Dreams Coming True is a new Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
I am a native Californian married to Brian, my best friend of twenty-four years. Together we raised five children in our blended family. We also have five pet ducks. I love spending time with friends and family, traveling, gardening, photography, writing, and having new adventures. I went back to school as an older adult and graduated with a dual degree in leadership and theology. I am very active in my community. My favorite thing in life is kindness. I love when people are genuinely kind. And I’m a snack-a-holic.
When did your creative dream begin?
When I was a teenager I wanted to be a professional journalist, but life’s circumstances demanded I follow a different path. I wrote during those years—a partial novel, songs, poems, stories—keeping most of it to myself. It wasn’t until early 2007 things really changed and the idea of writing resurfaced. My real estate career plummeted during the crash. It was time to reinvent myself. I had waited a lifetime to write. I thought, “If not now, when?” And then quiet little doors began to eek open.
In 2008 I applied to the Examiner online as the National Women’s Ministry Writer. As I developed my column, I found many women were interested in Christian authors, so I created Inside the Writer’s Life as a part of my column. I began interviewing authors and sharing their writing journeys with readers. I had the opportunity to cover the Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference and met many great Christian Writers. As a matter of fact, it was during that time I met Suzanne at a book signing. I think she was one of the first authors I interviewed for the Examiner.
I was also a photographer, and it became a natural fit for my journalistic writing. As time rolled on, I began taking on clients who requested individual photography services. Suzanne was one of those clients as well. The photography and writing morphed into PGS Studio Creative Services.
How did your book, My Ocean, get started?
Through the process of writing everything from press releases, website content, to articles, I also began a creative project. I started focusing on coastal photography in order to create a coffee table book. At the same time I joined a local artist group and began showing and selling my ocean art photography.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
My Ocean is a photographic journal more than a typical coffee table book. I invite readers to come with me on a thirty-day journey exploring the Pacific Coast from San Diego, California, up to Vancouver, BC. It’s not a linear journey like a travel book, however. Instead, each of the thirty days looks at different elements of the coast: waves, sand, rocks, boats, harbors, etc. Most days I offer a bit of inspiration or wisdom tied in with the focus of the day. It makes it more of a spiritual journey.
What are the goals and intentions of My Ocean?
I wanted to draw attention to details—small things like the sound of birds, the patterns in sand and rocks, and the variety of creatures along the coast. I also wanted readers to have a sense of ownership (hence the name My Ocean) and take stewardship to heart. And finally I hoped to inspire readers to connect to our creator and gain wisdom through observation of his creation.
How does your project create community?
My Ocean is a shared experience. In the introduction I invite readers to come with me on this journey. Their purchase also helps fund ocean research and preservation. I donate a portion of the proceeds to organizations such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Center and National Geographic. Together we can enjoy and protect this wonderful resource.
Many have creative ideas but have trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly . . . but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
I think one of the great enemies is discouragement. Having cheerleaders helps. Brian has the gift of encouragement and is my greatest cheerleader. Having someone believe in you and what you’re doing can make all the difference. He also kept me focused on the publishing goal.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from?
The idea of creating books came from my lifetime desire to write and Brian’s background in printing and graphics. Brian is also an artist so we brainstorm about creative projects all the time. Coffee table books seemed a natural fit for our talents. My Ocean is the culmination of taking one of those ideas and seeing it become reality.
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
I knew that marketing was going to be the biggest challenge with My Ocean, especially since it is so large at 314 pages and $79 retail. Not expensive by coffee table book standards maybe, but more than some are willing to pay for a book.
What have you learned?
Take as much help getting the word out as people will offer. Marketing is a beast. If you don’t like marketing, hire a publicist and agent. I have a strong background in sales and marketing, so it isn’t as hard for me as it could have been.
Have there been any unexpected surprises?
The best surprise has been my readers’ reactions. So far, everyone who bought the book locally has fallen in love with it. That makes me so happy. It brings tears to my eyes!
What are some ways you promote your project?
I share it with everyone I can. It is really hard to self-promote. At the same time, I knew going into this it was a necessary part of the process. I have mailers, use social media, take speaking engagements, have giveaways, go to stores, speak to buyers, etc.
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
So far it has gone better than I expected. I spent the majority of my life selling and promoting others’ products. I went into this fully aware that marketing would be the greatest challenge. There are many amazing writers out there who get discouraged because they didn’t know how to market. In the future, however, I would love to have a publicist and an agent. There comes a point when one person can only do so much. I would love to have someone else promote my work so I can focus on more of the creative aspects.
Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?
Yes! I would have started promoting it much further in advance than I did. I would also have had all my marketing material ready to go way in advance.
What social network has worked best for you?
I like Facebook. I invite people to be my friend on my personal page. I know most of the marketing gurus advise against that. I just don’t want to spend too much time right now building another page. I actually get to know most of my FB friends. I like that. My readers also get to know the real me that way. I also use Linkedin. I have a lot of business contacts through PGS Studio on this site. Pinterest is crazy fun too, but I have to be careful not to get lost pinning for hours. The food pictures are the best! I gain weight every time I go on Pinterest.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Ask yourself the question I did: “If not now, when?” And then mark that “when” on a calendar. God has a way of making things happen when you least expect it. Mine was in the middle of a meltdown in mid-life (assuming I live to be one hundred, of course).
Your “when” may come sooner than you think. Or it may turn into something unexpected. Just have faith that God knows what he’s doing with the messes we make of our lives—even when we think we are doing all the “right” things—he may have other ideas for you. Regardless, live inspired. Live by faith and let go of fear.
Where do you see this project in five years?
My Ocean is a timeless inspirational gift book. It will never go out of style, thankfully. Five years from now—or twenty-five—I hope it will still grace coffee tables and offices around the world. However long it lives, I pray it glorifies God in some small way and truly blesses my readers. That’s the eternal stuff right?
I have two more photography books underway. I also have some ideas for a novel series churning in my head. For now, my main focus is My Ocean. And, can I just say, it makes me smile to know that I get to share the things I love with so many other people. I hope each of my readers feels as blessed as I do! I am so humbled and appreciative to have this opportunity to live my dream.
How can we find My Ocean?
My Ocean is available directly from 920 Publishing at 920Publishing.net and Amazon, or ask for it at any local bookstore. If they don’t currently have it in stock, they can order it for you. And just for all of Suzanne’s readers, if you would like to purchase a signed copy, email me directly at PGSstudioMail@gmail.com. Please feel free to email me or visit my website at PGSstudio.com. You can also send a friend request to me on Facebook.
And one lucky reader is going to win a signed copy of My Ocean and two readers will win a 8×10 My Ocean art print signed, matted, and ready to frame! Just leave a comment! Winner will be announced next week on the Dreams Coming True post!
Do you know of someone whose dream has come true? Is it a dream that helps create community? If so, let me know! I might be able to feature their Dream. Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org).