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.

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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

Pablo and His Chair.

For his birthday, Pablo receives a chair.

What can he possibly do with a chair?

Pablo and His Chair

For his birthday, Pablo receives exactly what he doesn’t want: a chair. Disappointed and angry, he locks himself in his room, determined not to sit on his new chair. But he starts to play around with it and, by the end of the day, becomes a chair acrobat. Pablo sets out into the world, performing in amazing places and drawing great crowds. Eventually, he returns, chair in hand, having learned that the greatest gifts aren’t always the most obvious and often lie in our imagination.

The simple, hand-drawn images; coloured with a brush and ink, give the story a vivid, graphic look and perfectly compliment the story. Take a peek:

Pablo and his Chair internal page
© Delphine Perret
Pablo and his Chair internal page
© Delphine Perret
Pablo and his Chair internal page
© Delphine Perret

Pablo and His Chair is a vibrant, high-design picture book with a gentle message of self-discovery and the power of imagination: a must have for your little one’s library.

Pablo and His Chair by Delphine Perre is out tomorrow. Available from all good bookstores.

Interstellar Cinderella

Deborah Underwood has let us in on the inspiration behind her new book Interstellar Cinderella. 

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Interstellar Cinderella was not born out of some grand desire to reinvent a fairy tale; it sprang from word play. A friend was visiting me, we were being silly, and I heard the words “Interstellar Cinderella” come out of my mouth. I immediately ran to the big sheet of idea paper I had tacked on my door and scribbled the words down. What a great title that would make, I thought.

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In fact, it seemed like such a great title that I assumed someone else would have already written a picture book with that name. But I checked just to be sure, and couldn’t believe my luck—the title was free! Then it just became a question of writing the manuscript.

That’s the short answer to the question of where Interstellar Cinderella came from. But there were other influences at work, too.

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One of my favourite things when I was growing up was going to the planetarium with my dad. Dad was a maths professor, and his astronomy colleague did planetarium shows several times a year. I loved the domed ceiling, I loved the silhouette of our town that lined the walls, I loved the way the lights came down gradually so our eyes would have time to adjust, and I loved the distinctive timbre of the astronomer’s voice as she guided us through the heavens. So the idea of a fairy tale set in space delighted me.

I also wanted Cinderella to have more agency than she does in the traditional story. The princesses I read about when I was little weren’t exactly the drivers of their own fates. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are not just sleeping, but comatose during critical parts of their stories. Cinderella is stuck at home waiting for her prince to rescue her. The girls I know are smart, strong, and courageous. It seemed to me they deserved the option of reading about a smart, strong, courageous fairy tale protagonist.

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When I was a kid, I was interested in mechanical things (again in large part due to my father, who, in my eyes, was able to fix anything). So I made Cinderella a mechanically-inclined girl who dreams of repairing rocket ships. And I decided that her main motivation wouldn’t be to go to a ball, but to go see the ships in the Royal Space Parade. If the prince’s ship happened to break down and she was able to rescue him? All the better!

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I hope kids enjoy reading Interstellar Cinderella as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope it inspires a new generation of mechanics, rocket pilots, and astronomers—male and female.

Interstellar Cinderella is available NOW from all good bookshops and online through our website.

Paddle Against the Flow – A little Inspiration goes a long way.

Huck Magazine’s bible of creative advice from 60 inspirational ‘doers’ is available worldwide. In this excerpt from the introduction Huck’s editor Andrea Kurland explains how it started.

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“You know that job you can’t get?
You didn’t want it anyway.”

A light went on when I first heard this comment. Followed by the comforting thud of things falling into place.

We’d spent the best part of a decade acting on instinct, finding stories we wanted to hear about, talking to people we admired, making a magazine we could believe in and would want to read. At some point over the years we sat up to find ourselves surrounded by like-minds – people who made the the effort to seek out new sources of inspiration, curious enough to question the familiarity that surrounded them, bold enough to build something that challenged what they knew.

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But it wasn’t until I heard this comment, from a friend of the magazine who came to us with the clarity of fresh eyes, that I realised why the 18-year-old skate rat who just started his own record label out of his bedroom will forever be bound to the 30-year-old artisan who taught herself how to use power tools so that she could make something beautiful without relying on anyone else; why the surfer photojournalist out on the frontlines, is tied to the bike-obsessed activist typing away at home. Frustration. If there’s one thing that connects us, it’s the frustrated urgency of youth. Pushing beyond the finality of that deadening disbelief that the things we were promised will ever materialise, then waking up to the revelation that we never wanted them all along.

It’s these people that inspire us to keep making Huck. It’s their boundless curiosity that keeps us digging around the underground for untold stories capable of blowing minds. It’s their lifelong desire to keep pushing and learning that forces us to question the perceived way of things. It’s their ability to discern between words of wisdom and bouncy soundbytes that leads us away from the bright lights of transient stars and towards people who work tirelessly at their craft, from filmmakers like Spike Jonze to writers like Douglas Coupland, from artists like Swoon to skateboarders like Mark Gonzales.

This book is dedicated to our readers. And all those angry little sparks who keep us paddling against the flow.

Paddle Against The Flow

Originally posted on huckmagazine.com 

Wake Up Your Creativity with Art Before Breakfast.

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Do you wish you could carve out a little creativity in your day, but are convinced there are not enough hours in the day?

We know the feeling.

But despair no longer! Artist Danny Gregory, creativity guru to thousands across the globe, is here to help with this unique guide. Serving up a hearty helping of inspiration, Gregory offers 5 to 10 minute exercises for every skill level that fit into any schedule – whether on a plane, in a meeting, or at the breakfast table – along with practical instruction on techniques and materials, plus strategies for making work that’s exciting, unintimidating and fulfilling.

So why should you make art part of your everyday? We will let Danny take the lead here…

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But not only that, art can fulfill so much more…

BE-HERE-NOW Art stops time. When you draw or paint what’s around you, you see it for what it is. Instead of living in a virtual world, as we do most of the time these days, you will be present in the real one. Instead of focusing on all the things whirring in your head, you will be able to stop, clear your mind, take a deep breath, and just be. You don’t need a mantra or a guru. Or an app. Just a pen.

TELL-YOUR-STORYLife is just a long succession of small epiphanies. You need to stop and seize them. By making art, you will be recording what you are living through and what you are learning about it. A drawing and a sentence or two in a sketchbook turns those everyday moments into something significant. Your art will set a frame around it and give you perspective on what really matters. Over time you will build up a book of memories—a true record of what’s important in your life.

WELCOME-TO-THE-WORLD It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful. And the most beautiful things have character and walnutsexperience built into them. There’s a lot to learn and appreciate in a chipped mug, a half-eaten apple, the tiny lines in the leather of your dashboard. Making art will show you how much you already have. Your real treasures. A brand-new Maserati is a lot less beautiful to draw than a rusty old pickup.

SUDOKU You will never be bored or waste time again. Every day is full of those moments between activities. Waiting in the doctor’s office, watching mindless TV. Instead of reading tweets on your phone, you’ll make a piece of art. Every minute of your day counts. Make it worthwhile.

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We all live in chaos. It’s the natural state of things. Physicists call it entropy—everything is always changing and unraveling and ultimately turning into cosmic mush. That’s why your desk gets cluttered and your calendar gets filled. It’s physics.

Creativity is the act of shaping the mush of the world around us into something—of creating your own order. I’m not talking about going crazy and compulsive with a label maker and color-coded files. I’m talking about having a vision of what you want things to be like and moving toward it.

I assume that, deep down, you want to have more creativity in your life—that’s why you have this book in your hands. But you just don’t know how to fit it into the chaos of your day. There are always too many things to do, too many obligations and chores that take precedence over you. Maybe you think to yourself, “Sure, I’d love to make art, but I don’t have the time to indulge myself right now. Maybe on the weekend, on vacation, when I retire, etc.”

But creativity isn’t a luxury. It’s the essence of life. It’s what distinguishes us from the mush. And it’s why our ancestors survived while other less adaptive critters perished. They responded to change by being creative in some way, by inventing a new answer to the chaos.

And that’s what you need to do to make the most of your life, every day of it. To be inventive, open, flexible, in touch. To have perspective on what matters to you. To deal with change without being overwhelmed. And that’s what creativity offers you.

Creativity can become a habit that fits into your life, like Pilates or flossing, only a lot more fulfilling. You just need to shift your perspective on what it is to be creative. It doesn’t mean you have to be a full-time artist. It doesn’t mean you need lots of training or supplies. Or time. It doesn’t mean you need to be a so-called expert.

You just have to be you—and express what that means.

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Art Before Breakfast is out now,find out more about here.

Want to find out more about Danny Gregory? You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and on his Blog

Show Us Your Shelves!

A life lived orderly is something we dream of here at A&CB, with our shelves bowing with books. So, we are taking steps forward with inspiration from Fritz Karch and Rebecca Robertson; experts in the world of styling, collecting and decorating. Their new book Collected: Living with the Things You Love in chock full of thoughtful style demonstrating both the beauty and the whimsy at the heart of collecting.

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Pg. 91 Image credit: © Vivian Pickles

Collected runs through 15 styles; THE Modest-ist, THE Exceptionalist, THE Minimalist, THE Maximalist, THE Miniaturist, THE Colourist, THE Neutralist, THE Machinist, THE Zooloogist, THE Containerist, THE Artificialist, THE Naturalist, THE Seasonalist, THE Pragmatist and THE Fantasist. Separated into chapters, Karch & Robertson delve into the psyche of these categories and illustrate each with beautiful photographs of prized collections. We, of course, were drawn to the gratifying displays of books.

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Pg. 90 Image credit: © Dana Gallagher

We are pretty sure our shelves are erring on the MAXIMALIST end of the spectrum, they are definitely full of books of all shapes, sizes and genres. So we took inspiration from Karch & Robertson and found new beauty on our shelves. What do you think?

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Got your own beautiful collection of books? Share your #shelfies with us on Twitter & Instagram.

London Calling

© Ida Magntorn

© Ida Magntorn

Redecoration inspiration!

Let Ida Magntorn‘s Home Style By City inspire, whether she is simply inspiring interior dreams for that flat you WILL one day own, or helping you make something of the little space you do have.

Home Style By City captures the essence of five design-forward cities and showcases beautiful homes from each that reflect the local style. Part tour and part design resource Home Style By City is an electric collection that offers a refreshing perspective on five must visit cities and innovative design.

So how about injecting a little bit of classic London attitude to your life?

“The soul of London is eccentric, full of exaggeration and humor…A bit dreamlike, with mismatched proportions and clashes of style…The secret: there are no boundaries.”

(Pssst…If you can’t afford to redecorate, find the London buzz with Ida’s London Playlist!)

What’s your style? Mad-cap Alice In Wonderland London or maybe a New York City unfailing sense of simple style?

Images © Ida Magntorn 

© Ida Magntorn © Ida Magntorn © Ida Magntorn

#OfficeWornStories – Francesca

Today we are continuing our celebration of Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories with a tale of over priced merchandise and underage festivalling from our publicity intern Francessca.

My Worn Story –  A t-shirt from an under-age festival in 2008

What can I say? I was 14, my hair braided so tightly to my scalp that I had lost most of the sensation in my temples and I was going to my first ever festival. Too young for the sex and drugs, I decided it would have to be the rock-and-roll that would see my friend and I through, and I think I may have been right.

I bought this shirt after a lot of umming and ahhing about the price, wondering what my Mum would say when she found out I’d spent £15 (the equivalent of 4 whole magazines and a bottle of diet coke) on a T-shirt, that, she would later claim, “never really fitted anyway”. After scrambling through the crowd, crumpled notes in my hand, I grabbed the nearest one that looked like it might fit, and promptly ducked to avoid the vast array of hands reaching towards the counter. It wasn’t really until later that I actually got to look at it properly.

Every band of the festival was there, splayed across in bright colours and I remember the feeling of wanting to tick everyone off like a list. And I’ll be honest, I nearly did. Florence & The Machine (when they were still doing covers because they hadn’t written enough songs), Glasvegas (who have indeed always looked that hungover), The Gallows (I maintain that no one’s skinny jeans should be quite that skinny, and a thousand names I didn’t get the chance to see. It was an experience made flesh, or cloth rather, and I wore like a badge of pride. It beats the bruises that I seem to wear from other gigs I’ve been to since.

Now it seems to only be brought out as pyjamas or when I have done washing in a while, but it still holds the feeling of standing in a field, surrounded by people, music blaring so hard I could taste my heartbeat, and feeling like the coolest person in the entire world.

– Francesca

Share Yours! @AbramsChronicle #WornStories

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack -PAPress – OUT NOW!