ModernWell: Making A Space for Women
I fell in love this past weekend, with many women and a very special place. Before you snitch to my husband, let me explain. I traveled to Minneapolis (for you non-Midwesterners, it's a six and a half hour drive north/northeast of Kansas City) to attend a literary workshop at a brand new co-working space called Modernwell.
ModernWell is the brainchild of Julie Burton, writer and author of The Self-Care Solution. She also co-teaches The Twin Cities Writing Studio with Nina Badzin, which is actually what sparked the idea for this new space. They used to host their writing classes at rented spaces until one day the idea of have a dedicated space for women to connect, create and convene became the conception of ModernWell.
I have been following along since I saw Julie's Instagram post back October. I think my heart did a little flip flop as I read the description of what ModernWell was going to become. I obsessed over the new ModernWell Instagram account as I watched the beautiful space come alive, post by post. I've never wanted to move to the frigid cold more in my life.
I have to take a step back here for a second and share how I met Julie. Over a year ago, November 2016 to be precise, Julie reached out to me via LinkedIn because we had a mutual writing friend, Nina Badzin. Nina and I have known each other online for a long time (maybe eight-ish years or so?) and I hold her in the highest esteem. I've been a huge fan of Nina's ever since she began tweeting about Twitter etiquette (effing brilliant, that girl!) and our friendship blossomed as we became each other's biggest fans.
Julie shared with me that she had written a self-care book and asked if I'd like a copy. I responded with a "Hell yes!". I didn't get to the book until a few months later but when I did--holy shit--I needed to meet this women. While we haven't been through exactly the same health issues, we have both been traveling on a road that led us out of despair and hopelessness to empowerment and wellness. And we are both serving others and living our purpose by sharing our stories.
I finally spoke on the phone with Julie after she announced the beginnings of ModernWell and we talked for over an hour about some of the deepest parts of ourselves. We dove in to that conversation, letting all the mundane details of our lives left to be discovered whenever the need came up. It was like I met someone I I already had known all my life. I'm not sure if it's a writer thing or a soul sister thing but whatever it is, I feel blessed.
She mentioned an upcoming literary conference coming up at the end of January and asked me to come. Again, it was a HELL YES! and that weekend finally came a couple of weekends ago.
The literary workshop began at 1:00 on Sunday but I came early to spend a little time with Julie and Nina before the event started. I arrived around 12:15 and fell in love with the space immediately and I hadn't even stepped inside yet.
The ModernWell sign could be seen from the highway and its cozy interior beckoned through a wall of windows. I could see Julie flitting around by the front desk and I paused a moment as I took it in. I was so happy for her and knew that this space was a huge undertaking, both financially and physically. Julie saw me standing on the front stairs and I pointed at her with the tears already welling up.
We hugged (fun fact: I'm finally taller than someone who is over the age of 13) and I blubbered through some tears about how happy I was to be there, how awesome the space was and how proud I was of her all in the span of five seconds. I'm sure she had no idea what I said (I barely did) so I just hugged her again and let her go about her business as she tried to finish up some last minute preparations.
I was able to spend a few moments just taking the space in. In the front of the building were multiple sitting areas set up with couches, loveseats, ottomons, low and high top tables. Back in the corner were comfy wingback chairs as well as a cozy fireplace setting and individual chairs facing a wooded area. There were two large long tables in a designated quiet area. Along the back of the space were private offices and cubicles along with a couple of bathrooms and a room for massage treatments.
The conference room was to die for. It is all white minus the wall mounted television, assorted plants, and the garage door that comes down to create privacy during workshops or it's used by a member for a meeting. Did I mention there's a basement? It's where the yoga studio is and thanks to Julie, I participated in one of her classes the next day.
To complete the tour, there is a Keurig with ceramic mugs for members to use, a drinking water dispenser and even a small glass front refrigerator displaying healthy snacks and bowls. When I told you I could live at ModernWell, I wasn't joking. It has absolutely everything from its modern styled yet cozy decor, so many amazing and inspiring members, as well as an awesome staff who keep it all running smooth.
But back to the conference. Nina arrived a few minutes later and after sharing a hug, we snuck off to an office so we could catch up before everyone else arrived. To speak to someone you've only known online is a very surreal thing. Since I've "known" her, she's only been an avatar followed by words. But now here she was, in person, and her words just as good in person as they are online! Nothing can replace what we get by in-person connection. for allowing me to find these amazing people in the first place then for the ability to keep in contact with them at a moment's notice when they are far, far away.
Soon the other guests arrived and I was surrounded with so much energy and warmth. I let Nina go to mingle with other members of ModernWell while I found a chair to call home base. Soon I met an author and public speaker Kelly Radi. Within three sentences, give or take, I found out she was the author of the book Out To Sea: A Parents’ Guide to the Freshman Voyage. Um, sold! I think that may be the fastest book sale of her life. Connection #1 = awesome.
After a brief intro by Julie, Lorna Landvick (author of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (which was the book I chose for my first every book club), Patty Jane's House of Curl and her latest, Once in a Blue Moon Lodge. She broke the ice and got everyone laughing with her self-deprecating and wry humor. It was the perfect way to start the conference. Throughout the day, we broke out into small panel discussions based on specific topics and/or genres and by the end of the conference, I had met authors, writers, social media influencers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, health coaches, interior designers and some still figuring it outers. I felt completely at home.
Some special people to note. Andrea Jarrell, author of I'm the One Who Got Away, was one of the keynote speakers and I just wanted to sit in her presence to absorb everything. She's a natural beauty, inside and out, yet very intense. She's published many an essay and in some pretty prominent places. She's definitely someone to watch (or read, rather!)
I met THE Pamela Klinger-Horn as you all may know as @pkhorn on Twitter. She is a literary force to be reckoned with and is someone you want on your side when you have a book release coming up. Or someone to turn to for a great book recommendation. Or an intelligent friend to discuss the merits of the latest book you read. The list goes on and on. If you are a book lover, you must know Pamela because she'll show you around the library--you'll never be at a loss for what to read next!
Between sessions, I perused the book table and struck up a conversation with Lee Wolfe Blum, whom I quickly found out was from the Kansas City area! She was hilarious yet she has a couple of books dealing with some heavy topics. I just ordered her book called Brave is the New Beautiful and can't wait to dive into her wisdom and words. Right after Lee, I met Jen Gilhoi who I "met" on Instagram and we connected about so many things: our love for wellness, social media, basically all the things. She's a social media/brand consultant and is a new member to ModernWell.
I also met Jodi Livon, who is the author of The Happy Medium and Speaking the Language of Intuition, after she delivered the final talk of the night. She's an intuitive coach who does personal readings as well as gives professional guidance in the business world and as I stood talking with her, it was like she was an orb of energy. I'm not kidding when I say she was mesmerizing.
Along with finally meeting Nina, I was able to reconnect with Kate Hopper whom I've had the chance to see a couple times when our children played soccer in each other's cities. Both Kate and Nina absolutely wow me with their work ethic and talent and it was great to see them in their element at the workshop.
I also met Abbie Johnson who was part of the ModernWell interior design team as well as a member of ShineUp living. She's one of those people who has a big personality--you know that person you notice in a crowd and you tell the bartender "I'll have what she's having." I began following her on Instagram after learning about her involvement with ShineUp Living which I found through some rabbit hole I went down after I "met" Julie. With her was Jessie Pasqua of Pleasant Bay Designs and a team member of ShineUp Living as well. I totally gushed to them both about how amazing they did in bringing ModernWell to life. How many awesome and talented women can one town have?!
The next day, Julie was hosting Andrea at a fireside chat at ModernWell so I came back to listen to her talk about her memoir and answer questions. It was just a small group of us and such a great way to end my trip. Well, almost. Julie invited me to her yoga class she was teaching then we spent a few minutes talking before I had to get on the road.
Another fun fact: Andrea and I are both published in My Other Ex, an anthology about losing and leaving friends. I didn't realize this until I got home and pulled out my copy to flip through the table of contents. I guess I wanted to revisit the table of contents to see if I may have met someone who had also been published with me and sure enough--there was Andrea's name.
Do I sound infatuated? Then you are picking up what I'm laying down. ModernWell has so much to offer the women of Greater Minneapolis and my wheels are spinning about creating a space like this in Kansas City. While it was stunning, what was so special about it was how I felt while I was there. There was definitely a vibe, as if the creative energy and heart of each person who comes to ModernWell amplifies its beauty.
Truly, it was such an wonderful couple of days that I can't wait to come back again. Julie has done an amazing thing for the women of Minneapolis and I can't wait to see all the great work that comes from its members.
Bravo, Julie and company! I was blown away by everything and canNOT wait to come back. If you are a woman living/working in Minneapolis and would love to check out the ModernWell space, head over to the website or stop by at 2909 S. Wayzata Blvd.