My Creative Life: Christine Chitnis

Christine Chitnis
I had the pleasure of meeting Christine last year in New Hampshire and she was exactly as lovely as I knew she’d be. A writer and brand new mom, Christine’s first book hit the bookstores yesterday and I’ve been feeling the excitement for her, imagining what it must feel like to be at the conclusion of the publishing journey. A contributor to publications such as UPPERCASE and the Boston Globe, Christine will be teaching a class at Squam Art Workshops this autumn…

Ladies & gentlemen, please welcome Ms Christine Chitnis…

SC: Did you always know you’d write? How did this path begin for you?

CC: I came to writing in a rather round-about way.  I discovered my passion and talent for writing when I worked as a program director in the educational non-profit sector. Part of my job included writing grants and promotional material.  I loved the work, but it was seriously demanding, and after working several years in inner-city Chicago, putting in 60-70 hour work-weeks, I found that I was extremely burnt out.  Around this time, my husband was offered a great job in New England, and we decided to make the move.  I left my job behind, and vowed to strike out on my own as a writer.  I wanted to work on my own terms…and I have been ever since.  It was a struggle at first, transitioning from non-profit writing to creative non-fiction (magazine articles, blogging, etc.).  I feel incredibly lucky to be at the point in my career where I am writing about what I love.

Tell us about your gorgeous new book!

I am so excited about my book because the subject matter is very near and dear to my heart.  Markets of New England introduces readers to fifty of the most vibrant and unique markets — both farmers’ markets and art events — in the region.  I have a passion for travel, photography, writing and supporting our local artisans — making this book combined all of those passions.  It was truly a labor of love, and I am immensely proud of the end result!

Markets of New England

How are you managing to balance new mamahood with the creative life?

Hmm, I wish I could tell you!  I am completely flying by the seat of my pants, and learning as I go.  Some weeks I feel like I am on top of the world, perfectly balancing my career and motherhood… other weeks, I feel completely overwhelmed, like I am furiously treading water and only barely keeping from going under. 

My big thing is that I refuse to compromise my time with my baby — when he is awake, and we are together, I am completely, 100% focused on him… no phone calls, no emails, no Blackberry.  When he naps, I try to shift and focus 100% on work.  In some ways, I have become more efficient.  No more mindless web surfing…when I work…I WORK!  It helps that I do something that I am passionate about,  and I think that having a career that I love makes me a happier and healthier mom. 

I guess the other trick is to ask for help. I have great helpers in my life, including my husband, family, friends and babysitters. You can’t do it all alone, and you will be miserable if you try — so ask for help.  And something us moms (and women in general) are so bad at, but desperately need to do — give ourselves a break.  We all deserve a few minutes of “me time” every day, and we shouldn’t feel selfish for taking it.  A happy mom means a happy family!

Has your experience of book publishing been what you expected?

I guess I didn’t enter it with too many expectations or preconceived notions. Having written for publication before, I understood the general process of writing and editing.  Perhaps my only fear was that of being over-edited, to the point where my voice was lost.  I have had that happen on several articles, and I am always left feeling sad at seeing my writing chopped apart.

But the exact opposite happened with my book- I had such an incredible experience working with The Little Bookroom.  They are a small publisher, which allows them to give their authors so much individual time, guidance and support.  They had complete trust in my abilities, and really let me loose to write and photograph in my own style.  This gave me such confidence, and I never second-guessed myself during the whole writing process. 

Honestly, the entire book writing and editing process was a dream!  I loved every minute of it, and I would be incredibly happy to collaborate with The Little Bookroom on another travel book in the future!

What and who inspires you – could you share some links with us?

I am all over the map in terms of what inspires me- I love craft blogs, home decor magazines, memoirs of interesting characters. I draw inspiration from my daily walks, both through the cityscape of Providence, and trips to the country.  Lately, I am greatly inspired by film photographers- a few of my favorite film blogs include Nectar and Light, Wonderings and Wanderings, and, of course, your lovely site!  I really want to improve my landscape photography, and I recently came across the work of eco-photographer Jerry Monkman.  I found his work to be absolutely breathtaking.

I also love reading about interesting, young families — two of my favorites: Aurajoon, and Pacing the Panic Room.

Finally, two women that I look to as constant sources of inspiration- Pia Jane Bijkerk and Sibella Court.  Both have books coming out this month, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on them!

I have one week in New England: where should I visit?

Obviously, for starters, you should visit me in Providence, Rhode Island!  All kidding aside, Providence is a great town for creative people.  We have the renowned Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) here, as well as fabulous museums, galleries, restaurants, markets and shops.  There is a very indie, youthful, artsy vibe that makes it a great place to live, and an exciting place to visit.

After exploring Providence for a day or two, I would take you on a driving tour along the coast of Maine, stopping in the super cool city of Portland, and then weaving up through some of the small coastal towns (Belfast is one of my faves!).  I am completely drawn to water, and Maine has gorgeous lakes, and beaches…not to mention a stunning coastline!  And their coastal small towns are so charming, and so quintessentially “New England.”

That being said, this is such a tough question — each of the six New England states has so much to offer: Massachusetts favorites include Beacon Hill in Boston, and the bicycle-friendly island of Nantucket.  New Hampshire has the most gorgeous farm land, and the majestic White Mountains.  Vermont has an incredible Art Festival that runs the month of August, and ended up being one of my favorite events in the book!  The list goes on and on!  Can you stay for the whole summer instead of just one measly week!?

What is the message you want to share with the world? (in other words, what do you consider to be your life’s work?)

I try to find beauty in the simplicity of daily life, and I encourage others to do the same.  In our fast-paced world, we all need to be reminded to slow down and savor the simple things that can make life so rich- homemade, farm-fresh food, handcrafted goods, time spent with family, travel, good friends, quiet moments, the smell of my baby’s fuzzy little head and the beauty of the natural world.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I am focusing on Markets of New England, and making it a great success!  That means a busy summer of book signings, teaching gigs, and a big book launch party here in Providence.

I am continuing to write freelance articles for several publications, including upcoming articles in The Boston Globe, UPPERCASE, Edible Rhody and Yankee Magazine.  I am also a craft blogger for Yankee, and I have my own blog, which I put quite a bit of energy and thought into.

As I start to think about my next big project, I am definitely drawn towards writing another book, and I am just itching to expand my photography skills through workshops and classes.  I basically just want to travel, write and continue to take better and better photographs — all while focusing on being the best wife, mother and daughter that I can be. Phew — I am kind of exhausted just writing that!

You’re having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?

This might seem like a boring answer, but I am going for total honesty here.  My husband’s job requires us to do quite a bit of entertaining.  We have dined with Forbes billionaires, government officials and royalty.  It sounds very posh and exciting, but in all honesty, it really just means you have to mind your table manners, and pretend to be interested in tedious topics.  Usually I am stifling a yawn and fantasizing about swiping my finger across my dessert plate to soak up the last bit of chocolate sauce.

Not to say that I would feel that same way about six famous people of my choosing, but really…my ideal dinner party — mom, dad, husband, baby and my two brothers.  We are a rowdy crew, but there are no pretenses, and when I am in their company, I can be 100% myself.  They might not be famous, but they are my kind of people!

* * * * *

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today, Christine — I can’t wait to have your book in my hands!

{portrait of Christine by me; all other photos: Christine Chitnis]

6 responses
  1. Melynn

    Great interview! I met Christine last year – you’re right, she’s absolutely lovely. I am lucky to be included in her new book, “Markets of New England” as one of the featured artists who participates in many craft fair/farmers’ markets throughout the year. I just ordered my copy yesterday and can’t wait to see it!

  2. Nina

    Love this interview and love Christine. :)

  3. jeanine

    fantastic interview! love this woman and ridiculously honored to be on her inspiration list. also… this is SUCH a beautiful portrait of her. you truly captured her stunning beauty!

  4. Kathryn

    I agree that Provicedence, RI should be on your list when you come to New England. I am a twitter friend @katbalou67 and live in Providence too! I’m excited to meet Christine as this is the first i am hearing of her work. I will definitely be there for the book launch party. I have been following your journey and enjoying your pictures for some time. My mother is from England and I spent a summer in Bath so feel a little connection! Taking your course has been on my to do list as well but I’m always afraid with a 4yo and full time job that I won’t have the time to fully participate! Would love to meet up if you do make it to Providence! My favorite spot in the summer here in RI is Jamestown! Very little summer rush but still a few shops and a quiet little beach! And you are more than welcome to our spare bedroom!
    happy travels!

  5. susannah

    oh yes, there will definitely be a New England gathering!! :)

  6. Christine

    Thank you, Susannah, for hosting me on your lovely blog! Your readers are the best- a few more comments like these and I may start to get a big head!

    Kathryn- I can’t wait to meet you at the book launch party! Make sure you come and introduce yourself!


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