Next Portsmouth speaker

Amy VanHaren

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January 25, 8:30am • The Music Hall Loft • part of a series on Surreal

Our interview with November #CMrestart speaker Alfonso Fabrega.

Tell us one thing about RESTART in your life?

When you’re doing creative work of any kind there are points in the process where you think, “I could keep working this to death,” the point of no return, of catastrophic failure.

You can either ship it or start over.

It’s an unwritten point that you have to come to terms with. I think how people deal with it, learn from those critical points, the same thing happens in life.

Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person?

Music. I am a nonstop music listener. I am surprised by little events rather than things I actively look for. While I get inspired by all that’s around me I also have a designer mind and it’s hard to balance that with the critiquing all around.

I think the world is an insanely interesting place, even at its worst.

If you could open a door to anywhere past, present, or future where and why?

I feel like in the past there was an effort to be more than animal. To create societies more than just an individual. It seems to be, everything is about ‘me’- what  is good for me- not caring that it’s a giant effort. The past is more deliberate, you had to think more.

Anything new & exciting in your field?

Things like AI and VR in my field are going to change things in a crazy way. Right now it’s a gimmick right now, they are like toys, but I really think in like 10 years that’s where a lot of people are going to be. It’s good to think about that now.

Any advice to anyone just starting out in your field?

Shelve your fears of not making it huge with money because that’s not the important thing. There is so much opportunity.

Money isn’t the end all. I believe if you’re using that to guide you, you are headed down a lifetime of depression. The world is so open. The whole 10000 hours thing is totally true. Find something that you love and don’t expect to be brilliant at first. It’s years that will hone your craft.

What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

I’d like to see Dylan Haigh for a local and James Weinberg who lives in Massachusetts.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.

Our interview with October #cmHONESTY speaker Elisa Winter-Holben of Winter Holben Architecture & Design

Tell us one thing about Honesty in your life?

For me it’s my approach to life. 

Honesty is trying to be authentic and honest in how I present myself to my family, to my village, and also in my work in design. 

Trying to bring my own personal truth in what I love and what I care about in my work and my life. 

Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person?

I find a lot of inspiration from other designers and following them. A lot of the new contemporary installation art and things that are going on in places like Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art inspire me. The diversity of creative work right now is so rich. I think there is a lot of inspiration to be had in various places all over. There’s a lot of new ideas, there’s a lot of people working in creative fields and also I get a lot of inspiration from my children as well. They just come up with these ideas that are so different. 

I love that point of view that children have. They are sort of at their peak in their creative life. 

Anything new & exciting in your field?

What excites me and the reason why we founded our multidisciplinary firm is that I think traditional fields in design are starting to morph. 

The lines are blurry between disciplines, so the crossover work that meshes is architecture with graphic design and graphic design with experience design, fine arts with science. 

The collaboration of mashups within design thinking worlds is the future of design.

Our world is changing fast. It’s not just that the world is changing, it’s that the rate of change is faster so in response to that in the way we design for the current world we kind of have to rethink that. Be more rapid with our ideas and bring in more experts to collaborate and think of new ways to approach things. New ways to approach reaching consumers, new ways to approach the quality of life for people. It really requires a lot of different points of views working together. In those crossovers is where there is a real opportunity for innovation with architects, designers, engineers, storytellers, writers…all of it…can happen.

If you could open to a door to anywhere past, present, or future where and why?

The future would be super interesting because it’s yet to be seen. 

What keeps me motivated right now and keeps me excited is the thought of what future opportunities in design that our firm will have. 

It’s hard to know who is going to approach you with an opportunity to design a sculpture, or an amazing building, or an educational center, you just don’t know and those opportunities come to you in your life to some degree. 

Any advice to anyone just starting out in your field?

Take advantage of every opportunity to make it something that’s valuable to you and your career. 

We don’t always get our dream job right out of the gate. 

We don’t always know ultimately what we are going to do. I never really thought I’d have a design firm. 

What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Amy Vanharen - the founder of pumpspotting llc. 

Well Elisa, you might just be in luck with Amy Vanharen - stay tuned! Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography. .

Our interview with August #cmCOMMUNITY speaker Jennifer Moore of RecoverGirl Sustainable Style

PKX: Tell us one thing about community in your life:Jennifer: It’s something that I heard people talking about, building community. I always sort poo-pooed it and thought it was silly talk. 

I didn’t realize until after the fact that I was doing just that: building community around sustainable design and fashion. 

It was something that only when I was asked to do this talk that I reflected back and saw that that’s what I had been doing all along. 

PKX: Where do you find inspiration as a creative person?

Jennifer: I can’t get enough to consume. 

I am just consuming all the time. 

I listen to podcasts, I read blogs, I have a ginormous Pinterest account, magazines, especially foreign magazines, newspapers, non-fiction books, the news, and biographies. 

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

Jennifer: Project Upcycle, which is a runway event all about low environmental impact and high design, is the most interesting thing I am working on. The first year was a success so we are doing it again. 

Other than that, in general women’s involvement in fashion. The first wave was this body positive movement. 

Women with curves were reaching an audience and feeling supported and now There is another wave of older women who are doing the same thing. 

There continues to be support for the body positive movement and the age positive movement. People who have been left out for decades now feel like they can participate in the party. 

The body positive movement is democratizing the fashion world. Everyone can play. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, past, present, or future, where and why?

Jennifer: As a women it’s not a good idea to go backward so I would go to the future. 

We are still gaining more rights, I don’t want to go backwards. 

PKX: Any advice to anyone just starting out in your field?

Jennifer: Even though blogging sounds like something from a decade ago, if you start something and keep at it, you’re training yourself and making your community aware that this is something that you care about and know something about. Start and keep writing!

PKX: What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Jennifer: Lindy West​, ​she is a body positive writer and working for the New York Times. Other than her, I am most interested in young people who are interested in going into design and fashion design and have a sustainability focus. I want to hear from them because I feel like they can educate all of us on how we can change​ our​​ economy to support them so we don't​ have to go elsewhere to get what we need. We can have it all here and it can be more local,​ sustainable​, and​ better quality.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe.

Our interview with July #cmINTENTION speaker Christine Kelly.

PKX: Tell us one thing about intention in your life:Christine: It has shown up when I’ve bought houses. I had been looking for this one house in Winthrop, Massachusetts. I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted; hardwood floors, fireplace, off-street parking, garage, wainscoting, windows. The very next day the realtor called and said to come see this house. It was exactly what I had written down. 

By having a clear picture of what I wanted, it showed up. To me that is setting the intention of what I want then it is showing up.

It’s a very interesting concept. Intention links in my head to law of attraction and similar ideas. Also, this year my intention has been to do as many speaking events as I can, and I have been doing many more. The minute I had that intention in my head, opportunities showed up..PKX: Where do you find inspiration as a creative person?

Christine: I am very good at linking things that other people may not connect. 

Patterns I see in stories, in nature, or a little group of colors that catches my eyes.

It’s very widespread and can come from a lot of places. I like to look at something and see it a little differently. That can spark a whole idea or chain of ideas. It makes some sort of connection in my head.

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

Christine: I’m a hypnotist, and I am a teacher of Neuro-Linguistic programming so any findings in neuroscience are new things in my field. What I find interesting is that they are confirming some of the practices that I and others have been doing. They started doing it first and now neuroscience is confirming how it works. That to me is fascinating. I started off my working life in the medical field, so I am fascinated by that. To me it makes a lot of sense. I like having the science behind what I do, knowing that’s going on and even using it before science catches up. Because of all the technology in our lives stories really touch people. Technology is still a little cold so people respond to stories well. I use a lot of metaphors in the work I do. 

We are all emotional beings even though we have automatic “everything.” We are still humans.

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere, past, present, or future, where and why?

Christine: I might go to the past and I would have been bolder. I would have been a little more creative. I was a little nervous. 

PKX: Any advice to anyone just starting out in your field?


Gather a lot of information and pull out what resonates with you.

If there were two people doing the same thing sitting side by side they would be doing it differently. Your passion, your creativity is going to be felt by whoever you’re dealing with.

PKX: What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Christine: I’d love to see Tony Robbins because of the way he engages with the audience. I want to watch him and analyze his language patterns and watch the response of the people. For a local person, I’d love to see Kathleen Cavalaro, I love to hear her take on things and enjoy the way she sees things.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe.

Our interview with June #CMCRAFT speaker, James Buchanan of Orchard Writing. 

PKX: Tell us one thing about CRAFT in your life.

James:  So as a writer, the craft of writing is about always learning, you’re always trying to get better. 

Even the fundamentals: characterization, scene, setting, dialogue. Dig a little deeper. Even more. What I see as the important piece of being able to dip into your creativity is that you’re able to create something that has value but also something that is not replicable by anyone else. 

When you’re working for a client, you are trying to establish a solution to a problem. 

In my case it goes to the problem that they have a story to tell, but they don’t have the craft of writing to be able to tell it in a little bit of a storyteller. 

My ability is to dig a little deeper. 

The other half of my craft is creating as much value as possible. It’s creating a great compelling story that somebody wants to just read. 

PKX: Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person? 


My inspiration I owe a lot to my clients. 

But when I’m writing “for myself,” I try digging a little deeper and chewing on an idea more deeply to come up with something that somebody else hasn’t already come up with. Something that only I can come up with. That’s when I get published. 

When I don’t get published, it’s because I’m either trying to do something that I hadn’t really fully captured, or trying to write in a style that isn’t really mine. 

PKX: Is there anything new or exciting that’s specific to your writing or in your field? 

James: On the creative nonfiction side, the ghost writing, it’s being able to tell deeper stories that have more meaning. 

And then when it comes to the more straight up fiction, it’s being able to identify the seeds of stories and ideas. 

The big piece right there is anytime that you can help somebody find a deeper sense of happiness, be a little bit better. 

With the Internet now the world is open to you. I got frustrated with trying to do “the New York thing” and so I started looking at publishing and in some outlets in Europe and I’ve had a lot of success there. 

The internet is opening up the way people are accepting people and views from other countries and cultures.

It’s been growing for a long time, but it’s continuing to expand. 

It’s great to talk to editors from Portugal and have that moment of excitement when they’re finding what you’re writing interesting.

PKX:  If you could open a door to anywhere past, present, or future where and why? 

James: Either the1920′s or the 1950′s. Writers were far more appreciated and better compensated.  

Referring back to the other question–it’s hard to make a living as a writer right now. And I’m very, very lucky that I can do it. I know a lot of people who do what I do and they have other jobs and other jobs are their full time jobs and they write because they just enjoy it. 

When I look at the past though, there is a richer appreciation for the art of writing, but also the ability to tell a unique story. 

A lot of publications seem to repeat the same fields and it’s harder to find things that are truly, TRULY inspiring. 

I’m reading right now The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell, which is what the Girls of Corfu on PBS is based. The book series was written in the late forties, early fifties.

I am absolutely drawn into the author’s descriptions of the natural world, his humor, his ability to capture dialogue, the scene setting and so many of those craft elements. 

And so here’s this person who is passed away many years ago and I’m learning my craft from him as well as hearing his voice and seeing the world through his eyes. 

It’s pretty incredible.

PKX: Any advice to anyone starting just starting out as a writer?


Craft. Learn the tools, learn the skills, and then get really, really good at accessing your subconscious. 

All of the deeper stories, the deeper truth, that’s where all of the things that make “you” uniquely you are located. 

In my talk I’m going to talk a little bit about that. 

There’s a lot of interesting research on how the subconscious works. 

Your ability as a writer, or in any craft, to be able to access and dip into the subconscious, is what’s going make your writing more compelling, more interesting, and a higher quality. 

You need to be unique. You need to offer them something that they can’t get from anybody else. 

The way that you do that is through the ability to access your subconscious and dig a little bit deeper into your own. 

PKX: Awesome! What speaker would you like to see at a future PKX? 

James: One I would highly recommend is a local lawyer name Chuck Doleac. He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He’s a nationally recognized expert on ethics and specifically looking at when ethical imperatives collide. Interesting. His big question: If you’re a judge and you’re presiding over a murder trial and it’s a capital case, and you are Catholic or Quaker or have a belief or moral imperative of do not kill; and yet you also have the legal imperative that you’ve sworn fealty to, you must sentence this person to death. How do you do that? How do you work through that? He answers that question. 

Thanks James! Looks like we have some deep digging ahead of us.

Interview by Monte Bohanan  and Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe. 

Our interview with May #CMCOMMITMENT speaker, Jonathan Blakeslee founder & owner of White Heron in Portsmouth NH.

Tell us one thing about commitment in your life?

By committing to things, we are able to move ourselves to places that we initially didn’t think we could get to.    

Is there anything new or exciting in your field?

With White Heron we are getting ready to open a retail tea and record shop attached to the cafe. Simultaneously I am finishing up a musical album under my own name and launching a tea blog. I would like to write a book about tea so this is a good way to get started. 

Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person?

I feel like I find inspiration in the everyday. 

We are surrounded by it if we want to be. It’s just good to be open and stay more present and stay more aware. Not be so addicted to our devices and our habits that we don’t experience the world around us. Everything has potential for inspiration.

If you could open a door to anywhere past, present, or future where and why?

My dad was born in Rio de Janeiro and my grandmother was from Rio de Janeiro and I never was never taught Portuguese but I almost wish I could have a glimpse into my father’s life but especially my grandmother’s life. She was such an amazing human being. She worked for the consulate, she spoke multiple languages, she was musical, she played guitar, piano, and sang. I can ask my dad about it but I really want to see it for myself. I have never been to Brazil, so I guess this is a past and a future thing.  

Any advice to anyone starting out in your field?

It can feel scary. 

Starting White Heron was a massive leap of faith. 

Did I have qualifications for any of it? Not particularly. I was always a really hard worker and had a lot of restaurant experience. If it’s something you’re passionate about, do the research, due diligence is important, don’t jump in blindly. However if it’s something that you really feel passionate about you have to use that to power yourself forward. This new you that you can see, others cannot. They are trying to be caring and protective. If I fall on my face I will only blame myself. If I don’t succeed that’s okay too. 

What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

Yoda would be cool but let me try to think of someone less green. Alan Lightman, author of Einstein’s Dreams. That book had a huge influence on me. I remember the concept in there about potential futures.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi & Monte Bohanan for CreativeMornings PKX. Photography by Kate & Keith Photography.  Photographed at White Heron Coffee & Tea Cafe.

Our interview with April GAME speaker, Nick Mirabello of UROCK Marketing & MassPay.

Tell us one thing about the CreativeMornings #cmGAME in your life?

Although, it’s easier to coach others than myself, there is a fun game one can play when preparing to wake early. The night before when setting the alarm, for instance a 5:30am wake up – don’t just set the alarm for 5:30 because that would be boring instead set it for 5:31, when it goes off in the morning, wake up and say to yourself, “five-thirty-one, let’s have some fun!”  Set a time make a rhyme! It truly can start your day in a refreshing way. Instantly shifts the mind and trains your brain to think positive thoughts when you hear that early alarm. Also, my morning routine is a gratitude game. 

I try to play a game every time I wake up in the morning – to have a better day than I did the day before. 

Naming things in my mind or writing them down in my gratitude journal of things I am grateful for, every morning I read a positive quote, and I think how can I put that message into play today?

Where do you find your inspiration as a creative person?

Mostly interactions with other people, other energy. I have always had the desire to inspire, maximize people’s potential. 

That is the beautiful thing about life. All of us are different; we all have different beliefs, different backgrounds, and different values. 

I try to find the most positive things in people and bring that out. I get inspiration from that. Surrounding myself with people, places, and things I love. That really drives my inspiration. Motivational videos, podcasts, quotes that inspire me and challenge myself to be creative to find where the silver lining is or how to pinpoint optimism when adversity strikes.  

Anything new and exciting in your field?

I have two fields, an entrepreneur field and the company I work for, MassPay where I leave it on the field. The newest endeavor is our wellness division that I have the opportunity to create and lead. Not only internally for our team of 47 employees but also for our clients, we want to provide and offer a wellness division to them. Another is, the ever-growing field of technology – at MassPay we are looking at how we cannot combat it but rather embrace it. 

How can technology and humans get along better together in this next decade and beyond?

If you could open a door to anywhere- past, present, or future where and why?

I used to always gravitate towards the future. I sometimes would want to rush to get there. 

I have realized I need to be more grateful and more present in the present moment. 

It’s also fun to look at the past because you learn from it. The door I will open will be June 2019 when my niece, Destiny will be graduating high school. When she walks across that stage, is handed her diploma, and heads off to college. I think that will be a very special moment for me and my family on many levels. As an uncle to see the joy and emotion from my sister who is amazing, who works extremely hard, and to see Destiny graduate will be so gratifying knowing she will embark on an incredible path for herself. For our youth is our future and I’m excited to see where and how they can shape our next decades.

Any advice to anyone starting out in your field?

Write down your plan, if you write it down it becomes reality. 

Believe in yourself, believe you can do it. Have that mental toughness to block out any negativity. Never give up. Know that any road block or detour you come across is just reminder of how bad you want something. That you may need to recalculate but you will still get to where you want to go. It’s that bow and arrow effect…sometimes we have to pull back to launch forward!

What speaker would you like to see at PKX?

On a local level: Jessica Todd - she has inspired so many people. Herself, her team, her guests, her brand, her story, all of it is compelling and empowering.

On a global level: Simon Sinek, he is all about Starting With Why. He inspires people to do the things that inspire them. Sinek & his team believe in a bright future and our ability to build it together. He gives keynotes, facilitates workshops and develops software that inspires individuals and organizations to live their Why.

Interview by Raya Al-Hashmi for CreativeMorningsPKX. Photographs by Kate&Keith.

On March 23, we are flipping the script and handing the mic over to you! Instead of our usual monthly speaker in March, five speakers from the PKX community will get five minutes exactly on the topic of COURAGE.So be brave, now’s your chance. If you’ve always wanted to speak at CM, have an idea or a story that you think the rest of the community would love to hear, or have just lost a really awesome bet, send us your best speaker proposal.Submit 60-sec video (preferred) or short written pitch that includes: title, how it relates, & broad outline of talk to portsmouth@creativemornings.comSubmission Deadline: FEB 23rdCan’t wait to see all of the creativity flooding our inbox!

Laurie-Beth Robbins

Our interview with January ANXIETY speaker, Laurie-Beth Robbins of Smart Octopus Cookie.

PKX: Tell us about your journey to being the expert on the ANXIETY conversation?

Laurie-Beth: So my story begins in rural Vermont. 

When I was 6 years old I asked my parents for frog legs & octopus salad to eat.

They didn’t know where that came from, and nor did I! Something within me asked. But to their credit, they fostered that interest. They went above and beyond with their humble, middle income to find these ingredients for me and expose me to that. I chose my parents well. 

Fast forward, and I got into competitive public speaking at school. I would barter with my parents to be taken to gourmet restaurants for winning the tournaments. I won, and they took me. So the food and the speaking started early. 

Food and speaking were my haven from brutal bullying at school. Anxiety was an early theme for me. 

If not for my wonderful parents, I probably wouldn’t be here. 

My tormenters made a very confident woman out of me, but not until later in life. 

We do carry our scars for a long time. 

But public speaking was always my zone. When I was in my zone, I couldn’t hear the bullies. I’m 150% in my zone while speaking and it’s my true love. I love that person in the corner of the room - if I can reach that person with my speaking, then it’s all worth it. 

PKX: Talk to us about the topic Anxiety a bit more.


I was taken in Greece as a 28 year old by Balkan thugs and I was to be sold into the sex trade. 

But there was no Liam Neeson to arrive on cue. I saved my own ass and in a very long way I made it home. I was raped by two men. 

I have looked the eyes of Hell in the face, and in that moment I began to realize that we all have the same energy. 

So even though I make videos about smoked lobster and decadence, I do know anxiety all to well. 

I do know the ultimate struggle. 

The difference is I was raised by probably the most upbeat people in the world, and to their credit, they helped me choose the good in life. 

You have to go looking for the good in every single situation. 

We have a choice every day to send it in a certain direction, and most people fail that test and they send it in a really negative direction.

Anxiety is a very powerful energy.  

The same energy and the same power that is in that stress, can give us the same prowess to correct it and have something wonderful. It’s a matter of choice. 

We get in our own way. We have pity parties. We decide we want to be anxious.

We feel scared, and we stay that way. But that same dynamic feeling that is giving you the panic is ENERGY. That’s powerful. If you use it in a positive, good, direction, you can walk out of here feeling better than you ever did. But it’s a choice. 

Not everyone wants to be around strong, upbeat people who are confident. 

Anxiety presents a wonderful choice. We all have it. No one is immune to it. But how we respond to makes the difference. 

Anxiety is just another powerful form of energy, and it can be channeled to do good, or harm. 

I’ve met people who have been through horrors. 

I asked a wonderful man who was a holocaust survivor how he is able to stand with humor and pay it forward. I asked him what would his advice be to people today. He said “You have to look at your life and say is there anything in my life right now, even a tiny sliver that is good, and if there is, you have to focus all your energy on that. And if you believe there is nothing - then you have to go looking for it.” 

That changed me. It really changed me. You’ve got to go looking for the good.

You have a choice with that energy. Poor me, or I’M ALIVE. 

If you walk through hell, and survive, then you have an obligation to give some of that strength that other people who are navigating anxiety. Give them a hug, a smile, some of that life force. 

I’m not heroic. I’m not courageous. But talking about pain is very courageous.

PKX: Anything new and exciting in your field?

I think people are more accepting of “motivation” now. You see so many upbeat memes right now. People are craving motivation. A little upbeat Laurie-Beth Robbins moment! 

People are craving solace on their devices and in their lives. 

A sliver of motivation on your facebook feed, local summits and meet ups - that is exciting to me. 

PKX: If you could open a door to anywhere in the past, present, of future, where would it be and why?


To one of Salvador Dali’s eccentric dinner parties. They would have wild animals strolling around, everyone would wear costumes - they would have this wild lobster tree - that is so my league. I used to host exotic parties. I would love to open a door and peek into one of this parties. 

PKX: Any advice to someone just starting out?


Never use notes. No teleprompter. You are far more powerful without them. No one will know you missed a word. So if you forget what you were going to say, and you will, you will something you didn’t plan which is even better. Learn to be an extemporaneous speaker. That is far more confident. When I taught speaking, I made them be extemporaneous on the first day of class. No notes! That is my advice. A wedding toast, a eulogy, a debate - no notes! It also helps with anxiety! You are stronger than you know!

PKX: If we could invite anyone to be a speaker at PKX, who would it be?


Joan Rivers. I love her. I still love her. Bright. Hilarious. Strong. Someone who struggled. She knows real deal authentic living. I would love to just hug her and get a little bit of that schtick. Thanks Laurie-Beth. We hope everyone decides to think about the choice they have with anxiety after your talk. Photography by Raya Al-Hashmi of Raya on Assignment. Interview by Geneve Hoffman, Host of CreativeMornings PKX - Portsmouth NH. Interview held at Profile Coffee Bar, Portsmouth NH.