Blue

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“It’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.”

~ Austin Kleon (Steal like an Artist)

 

 

She saw, in a magazine, a figure in an evening gown, paddle boarding. That sparked something, and now her novel is being published in less than two weeks!

Kayce Hughlett Stevens and I have known each other for several years. We met, of course, at a writer’s retreat – this one with Jen Louden at the marvelous Mabel Dodge Luhan house. I remember Kayce sitting by a little pool in a beautiful garden, walking and chatting, and stories about the full moon keeping her up so she made a nest in the bathtub and wrote there, in the wee hours of the morning! We share many common traits, though lately  writing and color seem to be the thread we are both following. I read an advance copy of “Blue” in order to support Kayce at first, though once I was half way in, I stayed up late one night and finished it in one fell swoop, completely forgetting I knew the author and enthralled by the magical world she weaves through the lives of three women.

The other day, Kayce and I spoke by phone as I painted the piece in the photo above (more on that later!).  There’s a lot I could share with you, though her story of writing this wonderful book is such a great example of listening to her intuition, to her knowing that I’ve decided to focus on that aspect of Blue.
I wanted to know more, once I was through reading it, and I suspect you might, too.  While I loved Kayce’s first book, As I Lay Pondering, this “Blue” was a whole different thing! I asked her how she moved from a lovely inspirational daybook to her first novel and apparently the difference was key.

I’ll let her tell you the story in her own words:

National Novel Writing Month popped up on my radar just a few weeks before it started.  I had finished As I Lay Pondering, and I had writers block.  Pondering was a really important and meaningful work for me, and it was clearly non fiction, and when we write non fiction, there is a tendency to try to make meaning out of things.  For me, it had that label to it – a teaching quality. It had to have a lesson – a requirement of the genre. I knew my voice was evolving and the idea of making things up rather than making things mean something was very attractive to me!  Blue is my voice now and it’s a different one.

What happened, of course, was that “Blue” ended up having SO much meaning woven into it. It’s still surprising me! As I’m doing interviews and talking to those who have read the book, I am realizing things that I didn’t see before, that meaning was woven through, without me meaning to do it. What a beautiful lesson is that, right?

Back to the character – I, like you,  am very visually stimulated, and I have this practice of deep listening, so I had decided – I’d set this intention that I would do these thirty days of writing for Nanowrimo.  I didn’t know what that would look like.  The cool thing is that there were no expectations, other than to start it and finish it. And it had this framework – I’d start on November first, during that month, I’d write 50, 000 words, and by the end of November, I’d have an ending. So I just let that kind of muddle around. I knew that there were these characters who were going to be related. And I knew there were three prime women characters and while I knew that,  I didn’t know how I knew that. I was sitting and having lunch one day, and I flipped through the magazine and there was this woman! It was Vanity Fair, and there she was! I have cutouts on my journal pages, for each character.   IMG_0537

At this point, I realized that Kayce was outlining the exact process I advocate for any creative pursuit – set an intention, have some structure but not too much, let go of expectations and just begin.  How wonderful!  So I asked her to go further. “Once you had these “sketches” of your characters, what happened?”

What really happened, which was totally surprising – I don’t think I really “had” Blue until I woke up on November first and wrote the first chapter and it WAS Blue! It was the Daisy character, which is interesting because some early readers are having a hard time connecting with the Daisy chapters, though for me they were the most fun! She just sort of showed up and I wrote for awhile with that character, then all of a sudden, Monica had something to say!
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I did all three stories simultaneously – in many ways, they were written pretty much as you see them in the book, in terms of order – though there were lots of revisions, editing, etc. What I found was that it was weaving itself, so before I sat down to write, I’d kind of ask, “Ok, who wants to talk now?” And I used, as we’ve talked about, I used music to inspire. Quotes, which started to “randomly” show up, as I was writing. And then, of course, the visual.  AND the sensory – I went off on a random thing, a writers group retreat, on Octboer 31st. I’d been invited many times, to this group, by this friend, but of course it had never been the right time. And so I was also surrounded by other creative types, in those initial days. For example, there is one scene where Izabel is cooking and that is all really real! I was a little brain dead one day and I thought, well – what do I smell? Enter the sensory. Really allowing myself to sink in to whatever was coming up in front of me. To steep in it.

I think that’s why people like you sink into the book!  You feel that. It may not be accessible for everyone, and that’s ok. If they don’t get it, they won’t love it.

I do love this book, and I love the way Kayce is putting it out in the world, as an offering.  A different perspective on people’s lives, a way to see how we all weave in and out of each other’s worlds. I’ll add what Kayce told our mutual friend, Debbie Reber, about the advice she’d give to anyone wanting to put their book out in the world, as they begin – “Start writing. Your book knows the way.”  Indeed.

 

Peacocks are associated with insight, karmic connection, and laughter. If you’d like to help Kayce spread the news about “Blue“, the novel, you might win this one-of-a-kind peacock, created during a special conversation between me and Kayce. HOW TO ENTER: Between now and September 6 ~ Promote/share this post, buy a copy of BLUE, write a review, sign up for Kayce’s Book Launch Birthday Celebration. Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, or Pin and LET US KNOW. We’ll enter you into a random drawing. Winner of this signed original, mixed media piece on 22×30″ watercolor paper to be announced September 7, 2015. Tag @KayceHughlett #Blue #CelebrateBlue

KH-008Author Kayce Stevens Hughlett is a long-time blogger and contributor to several collections and online publications. Her 2012 non-fiction book, As I Lay Pondering: Daily Invitations To Live a Transformed Life, is a lyrical and lucid treasure that invites readers to new awakenings throughout the year. Her latest creation, Blue: a novel, releases September 10, 2015.

A native of Oklahoma, she and her family relocated to the Pacific Northwest more than twenty-five years ago. Her first career was as a posh accountant in a downtown high-rise, now she’s an artist of being alive and speaker practicing creative lifestyle coaching around the world. Learn more about Kayce here.

Blue is available for pre-order now at Amazon.com,
BQBPublishing.com, or your favorite independent bookseller. RELEASING September 10, 2015!!

magical

 

 

Protect Your Magic
the problem is you think
you are not magic.
from any distance you
appears as all things stunning
do; they force us to forfeit
all we knew before.
you are exploding stars
and tragically forgotten truths
the way the ocean sways
and ever so illuminating
moons.
you are as magic
as magic gets,
as brilliant as brilliance
is,
as unexplainably
beautiful as anything
has ever been.
to think you are not magic,
well, darling,
i guess even our thoughts
can betray us
and be fools.
protect your magic.

 

– Christopher Poindexter

 

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about magic lately.  Not the pull the rabbit out of the hat or ride down Niagara Falls in a barrel kind, not at all.  The much more personal kind,  the magic that allows us to shift and change and sort and clear and somehow arrive at a place of freedom that we never could have imagined.  The kind of magic that allows us to begin over and over again, to return to that place of grace and wide open possibility.

The fact that I can even write these words amazes me, to be honest, never mind live it.  I remember when I spent hours and hours of days and days hiding under the covers, afraid to recall all that had happened to me, afraid not to.  Afraid that I’d be stuck forever, in that literal and figurative dark, close space.  I remember so many times when I was sure I would die, either by trauma or diagnosis, and so many more when I really wanted to.  For most of my life, I never thought I’d live beyond my mid thirties, and yet here I am, a couple decades later.

 

This morning, my writing group prompt was “me right now”.  What spilled out helped me to realize that I am living fully and well.  That I am here.  That I will be here for a very long time.  And that somehow, through grit, grace and growth, I’ve found a way to protect my magic, to embody it, to free myself.  Imagine that.

 

I hope I’ll be able to write about how that happened here and perhaps in another book, someday,  because I firmly believe that we are all magical.  That we all have access to this freedom and way of being.  For now, there’s this poem, a favorite of mine, and the words I wrote for my group.  I’ll trust that this is enough, for now.

 

Me right now. 7:46 am on a random Wednesday.

While I tend to wake up relatively happy these days, something I dreamt of left me a bit unsettled, so I slept a little later, with the intention of clearing it. Then I lazed in bed for a while, catching up on messages overnight, watching what my friends around the world were up to. There was an invitation to Skype with one, a reminder that another loved me, photographs that made me smile, and made me remember.

All of this made me remember how magical my life is these days, how very fortunate I am, how I’ve created a life that makes me happy to wake up every morning. My days weren’t always like this, true — yet now they are. Today, I get to write with a small group of lovely people who never cease to make me marvel at their words. I get to spend time with my daughter, a real treat these days, and greet the day with the man I married over twenty six years ago and I still love to wake up to. I have time to walk up the wooden stairs we built to my studio, the rails intertwined with vines now, and paint my heart out – though that will wait a bit while I visit via the magic of Skype with a dear friend, reorganizing our trips to South Africa to include time at the Good Works Foundation, creating and communing with an incredible staff and the children they care for. (I GET TO GO TO SOUTH AFRICA! I’ve dreamt of that my whole life.) In between, I’ll work on an interview – to be posted on Friday – with yet another kindred, and we’ll give away a painting I did, inspired by her wonderful novel, to be released next month. Later, I’ll take a beautiful soul on a spirit journey, a gift from our mutual friend. And, because I must and because I feel so much better when i do, I’ll take a nap and dream about getting my book proposal done. Soon. I’ll remember that there is plenty of time, and I’ll breathe deep into the gift of that, of all of this.

This is, somehow, incredibly and magically, me right now.

 

 

 

 

 

they

 

They knew.

Never mind that they were hundreds of miles away geographically and much, much further than that on a psychic level. Never mind that even when you lived under the same tar paper shingled roof, they didn’t have a clue as to who you were or what you were about. Never mind that, in the saddest and most glorious ways, they have never cared one single bit about you – or about anyone, really, but themselves.

You sit at your high top stainless steel desk, perched on a stool made by such gifted and good hands, just for you, of the most beautifully grained wood. You stare at the oversized Mac, the one with the screen which allows your aging eyes to pore over words and images for hours, allowing you to share the beauty you know to be the real truth of it all with the entire world. Your fingers hesitate, even tremble a bit as you string together the symbols, weave the words with the memories and begin to tell all the stories that you were never, ever to speak of, ever. Ever. Ever.

Your chest, held tight for so very long, begins to heave as the release allows air to enter the chambers of your lungs that have been closed off since you were a tiny child, helpless and so dependent on them. Even as your body closed itself off in a futile attempt to protect itself from them, from their anger and the crazy assortment of weapons they wielded against you and the other little ones, your spirit knew that one day, this would come to pass. The fear you felt, the disconnect, the utter horror that you had somehow chosen them – that you had come here on a perhaps misguided mission to help heal these tattered souls, somehow you knew.
You knew that one day, in order to liberate them and free yourself, you would have to tell the stories. And that you would do it with love. In some mysterious way, they knew, too.

They must have known.

 

 

Another ten minute writing session with Jena Schwartz.  As I write my book proposal, I’m remembering what it took to write All Better Bye and Bye, and how important it is to deliver it to the world.

 

river

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Tell me about the river, she asks, and I wonder – does she want me to spell out the ways in which life is like a river? Is she hungry for metaphor? Does she seek confirmation that yes, life sometimes flows and sometimes circles and created eddies and other times, it just gets all dammed up. Surely, though, she knows that by now. Could she really want to hear it all again? I can’t imagine that’s true. So I sit quietly, take my time, turn the question over and examine it.

Ah. I know. She wants to know about the river that has saved me, the one that I returned to time and time again when life was just too turbulent, when I couldn’t let myself swim in those murky waters. The river I escaped to, the river of my heart.

I invite her to join me, and she does easily. We walk through the dark piney woods, nearly bouncing on the accumulation of several decade’s worth of discarded needles, taking in the scented air as we go. As we approach the clearing, her eyes go wide at the simple beauty of it all laid out before us: the hand-hewn timbers of the tiny cottage with it’s whitewashed walls and blue window boxes full of bright nasturtiums and ivy. The rolling hill that supports that structure as if it rose from it one day, complete with lace curtains and a cobblestone walkway. The slope down to the bank of the river, the waters themselves both gentle and full of a certain power. The huge rocks forming little spots in the stream, places to rest and be still when the current feels a bit much.

She recovers quickly from the impact of this lovely scene and begins to literally skip down that slope, shedding her clothes as she nears the water. I follow suit and before we know it, there we are, at the very edge. Standing on the smooth pebbled shore, I whisper in her ear, “Make a wish, Say what you want, what you desire.” and her voice rings true and clear as she nearly shouts. “Show me how to belong here! Show me how to live!”

As we wade in and her heart expands quite visibly, I silently tell her that she already knows. This place, this river that freed me so beautifully, will do just that and more, for this dear soul. She only needs to remember what she has always known.

Another ten minute free writing session with Jena Schwartz

jump

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It was that time again. She knew it. Things were shifting, and she could feel it.

While all she wanted to do was maintain the status quo, to keep everything just as it was,
to be normal – whatever that meant, it just wasn’t the way things were headed.
She could tell, the winds were picking up. It was time.
All she could hear in her head was the old Van Halen song: Might as well jump. (Jump.) Might as well jump. (Jump.)
On and on, as the song faded out on the old Honda radio, might as well jump.
A mantra, sort of, a lifelong one at that.

Jump. Off the swing, when you get up as high as the sky. Just let go. Now.

Jump. Over the crack in the sidewalk. Don’t want to break your mother’s back, do you?

Jump. Out the window, if the house burns down, but only after you get everyone else to safety.

Jump. From the side of the pool, into the deep end. Fully clothed, so that you can become a lifeguard.

Jump. Out the moving car, when the danger within is greater than the danger without.

Jump. Leave home, and figure it out as you go along. You’ll know what to do.

Jump. From the arms of one, knowing that you’ll have to learn to catch yourself before you love another.

Jump. Stop being invisible and let yourself shine. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Jump. Now. Not later, because the fuse is getting shorter and the night will eventually overcome the day.

For a girl who’d spent her whole life, she thought, playing it safe, it seemed she’d done a lot of jumping.
And despite what she’d been told, she was still alive and well.
Perhaps much more alive and well then she’d ever been.
The other old saying – the poem, the one she’d had posted on her bulletin board for so long it was tattered – it was right.
When she’d managed to jump, the net had always appeared.

Every single time.

going

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When the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so I heard – over and over – when I was young. And so I did exactly that. For decades.

 
I went to work, and worked hard at work and in doing so, likely made many at work wish they could work like me and so they did and so the going got even tougher.

 
I got going on Matters of Importance. I spoke and inspired and begged and argued in board meetings with men twice my age who really just wanted to do a little good and there I was, this instigator, and then there was so much more to do.

 
I worked hard at creating and read all the books and bought all the right equipment and went at it with everything I had and drew and painted and made stuff. Stuff that really had nothing to do with me and so then, though it was tough, I mostly had to destroy it all.

 
All of that meant that I never rested because, you know, things had been so tough and I had been so busy getting going that I never really learned how to take a breath and so my body never got to stop and then it complained REALLY loudly until I couldn’t get going anymore and then, well, things seemed even tougher.

 
One day, though, it all changed. Funny, in the exhaustion from all the going and the doing and the toughing it out, there was a forced stillness. Forced, yes, and not of my desire for quiet so much as a nearly total and complete shut down, yet it was a stillness of sorts.

 
And in that quiet, it occurred to me that perhaps this the tough get going when the going gets tough (and isn’t “tough” a matter of opinion, anyway?) was really one big story that someone came up with in order to, I don’t know, maybe rally the troops into battle or something like that.

 
I believed that.

That life was meant to be a battle.

Until somehow, in my little pocket of quiet, I didn’t.

 

Another from my writing group led by the lovely Jena Schwartz.  The prompt: When the going gets tough…

Fixing

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Everything can be fixed.

It’s true.

That’s not the problem.

 
The problem, you see, is that we think we are broken.

 

We are told, sometimes from the earliest of our days,

that we are too – too much and at the same time, too little.

 

Too big, too small, too loud, too quiet.

Too sure of ourselves, too insecure.

Too busy, too lazy, too outrageous, too mousy.

Too affectionate, too withdrawn.

 
No wonder we are so sure we need to be fixed.

 

So we tell ourselves

to starve in order to shrink, to work out in order to bulk up,

to be polite, to be seen and not heard,

to shout in a way that makes us other than who we are.
We act as if

we don’t know all that we are,

or we are something that we really are not.

 

We park ourselves

in front of a box (though rather than still, we are catatonic)

or we make long lists of to dos, just to prove our worth (and to cross them off).
We either

cover ourselves up with a mask of bland, in order to fit in

or apply so many layers of makeup, another mask forms.

 
We spend so much time

making sure that everything

and everyone

is fixed

that

we forget

who we really are.

 
That, my friend,

is ultimately

what requires

fixing.

Now

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I don’t write about my medical woes  history much.  In fact, I don’t think about it very often, these days, except to marvel at the fact that I’m here at all.

Facts are facts, though, and the truth is that my body has been through an awful lot.  Beatings, droppings and throwings as a child, along with a great deal of manipulation by others.  Illnesses galore. Tick borne viruses out the wazoo. Brain injuries and limb injuries, repeatedly. Drug reactions that caused my body to shut down nearly completely. The ever-present autoimmune mystery diseases, but of course. A brush with one kind of cancer, surgeries for another and the excavations for the ongoing one of melanoma.

That last one bothered me immensely,  for years.  I was told that melanoma doesn’t go into remission, at the time of my diagnosis.  It was portrayed as a time bomb, waiting to go off in my brain, lungs or liver.  Something I needed to wage a constant battle against and Be Very Afraid Of.

This did not help the auto immune issues, not one bit.

It gave me one more reason to believe that my body was not a safe place to live, to be.  As a kid who grew up in a psychic mine field, I was already really, really good at being afraid.  Thankfully, I was also very good at dissociating  from my physical body, at dealing with that sort of pain.  (Fun fact: I once walked around with my neck broken in two places for thirteen months. My issues with the medical community and trust are understandable, I think.)

So for a couple years, I did what I always do – I helped others with melanoma, almost entirely ignoring my own care. I was already a lost cause, in my mind.  I helped set up a not for profit, I donated to research, I literally held people’s hands.  I went on a crusade against tanning beds.  (That might have actually saved a few lives.) I became an embodied melanoma and scared the heck out of some folks, undoubtedly.  I know I scared myself.

Until I figured something out.

Here’s the thing – I can’t quote the statistics anymore because I’ve stopped following them, and thankfully the treatments are getting better and better, too.  I don’t really care.  But for me, I figured out that the melanoma was really the least of my issues.  And that being stuck in identifying as my medical issues rather than the strong soul I am was what was keeping me in bondage to fear.

All that changed when I woke up from a dream one morning with this realization – all I have is now.  My history is a place where no sane person would want to spend much time.  And my future, statistically, could be very limited.  Short. Possibly non-existent.

That left me with one thing, one very precious thing.  Now.

Steve Gross, the executive director and Chief Playmaker at the Life Is Good Kids Foundation, recently said that “Being here now is really hard if being here now sucks.”  No shortage of brilliance in that man.  It’s true.  And being there now, back then, did pretty much suck.  Big time.

So I set out to change that, and it’s changed my world.  My hope is, eventually, that it will change The World. Can you imagine what would shift, if we each just focused on our selves – part time, at least – and figured out how to make our now really, really, good?

My hope is that you’ll take that task on. In your own way, one that no one else can possible prescribe for you.  And that you’ll inspire someone else to do the same.  And then they will, etc. etc. etc.    Then maybe one day, being here now will be the way we live.  All of us.

I can tell you this – I don’t care how many days I have left.  I hope, of course, for lots of time to be here, to play, to show as many people as I can how to free their spirits so that they can enjoy the now, too.  The truth is that I am blessed, battered body and all, to be here.

Now.