- by Dara Girard
Tell us a little about yourself and your company Corn Creative.
I’m originally from Northern Virginia, but because of my dad’s work with the CIA, we lived several years in London and Canberra where he worked as a liaison with the embassies there. I’m certain those experiences instilled my passion for travel and exploring other cultures. I earned a B.S. in Journalism and shortly thereafter began working for an ad agency in Washington, D.C. When my second son was born, I wanted more freedom to determine my own schedule, so I began my own design studio with a focus on associations.
Fifteen years ago, my family moved to Houston, and we have come to call this home. My three sons are now young men with my youngest starting his junior year in high school.
As a teenager, you wanted to be a photojournalist. How did you segue into your current profession?
I studied journalism at WVU, one of ten accredited schools in the country at the time. I studied both photography and graphic design within that department. My dream was to be a photojournalist for the program CARE, traveling throughout Africa. I even took Swahili in preparation. However, life took over. I fell in love, married and began a family. With these changes, I needed to choose the career that would keep me close to home. I was fortunate to have the skills and interest in graphic design and am grateful I have been able to remain in a creative field.
How did your company get involved with producing Romance Sells? When did you get started?
When I moved to Houston and began developing a working relationship with local vendors, one of my printers introduced me to Allison Kelley and Charis McEachern of Romance Writers of America. Charis had just begun as their new editor of RWR and was interested in hiring a design firm to produce the magazine. That was 13 years ago. Since then, I have been designing the monthly RWR publication, producing RWA’s conference materials, and designing and handling all of the administrative aspects of Romance Sells.
Romance Sells is a tremendous marketing opportunity for authors—whether a newcomer to the publishing world or a New York Times bestseller. This small booklet offers every RWA member author with a RWA-recognized published upcoming title the chance to give all the selling details, along with a synopsis, reviews, and an author bio to 6,300 booksellers and librarians. And the cost is only $200.
You also develop promotional packages for authors, including advertising and bookmarks. Please tell us more about that.
I love to create campaigns, designing a brand that distinctly illustrates a client’s unique personality. I can create a package of marketing materials either for an author’s overall image or for individual titles or series.
I am launching a new service mid-September offering formatting and book cover design for self-published books. Check for details on my newly redesigned site, www.corncreative.com.
In 2010 you wrote an intriguing blog titled: “I Cried My Way Through Kenya” and in 2007 you travelled to Honduras. How exciting! What do you enjoy most about these special projects? Do you have any new ones on the horizon?
Now that my responsibilities as a parent have tapered down, I have been afforded the time to put energies back into my love of photography. Each year, I try to do some social justice work as a volunteer. I went to Kenya and traveled through the slums of Nairobi and the poverty-stricken western edge. The portraits I made were used by Pangea Network, a program that provides mico-loans to women, and Amnesty International’s “Demand Dignity” campaign.
Last year I taught children in a nearby emancipation community, photographic and writing skills and am continuing the project by helping them document their family’s oral histories. I also am helping produce an international art competition for UNESCO’s Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights. The exhibit will be held in the UN Building and Rome this October and will return to the states to be shown at MD Anderson in Houston.
On the horizon, I am putting together a delegation of photographers and writers to go to the Gaza Strip late next summer. Each will collaborate with a Palestinian artist and will live with them during our stay. We will have an exhibit in Houston and will have panel discussions to talk about our experiences. I am hopeful the political temperature will not force us to cancel these plans.
Some of my work can be seen on my photography site, www.marticornphotograpy.com
As a professional photographer, you do portraits for authors, musicians and corporations. What are three (3) DON’T’s potential clients should know when preparing for a photo session?
Don’t try to be someone you are not. Celebrate who you are, in body and soul.
Don’t overdo your makeup. Be natural. People are looking for the personality in the image, not the mask.
Don’t fret. Take a deep breath and enjoy the experience.
What are the three (3) DO’s?
Take time in preparing for the shoot. Get a manicure. Take a luxurious bath the night before. Lather yourself with moisturizer.
Wear something sumptuous—an outfit you feel beautiful in. Be sure it has a neckline and coloring that is becoming to you. And wear sexy underwear just for the fun of it.
Before entering the studio, take a few minutes to quiet your mind. Relax and consider what kind of statement you wish your portraits to make.
What do you love most about your job?
As a graphic designer, I love that each day offers a different challenge. Even after nearly 30 years in the business, I still learn something from every project.
As a photographer, I realize my subject is placing him/herself in a vulnerable position sitting in front of a camera. But once a trust is developed, there is a magic that occurs. Suddenly, they relax, the practiced smiles slip away, and their true selves are revealed. That connection made really is an amazing experience.
I am thrilled to discover I can merge the two into my business. While I continue to work as a graphic designer, I am photographing the RWA conference each year, offering portrait sessions during the conference, and am even developing a line of romance images for book covers. It’s been an exciting revelation.
What should an author look for when selecting a photographer?
Ideally, you want a photographer who takes a few minutes to find out about you. Everything you present to the public should represent the image you wish to project. And that certainly includes your photograph. So the photographer needs to know if you desire an image that suggests an air of sophistication, mystery, whimsy, light-heartedness, a bohemian nature, or whatever.
I also am in favor of a photographer who uses a philosophy of simplicity in his or her equipment. When I see a photographer with three or four lenses, I worry they will spend more time concerning themselves with what equipment to use next as opposed to being focused on their subject.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that it has been an honor working with so many of you. If you have any questions or suggestions, I would be delighted to hear from you. And seriously, if you have any suggestions that would allow me to serve you better, I’m all ears. Thank you for the opportunity to allow me to share my passions with you.