The loss of identity through cancer, brain injury, travel, art, food, sex, wilderness and family, and our journey to discover what lies beyond who we think we are. 
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I met the sensational writer Peter Mountford when I went to speak with him about one of my stories-in-progress. He’s the writer in residence for Hugo House, one of those places writers hang out sharing pieces, sipping cocktails and coffee, and gathering expertise about the craft. After we talked about the short story, he asked me about my memoir, and gave me some ideas about how I might approach getting the book seen. Later that year, I’d meet Suzanne Morrison (Yoga Bitch) at a Hugo House dinner, and she introduced me to the agency who would represent me. Thanks to her connection to the story (she cried when I told her parts of it) as well as Suzanne’s kind nature, the book was on its way.

Shortly after I finished this interview with Peter for our blog, (and one that I published on The Nervous Breakdown), I went to his book launch at Hugo House. Peter introduced me to Tony Perez at Tin House Books, who would successfully bid to become the publisher for Wondering Who You Are.
The book will be out in the spring of 2015!

So, even though Peter Mountford has written one of the most skillful novels you’ll read this year, The Dismal Science, I know him as one of the generous community of Seattle writers who helped my book find its way to one of the finest literary editors in the land. Thanks, sir. Listen to his comments on identity here. Check out my interview here. And go buy his book.

Posted at 4:17pm and tagged with: the dismal science, peter mountford, identity, fiction,.

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I met the writer, entrepreneur and world traveler Chris Guillebeau last year at the World Domination Summit, an event for people who want to take over the world, which I’ve written about here. For years, Chris has inspired me. I read The Art of Non-Conformity, for validation that I can indeed do what I want, and then spent a weekend with The $100 Start Up, which helped form the basis of my teaching and consulting work. His Travel Hacking Cartel helped Richard and I form strategies to travel for less money by sharing resources and planning wisely. In all, he’s a master at doing what he loves, and then sharing how you can too.

Chris is inspiring to me because he’s a successful introvert who likes to spend time with himself, where he finds the perspective to be with community. As a woman who needs days of time in silence and solitude to write, I appreciate another one who enjoys being alone. I’m also devoted to his particular form of leadership, which is less about commanding the stage, and more about sharing the spotlight with people living their values out loud. His sense of community and delight in the communal conversation seems to arise out of his openness to life, and fully being himself.

If you want to do something remarkable with your life, check out this thoughtful interview where he talks about his own identity shifts, including his transition from personal achievement toward community and conversation.

For more on Chris Guillebeau, I recommend the blog that started it all.

Photo from Pioneer Nation Day

Posted at 1:34pm and tagged with: chris guillebeau, world domination summit, identity, introvert, community,.

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Andrea Scher

I fell in love with a necklace of beautiful gems my friend Laurie Wagner wore to a writer’s retreat, and when I asked her where she found such exquisite colors, she led me to Andrea Scher. Soon after, I began reading Superhero Journal, and digging the musings of this creativity teacher.

When I made a list of who I’d like to interview for Wondering Who You Are, and its new focus on identity transformations in people’s lives, Andrea was amongst the first. When I invited her to share, I had no idea that she’d tell such an honest, vulnerable story of her life.

Don’t miss both parts of this piece on finding the truth through trials that lead past our histories and into humility.

Andrea Scher is an artist, online workshop teacher + big believer in the transformative power of creativity. Through her e-courses Superhero Photo and Mondo Beyondo, Andrea inspires us all to live authentic, colorful and creative lives. Best known as the author of the award-winning blog Superhero Journal, she is passionate about the sweet spot where creativity and personal growth intersect. Andrea lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two sons. Visit her at http://www.superherolife.com

Posted at 2:16pm and tagged with: identity, motherhood, anxiety,.

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Trey Gunn Talks Identity Over Barbecue and Bluegrass

I met my friend Trey at the Humpday party SIFF threw for Lynn Shelton. I was too shy to approach him, but my friend Julia walked right up and said ‘hi’, so I followed. Within the next while, Trey and I started to meet to talk. Every Friday, over a meal, usually some kind of Southern food one of us craves — he’s from Texas, I’m from Kentucky — we’d take an hour or two to see what was happening in our creative lives.

As someone new to my artistic career, Trey helps me understand parts of the process about which I might not be aware, and he’s always been astute, clear and damn funny. He helps me take myself less seriously. And he’s not afraid of the spicy sauce. If you don’t know his music, check him out here.

Here’s Part One.

Posted at 5:14pm and tagged with: trey gunn, king crimson, music, texas, identity,.

Christa Parravani

In 2013, I read the remarkably honest memoir Her, and I knew that I had to find a way to have a conversation with this writer. I wanted to talk about telling someone’s life who is no longer present, the same experience I was having in writing about my husband’s loss of identity. Soon after, I invited Christa to be on a panel about the subject for the Association of Writers and Writer’s Programs conference, held in Seattle last week. We had a full-house of appreciative writers, who learned much about writing what you’re desperate to know. In the process, I discovered how warm, generous and thoughtful this woman is. Here’s our interview.

What is the most significant identity change that you experienced in your life?

My identical twin sister Cara died nearly eight years ago. That event came at me with the power of a hundred earthquakes. She hadn’t been well, not ill, but addicted to drugs, and suffering immensely from an identity shattering rape. I hadn’t been prepared to lose her even though I had feared for some time that I might; the families and loved ones of addicts understand that dread all too well. The impact of losing my twin was immediate: I looked in the mirror and saw her staring back at me. I laughed and heard her. I was a reminder to everyone who knew us both that Cara was gone. I was a shadow of myself. I was in a full-blown identity crisis.

Identical twins are born with a friend at their sides; I certainly was. There was an easy joy in sharing my life with Cara, the kind of love that took the pressure off. But we were also fiercely competitive and harsh with one another. There was very little room inside of our relationship for me to explore who I wanted to be outside of it. The drama of losing a twin is severe and life changing, identity changing. I had to figure out who I was without my twin. We were that enmeshed. Though I have learned through my grief that people are constantly changing. Becoming a mother has certainly shown me that. Every day with a two year old is as rooted in routine as it is in change. I have observed myself trying to become the kind of mother she needs. That woman is vastly different than the one who writes, or certainly the one who grieved. I try to remain in the moment with my daughter and not get too lost in my head. It’s a kind of meditation I needed. Now, because of that, because of my daughter, I am certain that we are shaped as we live and not as we’ve lived.

Did you cause it, or did it happen to you?

There was a freedom in Cara’s death that was hard for me to admit for many years. And now, my ability to pull myself out of utter despair from her death, it has defined me more than anything else ever has in my life, more than being a twin ever did. That never ceases to surprise me.

What revelations happened in its wake?

We all live our lives with constant shifts, from moment to moment, somewhat blind to the events that will make us. We expect the deaths of those we love to change us but we can’t know how. Births. Friendships. Illnesses. Dashed hopes and fulfilled dreams. The weight of any one of these things can be enormous. There’s no telling how they’ll be digested.

Posted at 4:15pm and tagged with: christa parravani, her, twins, mother, daughter, identity, addiction,.

Christa Parravani

In 2013, I read the remarkably honest memoir Her, and I knew that I had to find a way to have a conversation with this writer. I wanted to talk about telling someone’s life who is no longer present, the same experience I was having in writing about my husband’s loss of identity. Soon after, I invited Christa to be on a panel about the subject for the Association of Writers and Writer’s Programs conference, held in Seattle last week. We had a full-house of appreciative writers, who learned much about writing what you’re desperate to know. In the process, I discovered how warm, generous and thoughtful this woman is. Here’s our interview.

What is the most significant identity change that you experienced in your life?

 My identical twin sister Cara died nearly eight years ago. That event came at me with the power of a hundred earthquakes. She hadn’t been well, not ill, but addicted to drugs, and suffering immensely from an identity shattering rape. I hadn’t been prepared to lose her even though I had feared for some time that I might; the families and loved ones of addicts understand that dread all too well. The impact of losing my twin was immediate: I looked in the mirror and saw her staring back at me. I laughed and heard her. I was a reminder to everyone who knew us both that Cara was gone. I was a shadow of myself. I was in a full-blown identity crisis.

Identical twins are born with a friend at their sides; I certainly was. There was an easy joy in sharing my life with Cara, the kind of love that took the pressure off. But we were also fiercely competitive and harsh with one another. There was very little room inside of our relationship for me to explore who I wanted to be outside of it.  The drama of losing a twin is severe and life changing, identity changing. I had to figure out who I was without my twin. We were that enmeshed. Though I have learned through my grief that people are constantly changing. Becoming a mother has certainly shown me that.  Every day with a two year old is as rooted in routine as it is in change. I have observed myself trying to become the kind of mother she needs. That woman is vastly different than the one who writes, or certainly the one who grieved. I try to remain in the moment with my daughter and not get too lost in my head. It’s a kind of meditation I needed. Now, because of that, because of my daughter, I am certain that we are shaped as we live and not as we’ve lived.

Did you cause it, or did it happen to you?

There was a freedom in Cara’s death that was hard for me to admit for many years. And now, my ability to pull myself out of utter despair from her death, it has defined me more than anything else ever has in my life, more than being a twin ever did. That never ceases to surprise me.

What revelations happened in its wake?

We all live our lives with constant shifts, from moment to moment, somewhat blind to the events that will make us. We expect the deaths of those we love to change us but we can’t know how. Births. Friendships. Illnesses. Dashed hopes and fulfilled dreams. The weight of any one of these things can be enormous. There’s no telling how they’ll be digested.
139 plays

Interview With Warren Etheredge

I met Warren when I went to The Film School in Seattle, and discovered that his wit, wisdom and nonjudgmental acceptance was the perfect blend to allow a difficult script to emerge. About a year later, he directed a reading of this work at ACT Theater. In the process, I learned to work with projection, and understand so much more about the word when it leaps off the page into an actor’s imagination.

Warren is my favorite Renaissance Man. He’s done about 3,000 interviews. He hosts The High Bar on PBS, one of the best conversations you’ll ever hear. He teaches wounded warriors and filmmakers young and old, and is a brilliant playwright, speaker and writer.

You’d think I’d be daunted sitting down to have a conversation with him about the identity changes that swept through his life, but he’s one of those guys who makes it so easy to put up your feet, sip a drink, and lean in to hear a story. This recording is not fit for my sound designer son, but I rather like the idea that you get to eavesdrop on a chat we had on this day at a restaurant in Ballard. Don’t miss Part Two below.

Posted at 9:42am and tagged with: identity, memory, relationships,.

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Warren and I order more drinks and get down talking about the impact of an identity change in our lives.

Posted at 9:30am.

In this interview, Laurie asks me questions about my writing process, and we talk about vulnerability and its connection to making sentences. She asks me to read one of my favorite pieces, about the first time I bathed Richard after his surgery for a rare cancer.

Posted at 10:35am and tagged with: Cancer, memory, tbi, memoir, writing,.