I like to consider myself a ‘selective early-adopter’, more of a ‘forecaster’, when it comes to spotting trends in writing, business and the arts. One trend that’s in all our sites now is artificial intelligence. It’s steadily showing up everywhere, from our devices to our everyday lives.

As a creative person, I genuinely was excited by the idea of AI at first. I signed up for ChatGPT within days of its launch in November 2022 (among one million others) and quickly had it writing grocery lists, suggesting dog-training tips and having full-on conversations about the pros and cons of being single at 40 (there are many pros … in my list, anyway). Like with lots of other technology, once the novelty wore off, I used it when I remembered that I could.

Cut to February 2024 and I’m scrolling TikTok one night. I watch a video about Data Annotation Tech, a company that provides project work in the field of AI. It piqued my curiosity; the creator was Canadian and spoke highly of the opportunity. Not long after, I took the qualifying tests and was accepted within a couple of weeks. For that, I’m extremely grateful because I’m sure it’s only going to gain in popularity, and also competitiveness.

Now that I’m getting to see “behind the curtain” of some AI engineering, my mind is blown on a daily basis. Whether it’s an hour after dinner or an entire evening of writing and editing and researching new things, I can’t help but be electrified inside with anticipation of what’s to come in our near future.

I know you might be thinking, “But Krista, you’re a writer in marketing and the arts – you’re going to be replaced by AI, doesn’t that make you mad?!”. To that, I say: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Get on the AI train in any way that you can and start to build your experience.

My prediction is: if you aren’t replaced by AI, you, too, will be working for AI soon enough.

Round-up! High praise for “Dear Diary, It’s Me, Stella”

I’m thrilled with the launch of my first picture book and feeling grateful for all of the support and high praise we received from readers and reviews. Between mail-outs and media requests, social posts and socializing at events, I’ve found myself sitting in disbelief on many occasions over the past eight weeks.

On Tuesday, October 17, the day Dear Diary, It’s Me, Stella was published, I had the absolute pleasure of joining Jeff Douglas in studio at CBC Radio in Halifax for an interview on his radio show, Mainstreet. The entire production team made me feel at ease and watching Jeff work the board was a very cool site to see. We had lots to talk about because of our love for dogs and Jeff’s own story about his two rescues brought us closer together. Click here to listen to our interview.

The following day I was excited to meet up with friends Mike Ryan and Kristen Herrington to record an interview for their podcast, aptly named, the Mike and Kristen Podcast. It was a blast! I had so much fun getting to know them and talking about what it’s like to make art and share it with the world. Click here to listen (episode 83) or search wherever you like to listen to podcasts.. They have an incredible line-up of guests!

The NEXT day (it just keeps getting better), Crystal Gallant and Kevin the cameraman arrived at our house for an interview and recorded a ton of footage for CTV Morning Live Atlantic. Our segment aired on Tuesday, October 24 on the morning show AND on CTV News Atlantic with hosts Maria Panopalis and Jayson Baxter. Needless to say, I’m over the moon to have had the opportunity to reach their audiences and share our story. Click here to see Stella’s TV debut!

In November, we received our first book review from Suzanne Pelham at The Masthead News (pictured above), which is a local paper here in Terence Bay, Nova Scotia, where we live. The piece included a Q&A that I was very happy to be chosen for; I really enjoyed chatting with writer Sharon Jessup Joyce for the interview. Sharon is also a rescue dog mom and Suzanne is as well! Click here to download their November issue to read our review and Q&A.

Our Dear Diary, It’s Me, Stella Book Launch + Fundraiser for Fly With Me Animal Rescue (FWM) in December was a big success. A huge thank you to our sponsors, HFX Dog, who graciously donated their doggy daycare space for the day, plus owners Jill and Tori volunteered their time to set up and supervise Stella while she greeted all her guests. We raided $160 for FWM and donated a large bin of dog-related items for future foster pups.

Also in December, I took part in the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia Booktoberfest event at the Central Halifax Library along with over 50 other local authors and publishing outfits. Together we shared our books with guests who attended and mingled among the decorated tables drinking cranberry spritzers. The evening was entirely wholesome and a lovely way to meet so many writers in the community in-person for the first time.

As if that weren’t all, author (I Am A King and I Am Perfectly Me) and musician, Keonté Beals, wrote us a fantastic review that I’m looking forward to sharing before the new year on Facebook and Instagram; I have an upcoming podcast episode with my supremely talented best friend, Christina Martin, for her podcast A Chat with Heart; and a very special present we plan to share on Christmas Day with our followers on social media.

As the year is coming to a close, I’m hoping to reflect on just how lucky we are; spend time with Apollo and Stella and our loved ones; and SLEEP, EAT, and REPEAT (haha). I hope you get to do the things you want to over the holidays, and we’re wishing you all the best for an awesome start to the New Year.

From tragedy to triumph: Krista Keough’s debut picture book evokes the unbreakable spirit of a rescue dog

“‘Dear Diary, It’s Me, Stella’ is an incredible book that teaches kids the power of wanting something and believing they can achieve it. I love this book!” – Keonté Beals, Musician and Author of ‘I Am A King’.

“It’s dark inside the house tonight. Everyone’s in bed,” writes Stella, as she looks to the bedroom windows from the streets outside. Her family doesn’t want her anymore. They yell at her and push her out the front door. 

What she doesn’t know is that there’s a girl in a faraway place who’s dreaming of her, and Stella’s about to make way to her forever home.

Dear Diary, It’s Me, Stella is written by artist manager-turned-author, Krista Keough, and is based on the triumphant true story of her XL Bully rescue dog. The children’s book chronicles Stella’s freedom journey, written as diary entries from her point of view, illustrated by award-winning UK artist, Gina Stavrou, using only the colours that dogs can see.

The paperback, hardcover and e-book editions are published by Friesen Press and will be available to order from their bookstore [https://books.friesenpress.com/store] and online retailers worldwide on Tuesday, October 17. For more information, visit kristakeough.com/book.

Keough sat down to journal her thoughts about her newly adopted pet and their predicament two years ago. “We were both really struggling,” Keough admits. “Stella’s reactive behaviour was nearly unmanageable; I was worried I was in over my head.” 

Instead, Keough created a story about Stella writing in her own diary, about her experiences that lead her here: from the alleyways in Atlanta, Georgia to a crowded shelter and then a three-day bus ride to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s a story not unlike many rescue dogs.

“I thought about what she had been through and realized the strength of her unbreakable spirit. That’s when I started to believe in myself,” says Keough. She had taken to Instagram to vlog their daily life for months and was creating a community of foster and rescue dog families, trainers, and vet health professionals to help and share resources. “I knew that we could take on these challenges together.”

Keough discovered Stavrou’s artwork on the app and, although the two have never met, Stavrou says she was thrilled to be a part of such an incredible project. “I love the story and using only the colours dogs can see – like purple and blue, yellow and green – that gave me a beautiful colour palette to bring Stella’s world to life”.

About the author 

Krista Keough is a dynamic and versatile contributor to Atlantic Canada’s creative industries. Over the past 20 years, she has woven her expertise through various roles as a writer in business, the arts, and education. She lives in Canada with her two dogs, Apollo and Stella. Read more of her writing at www.kristakeough.com  

About the illustrator

Gina Stavrou, aka mindofbean, is a queer British illustrator based in the United States. Her work uses vibrant colour combinations and intricate details to portray magical worlds with whimsical characters. See more of her creations at www.mindofbean.com.

Christina Martin’s calm before the storm

Christina Martin is an award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and has recorded – and in some instances, co-produced – seven (SEVEN!) albums in her illustrious career to date. I’ve been lucky to know Christina for over a decade now and it’s been truly awesome to see her star rise.

Her latest album, Storm, is set for release this September 1. But, I got to listen to her songs and see the album artwork last summer, in August 2022, at the end stages of it all coming together behind the scenes. Christina invited me to work with her and her team at Come Undone Records to proofread the CD and vinyl artwork, and the liner notes and lyrics inside. Of course, I said, “YES!” and proceeded to be blown away by the magic of everything she made.

Fast forward to today, It’s August 23, 2023 and this past weekend I went to see Christina perform songs from her new record with her husband and bandmate, Dale Murray, at Neptune Theatre. She gifted me two tickets to her show and the Storm vinyl and two CDs (one autographed and an I Can Too t-shirt), plus a plantable postcard – all which are sitting in front of me as I type this.

The album is even more beautifl in real life. I could not be more humbled, to not only be part of her team for this release, but to also call Christina my friend.

I’m excited for everyone to soon see and hear the brillence of Storm. Fans can pre-order the record now or purchase it next Friday on Bandcamp, or visit her website for more details.

Encore! SMU grads celebrated

Saint Mary’s University Alumni Association publishes their annual Maroon + White Magazine, featuring inspiring stories about SMU graduates who are following their passions and making lasting impressions in their field. I’ve been asked by the alumni association to write for the publication for the past five issues and it’s been an absolute highlight for me each year.

The Spring 2022 stories I wrote feature Steve Snider (Building Bridges That Last A Lifetime: Steve Snider, BComm’79”) and Catherine Reeves (For the Love of Animals: Catherine Reeves BSc’09). Steve was set to retire as the CEO of Halifax Harbour Bridges and reflected on how being a SMU alumni impacted his decades-long career. Catherine’s love for animals, which she nurtured at SMU, guided her to making new discoveries in science and within herself.

For the Spring 2023 issue, I interviewed six new graduates to help tell their stories about their time at SMU and what they learned inside the classroom, on campus, and virtually while attending university during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Their experiences showcase the many ways that SMU is part of their lives and is helping to shape their futures.

Thank you to Mary Ann Daye at SMU and your team at the alumni association for continuing to invite me back to write for Maroon + White. I look forward to our next encore!

See you on the socials

It’s no secret if you follow me on Instagram: I really like social media. I like making videos, editing videos, posting pictures, and generally sharing my everyday life with my two dogs, Apollo and Stella. I’ve learned a lot over the past two years creating content on Instagram and TikTok. In return, I’ve gained a loyal following of compassionate and supportive pup-loving people, many who have become friends in real life.

For the past year, since April 2022, I had been working on a contract full-time with Nova Scotia Health as part of their media team. When the opportunity came up to stay onboard as a digital content advisor and manage their social media (Facebook, X, and Instagram), I had to go for it. Not only are my colleagues stellar people to work with, it’s a good feeling to be sharing feel-good stories about health care.

While I’m with Nova Scotia Health for now, I’m also writing for other clients in the creative industries and pursuing publishing my first children’s book. I’ve written about my rescue dog, Stella, here and she was the inspiration for the story.

I’ll have more to share in the coming months. Until then, I’ll see you on the socials!

All in the headlines

There have been some major events happening here at Creative Communications and I’m excited to (finally) share!

In December of last year, I had the opportunity to join the Nova Scotia Health‘s Public Health COVID-19 Response Team for three months to provide relief for their staff over the holidays. The plan was for there to be less need for COVID-19 supports and we expected activities like exposure notifications and outbreak communications would wind down. That was before another wave hit our province and nearly pushed us into another full lockdown.

I continued to take on client work through the new year, while feeling good about my contributions towards our health care community. The people I got to work with at Nova Scotia Health are supremely talented, dedicated, empathetic, and very good at their jobs. The experience was nothing short of inspiring.

As my time with the health authority was winding down, another opportunity came up that peaked my interest with their media team as a Senior Advisor – Content and Media Relations. I applied, interviewed, and accepted a one-year contract at the end of March and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

As part of my role, I get to read the headlines each morning and meet with the leadership in communications to discuss our inquiries from journalists across the country. I get to set up interviews with some of the brightest minds in our province and see the stories we help create broadcast online, on the radio, and on-air each day.

Creative Communications continues to keep me busy and I’m excited for the fall. I’ve been working with artists and arts organizations over the summer for projects coming up that I’m really looking forward to sharing. New music! Now, that’s music to my ears.

Do you even need your newsletter?

I’ve had a blast creating content for Theatre Nova Scotia‘s Instagram and Facebook for the past couple of weeks. Their executive director, Dr. Cat MacKeigan, is a gem and offers the best balance of autonomy and support that you could wish for in a client.

I was originally hired to work with their team for three months to manage their member newsletter and their social media pages, until they hire a permanent communications coordinator. After receiving the details for creating and distributing the newsletter and discussing its purpose for the membership, it made way more sense to stop offering the newsletter altogether and focus our efforts on Instagram and Facebook instead.

There were two main reasons for this change. First, the newsletter process was cumbersome and time-consuming. One of their staff spent up to 10 hours a week collecting the members’ content, editing graphics, inputting the content into the newsletter platform, and distributing it to the members only. The second reason was because, timeliness. Not only was the newsletter a time-suck, it wasn’t responsive to the members’ fast-paced needs. As a bonus, Theatre Nova Scotia wasn’t leveraging their social media to its full extent.

Audition announcements, funding deadlines, job opportunities – Theatre Nova Scotia wanted to share all of that with their members, too. So then why create new content when it’s easy to share existing content? Using Instagram and Facebook as their everyday “newsletter” allows the organization to not only share their content with a wider audience whenever they want, now they can re-share their members’ posts in the moment, interact with the community in spaces where they already spend time (online), which will make their social media content more relevant and engaging.

I’m looking forward to watching Theatre Nova Scotia grow their membership and their audience on social media over the next couple of months, and beyond!

Mocean Dance raises $20,000

Yup, you read that right. Twenty. Thousand. Dollars.

Mocean Dance is a brilliant and bold contemporary dance company founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2001 by a collection of artists and visionaries. 20 years later and its co-artistic directors, Susanne Chui and Sara Coffin, were driven to take on the biggest fundraising initiative in their history. To celebrate 20 years, they set a goal to raise $20,000.

Typically, this kind of fundraising would take months of planning and investment in marketing and communications. I, however, connected with Susanne and Sarah with the help of Strategic Arts Management on Nov. 8 and we launched the fundraising campaign on Nov. 23.

In two weeks plus one day, I created a logo for the “20 for 20 Holiday Fundraising Matching Campaign” and a look and feel using existing photography and elements of circles to tie the images together. I wrote key messages, designed graphics templates for Instagram and Facebook, and wrote copy for social media posts and their newsletter. Susanne and Sarah were keen with their feedback and helped shape every element for their loyal and supportive audience.

With a solid commitment of $10,000 from two core Mocean Dance donors, the campaign raised $10,000 in matching funds and Mocean Dance achieved their goal for a total of $20,000 by December 31, 2021. What a way to ring in the new year!

Back in the (virtual) classroom

Late one winter night, I was scrolling LinkedIn and came across a job posting for a teaching opportunity with Digital Media Academy, an international educational organization that delivers applied technology programs at prestigious universities like Stanford, Oxford, and NYU. I quickly put together a video as directed in the ad and sent along my resume.

My time spent as a teacher at NSCC and daVinci College were some of the most rewarding experiences of my career thus far. When Digital Media Academy asked me for an interview, I was elated. Fast forward a month later, and not only did I get the job teaching the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program in the new year, I developed the curriculum!

Due to the pandemic, Digital Media Academy needed an online version of their in-person programs and I was keen to take on the challenge. With hundreds of pages of material to review, I worked diligently to produce 20 engaging, entertaining, and educational lessons that can be adapted for various class times and age ranges.

I can’t give away any spoilers, but you can read a really nice description of the course (and me!) on the Digital Media Academy website. I’m really excited to meet my new students and execute all the fun ideas we put together. Time to sharpen my pencils!