Creatives Q+A with the Authors of Saints of Old Florida
In this series on The Southern C, readers get to “meet” many of the interesting and creative entrepreneurs we know online through our social network and also in “real life” at The Southern C Summits. These individuals are the CEO’s, founders, creative directors, artists, designers, makers and doers that are shaping our landscape with their vision and ingenuity.
In this case, my subjects wear many of these hats and can now add author to their resumes. With their recently released book Saints of Old Florida, friends Melissa Farrell, Christina McDermot, and Emily Raffield offer a beautiful glimpse into the magical spot on this Earth that they are blessed to call home. The result is an exquisite collaboration by three creatives at different stages in life – 20s, 40s, 60s – but who all share a rich and heartfelt history with Old Florida as well as a passion for the Florida Panhandle in undiscovered areas of Port St. Joe, St. Vincent’s Island, Indian Pass, St. George Island, Apalachicola, St. Teresa, and St. Marks.
This coastal lifestyle book is filled with personal stories, endearing anecdotes, local contributions, family recipes and gorgeous photography. Their passion and knowledge of this often forgotten coast is expansive and comes to life on the pages of Saints of Old Florida. These Southern creatives seem to have found Heaven on earth.
What’s the book about and how did this idea come to life?
The book came to be after years of dreaming about it and two full years of heavy production to bring it to life. We knew one another through different avenues and years of friendship and collaborations so it naturally made sense to put our love for a rural, beautiful part of the Florida Panhandle together. All having a shared passion for place, beauty and story sparked the realization of what Saints of Old Florida would become — a large format book, filled with stories, memories and reverence for our home and rich with the things we consider to be classic Old Florida and the feeling that we hold close and wanted to preserve for generations.
What is your collective background – is this your first book endeavor?
This is our first book endeavor both together and individually. We all have different backgrounds, professionally and personally, that have been critical to bringing Saints of Old Florida to life. When collaborating on a project, focusing on individual strengths is important to bringing about an inspired and high-quality end result in the product.
What makes this part of the country book worthy?
This part of North Florida — that we lovingly consider “Old Florida” — is a rare gem among a coast of jewels. It’s a one-hundred-mile stretch where memories of days gone by still exist in daily life. Late nights around a beach bonfire, cooking the day’s catch for dinner, and talking for hours on a float in the Bay. Old Florida is rustic at first glance and artfully cared for at the next. People here love this coast and the towns along it for a reason and we all fight to protect that feeling that’s found here. Our home is a face of Florida that is rarely seen — we wanted to do it the justice it deserves. We wanted to bottle the things we love on paper.
With three of you involved, how did you break up duties/tasks?
Melissa: The initial phase of the collaboration was an outpour of creative thoughts and ideas from each of us. That’s the fun part that everyone loves… but we quickly learned that this project was way more complex than just the creative aspect. The book’s production involved a new task almost daily. Tasks were handled individually based on connection, interest, and strengths. One huge “pro” of collaboration was being able to take on individual tasks knowing we could rely on one another’s feedback at any time, helping to move the project forward a bit faster.
Emily: We broke up many of the tasks (and there were SO, SO many!) based on what we were naturally talented at and what needed to get done. There are tasks that just have to be completed and those are typically different from the artistic, highly creative ones. …Something not everyone will tell you. We had to devise a way to all be very involved with each step, but move forward in a timely fashion and accomplish the goals we had in place.That is a challenge for any team, but we were eventually able to crack the code and build a cadence for individual and team work.
Christina: We each brought important individual strengths to the table. Once we realized our strengths, we each pursued them, while working together on the overall dynamics of creating the final product. We met frequently and at our meetings, we’d all be able to report what was going on individually and what tasks needed to be handled as a team. It felt like we lived at one another’s houses and in our design room for months during the production. Granted, three women with different visions, creative minds and skills takes some work to find the right place for everyone and gel as a team.
Any tips for working together and how to have a successful partnership?
Always be willing to fight for the partnership’s success. I’m finding it to be the most important to have a mindset of “what’s best for the business?” It’s a filter that when considered, hasn’t failed us yet.
In a partnership, understanding everyone’s wishes for the partnership on the whole and their personal expectations are crucial. That’s with any relationship and partnerships are no different. Keeping conversations open to allow for recalibration and growth – always!
Be mindful, particularly in the production stages of a creative project or business, to have “creative-only” meetings and, then, have “business-only” meetings. As entrepreneurs, we are forced to do it all. From highly creative tasks to paying bills and working with an accountant – it’s across the board and it’s all demanding. With that, it was really helpful to us to let creative topics flow without business heavy topics and vice-versa. Doesn’t squelch either.
Use technology at hand — both day to day communication tools and creative resources — to your advantage. Discover and find the right ones that work for you and your team and use them. For us, who all have other businesses and personal priorities to keep afloat, staying connected however we could was paramount.
Have fun! We’ve had to fight for fun along the way and laugh at ourselves and with one another. There were many days when it wasn’t easy, we may have had a disagreement or financials would be pressing, deadlines would be missed — that is all real and in a partnership, it’s important to take a deep breath and remember to enjoy the process.
Communication is key and also the most difficult, more so with a trio of strong-willed, creative women!! The most effective communication was meeting face to face on a regular basis – and that was a priority for us. A challenge, I’d say, was email and text messaging; these channels of communication can easily become misconstrued or unintentionally taken the wrong way.
Accepting that each partner has a different personality. Being honest with one another and trusting that we all had the same goal – to create a book that we could all be proud of.
Find the right creative team that jives with the partners and their creative vision. We were thankful to work with photographer, Lean Timms, to capture the aesthetic of our coast and bring to life what we had in mind. Her spirit and talent is well matched with ours and that was a difference maker for the end result.
A motto of ours is, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” In any creative venture, it’s hard work. Everyone has to encourage each other to keep the positive momentum going.
A real, mutual respect and consideration for one another’s ideas, through all aspects of the creative process, is important. It was a beautiful thing to see that respect and understanding of each other evolve. Ideas do matter and they can become something much bigger – you have to listen.
Flexibility was a huge aspect of our success, particularly when it came to planning, making major decisions and keeping project timelines. We had to hold things loosely – even though at times that was tough. You can’t plan everything, some things just happen and you need to leave room in the mix for that.
Ask for help when you need it! We worked with book designer and publishing consultant, Richie Swann, to help us self-publish and his expertise was so valuable and we truly couldn’t have done it without him.
Any more books on the horizon?
Not at the moment. We have all seen first hand what can be created from a seed of an idea, though, so we feel sure there will be more to come from us individually and, possibly, together. We’re creatives, and as we all know, our minds and wild hearts never rest. Follow along on our socials to stay up to date!
Insider tips for a trip to Old Florida
Spend a day in the State Park on Cape San Blas. It’s one of the most pristine, untouched pieces of coast here and the park glows with the look of Old Florida. Tall sand dunes, pine and palm tree horizons, deer, native birds – it’s an immersion into our coast’s natural world. There’s no better feeling than to walk over the highest boardwalk and look down on miles of white sand and shallow teal water.
A day trip beginning in Port St. Joe and driving to the furthermost point featured in our book, St. Marks, Florida. Stopping for smoked mullet dip and a cold beer at Ouzts Too! bar and taking a drive through the St. Marks bird sanctuary. Then driving over to Spring Creek Restaurant for lunch. All while stopping to take photos, pulling in seafood markets, visiting the beaches, and local shops. This trip gets you back to Port St. Joe in time for sunset. It’s a long day, but a great introduction to the area that will stir up conversation for the rest of the visit. Take the Saints of Old Florida book along as a reference!
Emily: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Melissa: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Christina: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre
Emily: About Time
Melissa: Out of Africa
Christina: Like Water for Chocolate (from the book by author Laura Esquivel)
Emily: Tin Cup Chalice by Jimmy Buffett
Melissa: Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
Christina: You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor
Emily: Dirty Martini
Melissa: Salty Dog
Christina: Frozen Lime Margarita
Emily: Linen, leather and shoes
Melissa: Collecting antique & vintage curiosities, textiles, dishes and art
Christina: Chocolate, power naps and pearls
About the authors
Originally from Thomasville, Georgia, Melissa settled in Port St. Joe, Florida in 2000. A creative entrepreneur, she opened Joseph’s Cottage, a lifestyle store in 2002. The Old Florida coastline has been a constant in her life; as many of her beach memories are based in St. Teresa, Florida with her family for generations. Today, she and her husband are proud to raise their children along the same miles of white sand, finding joy in a life of simplicity and natural beauty. Melissa’s warm spirit speaks to the genuine community found in Old Florida – for her, connecting with others who shared their stories and love for this area was the most meaningful aspect of creating Saints of Old Florida.
Christina was born in Monterrey, Mexico. She is an alumna of Trinity University where she earned a BA in Elementary Education and a BFA in Painting. In 1990, she moved to Georgia, where she first discovered Old Florida and spent numerous beach vacations with her daughters. Always drawn to the coastal lifestyle and the beach, she now calls Port St. Joe, Florida home. Christina is a true student of Old Florida; of the culture and daily routines. Cherishing every moment spent on her bike, on the beach and exploring the coast with her friends. Christina has a heart for making the most of her days and breathing in life – her enthusiasm and fresh perspective for our area was a major contribution to the book.
Emily is a native Floridian, born and raised on St. Joseph’s Bay just outside of Port St. Joe, Florida. Although she has lived in other places in various seasons, Emily has kept the road home well-travelled. She finds such value in the quality of life to be had in Old Florida and her fabric is heavy with weekends spent on the boat, a dozen raw oysters, and quiet back porch mornings as the sun warms the day. These simplicities give her balance and have enriched her life indefinitely. Experiencing her hometown through the collaboration and creation of Saints of Old Florida has been a gift – and the opportunity to share the area, and it’s richness, with others an honor. Emily works professionally in branding, marketing and creative direction.
Whitney Wise Long, co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit, loves to connect with Southern entrepreneurs and learn more about their creative endeavors.
This Q&A series offers her the perfect opportunity to do so!
For more of Whitney’s Southern Creatives Q&A’s click the names below: