It's here! Story Academy 2012

Brad Lawrence, one of nine featured storytellers in the 2012 Story Academy

Brad Lawrence, one of nine featured storytellers in the 2012 Story Academy

Last week I sat in a circle with about ten others. It was the second time I taught a course called Tell It, a one-day journey through the Telling Your Story course curriculum. We were going around the room, introducing ourselves and filling in a bit of the story of how we came be there--in that workshop on that day.

Two or three people said, "I wanted to take this course last year, but I was too scared."

I had heard such rumblings the previous year, which is why I decided to offer it a second time. "I wanted to take your class, but I'm too introverted." "I wanted to take the course, but I'm not one of those Really Confident People."

I knew I needed to do a better job at describing what this work is and who it's for, because you don't have to be a stage performer to do this work. You don't have to be the Life of the Party or the One Who Always Tells Stories at Family Dinners (I'm not). The majority of my storytelling friends are more likely to be the ones thoughtfully observing life as it unfolds, not riding it like a mechanical bull and slapping its ass.

Here is what I know for sure:

  • Everyone has stories worth telling.
  • Yes, I mean YOU.
  • Making conscious choices about the stories we tell ourselves and others transforms us.
  • For that reason, it requires courage.
  • The courage to see, to be true, to change.
  • And the courage to share our stories and ourselves. To be seen just as we are, and just as we are not.
  • It is a journey best made in the company of kindreds: seekers, truth-tellers, occasional cover-divers. People who know that crumbly knee-wobbly feeling that is what it feels like to be brave.

The Story Academy is an opportunity to mine your own lost or forgotten treasures, together. You can find all the details here. Please join us. It won't be the same without you.

Sitting By The Dock

Squam Lake holds a piece of my heart, it's true, and I couldn't be happier about returning this Fall to celebrate 5 years of Squam Art Workshops. This will be my sixth session teaching here, and while every gathering is unique, the magic of coming together and creating enfolds us every time.

The woods, the water, the loons singing, the docks and rocking chairs and fires in the hearth--we always try to dissect the formula. How does it work? What makes the magic? But we always come up short on explanations, because the truth of the matter is much harder to recognize or admit.

We bring the magic with us.

We create a space where we can show up and receive exactly what we need when we say Yes to unreasonable ideas like giving ourselves the gift of several days away, trying something new, and venturing into the woods with a bunch of strangers in the hopes of leaving as friends.

The minute we say Yes we create space, and then all there is to do is to show up and receive--maybe not what we expect, but almost certainly what we need.

Below are the descriptions of my workshops from the Squam site, and I would be honored and delighted if you would come and play with me.

Tell It.

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.

This workshop--really, truly!--is for:

  • wallflowers, quiet souls, people who don't know if they have a story to tell.
  • people who know they are holding story jewels but wonder how to share them.
  • those who suspect it might be time to stand up and rock the mic. 

You will complete the day with your own story treasure and everything you need to share it--around the fireplace of your cabin, in quiet confidence with your best friend, or on the Squam Coffee House stage.

It's your story. Tell it.

It's your story. Tell it. Shirts available here. Telling Your Story home study course available here.


"We are the origin of our work. If that origin is mapped accurately enough, if we are honest enough to name what we find there, then our work is original." --Julia Cameron

 There comes a time in every creative journey to capture the essence of what makes you completely distinctive and unique, and to exhale it like breath into everything you do. 

 There is a path that taps into your inheritance to bring vibrance and electricity to your present and light the way into a future that is wanting you.

This all-day adventure through beginnings, timeless stories and unwritten endings will pull your creative fingerprint into focus so that all you create will be powerfully and essentially YOU. 

Come painters, come poets, come modern dancers. Whatever form your creativity takes, it becomes rooted in your journey, infused with your soul when you discover your Origins.

The Care and Keeping of Eileen Nishi

Photo by Eileen Nishi, westofwhimsy.comWe're hosting a Week of Care and Keeping in celebration of The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual, which hits the postal system on Friday, 11.25.11. I invited a few of the creative souls who pioneered this conversation with me in live workshops (and first edition manuals) to share some of their experiences, as well as some of their own Care and Keeping moves. Today we have with us the amazing Eileen Nishi:

I was lucky enough to be in Jen’s Care and Keeping of Creative Souls class last year at Squam Art Workshops. I couldn’t have planned it better as I was feeling particularly vulnerable that Saturday morning after a day of painting with Flora Bowley. I think the idea of taking care of myself as I pursued my creative dreams was probably on the radar . . . I just wasn’t clear about how that looked. Enter Jen + her infinite wisdom (which I soaked up like a sponge!) – and I was back on my feet and ready to conquer the world!

In reality – the one thing I put into practice right away was Jen’s Magic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which has earned its place as a permanent favorite with my boys. As for the rest? I’ve navigated some big changes this year – so I’ve just been getting around to revisiting those Care & Keeping ideas in the last couple of months. In addition to the original guidelines that included eating right and getting enough rest (something I’m still working on!), I’ve created some of my own Care & Keeping practices that are keeping me balanced as I move forward as an artist.:

  1. Good Lip Balm & Hand Lotion :: I find few things to be as distracting as chapped lips & dry hands. My lip balm favorites are Dr. Hauschka Lip Care Stick with Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers coming in as a close 2nd. For the hands Aveda Hand Relief is my go to product. Nourished lips & hands make for a happy artist.

  2. Music :: I love to sing. Granted – I’m usually singing in the car by myself, but no matter what the genre (I’ve had a “Best of the 80’s” CD on heavy rotation lately), I find that singing makes me happy. I believe that listening to music you love - whether or not you choose to sing along with it - is key to staying alive creatively. (See Eileen's Creative Jam playlist below.)

  3. Intention :: In the last month I have been actively living an intentional lifestyle. (Another idea I thought sounded good for years, but had no idea how to actually put it into effect.) I have taken a closer look at how I treat my body and what I put into it, how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. Making room for what I want in my life, and moving away from choices that weren’t working for me has created more energy and joy – such a simple idea with mind-boggling results! (Tip: Write everything down.)

  4. Gratitude :: I have found that in times of self-doubt, sadness and exhaustion that gratitude always brings me back to a calm, confident & happy state . . . a place I like to call Home.

 Care & Keeping is vital to my well-being and success – not only creatively, but as a mother/friend/co-worker as well. And while I’m still a work in progress in terms of practicing it, I can say without a doubt that it’s worth every effort.


Eileen Nishi is a global "waker" in the making, enlivening and inspiring others through her many roles as an insightful photographer, mixed-media artist, loyal friend and devoted baseball mama.


Bonus: Want a peek at what's on Eileen's Creative Jam playlist? Here ya go:

The Care and Keeping of Karen Delaney

Photo by Karen Delaney, 




"One of my favorite self care moves is sitting down with some hot tea poured into a favorite mug while wearing a pair of knitted gloves that a loved one made for me."







We're kicking off a Week of Care and Keeping in celebration of The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual, which hits the postal system on Friday, 11.25.11. I invited a few of the creative souls who pioneered this conversation with me in live workshops (and first edition manuals) to share some of their experiences, as well as some of their own Care and Keeping moves. Today we have with us the fabulous Karen Delaney:

When I first heard Jen Lee was doing a Care and Keeping of the Creative Soul class at Squam Art Workshops in 2010 my first thought was, What kind of class is this? It didn't sound like I would learn any "art" techniques or walk away with a piece of work I created.  It only took a moment longer for that deeper voice inside to say, YES, you need this class. This was the voice of my intuition, my gut, the part of me that really knows what's needed and when I listen I end up right where I am supposed to be. In this case it was Jen Lee's class.
I walked away from that class with more than I could have imagined--most importantly the permission to stop whatever you are doing and take a breath, to tend to youself and your needs, to re-fill your well.  If you are not coming from a full place when giving or creating you can become depleted very quickly. This was just what I needed to hear as I was currently in a place where I had given so much and was in real need of re-filling my well. 


The Care and Keeping Manual has suggestions that cover the caring of mind body and soul in a clear way that is easy to follow, you just have to give yourself that self care moment or hour or day/s, whatever is needed to get yourself back to full. One of my favorite chapters  is "A Good,Hearty Meal". Preparing a meal filled with loving intentions for myself and others feeds my soul. I have made Jen's Magic Chocolate Chip Cookies on more than one occasion and there are never any left at the end of the night.  Another big one for me was, "Give the Gift of Being Seen".  I was so good at seeing others but really struggled with lettting myself be seen. I found out being seen is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and others.  When you share your story and it resonates with someone else it brings about that feeling of connection that I feel is needed in the world right now. Knowing we are not alone is so important.
When I am taking good care of myself I notice my steps are lighter, I am more grounded and actually feel like I am standing straighter, my mood is even and I smile more. The opposite is true when I am not taking good care, I feel physically heavier, spend more time in that head space, slouch over, my jaw gets tense and Watch Out, because I can blow my lid any minute.  These are my cues that I haven't been taking good care of myself. Once you learn your cues it gets easier to see when you need that self care moment.  One of my  favorite self care moves is sitting down with some hot tea poured into a favorite mug while wearing a pair of knitted gloves that a loved one made for me. I am both tactile and visual so these things combined comfort me, and it only takes a few minutes to give myself some care.
Karen Delaney is is a healer, through words and images, who is known for her empathy and her ability to deeply listen. She is a highly sensitive person, which she used to regard as a curse, but understands now is a gift, as is she.

Squam Snapshots (2011)

Diana+ camera with medium format film. Photos of me taken by Jolie Guillebeau. Hammock: Jolie & Jenica. Also pictured: Carol Michael, Program Coordinator

Favorite Squam 2011 moments:

  • Dreaming up new possibilities with Maya and Jolie on my cabin's porch while Jolie painted the view.
  • Meeting fellow teachers like Helene, Shari, and Penny for the first time, 
  • and spending soulful sessions with my oh-so-gifted students.
  • Stealing long chats with Flora
  • and receiving a much-needed dining hall intervention from Linda about the value and worth of my work.
  • Sharing a cabin that was both a quiet, sacred space, and a place of celebration with Pixie and this Maya.
  • Dancing in front of the fire, letting myself party and play with my peers in a way I don't get to do often.
  • Meeting, as always, the people I'm meant to meet.
  • Being entrusted with the stories of others and reveling in the ways we intersect and find one another.
  • Letting myself receive as much as I gave.
  • Savoring a soy hot chocolate and a morning of refuge at Mocha Rising,
  • and teaching the cute kid at Holderness General Store how to make one of the same with the kind of authority that New Yorkers in particular can summon.
  • Kate in all her wild honesty, turning the drive into a sacrament.
  • Watching dear ones take their place behind the microphone, or tell a long story for the first time on a stage.
  • Being among friends in a place in which only two years ago I was a stranger.
  • Truing up my heart in a simple conversation or embrace with touchstones like Mary Beth, Cal and Sarah.
  • Getting to show up, give my humble offerings, and find myself--welcome, loved, home.

Squam Essentials, and an Art Fair

I'm bustling away over here, gathering and packing up all my essentials for Squam Art Workshops on Wednesday. I'll be bringing everything from my new lip balm and favorite slippers to other must-haves like these:

A sweet blue mini-cardigan, which I just finished knitting, that was inspired completely by (aka shamelessly ripped off from) Jolie Guillebeau when I was with her this summer in Portland. I love the glazed buttons I found for it here in my neighbhorhood. She'll have one just like it, but better.

My dreaming of the sea necklace and earrings by Liz Lamoreux, which pair perfectly with the above new mini-cardigan, and always remind me of the rhythm of the waves, the great mirror of water and sky at the shore.

The next knitting project to pair with the rocking chairs all over the campgrounds--on the porches, in front of the fireplaces. These socks on size 0 needles are super portable and so soft to work with. My thoughts fall right in line as the stitches do the same.

A train case for my camera gear has been on my wish-list for over a year now, and when I found this one for a song at a boutique near my sister's home in Colorado, I knew it was the one I was waiting for. Can't wait to nestle in my cameras, films and more.

Boxes, boxes, and more boxes of good things are arriving every day. One more visit from FedEx tomorrow, and it will all be here. (Those lucky Squamsters get the first peek at everything.)

Are you Squam-ward bound? What essentials are you bringing?

If you're in the area on Saturday night, I'd love to meet you at the Art Fair, and you can be among the first to see what's coming this fall. It's an amazing celebration of creative work--join us if you can.