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Conversations with the Inspiring Colleen Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colleen Smith.

Colleen, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a classic example of the power of following one’s bliss. My lifelong interests in books, art, design, architecture, music and nature led me to write about these passions. I grew up in Iowa, which was fortunate because I attended the University of Iowa, home of the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop. After graduating with a BA in English, I taught writing, worked at a fitness center for a free gym membership and was on the staff of the Des Moines Register as a features writer. I went on to work in communications for nonprofits, as a journalist, an author, an editor and art director and a filmmaker. I’ve been on my own since 1995, but I didn’t start out here. I paid my dues in some dreadful jobs with bossy bosses, but everything taught me something.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I would not describe my road as smooth. I worked in a man’s world much of the time and often found myself one of the youngest members on staffs or creative teams. I’ve certainly had pebbles in my shoes on both the personal and professional paths. I’ve stumbled at times and fallen. The key, of course, is getting up again and then figuring out some systems that help along the road. To smooth the path and to live life to the fullest, I subscribe to the concept of caring for body, mind and spirit.

Here are some practices that worked well for me.
• Get physical. Exercise pays off on so many levels: body, mind and spirit. Particularly yoga.
Yoga Digest recently published my essay about my path of yoga and my yoga mats:
I’m also a lap-swimmer and a fitness walker and was an avid alpine skier.
• Learn to feed yourself.
Your body and your brain need proper fuel. Educate yourself about eating well and make nutrition a priority.
• Read. I read both fiction and nonfiction. Read the best writing possible. The New Yorker is one of my favorite publications.
• Write. I’m a professional writer, but I believe everybody benefits from writing. I’m a life-long journal-keeper. I made a lot of lists. I’m a fan of mind maps, and that’s how I initially start conceptualizing large projects.
• Embrace a calendar. Tracking details allows your mind to relax and not try to hold everything. I’m old-school and prefer a pretty paper calendar. I make a lot of mind maps, lists, grids. I use lots of visuals, color-coding highlights and stickers.
• Meditate. Denver Business Journal assigned me to write a series about CEOs and other business leaders like Jessica Billingsley: Interestingly, a number of the business leaders I interviewed practice meditation. There are so many ways to meditate. Find one that works for you. To get started using mala beads, a beautiful and helpful tool for meditation, check out my article on malas for Art + Object:
• Engage in a hobby — something to do when you’re doing nothing. I’ve done everything from making paper, to coloring, to collaging, to hand-painting eggs to making ice lanterns, my winter obsession I wrote about for The Denver Post:
• Garden. As a writer, one of my main beats is gardening and landscaping. Gardening is another activity that cultivates mind, body and spirit.
• “Know thyself.” Constantly develop your self-awareness so you know what makes you happy and where you have room for self-improvement.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Friday Jones Publishing story. Tell us more about the business.
I am first and foremost a writer and also an editor/art director/filmmaker. I create inspired and inspiring multimedia communications. My website includes an overview of my career: I must admit, I like being considered a “trailblazer.” I’ve never functioned well on a short leash, so I set out on my own in 1995 at age 35 to blaze my trail as a writer/editor/art director and eventually also a filmmaker. I’ve written everything from books to a contest-winning screenplay. I’ve published hundreds of magazine, newspaper and online articles. I’ve ghostwritten speeches and letters for dignitaries. I’ve written celebrity profiles, concert reviews,
promotional copy, corporate newsletters and just about everything else. I’ve art- directed books, posters, brochures, greeting cards and envelopes, direct-mail packages, product packaging and more. Before blazing my own trail, I earned my chops in a series of jobs from journalist to public relations/communications officer to creative writing instructor at a college. In addition to being called a trailblazer, I’ve been called a renaissance woman — probably my favorite compliment because I have a lot of passions.
Right now, I specialize in writing articles. Here are a few links to my author’s pages:
Denver Post author’s page:
Art + Object author’s page:
Denver Business Journal:
I’m working on another screenplay — an adaptation of my novel, “Glass Halo” — while trying to get my contest-winning script into production.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
The patriarchy and double standards tend to pose barriers to female leaders and keep our world largely a man’s world — but I would still rather be a woman.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Images by Colleen Smith

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