In this summer edition audio interview, we hear from Amelia (age 8), the author and illustrator of "Love Never Comes Without War", which was published as part of her third grade curriculum. (Not available for sale.) Amelia reads an excerpt from her new work, gives her advice on writing and more.
I still think about those dark days a couple winters back when Jonatha and I left our respective hermitages and slipped out for a coffee here or a lunch there. How consoling it felt to be with someone who knew what it was to be burrowed in deep, someone who knew how rejuvenating even that small injection of company could be.
It was like getting hooked up to an oxygen tank before plunging back under water.
It's so different now to be together in the bright sunshine of July, with those hard times behind us. With the champagne joy of new work pulling us forward into the crazy scary places that bubble with vitality and life.
I'm so happy to share our most recent conversation with you on Retrospective, where we talk about her adventures in music and theater, turning points and the decisions she'll never regret. (You can also listen in iTunes.)
Yesterday Liz Lamoreux tweeted about how the day after a launch felt even more vulnerable than the day before. It hits all of us at different moments, in different ways. We reach for different words in an attempt to explain what we're experiencing. Phyllis Mathis says, "This work costs something in soul." Liz Lamoreux says, "Putting from the heart work in the world feels like giving a piece of your heart."
It's a very specific kind of vulnerability to put not just your ideas into the world (Top 10 Ways To Blah Blah Blah) but work that holds the essence of who you are, the stories you carry with you always in the cavern between your ribs. The moments that made you who you are and continue to form you as you journey with them by your side and in your pocket.
You leap, and land. You say, See? That wasn't so bad. You're still in one piece. But then later--a minute or an hour or a day or two after--suddenly you feel all wobbly in the knees like your legs might give out on you. Your body doesn't feel like the solid structure that carried you off into the leap and absorbed the weight of your landing; now it feels like cookie crumbs shaped into a person-shape, held by plastic wrap. You worry that if someone bumps into you or looks at you unkindly, even for an instant, you might collapse into a pile on the ground. You put on clothes before leaving the house but it doesn't matter, nothing makes the naked feeling go away.
All those weeks and months of trusting yourself and what you knew you needed to do to say to make are suddenly drowned out by loud inner shrieks of the hysterical person on prison break in your mind. No one cares! No one wants this! It's going to make no difference!
The people who know you in your trusting and brave moments don't always know what to do with you when in the grip of crippling doubt. People forget to tell you that you're doing alright and that they love you and that it all matters deeply because they take it for granted that you know. And some days, you do. Just not these days.
I wish there were magic words we could speak to each other on these days that chases the doubt away like a very powerful spell. Or that we could wrap ourselves in some protective cloak. But the only magic and cloak I know is to wrap ourselves in love--the deep abiding love of those who are ever-present safety net whether we fly or fall. To try to take it in through our ears, our eyes, our skin. To ask to be embraced, held, listened to while we say the crazy thoughts out loud so we can hear ourselves how crazy they really are.
It is only because of this safety-net kind of love that I can ever take a leap at all. Everything begins there for me, and on crumbly days like today I remember that everything ends there, too.
Phyllis Mathis has been this kind of friend to me for over a decade. I'm so honored to have her as my guest on this week's podcast, as we talk about the way we are formed inside of friendship and conversation. Everything I do begins and ends in these deep soulful connections, but it's a relational form that feels on the brink of extinction.
Give it a listen and think about a safety net you could weave or strengthen in your own life, and the courageous leaps you could make as it holds you.
We all have stories we are born into, stories we are handed along the way, and many of them aren't easy.
But some people rise above the hard stories, some become more than the stories other people started for their lives. Jolie Guillebeau is one of these people, which makes her one of my personal heroes. I've said before that the story you are writing with your life is the most important thing about you, and the story Jolie is writing every day with her life is a story of resilience, courage and hope. I'll be honest: witnessing her do it sometimes takes my breath away.
Jolie's work, her friendship and her life are living proof for me that there is another chapter after this one, and that even the stories that others start and we are given are stories that we have the opportunity to end however we choose. That we can rise with grace and even sometimes with frailty, but in the rising is our strength. In the rising is our courage.
Now you can have a whole collection of Jolie's stories, which come alive through her words and paintings, as your daily companion as you bravely write your own.
This is a limited edition collection, signed and numbered by Jolie. When they're gone, they're gone, so order yours while you can.
BONUS: Order before next Wednesday, 5.2.12, to receive one of Jolie's 5x7 fine art prints FREE with your order.
Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery by Jolie Guillebeau
*8.5 x 5.5", Full-color throughout
*92 pages, Double wire bound
*Unique easel-style back allows for easy display
$45 USD, ships free worldwide
Update: Listen to Jolie's interview on the Retrospective podcast (Released 5.15.12), where she talks about rewriting the stories we've been given and her journey as an artist.
If all the people I know and love lived here in my neighborhood, I would host a party every Friday night so you could meet one another and hang out. You would be so inspired and happy to know each other, as I am every single day.
But we live near and far, and we will likely never be all together on a Friday night. So I'm creating this new podcast series as an attempt toward the next best thing.
It's called Retrospective, and it features in-depth conversations with artists, authors and visionaries about the places in which we find ourselves and the stories that brought us here. It's an inquiry into our experience of journey. But at the heart of it, it's an introduction between some of my favorite people in all the world.
It's coming soon to iTunes and all that jazz, but I can't wait for everything to be 'just so' because my first interview is with poet Maya Stein and it is a very time-sensitive conversation about her latest project, Type Rider. Here's the video trailer:
Yesterday I went in to meet Maya on the Highline Canal in Manhattan. She was here in town, and she's been setting up writing stations here and there, even though the official Type Rider trip doesn't launch for another few weeks. I wasn't sure how it would go over here in New York--would people be curious, or too cautious to investigate?
Just those few minutes I witnessed there, with passerby being drawn to her blue typewriter like bees to blossom and Maya conversing with them in a space of pure welcome, held so much beauty and humanity that I was all tears under my sunglasses. I wanted a video camera or some other way to capture the quality of playfulness and adventure that was as tangible as the warm sun on our cheeks. Some way to bottle it up and give it to you like the best present ever.
I do have this to offer you, though: a heart to heart chat, friend to friend, with Maya herself.
There are only a few more days to fund the Type Rider project--please help us spread the word.
Maya Stein is a poet, feral writing instructor and adventurer. She is the author of Spinning the Bottle and The Overture of an Apple. On her blog you can sign up to receive one of her original 10-line poems in your inbox every Tuesday.
Click the link below to play the episode in your browser (it may need a couple minutes to load), or right-click (or control-click) to download it into your library. I have individual files of each of the poems she reads to share with you, but it looks like I need to post those separately. Look for them to be added in the coming days (along with ways to subscribe to this new series.)
Many people probably dream of someday writing a book, or have some version of that aspiration on a list somewhere. Caren McLellan Gazley has dreamed of many (other) things, but she wrote this book for one simple reason.
I asked her.
It's been my delight and honor to introduce people to Caren in retreat and workshop settings, where her no-nonsense, candid manner endears her to all. I hope to gather again many more such times in the future, but in the meantime I wanted people--near and far--to be able to hold some portion of her story and her hard-won wisdom in their hands.
From leading faith-based communities to their current humanitarian work in anti-human trafficking, Caren's partnership with her husband, Phil, and their journey together have taken them all over the world. She’s cultivated tried-and-true, practical-as-your-mama’s-good-advice wisdom about how to stay sane and even thrive in the midst of passionate work, parenting, community, and even devastating loss.
"Many years ago I had a decision to make: pack up and quit, or figure out a way to maintain my energy for the long haul." --Caren in Ritual & Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care
In Ritual & Rhythm, Caren chronicles her self care journey, sharing her struggles, challenges, and all she's learned along the way. She reminds us that body care IS soul care, and that all we do for ourselves benefits everyone around us. Through the practical examples she shares, we learn how to craft our own daily or weekly rituals for taking care and find nourishment as our everyday living unfolds inside their rhythm.
"When my self care journey began, what I most needed was some deliberate time apart for myself. Time that required nothing of me emotionally or mentally. Time without expectations from others. And so I created a safe place in my kitchen."--Caren in Ritual & Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care
In a world of Do More and Go Faster, and in the face of human need that can stretch like a bottomless ocean before us, this book is the permission we've been waiting for and the guidance we need to find our way into a lifestyle that goes beyond surviving, into a realm where things like thriving, sustaining and flourishing carry the day.
Special Bonus: Everyone who orders Ritual & Rhythm before next Wednesday (4/11/12) will receive a full-color printable pdf featuring four of Caren's most-requested recipes, designed by Liz Kalloch and written in Caren's own handwriting.
Ritual & Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care
by Caren McLellan Gazley
Paperback, 48 pages
Earlier this year I jumped at the invitation from my friend Ernestine to attend the Scenarios USA Awards and Gala and learn more about her work. I met teen writers and educators and talked about one of my favorite subjects: empowering young people to tell their stories in a way that impacts society and culture. The awards ceremony made me cry. I don't know anyone else who is doing work like this--using film as a vehicle for under-served teens to talk about issues that are relevant to their lives and to pioneer a new kind of education about core issues like gender and power.
In addition to their curriculum which is taught in three regions of the U.S., every year Scenarios USA hosts a writing contest for teens. The winners are joined by Hollywood filmmakers to make short films that are shown around the country--at festivals, on television and in classrooms. They need 1000 readers to give 90 minutes of their time in February to make these young writers' dreams a reality. There are still some vacancies for the 2011-2012 Selection Committee, and I invite you to join me and register before the December 31st deadline.
I was happy and honored to interview Christine Mason Miller about inspiration and comparison, working inside our intentions and of course, her new book, Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World. Christine is someone I respect and enjoy, and I could have talked to her all day.
This has been nothing but a process of joy.
You can decide, I'm not going to let anxiety be a part of this.
And it's carried through every process of the book . . . every part has been about joy. Only joy. What I've learned is, you can decide. You can choose joy and step into that, and it's there waiting for us at every moment.
I picked out the juiciest parts of our conversation to share with you here. (Click the link below to listen, or right-click to download.) If you enjoy our interview, please share it.
It's our farewell visit, but I can't really wrap my mind around it because it feels like every other day. Like every other day when the kids are running on pure bliss in the bedroom or snacking from a shiny silver bowl around the kitchen table, Mel and me sitting on red stools and talking of ordinary things as if they are not going to be on the other side of the world soon. She asks if I'm ready for the show tonight and I shrug, saying I haven't really rehearsed because we're playing it loose and making it up as we go on this one. She teases me a little, the way only people who really love you can. She tells me about what happened at the dentist office and we both feel that ache you get when you're worried about your little ones. I tell her I finally found a gift for my husband for Christmas.
I don't have many friendships that span all my many worlds. School/playground friends who are also artist friends who are also storytelling friends. Only this one, and I felt spoiled with it the whole time.
We're both travelers, and we know the hard parts about leaving like a recipe you've learned by heart. Maybe this is why we don't say the things that don't really need saying—like what a gift it's been to be together for this season. How nothing in the world is as good as red stools and snacks in shiny silver bowls and friendships that catch stories like What Happened at The Dentist Today.
We say, send me that picture, and, I'll email you that link. And, we'll see you soon on Skype. And when it's time to go, we go, even though it aches all the way home.
When putting together the Telling Your Story course, I wanted to add interviews with some of my friends--people who were not only amazing storytellers themselves, but who also had experience teaching storytelling. I loved the idea of working with Peter and Ophira, and giving us a chance hear from someone from a comedy background and someone from an improv background, to explore how our varied experiences impact the way we approach the art and craft of this medium.
Also, I will own up to some purely selfish motivations: there were some conversations I was longing to have, conversations that don't happen standing in line for a show or hanging out in a crowded bar afterward. There were questions I wanted to ask these two that really require a quiet room, the chance to sit face to face, cozy into your chair and really be listened to.
Ophira Eisenberg is a celebrated comic who has appeared on Comedy Central and was named a "Top Ten Comic" by New York Magazine. I've always been drawn to Ophira because she's so damn real. So much of the time when she makes me laugh, it's this laughter of surprise because she has said something so honest, and so previously unrecognized or unnamed that I'm like, "Oh my god it's so TRUE!" She has this astute observation and this willingness to own up to all kinds of things that simultaneously inspires me and makes me feel relief at not being "the only one".
A lot of people can rock a persona or a character on stage, but it takes something else entirely to stand in front of a crowd and a microphone, under a spotlight and just be true. Ophira is the real deal, all the way, and it's no surprise that she is so beloved in our community. I love that her Sound Studio interview gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how she navigates vulnerability and how she prepares stories with high emotional content.
Whenever I think about the way that love makes us brave, I think about The BTK Band. The improvisational storytelling rock band, led by Peter Aguero, is my favorite to stand on stage with when I'm telling the stories that are hard to tell. They're the ultimate safety net--I know I won't lose their affection, even if I swing out wide and fall, and there is literally no where I can go that they won't go with me. I wanted TYS participants to feel that same safety, that same sense of bold permission, and having Peter collaborate on the project was the perfect way to create that.
Peter really embodies this mix of badassery and tenderness that gives me hope for my own budding inner baddass. In his sound studio interview, he gives participants the full range, addressing fears with compassionate, bold advice. He shares about the stories that have changed him forever and what gets lost when we hold back.
We recorded the Sound Studio first, in December 2010, and as I designed and finished the interactive curriculum I did my best to infuse the whole project with the spirit and sensibilities of Peter and Ophira, just as much as my own. The result is that this project is more urban and more rock and roll than anything I've previously produced. It's really an hommage to the NYC storytelling community, featuring photos of some of our favorite venues and quotes and wisdom from the friends and mentors that have taught me everything I know about the art and craft of storytelling.
There is no greater gift than working in the company of friends, and creating the Telling Your Story course with Peter and Ophira was nothing short of a dream come true.
You can find Ophira's comedy album, As Is, on iTunes. Her memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, will be available through Perseus Books in Spring of 2012.
The BTK Band can be found causing trouble the second Monday of every month, Under St. Mark's Theater. Peter and I will be together again for BARE on December 29th.
I dare not confess the far reaches of my newly-born skepticism or tell you about the Disillusionment Series of t-shirts I designed but never made because few people want to wear their cynicism so openly. I will tell you I now have these things I say to myself, like the sentences a teacher makes you write 800 times until you know the principle by heart. People are not magic, people are just people. People are not magic, people are just people.
But that's one former conviction that is hard to shake when I think about Andrea Jenkins, aka Hula. Try as I may, when I think of her I can't deny that there are still people who fill me with wonder, who make me consider a little longer that perhaps beauty and love are deep, deep seas worth dropping our anchors down into. Since coming home to Brooklyn there have been moments--a song playing in the market or a memory of her daisies landing on my shoulder while I cook dinner--when the remembrance of our time in her dear home brought tears to my eyes. Some gifts are so great, they are hard to speak of.
While I'm hard at work on a new project, my friends are serving up good things that you won't want to miss:
If you've dreamed of exploring painting or learning from amazing artists, it's time to Get Your Paint On with Mati Rose McDonough and Lisa Congdon.
Ali Edward's One Little Word workshop is a great way to weave a thread of intention through your new year, and it's not too late to join her. Registration will be open all year, though who wants to wait any longer?
And starting today, Brené Brown partners with Mondo Beyondo for a special Winter Dream Lab: The Gifts of Imperfection. Check it out!
I'm usually pretty unconscious when I'm collecting things that are currently inspiring me. It's not until I have stacks of new prints around, really not until it's all up and rearranged on the walls that I even notice themes or patterns emerging.
I rotate what's hanging in our home and in the studio. I want to see things that feel fresh, true to the present moment, but things that are also calling me forward into a coming future. If you were in my apartment today (which is getting a lot of attention as I move into a new season) it wouldn't take long to realize that my main sources of visual inspiration these days are the work of these two artists: Andrea Corona Jenkins, aka Hula Seventy, and Mati Rose McDonough.
A set of polaroid prints shine in my twinkle-lit dining room, including the popular Vintage Brooches. This series is a perfect example of the way Hula recognizes the beauty in things that most people's eyes pass over. Where some see the ordinary, she sees whimsy, and not just behind the camera. It's in every nook and cranny of her treasure-filled home, in every gesture of love and color that make up her family's festive and tender moments.
Look and See is the first thing we all see when we walk into the kitchen, and this sweet inscription makes me smile. Every time.
Mati's work makes up the heart of this inspiration wall in the studio: Speaking 1,000 Languages and Flower Power in Rose. Something about Mati has always felt kindred to me. Her optimism is not the stuff of cotton candy and denial spun around a stick. It's the strength of a woman who is intimately acquainted with the dark and still finds her way back to the light.
Dreams of Venice is in the kitchen--it's what I look at when I'm chopping vegetables and making meals. It is a really important image to me right now, something about sailing into the dark and still singing. Quiet Treasure is next to my kitchen window, above the coffee maker and next to the sink where I spend a good amount of time doing dishes every day. This is my first Mati Rose original, and I love how it reminds me that there are treasures waiting in quiet, gentle spaces. (Like this winter, especially.)
I ordered Show the World Your Magic for my girls, specifically for their reading corner in our living room. It's hung low, at their eye level when they are sitting in a cozy spot and reading, and where grown-ups on the sofa can be reminded of their own magic, too.
I met Andy Ross at a Moth StorySLAM, but it was at his one-man show, Melancomedy, that I knew we were really meant to be friends. My first thought in the audience that night was, How does this guy NOT have a job writing for TV? My next thought was, This work is hilarious and completely endearing.
That evening I realized the reason I don't enjoy a lot of comedy is that so many jokes are created at the expense of ridiculing people or tearing them down. But Andy's show isn't like that. There's a compassion and a level of insight present in the portrayals of his characters that has you laughing not so much at them as at yourself, and our common humanity. I adore him for that.
We've been friends ever since, and having him and his wife, Colleen in our lives is a gift. My girls climb them like trees and wrestle and chase through our apartment right up until bedtime. We argue like siblings and laugh at each other, then ourselves, then each other again.
Recently, when I was completely off the map, Andy celebrated the 200th post on his blog, Wait for It, with the video below. It makes me so ridiculously happy that I don't want anyone to miss it--so give it a spin and then head over to his website for more videos, great writing, and endless laughs.
And look for Andy in Mad Magazine--on newstands now!