ILLUSTRATING HBO’S GAME OF THRONES TAROT | INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG COSS

© 2018 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc

In HBO’s Game of Thrones Tarot award-winning fine artist, illustrator and storyteller Craig Coss, alongside author and thirty-year tarot practitioner Liz Dean, brings the world of Westeros to life through the vivid and atmospheric depictions of recognisable characters and scenes on each card.

The beautifully rendered and wholly original set melds the tradition of the tarot with the deep archetypes of Game of Thrones. Each card, from the Major Arcana to the Cups, Coins, Spears and Swords of the Minor Arcana, offers a rich and meaningful experience. Fans of the hit HBO show can pore over a treasure trove of beloved characters, scenes and stories depict in a style both surprising and true to the world of Westeros. The deluxe box contains 78 cards and a hardcover guidebook which explains the symbolism of each card and how to use them in a tarot reading.

Are you interested in finding out more about the two worlds colliding? Read our interview with illustrator Craig Coss below…

Q. How did you get into art and illustration? 

A. I grew up in a family of artists, designers, and storytellers—three or four generations on both sides—so I was raised to develop an eye for proportion and beauty, pencils, paint, and narrative. I’ve done paid illustration work since I was a teenager, starting with watercolors for my little sister who had her own hand-painted earring business in high school. I studied art and philosophy in college, and you could say that my work for the past three decades has been about expressing philosophy through visual art. In the past few years, I’m folding my interest in narrative into the mix. Both stories and visual imagery have been used to teach recondite subjects for centuries, and the idea of telling such stories—visually—intrigues me.

Imagine a village elder has some sort of profound or mystical experience, but because it was too abstract or too weird, her immediate family or friends can’t grasp her meaning. So she encodes her teaching into the symbols of a myth or fairy tale, or weaves it into a carpet, or carves it into the legs of a table. Maybe she sings a nursery rhyme or develops a card game that, if interpreted in a certain way, might point someone who notices it back to her profound experience. In all of these examples, the thing she makes might survive her—and survive even her great-grandchildren. Eventually—perhaps generations later—someone in her village might notice the teaching encoded in her work, and catch her hidden meaning! And in the societies that believe in reincarnation, that person might even be the same soul who encoded the teaching in the artifact or tradition in the first place—so in effect, she sent a little reminder to her future self! (So you can see why, in those societies, it might be a good idea to make such a thing.) It is with this spirit that folk arts have been created since prehistoric times, all over the world, and the resulting artifacts and traditions are imbued not only with beauty, but with deep teachings that even transcend conceptual meanings; such teachings might find resonance with our hearts, but cannot be understood by our thinking minds, because they’re too profound—little Zen koans, woven into a children’s game! Knowing that visual art and story can be used in that way keeps me striving not only in my work as a fine artist and illustrator, but in my life.

Q. How did this project come to be? 

A. It was a true collaboration. Chronicle Books asked Liz Dean to author the book that will accompany the deck, and then asked me to illustrate the cards. I’d wanted to do a tarot deck since I was a kid, and I knew the TV show. My wife Michelle is a huge fan and encouraged me to go for it. Liz and the team at Chronicle had a good idea for which characters they wanted to see on the Major Arcana cards, but few ideas for the Minor Arcana. I suggested that we pair the traditional meanings of the Minor Arcana cards with a character, moment, or scene from GoT that best fit the meaning for each and every card. It required that I watch the first six seasons three times over to find the most ideal possible pairings. It seemed so crazy and I wasn’t even sure that it could be done well. But I had a hunch to try. It came together piece by piece—an elaborate puzzle of narrative. New puzzles and constraints came up along the way, and several times I thought that we might lose certain pieces that would compromise the whole. But with Liz, Michelle, and Chronicle’s help, we were able to bring together two narratives—GoT and the traditional tarot—so that they inform and build upon each other. If you know the series well, the divinatory meanings tap into the power of that mythology, and can bring a wellspring of meanings into any tarot reading. And if you come from a background in tarot, you might see the TV series with new eyes. I think we’re all very pleased with the result.

Q. Have you always been a Game of Thrones fan? 

A. I’m a bit of a Luddite and stopped watching TV entirely in 1988, when I went to college. But when I recently got my MFA in Visual Narrative at SVA, I had to facilitate an online conversation with my peers about unusual plot arcs in long-form stories. Right away, HBO’s Game of Thrones came up in the conversation, but because I was out of the loop, I had nothing to say and couldn’t facilitate. I turned to Michelle and asked her if she wanted to binge-watch five seasons with me, and she was thrilled. So Game of Thrones was literally the first TV show I’d seen in over twenty-five years! I thought it was very synchronistic that I was asked to illustrate this project. If it had been for any other TV show, I’d have had to turn it down.

Illustration by Craig Coss. © 2017 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc
Illustration by Craig Coss
© 2018 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc

Q. Which character or card was your favourite to illustrate and why? 

A. I have so many favorites that it’s hard to chose. Some cards paired up with traditional Tarot meanings so closely that at times it was uncanny. But I think The Fool was my favorite card to create. Peter Dinklage is a brilliant actor, and I love his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. Liz felt strongly that The Fool is a card about following intuition and taking tremendous risks— about trusting in the Grand Order of things that’s beyond the intellect’s understanding. It’s about stepping out of the world of the ego and into a world ordered by something greater. Accordingly, Liz wanted to depict Tyrion freeing a dragon in Meereen. I loved the idea! But she also wanted to include the number zero on the card—something I felt strongly not to do. The Fool has been my favorite card since I was ten years old, and I knew it was the keystone of the entire deck. We fought it out, and eventually I gave in and agreed to number it zero. And then it came to me: the number zero, historically, came from India. It was connected to the early Buddhist concept of the empty mind—a state of consciousness without an ego or identity called Dhyāna, the origin of the word Zen. The Hindus used that sign—the circle to indicate nothingness or emptiness—in a new method of mathematical notation, and thus Hindu-Arabic numerals were born. I wanted to show that history visually in the card, and it came to me to depict the zero as the reflection of Tyrion’s head in the eye of a dragon: a visual pun. In that way, the zero in the card hints that The Fool is connected with the dragon’s eye, but also with the state of surrender to that consciousness. And that’s the state of inspiration that seizes us from another world and allows us to think out of the box, to take risks, and bring something new into the world. Liz’s insistence on the inclusion of the zero sparked the inspiration for the composition of the whole card, and Tyrion—with Dinklage’s beautiful expression while holding aloft a flame in the middle of an Ouroboric dragon—brings a wealth of emotional and symbolic associations to the card. The Fool is a great example of how discussions between Liz and I gave birth to ideas that we could never have come up with alone.

Q. What was your process for creating the artwork? 

A. My original idea was to hand carve woodcuts for every card, to scale, just as all of the late medieval Marseilles tarot decks were created. The art director, Michael Morris, loved my coloured woodcut prints, but there just wasn’t time to cut the wood for seventy-eight cards, print them, hand watercolor them and make any revisions that might be needed. So I invented a way to create a woodcut look digitally and made an analogue/digital hybrid for each card. The technique was still labor-intensive, but it made revisions far easier than having to cut new woodblocks and re-paint them. That said, three of the cards in the final set are scans of those woodblock prints. If I did my job well, they won’t be easy to spot.

Q. Are you interested in the world of tarot itself?

A. My father gave me my first set of tarot cards when I was ten years old. He had no idea what they were but he saw them at a garage sale for a dollar and knew I’d love the artwork. I saw in those cards a world of symbolism, mythology, and magic the likes of which I’d never seen before. I read about their use as an oracle, which fascinated me as a kid. But the most powerful aspect of the tarot for me was the idea that archetypes were represented in the Major Arcana and narratives were represented in the Minor Arcana. That’s some heavy-duty mojo: Death, Angels, the Devil—they were all there on these cards. And I realised early on that they were nothing to take lightly. Later, I learned that they were the oldest playing cards in Europe, the progenitors of the playing cards we use today. When travelling in Romania, I saw a friend’s mother using cards to divine whether we should all travel to Istanbul on a certain day or not. Even though she was using ordinary playing cards, she was using them to help us, to make sure we travelled safely.

I’m intrigued by the use of tools that generate apparently random results  (e.g. dice, runes, tea leaves, cracks in tortoise shells, or cards) for oracular purposes by people all over the world, since prehistory. It’s our way of saying, “I don’t know what to do, which way to go, or what choice to make.” We’re asking for help, and letting a higher power or the Great Mystery that controls the so-called “random” events in the universe intercede and possibly help us. To me, there’s something beautiful in that trust that we can have, whether you call it faith or psychological projection. And in my experience with oracles such as the I Ching, the greater one’s trust that a useful response might come through such tools, the more accurate the results can be.

People can make an oracle out of almost anything that they don’t feel that they control, but the tarot is the most visually beautiful and evocative tradition of divination I’m aware of. Even if you think the whole oracular thing is hogwash, the images are undeniably beautiful and powerful; for that reason, I’ve collected tarot decks since I was a kid.


HBO’s Game of Thrones Tarot is out now, find out more here!

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Craig Coss is an award-winning San Francisco Bay Area fine artist, illustrator and storyteller with an MFA in Visual Narrative from the School of Visual Arts. He’s the author of The Goddess Coloring Book: Traditional Images to Contemplate & Color. When he was given his first tarot deck at age ten, he knew it would point him in the right direction.

Visit his website or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Liz Dean is a tarot practitioner of thirty years’ standing and the author of four tarot decks and ten books, including The Ultimate Guide to Tarot and The Art of Tarot. She reads and teaches tarot at Psychic Sisters within Selfridges, London, and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

BOOKSHOP OF THE MONTH | DRAKE THE BOOKSHOP

This month’s Bookshop of the Month is Drake the Bookshop – a wonderful, family-run bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees.

Richard, a former Maths teacher, took the leap from teaching to opening the bookshop with his partner, Melanie Greenwood, in September 2016. They started out in a very small space within the local shopping arcade but expanded to nearby Silver Street within their first year.

They are book champions dedicated to promoting reading within their community through book clubs, author events, working with schools and festivals. Within the shop itself the team work hard to provide an eclectic mix of books to reach as many readers as possible, including those with dyslexia (they have a dedicated section), and their children’s area is particularly inviting with an excellent range of titles to choose from, encouraging the browsing and selection process from an early age. We’re also big fans of their 2018 promotion – ‘Space on the Shelf’ celebrating women in print (check out their blog). Next time you’re in the area do pop by to meet the enthusiastic booksellers and passionate reading advocates – I challenge you to leave without buying a book!

We caught up with Richard and Melanie and asked them a few questions:

1. Congratulations on being chosen as our March Bookshop of the Month! We’ve talked a bit about you and the shop but how would you describe Drake the Bookshop in three words?
MAKING READING FUN

2. Where is your favourite spot in the store?
The Children’s Reading Corner (courtesy of James Patterson), it’s where most of the laughs and giggles are

3. Where do you like to read?
Usually in bed, but the comfy chair in the corner of the shop is pretty cool too.

4. If you weren’t a bookseller what would you be?
THIS IS OUR DREAM JOB! We left our other jobs to do this. If we weren’t doing this it would be trying to be ‘The Good Life’ on a small patch of land!

5. Excluding Drake the Bookshop – what is your favourite bookshop?
BARTER BOOKS, ALNWICK – we can get lost in there for days!


You can follow the bookshop on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

HEALTHYISH | RECIPE

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Healthyish is recipe developer Lindsay Maitland Hunt’s totally doable, delicious, and dead-simple cookbook, helping us to eat how we all want to eat – healthy, but with an occasional bit of decadence.

Lindsay Maitland Hunt is an expert recipe developer who has created recipes for everyone from college students to busy families to seasoned home cooks. Now, she brings her trademark skillset to her debut cookbook, Healthyish.

For anyone on the move, working long hours, and trying to eat a bit more healthfully, Healthyish offers 131 satisfying recipes with straightforward instructions, using as few pots and pans as possible and ingredients that won’t break the bank. Not to mention, you can find the ingredients at your everyday grocery store (no garam masala or açai berries here!).

Emphasising balanced eating rather than fad diet tricks, Hunt includes guilt-free recipes for every meal of the day, from breakfast to snacks to dinner, and yes, even Healthyish treats, such as:

  • Banana–Avocado Chai Shake
  • Peanut Butter Granola
  • Salty Watermelon, Feta, Mint, and Avocado Salad
  • Miso–Butter Toast with a Nine-Minute Egg
  • Pozole with Pinto Beans and Queso Fresco
  • Spiced Chicken and Chickpea Flatbreads with Cucumber–Dill Tzatziki
  • Single-Serving Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookie

Designed for novices and experienced cooks alike, Hunt’s meticulously considered recipes offer crowd-pleasing flavour profiles and time-saving tips and tricks, and her vegetable-centric dishes, with an occasional dash of meat, dairy, and decadence, are showcased in vibrant, mouthwatering photographs.

Destined to be an everyday kitchen essential, filled with splattered and dog-eared pages, Healthyish is a call for simple ingredients, food that makes us feel good, quick prep and even quicker cleanup, so we all can enjoy what’s most important at the end of a long day: getting back to the couch.

Lindsay Maitland Hunt is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, New York. A former editor at Real Simple and BuzzFeed Food, her clients have also included Country Living, Delish, Food Network and Food & Wine. You can follow her on Instagram here.

The following recipe is from Healthyish by Lindsay Maitland Hunt.


Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

MAKES 24 BARS

These bars have a classic chocolate chip cookie flavour, but made Healthyish with whole-wheat flour. Instead of scooping individual cookies, you’ll save time by scraping all the dough into a pan and cutting after baking.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2¼ cups (9 oz/270 g) whole-wheat flour, spooned and levelled
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • teaspoons kosher salt, or ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups (9 oz/250 g) packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup (3½ oz/100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces (340 g) chopped bittersweet chocolate, or 2 cups (345 g) bittersweet chocolate chips

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175°C), with a rack set in the centre. Butter a 9-by-13‑inch (20-by-30-cm) baking dish and line with parchment; leave a 2-inch (5-cm) flap overhanging on two sides. Set aside. Whisk the flour, espresso powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Whisk both sugars in a large bowl, making sure to break up any lumps. Add the melted butter and whisk vigorously for about 1 minute, until the mixture forms one mass. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula.

3. Whisk 1 egg into the sugar-butter mixture, stirring until it’s fully mixed in. Whisk in the second egg and the vanilla and scrape the sides of bowl again.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with the spatula to fully combine until there are no streaks of dry ingredients left. Stir in the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

5. Refrigerate the dough for at least 10 minutes while the oven preheats. Bake, rotating halfway through, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the bars are golden brown and the crust is matte (not wet or glossy looking). Cool completely before cutting into 24 bars.

You can make and refrigerate the dough up to 2 days in advance, or freeze the unbaked bars for up to 3 months. They’ll take longer to bake, 30 to 35 minutes.


Healthyish by Lindsay Maitland Hunt is out now – find out more here!

200 WOMEN | Alicia Garza

9781452166582_3D (1)Interviews with 200 women from a variety of backgrounds provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include: • Jane Goodall, conservation and animal welfare activist • Margaret Atwood, author and winner of The Booker Prize • Roxane Gay, author and feminist • Renée Montagne, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition • Alicia Garza, activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter • Alfre Woodard, award-winning actor and activist • Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund • Lydia Ko, professional golfer and Olympian • Dolores Huerta, labor activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association • Alice Waters, chef, author, and food rights advocate • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and Macarthur Foundation fellow.

Each woman shares her unique reply to the same five questions: What really matters to you?, What brings you happiness?, What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?, What would you change if you could?, and Which single word do you most identify with?

With responses ranging from uplifting to heartbreaking, these women offer gifts of empowerment and strength – inviting us to bring positive change at a time when so many are fighting for basic freedom and equality. Each interview is accompanied by a photographic portrait, resulting in a volume that is compelling in word and image—and global in its scope and resonance. This landmark book is published to coincide with an interactive website, building on this remarkable, ever-evolving project. A percentage of the originating publisher’s revenue from book sales will be distributed to organisations nominated by the women featured in the book.

The following is an extract from 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World, edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro, photographs by Kieran Scott.


© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza was born in Carmel in California, USA. She is an activist and organiser based in Oakland, California. In 2013, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM), an ideological and political organising network campaigning against anti-black racism and violence. In 2016, she and her two BLM co-founders were recognised in Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Garza is the director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She is also an editorial writer, whose work has been featured in publications including The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.

Q. What really matters to you?

I want to be able to tell my kids that I fought for them and that I fought for us. In a time when it’s easy to be tuned out, it feels really important to me to be somebody who stands up for the ability of my kids – of all kids – to have a future.

The other thing that really motivates me is wanting to make sure we achieve our goals. As I was coming up as an organiser, we were told we were fighting for something we might never see in our lifetime. I’m just not satisfied with that; I think change can happen much faster, but it requires organisation, and an understanding of power and how we can shift it from its current incarnation. We need to transform power, so that we’re not fighting the same battles over and over again. This is what I wake up thinking about every single day. And every night when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about how we can get closer to it tomorrow.

Women inspire me to keep going. My foremost in influence was my mother; she initially raised me on her own, having never expected to be a parent at twenty-six. She taught me everything I know about what it means to be a strong woman who is in her power. I’m also very much in influenced by black women throughout history. I’m inspired by Harriet Tubman, not only for all the work she did to free individual slaves – which, of course, was amazing – but for everything she did to eradicate the institution of slavery, the alliances she built to do so and the heartbreaks she endured in pursuit of her vision. And it’s not only women in the United States who inspire me. In Honduras in 2016, Berta Cáceres was murdered while pursuing her vision of ecological justice and a better life for the people in Honduras being preyed upon by corporations and the United States government.

Black Lives Matter has been a big part of my activism. When it came onto the scene, there was a lot of pushback; people responded by saying, ‘All lives matter.’ I think the intensity of these reactions against Black Lives Matter is a testament to how effective our systems are in isolating these kinds of issues – they make them seem as though they impact individuals, as opposed to entire communities. The all-lives-matter thing is simultaneously fascinating and infuriating to me, because it’s so obvious. Obviously all lives matter; it’s like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet. But, when people say, ‘Actually, all lives matter,’ it feels like a passive-aggressive way of saying, ‘White lives matter.’

People seemed shocked that police brutality was an issue, but I thought, ‘Um, where have you been?’ The police are supposed to serve all communities, but instead, they aren’t accountable to black communities in the same way they are to white communities. The United States is rooted in profound segregation, disenfranchisement and oppression in pursuit of profits. And it feels like the country is being powered by amnesia.

Q. What brings you happiness?

My community – absolutely. This includes both of my families, blood and chosen – because my family is also my friends, the people I’ve been through things with. These are the people who stand with me, support me and love me. They are the people who feed me, and we just let each other be, because we understand each other.

Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I’d call it capitalism. There is nothing on earth that makes people as miserable, that kills people as avidly and that robs people of their dignity so completely as an economic system that prioritises profits over human needs. Capitalism prioritises profits over people and over the planet we depend on. There are millions and millions of people living on the streets without homes because of capitalism. And there are millions and millions of people suffering from depression and other emotional and mental afflictions because of it – because the things we are taught should drive us and make us happy are unattainable for the majority of people on this planet. Capitalism shapes every understanding you have of who you are and of what your value is. If you have no monetary value – if you can’t sell something that you produce in this economy – then you are deemed unusable, unworthy and extraneous. There is no other force in the world that is so powerful and that causes so much misery for so many people.

Q. What would you change if you could?

I would start with all of the people who are suffering right now. I would give whatever is needed to every mama who is living in a car with her kids and is trying to figure out how she’s going to make it another day – if not for herself then for the people who depend on her. I would give to all the people who are dying in the deserts right now, trying to cross artificial borders pursuing what they think will be a better life here in the United States – if I had a wand I’d make it so that that journey was easier and that there wasn’t punishment on both sides. In fact, I would ensure that no one ever had to leave their homes in pursuit of survival – they would have everything that they needed right there at home.

The other area I would work on is within our own movements. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we could be clear about what we’re up against and how we each fight it differently; I think about how we can advance our goals without tearing each other up along the way. So, if I could wave a wand, I would also change some of the suffering of organisers and activists in our movements who are tired and burned out, who feel disposable and don’t feel seen.

Q. Which single word do you most identify with?

Courage. It takes real tenacity to be courageous.


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200 Women is out from 31 October, find out more here. You can view the official project website here, which includes the trailer and additional extra media content. Follow 200 Women on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A GLORIOUS FREEDOM | INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL STRAYED

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The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves—with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women—including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more—who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style. The perfect gift for women of all ages, A Glorious Freedom celebrates extraordinary lives and redefines what it means to gain wisdom and maturity.

The following is an extract from A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon.


Cheryl’s famous memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published when she was 43 years old. It took her two and a half years to trace the steps, challenges, and revelations she faced during her three-month, 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest onto paper—and about two minutes for the finished book to land on the New York Times bestseller list. In the months following, Cheryl experienced instant fame—from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to the film adaptation championed by Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby, Wild went, well, wild. It is an international bestseller and a recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Oregon Book Award. Cheryl is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. Her first novel, Torch, was published in 2007. Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Tin House, among others, and her work has been selected three times for inclusion in the The Best American Essays. She anonymously authored The Rumpus’s popular Dear Sugar advice column from 2010 to 2012, for which she now cohosts a podcast. She currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

AGF_interview_cherylstrayed2


Lisa: You worked for many years at writing, and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago, in your early 40s, you published the book that made you a household name. I encounter a lot of young artists who imagine that if they just concoct some magical formula they can have “instant success.” How would you describe the role of purpose, work, and patience in your own journey?

Cheryl: I was a successful writer long before Wild was published. What happened with Wild wasn’t “success.” It was crazy lightning striking. I’m always taken aback when people imply that I achieved success in my 40s. In fact, I had a pretty steady upward career trajectory as a writer, and all of that came about because, as you say, I showed up each day to do the work. I began publishing in my 20s. By the time I was in my early 30s I had won many awards and grants, and was publishing in respected magazines, and I’d earned my MFA in creative writing. In my mid-30s I sold my first novel to a major publisher and it was broadly reviewed and sold well. Meanwhile, I was continuing to publish essays in prominent places and I was also teaching writing.

I was known in the literary community. Then Wild happened and with that came fame and a much broader international audience. It was astounding and glorious, but it didn’t, for me, mark the beginning of the sense that I’d arrived as a writer. I was already there and I’m still here—working my tail off. That’s the magic formula: work.

Lisa: One of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years is the power of embracing all of my life experience, and this is something you write about as well. Why is this idea of owning and learning to love all of your experience (even the stuff that makes us cringe or that would normally make us feel shame), why is it so important?

Cheryl: I’ve long believed our mistakes and failures teach us as much as our victories and successes. When you acknowledge the full spectrum of your possibility—as both someone who can be great and as someone who is sometimes not so great—you can bring the full force of your humanity to everything you do.

Lisa: What for you is the best part of getting older?

Cheryl: Feeling more secure about who I am. Feeling stronger about being okay with disappointing people. Putting up less of a facade. Being gentler with myself and others, too.

Lisa: What do you think is the relationship between forgiveness and the ability to age joyfully?

Cheryl: I’ve written about forgiveness a lot and it all pretty much boils down to the fact that when you can’t forgive people who have harmed you (or forgive yourself for the harm you’ve done to others) you stay locked in that struggle. Forgiveness is, to me, really acceptance. Accepting that what’s true is true. It’s saying, this is the way it was and onward we go.

Lisa: What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned in the last ten years?

Cheryl: 1. Saying no is one form of saying yes. 2. Our ideas about famous people are projections of who we are, not a reflection of who they are. 3. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone wants to be told it’s all going to be okay.

Lisa: What advice do you have for women who fear getting older?

Cheryl: The fear of getting older is about the false notion that one’s power was rooted in the things that youth offers us—namely, beauty. My advice would be to see that for the lie that it always was. Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.


A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon publishes on 03 October 2017. Find out more here. 

See the stunning book trailer here

Learn about STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI with Marc Hagan-Guirey

Get FOLDING for Force Friday II…

In STAR WARS™ KIRIGAMI, celebrated paper artist and designer Marc Hagan-Guirey applies his genius to the Star Wars galaxy in this book of 15 unique kirigami (cut and-fold) ships featured in the saga’s films. Ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert, each beautifully detailed model features step-by-step instructions and a template printed on cardstock—all that’s needed are a utility knife, a cutting mat, and a ruler!

Curious?

We asked Marc everything you need to know about the world of kirigami, getting started with the craft and his interest in Star Wars:

Photograph by Seamus Ryan
Photograph by Seamus Ryan

What is kirigami?

Kirigami is a bit like origami except that instead of just folding the paper, you cut it too. ‘Ori’ - means fold and ‘kiri’ means cut. Kirigami is traditionally used to create architectural replicas but it’s perfectly suitable for spaceships too! The cool thing about kirigami is that it’s just one sheet of paper – nothing is glued or added to it. It’s part of the joy that you can create something so interesting from a ubiquity of a piece of paper.

How did you get started creating kirigami?

I feel like it was a bit of a serendipitous moment that lead to me experimenting with the craft. I’m a big fan of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and back in 2012 my partner and I told a few white lies to get a private tour of one of his most elusive buildings – the Ennis House in LA. It was a condemned building and had been out of bounds to the public for over 20 years. We may have told them we had the $14 million needed to buy it and were very keen to come and see it. The experience had a huge impact on me – I’d go as far as saying it was spiritual. I wanted to mark the occasion by making some of sort of memento. As a kid I always loved to craft, my currency was egg cartons, toilet roll tubes and cereal boxes (it still pains me to see these things put in the recycling) but as an adult we all know too well that life gets in the way. I’m a designer director in digital but I still had that yearning to use my hands again. When I was researching what to make, I happened upon examples of kirigami. I felt paper was the perfect material to make a replica of the Ennis House due to its fragility. I quickly saw that kirigami wasn’t just limited to buildings and I started making scenes from movies.

Is your book suitable for complete beginners of kirigami?

There are a few ‘beginner’ projects in the book to get you started. I feel kirigami is easy to advance in and you’ll soon want more challenging projects. The most important thing is to be patient, take breaks and enjoy the process. I find it meditative to concentrate and not be distracted by the ‘coke machine glow’ of mobile devices.

Do you need any special tools to do kirigami?

You need a few inexpensive things – a cutting matt, a metal ruler, an x-acto knife with replaceable blades. Also a toothpick will be really useful to pop out some of the smaller folds.

Why did you decide to create Star Wars ships using kirigami?

Why not?! It was more of a necessity for me. I was already creating Star Wars kirigami back when I started experimenting with it. The idea to do a ship focused book was suggested by Mike Siglain, the Creative Director of Lucasfilm publishing – he’s a man with good ideas.

Have you always been a Star Wars fan?

I’ve always been a Star Wars fan and was essentially born into it. I’m an 80s kid so never saw it first time around at the cinema but I have an older brother who was the right age. I feel a bit guilty now for commandeering all of his original Kenner action figures – it must have been torture for him to see his baby brother destroy them but I did just buy him a full scale licensed replica of Vader’s helmet for his 40th birthday so I think we’re even now.

How did the book come to be?

A lot of knocking on doors and badgering people with emails. I started talking to Lucasfilm about the idea in 2014. During that time I was invited to the set of Episode VII and in a serendipitous moment I ended up chatting to JJ Abrams about my work. He was really excited by it and frog marched me across the set of ‘Star Killer’ base to meet Kathleen Kennedy. It was the only time I ever had a business card in my wallet – albeit a very dog-eared one. I had an unofficial exhibition of Star Wars kirigami scenes in 2015 – it had a lot of press and went viral. Lots of big media outlets such as the BFI, Wired, BBC World News, CNN were covering it. I guess it was inevitable that Disney took notice and that dog-eared business card eventually made its way to the business development department. I thought I was in trouble when they called! I’ve got to say the process of working with Disney, Lucasfilm, my publisher Hachette and my US publisher Chronicle has been wonderful.

Click here to find out more about STAR WARS KIRIGAMI, which publishes today!

The Making of One Bear Extraordinaire.

Author and artist Jayme McGowan is here to talk about how she made her beautiful picture book; One Bear Extraordinaire.

One Bear Extraodinaire

One Bear Extraordinaire is the story of Bear, a rambling one-man band, who wakes up one morning with a song in his head, but as he tries to play it, discovers that something is missing.

He packs up his camp, stuffs all of his instruments into his backpack and sets off in search of the mysterious missing thing. He meets other musicians along the way and comes to learn that every song sounds sweeter with friends by his side.

The seed of the story sprouted from an image I had drawn of a bear with a backpack over-stuffed with musical instruments. I developed the text of the story from there and the rest of the images followed.

One Bear Sketch

I created the art using a process called “three-dimensional” illustration: I begin with a rough graphite sketch. Then, using colored pencils, I fill in the sketch – trying out different combinations of color to find the right palette. Once I’ve settled on a palette, I pull colored paper from my ever-growing collection of new and repurposed paper. I also hand painted many of the paper elements using watercolors.

cut

I use graphite transfer paper to move the sketch outline onto the colored paper and then add details with ink and colored pencil. I cut out each piece of paper by hand and carefully assemble the pieces using tweezers and glue in order to build my characters, layer by layer. I then stage miniature scenes in a paper theater, using wire and clothespins to hold everything in place. When the scene is complete, I take dozens of photographs with a variety of camera settings, lenses, and light.

Bear

Fox Rabbit Raccoon

 

and Volià! One Bear and his friends come to life!

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Five Questions Monday |Courtney Sheinmel

The lovely Courtney Sheinmel took our Five Questions Monday Quiz!

How do you like your eggs in the morning?

Scrambled, with cheese in them.

What’s your favourite joke?

I teach a writing workshop every Tuesday afternoon at a non-profit called Writopia Lab and one of my teen students informed me that the classic joke, Why did the chicken cross the road?, is about death. The answer, To get to the other side, is a reference to the afterlife, because the chicken was most certainly hit by a car in the act of crossing. I don’t know if she was right about that, but I love how her interpretation turned something silly into something profound.

As a kid, my favorite was: Why is six afraid of seven? Answer: Because seven ATE nine. I loved it so much I wrote it into one of the Stella Batts books.

What film character are you most like?

When it comes to ordering in a restaurant, I am a bit like Sally Albright from Nora Ephron’s classic, When Harry Met Sally. I’m particular about my soda with no ice in it, and extra cheese on just about everything, and fries well done, and ice cream on the side. What can I say? I want it the way I want it.

What is the first book you ever read?

The first book I remember reading is THE LITTLEST RABBIT, by Robert Kraus, about a rabbit who was smaller than all his rabbit peers. He was not even as big as a carrot. Throughout my school career, I was always the shortest kid in class. I saw a lot of myself in that little guy.

Would you rather be poor and work at a job you love or be rich and work at a job you hate?

I left behind the steady salary of a law firm associate to be a full time writer with no salary guarantees, so I guess there’s your answer.

 

Her new book Edgewater is out now! You can read the first chapter on our website. 

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The Meaning Of Maggie

As befits a future President of the United States of America, Maggie Mayfield has decided to write a memoir of the past year of her life. And what a banner year it’s been! During this period, she’s Student of the Month on a regular basis, an official shareholder in Coca-Cola stock and defending Science Fair champion. Most importantly, though, this is the year Maggie has to pull up her bootstraps (the family motto) and finally learn why her cool dude dad is in a wheelchair, no matter how scary that is.

This heartfelt, incredibly rich debut novel by Megan Jean Sovern is  rollercoaster of emotions. The central character Maggie is brought to life and her story will inspire every reader to ‘pull up their bootstraps’ and live life with a touch more courage and a bucket full of love.

Read the prologue from The Meaning of Maggie:

Prologue

Beep.
Beep.
Beep.

My dad won’t stop beeping.

And it’s impossible to concentrate while my dad is beeping. He’s been beeping for almost a whole day now. And it’s not the friendly beep of the ice cream truck backing up after you chased it halfway down the block either. It’s a slow beep that makes me really sleepy. But it’s impossible to sleep because the chair in this hospital room is harder than the hardest substance on earth, which I know is diamond because it was on my science final two months ago, which I got a 100 on, but whatever.

It’s just Dad and me in the hospital room right now. My sisters and my mom are downstairs in the cafeteria. Mom put me in charge of Dad until she gets back, which makes sense because I am way more responsible than my sisters even though they’re in high school and I’m in middle school, but you know, hot girls take longer to mature.

And since I’m so responsible, I know that I’m not supposed to push or touch ANYTHING even if it looks like it’d be really fun to push or touch. And I’m keeping an extra close eye on Dad. He just fell back asleep. But I’m kind of hoping he’ll wake up soon so we can split this Little Debbie. Normally I’d just eat the whole thing myself, but I figure he could use a little pick-me-up.

I’m not worried. Dad is going to be a-okay. Even Mom said so. And even though she works full time and takes care of Dad full time and fixes dinner full time and raises the three of us to be ladies full time, she’s always right full time too. She’s a very busy lady but even at her busiest, she’s still at her best.

Like yesterday, she remembered to bring my birthday present to the hospital even though she shouldn’t have because big deal things were happening. But of course she remembered and of course it was the most perfect gift ever. She gave me the most beautiful leather-bound journal and I have to use it to write something really important. And I’ve decided that important thing will be my memoir.

If you don’t know, a memoir is a piece of autobiographical writing that examines the meaning of the author’s life during a specific moment in time. I’m writing about my eleventh year on this earth because it was the most important year of my WHOLE life.

Because last year was the year that changed everything. It was one of those years you learn about in history class and the teacher says, “This was a year that changed EVERYTHING” and you roll your eyes and think, “Yeah right, you said that last chapter.” But by the time you reach the end of the chapter, you realize you’ve highlighted every single word because every single word was really important. That’s how last year felt for me. Like the entire thing was highlighted.

And that’s why I’m writing this memoir. Because just like any other future president of the United States of America, I have a story worth telling. So maybe I didn’t cut down a cherry tree and maybe I don’t have wooden teeth and I wasn’t born in a log cabin with a dirt floor and nine thousand brothers and sisters. I still have something to say. And that’s why I’m writing this for prosperity or posterity or propensity, all of which I will look up once we get home.1 And well, I’m writing this because when visiting hours are over, I’ll be back in the waiting room with nothing to do but stare at the vending machine full of M&M’s that Mom says I’ve had enough of.

Mom would want me to start this whole thing by being brave and pulling up my bootstraps. Whenever big deal stuff happens in our family (and a lot of big deal things happen), Mom tells us to “pull up our bootstraps” even though we live in Georgia and most of the time it’s too
hot to wear boots, but pulling up your shoelaces just sounds weird.

1. If we ever get home

So I’m going to do just that. And it turns out, I’m more prepared to write this memoir than I even realized. I’ve been doing research pretty much all year without even knowing it. There were all the times I hid behind the couch while my sister Tiffany got in trouble. And all the times I listened in on my other sister Layla’s phone calls. And all of the glasses I put up to my parents’ door to decode their secret mumbles. I wouldn’t need the glass at all but my ears aren’t top notch. I blame it on all the loud rock ’n’ roll music my parents listened to while I was both in and outside of the womb.

Up until last year Dad worked and Mom did mom things and my sisters did big sister things like totally ignore me. But then Dad’s legs fell all the way asleep.

His legs had been in and out of sleep for a few years. Sometimes they would wake up and he would walk with a cane. But his cane has been in the closet for a while now and I don’t think it’s coming out. It’s like his legs are in the deepest sleep ever. It’s like they’ve been hypnotized by David Copperfield2 and no amount of snapping or clapping will wake them up. And now on top of sleeping legs, he’s also really sick and that’s why we’re
here with the beeping. The unfriendly non-ice-cream truck really scary beeping.

2. The magician, not the Dickens character.

I’m feeling about a million things at this moment. And I guess the only thing I’m not feeling now is hungry because I just ate that entire Little Debbie even though I double swore to myself that I’d wait until Dad woke up to share it. But I couldn’t help it. I’m tired. I slept on a floor last night. In a hospital waiting room. Next to my sister who kicked the dickens out of me with her perfect legs all night long.

And not getting my usual full eight hours of REM sleep hasn’t helped my exhaustion, both physical and emotional. Physical exhaustion because of the floor. I feel like I pulled an all-nighter at the factory like David Copperfield.3 And emotional exhaustion because it’s so hard and weird to see Dad so sick. Yeah he’s in a wheelchair, but he also eats an apple a day to keep the doctor away. But I guess something snuck past that last apple because nurses keep coming in and out of Dad’s room. And they keep poking him with needles and taking his temperature and changing these big bags of medicine and listening to his heart. I bet if they listened with their ears instead of a stethoscope they’d hear it say, “I’m fine. Let me go home and stop scaring my family. Especially Maggie. Because she’s my favorite. That’s right, Maggie’s my favorite. Not Layla like everyone thinks.”

3. The Dickens character, not the magician.

But everything will be okay. Dad will get better. That’s what tough guys do. But still, I have to admit I’m worried. And it’s that deep-down-in-your-guts worried that’s impossible to get rid of no matter how many Mike and Ikes you eat.

I guess I’m starting to realize that being brave isn’t so black and white. It isn’t something you either are or aren’t. It isn’t an absolute. Because you can run out of bravery. Your metaphorical bravery tank can run dry. But it’s up to you to fill it back up again. To muster all the courage you can. To pull up your bootstraps. And no one does this better than Dad. And he doesn’t even wear boots because he doesn’t need boots because his feet never touch the ground.

I never knew I would need so much bravery until everything changed a full year before yesterday. A full year before Dad started beeping. It was my eleventh birthday. And it started with another noise just as annoying as the beep. It began with a buzz.

Five Questions Monday – Deborah Underwood

Deborah Underwood, author of Interstellar Cinderella took our grueling Five Questions Monday Quiz!

Deborah Underwood and her cat

1.       How do you like your eggs in the morning?

I don’t eat eggs, so I like them under the chickens in the hen house.

2.       What’s your favourite joke?

At the moment, the one about the Higgs boson walking into a church, the priest asking what it’s doing there, and the Higgs boson responding, “You can’t have mass without me!”

3.       What film character are you most like?

I wish it was Obi-wan Kenobi, but lately I’ve felt more like Dory in Finding Nemo. What were we talking about?

4.       What is the first book you ever read?

Probably Dr. Seuss’s ABC. My 80-year-old father can still recite much it from memory.

5.       Would you rather be Cinderella or Snow White?  

I’d rather be Interstellar Cinderella!

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