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Form your own "circle of friends"

Chicks Who Click: inspiring women to balance career, creativity and personal life

200508bc_chicksnordstrom Run, run, run. How fast life flies by! Can you stop for just a few minutes to consider how you're balancing your career, your creativity and your personal life?
Lori Nordstrom, Cr.Photog., of Winterset, Iowa, says slowing down enough to attend the last two PPA-sponsored Chicks Who Click retreats for women in photography was one of the best things she ever did (www.nordstromphoto.com). The underlying theme of the women-only conferences, she says, was finding ways to achieve balance in one's life, how to make family and friends a priority while running a successful business.

Image, right: ©Lori Nordstrom

200508bc_chicksdoerring Image, left: ©Amy Doerring

"At the first women's conference, in 2003, a group of women dubbed "Just Us Girls" spoke about their journey of friendship and growth as artists," says Nordstrom. "The following year, Houston photographer Carol Andrews, M.Photog.Cr., talked about the inspiration she found in her association with a group of women photographers in her area. I was taking notes and jotting down goals throughout the conference, and I came away determined to get a group together in my area."

Back home, Nordstrom invited five other female photographers in Iowa to join her in A Circle of Friends and collectively keep the momentum going. The circle—Nordstrom, Patricia Farr, Amy Doerring, Danielle Fox, Lisa Feller, Sarah Rivas—meets once a month and stays connected between times by phone and e-mail. They come from different backgrounds, but they share a commitment to support and inspire one another in their creative journeys.

200508bc_chickselizabethImage, right: ©Lisa Elizabeth Photography

Part of the group's philosophy stems from its "textbook," "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity," by Julia Cameron (Tarchon). In this book, Nordstrom explains, the author eschews the concept of the artist as a loner, always in competition with other artists. In fact, artists love other artists. They find inspiration in their work and their ideas, and they seek their criticism and approval of their own work. And who could better understand the motivation of the artist than another artist?

200508bc_chicksfarrImage, left: ©Patricia Farr

"Inspiration comes from many things, sometimes from people and places we would never consider," says Nordstrom. "This group believes wholeheartedly that when you inspire others, you inevitably inspire yourself. When one of us shares an idea with the group, it's guaranteed that a pure brainstorming session will follow." Putting those brainstorms into action is somehow easier with the support of the circle, says Patricia Farr. "One day, I mentioned that I'd always wanted to submit images to a print competition, but never got around to it. That comment sparked a stream of phone calls and e-mails from the others, encouraging me to get my images ready and keeping me abreast of the competition deadline," says Farr. Now the scary first competition is behind her, Farr is looking forward to future opportunities.

Nordstrom says that's just one of the "amazing things" that have stemmed from the energy of the Chicks Who Click retreats. "I encourage every woman in photography to take a couple of days to invest in herself and attend this year's retreat. You could quite possibly be opening the door to a whole new world, a wealth of knowledge, support and encouragement to help you reach your full creative potential."

200508bc_chicksrivas Image, left: Sarah Rivas

The 2005 PPA Chicks Who Click Women in Photography Retreat is at the Newport Beach Hyatt Regency in Calif., September 9-11. Details and registration: 800-786-6277; http://events.ppa.com.