An Electric Buzz

Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography
Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

Little did I know, four years ago, when I sat in my friend Angie’s kitchen, this is  what would happen.

As I sat on a stool at her large kitchen island, and our kids flitted about making messes here and there, we chatted. We talked about kids and families. About moving to the suburbs (me) and back to Chicago (her).

She put a frozen pizza or some other kid-friendly food in the oven. We chatted some more.

We talked about writing (mine) and photography (hers). We talked about creativity and energy and how freaking tired we were all the time.

We fed the kids. We cleaned up after the kids. We yelled at the kids to stop yelling. (Parenting is nothing if not full of hypocritical irony.) But in between the yelling and the feeding and the cleaning, we hatched a plan.

Because aren’t some of the best things planned in the In Between?

Our idea was simple: Angie would send me a photo or two, and I would write a blog post based on it. As a new blogger, I was looking for inspiration and ways to get the creative juices flowing. As a photographer, she was looking for new ways to get her work seen.

I had no idea what our project– the Photo Inspiration Challenge, as it is aptly called – would turn into, if anything. But I was eager to work with my good friend, even if it was in some small way. We both understood the challenges that come with creative work and raising a family. We understood the insecurities that come along with putting yourself and your work out there. While collaborating together, we could help each other. At least that was the idea.

And while I didn’t have any lofty expectations, something also told me this might open doors. But I had no idea just how many doors the project would open.

Our project is going on four years now. And it has, without a doubt, opened countless doors in me. Angie’s work is extraordinary, and it is fascinating to see where a photograph takes me. Sometimes the words will spring onto the page almost as soon as I see the photo. Other times, it takes weeks for me to figure out what I want to say or the words that end up the page are a surprise even to me as I am writing them. But whatever the case, there is an indescribable, almost electric, buzz that surrounds the finished product – the kind of buzz made when people come together to create something bigger than the sum total of its parts.

What started out as weekly posts has tapered off to…well…whenever-we-get-around-to-it posts, but these are still some of my favorite pieces to write. And our project has moved beyond the virtual walls of this website, as well. Last summer, we led an online creativity workshop, combining photography and writing, and some of her photos inspired essays that were the beginnings of chapters that eventually became part of Open Boxes.

And now (and I am pinching myself a little as I write this), Angie’s photos and my words will come together in a book of their own. A BOOK OF THEIR OWN!

We first started talking about the idea of collaborating on book last fall, and our conversations mostly consisted of questions. What about…? Maybe…? Should we…? Could we…?

Well, now we know. Yes is the answer. YES.

Over the past several months, we talked and brainstormed, researched and polished, tweaked and refined. And then yesterday afternoon – in between feeding and cleaning and shuffling kids home from school – we both signed a publishing contract for a new coffee table book featuring her photographs and my words.

Over the upcoming weeks, there will be some more talking and brainstorming, researching and polishing, tweaking and refining. But that electric buzz is definitely there.

More electric than ever. Filled with energy and hope and, above all, gratitude.

Gratitude for you, dear readers, for reading and commenting and supporting our work. Gratitude for 220 Publishing for making this coffee table book happen. And gratitude for my dear friend and photographer extraordinaire Angie McMonigal.

Thank you. Thank you.

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