Anatomy of a Rebrand, Part 2

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life50 Comments

When we last left our heroine, she was immersing herself in the world of scrapbooking. (And taking numerous selfies—which for you kids out there, use to be called ‘self portraits”.)

It was the hobby I never knew I needed. I probably would have laughed at you prior to 2002. Scrapbooking? CRAP booking is more like it.

But oh my God, it just fit. Photos. Stories. Typography. It was made for me.

I simply took my design sensibilities to paper. And it worked. Instead of using design to make corporate newsletters, I used it to tell stories from my own life with words and images.

I got involved with the online community at the soon-to-be-closing Two Peas in a Bucket. I shared pages. I made friends. It was really my first foray into the whole culture of online anything. I loved it from the get go.

Eventually I sent a page or two into the good editors at the now defunct Simple Scrapbooks magazine. One late spring afternoon I got a call from Stacy Julian and she said, “I don’t know who you are but I want to work with you.”

I remember freaking out after I got off the phone, running downstairs and telling everyone, including some friends who were visiting, “OH MY GOD! STACY JULIAN JUST CALLED ME!”

And yes, you guessed it. Crickets and slow blinking. But it would turn out to be a milestone connection for me.

My collaboration with Stacy began with creating one cover layout for the magazine. Then it turned into contributing scrapbook pages to articles. Then it turned into writing a column on design. Then it turned into becoming an art director and later the creative director.

I had to convince them that I actually knew how to design and produce magazines, not just scrapbook pages. I had to show them that I fit into a corporate structure like one of those round pegs.

Again, my background in journalism helped when it came to all manner of things in magazine production. Re-writing headlines to fit the design, adding cutlines, catching typos, brainstorming magazine content. It was the perfect storm of all of my skills melding into one sweet dream job that I got to do right in the comfort of my own home, some 1,200 miles from Simple Scrapbooks central in Bluffdale, Utah.

Also during that time, I wrote one book. And then another.

And while I was at it , I started a blog.

In 2005 I launched a blog on Typepad. I saw that my new scrapbooking friend Ali Edwards had one and I emailed her and said, “How did you do that?”

I started blogging about stupid stuff like my unabashed love of Johnny Depp. And aliens. No one was reading so I could write about whatever struck my fancy. Which is what I did for a number of months.

Over time, people did start to read. Whether it was solely due to the exposure from the magazine, my books or something else, people started to find my blog. And that was really cool at first until a few people started to get nasty. Anonymous and nasty.

After about a year and a half, I had this knee jerk reaction and decided, “Eff that shit! I have enough issues in my life than dealing with blog trolls judging me. I am SO done!” And just like that, I pulled the plug on my blog. Done and done. In the words of Scotty P, “No ragrets.” Naw what I’m sayin’?

That was early September 2006.

But over the next few months I started to really miss it.

In late October of that year my neighbor, Mary, passed away from cancer and I remember so clearly, sitting at her funeral and one of the readers was sharing a passage from Marianne Williamson and it hit me: you are alive and you have things to share so why don’t you grow the eff up and get back to doing what you love: writing about your life.

I came back in January 2007 with a vengeance. I had a chip on my shoulder. I wasn’t going to be intimidated by jack asses. I loved to write about my life and that was all that mattered. It was important for me to pursue authenticity. To be real with what I was saying. I wrote a post about my friend Mary, to remind me. To this day, it is one of my most important posts. It reminds me that we are all here for such a short time. It reminds me to pursue truth. It reminds me to play large every chance I get.

But a funny thing happened when I came back and decided to just be me online. People started reading again. And then more readers.

I made the decision to introduce advertising to my site, to begin a conscious choice to monetize my blog. I became keenly aware that I wanted everyone to like me. It was like being in middle school all over again and my mantra became: be funny, but don’t offend anyone.

Be bullet proof. Don’t give them anything to attack and you’re golden.

But I learned that bullet proof is about the worst approach to blogging that you can take. Bullet proof equals watering it down. Bullet proof equals fear. And basing part of your business in fear isn’t exactly a formula for authenticity.

Read Part Three

Read Part Four


Cathy ZielskeAnatomy of a Rebrand, Part 2

50 Comments on “Anatomy of a Rebrand, Part 2”

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thank you. And Scotty P? He is my favorite fictional character in the world. At least for right now.

  1. #3

    It’s funny – I SO clearly remember finding your blog in 2005 . . .around the time I found Ali Edwards too . . . and thinking, well CRAP – I can do this too! And I did. . .a little blog called My Scraps – I seemed to have blocked out the time you weren’t blogging – to me – your blog has always been in my bookmarks and I have always read it. . .it’s been a constant source of inspiration for me – in scrapbooking, design, change, life . . .and my little blog is still around too – it too has changed and grown and become my life’s work. So all those words to say, congratulations and thank you. I’m looking forward to where the journey goes next =)

  2. #5

    (scuze my poor typing, there was a fall down 2 steps, broken shoulder and a Cabana Boy involved)
    omg! you said eff in your blog! Over the past years you have always inspired me in many ways cz, in blogging and life. i haven’t been able to touch my own blog since my mom passed away in jan and i wrote a brief tribute . i’ve allowed other things to prevent continuing on with it….however i too have missed it.
    that will change as soon as my recovery from surgery is over. many life situations will change once i recover. heck, if cz can do it, well, eff it, so can i!!!

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, you eff-ing can. I’m sorry for your loss. But yes, get back to writing. It’s good for the mind and heart in many, many ways.

  3. #6

    I totally get the whole screaming “Stacy Julian called me” reference. Crickets chirped here when she used a quote of mine in her book ” Photo Freedom”. Been here since the beginning, Cathy, including your days at 2 peas. Your effing honesty is what keeps me coming back. The new site looks great. Anxiously awaiting the next chapter.

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Funny story. When Stacy called me, I was SUPER nervous, so I grabbed a cigarette, and went up to my attic and smoked on while on the phone with her. Even she doesn’t know that story. My house guests didn’t know I smoked and I never smoked in the house “proper” but somehow managed to sneak up to our attic. I know. Nice. Those were the days. #smokefreefor8plusyears

    2. #6.2

      Same here, Gaye. I am a professor of education. I work at a university that puts more emphasis on teaching than on research (thankfully since what I love is teaching) though we do still need to do and publish research. I have education articles published in journals. But, I was more excited about having a quote from me included in the Photo Freedom book. I have told people about that quote. I have shown people that quote. I haven’t done that with my articles. 😉

  4. #7
    Lori P.

    Cathy, I am so glad you are HERE and that you are YOU on your blog. Keep it real and delete the idiot comments. I am sick & tired of the people who feel they have a right to be nasty to people on blogs. Really! If they would not say it to someones face or like my momma says “If you can not say it in front of me or your Grandma, it shouldn’t be said”. P.S. I eat my breakfast and read your blog every morning. 🙂

    1. #7.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Have you ever seen Louis CK’s most recent HBO special? He talks about the way he yells at people while he’s driving. That he says things he would NEVER say in person. He goes on about how he would never been next to someone in an elevator and just SCREAM obscenities at them.

      The nice thing about the way these WP comments are set up, there’s a delete button for the admin user (hey, that’s me!) and I can delete stuff that’s nasty if I like.

      Enjoy your breakfast!

  5. #8

    Would it be weird and creepy if I only posted “I love you” in the comments to every post?? Hummm….let’s see?


    🙂 maybe a little but I don’t care!!!

    1. #8.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Not creepy at all. I believe it was the great Burt Bacharach who said, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, and internet comments professing love…”

  6. #9

    First – LOVE LOVE the site…so refreshing! Second – you are an inspiration. I’ve been following you for years. Have both your books and back-copies of SS that I love to refer to. I’ve fallen off the scrapbooking wagon. The responsibilities of being a single mom of 2 growing boys always seems to create reasons for not getting back into it. Just the other day, I uploaded pictures from a recent vacation. My 12 year old saw a “2004 album” and wanted to see what images were in there. I was taken back to a time that I want to remember and pass the stories on to him and his brother. Seeing your facebook post of the redesigned site was the kick in the butt I needed. Thank you CZ!!!…and I soooo can eff-ing do this!!

    1. #9.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You so eff-ing can. And you can find a way to do it that WORKS for you. See, that’s the thing. If you don’t find a way that makes you feel good about the process, then it starts to suck. I tell you, when I make pages the way I want to, I’m still reeked about this hobby. Sometimes, when I try to do it in a way that is not me at all, I think, “Why am I doing this?”

      Anything you create is a bonus. This is not stuff we HAVE to do, right? We GET to do it if we can find a way. It’s all good.

  7. #10

    Loving the new blog design. I have only been reading you for a couple of years but love everything I read. You are definitely an inspiration to me, as well as to many, many others (obviously!). I have wanted to order your books for a while but always found something else I should spend my money on. Just said eff it and ordered them both! 🙂

    1. #10.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Eff it indeed! LOL. Enjoy! I’m shameless to say I think they’re both pretty good. 😉

  8. #11
    Lynne Moore

    I remember my first CKU (Anaheim) and getting a picture with you. (I don’t think you were teaching, just there to get a feel for the event.) I was so excited about it. My friend had no clue who you were, but I did. And that was all that mattered. OMG, it is still a favorite pic of mine.

    1. #11.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh man, yep, I was there to do a test run of teaching. Just one class, on one day. I was scared out of my mind. I actually never got used to the teaching in person thing. I would sweat like crazy. It was always an out of body experience.

  9. #12

    I began scrapbooking about a year before my twin sister died after a nine-year bout with cancer. I began thinking that I was doing this for her family, sharing photos and memories of our shared life. Even she was surprised. I remember her saying, “We’re just not the crafty-type, Steph.” The book I created of the two of us was so appreciated at her memorial service five years ago. Although I have slowed down a bit the past few years, I have begun to realize that this hobby is really for me, not anyone else. It has provided many moments of reflection, salvation, and pure joy. Thanks so much, Cathy, for being such an inspiration with your words and images.

  10. #15

    I remember being crushed when you stopped your blog. I remember reading your last post. The first thing I did in the morning was read your blog (and AE). I was crushed. Now it makes sense. I used to be an elected official and it sucks to put yourself out there. Not only did I become a target but so did my family. I was a prosecutor. I loved my work or I would have told them to…. I am so glad you came back. You have given me lots of laughs, inspiration and led me to some truths. Thanks, Cathy.

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I wish I would have had more balls back in the day. The thing is, I still don’t have the thick skin I’d like to have. I’m working on that. I really am. 🙂 But I keep trying to go back to the idea that playing small and not doing something I’m passionate about serves no one, least of all myself.

  11. #16
    Michelle K

    I totally get the reference to Stacy calling you and no one understanding the importance. In 2007 after going to CKU in Anaheim I told people I took a class by Becky Higgins and she actually spoke to me, one on one, I was greeted by the same WTH? look from most of my friends. They just didn’t get it.

    I’ve followed you and Ali and Becky and Jessica around for years…not sure how long…and I’ve always gravitated towards how you ‘speak’ online. Very real and very funny. When I read your blog about all the ups and downs, the goods and the uglies, I am grateful you have the courage to share your journey, warts and all. Love this series of how you’ve gone from then to now – looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Michelle. I think this is my first multi part series. It’s been fun to write, for sure.

  12. #17

    I totally remember you starting your blog and then going away for awhile. I had the page bookmarked and just randomly clicked on it and there you were!!! I feel like a stalker but I have been there since your blog beginning. I remember Aiden turning 13 and you calling it “One Three” LOL I was attracted to your clean and simple style of scrapbooking and have both of your clean and simple scrapbooking books. Thanks for doing what you do. 🙂

  13. #18
    Kendra B

    Loving the new site! And loving these “to be continued” posts!! I’m so glad you decided to start blogging again. Your honestly and realness are wonderful and inspiring!!

  14. #19
    Debbie McIntyre

    This continuing saga is great fun…see you tomorrow. What will our heroine do next? xo

  15. #20
    Helen High


    Soooooooooooooooo, glad you didn’t give up on your blog. I LOVED “Simple Scrapbooks” and my heart broke a bit when the publication stopped and was pleasantly surprised to find your blog some time after that, but fell off the wagon. I remember re-discovering you in 2009 and I haven’t looked back.

    Your style is a true inspiration to me and I hope you continue to keep the “crap” out of scrap booking for many, many years to come!

    PS: Your new website is pretty freakin’ amazing!

  16. #21

    My sister from another mister! I was DEVASTATED when you stopped blogging…I even made a page (photo, thoughts, story) for my “mama’s book” about it. Living, learning and loving. xoxo

  17. #22

    love this new site Cathy!!!!!!! I’m a secret follower – have been reading for years and am so amazed at how you put life in words I can totally relate to – thank you!! love your creativity – love your honesty – so happy for your new “do” out here!!! (I am currently trying to follow using AOL Reader, but can’t seem to link to the blog … bummer … I’ll keep trying!) 🙂

    1. #22.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I’m still trying to sort out the reader issues, so keep trying! It might take a few days for things to shake out!

  18. #23

    Love that blog post about Mary. I can so relate. Also, I’m having trouble getting the new blog to show up in Feedly? Any tips? Thanks! The new website is great.

  19. #25

    Oh funny…I just had your Stacy Julian moment when I received an email from a prominent scrapbooker with a new blog who happened to use my quote on her new site. However, I was not met by crickets because my college aged son actually knew who you were and had been the original recipient of my quote when I was talking to him about the class I was taking. He was excited that you chose that quote.

  20. #26
    Barb in AK

    Really enjoying the “long form” of your story 🙂 Some of the gaps have been filled in.
    I have missed “Simple Scrapbooks” since they shut down, but I feel like I can still get most of it through your blog and your creations. 🙂
    Thanks, Cathy!
    See you back here for Part 3.

  21. #27
    Beth in Georgia

    Cathy, I love your new site! I have been a long time reader of your blog and so many of your posts have hit home. You include the good, the bad, and the ugly, which is why your writing resonates with so many of us. I met you at CKU Atlanta (2006) and you autographed my tote bag – (WOW, I have Cathy Zielske’s autograph) – I was so stoked! I loved Simple Scrapbooks and your clean and graphic way of scrapping. I felt so inadequate as a scrapper until the whole simple approach came along. My hobby became fun once again because I was telling the stories I wanted to tell with the photos that I loved. No more worrying about how to use patterned paper, stickers, and other assorted embellishments. It was truly liberating. So, keep on keepin’ on, Cathy. There are way many more of us out here rooting for you than there are nasty internet trolls!

  22. #28
    Kathryn Benfiet

    I too had a “stars in my eyes” moment when Stacy Julian called to tell me that I was one of the women chosen to have a page in her new book Photo Freedom. Which led to the need for a “head shot” which I sent to…YOU. You called me to talk about the few I had submitted and which one you thought was best. I was thrilled beyond belief for the opportunity and to chat with you on the phone.

    I’m always amazed that when we open ourselves up and show the real “us”, despite the urge to ignore that voice yelling “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”, that we find out how many others have the same issues and challenges in their lives. And that in the sharing we find a community of people who are there to cheer us on and share in this crazy crap filled wonderful life. Thanks for sharing your life…I don’t think you know how many lives you have touched.

    1. #28.1

      Cathy, ditto on Karen’s second paragraph…so perfectly said. Ditto for me.

      We love you, we really love you!

  23. #29

    So happy you decided to ignore people that have nothing good to say except criticize. I don’t understand why they take the time to bother. They should just stay away. Reading your blog is for those of us that are your biggest fans and want to be part of all you share. None of us would be enjoying the new design of your brand, new path in your life and the wonderful person that types away these raw and honest posts from the heart had you not listened to that inner voice. It’s like talking to a BFF. Thank you Cathy. :>

  24. #30

    I’m so glad you’re not bulletproof anymore. Wish I could underline that!

    Thank you for sharing this story with us.

    I laughed (…just saw We’re the Millers last night so Scotty P. is still fresh in my mind…naw what I mean, yo? The yo is mine, not his, yo.)

    I cried, too. My sister in law passed away in 2004, so the story about your neighbor’s passing and it’s affect on you totally resonates.

    Keep telling your story and we’ll keep reading. YOU INSPIRE.

  25. #31

    I’m just catching up on your rebrand posts, loving them. September 2006 – I have been reading your story for over 8 years, wow!

    I love how your work story came about. I’m going the other way, starting with a love of paper, developing to documenting, next discovering a love for design (I know nothing) and now web design and function. So fun this life!

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