This is Just the Beginning
Thank you. I don’t know if that is the best way to begin a good-bye, but that’s what I want to do. I want to thank each and every subscriber and reader who has so graciously graced this blog for the love and support throughout the years. This little square footage of Internet has been my safe place – a place to share all of my ups, downs, awkward moments and triumphs. And I am so grateful for all of the lovely encouragement I’ve received from YOU every step of the way.
Those of you who follow my social media know that I have started a new business, that thing that God whispered on my heart nearly one year ago. After letting go of the full-time job, establishing a secure savings, clarifying the purpose and goal of the business, I filed my LLC in October, TM pending in February and officially launched my coming soon site in April. The full online launch will debut mid-summer and print edition in late fall.
What am I creating? So glad you asked!
Cottage Hill- a new wedding and lifestyle magazine that celebrates marriages worthy of an elegant and meaningful legacy.
The Back Story – A Novel. When I was a little girl living in Hawaii, maybe eight years old, my mom took me to the military exchange, our version of a grocery store. We are about to travel or do something that required some entertainment for my crazy mind, so she told me to choose a magazine from the stand. Side by side was a kid’s magazine and Martha Stewart magazine. I choose Martha Stewart, and I could honestly say from there, the rest is history.
But for story’s sake, after that moment I became obsessed with Martha Stewart. As a homeschooler, I would record her shows, then once all of my homework was done and there wasn’t a black and white musical on TCM, I would watch her show and take notes like it was another one of my classes. I knew the name of all of her pets, how to plant vegetables and what turmeric was before I was ten.
Also, at the time, we moved to Florida where I studied at Miami City Ballet. I loved ballet and decided that I was going to be a professional ballerina – a dream I would hold on to for about 10 more years to come. I loved George Balanchine. I loved the clean lines, the music, the costumes, but most of all the stories in the movements.
After some time, we moved Puerto Rico where there was no ballet, so I focused back on my other obsessions, classic films and Martha Stewart. I don’t know if it was my immense faith or really, the Martha Stewart “training,” but I grew onions and all sorts of flowers in that volcanic rock we lived on. For dinner, I would style our meals even if it was just green beans, even before “styling” was in my vocabulary.
This was also the year I heard God’s voice for the first time. We lived on a cliff in Puerto Rico and there was a hill just before the edge of the cliff in front of our house. I would climb it just before sunset, sit on my favorite rock, and stare at the ocean and just dream. I was so young, but there was so much in my heart I didn’t know what to do with, so I just sent it all out over the ocean. I was so sad that year missing ballet, feeling stuck on an island (looking back, it was truly heaven and of course, I wish I had appreciated it more) and I would just pray. Looking at the water, the expanse of it – it was like God was saying “there’s more…there is so much more.” That’s also when I discovered my favorite quote from CS Lewis, “I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
A year or two later, we moved to Houston and I was able to dance again, this time with Houston Ballet. Once again, I was swept away in the dream of dance, the beautiful stories, the dedication, the mystery. On my off time, I would of course read Martha, but also Vogue, Vanity Fair, Veranda, wedding magazines, home design, garden design. But I wouldn’t just read, I would scribble in them and tear them a apart. I would doodle designs over gowns in Vogue, make notes of different make up changes to models, change wording for articles or titles. One time, I nearly re-wrote an entire fashion magazine in a notebook because I loved their theme, but didn’t love their layout or topics.
Late teens, I started reading biographies of great fashion icons, dancers, old film stars – I even did a book report on Gene Kelly for school. Houston Ballet let me choreograph for the students, giving me the freedom to make my own stories. Then at 18, it all came to a crash when I fractured my metatarsal and tore my entire meniscus in my knee – two months before company auditions.
Travel plans for auditions for Colorado Ballet, Ballet West and National Ballet of Canada were replaced with college applications. I decided to do OU’s School of Dance which would be a lighter load than the 8-10 hours of dancing a day I had been practicing for the past four years, and hoped that I would heal and be ready for auditions after getting an education.
The first two years of college were rough. I was in pain – physically and emotionally and I didn’t share that with anyone. Because I wanted to be perfect. I had studied perfection all of my life from what I read to what I did with my body in the studio. After a month or two of some dark days, I rededicated my life to Christ exactly five years ago this week. I created the best ballet piece I had ever envisioned, met my husband two weeks later and officially hung up my pointe shoes three months later. You can read the entire story here – my highest-traffic post ever.
After meeting my husband, learning a lot about grace and God’s timing (Eccl. 3:11), I had a mini identity crisis. No longer being a ballerina put an empty space next to my name and it made me uncomfortable. Enter, my first blog which eventually became this one.
During this soul-searching time, I decided to pursue my second degree in Public Relations. I loved writing and events, but I didn’t want to write novels nor did I want to be an event planner. I also typed in a lot of crazy ideas and questions into Google…one being, “ballerina magazine editor.” All of those years editing magazines, I still had a little hope in my heart that maybe I could go for that crazy idea dream of making my own stories somehow.
The result showed a Tumblr page of another blogger. She was an editor of a new magazine, I didn’t know what, but her post had a ballerina and talked about taking a “grand jeté” leap of faith to make what matters happen. She became my new Martha Stewart. If she could be a ballerina like me, from the South like me and make a magazine happen all by herself, like me, so could I.
A year later, my sweet Big Man proposed and my mom, knowing how much I love magazines, sent me a flood of publications including one called Southern Weddings. I read it, like read all of the verbiage, from cover to cover. My heart was pounding so fast. Other than a few style changes (I’m from the South, but my style is not very Southern), there was nothing I would have changed about the magazine. I searched to find who the editor was because they had to be my new mentor. The editor was, of course, Lara Casey, or as I exclaimed to my mom, “That Tumblr girl I like!”
Somewhere in the midst of planning my own wedding, completing college and making plans to stay and live in Oklahoma, I started following everyone else in searching for a 9-5 job. As newlyweds, we just needed a solid income. I landed a job with Tulsa Ballet as their PR girl, which was a perfect fit. My love for ballet oozed in all of my writing. It was a joy to edit ballet films and chat with choreographers all day. It was a dream, but it wasn’t my dream.
Thinking my dream was to have a bigger title next to my name (do you see a theme here?), I joined American Cancer Society with bigger responsibility and bigger title on my nametag. Quickly, I realized that was also not my dream.
In between Tulsa Ballet and ACS, I asked Christina of Christina Leigh Events if I could be her assistant. I knew my dream was in the wedding industry, but I wasn’t sure how. I didn’t want to be a planner, and I also didn’t want to be that bride who plans her wedding and automatically assumes she can jump into the wedding industry because of her “experience.” So for nearly two years, I’ve experienced the front lines of the wedding industry asking questions, getting ideas of what vendors go through, what real brides really like and really don’t like, trends, what matters and what doesn’t to them. For the past two and half years, I’ve been researching and didn’t even realize it. My experience in non-profits had not only given me writing experience on top of this blog, but management experience with huge projects and zero budget.
All of this came together last spring. Before heading to a spring break trip, Christina sat me down and said, “You don’t want to be a coordinator do you? When are you starting that magazine?” Nate asked me before we left for our trip,” Please do something about this magazine. You keep scribbling all of this stuff – do something with it.” Taking a cue, I decided to open my head and my heart and just let God speak while we enjoyed the Florida sunshine.
In the middle of Animal Kingdom (God has a great sense of humor), I was sipping jasmine tea, holding on to Nate, and looking at the gardens and tigers thinking about how peaceful it was. How the splendid peace I was feeling just being somewhere pretty with him was how I felt walking down the aisle. The blessed assurance. I constructed a little wedding in my mind. I saw a hundred people praying over a couple. I saw flowers hanging and flowing in the wind. I heard music. I had the entire scene designed to the very details while Nate went to go see where the rest of our group had gone. That moment completely alone in the green house, I heard God’s voice. “What are you doing?” I answered, “I’m making stories.” His response, “exactly.”
Breaking down into tears in Disney World is something meant for an exhausted two year old, not an adult. But I did. I cried. I finally got it, or as I like to think, I finally accepted what had been in my heart since the day I was born. I was born to tell stories.
That summer, I prayed a lot. I wanted whatever this business was to be was directly from Him. I wanted it to be about the message, not me. I wanted to have a unique voice that celebrated what really mattered and cut all of the junk out of it.
So, I went back to my roots. I went to my stories. I thought of my Mema and Pop – two people who were not perfect by any means, but even in their 80’s turned on the record player to dance in their PJ’s and socks. I thought of my Granny and how much my Grumpy adored her. I thought of my parents who always made everything fun and how much laughter was in our home. I thought of other family and friends and their families who created or are creating this legacy for themselves that extends beyond today. People who celebrate for more than just that one party, event or moment, but their life is a constant celebration because that’s their language of thanksgiving.
In going back to my roots, literally visiting my Granny in Mobile, Alabama, I decided to name the publication Cottage Hill – a road near the place my story began. I chose the name because I want to remember to stay true to the stories. I want to remember that I am a choreographer, a writer, a storyteller with a deep appreciation for the untouched beauty in the world. I will not pretend or try to be anything I am not. I will not allow Cottage Hill to become something or represent something it is not.
October 17th I filed my LLC and that weekend I left for Making Things Happen. I wanted to not only experience MTH after following since its conception, but also tell Lara face to face what my dream was. For some reason, my gut just churned thinking about telling her. I felt so audacious for thinking I could make a wedding magazine too. I felt like I was stepping out of my boundaries, daring to do something great. Of course, the amount and love and support not only from Lara’s kick in the pants chat with me, but also from so many other of the attendees, sent me home uplifted and grateful for the energy to move forward and make it happen.
Of course, as with anything worthwhile, moving forward was not a cakewalk. Lots of decisions, branding decisions (with the amazing Kathryn Duckett), keeping secrets (still keeping secrets) on all of the projects was and still is difficult. Also, I had my first moment of resistance towards CH from someone I met in the spring. Inadvertently, the attempted discouragement inspired me to pursue my dream harder because there is an obvious need in the world for more meaningful messaging. It taught me that pursuing what was honest and authentic, needed to be at the helm of my business. No, I cannot make everyone happy and not everyone will appreciate the message of CH, but I can’t change that with playing the game and adhering to the superficial. That is unacceptable for me. If everyone loved me and CH, I would not be offering the world something worthwhile, challenging and honest. Dear reader, please remember that when you start pursuing your dream. It’s something no one likes to talk about, but it happens. And also, read lots of Jon Acuff.
On the flip side, the amount of love I’ve received from now nearly 20 artistic teams all over the nation (and soon, world) who are creating the most beautiful and story-based weddings, love stories, styled shoots and articles for the official debut is just staggering. I am so humbled to be a part of this movement. Just in these early plans, there is so much hunger from both artists and clients for work that is not only stunning, but meaningful – in the wedding industry and creative industry. Just thinking about it when I open my inbox makes me cry in prayer over my morning coffee some days. I am so so grateful.
It is because of this honesty and love that I’m not worried about success. What is true will last. What is not will fade. If we only send one issue, I will be so pleased because at least a few thousand people were challenged with a wedding magazine based on that honest beauty and who knows how they will respond and their new ideas and decisions will effect those around them, this industry, the arts, marriages, families, communities, etc. That would be enough for me. However, I have a funny feeling God has placed this on my heart for more than one issue.
The Product. So now that you know my life story and the why behind Cottage Hill, let me share with you the what.
Cottage Hill will begin as an annual publication featuring engagements to babies with a few dinner parties in between, but a main focus on weddings. There will be no “top ten” lists or “how-to’s,” but instead, articles about love, marriage and what matters accompanying beautiful images by some of the best artists. That’s another thing – I don’t believe in vendors. I believe in artists and creative teams. There is a difference, and I want to celebrate those photographers, designers, stylists, florists and other who also believe in the difference.
There will be a blog. There will be a few posts a week. Cottage Hill will not eat up your inbox. There will be a lot of film work. There will only be high-quality content, even if that means not posting every single day.
Cottage Hill will not overwhelm you. I want readers to make a pot of tea and sit in their office or living room on a Sunday afternoon and take their time being inspired by the images and content. I want the images to make you feel something. I want the articles to make you see your wedding, marriage and life in a way that makes you close the magazine and go kiss your fiancé, take a walk outside or call your mom. The magazine is not meant to just inspire you, but to encourage you to do something about the inspiration.
The actual print publication will feel more like a book. It will be something you keep on your shelf, even after the wedding. If I were to compare, the publication will feel like Kinfolk or Darling, with some variation, as I want to keep the cost as low as possible, no more than $10. The magazine will be distributed as far as I can possible distribute it and not just a local or regional publication. It will also be sold online.
Yes, we are still accepting styled shoots and real wedding submissions. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will accept submissions until August 15th. Be not afraid. Love does. Send the e-mail. :-)
My Heart. Cottage Hill is my heart. And I could not be more excited to share it with each and every one of you. To all of your who have followed this blog since my college days and to those who joined the journey along the way, thank you so much. Your comments, emails and support have meant the world over the past few, wonderful years. Knowing those of you specifically who are praying for me in this new season, I feel you. You are in my heart.
I will keep this blog live so you can read my old posts. I almost started editing and deleting some of the more awkward, soul-searching ones, but decided honesty brings to light true beauty and my awkward moments are what brought me to today, they may help bring you to your dream as well.
I will still share some thoughts on my IG – @katieoselvidge. Yes, my last name is Selvidge, not O’Keefe. :-) However, I am deleting the Facebook page and my e-mail address.
If you’d like to reach me or ask more about Cottage Hill, feel free to send me a note at email@example.com. I would love to chat. You can also follow Cottage Hill on IG at @cottagehillmag. Website is www.cottagehillmag.com – be sure to subscribe!
I can’t believe this is good-bye. With eyes full of tears and a heart full of gratitude, thank you again. I hope my words have helped you as much as typing them out over the years has helped me. I hope they’re inspired action and not just thought. Love does. And it never ever fails. This is only the beginning.