Walking in the Snow

One winter night I was in line before a StorySLAM at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe with some friends. I really wanted a peppermint tea, and Ben wanted to find a restroom so we set off together to find a coffee shop. We wandered through the Lower East Side of Manhattan, past stoop steps and empty flower boxes and these snowflakes started falling--the big, quiet kind that make you feel like you've suddenly stepped into a movie. Snowflakes landed on our heads and our shoulders and I don't even remember what we talked about but I remember feeling this big, quiet kind of happiness that makes you feel that you are just where you need to be.

That walk through the snow is one of my favorite New York moments.

It was such a pleasure to sit down with Ben Lillie and hear about the journey that brought him to the Nuyorican that night. A former physicist at Stanford, now the director of Story Collider and a writer for TED.com, Ben is my most recent guest on Retrospective: The Podcast. Listen to our conversation here, or subscribe in iTunes.

Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery by Jolie Guillebeau

Jolie Guillebeau, jolieguillebeau.com

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

*100 Daily Paintings and the stories behind them

*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.

Saving Jim: Unplugged with The BTK Band

I woke up a few days ago thinking that I should share this story I told here in New York last December. Does that ever happen to you--right after waking a little courage slips through your carefully guarded cracks? So I got out of bed and pulled up the video and watched it. And immediately changed my mind.

This started an interior debate over which was the true wisdom--the whim or the reason?

My rational mind has tallied it up, and there are 512 reasons why I shouldn't share this video. I'm dying to inventory every one of them right here, but they have this very tedious and exhausting quality to them and the compassionate side of me is begging to spare you that.

To be honest, I am failing at coming up with a single reason why I should. But it's haunting me a little, this vague sense that maybe just one person needs to hear it, for some reason I simply cannot imagine. And then I watched Brené's last talk, and I'll confess it's made me feel momentarily just the tiniest bit brave.

Last fall Peter Aguero asked me to do this experimental new Unplugged show with The BTK Band, his improvised storytelling rock band. Usually raucous and wild with a full line-up of guest storytellers, in the Unplugged show BTK would be dialed down, with one guest storyteller sitting in for the whole night. The set-up was: four stories--longer and looser than we usually tell (he begged me to stay loose), with the band breaking out of their usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-chorus mode and letting the music be longer and looser as well. There were even chairs. (I had never sat down onstage.)

I brought four stories that had never been told onstage (some of which I don't tell off-stage, either). It's unrehearsed, completely improvised. Just me jumping, with the band and some friends in the audience my only net.

This wasn't the first time that Peter did something that almost made me lose it and cry onstage. I'm guessing it won't be the last. Jeff Scherer (off camera) sings the chorus. This was the second story I told that night. (Contains explicit language.)

Now I'm going to cook dinner and pretend I did not just post this.

Spring 2012: New Work by Amazing Artists

Indie artists play at Pike Place Market in Seattle

It was this time last year when the dream of producing other artists' work began.

I was feeling moved and inspired by work I was seeing around me, but also noticing how traditional channels could alter it beyond recognition. You know that saying about trying to fit a square peg in a round hole? Clearly what we needed were some square holes.

At first I didn't take it or myself too seriously, the way we so often don't. Then I said it out loud. Mistakenly (or not) to a friend who takes me quite seriously. He said yes absolutely I should do it. I scoffed.

"Yeah, maybe someday when I have my own independent media company."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, Jen," he said, "but I think you already do."

(Long pause. I feel in this beat that this is not one of those ideas that will let me off the hook.)

I consulted some trusted advisors to see what they thought. I really didn't want the job if it wasn't my assignment from the universe, so to speak. I didn't want to just run down a rabbit trail as a distraction from doing my own work (which often begs for distraction).

"It would be really good for you," they said. "It would be social, for one thing." They know I have a tendency toward isolation.

So I just said a quiet Yes one afternoon in the middle of my kitchen with the afternoon sun my only witness.

And that's how it began. In the weeks to come, I'll tell some of the stories about how the partners and projects I have since held in my hands and in my heart came to me and came to be. But for today, I'm so happy to begin the story and share that this spring I am delighted and honored to produce new work by amazing artists: Caren McLellan Gazley, Andrea Corona Jenkins, Jolie Guillebeau and Liz Lamoreux, all with the help of my partner-in-crime, Liz Kalloch.

(Here's a sneak peek at what's coming in April: now available for pre-order.)

A Night to Remember: Moth GrandSLAM XXV

The Highline Ballroom before doors opened. Taken with the Vignette App on my Droid.

What a night!

Sound engineer extraordinaire Paul Ruest runs sound check.

I was up past my bedtime, performing in the Moth GrandSLAM, a championship show in which 10 winners of Moth StorySLAMS come together in an evening that is part showcase, part competition featuring some of the best live storytelling around.

And last night was no disappointment.

Before the show I talked new belts and water bottles with some of my fellow performers, many of whom were stepping onto the GrandSLAM stage for the first time. When the doors opened, the party really started. I was honored and delighted that Amy Williamson and Maya Stein traveled in to see the show. Many of my storytelling pals were in the house, including Ed Gavagan, Jim O'Grady, Ben Lillie, Steven Berkowitz, Peter Aguero, and Steve Zimmer sharing the stage with me--in addition to the friendly faces that make up The Moth staff and support.

A room of profound listening.Pre-show shotsHost Dan Kennedy and Senior Producer Jen Hixson introduce the judges.

Our host for the evening, Dan Kennedy, was completely cracking me up, as usual. If you haven't read his book, Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, go to audible.com and download it today. I'm super picky about memoirs, and I loved hearing this one in Dan's own voice so, so much.

The other three female storytellers were picked out of the hat right off the bat--one, two, three. And they were slaying it. I honestly can't remember a night so filled with heart and soul from start to finish as last night was. I was SO proud to be a New York City storyteller, so honored to be in their company.

During intermission I checked in with Amy and Maya, who were engaged in a hot debate at their table about the scoring and we jammed for awhile about what makes a good story. As an audience member, I always love it when I get lost in a story--totally immersed in a character, a world, or in a moment.

Photo by my husband, Justin

I was the 6th or 7th storyteller of the night, and I told the story of our move to New York City, almost exactly five years after we walked off that airplane and into the great unknown of our coming life. If you had told me back then that this was the future awaiting me, I'm not sure I would have been able to believe it if I tried.

It's hard for me to explain what it's like to have a place like this stage where I can simply be who I am and tell it like I see it, to have my words received by rooms filled with people offering the most generous kind listening, and to be held by a community of tellers who hold story sacred.

The very first time I walked up onto a stage like this was just over three years ago. Dan Kennedy was hosting that night, too, and I remember I was wearing red shoes as I stepped up onto the stage and I felt like Dorothy coming home.

I think it's felt like that ever since.

At the end of the night, I tied with Ben Moskowitz to win. My first thought this morning when I woke up was that it had all been a dream.

Then I remembered: it was a dream, once. But now it's real.

"The story you are writing with your life is the most important thing about you."

Who are you? Where have you come from and where are you going? The story you are writing with your life is the most important thing about you, but most of us go along in life without bringing our awareness to the narratives that formed us, that influence our present and shape our futures. Until your stories are told, they have a way of owning you, whether you realize it or not. When you tell a story, you own it.

Telling Your Story was created as a one-of-a-kind companion and guide for story excavation and a bold introduction to the art and craft of storytelling. Discover your formative stories and bring them into the spotlight. Rock them. Bring the house down.

It's your story. Tell it.Telling Your Story includes:

  • 3-CD set in an 8-panel digipak: Telling Your Story Sound Studio featuring Jen Lee's full audio workshop, along with extensive interviews professionally recorded with story pioneers and mentors Peter Aguero and Ophira Eisenberg.
  • 125-page interactive, 3-ring bound home study curriculum with black and white photography and line drawings by artist Liz Kalloch throughout.
  • Content equivalent of a 12-week workshop
  • 8 entryways into discovering your own formative or forgotten stories
  • 60 pages of exercises to walk you step-by-step through the journey
  • 24 composition pages to insert wherever you need them

Special Introductory Price: 200 USD

Quantities are limited. Only one per person. Ships free world-wide, starting 11.11.11.

The Jen Lee Guarantee: We are commited to Telling Your Story playing an essential role in your journey. If you are not completely delighted with your purchase, simply return your materials for a full refund.

Like this video? Link to it or embed it on your own site!

Whether we are entreprenuers, activists or artists, we are learning more and more the importance of employing a story-based approach when communicating about our work to the world. And yet, most of us don't know where to begin, how to select the stories that really matter and pull it all together into powerful presentations. Telling Your Story was created to guide participants from all walks of life step-by-step through this essential process.

Inside the Telling Your Story Sound Studio

Session One: Become a story excavator as Jen Lee guides you in the hunt for your own story treasures, and learn the secret ingredients that will transform even a quiet story into an epic tale.

Session Two: Join the bold and audacious Peter Aguero for a heart-to-heart conversation about truth, courage, and the stories that change us forever.

Session Three: Ophira Eisenberg will make you laugh and move you deeply as she takes on essential topics like vulnerability, self discovery and the connection that makes sharing our stories worth everything it costs, and more.

About the Instructors

Jen Lee is a voice recovery specialist, independent media producer and a beloved performer in New York City’s storytelling scene, including The Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour and The Moth Mainstage. Jen is a sought-after mentor and guide for workshops and retreats unleashing creative expression. She is also the creator of Finding Your Voice, a cutting-edge personal breakthrough course,
and a contributing author of Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing.

Peter Aguero is a New York City-based storyteller and performer. Peter is a Moth GrandSLAM Champion, a popular Moth StorySLAM host, and an instructor for the MothSHOP community outreach program. He is also the lead singer of The BTK Band, New York’s only improvised storytelling rock band.

 

Ophira Eisenberg is a comic, writer and storyteller living in New York City. Ophira was named a “Top Ten Comic” by New York Magazine, has appeared on Comedy Central and is a long-time host at The Moth, of both StorySLAMs and Mainstage shows. Her memoir, Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, will be available through Perseus Books in Spring of 2012.

 

 What People are Saying about "Telling Your Story":

    "For me, as a peace and conflict researcher specializing in the transformational power of language, narratives and discourse for conflicts, Telling Your Story is one piece in the bigger picture. In every conflict, regardless whether it is personal, social or international, narratives and stories become more and more exclusive, to the point of deliberately ignoring the "other's" narrative altogether. I am convinced that learning about our stories, learning that all of us actually have stories worth telling, and learning how to listen to and sit with our's and other's stories, however uncomfortable, is one key to peace. 

    "The stories in Telling Your Story are heart-warming, soulful, and hilarious. They illustrate that we all, regardless what we are or do, are utterly human. Realizing our humanity and the vulnerability connected to it is one step in the direction of forgiveness, and without forgiveness, there is no peace."

    --Dr. Christiane J. Fröhlich, Peace and Conflict researcher, Hamburg, Germany

     "I feel you pulling for us, supporting and nudging in all the right ways, and also providing the room to anchor our investigation. It feels very much like you're sitting at this table with me, in the next chair over, witnessing as I sift through and explore the material of my life. I feel your enthusiasm, your engagement, and your glee as I make my little discoveries, see you clasping your hands in delight, hear you whisper - as I move through the work and land on the heart of my own narrative - 'Yes, yes, yes.' The generosity of the material here is profound."

     --Maya Stein,  Feral Writing, Tour de Word, Enough Water

    "Jen Lee's Telling Your Story is a poignant, powerful, and honest guide to excavating, forming, and polishing your stories. Jen offers her own stories to illustrate her points and in doing so walks the talk while taking us on a journey deep into our own souls. Simply reading the chapters and corresponding prompts inspires. Imagine the impact from doing all her brilliant exercises? She has mined from the greatest jewels in the storytelling scene in New York City for this guide and is herself a gem - an expert in this genre whose work has impressed and changed individuals across the world. Take this course - you are worth it!"

    --Allison Downey, Storyteller, Singer-songwriter, Associate Professor of Creative Arts Education

"Jen Lee's Telling Your Story curriculum is an amazing resource for storytellers and writers alike. Filled with Jen's soulful wisdom, this interactive workbook guides you through the storytelling process from beginning to end. Inside its pages you will find exercises to help you uncover your best story ideas and the encouragement and inspiration necessary to craft your story into a finished piece. As a writer, I feel lucky to have Jen as my guide as I seek to uncover my own stories. Telling Your Story is not to be missed!"

--Shari Altman, this joy+ride

"I've always told stories. But it wasn't until I spent the day with Jen Lee that I became a storyteller. Sitting in front of a roaring fire, she shared hard-won insights, helpful hints, and many stories of her own. She answered questions I didn't even know I had, from the general (how to choose a theme) to the specific (how to know which detail would make my story come to life). Hundreds of miles and several weeks later, I turn again to my copy of Telling Your Story, and it all comes back: Jen's quiet encouragement, her sincere attention, and the feeling that she's right here, cheering me on, as I put pen to paper."

--Austen Gilliland, Canadian Living

Telling Your Story includes:

3-CD set in an 8-panel digipak: Telling Your Story Sound Studio featuring Jen Lee's full audio workshop, along with extensive interviews professionally recorded with story pioneers and mentors Peter Aguero and Ophira Eisenberg.

125-page interactive, 3-ring bound home study curriculum with black and white photography and line art by artist Liz Kalloch throughout.

Content equivalent of a 12-week workshop, with 8 entryways into discovering your own formative or forgotten stories

60 pages of exercises to walk you step-by-step through the journey and 24 composition pages to insert wherever you need them

Special Introductory Price: 200 USD

Quantities are limited. Only one per person. Ships free world-wide, starting 11.11.11.

The Jen Lee Guarantee: We are commited to Telling Your Story playing an essential role in your journey. If you are not completely delighted with your purchase, simply return your materials for a full refund.

Click here for more information about The Essential Journey Collection.

"It's Your Story. Tell It." shirts are available here.

Like this? Use the share button below to spread the word.

Someday I Hope To Tell the Story

Lost gloves in the park, found hanging up to dry and be found.

Someday I hope to tell the story of this winter.

But for now it's enough to live through it. To find gifts in surprising places and help from unexpected sources, to hibernate, to create, to say a hundred words and behold a hundred silences. To feel grace falling on my cheeks like that pretty kind of snow--the kind that doesn't blow and howl and bury you in steep banks, but dances down the stories and traces the city from top to bottom like ghostly fingers. To be caught in the blowing and howling soul-storms and find my way home.

There are things I am learning--or I should say, things that I am told, that I am learning by heart so that I can understand them in a slow simmer and maybe someday believe them in my bones.

Things like:

  • There is a time to take the strong medicine you need, and a time to learn to live without the drug.
  • It is possible to be the last one to finally see yourself as you truly are.
  • A little confirmation can transform knowing into believing. (Some things we know are a little unbelievable. That doesn't mean they're not true.)
  • Wanting to be seen is nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Hiding out is exhausting when it's your nature to stand tall in the world.

There are still questions I'm asking and stories I need to untangle, there is still cold weather and cozy covers. But there is more light coming every day, glimpses of the way around this bend, and the feeling that I will come into a place of joy and freedom on the other side.

From The Moth Stage

In two years of telling stories at shows all around New York, I haven't posted any of the performances here until now. This video is from The Moth's Homecoming StorySLAM, hosted by Peter Aguero at Housing Works Bookstore. I hope you enjoy it.

For more information about The Moth, visit themoth.org. 

My post on Where This Woman Creates (Really) is also syndicated on Blogher today. Stop over and say hello or add your own photos to our Real Spaces Flickr group.

Reasons to Join Me at Squam Art Workshops in June

Squam Lake, Diana Instant+

You won't want to live without the hot new merch I'm designing for the Squam Art Fair.

In my classes, get your hot little hands on a piece of my new curriculum project, not yet available to the public, that will take you in-depth on our topic for a month afterward.

Learn how to weave your stories, then learn about access points to courage and cycles of belief.

In the afternoon, loosen up with a vinyasa flow set to hip tunes, learn to spin yarn on a spindle, create your own t-shirt pattern, or learn how to knit a seamless sweater.

Hear some of my true stories first-hand at a special storytelling session on Friday night.

Sitting on the dock and dipping your toes into the beautiful Squam Lake is the best way to welcome summer.

If you've been looking for your creative tribe, there's no better place to find it.

Being loved, nutured and mentored to your bones will carry you for a long, long time.

 

There's still room for you!  Join us.

Your Story Matters: Own It

Brené, August '09"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we'll ever do."  --Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW

This week I'm celebrating the release of Brené's new DVD, The Hustle for Worthiness: Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough, with her.  Watching Brené's work develop is like watching a master archer at target practice--she is increasingly hitting the mark on truths that are more and more central to our lives.

This talk holds so many insights that you will want to completely rearrange around, you will want to watch it over again and let the power of what she is finding and saying sink in deeply.  Then you'll want all your favorite people to watch it, too, so they can join you in this conversation.

To celebrate the release, we're giving away a copy of The Hustle for Worthiness to a commenter on this post.  You have until midnight, Friday, March 12th to enter.  Just leave this comment: "My story matters because I matter."  Go ahead--you can own it.

And the winner is (selected with the help of random.org) . . . Jane from New Zealand!  Congratulations, Jane--email me your shipping address at jen at jenlee dot net and we'll get your copy of The Hustle for Worthiness on its way.

Guest Post: If you're very lucky

Meet Phyllis Mathis, my beloved friend and mentor of over ten years.  Phyllis is co-founder and managing editor of Voca Femina, and the ontological coach behind Resonance Life Coaching.  Phyllis, with her profound wisdom and genius, and I joined our powers to cook up the Integrate Retreat in April, which promises to be the most transformative event I've been a part of yet. (There's still room for you to join us.)

Today she shares this story with us:

If you’re very lucky, at some brief moment in time, someone may come along and change your life. 

My someone’s name was Jay. That was the American name he adopted to prevent his yoga students from slaughtering his true Korean name.  

I was an ignorant, overweight, green around the gills yoga-newbie who had grown up on the belief that to darken the door of anything “eastern” was akin to dancing with the devil. Nevertheless I found myself enjoying the newfound flexibility, clarity, and strength provided by this modern/ancient practice, under Jay’s expert instruction. 

Included in my studio membership was a periodic “energy check” – a session with Jay in which he would poke around certain pressure points, looking for anything out of balance, any way he could help his students achieve a healthier balance.  

That particular autumn had been rough. My long-time business partner and close friend had turned vicious - in typical mean girls fashion - and had eviscerated me in front of my colleagues, just weeks after I had signed a five-year contract with her. I was a mess - stunned, wounded, and at a loss for how survive a whopping five years with this woman. 

I was in that condition one day after class, when Jay offered me an energy check. I warily followed him into the treatment room and lay down on the mat.  

He poked and prodded while I wondered what information he could possibly be gleaning, and for what purpose. He moved his hands to press a spot just below my left collarbone. I yelped in pain. 

“What is that?” I asked, completely surprised. 

“Ah,” he said, “You have problem with co-worker.”  

“How do you know that?” I demanded. How could he possibly know that? 

“This energy center have to do with relationships, coworkers,” he replied. “Tell me what is wrong.” 

I gave him a brief history of my humiliation and betrayal. His response startled me. 

“You have to fight!” he said, eyes narrowed, intense. 

“Oh no, I am not a fighter,” I blurted. How could I explain the situation, my cowardice, my complete lack of skills in the art of confrontation, my thorough intimidation under this woman’s glare? 

“In a fight, she is a lion and I am a chicken,” I offered, hoping a metaphor would bridge the cultural gap. 

His eyes did not lose their intensity.  

“Even a chicken knows how to fight for her chicks. You must fight like a chicken – for your soul!” 

His words hung in the air, the moment stretched out in time.  

The oracle had spoken.  

I took his words home, tucked them into my heart. Soon I managed to recover my dignity, face my partner, establish my boundaries, and get my power back.  

Not bad for a chicken. 

Shortly thereafter, the studio closed and Jay was gone.  

Five years later I realize that I was very, very lucky. You never know who might show up to change your life in an unexpected way. 

Curious about this weekend's retreat?  Follow me on Twitter, and I'll keep you posted on what we're up to, as I can.

Confessions, Part 4: Happy to Forget Who I Am

Our stories are like our fingerprints. Distinct. Like no one else's. Completely unique and completely human. It's why giving people a voice is so important. We NEED everyone's stories. We NEED your story. --Rowena Murillo

I wanted to make sure no one missed this comment that Rowena left on yesterday's post.  It had me saying a loud "Amen!" just before pulling the covers over my head.  I don't understand this dynamic in myself--it seems that knowing you have something the world needs might inspire a person, or spur her to action, but in my case it often feels like the opposite occurs.

I'm so happy to tell other people how important their work is, or how the world needs it.  How they must not give up. And these things are all true.  But often, I'm trying to shirk something off on them--if I can get them to tell stories that change the world, I'll be off the hook from having to do the same myself.  Or I try auditioning for the role of their sidekick, so I can come along for their ride.  If you are wondering how annoying this must be, just ask my friends.  I'm sure they'll be happy to tell you.

This is a mystery to me: why part of me knows exactly who I am and another part tries relentlessly to forget.  There's a possibility that I'm not willing to claim, and a fear that I haven't yet been able to name, and they are skittering through the shadows in my internal attic. 

But I'm onto them now, and the hunt is on.

 

How about you? Over the weekend, use your TMWY pages to hunt for unclaimed possibilities and unnamed fears.  We can share our wounds and triumphs next week.

a kind light to weary travelers

Were you hoping that something new would come out, just in time to brighten the darkest days of the year? It has, and it's here. Now all you have to do is to get one of these babies in your hot little hands.  And be generous. Light someone else's way, while you're at it. There's enough light and love to go all around.

Lanterns offers a kind light to weary travelers wishing for companions on the journey toward a well-crafted soul. Stories, poems, and essays offer signposts and gentle guidance, reminding readers that resistance melts away in the company of those who believe in the path set before us. By illuminating the ways we can move outside of our interior reflections into a more inclusive whole, this lovely book provides a way into togetherness that will encourage and inspire anyone longing for authentic connection around their creative work.”~Jen Lemen, artist, activist, dreamer

Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories

by Jennifer McGuiggan & friends

6x6 inch gift book; 48-pages 
High-quality paper (100#); Saddle-stitched binding 
Black & white photography throughout 
Unique Polaroid color photo cover 
Holiday orders begin shipping 12/16/09 
Gift bundle discounts available

 Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories is a curated collection of prose, poetry, and black & white photography by seven women writers, artists, and photographers. Each page offers up nuggets of wisdom and candor about life, friendship, and creativity. This beautiful square gift book is handcrafted, professionally printed, and thoughtfully created, making it the perfect gift for your girlfriends, your daughters, your mothers, yourself. It is a gift of hope, inspiration, and the reminder that creativity and community walk alongside each other, hand in hand, a string of lanterns lighting the way. Lanterns is a celebration, an encouragement, an invitation. (A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Girls Write Now, a NYC nonprofit that helps teenage girls develop their creative, independent voices and explore careers in professional writing.) 

Contributors 
Darlene J Kreutzer 
Liz Lamoreux 
Jen Lee 
Jennifer McGuiggan (editor/contributor) 
Rachelle Mee-Chapman 
Lisa Ottman 
Jena Strong 

Lanterns: A Gathering of Stories is now available for holiday pre-order. Buy a single book at the special introductory price of $18 or choose a gift bundle (two books for $32 or three books for $45).

Holiday pre-orders will be accepted until December 13, 2009. Pre-orders will start shipping by December 16 for delivery by Christmas in the U.S.  

New Futures are Made in Such Moments

With Jonatha Brooke, by Susannah ConwayI remember worrying that I wouldn't find it in my little town--the cassette my aunt got me hooked on while she was visiting.  The Angel in the House.  It was a good album, but the first song in particular stayed with me like a dream you don't want to forget.  It was being with my aunt, it was playing together, it was all the things happening to me at that age that I didn't understand.  And like most things that wrap up some truth in a way you can swallow, it stayed with me and became a part of me. It traveled with me along the way.

I did find the cassette in my town, and when I found the mp3 a decade later, I found that both my sisters remembered it fondly, as well.  So Much Mine, the opening song, was a coming of age signpost for all of us. It lives on every mix CD we've made each other since.

All of this was with me last week, as I sat in front of campfire by a lake in New Hampshire, just a few feet away from Jonatha Brooke when she started singing this song.  My aunt, my sisters, my mother, my teenage self who felt so off the beaten path that she had a hard time believing she'd really find the things in life she longed for.  I held my presence there, in the flying embers and the blowing smoke as something rearranged beneath me. Or was it within me?

Moments like this, in which pieces of our past or our truest longings wrap around and find us in this present place, build my belief that there really is a future that wants me.  Not the kind of future that is manufactured, but the kind that is dreamed.  Not a future I make, but one I receive.

New futures are made in such moments, when we allow ourselves to reach out and embrace the people and places that have been calling to us all along.  When we believe, this moment is for me.  When we say to the future that is wanting us, Yes, I will receive.

The Story Catcher

Some stories you hold too close to your heart. You believe that they are dear or precious, and you don't know what to do about those white knuckles gripping them.

The best thing, you suspect, is to let go. To release them with open hands and trust they find their way to those who need them.

I have one such story.  I am giving it to you now.

Here is how it begins:

Some stories are too difficult to carry around. Some taste like ash in your mouth, others feel like they might rend you in two. That’s why we have a Story Catcher in our village.

The Story Catcher takes your stories as you tell them truly—things that make your bones tremble and your muscles shiver, things you might only be able to whisper in the dark. She receives them as happily as a person making a ripe purchase at market.

She gathers all of them from the old ones to those wee ones just learning to give thoughts shape with their lips, and she holds them in her memory, tends them with her heart.

Then, when we’re ready, the Story Catcher gives us back our tales, on a day when we need to be reminded that we once were brave or that we once were rescued. That we might be so again. 

--from The Story Catcher, by Jen Lee

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