Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Six Weeks to Yehidah Named in January Magazine's Best of 2011

What a thrill and honor it was to discover that Six Weeks to Yehidah was named one of January Magazine's best children's books of 2011. The listing was also accompanied by a beautifully written review by India Wilson. To read the review, click here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tiferet Talk Interview with Josip Novakovich

Tomorrow night at 7 pm EST I have the great honor of interviewing Josip Novakovich for Tiferet Talk. Novakovich is the author of three short story col­lec­tions (Yolk, Sal­va­tion and Other Dis­as­ters, Infi­deli­ties: Sto­ries of War and Lust), the novel April Fool’s Day, two col­lec­tions of nar­ra­tive essays (Apri­cots from Cher­nobyl, Plum Brandy), and two text­books (Writ­ing Fic­tion Step by Step, Fic­tion Writer’s Work­shop). He is the recip­i­ent of the Whit­ing Writer’s Award, a Guggen­heim fel­low­ship, two fel­low­ships from the National Endow­ment of the Arts, an award from the Ingram Mer­rill Foun­da­tion, and an Amer­i­can Book Award. He’s been anthol­o­gized in Best Amer­i­can Poetry, Push­cart Prize, and O. Henry Prize Sto­ries. Kirkus Review calls him “the best Amer­i­can short story writer of the decade.”

Novakovich's works are rich and deep and written in beautiful, clean prose that captures the nuances and complexities of being human in a variety of settings and circumstances. The story he will read tomorrow, "Ice," focuses on the experience of two boys in the Croation town of Nizograd as they discover Coca Cola for the first time. The story, of course, is about so much more than Coca Cola. I hope you will join me in discovering the many layers of meaning in this and Novakovich's other works.

We will talk, as well, about his writing textbooks, which not only inspire, but which also offer fantastic practical advice.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Yehidah Release

In celebration of the release of my new book, My Yehidah, I would like to share some of the wonderful blurbs that were written about it. I am so thankful to the people who took time out of their busy schedules to read the book and make these comments!

In this fantastic companion piece where Roald Dahl meets Eckhart Tolle, Melissa Studdard offers children of all ages an interactive journey to honor their best self. Would that we all as boys and girls had the encouragement, creativity, and wisdom that young Annalise receives as she ventures to Acoustic Island, enters petroglyph portals, and masters that annoying Inner Monkey that knocks us all off-center – at any age. My Yehidah is indispensible for any parents who desire a creative way to nurture their child’s emotional intelligence, creativity, and authenticity.
—Jeffrey Davis, The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and    Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing

I am excited to see a journal for young adults written expressly to encourage their own imaginations and aid in developing awareness about their spiritual journeys.  The workbook, based on the novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, is filled with coloring pages, mandalas, and engaging questions that facilitate deepening one’s inner life.  Adults will enjoy and benefit from this book as much as the children for whom it is intended.
Beautifully illustrated by renowned artist, Cheryl Kelley, this book will delight and challenge children to be inspired to engage in their own creativity.
          —Tess Castleman, Jungian Analyst

Joyful, profound and accessible, My Yehidah gently inspires seekers on a journey into their deepest dreams through the magical power of writing, art and imagination. My Yehidah is the young explorer’s perfect companion in living rooms, classrooms and camps.
         —Malcolm R. Campbell, Sarabande

First Melissa Studdard gave us her wonderful novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, a rollicking fable of a ten-year-old girl’s adventures in self-discovery.  Now talented artist Cheryl Kelley has come along to add visual shape to Ms. Studdard’s imaginative tale.  Together the two women have crafted a companion volume to the novel, called My Yehidah.   Filled with illustrations, pictures to color, and insightful written exercises, My Yehidah guides young readers through their own voyage of discovery, showing them the wise place within us all that makes us who we are.   My Yehidah is a fun and valuable learning tool designed to demonstrate that we and the myriad aspects of Creation are, after all, one.
        —Dave Hoing, author of Hammon Falls

Melissa Studdard's Six Weeks to Yehidah is magic!  This beautifully crafted story of awakening youth will rekindle the spark of new beginnings in anyone lucky enough to read it. I treasure this wonderful, important story and its new companion journal, My Yehidah. Together, these delightful books transport readers on a fantastic journey that travels to the core of reality.
            —Anthony Lawlor, author of 24 Patterns of Wisdom

I wish I were a child again with parents who honored my inner world as much as they taught me to clean my room, do my chores, and finish my homework.  My Yehidah is a parent’s opportunity to do just that. As a child’s imaginative, inspirational companion, it encourages one’s senses of fantasy, exploration, curiosity, spirituality and endless amazement.   
This delightful book awakens the art of inner reflection through story, drawing, writing, painting and more.  A rich, confident imagination, the cornerstone of any life’s work, seems to be what Goethe was fostering when he declared, “When you learn to trust yourself, you’ll know what to do with your life.”
Let your children experience the adventure of My Yehidah to foster their creative expression, soul connection and joyous wonder in their emanating young lives.
           —Dr. Herb W. Agan, psychologist and family therapist

Nothing is more wonderful than to discover the unity within. Nothing is more marvelous than discovering and understanding your capacity to make your life more beautiful. This joyous book will help you discover what is best within.
—Kenneth Weene, minister, psychologist, and novelist.              

Pulling ideas and inspiration from her middle-grade novel, Six Weeks to Yehidah, Melissa Studdard, along with Cheryl Kelley, has created an interactive book in which the reader is invited to ponder these ideas, reactions to and connections between them. My Yehidah is an orchard of words and images to feed the imagination and a meadow of blank spaces to meander through while sketching, coloring, painting, collaging, and writing. After reading the captions and following the writing prompts, the reader's thoughts and feelings are taken on a journey from mind to page that is both adventurous and creative. Once completed, it can be a resource to return to again and again not only to see where you began, but also to ignite more exploration and contemplation about where you are, how you arrived there, and where to head next. Whether you roam My Yehidah on its own or after reading Six Weeks to Yehidah, whether you are young or old, whether you go alone or with a group, a journey through its pages is time well spent.
--Dawn Leas, author of I Know When to Keep Quiet

Yehidah means unity. It is your center, your entire self, the part that never changes, the part that is never confused. My Yehidah is a companion book to Six Weeks to Yehidah by Melissa Studdard, but can be used independently. In Six Weeks to Yehidah young Annalise goes on a journey and ends up finding things out about herself that she didn’t know existed. She grew in her journey and this journal will help you do the same.  Travel through your dreams and explore your subconscious in this unique journal of self-discovery. Deep questions pair up with the images, allowing the reader to reach a near meditative state preparing them for an amazing journey. No matter what age a person is, a spiritual journey is a journey that is worth taking. Consider this book a guide to your Yehidah.
--Leanne McGinty, Ahgoo Review

This playful, imaginative workbook offers therapists and counsellors a resource for guiding children through a process of self-exploration and creativity.  It is useful for both individual and group work.  Attitudes, dreams, experiences, feelings and thoughts are identified, creating grand therapeutic opportunities for insight and empowerment. When children share their visual journey with family members, there is increased connection and understanding. 
 --Marilyn Magnuson, Family Therapist and Art Therapist

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just Who Is Oana, Anyway?

The "Just Who" Tour Continues. In Oana's own words:

Healing through laughter is not a dream, but a recipe for survival
If you were to read a book about Oana's life, you might easily decide it was a work of fiction. 
Born in Bucharest, Romania, Oana lived twenty years under the grotesque dictatorial regime of Ceausescu. After the fall of communism in 1989 she studied languages at the University in Bucharest, then received her Master’s degree at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. English is her third language. 

She has worn many hats, working as a translator, as a teacher, and eventually caring for animals both domestic and wild.
Volunteering in both the U.S. and Canada, she worked for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers.

Currently residing in Arizona, Oana continues to dedicate most of her time to her animals and to writing.  
Her first book, The Healings, debuted in November 2010. It is a hard-to-put-down, laugh-out-loud series of adventures of an eccentric duo: a man and his feline partner walking from ‘healer’ to ‘healer’ and hoping to achieve awareness.
Oana’s take on depression is simple and effective: witticism and laughter coupled with the understanding of the frailty of human nature help us heal. An animal companion, real or imaginary, can be very therapeutic as well.
Many a reader – depressed or not -- will recognize the insanity of most of our daily routines and the elusiveness of Truth.
Oana’s current projects include a memoir titled, Romanian Rhapsody, a children’s book, Dr.Schnauzer and Nurse Lhassa, as well as other stories, all written in the same witty humorous style.      
She is also an active member of Central Phoenix Writing Workshop
 and a co-host of Two Unsychronized Souls Radio Show 
To learn more about Oana, visit her author’s website  
To read excerpts from The Healings go to

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bear Poetics

Tonight I have the great honor of interviewing J. P. Dancing Bear, a larger than life force on the contemporary poetry scene. Bear is the author of three full length collections of poetry, as well as several chapbooks. His fourth collection, Family of Marsupial Centaurs, is due out later this year. He is the editor of American Poetry Journal, owner of Dream Horse Press, and publisher of the Orphic Prize, the APJ Book Prize Series, and the first animal rights poetry anthology, And We the Creatures.  He is also the host of Out of Our Minds, a weekly poetry radio show for public radio station KKUP.

The interview will take place at Tiferet Talk at 7 pm EST.

Natasha Sajé says of Bear, "Using myth, politics, nature, and art, J. P. Dancing Bear asks questions that can only be answered through poetry. These accomplished and various poems feature sure-handed lines and vivid images. J. P Dancing Bear has an ear for 'aspens turing into an imitation of fire' and 'bullfrog stars hunger[ing] for crickets.'
Please follow links below to read Bear's beautiful poetry:

For more information about J. P Dancing Bear, please visit:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Six Weeks to Yehidah Named 1st Place Winner in Forward National Literature Awards

As I announced on Facebook earlier today,  I'll be running through the streets naked and tossing leaves and flower petals into the air (metaphorically). Six Weeks to Yehidah won the first place Forward National Literature Award for Middle Grade Chapter Books and will soon have a groovy seal! The News Release with the other winners is listed below. Now, that's what I call a great start to the weekend!

Nicole Akkerman
Contact: Nicole Akkerman, Forward National Literature

Nov 15, 2011
In conclusion of its first annual writing contest, Forward National Literature is now pleased to announce the inaugural winners of the 2011 Forward National Literature Award. A jury of experts from the publishing industry selected a combination of previously undiscovered and well-known authors based on the content, uniqueness, and readability in eleven distinct subject categories. The goal of this award is to provide published authors, both up-and-coming and previously accomplished writers, with recognition and to highlight writing of excellence.

First Place Winners
General Fiction     Author: Patricia K. Lichen
    Title: Kidnapping The Lorax
Picture/Children’s Books    Author: Lee Wardlaw
    Title: Won Ton
Middle Grade/Chapter Books    Author: Melissa Studdard
    Title: Six Weeks To Yehidah
Teen/Young Adult    Author: Nicole Izmaylov
    Title: The Dracian Dance
Fantasy    Author: A. C. Crispin
    Title: The Price Of Freedom
Mystery    Author: Joshua Graham
    Title: Darkroom
Romance    Author: Carole Matthews
    Title: The Chocolate Lovers' Club
Historical Fiction    Author: Talia Carner
    Title: Jerusalem Maiden
Humor    Author: Bill Kirton
    Title: The Sparrow Conundrum
Drama    Author: Susan Wingate
    Title: Drowning
Short Story Collections
    Authors: M. Izmaylov, A. Fuller, K. Morgan, et al.
    Title: The Emory Pulse

Second Place Winners

General Fiction    Author: Michelle Izmaylov
    Title: The Galacteran Legacy
Picture/Children’s Books    Author: Giles Paley-Phillips
    Title: The Fearsome Beastie
Middle Grade/Chapter Books    Author: John Booth
    Title: Wizards
Teen/Young Adult    Author: Ian Alexander
    Title: Once We Were Kings
Fantasy    Author: Scarlet Black
    Title: Salem Moon
Mystery    Author: Bill Kirton
    Title: The Darkness
Romance    Author: Reid Lance Rosenthal
    Title: Threads West
Historical Fiction    Author: Gerald Blumenthal
    Title: The Brass Compass
Humor    Author: Mark Everett Stone
    Title: Things To Do In Denver When You're Un-Dead
Drama    Author: Kimberly Kinrade
    Title: Forbidden Mind
Short Story Collections    Author: Alan Davis
    Title: So Bravely Vegetative

We would like to thank the 2011 judges, including:

Diane Nelson
Fran Lewis
Max Leonard
Risha Patel
Dellani Oakes
Cynthia Brian

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Who Is Monica Brinkman?

In her own words:
A supporter of the EBMRF Foundation, you will find Ms. Brinkman has written many articles that focus on opening people’s eyes and hearts to the E.B. Children.
In fact, Monica M. Brinkman’s first authored stage play, How Lucky Can You Get, performed in San Jose, CA some twenty-five years ago, donated all proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation.  With a background in the theatre, Monica portrayed Lucy (You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown), Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) and numerous other characters prior to dedicating herself to full-time writing.
Her great love of animals shows as the "mom" of five cats and two dogs, all her babies. She now lives in Missouri with her husband of 28 years, Richard.
Monica’s novel, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, has pleasantly surprised many a reviewer with its twists and turns of horror, the paranormal, spirituality, and suspense. Indeed, it is not quite the story they anticipated. It is a story that she confesses just had to be written to give people hope, purpose, and accountability for their actions in life. Ah yes, the magic of karma.
You’ll find Monica and co-host Oana interviewing guests who bring knowledge, enjoyment, controversy and excitement to the listeners every Thursday at 8PM EST on their Two Unsynchronized Souls blogtalk radio show.
Radio Show:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just Who Is Amy Krout-Horn

The latest in the "Just Who Series," in her own words:
Amy Krout-Horn (Oieihake Win, Last Word Woman) has resided in two worlds; the world of the sighted and the world of the blind. She has been a writer in both of them. She spent time in Washington DC acting as a political lobbyist for the disabled, worked as the first blind teaching assistant at the University of Minnesota’s American Indian Studies program, and holds degrees in American Indian studies and psychology. She is a regular contributor to Slate and Style magazine and, in 2008, was awarded their top fiction prize for War Pony. Amy, with her life-partner, Gabriel Horn, co-authored the novella, Transcendence (All Things That Matter Press, 2009). Her creative non-fiction was featured in the spring 2010 issue of Breath and Shadow, and Talking Stick Native Arts Quarterly published her essay, “Bleeding Black,” in their fall 2010 issue. Her latest book is an autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood (All Things That Matter Press, 2011). Currently, she is at work on her third novel, Dancing in Concrete Moccasins. 
A staunch advocate for social and environmental justice, she writes and lectures on native history and culture, diabetes and disability, and humanity’s connection and commitment to the natural world. For more information, to purchase books, or to contact Amy, please visit her official web site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Just Who Is Jeff Gephart, Anyway?

Just as my wanderlust has kept me moving from place to place and working in diverse capacities, my writing defies strict categorization, from the satirical humor blog I post on my website ( to the poignant drama of my first two novels—2006’s The Second Life and Out of Dark Places, published in 2011 by All Things That Matter Press.  The settings and characters can change, but one theme that ties most of my writing together is the examination of the human spirit.  I find people fascinating, and I want to understand what motivates and inspires them, so that’s what I write about.  Most of the kids my age loved Star Wars for the space battles and memorable aliens, but what drew me in was the battle raging within Luke Skywalker’s soul and his ultimate decision to reject the Dark Side.  To me, nothing is more compelling than a story of someone finding the resources within themselves to overcome life’s staggering obstacles.  The Second Life deals with a man who rejects society’s definition of religion and struggles to find the truth within himself, while Out of Dark Places features a protagonist who learns that the connections we make with others might be enough to redeem his tattered soul. 
While my next project will be a more light-hearted, comedic look at a character finding his way through a confusing world, I’m sure you’ll notice those same themes of self-discovery and the evolution of the human spirit.  If you’re a reader that enjoys having your empathy awakened and discovering that the similarities of our life experiences is what binds us all together, I have a feeling you’ll find it as rewarding to read my books as it was for me to write them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Elizabeth Cunningham and the Red-Robed Priestess

Tomorrow night I have the great honor of interviewing Elizabeth Cunningham, one of the most fearless and authentic writers alive today. Cunningham is the author of the famed Maeve Chronicles, as well as many individual books, such as The Wild Mother; The Return of the Goddess, a Divine Comedy; How to Spin Gold, a Woman’s Tale; Small Bird, and Wild Mercy. She is the direct descendant of nine generations of Episcopal priests, and she grew up hearing rich liturgical and biblical language, which, among other literary and personal influences, strongly informs her writing. The novel Red-Robed Priestess, the fourth of The Maeve Chronicles will be released in mid-November, and tomorrow night, Cunningham will read a preview from this much anticipated book.

The interview will take place at Tiferet Talk at 7 pm EST, tomorrow night, 11/17/11.

Cunningham has stated that both The Maeve Chronicles and her interfaith ministry express her profound desire to reconcile her Christian roots with her call to explore the divine feminine. For more information about Elizabeth Cunningham, please visit:

Click here to see the Publishers Weekly review of the forthcoming Red-Robed Priestess.

Below see an excerpt from Magdalen Rising : The Beginning by Elizabeth Cunningham, published 2007 by Monkfish Book Publishing. Copyright © 2007 Elizabeth Cunningham
Chapter One

The Birth of Brightness

You have all heard of his birth in Bethlehem in a stable -- though his mother told me it was really a cave, and she's vague about the location. You know the story of the attendant animals, the bedazzled shepherds, and the Magi who followed the long-tailed star. But did you know that the star had a twin? The sister star chose a tiny island in a northern sea. Its long tail lashed cold waters. Far from that holy birth in the hills, brightness rose from beneath the wave.

That was me.

I had a full head of red hair exclaimed upon, as I crowned, by the seven midwives, my foster mothers all. I had no need of awe-struck shepherds. My mothers kept sheep and pigs and goats besides. And listen, even though it's midnight, the mourning doves lift their heads to make soft, wondering noises, almost obscured by the raucous chorus of ravens in the wood and the cry of seabirds from their nests in the cliffs. And yes, if you pay attention, you can hear the walrus and seals barking for joy on the rocks. Wild horses answer, and a she-bear roused from sleep adds low, grumbling praise. Now if you look very carefully at the island's heart between mountain breasts, you can glimpse a moonlit flash of gold as the salmon of wisdom leaps from its pool.

And what need had I of visiting wise men when I was already surrounded by the Warrior Witches of Tir na mBan, the Land of Women? Ah, see that name stirs some forgotten memory. Just as everyone is a little bit Irish, who has not dreamed of the Shining Isles always to the West? The Summer Land. The Apple Isle. The Isle of Women. The Land of Youth. The Isles of the Blest. Dangerous, paradisiacal places where a hero could be made or undone. The greatest heroes -- Cuchulain and Fionn MacCumhail -- received their training in the arts of war and the mysteries of love at the hands of women who dwelled in island strongholds of ancient, female power.

At least, that's how it was in what my mothers called "the good old days," lamenting the lack of heroes in these slack modern times. Maybe it was the times. Though none of us knew it then, that pivotal moment, when he and I were born, was the meeting place of history and myth, of time and time out of time.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Who is Elizaveta Ristrova, Anyway?

I'm excited to join All Things That Matter Press in a blog tour (the "Just Who" Series) to introduce its authors to the world. This post is the first of many to come:

With her balance of misanthropy and anthropological curiosity, author Elizaveta Ristrova travels around the world in search of interesting material. Her books consider the significance of religion, clashes between races and culture, the relationships between humans and the environment, and the creation and unravelling of human relationships. She keeps a day-job as a lawyer, focusing on environmental and international development issues.

We in Pieces, Tales from Arctic Alaska, arose from her years living 500 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. There, she interviewed community leaders regarding traditional knowledge, cut and served whale despite being vegetarian, and read every issue of the local newspaper dating back to the 1960s. Writing was a great way to fill the three months of darkness each year.

Ristrova hails from south Louisiana and currently finds herself in Makati City, the Manhattan of the Philippines. She likes singing the blues, dancing tango, making soy brownies, creating kindergarten-style art, and proselytizing about the environment. Her previous books include Taking off My Sweater, Something Short of Salvation, and Small Fish in a Small Pond.

We in Pieces is available at Pictures of the nineteen characters in the book and a diagram of the relationships between them are at


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Alliteration in Red

Tomorrow night, 9/26/11 from 7 - 7:30 Eastern Standard Time, I have the honor of interviewing two lovely, brilliant, red-headed poets for Tiferet Talk.

Poets Adele Kenny and Deborah LaVeglia are both reading series directors. Kenny runs the Carriage House Poetry Reading Series, and LaVeglia directs Poets Wednesday. Both Kenny and LaVeglia also work for Tiferet, Kenny as a poetry editor and LaVeglia as a reading coordinator. Kenny is the award winning author of more than a dozen books of poetry and non-fiction. Her most recent collection of poems, What Matters, was released just this month and is already enjoying a warm critical reception. LaVeglia is a workshop facilitator for events such as Teen Arts Festival and the author of the collection Vigil.
We’ll be talking about how to give a great poetry reading, how poems are selected for publication in Tiferet, what makes a good spiritual poem, and many other things. If you can’t join us live, please feel free to listen to the archives anytime after the airing. They’ll be available indefinitely at the itunes and Blogtalk sites.

“Of Feathers, Of Flight” by Adele Kenny
From What Matters
Winner of the 2007 Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award
if I look up into the heavens I think that it will all come right …
and that peace and tranquility will return again.
                                 – Anne Frank

That spring, a baby jay fell from its nest,
and we took it to Mrs. Levine, who told
us the mother would know our hands and
never take it back. Spring that year was a
cardboard box, cries for eyedropper food –
feather-stalks stretched into wings. We
knew, of course, that we couldn’t keep it.
(Later, we would mark the spot with stones
and twigs – where the bird fell, where we
let it go – and sometimes, stopped in the
middle of play, would point and say, there,
right there.)
The day we freed it, it beat, a
heart-clock (wound and sprung in Ruth
Levine’s old hand) that, finally, finding
the sky, flew higher than all the briars
strung like metal barbs above the backyard
fence – a speck of updraft ash and gone.
Heaven, fuller then for one small bird,
spread its blue wing over us and the tree
and Mrs. Levine who, breathing deeply,
raised her numbered arm to the light and
moved her thumb over each fingertip as if
she could feel to the ends of her skin the
miracle edge of freedom, of feathers, of flight.

"Of Sleep & Dreams" by Deborah LaVeglia
Originally published Edison Literary Review

The sun wakes me.
Its light coaxes me out of my dream,
forces me to crawl back inside my skin.
What is real
and what is unreal
divide themselves,
as blissful sleep puts on its coat and hat.
I reclaim my body one section at a time.
Mouth: dry.
Muscles: stiff.
What I want is to find a way
back into that dream,
where there are only the two of us
in black and white,
and we share a cigarette, an inside joke
and some whiskey.
And , like a Frank Capra movie,
everything turns out right in the end.
All our friends line up to support us, and
nothing is allowed to prick our skin unexpectedly.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Relaxing into Writing

I haven’t done anything today. Nothing, that is, except watch the ways light can move through the branches of a tree, nothing but sit on this old bench outside the library, under the portico, beside a slow moving pond.
It’s been a long time since I’ve relaxed. And I feel great.
In general, I’m reluctant to slow down because I can’t stand not accomplishing anything, yet I’ve achieved more sitting on this bench, watching the leaves dance, than I have in months of spinning my wheels in the muddy banks of busyness.
I’ve written ten pages while looking at this tree, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to write like this—freely, openly, without inhibition or distraction. The sitting and watching, the not thinking, the not worrying, the gentle kisses of air—they are little muses beaconing me back to the life of the soul, back to the life of art.
And it occurs to me that of all the things we do to write, of all the preparations we make, the most important one is to relax, to quiet our minds, to be present in the moment, and to love and learn the things about which we will write by giving them the time they need to express their treeness to us, their pondness, their benchness.
Relaxation is industry, in the best sense of the word. The greatest of scientists will tell you that stepping away from a problem is often the best way to solve it. So go crazy, live a little today: Leave your computer at home on your desk, leave the dirty dishes piled up in the sink, leave the carpet unvacuumed and the paperwork in messy, disheveled stacks, and head to the park or the beach or even your own backyard, and just sit and watch, sit and write. It may end up being be the best "work" you've done in a long time!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Renaissance Woman

Now more than ever, I know so many people who perform a whole host of activities and pull them all off exceptionally well. These are not Jacks of all trades, masters of none. These are people who are tapped into the very essence of creativity, people who shimmer and glow with a seemingly unstoppable surge of inspiration and ideas. They are the ones who follow through on those ideas, acting as beacons, exemplifying what is possible for us all under the right conditions and with a lot of passion and hard work.

I do believe that we all have this potential, and I believe that one of the ways we can learn to activate it is by talking with and listening to those who are already successfully tapped in.

This upcoming Sunday night, I have the honor of interviewing Lois P. Jones, award winning poet, radio show host, published photographer, international editor, reading series producer, documentarist, and expert on Argentina's wine industry. I'm sure I forgot something. Probably more than one something. Nevertheless, I will be mining Jones's unique and generous mind for understanding as to what makes her the creative force she is.

I'm attaching a poem by Jones and a photograph she took in San Miguel de Allende in January of 2009, as well as some videos of her reading her poems. If you have any questions you'd like me to consider asking her, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You can listen to the show live at Tiferet Talk on blogtalk radio at 7 PM Eastern Standard Time this Sunday, July 24th. Afterwards, you can listen to the archive indefinitely at the blogtalk site or access a podcast of the interview at itunes. 

Milonga for a Blind Man

Time is both loss and memory.
—Jorge Luis Borges

In the middle of the night
a man takes a key
from his pocket.

In the middle of the night
he climbs to the top of the stairs.
From his balcony he remembers daylight,

the crumbled cement and the cracks
on the tavern below. The way the sky spoke
to him, the last one with anything to say.

And the opening of the flowers
when they would open for him.
Pink or coral, her lips staining
his with a memory – a breath

and a daydream of pampas and hibiscus.
His shirt buttoned down to the waist
and the white skin of a butterfly.

In the middle of the night
he remembers a snow heart
and the red walls of morning

where he walked the streets
in search of distance. Someone
has counted his days

before he was born. And this blindness
that followed plucked out his eyes
to sleep. It always comes to this –

edges fading from the familiar,
a city vague and celestial. He has lost
count of all his endings.

Published in Rose & Thorn, Winter 2008

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ritual Sacrifice

I will end this, my very first blog ever, with a ritual sacrifice, which is pretty funny for a 99.9% vegetarian and 94.5% pacifist. Give or take a little. What I mean is that I'm throwing an early draft of a poem out here to you, knowing full well that it will decrease my chances of publishing it in a journal. Why would I do something so seemingly stupid? I do it to show you that, as the site name implies, there will be no holds barred in this exploration of creativity.

The poem "Bareback Alchemy" is the namesake of this blog, and to me it represents the facts that 1) when we create we tap into the divinity that lies within ourselves, and 2) creativity, strength, and life force can be born of pretty much anything, even the most profound suffering. For, while the poem grew from heartache, it ends in transformation to power and strength. And this is real power - not the fleeting, unimportant power over others, but the power to create, the power to romp with the gods on the playground of being and becoming, the chance to find out who you, yourself, really are.

What you can expect from me at Bareback Alchemy: deep and honest discussions about creativity in art and life, excerpts from my interviews at Tiferet Talk and my reviews of others' works, news about my own writing, discussions about spirituality, and more.

So, I offer you this poem as a brief and heartfelt manifesto - that out of the suffering and complexity of experience comes not silence. Out of the suffering let us instead raise our human voices, call up to the gods, sing to the goddesses, peer inward at the ominpresent, scratch at the dirt of divinty, and marvel at the boundlessness within our fellow humans and our fellow creatures.

Descartes said, "Cogito ergo sum" ( I think, therefore I am). Let us say, "We create, therefore we are gods." Blasphemy, phooey.

You knew where to look all along.

Bareback Alchemy
Bring on the cold.
I'm going to meet this life
without gloves or scarves or boots
and ride bareback through the cobbled
streets of time, howling incantations into the mist
and threading mystery through the folds of day.
Let the ticking minutes land where they may:
I point my heart at an uncharted
path, lift from the earth,
trot on the wind. No Nostradamus
could predict the intricate
twists and turns this horse will take
down alleys and through storms,
shaking its magical tail,
its righteous mane,
clopping the cobblestone
and trying, trying like hell
to buck me off. Let it
snow and sleet. I've got no fur
coat to meet winter with this year,
just a raw and broken heart
and the waterfalls in my chest
where my lungs should be.
So go ahead. Bring it on: cold
and heat, hurricanes, tornadoes, quakes.
I've got the freedom of the dispossessed,
that fire in my throat,
the lick of truth,
and I'll sing it loud
because I wear
the philosopher's stone
like a smile, don a raven
on my shoulder, sport the alchemy
to transform my demons into gods.