Close to the mesa's edge in Arroyo Hondo sits a quaint house with solar panels on its roof, tables in its yard and a plethora of books inside. It is the home of Kelly Pasholk and the hub of Your Book Designed, a unique business that offers services far beyond traditional book cover design.
Pasholk, a Taos resident for 16 years has made a name for herself helping local writers like Cindy Brown, the late Bill Whaley, and photographer Paul O'Connor. Pasholk offers several different packages on her website, but her job boils down to helping creatives make space for themselves to finish their work.
"I found that when I talk to authors, people have real blocks, even if they don't know they do," said Pasholk. She said she helps alleviate some of these blocks through various methods, one of which is called 'process painting,' "which is all about the doing and the being [rather than] about the product … it's about just getting people in the present moment." This includes meditation, focusing techniques and grounding work, she explained.
"There's something kind of intimate about working with somebody on a project like a book, because for most people, it's a big deal," she said. "They're really showing themselves, and part of the creative process is, you have your process, but then when you put it out in the world, you're also revealing who you are."
Pasholk helps to take this intimate stage in creativity and provides a clear mental slate from which to grow. "A lot of writers will say 'well I don't know where that came from, it just kind of came through me'; so I'm freeing them up to let that happen by facilitating their own process."
She said she envisions the writers' retreats - which have been stalled due to COVID - as a personal one-on-one experience catered to the individual.
"First we sit down and we come up with a plan of how they're going to structure their writing life if they don't already have one; or if they do, how it can be better," she explained about what a writer would experience when working with her. "I would read part of your book, if not all of it, and find out kind of who you are and what you want to present."
Pasholk then puts her graphic design expertise to work by designing the cover of the book and the first few chapters so "they can actually get an idea of what it's going to look like as a manifest piece."
The entire experience is catered to the individual, and Pasholk said she helps writers pick the right environment for creativity by selecting an Airbnb based on their needs. "It's all very personalized." Pasholk even plays tour guide, taking writers to the gorge, to the mountain or even to Santa Fe if it's what they need.
With the rise of self-publishing, Pasholk says people can use it as a stepping stone to get their books to bigger publishers.
"Self-publishing used to have kind of a bad rap, but it doesn't anymore. People realize that even with big publishers, you still - as an author - need to do your own marketing and pitch that book. So a lot of people will start with self-publishing, and then they'll have a book in hand they can take to a publisher if they want to."
Along with helping with creative motivation and hosting a "Resilient Writers Retreat," Pasholk - who has been a graphic designer since the '80s - offers more than traditional book design and marketing. She does "anything from business cards, bookmarks and postcards" to helping design websites for the writers.
As COVID nears its end, Pasholk hopes to see in-person retreats pick up, and envisions the future of her business. "I can also see doing like, two or three people at a time so that we would workshop it together," she said of future retreats. She is also working on branching out by starting an online course on creativity.
As for what keeps her going, Pashold said the feeling of seeing someone light up when they've completed a book or gotten over a hump because of her help is the key. "Inspiring really is about bringing spirit in, so that's what it is for me."