Interview with Jessica from Chronically Vintage.

Although there are so many vintage bloggers, few have captured my attention as firmly as Jessica Cangiano.  Jessica’s blog, Chronically Vintage, is a visual delight of gorgeous photographs and excellent treasures from yesteryear.  Each post is accompanied by a lyrical write-up that is always a pleasure to read.

1940s vintage navy blue dress and hat, cranberry tights, at the Penticton Rose Garden_6

In addition to her stunning blog, Jessica also runs an etsy store, also named Chronically Vintage,  which stocks a wide array of vintage goodies.  Many of the items from this store have been on my wish-list for ages.

Jessica kindly allowed me to interview her about blogging, running an online store and, of course, vintage clothing!

What prompted you to begin blogging? 
My blog, Chronically Vintage, sprang to life in April 2009 at a time when I was going through an especially rough spell on the health front (I’ve been severely chronically ill and partially disabled since I was 18 years old with more than a dozen different chronic medical conditions) and was strongly feeling at the time like folks, and as well as even myself sometimes, were just defining me by my health problems and not seeing me for the full, vibrant person with a plethora of different interests that I was/am. One of those interests that had always been especially near and dear to my heart was vintage fashion and really anything to do with history (especially mid-twentieth century history).
I’d been wearing vintage clothing since I was 15 (I’m 30 now) and studying topics pertaining to vintage for as far back as I could remember, so it seemed like a natural topic to launch a blog about. I’d already been following and commenting on some other early vintage blogs that proceeded mine and I knew that, at the time, it was a niche was a rapid following, that helped to encourage me as well.
I named my blog as I did because I decided it was high time I was defined by my love of vintage, not my medical issues and you know what, it worked! I’ve been “chronically vintage” ever since and the positive changes it’s made in my life have truly been too numerous to ever count. I wrote my first post late one evening in mid-April 2009 and haven’t looked back since! 🙂

– What is your favourite thing about blogging?
There are so very many things that I adore about blogging, but I would say that two of the very top contenders for me are: The challenge and reward of blogging. There have been many times when I came dangerously close to throwing in the proverbial towel on blogging because of my health, but ultimately I each time I decided to hang in there and am so glad that I persevered. I adore writing and the cathartic, creative outlet that blogging gives me, so I hope that I’m able to keep doing so, no matter what challenges (health or otherwise) life throws my way for a very long time to come. The second thing is the friendships that I have made over the years with many amazing, inspiring, caring, and thoroughly lovely bloggers around the world that have come into my life as a direct result of my blog. Some of these folks, even though I haven’t met most of them in person yet, have become best friends and people that I care about deeply. This side of blogging is such a blessing, as well as being a very encouraging reason to keep at ‘er (writing new posts, I mean) year after year.

Black and pink 1950s floral circle skirt, Grey Freddies of Pinewood cardigan in Kelowna (5)
– Earlier this year, you opened your own etsy store.  What motivated you to open Chronically Vintage?
Wonderful question, Vanessa, thank you for asking me about my eponymously named Etsy shop. Having loved vintage for my whole life and been a regular customer of it for more than half that time, the desire to open my own vintage shop was one that sprang to life fairly early on. Unfortunately I live in a small town that – while awesome in many ways – seriously lacks a vintage scene or the customer base needed to, in all likelihood, keep a physical shop in business, so I after several years of toying with the idea of opening an online store, I decided to do so at the start of 2014. Once I set the ball in motion there, I worked like a madwoman, burning the candle at both ends for five months straight so that I could launch in May of this year. I wanted to get my shop up before the sweltering summer heat hit, so that’s why opening in May was quite important to me.
I’m motivated by many things, including my own passion for all things vintage, that of other members of the vintage community, and a desire to see vintage items – which I view as absolute treasures of the past no matter if we’re talking a $10 plastic necklace or a $10,000 ruby ring – hopefully go to great hopes where they’ll continue to be loved, appreciated and preserved for many more years to come.

– Where do you source the items for your shop?  
Though vintage items, especially clothing, is fairly hard to come by around these Canadian small town parts, between local finds (particularly at auctions and from antique dealers), working with a small number of very trusted consignees throughout the province, and traveling to larger cities across Western Canada on buying trips every now and then, I’m able to keep my virtual shelves stocked and absolutely adore the process of sourcing items for my Etsy shop.

– What is the most challenging thing about running your own online store?
For me this a single answer with two equal parts: not having enough energy/positive days on the health front and hours in the day to get to everything in a given day/week/month that I would ideally like to. I put a lot of time into my listings, including using a professional photography set up to shot the images for my listings (I take all the snaps for them myself, which thankfully I can pull on my background as a commercial/product photographer to help me with), and I know that I don’t technically have to do that (and that I could list more items in the same time frame if I didn’t), but it’s of the utmost importance to me that I’m detailed and professional in all that I do with my shop, so I doubt I’ll ever change there.
I try to list new items multiple times a month and have gradually building up my inventory numbers there since opening my shop. I’ve been averaging in the range of 230 – 270 items in stock at any given moment in recent months and look forward to bringing that number up to 300, then 350, then 400, and beyond, hopefully all in 2015.

Edwardian inspired outfit featuring a 1980s does 40s dress
– If you had to pick a favourite decade for vintage clothing and decor, which would you choose?

Always and forever, this will be a two-way tie for me between the 1940s and the 50s. These are the decades that have spoken to me most strongly since I was a very small child and which my own vintage wardrobe is based around. Though I never sugar coat those decades, I do love to celebrate their positive points, which very much includes the gorgeous, feminine, and very elegant fashions that were prevalent throughout both.

– What is your most prized item in your vintage collection?

 

Without a doubt, the most prized vintage items that I own are the very small number of garments and accessories that a dear relative blessed me with that belonged to some of our family members (including her own mom), all of whom lived in Dawson City, Yukon, where my maternal grandma and her family hailed from (my great-grandpa went north for the Klondike gold rush and though he didn’t strike it rich, he loved life in the Yukon so much that he stayed put, raised a large family, and was a pillar of the community until his passing in the mid-1940s). Very, very few people on either side of my family held onto any antique or vintage items, so that makes these pieces all the more special and poignant to me. I will treasure them for my whole life and truly hope I have a child/children or nieces/nephews of my own to pass them along to one day.

 


 

 

I want to extend a sincere “thank you” to Jessica for taking the time to answer these questions.  She’s a very busy woman, so I truly appreciate that she was able to give such thoughtful answers.  It’s been wonderful to have this opportunity to give you all such a warm introduction to one of my favourite bloggers, and I do hope that you’ll pop on over to Jessica’s blog and esty store to take a peep.

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Getting back on track after a break

Hello gorgeous! I’ve been away from my blog for an entire week because Miss Fairchild and her gaggle of gorgeous girls have been staying with me.  Rather than try to carve out time for blogging, I scheduled a bunch of posts and stepped away from the computer.  I had an awesome time chilling out with the Fairchild clan and recharging a bit.  But now they’ve headed back to the city and it’s time for me to get back into blogging.  And cleaning.  And dealing with the pile-up of etsy orders that have accumulated.

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It can be mighty overwhelming to try to get back into work after a break.  Here’s how I do it.

Clean like a mad woman

When I’ve gotten a bit behind with work, the first thing I like to do is clean my house from top to bottom.  The physical activity energizes me and gives my brain a bit of a rest.  I find it really hard to work on blogging or crafting when my house is messy, so getting the whole place shiny and fresh is my first order of business.

Do a brain dump

After a while away from work, my mind tends to start swirling with all the tasks that need to be done.  I start feeling overwhelmed with the load of emails to be replied to, packages to be sent, blog posts to write and bills to be paid.  It’s enough to drive a girl into paralysis!

My solution is to have a ‘brain dump”.  I take a clean sheet of paper and a pen and I start writing down everything that I need to do.  Every. Single. Thing.  Big tasks and small tasks.  Don’t try to prioritize them, just get them all down on paper.  Doing this exercise really helps to clear my mind and gives me a bit more focus.

Schedule like your life depends on it.

After your brain dump, you’ll have a pieces of paper covered in scribbled notes.  Rather than use this as a demented to-do list, take out your planner or calendar and start scheduling those tasks.  Break them down and figure out when you’ll have time to complete each one.  Take note of any deadlines and prioritize your tasks accordingly.

Set three major goals a day

Rather than trying to do All The Things at once, I like to set three major goals each day.  These are the three things that I must do before the day is over.  Three is a do-able number for me, but you might only want to set a single task each day, or you may feel up to doing four or five.  I try to do those three tasks first, if possible.  That way they’re done and dusted and I can consider any additional work I get done a bonus.

Recognize your limits.

Go easy on yourself.  You won’t be able to catch up on your work all at once.  It might take a few days or even a couple of weeks until you feel like you’re totally back on track.  If you try to push yourself too hard, you’ll feel exhausted and your break will have been pointless.

 

It’s so important to give yourself a rest each day and don’t try to over-extend yourself.  Be kind to yourself and feel confident in the fact that you’ve got a plan, and you’ll be back on track in no time if you stick to it.

 

How do you get back on track after a break?

New year’s resolutions update: October

This month I’d resolved to branch out with my writing.  This isn’t a resolution that I’d expected to accomplish all in one month, but rather one that I’d work on throughout the year and then reflect on when October rolled around.

My aim was to stretch myself outside my comfort zone a little and write more about things that are personal or controversial.  I wanted to practice putting my opinions out there more often and publishing posts that touched on issues that are more sensitive.  I have a lot to say on topics such as mental illness, self care and body image and these in particular were areas that I wanted to write about.

DSCF8548I think I’ve done pretty well so far.  At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about what it’s like to suffer from emetophobia, and I got a huge response from my readers.  This really encouraged me to write more challenging and deeper posts.

An email from a diet company asking me to promote their products on my blog prompted me to write about my feelings about diet products and the diet industry in general.  I also wrote a post about learning to love my crooked smile.

When my nine-year relationship ended this year, I went through a huge amount of turmoil and pain.  I had to move out of the home that we’d been making for ourselves and into a flat on my own.  I went through a real self-esteem crisis.  I also had to learn to romance myself. And each of those experiences prompted me to write a blog post.  Each of those posts got a great response from my readers, and so I feel heartened that I can write about difficult and personal things without experiencing a backlash.

One of the most rewarding things about writing these posts have been the emails from people all around the world telling me how much I’ve helped them.  Sometimes, when you’re going through a rough time it helps so much just to know that there is someone else who is going through a similar situation.  I feel truly happy to know that my writing has brought a little sparkle of hope into a couple of lives.

So I think I’ve done pretty well with this resolution.  I’m interested in continuing to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and write about some of the other things that are important to me, but which are tricky to put out there into the world.

So, you want to write an e-book…

In the four years since I started blogging I’ve written four e-books.  I wrote the first one almost by accident.  I had been planning to compile a series of blog posts about second-hand shopping.  While I was in the process of writing the posts that would make up the series I came across an interesting article about zines, and I had the idea to make one of my own.  Well, that idea didn’t work out when I realised that the cost of printing and distributing the zine was going to be more than I could afford, and I’d have to charge about $15 for each copy just to break even.  I wanted to find a way to sell the content without having to charge an arm and a leg, and I didn’t want my overseas readers to have to pay through the nose for postage.  The idea of an e-book just made sense.

When I talk to people about my e-books, I often get the reaction, “I wish I could do that” or “How do you even write an e-book?”.  The answer is longer than I could give in one sentence, so I’ve decided to dedicate an entire post to the topic.

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What would I write about?

You can write an e-book on just about any topic.  There are always people who are eager to learn.  Most of the hits I get on my blog are people looking for tutorials or advice on certain topics.  As such, all four of my e-books are instructional.  I like sharing my knowledge with other people and helping to answer their questions.

If you want to write an instructional e-book, think about the things you’re interested in and what you’re good at.  Have you got any special skills?  Have you gotten through a difficult experience?  Do you have specialist knowledge in a particular area?  If so, then those things might be good to write about.  Remember that the things that come easily to you might be more difficult for other people.   Aim to share your special knowledge or enthusiasm with people who are interested in learning.

An e-book doesn’t have to be instructional.  If you’ve got a head filled with incredible stories or poems they can absolutely be published in an e-book.  You can write about anything that takes your fancy, whether real or fictional.  Let your imagination run wild.  Chances are that if you’re reading this post, you might already have an idea brewing.

How do I go about writing a whole book?

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

And so it is with writing.  Although writing a book seems like a huge tasks, it’s really just a bunch of little tasks lumped together.  You just need to nut out what needs to be done, and start working through it a little bit at a time.

To begin with, I like to make a master list of all the tasks that need to be done to get my e-book ready to sell.  I write the tasks in no particular order, as they pop into my head and then begin to decide on a time-line for completing them.  My list includes tasks like:

– Survey friends/ readers about what topics they’d like to read about or questions they’d like answered.

– Make a list of the topics to be covered in the book.

– Write a chapter on each topic

– Edit chapters

– Give chapters to friends or colleagues to be proof-read

– Format the chapter headings and table of contents

– List the file in my etsy store

– Promote the book on my blog.

Your to-do list will look different depending on the kind of book you’re writing.  But I find this kind of master list is really helpful.

Now, you just have to do the things on the list! This seems really overwhelming, but you can do it.  Just chip away at it as best you can.  You might aim to finish one chapter a week by carving out an hour a day to write.  Break the tasks down into even smaller pieces if you want, and try to set aside some time on a regular basis to work on it.  If you begin to feel discouraged by all the work that’s left to be done, take a look at what you’ve already accomplished.  Remind yourself that it takes a while to finish such a big project and try to do at least a small task to keep your momentum going.  Be gentle on yourself and keep telling yourself that even the tiniest action begins you a step closer to being finished.

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Getting the word out there

Once your book is finished, it’s time to start telling people about it.  If you’re intending to sell your book, you’ll need to do a bit of self-promotion to get the word out about it.

If you have a blog of your own, this is probably the best place to start with promotion.  Write a blog post to tell your readers about your book.  Email your subscribers.  Utilize your social networking profiles by providing links to your work.  Remember to pace yourself and don’t flood your Twitter feed with self-promoting tweets.

It can also be really helpful to get other bloggers to help you spread the word.  Write to some of your favourite bloggers and offer to send them copies of your e-book to review.  I’ve done this in the past and I’ve found that it’s a great way to get the word out there and attracted buyers.

Don’t underestimate the power of your real-life social networks.  Tell your mates about what you’ve written. Even if they might not be interested in buying it, they might know someone who will be.

Choosing a marketplace

The distribution of an e-book can be tricky.  There are lots of different sites and online store platforms where you can sell your work, but they all have their own pros and cons.  I have two different sites that I use to distribute my e-books.

Firstly, I use my etsy store.  Etsy is really simple to use and they charge only a very small fee for listings.  At present it only costs twenty cents per item (regardless of quantity) to list items on etsy.  Etsy also allow you to upload the file for sale, so that buyers can download it to their computer as soon as they’ve paid for it.  This saves a lot of messing around.  Etsy offers safe payment options and is a very reputable marketplace.

I also use a site called e-junkie.  I like e-junkie because they also allow you to upload your files so that they can be instantly downloaded by buyers.  Once you’ve created your product listing, you can get sale buttons to add to your blog.  I chose this because I wanted to be able to sell my e-books directly from my blog, so that my readers didn’t have to go through etsy to buy my books if they didn’t want to.  E-junkie is very easy to use and is relatively cheap.  I pay $5 per month for my basic account.

While publishing your own e-book is a lot of work, it’s a huge achievement once you’ve finished it.  If you’re thinking about writing a book of your own, I say go for it!  What have you got to lose?

If you’ve got any more questions about writing or selling e-books let me know.  I’d be happy to answer them!

Any questions?

New years resolutions update: July.

At the beginning of the year I made 11 New years resolutions: one for each month (except December, because I’m always flat-out at the end of the year).  Each month I recap how went with achieving my goal for that month.

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This month, my resolution was to finish a big writing project.  I’ve been working on a project for my blog for the last eight months or so, and I had decided that July would be the month that I would finish it.

Well, I failed spectacularly.  I’ve nearly finished the actual writing part, but I haven’t even begun to tackle the task of editing, formatting and all that junk.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve really stalled with this project.  The first is that I’m struggling with my separation from Ross.  It’s been a very rough month for me emotionally and I just haven’t felt up to the task of working on my project.  I didn’t want to force myself to work when my heart wasn’t in it.  I knew that I just wouldn’t produce my best work in that way, so I’ve kind of put the project on the back burner for the time being.

Another reason why I’ve struggled to gain momentum with this project is that I’m having second thoughts about my blog.  For the past three years, I’ve worked really hard on my blog.   My goal was to be able to generate an income stream from my website.  Ideally, I wanted to be able to make enough to live off, but I would have settled for a little bit of pocket money.  Over the last month, I’ve come to realise that it isn’t going to happen.  While I do make some money from my blog, I don’t make anywhere near enough to achieve that goal.  I get the occasional sponsored post, a smattering of sidebar ads and every now and then someone buys one of my e-books.  The truth is that I’m exhausted from the amount of effort I’m putting into fuelling the business side of my blog.  The effort I’m putting in is disproportionate to the amount of cash I get out of it.  And it’s really wearing me down.  So I’ve decided that I need to put the brakes on when it comes to blogging.

I’m not going to stop blogging.  No way!  I adore writing in this space and connecting with people from all over the world.  I’m truly grateful to all the readers that visit every day and leave beautiful comments.  I’m also grateful for all those readers who have shown their support by buying e-books or sponsoring my blog.  But the truth is I’m finding it really hard to put the effort into creating yet another product that I fear will generate only a handful of sales.

So that’s where I’m at right now.  I will probably keep working on the project, and eventually it will be released for sale.  I’m just not prepared to push myself so hard to churn it out while I’m not really up to the task of producing my best work.

So this month’s resolution was a bit of a flop.  But I did achieve some other things this month, like cutting my hair and taking some steps towards getting my driver’s licence.  So even though I didn’t reach the goal I’d set, I did some other useful things instead.

5 ways to make blogging easier

 When you’re juggling a day job and blogging it can be really hard to fit everything in.  And that can be stressful.  But it doesn’t have to be.

Over my three-and-a-bit years as a blogger, I’ve struggled with finding a work/life/blog balance.  But I’ve found some nifty little tricks that make the process a whole lot easier.  Even though I now have less time for blogging than I ever did before, I manage to get a lot more done.  How is that possible?  Let me tell you:

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1. Automate.

Automating your blogging means that you can be flexible about when you tackle your blogging tasks.  Scheduling your posts in advance is easy and is a huge time-saver.  It gives you the option of sitting down and writing a bunch of posts whenever you’ve got the time or motivation.  It helps you to maintain a regular posting schedule.  This is really important because it gives your readers a sense of consistency, which will encourage them to visit your blog.

Nowadays you can schedule so much more than just your posts.  Sites like Hootsuite allow you to draft your social media updates and set a date and time for them to be published.  This makes promoting your blog posts effortless.  You can also use services like Mailchimp to schedule emails.

Whenever possible, utilize tools that allow you to automate your blogging.  It leaves you with so much more time to spend on other important things.

2. Keep a running list of ideas

One of the toughest parts of blogging is coming up with post ideas.  When you’re sitting at your computer and that blank page is mocking you, it can be bloody hard to think of an original idea.

At other times, you’ll probably notice that your mind is overflowing with ideas for posts.  I find that this often happens when I’m away from my computer.  You don’t want these ideas to go to waste, so keep a running list of ideas.  Whenever you come up with an idea for a blog post, jot it down.  Then, when you’re trying to think of something to write about, refer back to your list.  Simple!

3. Come up with an editorial calendar

Another hurdle to blogging is deciding which idea to write about on any  given day.  An editorial calendar can help with this.  Plan out all your blog posts for the next week or month.  Make a note of whether there is any background work (such as taking photographs) which will need to be completed before you can do the post.  Having a plan really takes a lot of the guesswork out of writing your posts.

An editorial calendar is also a great way to make sure that the content on your blog is varied.  If you’ve got a plan, you’re less likely to accidentally write two very similar posts in the same week.  If you usually like to post a certain type of article on a particular day (such as my Things I Love Thursdays) a plan will help you to stick to this.  An editorial calender also helps you to schedule your posts and save time.

4. Do like tasks at the same time

This is one of the biggest time-savers for me.  I waste so much time if I flit around from task to task.  If I plan to complete a batch of similar tasks at once, I get so much more done.  For example, if I’ve got a bunch of photos to be taken for my blog and etsy store, I’ll do it all in one afternoon so that I don’t have to faff about setting up by camera over and over.  I’ll write all my etsy listings in one go, answer emails at a set time and so on.  Save time by completing similar tasks in batches.

5. Schedule time for blogging.

If your blogging time is limited, make sure that every second of it counts.  If possible, set aside some time each day to spend on your blog.  Even if it’s only a half hour a day, that’s still something.  Plan exactly what you’re going to work on in each blogging session and try your best to stick to it.  You’re going to be more productive and on target if you’ve got a plan.

What are your tricks for making blogging easier?

Meet my July 2013 sponsors

Hey there gorgeous!  Are you in the mood to meet my incredible sponsors this month?  I’ll bet you are.  This month I’ve got two lovely shops to share with you, and I just know that you’re going to love them.

Meet Teresa from Bess Georgette Vintage

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“Bess Georgette is an Australian online store of unique vintage fashion and accessories. Bess Georgette founder Teresa Prowse offers a seasonal selection of Australian and overseas vintage as well as your dose of vintage inspiration and things Teresa finds lovely.”

 

You can get in touch with Teresa via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

 

Some of my favourites from Teresa’s store:

– I can totally see myself re-enacting the final scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in this 60’s belted trench coat.

 

– This 1950’s pink wool pencil skirt would be ideal for channelling your inner Joan Holloway.

 

– This adorable 1960’s handbag is a favourite of mine because of it’s name.  Teresa names all of her vintage goodies, and she’s dubbed this one “Little Bit” which was my nickname in high school!

 

 

Meet Zoe of Zoe River

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” Making beautiful pieces for people to wear is something I absolutely love doing.  The jewellery I design and make is diverse and ever changing!

My signature style would be my Japanese paper jewelry. I love to make my own unique beads. I use traditional Japanese Yuzen or Chiyogami paper and decoupage wooden beads with the beautiful patterns. This is quite time consuming, but so worth it as the effect is absolutely lovely!

While my pieces are bold, unique and sometimes quirky, they are also pretty and feminine.

Each piece has been designed by me, and created with passion. I love to make jewellery that looks striking and beautiful from a distance, and then closer up reveals quality and details. I aim for each of my pieces to make you look and feel like the treasure that you are. ♥

I also love to receive special requests and I will work with you to create exactly what you are looking for.”

 

You can also get in touch with Zoe on her Facebook page.

 

My favourites from Zoe’s store:

– These Japanese Fan earrings are stunning!  I would wear them with a kimono-inspired dress or use them to jazz up a plain outfit.

 

– Zoe has an amazing collection of rings for sale, but I think this vintage black glass one is my all-time fave!

 

-Did you know that I love snails?  There’s just something really cute about them that appeals to me.  So you can see why I’d want to wear this snail brooch all winter and well into spring.

 

I want to say a huge thankyou to my sponsors for this month.  If you’d like to join my sponsor team in August, be sure to get in touch with me.  I’d love to have you on board.