Hey, Hong Kong! CCI Conference on Corporate Communication 2014

CCI award


Sometimes when you shoot for the moon, be ready surprise yourself.

Turns out writing can take you places – literally – and here’s my recap. It’s been a month since I returned from attending the CCI Conference on Corporate Communication 2014 at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where I presented findings of my master’s thesis. Thank goodness for pictures and press releases, or I might think it was merely a dream.

Putting the “International” into CCI

My first time to such a conference, where 25 nations were represented by scholars and professionals, I loved saying “the United States” when asked where I was from. I met friends from Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, England, Australia, Canada, China, Malaysia, Netherlands, and many U.S. states. We all spoke English. Imagine the variety of accents! I didn’t realize it would be such an academic crowd; the majority of those who attended hold a Ph.D. and teach at universities. A fascinating group, they truly understand communication – our meals together were noisy with buzzing conversations of common interest.

My Turn to Present

During that four-day conference, I soaked up as much as a jet-lagged body could from others who are also passionate about communication. By the time it was my turn to present on the third day, a pit of nervousness welled up. I’d seen so many impressive presentations from these intellectuals, many of whom had decades of experience on me. Yet, when I stood up and looked out at the crowd, including my good husband who took a trip around the world to be my support crew, I felt at ease. I was among friends. I did my best to represent my university and company, sharing key findings of my research on managerial gratitude.

What? Really?!

That night at the Awards Dinner, I had one of the biggest surprises of my life when MY paper was named “Best Theoretical Paper” of the conference. I’m still stunned, and have replayed those couple of minutes many times in my mind. The standing ovation. The applause of new friends. The heavy glass award. I held back the surprised tears, barely. Thank you to the CCI Conference Judging Committee for selecting my paper. It made all my hundreds of hours in the university library definitely worth it. And shout out to Christina Genest, CCI Associate Director and Michael B. Goodman, Ph.D., CCI Director, who made everyone in attendance feel like family.

CCI Group Photo

Want to know more about Corporate Communication International? I know I’m a huge fan. Check out the CCI site, here.



Sundance and my chat with Robert Redford

Robert RedfordEvery Sundance season reminds me of my own one-on-one with Robert Redford. I had eight perfect words, exactly when I needed them.

We’re in the thick of Sundance season here in Utah this week, and the internationally recognized film festival is close to home. In fact, one of the film screening sites is literally a four-block walk from where I live (going to see a film this week!), and I love seeing the Sundance banners boldly waving on street signs throughout Ogden’s downtown.

They bring me back to my encounter with the film festival’s founder.

I was a full-time flight attendant at the time, greeting passengers in SLC as they boarded our flight to LAX. The gate agent came to me, whispering giddily we’d have a VIP on this flight. I’d met a few celebrities working my flights, but never before went into the fits of girlish squeals of some of my co-workers. I wasn’t one to ask for autographs or to take pictures. But when a living legend took a seat in 1A, I was giddy as could be.

Robert Redford!!??

From head to toe, he wore white: white hat, white jacket over a white t-shirt and white pants. They matched his teeth. And he could pull it off in a I’m-Robert-Redford-and-this-outfit-was-custom-designed-for-me kind of way. He carried only a brown briefcase. The lines of his aging face surprised me, as well as how attractive a man could be in his seventies. That chiseled jaw wasn’t quite as sharp as his Butch Cassidy days, but still there. So was the squinty-eyed, ravishing smile. I remember hanging his jacket in the First Class closet and putting his briefcase below it before take-off.

As I served First Class, I must have been the smiling-est flight attendant taking orders in the sky that day. I brought him the requested hot drink (from my recollection he had hot tea…or was it coffee with Baileys?) and a snack basket to choose from. I got out his suitcase and he worked on papers throughout the hour and a half in the sky. He was courteous, but not wanting to rally a lot of attention. Although my fellow flight attendant and I would peek at him from the front galley, I respected his space beyond the typical flight attendant-passenger interaction and tried not to look as starstruck as I felt. At one point, he engaged a conversation with me:

RR: Have you ever been to Sundance resort?
Me: Yes, it’s sure beautiful up there. I’m glad you’re preserving that area.
RR: Hmm, well, you look familiar to me. (Here comes my big line, people. No hesitation.)

Me: You look familiar to me too, Mr. Redford.

He smiled that heart-stopping smile and even laughed a bit at my comment. (Robert Redford thought I was funny!) That gave me the courage to ask for his autograph, which holds a special spot in my journal:

Robert Redford signature

And those were my words with the one and only Robert Redford. Share with me: How were your celebrity encounters? And what about your Sundance experiences?

Robert Redford picture via  The Marquee Blog on CNN.com

Writing to travel, traveling to write


Word nerdness and wanderlust are a dangerous combination. As my husband will attest, I can’t seem to get enough of either writing or traveling. As I’ve explained about the joys of sky writing, it’s often best to do both at the same time.

Notice the world map in my cube. I can't stay in one place too long.

I keep the whole world in my cube. Notice the map.

I’ve worn flight attendant wings since 2009, and for nearly two years I’ve written (corporate communications) by day, and flown by weekend. I’ve kept those worlds separate for a long time, but decided last week to reveal my weekend super power to my marketing co-workers.

Fresh from the SLC airport (I’d worked the early morning flight back from Fargo, North Dakota) I went to the Ogden, Utah office in my flight attendant uniform. Met by some surprise and requests for peanuts, it felt great to have my two jobs – and two passions – united for a brief hour before I changed into office attire.

If you’re like me, writing is a means to pay for travel, while travel supplies ideas for writing.

I keep a world map in my office cubicle, and look at it often, day dreaming up my next adventure. In the past six months alone I’ve perched atop the Empire State Building in New York City, visited my friends in San Diego, went running in Los Angeles, spent time with my family in Phoenix, rang in the new year in Paris, went on a bike tour of San Francisco, and played with my cousin’s kids in Sacramento – and this summer my husband and I will see first-hand why “all roads lead to Rome.”

I’m not saying we all need to this much travel to be inspired writers. To be frank, I’ve had a bit of travel overload.

I do believe all writers need to travel. We need to open our eyes (and passports) for inspirational recharge, and freedom from the humdrum of daily surroundings. Explorative adventure is in our nature as creative beings.

Recently my new writing friend Meg at Word Cafe wrote about why every writer needs a solocation. I couldn’t agree more with her sentiments. In fact, we’re two peas in the same writer/traveler pod.

san francisco sunset

On my most recent solocation, I found myself with an unexpected 19-hour layover in San Francisco. What a pleasant surprise to have an afternoon to get up close and personal with the Golden Gate City.

My adventurous heart pitter-pattered on the BART train from Millbrae to downtown, relishing that familiar feeling of childlike wonder. As I watched the cram-packed cityscape slide past me, it seemed my senses were on higher alert, able to soak in my surroundings away from deadlines. For this reason, I always keep a small notepad and pen in my camera bag, ready when inspiration hits.

In downtown I practically skipped my giddy self past spring blossoms in Union Square to Blazing Saddles, a popular bike rental place.

Bike selected and helmet secure, I made my way up Market Street. I wrangled through “The Wiggle,” and stopped for a photo op with the Painted Ladies, Victorian homes featured in 90s-sitcom “Full House.” Meandering through Golden Gate Park, I saw Sunday softball games and paradise green paths. The Pacific Ocean was in sight before long. After a quick splash, I jumped back on the bike for the final push of my four-hour tourist ride to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Big and red, the icon towered above me. No matter how many famous landmarks I see (Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, Rockefeller Center, etc.), I still find such glee every time I encounter them in new ways. I’d driven over the Golden Gate Bridge before, but biking it was a new thrill.

About 100 yards over the bridge, I realized too late I’d taken the pedestrians-only side (oops) and had to dodge families and hand-clasped lovers. They didn’t seem to mind, and I wasn’t in any rush.

A couple hours later I was on a ferry with my bike, returning to the city, greeted by the gorgeous San Francisco sunset you see above. Inspiration, indeed.

Whether in your own city or in another land, exploring grants you a new look at life. Bill Bryson, one of my favorite travel writers, says it well:

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

Amen. Now it’s your turn to share: Where will your next adventure be?

The joys of sky writing

The joys of sky writing



Sunrise views make 4 a.m. wake-ups worth it

As a writer and traveling enthusiast, I’ve spent many, many hours writing in the sky. In fact, I tend to discover my most interesting writing ideas at 33,000 feet.

The first job I snagged out of college was working for an airline. (Hello flight benefit addiction!) In three and a half years wearing flight attendant wings and gifting free peanuts to passengers, I’ve made it to all 50 states and seen gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, the tippy tops of mountains, and rippling waves of oceans. I captured the picture-perfect cloud scene above with my camera phone, looking through the galley window. (Now that’s an office with a view, right?)

Ever wondered what flight attendants do after giving out snacks and drinks? For me, after cabin service is complete, I’m delighted to write. If I have a few spare minutes (or hours sometimes!), I sit in the jumpseat with a notebook and jot  ideas. Sometimes it’s to-do lists or ideas for freelance articles. Other times I catch up on my journal, and include the route I’m flying next to the date (e.g., ATL-SLC), so I’ll remember later.

flight attendant crystalee

The day I officially became a flight attendant

As a matter of fact, the idea for this blog was born in the sky. I wanted my own corner in the digital world and needed an angle. I took an inventory of my interests: traveling, communication, active living, marketing, humanities, leadership, the color teal – but what topic could I never tire writing about?

Up there, I had a mile-high realization: crisp copy, scintillating syntax, and grammar matters – now that gets me excited. It came to me: celebrate words. And thus, delighted to write came into fruition.

Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen; I’m ramping up my blog editorial calendar and have some fun Saturday Spotlights, posts, and contests up my sleeve. Thanks for reading and being part of the journey with me.

And friend – next time you fly, take a pen.  

Where do you like to write? Let’s hear it in the comments. 


Love letters

Love letters


Isn’t it amazing what four little letters can do?

Apart, they don’t say much. Together, L-O-V-E, represent something we can’t live without. A couple years ago, I took this photograph at LOVE Park in Philadelphia’s best-known landmark, the Robert Indiana sculpture. I rushed almost 20 blocks with blistered feet before I had to be at the airport on a blazing summer day, just to see the LOVE for myself.

Love matters, and consider this: According to Huffington Post, Americans will spend $17.6 billion for Valentine’s Day – chocolates, paper cards, and other tangible tokens of romance.

Gifts are fine and dandy, but I’m much more a “words of affection” kind of gal. Love letters are the quickest way to my heart, and my favorite way to show love is writing a sweet note.

I’m not alone in wanting  love letters in the world:

As for me, one of my all-time heroes sums of what love really is with these words:

“True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well-being of one’s companion.”

– Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand a Little Taller

Happy Valentine’s Day! Sending some love your way.

Welcoming the new year, Paris style

Welcoming the new year, Paris style

January 6, 2013 |  by  |  Travel writing  |  , , , ,  |  No Comments

“…Trois, deux, un…”

Above, the Eiffel Tower bursts into dazzling sparkles. The stroke of midnight officially welcomes 2013. For every 20,000 glittering lights, a rain-soaked onlooker along the Champ de Mars shouts, “Bonne année!”

“Happy new year!” I throw my English version to the deafening roar, as my husband sweeps in for the customary kiss.

We expect screeching fireworks to frame the famous tower, as we’ve seen on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” every year on TV. Mother Nature, however, had her own plans for Paris and 2013, delivering chilled rain and sweeping winter winds.

Rather than city-sponsored fireworks, the wet crowd has come prepared to launch their own. Bursts of color sprout throughout the masses, and a war zone of celebration erupts.

“Watch out!” my husband calls as a piercing sound ignites a firework only feet behind us. We laugh and kiss again, delighted with the scene around us: New Year’s in Paris.


Now and then, life grants us feel-alive, movie moments. Scenes we’ll never forget. You know, those choice experiences we’d first revisit should we be lucky enough to find a time machine.

I was recently granted such moments in Paris.

As a lover of words, I could see, hear, and taste why Paris attracts the world’s renowned writers and artists.

Quoted in the movie “Midnight in Paris” (which we watched AT midnight IN Paris on Dec. 30), “How’s anyone ever going to come up with a book or a painting or a symphony or a sculpture that can compete with a great city? You can’t. You look around, every street, every boulevard is its own special art form. And when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights(…)for all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.”

Indeed, the City of Light glistens.

Since returning, I’ve struggled deciding how to capture my time in Paris, seeking to save you from a typical travelogue, while promoting writing. I came to this: Literary travel is travel at its best.

No matter how mesmerizing, visiting a special place can always be enhanced by writing, which converges time and space. Between hanging out with Mona Lisa at the Louvre, attending Sunday Mass at Notre Dame, and pontificating pop art in the Pompidou, my husband and I digested Jennifer Lee’s “Paris in Mind.” Her anthology offers passages from American writers inspired by Paris’ beauty, from Mark Twain to Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway to David Sedaris. On our walks, we saw the city simultaneously through their writerly eyes and our own.

Writing heightens the experience of travel, while travel inspires worthwhile writing. Are you a literary traveler too?

Bonne année to you and yours. Welcome, 2013.