Monday, August 20, 2018

Our First Festival: Flavor of Federal Way

Hello my dear friends and readers,
First I want to THANK YOU for all the love and support you gave me here on the blog as well as on my social media, and via personal messages! I deeply appreciate your kind words and wishes - I read them all! I am eager to tell you everything about my experience of Flavor of Federal Way, the Multicultural Festival that we were honored and excited to be a part of.

There will be going back and forth with sartorial and festival stories in this post, as they mixed and mingled in my so called real life this past weekend. This Summer, at least from my perspective, is unusually hot, especially for August. And as it happens in hot and dry weather, there are lots of forest fires across the USA and Canada. The last couple of weeks were especially bad with smoky air, and as I am writing this and looking out my window, the islands across the Sound (which are usually so clearly visible that it seems I can reach them with my hand if I just stretch it a little) completely disappeared in smoke! We took a short walk yesterday, and Justin used a mask to protect his lungs - they recommend it for people with asthma when it's that bad out. I didn't use a mask and definitely felt just how yucky the air was. It's getting worse today and tomorrow, before it clears again. The more miraculous this past Saturday seems - with the bluest skies and freshest air, warm, but not sticky hot, with a nice breeze! Everything just came together so perfectly for the first festival - both for the city of Federal Way and for me as a children's book author.

Even my long-awaited haircut, although it was scheduled many months ago, somehow was just perfectly on time for this event! I finally feel like myself, with my fresh pixie cut. I stubbornly refused to go to any other salon (while my wonderful hair stylist Erica was on maternity leave) and let my hair grow wild for half a year. Let's just say it was interesting, but I probably won't do it again - I am a pixie girl for sure. Which isn't in sync with my love of retro style clothes, but contrasts are good in my book - life is full of contradictions, and why shouldn't be style. 

This year, I ordered a few cotton dresses from eShakti, and this is one of them. I adore the cut and gigantic gingham, and I wore it a lot. I do believe that shirt dresses look wonderful on every type of body and appropriate for any circumstances. You can dress them up and down and go from casual to office to dressy just changing the accessories. My pick was these vintage sunflower clip-on earrings and beaded cherry purse, and a pineapple brooch which I bought on clearance. I wore it on a date with my guy. A refreshing fruit cocktail anyone?

There were so many things to prepare before the festival! Books to order (they didn't make it on time), signs, posters and free materials to give away, such as cards and coloring pages. I also was in a hurry to finish my website which was on my to-do list since forever, and what do you know - Anya's skills came in handy! She built a website for her school project last year, and she was confident that she could make one for me too. We came up with the design together and I just had to write some texts and select photos etc., and Justin connected it to the name I picked for myself 10 years ago, but mainly it was Anya's work, and I think she did a fantastic job! You can find my new site here: 

Special thank you to those of you who supported our books by purchasing and/or providing feedback! Even though some reviews for whatever reason got rejected by the Amazon automatic system, I was still able to use them in my printed materials and on the site - nothing was a waste! As a new, unknown author I can use all the help I can get to make my books more visible to the potential audience, and reader reviews, as you know, are always the best recommendation, so heartfelt THANK YOU!

You might not know that I actually am not a rookie when it comes to festivals - I used to be a vendor on arts and crafts shows, festivals and fairs years ago when I had a small business selling beautiful Russian artwork by my brother Andrei Lialin and other artisans (you can learn more about Andrei's art on his site HERE, and see his work in progress, as well as us working at shows HERE). When my daughter was little, I drove to different big and small towns and to different states. That was on weekends. And on weekdays, when she slept, I was writing. I wrote everything, from poems and stories to articles which were published in newspapers... and that was a full life, let me tell you. Years passed by, and I switched my focus to other things, and all of the festival supplies I had are now long gone - either donated, or worn out and completely torn apart. So we bought a new folding table, chairs, and ordered a new tent which is actually much sturdier compared to our old one, and we hope it will serve us for many years. Justin is quite happy with how easy it is to set up and highly recommends it to those who are looking for a commercial tent, and it's not an advertisement (HERE). We were delighted to learn that it is made in the UK (I believe I heard it speaking to us with a British accent, though it was a breezy day, and who knows what the wind had delivered...).

Even though it was the first Annual Multicultural Festival for the city, we were really impressed with the level of organization! The volunteers we met were just fantastic and extremely helpful. We were so busy during the event talking to customers, answering their questions, listening to their stories (that has always been a favorite part of this work to me, getting to know people - so many have fascinating stories to share!) that we missed most of the performers, but the little bits that we saw or overheard were great! I re-posted some of the performances on my Facebook: AnyaStories, but you can find even more on the festival's page HERE. Justin took a selfie with one of the most unusual visitors - SkyMan, the Real Life Superhero from Federal Way, WA. Do read about this young man, his social activism and the fascinating slice of modern culture! SkyMan's blog and FB page

My family AMAZED me once again with their help and support - they were there every step, from getting ready through setting up a tent and to tearing down after the event. Festivals look fun, but they are actually a lot of work, and I am deeply appreciative of Justin and Anya's efforts to pull it together for our little team - I couldn't have done it alone. Like I mentioned, meeting people is one of the most interesting parts about this work. I had a chance to reconnect with some of my old friends and acquaintances, hear them talk so genuinely warmly and with gratitude about the community work I've done in the past, and that meant a lot to me, more than I can tell you now... We also met fun new people: some shared their Russian heritage with me, which I always enjoy; many admired Andrei's birch bark boxes (not a lot is left of his exclusive collection). We met people from all continents, speaking all sorts of languages! One of the visitors entertained us by playing a didgeridoo - the ancient aboriginal wind instrument from Australia (I wasn't aware of it much).

When it was time for my Story Time, I put down a few blankets right on the green grass, away from the stage, and a few children appeared immediately, as they heard the announcement. I must say I felt anxious before the event, but when I woke up on the day of the festival, I felt surprisingly calm and happy - and I just knew it would be a great day! I was truly in my element that day, feeling content and true to myself. I missed working with children so much! I love their spontaneous, genuine reactions, their infinite curiosity and open-mindedness, their willingness to try something completely new and unknown, their bright eyes and big smiles! And I am so honored to share my stories with them! For my very multicultural little group, I read SUPERSEAL in English and sang Head and Shoulders in Russian. The kids in my group spoke English, Russian, Korean and Lao! It was a bit hard to read in a big open space with loud music in the background, but we had great time!

For my display, I printed out short book descriptions and reader reviews, framed them and used stacks of my books. Unfortunately, our large order did not arrive on time, but we had some on our hands, and I think in the end our display looked quite attractive. When all was done and most of festival visitors were gone, I asked Justin to snap a few pictures of my outfit for the blog. You've seen this blouse too many times this Summer, and the red eyelet skirt isn't new either. Both Anya and I wore hand-carved birch bark earrings which are perfect for Summer, extremely lightweight (I even forgot that I wore them!) and go well with my folksy outfit!

The festival was a great success, and for us it wasn't about profit. We wouldn't turn down more sales (at this point, we only paid for the folding table, he-he), of course, but our main goal for the event was beyond profit. We were there to connect with our community, present the Russian culture (we were the only representatives of our vast country and ancient culture in the festival!) and introduce our beautiful children's books to families, and we absolutely fulfilled our intent. We are looking forward to connecting with our community at the first opportunity again, but for now, if you live in Federal Way or nearby, do keep in touch! You can find all the information about our work and our books on these two sites:


Thank you, Federal Way, for the wonderful festival!!!

Outfit #1
Dress - eShakti
Earrings, purse - vintage
Sandals - Dansko (old)
Hat - Old Navy (old)
Pin - Chico's (clearance)

Outfit #2
Blouse - Lane Bryant (old)
Skirt - Teresa for Eloquii (old)
Sandals - Merrell (old)
Earrings - birch bark hand-crafted in Russia

Linking with Patti's Visible Monday!

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  1. First, you look adorable in your blue blouse and red skirt, so cute and comfy!, and I love to see you in your stall or telling tales to children, your enthusiasm put a smile on my face! The new site looks very professional and cool and I love the name (I've been always fascinated by russian fairy tales and Baba Yaga!)
    And I also love your new dress, so summery! and the pineapple brooch is so cute!. You're gorgeous!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, dear Monica! I love that you love Russian fairy tales! I still love tales, even now I still read or watch them! oh, and I write them too, don't I? :)

  2. ha! chicken leg house!! :-DDD and: WOWWWW!!!
    even the weather played along!
    i´m happy that it was such a gorgeous day! your stall looks so neat and how sweet is that pic of you reading to the kids! and of cause your outfit is perfect!!
    love the website - it´s a very good graphic yet individual style - cool choice of colors!
    how wonderful your family is <3
    tons of hugs to you! xxxxxxxx
    p.s.: an email is in progress - we are extremely busy too at BWH although i´m still flattened....
    p.p.s.: sad to hear that the wood fires in your corner are so much and huge this year too.

    1. Thank you, dear Beate! I'm pleased with our team effort! We chose the colors that we love: Anya loves lavender, and I love golden yellow. And it occurred to me that they look beautiful together!
      Hope you're feeling better soon!

  3. Dear Natalia, what a great day! Your look is absolutely sweet! And the pic with you reading is the best of all them! Love it and love to hear it was such a great day for you. Hopefully the fires will be cut down soon. We had lots in Germany, too, that summer days as they were too hot as well. Hugs, Sunni

    1. Thank you, dear Sunni! Anya took a few pictures while I was reading my story, and I picked this one - love the action on it! Hope there is lots of refreshing rain on the way, both in Germany and here too.

  4. Natalia you look gorgeous in both outfits. I love the gingham dress :)
    Wonderful to hear about the festival. You have a great family Natalia.
    Sad to read about the fires in your wood. We hope for rain here in Germany for our wood.
    A huge hug and much love Tina

    1. Thank you so much, dear Tina! It is very smoky still, but it's supposed to get better in a day or two. We need rain! Love to you, dear!

  5. I'm thrilled for you that all went well at the festival, even beyond your expectations. I never doubted you'd make a success of it, though, but it's wonderful when all things come together and seem to fall into place. Anya has done an amazing job on the website: she's a really talented young lady, but then again I'm not surprised about that either. Chicken Leg House is such a fun name, too! You are looking gorgeous and radiant in both your outfits. Your happiness really shines through! Love that pretty pineapple brooch! Hugest of hugs xxx

    1. Thank you, dear Ann! You are so kind! It really did come together beautifully, and we couldn't be more pleased for our very first appearance with our books. And it reminded me of the festivals I've done in the past - many sweet memories! Lots of love!

  6. I LOVE that pic of you reading to the kids! I am so happy for you that the festival went well.
    Your refreshed pixie is wonderful too. xox


    1. Thank you, dear Patti! I love that picture too! It was so much joy to read to children!

  7. You look absolutely adorable in both outfits! Festivals are a lot of work. I'll def check the link out about the tent. So cool how Anya helped with the website. I love how tech savvy the kids can be!

    1. Thank you, dear Becky! Our kids have so much to teach us, don't they?

  8. I love your new page, it looks so professional. I bookmarked it! So great that Anya helped to make it happen, she's a talented young lady, much like her mother. I'm happy to read about the festival as well, it is wonderful that you were able to read to kids. They look like they really enjoyed it. Children have so much to teach us. You, Justin and Anya are quite a great team! Your book tend looks great. I love how you presented the books with Andrei's birch tree boxes, that's perfect because it represent Russia but also because it is his work, like the illustrations in your stories.

    I love both of your outfits. The first dress is simply gorgeous...and how cute is that pineapple brooch and that embellished bag. The second outfit is gorgeous as well. Lovely red top and skirt combo. Red and blue go so well together. And you look great with your signature pixie. I think that Vix once said that she enjoys vintage clothes not recreating historical looks. I think I'm the same way. I don't go for the whole vintage look. I don't do vintage hairdos- I just wear vintage clothes and enjoy them.

    My uncle sometimes presents at festivals, he works for a few companies, I think. When he came to Split's festival, I remember that I helped to present and sell some of their merchandise. I think it was leather notebooks, journals, laptop bags, calendars and things like that. I had a lot of fun.

    1. Thank you so much, Ivana! I am happy that you liked the new site. There is still some work to do, but I am also very happy with the result, and yes, Anya and Justin are great!

      I'm with you and Vix: vintage is great fun, but there is absolutely no intention to look historically accurate here In the Writer's Closet - we just do what pleases us. :)

      I think you and I are so alike in many ways, even our experiences are somewhat similar, with languages, style, festivals etc. :)

  9. Fantastyczne rzeczy masz na swoim stoisku:))pięknie wyglądasz w sukience i super dodatki:)w drugim zestawie urocza bluzka:))Pozdrawiam serdecznie:)))

    1. Thank you, dear Renia! Glad you liked my tent - and dresses of course! <3