Behind the scenes of a 10-minute talk

If you could address high school you, what would you say?

I had the opportunity to address students at Mississinawa Valley High School (from which I graduated in 1997) at their National Honor Society ceremony. I was never in NHS, but I’ve talked at two of their ceremonies. I think I’m a few decades away from wisdom, I much prefer to tell stories that teach students to see the world in a different light. But all I had was 10 minutes to talk, so there wasn’t a lot of room for stories, so I took a swing at a few life lessons.

I though it might be interesting to talk about my process of preparing a talk.

Step 1: Rough draft / outline

I free write what I want to say, writing my…

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Where Am I Speaking in November?


Want me to visit your high school, university, or group? Let’s make it happen. 

Falls really zip by for me. November wraps up a busy few months of speaking at high schools, universities, culinary schools, and libraries.

Here’s where I’ll be speaking in November:

11/7: Lock Haven University / International Education Week: 7PM at Price Hall (free and open to the public)

11/8 5:30 PM – South Bend, Indiana: Facing Project event: Voices of Teenage Girls

11/9 7:30 Michigan City Public Library – Writing Out Loud (free and open to the public)

11/11 Private High School

11/11 Purdue N. Central Westville, Indiana

11/16 Writers Center of Indiana: 2013 Gathering of Writers / Teaching a nonfiction workshop at 12:45

Truth, Justice, and the Creative Nonfiction Way
Works of creative nonfiction…

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I voted for my self-interest and the common good

I understand when people vote for their self-interest over the common good. However, it really makes me sad when people vote against both.

Today I believe I voted for both my self-interest and the common good. It’s nice when they line up like that.

There was only one item on the ballot. Muncie City schools are struggling and have to pass a referendum to increase property taxes to keep the buses running next year. I voted YES for the raise.

My self-interest

My taxes will go up somewhere between $70-$150/year at the most if it passes. If it doesn’t, I figure living in a school district that doesn’t offer busing will cause my home value to drop significantly more than that. Also, I’ll have a daughter in school next year, and where is…

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Why I do what I do

Just received this in an email: “your book really has inspired me to work in Human Rights, hopefully in the Department of Labor. I want to work in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs to make known the rights that workers deserve in the workplace.”

I hate when writers write that something is beyond words or indescribable, (you’re a writer dammit! Describe it!) but I seriously have no words for how emails like this make me feel. I suppose the immortal words of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come the closest:



Cowabunga, dude!

There are times when I’m on some death bus in some forgotten country, far from my family, homesick, dirty, tired, and sick that I ask myself, “Why the hell do you do this, Kelsey?”

This email,…

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The Problem with Reverse Trick-or-Treating

You probably haven’t hear of reverse trick-or-treating unless you are a hardcore engaged consumer.  So let me show you how it works….

Little Jimmy dresses up like a zombie and goes door-to-door with his plastic pumpkin, just like any other little kid.  But unlike any other kid Little Jimmy refuses to accept the chocolaty treats offered by his neighbors who went to the trouble of buying candy and handing it out to kids.

“No, thanks,” Little Jimmay says, “I have candy for YOU that wasn’t picked by a trafficked child laborer.”

At this point Little Jimmy hands over a piece of Fair Trade chocolate with a note outlining the child labor situation in West Africa.

This is a problem for two reasons:

1) Little Jimmy looks like a self-righteous little punk.  This might be…

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Where are your socks made?

I was contacted by a sock company that sells groovy socks.  The socks were colorful and bold. They made a statement, and for every pair that they sold they gave money to a charity, which supports entrepreneurs.

Here’s what they wrote:

Kelsey, Love your mission. You are an inspiration. I have some rad socks for you. I’m the co-founder of XXX – a sustainable social enterprise that makes socks that (insert cause here).

So I picked out my favorite pair and sent them my address because, “hey! Free socks!”  But I ended my response with a simple question that has gotten me in a lot of trouble…

“Where are they made?”

That was two months ago.  I never received a response or socks.  Maybe they could’ve just forgotten to reply or send…

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#BeFair: Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

Since I’m eating Fair Trade chocolate today for lunch and nothing else, I have a question for you:

Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

Leave your answer to be entered to win this bag of Fair Trade goods. After you leave a comment take the BeFair Survey.

Happy last day of Fair Trade month and Happy Halloween!

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#BeFair: Fair Trade vs. Fairtrade

Did you know there were two fair trade organizations? Answer with a YES or NO in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a Fair Trade gift bag.

Huh? There are two fair trade certifications?

Yes, there are. As of 2011 Fair Trade USA, formerly known as Transfair, and Fairtrade International parted ways.

Who has a bigger and better impact? Fair Trade wonks can argue about this all day. From my view, their goal is the same: improve the lives of farmers. They both set minimum prices for farmers and pay social premiums back to farmers. These two points set them above all other certifications in my opinion.

The trick with any certification is that the stricter the environmental and social standards, the fewer farmers and laborers who benefit from the standards….

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#BeFair: Is McDonald’s coffee more ethical than Starbucks?

Have you heard of the Fair Trade, C.A.F.E. Practices, Utz, or Rainforest Alliance certifications? Leave a comment listing the certs that you’ve heard of and you’ll be entered to win a Fair Trade gift bag.

In Where Am I Eating? I mention a major fast food chain that buys a lot of Fair Trade coffee, but couldn’t reveal what chain. Now I can.

It was McDonald’s! Surprised?

Here’s how the section should read now:

You already support fair trade more than you know. Two separate sources confirmed that McDonald’s buys 30 percent of their coffee certified Fair Trade. That’s 22 percent more than Starbucks. Yet here’s the problem: no one knows this or can talk about it publicly because the company is worried that…

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#BeFair: Ending Fair Trade Month with a bang!

October is Fair Trade Month. I know it’s sort of late to be noting this, given that there is only one week of the month left. Better late than never, I guess.

I want Fair Trade month to go out with a bang and will be writing a series of #BeFair posts, starting with the one you are reading right now. If you leave a comment on any of these posts, you’ll be entered to win a shiny environmentally-friendly, socially-conscious gift bag. The winner will be randomly selected on Halloween and will win this…

This gift bag is awesome, but pales in comparison to the absolutely gi-freaking-normous grand prize that Fair Trade USA is giving away (both…

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