A black & white affair

Night-Circus-x-large

At some point in December I decided to host a winter party. I’d read this book called “The Night Circus,” which was about this completely black-and-white-themed circus that operated after dark, and the descriptions were so lovely and beautiful. It was a fitting winter book, and it seemed to me to be a fitting winter party theme.

About a month in advance I started a Facebook event page for it, saying only:

“It’s going to be miserable in mid-January. The least we can do is dress fancy and drink champagne punch.”

Preparations began early this month. Stef and Sarah helped me plan decorations, a photo booth area, and dueling black and white cocktails stations. I asked the wife of a work friend, a talented baker, to create a special cupcake for the event. She made two dozen espresso cupcakes with almond espresso buttercream frosting and fondant flower decorations, and they were a huge hit.

Thanks to Jess for the photo.

Thanks to Jess for the photo.

Five days before the party, I started to get a sore throat. Determined to be well by the party Saturday, I downed orange juice and vitamin C. I did as much as I could to prepare for the party throughout the week, cleaning the apartment and getting groceries. But, the day of the event, I knew I was in trouble. I got up early, took some DayQuill, and went to the grocery store to get sparking wine and punch ingredients. I felt like I was going to pass out from the effort of traveling two miles and navigating the seemingly encroaching isles of Jewel.

I left after finding only half the items I came for and drove home carefully, feeling slightly in a fog. I told Kevin what had happened and he told me to take it easy. After an impromptu three-hour nap, I asked him to take on some extra duties.

He and Stef went to the liquor store for me to get punch and cocktail supplies; Sarah came over shortly after and prepared all of the food for me. She and Stef proceeded to completely decorate and transform my apartment, and Kevin made us all dinner just before guests started to arrive.

I am very lucky to have such wonderful friends.

I felt fine during the party itself, having somehow managed to rally for the occasion. I had to excuse myself to blow my nose hideously now and then, but I still looked nice in the dress I bought specially for the night, something I never, ever do.

It was such a fun party, and I loved going over the photos from the photo booth the next morning.

Thanks to everyone who came out! I am already daydreaming about a birthday party in March, possibly to Kevin’s chagrin…

emily girls laura-jake jake-liz-kevin sarah-prints book-club-ladies sarah-stef lights

A bigger budget

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 6.00.32 PM

My Indiegogo campaign ended last week, and I raised $760 of my $500 goal. Technically, I raised $860, because a family friend contributed offline.

This is the breakdown of how that $760 is dispersed, per an email from Indiegogo last week:

“Dear Meryl,

Congratulations on raising funds for your Indiegogo campaign ‘Expand 60625’. …

Summary of Funds Raised on ‘Expand 60625’:

Total Amount Raised: $760.00

$760.00: Amount Raised by Credit Card
– $68.40: Indiegogo Platform fee (9.0%)
– $22.80: Payment processing fee (3%)
– $0.00: International wire transfer fee
+ $38.00: Credit Card Goal Completion Refund (5.0%)
= $706.80: Net Credit Card Funds”

So I ended up paying around $53 in fees, but now I have the funds to accomplish the goals I set, and then some. I can invest in a better camera than originally planned, and order more items from Vistaprint than expected.

This is the camera I am hoping to get. It’s around $400, when I thought I’d only be able to afford a $150 one.

That leaves me with around $400 to order stuff from Vistaprint, pay my graphic designer, and hopefully buy some gift cards from area businesses to give away as prizes to readers.

Thanks so much for everyone who contributed to my campaign. I am so lucky to know you and have your support!

Here we Indiegogo

Screen shot 2013-01-06 at 11.07.01 AMIn the fall, I wrote about plans to run a Kickstarter campaign to help promote and expand the reach of my news site. An update on that adventure is long overdue.

On the post about my plans, a friend commented and suggested I go the route of Indiegogo. I wish I had taken that advice sooner because that is what I ultimately went with. With Kickstarter, you only get to keep the funds you raise if you meet your goal — Lisa pointed out that Indiegogo lets you hold onto what you raise. You’re just penalized with a 9% fee to Indiegogo, rather than the 4% you’d owe them if you met your goal, upon the end of your campaign.

I deliberated for weeks on the elements of my Kickstarter campaign, which involved telling the story of my project and showing examples of my work. Kevin helped me make a video of me talking about the news site, and once that was edited, I submitted my campaign for Kickstarter’s approval.

It was curtly rejected two days later. You can’t use Kickstarter solely to promote something, especially a something that already exists. Kickstarter funds must be used, from what I gather, to create and distribute a thing: a film project, printed copies of a book or art print, etc. Discouraged, I resigned myself to putting my own money toward my needs, but I wasn’t sure how long filling them myself would take on a limited income.

Then I heard a local radio interview with the co-founder of Latitude, a non-profit that lets people come in to use their photography and digital media equipment. They were running an Indiegogo campaign at the time to purchase equipment. I remembered Lisa’s comment, and checked out the site again.

A few days later, I re-purposed my text, photos, and video from my rejected Kickstarter venture and launched my Indiegogo campaign. To my surprise, it didn’t need to undergo a review process, and off we were toward a $500 goal.

I have to admit, I didn’t do a great job of soliciting contributions at first. It felt a little uncomfortable because, unlike the funds I raised last spring for a 5K to benefit brain tumor research, the benefactor was my borderline-vanity project. However, an early and extremely generous donation from Kevin’s mom got me more motivated, and as of this past Friday, I have not only met, but exceeded, my $500 goal, with a week to go.

Now I can put together my Vistaprint order and plan a meet-and-greet event for my Facebook fans and their neighbors, hopefully getting more followers as a result. I ran a very successful Facebook ad campaign in December and nearly doubled my number of fans as a result, so I will probably fund one of those again soon to coincide with my event.

Things I could use help with and/or advice on:

  1. What kind of camera can I get for between $150-$200 that works well in low-light settings? Does it even exist?
  2. What kind of event should I plan? I had the idea of setting up a table in one or two locations within my zip code (most likely one in Lincoln Square and one in Albany Park) and handing out donuts and business cards. Does anyone do promotional events regularly? Do you have any tips for getting the attention of passers-by?

Ironically, I’ve been too busy promoting my site to spend the time I need to be actually generating content. It’s been a slow past few weeks for my site, but I am lining up some interviews and meeting coverage for stories for the coming days. Thanks to everyone for your support of this project! I wish I could find a way to make it my full-time job.

New Year’s Resolutions: 2013

I didn’t really post any new year’s resolutions last year, so I don’t have any to reflect on this time. But, I’m still optimistic about 2013 and hoping it brings us all good health and success. Or at least not any more doctor’s appointments than we absolutely must have.

Resolutions for 2013:

  • Take ASL classes: I’ve been talking about my wish to become a translator for months, so I am finally taking action. Kevin and I are registered for an eight-week beginners’ class, starting Feb. 6. I met our instructor today, who is deaf, and an excellent lipreader and translator.
  • Take fiddle classes at Old Town School of Folk: No action planned on this one yet, but the school is right there in our neighborhood, and conveniently next door to The Grafton, my favorite neighborhood pub. You can rent instruments at Old Town, and a friend recently told me that for every class you DO rent, you earn yourself a credit toward the purchase of your own instrument from their store. Can’t beat that. I’ve never learned to play an instrument before, aside from failed piano lessons at an early age, but I am encouraged by my musical cousins as well as my friend Brianne, who is adventurous enough to take classes in whatever she may be interested in at the moment, and be fine with whatever does or does not come of it.
  • Perform in a local live-lit event: I’ve been interested in Chicago’s live literature scene since first learning about it this past summer. There are so many opportunities to get up in front of an audience and read a personal essay, and I am absolutely terrified of the idea of doing so. But I am determined to do it at least once in 2013. I have several essays in various states of completion and I have no more excuses.
  • Put more money into savings: This is on every New Year’s Resolutions List I’ve ever made. Why is saving so hard for me to do? Hopefully it will be easier this year without all of 2012’s hospital bills.
  • Lose 15-20 lbs this year: I joined a private group of Facebook friends, and we’re all motivating each other to stick to our fitness goals. I also have free classes waiting for me at both Bloom Yoga here in the square and at a gym in Lakeview, so I am looking forward to taking advantage of those. I start Level 1 Yoga at Bloom on Saturday.
  • Blog more: 2012 was about as infrequently documented as the latter half of 2011. Naturally I blame Kevin, because I’ve had a little less time on my hands for posting since we started dating. But I do think it’s important to take time for myself to write every week.

Do you have any aspirations for 2013 to share?