunity to meet some of my amazing peers.

I want to share a bit about what went on during the two days of celebration!

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My family and I arrived to D.C. on Tuesday evening a few hours before the Recognition Dinner was held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. At this dinner I met other students who had earned the Gold Medal and had a chance to speak with them about what they did to earn it. The Congressional Award is earned by completing a certain amount of hours in physical fitness, personal development, and volunteerism over a certain amount of months, and by completing cultural or wilderness immersion experiences. We talked about what we had done to earn our hours, and what the program meant to us.

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A main highlight of this dinner was having the opportunity to meet U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson, an amazing woman who has achieved so much in her lifetime and is still doing great things. Lauren and I got to chat with her and hear some great advice. At this dinner we also heard incredible speeches given by Steve Pemberton, Honorary John Dingell, Paxton Baker, and our friend Mary Rodgers who was awarded with the Inspiration Award that night.

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The next morning was the day of the ceremony. At 9am my family and I went to the Cannon Caucus Room at Capitol Hill and waited for the ceremony to begin. The ceremony was led by Chip Reid of CBS News and the keynote speech was delivered by Steve Culbertson of Youth Service America. Each awardee was given his or her medal in front of a room filled with family, friend, and inspiring leaders.

It has been difficult to accept that I’ve fully completed the Congressional Award program after having been so influenced by it for so many years. I’ve decided that as I venture further into adulthood I will continue to set goals, measure my achievement, and hold myself accountable to improvement. This program may be complete, but the next chapter is waiting to be written.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Entrepreneur, baker, author, and cupcake lover are just some of the words used to describe Trophy Cupcakes founder Jennifer Shea. Jennifer had always loved cooking and baking, but it wasn’t until she saw a cupcake shop in New York City that she realized what she wanted to do. When she went on tour with a rock band doing marketing and promotions, she used that time to also test out different candy shops and bakeries around the U.S. and Europe.

Now, Trophy Cupcakes has four locations in Washington state. Jennifer has also written a cupcake cookbook and appeared on Martha Stewart – amazing! Even with all her success, Jennifer continues to be hardworking, kind, and generous with her time. It was incredible to discuss with Jennifer how she got to where she is today, challenges she faced along the way, and what it means to be a leader.

Name: Jennifer Shea
Education: BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University
Follow: @trophycupcakes / Instagram / Facebook / Trophy Cupcakes

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Jennifer Shea: It’s about identifying your dreams, your bliss, and really focusing on what you’re passionate about. It’s also about taking steps to make your dreams happen. The people who realize their dreams are the ones who put one foot in front of the other and just do it. Even if your dreams or goals seem out of reach, just start talking to people about how to accomplish them. You’ll be amazed how the pieces will start to come together.

CJ: You majored in Nutrition and Dietetics at Bastyr University. How did you determine what to study?

JS: I’ve always loved food (who doesn’t), especially cooking and baking. But I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do right out of high school. I was already interested in nutrition because I was a vegetarian at the time. But, because I couldn’t put my finger on what my passion was or what my career was going to be, I landed on nutrition by accident at a job fair. I came across Bastyr University’s booth and saw that they had a whole foods nutrition program, which sounded fascinating. I decided to just go for it.

CJ: You spent some time touring with a rock band doing marketing and promotions after college. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?

JS: It was a really exciting time, but super hard, too, because it’s rough to live out of a suitcase day in and day out. I was glad I’d majored in nutrition, but I wasn’t seeing myself in that profession in a typical capacity. I happened to meet and date a guy soon after passing my boards and he asked me if I wanted to go on tour and sell T-shirts. To the horror of my mother, I said yes.

I’d worked really hard in school and had a full time job, so I needed a break and touring sounded like a dream come true. I also didn’t want to be the girlfriend stuck at home while her boyfriend was on tour doing who knows what. So, I basically created a position for myself in the band. I eventually called myself their Merchandise Manager and I figured out how to help make sure the band got all of the profits. I really got into figuring out what made their fans tick and what kind of merchandise they would love.

I introduced a whole line of pillowcases with song lyrics going across the cases and badges that were exclusive to each tour so as you went to more shows you could collect the different patches. I had a lot of fun with it, and it taught me a lot about merchandising and presentation. It was a good first experience with having my own little business.

CJ: You opened Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle in 2007. What inspired you to open a cupcake shop, and what does your role as founder entail?

JS: I first saw a cupcake shop while visiting NYC and I instantly knew it was what I wanted to do. My life flashed before my eyes. I realized that I’d been complaining that I didn’t know what my passion was, yet I baked all the time. I didn’t know that I could turn my hobby into a career. Touring was a great way to do research because I visited so many candy shops and patisseries in the U.S. and Europe. I took mental notes about architecture, design and perfect little details I saw.

My role as founder has changed a lot over the years and it’s always morphing. In the beginning, I did everything—from baking the cupcakes, to opening the register, to training and managing employees, to doing payroll, to coming up with new flavors and marketing. When you’re a small business, you have to do it all yourself. I should’ve just slept in my shop, really. I would get there at 4am and leave at 9pm. As we started to grow, I was able to bring in more experts.

Right now I focus on marketing, social media and innovation. I’m also our brand ambassador, making sure that we are living up to our brand promise and that my team understands what that is. I also act as the face of the company. I do several speaking gigs each year about how I got started. I also teach classes in my shops and online through Craftsy.com. I also wrote a book, which took a lot of my time, but was totally worth it.

CJ: In your role as founder, leadership is important. How have you learned to lead and what does it meant to be a leader?

JS: That has probably been the most challenging part of having a company. I haven’t always been a good leader and work really hard at it now. I think being a good leader means understanding how differently people work. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Everyone has a different way of getting motivated and inspired. You have to really listen…really see people. If you can take the time to see what makes people tick, you will have a much easier time inspiring them and leading them to represent your company the way that you want.

On another level, I try to inspire others to do something amazing with their lives beyond Trophy. I like telling people my story because I didn’t come from a background where I had parents who pushed me toward business. I didn’t have money or experience that would have made you guess I could do this. I really just followed my dreams and figured it out along the way. The more I believed I could do it, the more the doors to success just kept opening right in front of me.

CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your company, and what do you wish you had known before opening your shop?

JS: Entrepreneurs have to be naive because if they knew how hard it was before they started, they wouldn’t do it. I always say that entrepreneurs succeed because they don’t know any better.  I didn’t know anything when I started. I had taken some business courses as part of my registered dietician training, but I didn’t have any experience with the business of baking.

I wish I’d known there are so many people out there willing to help you and you don’t have to do it all by yourself. I have that type of personality where I think I have to do everything myself, but I learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that there are all kinds of women/young entrepreneur groups in just about every area that can be super helpful. I also wish I had asked someone to be my mentor earlier on, so that he or she could give me pep talks. I recommend finding a support system—a group or person—that can help you with business-specific problems along the way.

The thing I wasn’t expecting was for me to stop baking. I thought I was always going to be the one baking the cupcakes, but the more I learned about business, the more I realized that when you run a business there’s a point where you have to be steering the ship and looking at the big picture. If I was in the kitchen for 8-10 hours per day, I wouldn’t be able to determine our next move.

CJ: Almost a year ago you published your first book, Trophy Cupcakes and Parties. We love that your book not only provides recipes, but also party how-to’s. What was your book writing process like?

JS: The publisher came to me and asked if I wanted to write a cookbook. That sounded exciting right off the bat but I knew the cupcake cookbook world was already saturated. (I have so many of them myself!) I said I loved the idea of writing a book, but in order for it to be marketable it needed to have more than just recipes. I wanted to help people learn how to plan parties. I also wanted to appeal to more than just bakers.

Little did I know this book would be 10 times as much work as a cookbook. Every single cupcake recipe includes party ideas and a craft, plus suggestions for décor, drinks, and food. Writing all of that content and then photographing it was challenging. But I love the way it turned out. I tried not to do anything that would be dated; I wanted everything to be classic so the book would always be relevant.

Touring with the book through Williams Sonoma stores was super fun and I love that I now have fans across the country and beyond!

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery and run their own business do now to set themselves up for success?

JS: Believe you can accomplish your dreams, then know that believing is half the battle, doing is the rest. Also, embrace your fear! Everyone is scared. The key is to know that fear is a part of the process and not be paralyzed by it. This mentality is not necessarily easy if you weren’t raised that way. I started reading books about manifesting and having an abundant state of mind, and that really changed my life. I also started doing guided meditations focused on love, success and manifesting…amazing! I would also recommend traveling and going out of your way to meet people who are inspirational to you. You can meet almost anyone if you come from an authentic place, and you’re not pushy. Most people are happy to help you or answer questions. Sometimes even brief encounters can really end up paving a road for you.

I believe in synchronicity and that if you’re following your dreams, the universe will end up putting things in your path that will help you down the road. Be adventurous and put yourself out there even if you don’t know where you’re going. I didn’t necessarily know where I was going. If I hadn’t gone on tour (and horrified my mother), Trophy may not exist today.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like? How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

JS: Every day is a little different, depending on what projects I’m working on. And as an owner, you have to wear lots of hats. But usually, I wake up early and meditate (this sets the tone for my day), then I get my son ready for school. My workday starts with checking in with the bakery, which is the heart of our business. I really like knowing first thing in the morning that the bake has gone well and that everything in our stores is “Trophy-quality.” I try to visit each shop and I check in with our general manager, work on social media, and talk to employees working on different projects. I may do a talk for a local Girl Scouts or entrepreneurs group. Or, I may have back-to-back meetings about a million different things. My goal is to get to a point where I make sure to do something for myself each day beyond meditating.

Balance…it’s super tricky. If you are super passionate about what you’re doing, it’s very easy to lose site of family, friends and even yourself. I have learned that it’s very important to take time out of your business path for self-care. If you are not well rested, taking the time to recharge (through exercise, spending time with family or reading a good book), you will eventually crash and burn. You cannot be a good boss, entrepreneur, friend, (fill in the blank) if you don’t make time for yourself to recharge each day.

I stay organized through using tools like Basecamp — it keeps all of my to-do lists in one place. I also use my calendar religiously so that I don’t overbook or forget meetings. I also try to never schedule meetings for Mondays. That gives me an entire day to plan my week and tie up any loose ends from the previous week.

CJ: You have had many amazing career moments in such a short period of time, such as being featured in Vanity Fair magazine, appearing on The Martha Stewart show, and releasing your first book. What other goals do you have for Trophy?

JS: My goal is to continue figuring out how to make Trophy a relevant and inspiring business to the community and to myself. What we do is about so much more than cupcakes. We sell little pieces of happiness and people feel emotionally invested in it. I’ve seen people eating Trophy cupcakes on their first date. I’ve also seen people serve Trophy cupcakes at their wedding, and then again at their baby shower.

The best businesses stay fluid and I think there always has to be a fresh idea and a new outlook for what Trophy is giving to everyone. That’s what I stay focused on. I also really want to open something that’s exciting with more offerings and where people can have more celebrations.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

JS: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.

CJ: If you could enjoy an afternoon eating cupcakes with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what kind of cupcake would you bake?

JS: My dad. He passed away when I was a baby, so getting to spend an afternoon with him would be a dream come true. I would create an angel food cupcake with chocolate whipped cream filling for him. It was his favorite type of cake that my grandma used to make him.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JS: I would tell my 20-year-old-self to believe in me, and the power of the universe. It took a lot of years before I believed that I really could do anything. I spent a lot of years flailing and not really seeing that I had a passion. Who knew that your hobby, what you love to do most, could be your career?! I’d tell me, “Just get out there make your dreams happen!”

Jennifer Shea Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Book ReviewEducationLearn

When I first picked up Station Eleven, the newest novel from Emily St. John Mandel, it was definitely on a whim. I’ve read some post-apacolyptic and dystopian fiction before (see: McCarthy’s The Road, Collins’ The Hunger Games and Orwell’s 1984), but if I’m being totally honest, I don’t love it. This time though, it was getting late, the bookstore was about to close, and the woman behind the counter pointed it out as I was about to pay. I’d heard some rumblings about the book, so I decided to give this genre another chance. Plus, the cover and the title were definitely intriguing.

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Station Eleven begins on a night that several things, including civilization, end. The novel opens on a stage production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, with the famous Hollywood star Arthur Leander as the titular character. In the wings, an eight-year-old aspiring actress, Kristen Raymonde, witnesses the great actor suffer a heart attack and die onstage. As chaos ensues within the theatre, the outside world faces a threat of a different sort. Within a matter of weeks, nearly all of the global population has been wiped out by a lethal flu. Flights are grounded, borders dissolve and cars are left where they die as the survivors attempt to escape the pandemic.

Fast-forward 20 years and Kristen is still an actress, touring the country in horse-drawn pickup trucks and performing Shakespeare for the various communities her troupe, the Traveling Symphony, come across. On the road the troupe has long discussions about the things they can barely remember; wi-fi, the faces of family members, airplanes and movies. While Kristen travels, she remains fixated on Arthur Leander, looking for old gossip magazines and newspapers to add to her collection. In her pack, she also carries two issues of a comic book named Dr. Eleven, given to her by Leander on one of the nights of their performance.

As they journey through the wilderness, the troupe comes upon a mysterious fanatic known as “the prophet,” who has taken over a town they had visited some months prior. They meant to pick up two members of the troupe who had wintered in the town to have their baby, but when they arrive, the couple and their newborn are missing. In the meantime, rumors of a Museum of Civilization reach the troupe, and they decide to make their way to this mythical settlement where artifacts (laptops, credit cards, phones and other electronics) on supposedly on view. With the Prophet on their heels, the Symphony’s journey is intersected by flashbacks of Leander’s life, the strange comics Kristen carries, and the history of “the Prophet.”

Mandel has written a beautiful, lyrical novel. While some have criticized her representation of the “disaster” that ended civilization, I found it refreshing not to focus so much on the epidemic, but the events that both preceded and followed it. Throughout the book, we are given more of Leander’s life story, his connection to the author of the Dr. Eleven comics, and a twist at the end to tie each of the threads together in a satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion. The author inserts subtle, occasionally disturbing clues that make the reader question the meaning of art, music, life and civilization in ways that other dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels do not. Perhaps the most lingering take-away is the motto of the Symphony, “survival is insufficient,” a line taken from an old Star Trek episode, that many members of the Symphony repeat throughout the story.

This motto, “survival is insufficient,” drives the core of the book, and I found myself thinking a lot about it even after I put the novel down. Can art save us? That seems to be the idea, and it is definitely a more hopeful conclusion than the one many other novels of this genre come to. Mandel has created a dystopian novel that is not horribly violent, does not scare us or condemn humanity and even manages, at times, to be uplifting. This is definitely a piece that will stay with you, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. My two pieces of advice, then, are to pick up a copy for yourself, and always listen to the people at your local bookstore, because they seem to have a knack for suggesting just the story you need to read.

Image: Pexels and Amazon

Skills

The season of giving should really be year-round. We often weather storms of stress and worry, but there are certain people that provide us with much needed hope or just the right kind of advice. Showing gratitude is a healthy practice for us all (and doesn’t have to be expensive either). Here are four thank you gift ideas that your wallet will thank you for.

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1. Something Old, Something New & Something To Say Thank You

Write this out on a tag so that your celebrant knows exactly what this gift package contains. The simple rhyme is easy to follow and adds a fun touch while the mix of gifts allows you to spend your money carefully.

Here’s what I did for a best friend:

Something Old– A tattered copy of her favorite book (since she’s been wanting one to travel with)
Something New– A silver necklace
Something to Say Thank You– A handwritten note of gratitude chock-full of inside jokes

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2. Teas & Thank You

Clever titles will make any gift better. I re-used an empty jewelry box as a peek-a-boo type package and some string to keep the tea packets together. Add a nice mug and a thank you letter and your recipient is ready to steep in gratitude! This is a great option for professional settings at work or school.

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3. Jars of Light

Show appreciation for those guardians in your life. Wrap yarn around a clean jar and tie the ends snugly. Hot glue can also help keep the ends of the yarn attached to the glass. Red, orange, and yellow yarn created this gradient look. Place a small candle inside and attach a note to your homemade lantern.

Here are a few suggestions for those warm words:

“You have been a light for me lately. Thank you.”
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. –Rumi”

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4. Framed Quote Art

Dollar stores and thrift stores have very affordable and eclectic frames. Grab two complementary frames and insert a quote and a picture. Song lyrics are another great option for quotes paired with a mix CD (remember those?). These decorative gifts are semi-homemade but 100% thoughtful.

Let’s consistently remember and recognize those around us who make our day-to-day easier. Simple acts of kindness can speak volumes, so let your appreciation be heard by those who matter most.

How do you say thank you?

Images: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It’s not every day that we see an illustration, design, or logo that makes us feel something. However, when we see Kate Harmer’s illustrations and designs, we are immediately inspired and moved.  Kate drew constantly when she was a little girl and she hasn’t stopped since. After following her passion and enrolling in Cornish College of the Arts, doing internships, getting job experience in design and illustration, and completing graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design, Kate launched her own design studio, Hum Creative, that focuses on creating and developing brands. More recently, Kate illustrated a fun book based on the popular Twitter feed @tweenhobo.

Kate is not only amazingly talented, but she is smart, kind, and thoughtful. We are encouraged by her self-starter attitude, work ethic, and of course, her creativity. Kate not only has the ability to draw and design, but she also knows how to build an incredible team of people with serious creative skills. Through determination, hard work, and learning how to grow a thicker skin, Kate has excelled in her field, and she generously shares the lessons she has learned during her journey. Read on to learn more about Kate Harmer, a true inspiration!

Name: Kate Harmer
Age: 32
Education: BFA in Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts; MFA in Design from Rhode Island School of Design
Follow: Twitter / Hum Creative / Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kate Harmer: It’s common to hear successful people look back and say, “We were so young, we were so crazy, we were so brave!” They’re talking about times that were challenging, but they are able to look back and laugh. I try to remember that I’m in that time right now for my future self. Knowing that all of these things won’t seem as hard or scary once they’re done encourages me to take big risks.

Yes, I’m 32, but that’s super young! Someday I’ll hopefully laugh at my failures and be proud of having challenged myself. Both are positive outcomes. To me, seizing your youth is embracing that now is the time to be free and brave.

CJ: You received your BFA in Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts. How did you determine what to study?

KH: My career has been a process of elimination. When I was in high school I didn’t know what graphic design was. I just knew that I liked to draw and wanted to do something creative. I went to school for Illustration and worked as an Illustrator for a while. I tried to follow my passion in a broad sense, then tried lots of things to see what I enjoyed and to get more focused.

CJ: What sparked your love of illustration and design?

KH: As a kid I would sit in my bedroom for hours and draw fake advertisements for the commercials I heard on the radio. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was thinking like a graphic designer. I wasn’t super social, so drawing was a natural way for me to process the world and express myself.

Because I drew constantly, I had good foundation of skills by the time I was looking at colleges. I definitely think most things can be learned, but you have to put in the time.

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CJ: You also received your MFA in Design from Rhode Island School of Design. Why did you decide to go to graduate school, and would you recommend it?

KH: I went to graduate school to learn new skills and jump start the next phase of my career, which was more about design than illustration.

I would recommend graduate school, but only for people who are really ready for change and have fully explored on their own first. I don’t think graduate school is required to be successful, and some life experience first is key. You can create a condensed learning experience on your own, but some people need help. I needed grad school to push me.

Graduate school was both awful and great. The workload was almost unbearable at times, making it one of the toughest experiences of my life so far. It was a critically intensive, so I graduated with a much thicker skin. I also made amazing friends, learned a ton, and I felt empowered to do what I do now. It was a full, amazing experience.

CJ: You are the Principal and Creative Director at Hum Creative. What do your roles as Principal and Creative Director entail? 

KH: When I first started the company I was doing a bit of everything – designing, sweeping floors, and writing invoices. Now my role is to think about this entire company as a design project. I am responsible for our overall strategy and goals, getting the best team of people together, and directing the creative process. I also play on our kickball team.

CJ: Before Hum Creative, you were a designer at Starbucks Creative Group. What kinds of projects did you work on at Starbucks?

KH: I got to illustrate coffee bags, draw lots of little croissants and coffee mugs, and help design seasonal merchandise and packaging. I was fresh out of school and supported senior designers and creative directors with illustrative tasks that were needed to fulfill their vision.

I think about that job every day while building Hum Creative. When I was at Starbucks, it really felt like everyone was happy with their jobs and coworkers. A lot of what I learned there has stayed with me.

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CJ: You illustrated the book Tween Hobo, which is based on the popular Twitter feed @tweenhobo. What was that illustration process like?

KH: Alena Smith knows the Tween Hobo character so well. I flew down to LA to brainstorm initial ideas for the book with her, then worked remotely for the next few months. Alena sent me in-progress chapters every couple of weeks. I would read them and keep a running list of possible visuals. We would Skype to discuss and narrow them it down. Most of the process was brainstorming with Alena. I would sketch the illustrations in pencil first, and then once they looked good I drew over them in Sharpie.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being an illustrator and designer?

KH: Professional creatives need to be open to criticism and flexible to change, but they also must stand up for what they believe in – when it really matters. Grad school and client work has helped me grow a thicker skin and to understand that everyone’s input is valid. You can’t be too precious about your work – sometimes people won’t like it. That’s okay. Not all battles are worth fighting… when you do push back, it should mean something.

CJ: What is the best part about being a designer?

KH: The best part of designing for me was seeing my work out in the world, successfully doing its job. As a creative director, it is so fun to see this whole group make work that they’re proud of. Knowing they worked hard, made beautiful work, and enjoyed the process is hands down the best part about what I do.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

KH: My day involves a lot of time reading emails and meeting with our internal design teams to check in on projects moving through the studio. I also meet with clients often to present work and discuss feedback. Some days are spent on the set of photo shoots or visiting the printer for press-checks.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an illustrator and designer do to set themselves up for success?

KH: Make a lot of work. We look at a lot of portfolios here, and the people who really stand out have been making up their own projects and designing things on the side. Drew Hamlet, a Lead Designer at Hum, started an online radio station in high school and he designed the branding, website, and collateral for it. I’m very impressed by self-motivation. You learn so much by just being active in your field, even if it’s just practicing. Don’t wait for people to ask you to do something, just do it yourself.

It is also important to have a sense of the design community and what has come before you. Look at blogs, read design books, and absorb a design education as much as possible.

CJ: How do you like to spend your free time?

KH: I work long hours and am a homebody when they day is over. My husband and I love to cook and enjoy big dinners outside, then take our two French bulldogs on long walks.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

KH: Professionally, this team motivates me. The responsibility of having people who come to work in an environment that I make is both very intimidating and very inspiring.

My husband is very motivating and inspiring outside of work. He is a creative that has worked really hard since he was a teenager and he’s done well. He’s always wanting more and imagining fun things he can do. He’s constantly learning and dreaming. He’s a really good reminder to keep your mind open and active.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KH: I’d tell myself to be braver sooner. It took me a little while to start realizing that taking risks almost always pay off in some way. It might not always be in the way you planned, but taking on challenges is the fastest way to grow.

Kate Harmer Qs

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find useful resources to help grow your business. Many days are full of trial and error and spent thinking, what can I do to make my business successful? This is where Irving Torres steps in. As founder of Young and CEO, Irving empowers entrepreneurs  and provides free resources and tools to help entrepreneurs succeed and make their dreams a reality. When you sign up for the Young and CEO newsletter, you receive lots of information about books to be reading, smart articles from around the web, and tools that will help you advance.

Irving is passionate about helping others succeed, and he goes above and beyond to answer a question or provide more information. Start-up life is nothing new to Irving as he was heavily involved in starting organizations and businesses in college. For those interested in starting a business, club, or organization – in or out of school – Irving shares the lessons he learned and what he experienced along the way. From balancing school and business to taking the time to travel and explore and always being hungry for knowledge and information, Irving is seizing his youth and making the most of every minute of every day. When there’s a lot to see, do, and accomplish, there’s no time to waste.

Name: Irving Torres
Age: 23
Education: B.A. in Media Studies from Pomona College
Follow: Twitter / Young And CEO / Irving Torres

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”? 

Irving Torres: To me seizing your youth is all about realizing that no matter who you are, you can take everything that has been given to you and modify it, break it down, and create new things for other people to use. As Steve Jobs famously said, “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again”.  This is what ‘seizing your youth’ means to me. Realizing that you have more power than you thought possible and realizing that you are in the driver’s seat of your life and not the standards set by the people of the world.

CJ: You attended Pomona College and majored in Media Studies. How did you determine what to study?

IT: It was a pretty tough decision that’s for sure. I have always been a curious mind so I was undecided for a few years. I took everything from Chemistry to Psychology, Calculus, and Economics. I loved learning different skills and making friends in various disciplines. I finally settled on Media Studies after I took an intro to Digital Media course and fell in love with the intersection of technology, media, music, film, and art. Even with Media Studies I was all over the place and took a bit of film history, art, drawing, graphic design, advanced film, and theory.

I finished off my senior year by taking two Entrepreneurship courses and that’s when it all came together for me. I realized that I was a creative, a maker. I had accumulated a whole arsenal of tools to use in creating something like a business. It was thanks to all of this exploring that I landed with Media Studies and I couldn’t have been happier. My advice for current college students is to not be afraid to explore outside of your comfort zones. It was in the process of nearly failing microeconomics that I learned what I was truly passionate about.

CJ: When you were in college, you founded Pomona Ventures, which inspires students to take risks and tackle real world problems. How did you go about raising capital for this organization?  

IT: The journey was a tough one for sure. We were met with many obstacles because there had never been an entrepreneurship organization on campus so administration had no guidelines or funding set aside for us. We had to think creatively. Nevertheless, we were aware of a few advantages we had. 1. We were college students and we knew that we could get away with a lot. Mentors would (in theory) flock to us and alumni would be supportive because we were still young. 2. We did extensive research on entrepreneurship courses and programs at other college campuses (we wanted to be able to explain how far behind we were). 3. I was pretty darn good at talking to people and maintaining professional relationships (known in the business world as ‘networking’) as well as marketing.

Based on these strengths, we first partnered up with the alumni gifts department to be able to tap into the alumni network directly without interference. They wanted to get alumni in Silicon Valley involved in the college once more and we wanted donors and mentors so it was a win-win for us both. We then drafted up an entire program proposal complete with events, competitions, budgets, and info graphics. My roommate did most of the work on that one. I then coded a website, designed a logo, put the messaging together, and got a ‘pitch deck’ type of presentation together to make sure we were clear on everything. We then interviewed a few first-years who were interested in joining the team because we knew that we wanted to keep this going beyond our graduation the following year.

At this point it was show time. During all of this chaos we were able to set up a meeting with a dozen prominent Pomona College alumni involved in entrepreneurship. Pomona paid for the executive team to fly up to San Jose and have dinner with them. Our goal was to get them interested enough for them to give donations and/or get involved. We walked into that restaurant with spiral bound proposals for each alumni, awesome energy, and incredible passion that we had about this idea to help others discover entrepreneurship and receive resources and support.  The dinner was well over four hours and we managed to convince them that we were up to the challenge. The alumni started to pledge on the spot and a few weeks later we had a sizable amount of funding in the bank. The whole process took about three months but the funding was crucial in throwing events and educating the student population.

CJ: Any tips for starting an organization while balancing school?

IT: Just do it. College is the best time to try something new. The risk of starting a business is little to none and there is a ton of support from professors, family, and friends. My first business in college was DJ-ing. It wasn’t a big deal but I was getting paid pretty well for three hour gigs at different college events and off campus events. More importantly however was the fact that I was having a blast! I think that in the past people had to choose between college or business but with the advances in technology and the increase in resources it is now possible to do both and excel.

Make sure to be flexible about whatever you build (pivoting when needed is crucial) and also make sure to fail fast if necessary. It’s better to realize something is not going as planned and quitting while it’s early in order to learn as much as possible and create something else. Use the anonymity of the Internet to test ideas and products without spending a dime. I’d suggest reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. There might be times when you feel stressed because of the workload you have. I’ve dealt with that. I had an on-campus job as an R.A., worked on my business, and was a full-time student. My advice? Make sure to keep your calendar well organized and make sure you set some time aside to go to the gym, eat healthy (not rushed), and to take a breather. These things help out a ton and can boost up your mental state if done regularly. Lastly, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. This is something I struggled with because I was a perfectionist but I learned to work with my teams (work, school, & business) in order to balance my workload and still be successful.

CJ: After graduating from college you founded Young and CEO, an entrepreneurship organization that supercharges entrepreneurs with free resources and powerful tools. What inspired you to start Young and CEO?

IT: To answer this I have to go back a little and tell you how I got to be where I am. My whole life I was taught to pursue a certain path and check different boxes in order to be successful. As a first generation Chicano there were two paths in my mind. One path led to an easy life of conformity where I would amount to nothing and probably stay in the same neighborhood and father children at a young age. The other path was one of hard work and dedication but it included education and ‘success’. I could be someone. I picked the latter. With my eye set on the prize I put my foot forward and became a 4.0 student, captain of the lacrosse team, member of the honor society, and eventually got a full ride to a university of my choice thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Once I started college I followed this arbitrary path to ‘success’ and continued off checking boxes. I finished all of my college general requirements by my first year, became a manager at my on-campus job, got a wonderful girlfriend, and began to think about my ‘career’. All good so far. It was around this time that I was introduced to entrepreneurship. I had never even heard of that word. It took me a while to realize it was pretty much the same thing as business but with a sexier ring to it and more about us as generation-y. It was an interesting and fascinating world for me.

Pomona College paid for a trip for me to attend an entrepreneurship summit in New York City with the Kairos Society. It was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during one of the events that it hit me. Here I was, the Chicano kid from the urban sprawl in San Diego on the New York Stock Exchange trade floor having drinks with mentors like the CEO of Cisco and the founder of Electronic Arts. Everyone there was around my age and they were creating things, solving problems, and having an awesome time doing it. This was what I wanted to do, I realized. Why is this not a viable career path? Why was it that I had to find this organization to meet people who pushed me to create something and solve global problems? Why had it taken me 20 years to learn about entrepreneurship and more importantly that I, Irving Torres from City Heights and son of a single mother, could create something to change the world for the better. I had checked off all the boxes up to this point. I had taken the Myers-Briggs test, I had been to the career center, I was attending one of the best institutions in the world.

Everyone told me to get a career in teaching, higher education, or management consulting. These were safe bets and had stable salaries.  No one had told me I could change the very fabric of what we accept as a life. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I could but no one had ever sat me down and said, “Hey look, someone else created the ‘path’ to ‘success’ you are on. This whole, ‘go to school, go to college, get a good job, and start a family’, you don’t have to follow this. You can create your own path”. The important thing I know is that you have the power to do as you please. It was with this mentality that I decided to help others discover this very thing. I believe the world would be a better place if people at the very least realized this.

I think that the world we live in is full of problems but we also have a ton of incredibly intelligent and passionate people. With Young And CEO I send out a monthly newsletter full of info on events like the Kairos Society, Starting Bloc, the Thiel Fellowship and more so that others can discover the power within. I include a book summary and review every month on powerful books that could change the very way you think and solve problems. I also write articles and send tools, news, and send any resources that could help entrepreneurs succeed. I want the young entrepreneurs (and the old) out there to realize the potential they have in changing the world.

CJ: You are the Creative Director at Young and CEO. What does your role as Creative Director entail?

IT: I run the day-to-day operations and work on delivering the best content via our monthly newsletters. This means I am always digesting books, content, and networking with others to grow our organization. I embrace my creativity and unconventional methods of doing business hence the title. The thing that drives me the most however is the ability to connect with and help other entrepreneurs around the world.

I’ve personally connected with a few of these entrepreneurs and it’s amazing to see what they are up to. I met Collette, a female racer who is doing some great work in the bay and inspiring women to get involved in entrepreneurship.  Fabio is an Italian entrepreneur who is starting a crowd-funding site for students and has built a great team. I’ve also connected with Jason, an entrepreneur here in the U.S. who sold his last name to a tech start-up and just recently released a book. Meeting other innovators is the best way to learn new things and the best way to collaborate. This is why I am trying so hard to create this entrepreneurship community.

CJ: When starting Young and CEO, what skills did you have that were useful, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

IT: A lot of the skills I learned on my own throughout the years were extremely helpful when launching Young And CEO. I picked up graphic design my freshman year of college and had been operating a small logo design business for random organizations and school clubs. This helps me have a good sense of design when it comes to my website, newsletters, and logos. I also learned photography, videography, web design, and business from several courses I attended, blogs I frequented, and books I read. All of these allowed me to do 100% of the stuff in-house and with great ease.

The legal aspect of launching an LLC I learned on the job when I hired a lawyer to help me incorporate the business. The experiences in launching organizations in college were very helpful but definitely not the same. I made a few mistakes but they helped me learn a ton. Going into it with little preparation was actually the best thing I have ever done because it allowed the business to evolve along with me.

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CJ: You were a Growth Hacker at Strikingly. What does it mean to be a Growth Hacker?

IT: A Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing at tech companies. During the rise of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, founders had to find creative and efficient ways to catch up to the big companies. There was little to no capital to spend and a huge market to reach so many started ‘hacking’ the system. The founders of Hotmail for example, found that adding a signature with a link to sign up for their service at the bottom of every e-mail in circulation would allow them to advertise and grow their service organically (it worked).

Some start-ups created viral videos and gained an enormous following for little to no cost. Big companies started to realize that a lot of these little guys were growing at alarming rates because start-ups had Growth Hackers (a mixture of computer coder, marketer, and entrepreneur). This is what I am and it allows me to use my entire arsenal of weapons to help Strikingly succeed. I basically focus on reaching as many potential users out there in the most creative ways possible. It is an exhilarating thing to do.

CJ: You are currently writing a book. What is your book about, and what does your book writing process look like?

IT: The book I am writing is a collection of stories that will help entrepreneurs realize the power within. I’m including experiences, things I’ve heard from travelling and living on the Vegas strip for a few months, and amazing stories I have learned. After reading a ton of great books like Think Like A Freak and David and Goliath I found that stories are the most effective and entertaining way to teach. I don’t really have a set process. I write when I feel inspired and I think this is the best way to go about because I want every single page to be passionate, honest, and raw. Stay tuned for more information via my monthly newsletter.

CJ: Between working, traveling, writing, and maintaining a social life, how do you manage your time?  

IT: I’ve become really good at prioritizing tasks and getting ‘in the zone’. I usually keep a running list of to-dos and keep a log of my goals. Getting in ‘the zone’ takes practice but I can speed up the process by a mix of different activities. I like to stay active, I’m always hydrating, and I try to eat healthy. By consistently doing this I have no problem sitting down for hours a day and hashing out work while listening to some good music.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

IT: The great thing about my life at this point is that every day is really different.You will probably find me mountain biking around, at a meet-up, reading a book, or exploring some new part of the world.Right now I am at Strikingly in Shanghai so I usually work and play at the office and then I head out for some good food or to explore the city.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in being entrepreneurs?

IT: Read a lot of good books, tinker with technology, and get a good education so that you can get a good feel of how the world works and then go for it. Don’t hold back.Try something new and ask for guidance and mentorship but don’t let others dictate what you do. Remember that you are in charge. Take this time to experiment with business and use all of the tools that many of us entrepreneurs didn’t have available. I didn’t get on-line until I was in middle school.

CJ: When you aren’t growth hacking and growing Young and CEO, how do you like to spend your time?

IT: I like to be spontaneous. Sometimes I go out with no agenda and find something to do.  I definitely read a ton and watch TED talks it feeds my knowledge thirstiness. I go biking or running, and I like to go out with friends. One big hobby of mine is photography. I was actually considering getting into commercial or travel photography at some point and who knows? I just might.

CJ: What motivates you?

IT: I think the drive to create something good for this world and inspire others to do the same is my main source of motivation. I really do believe that the world would be a better place with innovation. Just recently I saw how a man created a trash collecting water wheel in Baltimore and placed it in the inner harbor. This water-powered machine picks up tons of trash every month. Without his idea this wouldn’t have been possible and all it took was the courage to believe that he could make a difference.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

IT: I don’t think I would. I feel very happy with the path I took and I think the butterfly effect might just ruin something. If I had to I would remind myself to make time to get to know people, never forget where I came from, and to under promise and over deliver.

Irving Torres Qs

Images by Irving Torres

EducationSkills

After reading Arianna Huffington’s book ThriveI was inspired to start a gratitude journal. In her book, Arianna writes about how gratitude exercises can have tangible benefits. She writes, “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day—and why the events made them happy—lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”  When I read this line, it only seemed natural to start a gratitude journal and document the positive events that had happened in my day or week. Lower stress levels and feeling calmer at night? Yes, please!

Starting and maintaining a journal can be difficult at first because it is another thing to remember to do, but after a while of keeping a gratitude journal, I promise you it’s worth it! Keep doing it every night until it becomes a habit. Luckily, writing in your gratitude journal won’t feel like a chore because it’s a peaceful time to just sit and write about all the things that you are thankful for. The words will flow from you and 15 minutes just might turn into 30. Another great line Arianna notes is, “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.” 

The best time to start a gratitude journal is now. These are the incredible benefits associated with journaling, and because maintaining a journal can be challenging, I share the tips that work best for me:

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

1. Lower stress levels.

2. Feel calm at night.

3. Gain a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life.

4. By noting what you are grateful for, you will gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can cut from you life.

5. Helps you focus on what really matters.

6. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware.

7. Your gratitude journal is a safe zone for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without judgment.

8. On days when you feel blue, read back through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remember that you have great people and things in your life.

Maintaining a Gratitude Journal

1. Plan to write in your gratitude journal every night for 15 minutes before bed. Set an alarm reminder on your phone or schedule it in your calendar. I’ve found that it is easier to write at night so that I can include things that I am grateful for from that day.

2. Keep your gratitude journal by your nightstand so you will see it before going to sleep and remember to jot down what you are thankful for. Your journal may even become a symbol of gratitude so that when you just look at it, you will feel a sense of appreciation.

3. Write as many things as you want in your gratitude journal. Writing down 5-10 things that you are grateful for each day is a good number to aim for.

4. Your gratitude journal doesn’t have to be deep. What you are thankful for can be as simple as “family” or “the new book or movie I recently enjoyed” or “this morning’s breakfast.” What you are grateful for will differ from everyone else.

5. The timing of when you want to write is up to you. While I try to write in my gratitude journal every night, sometimes it becomes every other night. That’s okay. Journal when it feels right for you – the benefits really are worth it.

Are you inspired to start a gratitude journal? Share your tips with us at @carpejuvenis!

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We can say with complete confidence that Adam Braun is one of the most inspiring people you will ever meet. He is passionate about his work, speaks with enthusiasm about his travels and the lessons he has learned, and his hunger for making the world a better place is contagious. Adam worked at a consulting company after graduating from Brown University, but he soon realized his passions lay elsewhere. During a trip abroad, Adam asked a young boy in India what he wanted most in the world. His answer: “A pencil.” As Adam continued to travel, he handed out more pens and pencils and realized the power of a school supply that most people wouldn’t typically think twice about. Pencils of Promise was born in 2008, and as of this writing, 170 schools have been built in countries such as Laos, Ghana, and Guatemala.

In his years of experience starting, building, and growing Pencils of Promise, Adam managed to find time to write a book about the lessons he has learned along the way. All of the book’s proceeds will go towards helping build schools and to support Pencils of Promise. We had the incredible pleasure of speaking with Adam about his career and personal experiences, how he got to where he is today, and to speak more about his upcoming book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, which will be released on March 18. 

Name: Adam Braun
Age: 30
Education: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Economics, Sociology, and Public & Private Sector Organizations from Brown University
Follow: Pencils of Promise / PoP Twitter / Adam Braun’s Twitter / Personal Website / Order The Promise of a Pencil

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Adam Braun: I define seizing your youth as living each day as if you only have one shot at an experience that can come out of that unique moment. The most powerful element of youth is that young people don’t know yet what’s impossible, and through that they’re willing to try things that others will claim can’t be done. Seizing your youth is trying out things that speak to your inner voice and absolute truths and pursuing them with the honesty and integrity that you believe they deserve.

CJ: You attended Brown University and majored in Economics, Sociology, and Public & Private Sector Organizations. Why did you choose to study these topics?

AB: I went to college thinking that I was going to major in Economics because I wanted to work on Wall Street, and Psychology because I took it in high school and I’ve always been drawn to the way that people make decisions and in particular, how you can influence groups and how you can ultimately catalyze movements.

What I realized in my first semester when I took psychology was that it was incredibly biology-based. I wasn’t as interested in the biology aspect but instead was interested in the humanity element, which turned out to be Sociology. That resulted in me majoring in Economics and Sociology.

I didn’t want to write a 100-page thesis so I figured that if I could do a triple major then I wouldn’t need to write a thesis paper as well. The third major, Public and Private Sector Organizations, was actually about entrepreneurship and how you build a business. I took courses on leadership and organizational management, knowing that I wanted to one day run my own organization. The three of them seemed like a great fit.

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CJ: You left your job at Bain & Company to start Pencils of Promise (PoP) when you were 25-years-old. What skills did you have that were useful in starting Pencils of Promise, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

AB: Though my time at Bain, I developed a set of hard skills that I think are really important early on. That included building financial models, creating impressive and persuasive presentations, and understanding how organizational turnover and retention happens. In my childhood I spent a lot of time doing entrepreneurial things and lot of entrepreneurs fall into this trap of believing that they are the only one who can accomplish something, especially the higher level responsibilities, so you take it all on yourself.

From my time at Bain & Company, I learned that it’s more important to train the people below you and invest in the next person so that they can ideally do your job just as well, if not better, than you can. That allows you to take on higher level responsibilities. I never would have taken that approach if I hadn’t witnessed and experienced it firsthand from my time at Bain. More than anything, Bain gave me a foundation upon which I felt comfortable to build a business.

What I wish I had known was that there is no such thing as the ‘big single win.’ I think early on I had this inherent belief that all the little wins were suddenly going to give me one opportunity and that one opportunity was going to springboard us to a place where we were huge. In reality, there’s no such thing as a ‘big single win’ that changes absolutely everything. It really is a series of 10,000 small, medium, and large wins that create organizational longevity.

CJ: Your book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, comes out in March 2014. The book is your memoir of your experience leaving your finance job to start Pencils of Promise. What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from starting PoP?

AB: The book was written in a style that should enable any reader to not only get inspired by the story itself, but to take his or her own extraordinary journey as well. I really wanted to write something that was a how-to, but framed around this idea that storytelling provides a hook for people because we all want to read, write, and tell great stories.

Each chapter is titled with a mantra, and there are 30 mantras in total. Those mantras collectively create the blueprint for any person to go from ordinary to extraordinary. One of the mantras that I would describe as my greatest learning lesson is called ‘Vulnerability is Vital’. It’s about the one thing that scared me most, asking people for money, which I did not do for the first three and a half years in the organization. When I admitted openly to the people that had the most confidence in me, who are oftentimes the scariest people to show your weakness to, which in my case was my Board of Directors, it was incredible to see how they invested in and rallied around me.

When I finally faced that fear head-on, the results weren’t as bad as I had feared all along. What I learned coming out of it is that the scariest or the hardest part of your day is the thing you should do first. I find that if I have 25 emails in my inbox, I probably do the 10 easiest ones, the 10 medium ones, and I leave the five hardest ones and justify that I’ll do it another time.

In acknowledging how important your vulnerability is, what I realized is that I should start each day with the hardest things and make sure I get it done. I don’t let myself leave the office until I’ve taken care of that challenging element. Ultimately, that one challenging thing is more important for your long-term success than the 10 easy things you did first.

CJ: What was the book writing process like?

AB: It was actually really fun. I wrote the entire manuscript while traveling in the course of three months. I worked with a co-writer, who was wonderful. She had written five books before and she was really more of a writing partner than anything else, helping me craft the stories and lessons I wanted to share. She would take a first cut at some and I would take a first cut at others, but ultimately every single word in the book is mine. It was really enjoyable to reflect on how this path happened and distill it down to the 30 most important lessons that I could share with others.

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CJ: You wrote a blog post for when you turned 30 about setting ambitious goals, chasing them, and then moving the finish line off into the distance. How often do you set goals for yourself?

AB: There are small goals and big goals. I have small goals every single day, and whether I’m consciously admitting or not, I have a goal every day. For the bigger goals, the older you get the longer the horizons you look at. I used to set goals that were in that week or month, and they would be pretty big goals. Now most of my goals are really framed around a year or three years. I try not to set goals any longer than three years because the world is going to change so much in that time that whatever goal I set will become obsolete. Most of my goals are within the next year.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in starting a non-profit organization?

AB: The first thing I would say is that the role of Founder has been mythologized and celebrated in our culture a bit too much. It’s really important to understand that you can have just as big of an impact if you aren’t the founder but you find a great organization that you believe in and work for and are able to channel your energies and efforts into that organization. I didn’t start Pencils of Promise until I was turning 25, but I had been working with non-profits since I was a teenager.

It’s really important to learn from a mentor that you completely and wholeheartedly believe in to see how an organization is built. Building a non-profit is such an uphill battle and you are going to hear ‘no’ more than you hear ‘yes,’ and you have to believe that what you are doing is right.

One, I would advise to work for someone or an organization that you really believe in and two, in the process of doing that, figure out what your greatest sense of purpose or passion is, the thing that makes you most come alive. Thirdly, start with small goals and have really ambitious goals in the distance.

ab speaking

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

AB: The best moment in my career was when I sat my grandmother down and I showed her the photos of our very first school, which was dedicated to her and she didn’t know. When I showed her the kids and the structure and the photo of the school sign, she saw her name on it. That was the best and most emotional moment of my career. It’s one of the reasons why I believe so much in Pencils of Promise because I know now what it does for children in the developing world, but also the capacity that it has to unite families here, as well. If I could enable that same experience for every single grandchild or child, then I think we will be able to unite a lot of families and educate a lot of children.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

AB: I spend about half of my day meeting with individuals, partners, foundations, and brands that are interested in Pencils of Promise. I try to further the mission, so I spend at least half of my time external in terms of the meetings. About a quarter of my day is spent with our staff, going through everything from our long- and short-term planning to working on the branding elements of the website, and then the last quarter of my day I try to spend working on things that happen in the moment. I’ll see a link online that will give me an idea and I’ll share it with somebody internally or externally. I always try and keep a quarter of my day free, though it doesn’t happen all that often.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AB: The advice I would give my 20-year-old self is that as much as you feel both lost and found at the same time, keep pushing as hard as you are pushing in both directions. I love the quote: “Not all who wander are lost.” I started traveling when I was 21 and I spent a lot of time from age 21 to 26 traveling.

A lot of that period was spent in a state of exploration without knowing exactly why I was doing something or where I was going to be. There’s a bit of fear that comes from not knowing what comes next, but there is also a lot of beauty and freedom and creativity that comes out of that. I would say keep pushing as hard as you’re pushing both in the directions of lost and found.

Adam Braun Questions