UPPERCASE: A Magazine for the Creative and Curious did a lovely feature on Squam Art Workshops in the Winter 2010 issue.  I had a good time being interviewed for it with some of my fellow teachers.  The article, written by Christine Chitnis, and the photographs by my beloved friend, Andrea Jenkins (aka Hula), really captured the warmth and beauty of these gatherings.  I'll be teaching the Story Weaving class that is mentioned in the article again this year in the June session, in addition to new classes in June, September and October.

I can't say enough about the loveliness of UPPERCASE Magazine, which was a finalist in the Society of Publication Designers' Magazine of the Year category.  Subscribe if you can, and if you see the cost and wonder, can it possibly be that exquisite?  Know: Yes. Yes it can.

Squam Art Workshops

Registration for Squam Art Workshops 2011 is now open.

The creative community at Squam has been transformative for me, and I can hardly wait to be back this fall.



Here's what I'm teaching:

Tell It


If you are dreaming of telling a story onstage, or just spinning a riveting tale for your friends over dinner, this workshop is for you.

During this interactive and engaging day, you will learn how to find interesting and important stories in your own treasure chest of experiences and memories, and how to help them look their best before sending them out into the world.

You will complete the day with a story that is ready to share: 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.




Care & Keeping

Doing creative work is a distinctive kind of journey. Creativity has its own cycles and seasons, its own storms to weather and sunny days to celebrate. The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls introduces you to ways of caring for yourself (and your friends) along the journey that are both practical and profound. It will give you tools for navigating the terrain of a creative life.

Well-cared-for artists are prolific artists. Come join us and learn how to get unblocked and untangled, how to keep yourself healthy and balanced all along the way.

Confessions part 1, or Standing Out in the Open

out in the open, Central Park, photo by Meg Brothers, www.megbrothers.comSince this week's journey through the journal is partly about the things that we regard with judgment ("uninteresting", "unimportant", "too unspeakable to write"), it seems fitting to do a brief series of confessions here to go with it.  The next post will feature a page from my own copy of Take Me with You.

But, in the spirit of Go Big or Go Home (as my husband likes to say), here's one to start us off:

When I got the email saying the Squam 2010 class descriptions had gone live online, I couldn't even open them. Now, granted, I had other things on my mind at the time, but even so this was a moment I'd been regarding with trepidation for months.

The new classes weren't easy to plan, to describe, or to send to Elizabeth. She even called one day to talk me off the ledge when I was feeling nervous about committing to so much so far ahead of time, and doing it publicly nonetheless.

"There's this book I've been working on, and I think it should be a class, and I hope you aren't disappointed because it's not really a writing class," I said, and then I told her about my emerging project that didn't even have a title but seemed something like a care-and-keeping-of-artists-kind of manual.

"I trust you completely," was her reply.  And then she gave me everything I needed to move forward: understanding, permission and space to be in the emerging and unknowing between now and June.

The classes alone aren't my problem. The first problem is the audacity of my intention to write and publish companion books for all the classes I teach this year.  (I'm teaching in the Spring, the Fall, and at Squam by the Sea.) I'm compelled to do this, but I have no idea how I'm actually going to pull it off.  The second is the voice that is always waiting in the wings for its cue to jump onstage and declare while pointing to my chest, "Who do you think you are to do such a thing? What you know is so small compared to all that you do not."

And it's true.  I do not know many things, and anything I have to give I can only offer with humility.

So perhaps the two problems are really just one thing in disguise: fear.  Fear that I'll publicly fail to deliver all that I've promised, or that my work will be found wanting, which for me always boils down to the fear of not being loved.  These things are with me always, quietly humming in the background, but these next projects have them shouting and gesticulating and hogging the stage.

So I'm taking my own advice about courage, and recognizing that bigger leaps need to be solidly rooted in bigger love.  I'm trying to let love in more deeply than I ever have before, folding my hands quietly and handing things over to a more abiding trust than I have ever practiced, and confessing my fears so that courage can find me out in the open and not have to search for me under a rock.

Even though standing out in the open like this feels small.


What could you confess, in your journal or here in the comments section that would help courage find you?

"I see you just as you are, and just as you are not, and I have nothing but love for you." --Fortunes

A Year of Being a Beginner

I've been feeling nostalgic this week about the year drawing to a close.  New Year's Day feels like a lifetime ago, and so much has happened this year.  A year ago the Diana+ camera was just something on my wish list.  I thought I should figure out some photography move so I could have some visuals to pair with my writing.  My camera arrived a little into January, and so began my crash course in film, my adventures in cross-processing, and the way shooting saved me when I wrote all the way to the fence.

This year also began with the Portfolio Project game, which Jen and I hatched up in late December and many of you began playing with us in earnest on January 1st.  The game was a 12-week fast and dirty productivity burst, in which we focused on quantity over quality, trusting that even though it wouldn't all be good that some of the raw material would be.  I started podcasting then to have more time to write offline, and ran a podcast through the whole game.  The best of my work--visual and written--from those first three months became the Fortunes collection a few months later.

Being a beginner didn't stop with the photography or the new way of getting creative work done; it was the biggest theme of the year.  I started doing live storytelling on-stage at The Moth Story Slams in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  I found the courage to tell the stories that I never tell, and traced back to the roots of that courage. I met a community of storytellers there that is kind and generous, and that continues to teach me more than I can say.

I attended the Blogher conference for the first time, met many of the Shutter Sisters and all the Kirtsy Girls.  Felt immediately more hopeful about the state of the world knowing that those women are in it.  Meeting online acquaintances face-to-face continued at Squam, my first art retreat and an event that itself held many firsts for me.

I felt the vulnerability and humility of being a beginner over and over again.  I had steep learning curves, which seems to be my way as I crash-course everything I can.  My word for the year was fearless, and I tried to leap into every project and event just as I was, without knowing what it meant or where it would lead.  You might expect that to feel strong like flexed muscles, but it didn't.  It felt crumbly and raw and unsettling--I felt unlaced and undone more than anything else. All. Year. Long. But looking through my photos from the year, I didn't see those things.  All I could see was the beauty of where trust can take you. 

Here's a quick, no-frills and flawed slideshow from the year (I can feel all my film friends cringing already)--just a few favorite moments and images that I'm holding close as I get ready to begin all over again. 

2009: A Retrospective from Jen Lee on Vimeo. Featuring the song, Ageless Beauty by Stars.

Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Take Me In

the day the furniture and boxes arrived

One of the best parts of being at Squam was getting to share in more detail about my journey.  In one class, a hand went up as a student tried to pull the timeline together. "How long ago was this?"

"Let's see," I counted.  "Two and a half years ago."

Two and a half years ago, I completed a home-based business I'd been doing for eight years.  I had a three-year-old and a three-month-old.  I thought I wanted to write, though I had no idea really what I would write. Maybe I'd finish my practice novel.

Two and a half years ago, we said yes to the part of us that wanted to live in New York City. Even though we'd never been here in person. I watched You've Got Mail so many times back then, internalizing the conversation about how closing the store is brave, and how it takes a lot of courage to imagine a new life for yourself. 

And that's just what we did.  If I told you about our life, just four years ago, you would not even recognize huge swaths of it. Some things are the same, like our love and the friendships that remain.  But it is a new life, and all the people I've met and places I've gone since then, were only wild, unlikely dreams.

And it only took saying yes to one wild dream to set us on this course.  I didn't know what was going to happen back then, and I still don't know what's going to happen today.  But I'm slowing learning to trust my dreams and those intuitive ways of knowing, and more and more I'm practicing being brave.

I'm so thankful for Stacy, who heard my story at Squam, and then sent me this song yesterday. I'm posting it here, for everyone who has even one wild dream calling her right now, for anyone hoping that following her intuition really will lead her someplace good in the end:


My Ticket to Magic

Squam Art Fair, by Kirsten CrillyI'm so thankful for Kirsten Crilly, and the way she captured the magic moment that the Squam Art Fair was for me.  It was one of many things I had never done before at SAW, and getting me there and ready was a labor of love for so many of my friends.

My sister, Meg, came up with the table's overall design and concept (I lack this skill set completely). She coached me like the people in What Not to Wear, and then I went shopping by myself, armed with her advice and my phone camera for her final approval.  Tilky labored with amazing thoroughness and attention to detail on my signs. Hula hooked me up with packaging supplies for my first photography art prints ever available for sale.

My friend, Jenna, devoted herself to me for the evening, driving me, parking the car, helping me set up and run the table all night long.  Having her by my side helped me relax and have fun, like we were third graders playing with a lemonade stand on the corner.  So did all having so many of my students, cabin mates and new friends stop by with their encouraging smiles. They all held me in love, when self-consciousness and nervousness were lingering at the edges, grumbling that they weren't invited.  

By the time we ate our dinner and got to the venue, we only had 20 minutes to set up the table, which was three feet longer than I expected it to be.  But still, everything kept working out.  Andrew helped us unload heavy boxes from the car.  Susannah pulled the photos out of their baskets and propped them up for easier viewing.  I counted at one point, and no fewer than eight of us had somehow contributed to the table design, decorations, signs, the last-minute appearance, and even taking photographs to remember it by. 

That was a huge accomplishment for me.  Only a year ago, I was doing projects by myself (or trying to) because I didn't want to wait to collaborate with anyone else. Speed was my primary concern back then, and few people could keep up with the pace I was keeping.  It resulted in work that felt thin, even to me.

Now, a year later, I don't believe in doing anything alone.  I believe that being together trumps getting things done. Always. And the person I get to be in the world when I'm being together instead of going it alone is so much more joyful and healed than before, I wouldn't dream of going back.

Friendship and love. They are my ticket to magic.

the long table, by Kirsten Crilly