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My Q&A with Diane Gilliam

21 Aug

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Poet Diane Gilliam was born into a family that was part of the postwar Appalachian outmigration, and the region’s people populate her poetry collections One of Everything (2003), Kettle Bottom (2004), and Dreadful Wind and Rain (2017). Among her many awards and honors are the Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist’s Fellowship (2003), the Perugia Press Prize (2004), the Ohioana Poetry Book Award (2005), the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing (2008), and the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation (2013).

This year, she’ll be joining us for the first time at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I asked her about why she chose a generational approach in her first book of poetry, how poetry shapes and expands community — which she answered with a story! — and how the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation has furthered her career. You can read her answers here.

At the Hobart Festival of Women Writers she’ll be teaching LEAPING Poetry. Here’s a bit about it:

We will be talking about energy and LEAPING in poems we admire and in poems of our own.

Some of our questions will be:  Where does vision come from?  What are some sources of energy in poems?  What can we say about the nature of a leap?  How do vision, energy and leaping manifest on the page?  What textual strategies conjure them?

I’ll provide a handout of LEAPING poems and prompts for new poems as well as for revision.  Participants are invited to bring a LEAPING poem of their own or someone else’s, and one of their own that’s in need of some LEAPING energy.

You can register for the workshop here. This year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers will take place September 6-8. Join us in the beautiful Catskills for this writing retreat!

I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here.

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My Q&A with Nancy Agabian

14 Aug

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Nancy Agabian is a writer, teacher, and literary organizer working in the spaces between race, ethnicity, cultural identity, feminism and queer identity. She was honored as a finalist for the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction for her recently completed novel The Fear of Large and Small Nation, which is based on her experiences as a Fulbright scholar in Armenia. In 2012 she was awarded for excellence in teaching at Queens College, where she taught as an adjunct for a decade. She currently is teaching in the Writing Program at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. And get this — this year she’ll be joining us at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers to teach the workshop WRITING LYRICS: Image, Emotion, and Justice! Here’s a little about her workshop:

Though we use the word lyric to describe a line of text in song, rap, or poetry, the word, according to the dictionary, refers to “expressing the writer’s emotions, usually briefly”.

In this generative all-genre workshop, we will write about the emotions that arise from experiencing and witnessing racism, in and outside of ourselves, on the street, in our workplaces and schools, on TV and online.

Looking to the work of Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde and Claudia Rankine, we will do a few writing exercises to explore the use of image, metaphor, and point of view as ways to translate the emotions of our experiences into expressions of justice.

(This 2-hour workshop was featured at the Queens Public Library, sponsored by St. John’s University and The Newtown Literary Journal).

You can register for the workshop here. This year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers will take place September 6-8.

I had the opportunity to interview Nancy for the Festival blog. We chatted about women as keepers of family history, her writing process, and how performance art has influenced her writing. You can read my interview with Nancy Agabian here.

I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here.

 

My Q&A with Novelist Ellen Meeropol

10 Jul

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I’m so excited to have interviewed Ellen Meeropol, author of House Arrest, On Hurricane Island, and Kinship of Clover for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I’m fascinated by the questions her novels pose about where the government should draw the line between keeping our nation safe and terrorizing our own citizens as well as how far is too far when it comes to activism.

Here’s the promotional copy for On Hurricane Island:

As a major hurricane threatens the northeast, math professor Gandalf Cohen is abducted by federal agents and flown to a secret interrogation center off the coast of Maine. Austin Coombs, a young local resident, is a newly hired civilian guard assigned to the detention center. Henry Ames, a man of personal secrets, is the FBI special agent in charge of Gandalf’s case and doubts the professor’s terrorist involvement; Tobias, his second-in-command, disagrees, preferring violent interrogation. As the hurricane slams the shore, conflict detonates and each character must choose a side if they’re to survive the storm.

Told over the five days approaching the anniversary of 9/11, by varying voices on both extremes of the political divide, On Hurricane Island is both a fast-paced political thriller and a literary examination of the sociopolitical storm facing our society. How far should government go in the name of protecting our national security? What happens when governmental powers of surveillance and extra-legal interrogation are expanded? How free are we?

Ellen Meeropol has worked as a daycare teacher and women’s reproductive health counselor before becoming a nurse practitioner. It was in her twenty-four years working at a children’s hospital that she began authoring and co-authoring articles and book chapters focused on pediatric issues and latex allergy. The nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau honored her for excellence in nursing journalism, and she received the Ruth A. Smith Writing Award for excellence in writing in the profession of nursing. She went on to receive the Chair’s Excellence Award from the Spina Bifida Association of America for her advocacy around latex allergy and spina bifida. In 2000, Meeropol decided to pursue a life of letters in earnest and earned her MFA from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. She didn’t leave behind her advocacy though: her novel Kinship of Clover involves a character who has spina bifida.

You can read my conversation with Ellen Meeropol here.

For more Q&As with the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, visit the Festival blog.

Register for the wonderful weekend of writing and community in the Catskills, and sign up for workshops by Ellen, me, and others here.

How much power should the government have to keep our country safe–what if it means less privacy and less due process? What cause would you break the law for? Let me know in the comments below.

My Q&A with Poet Marilyn McCabe

3 Jul

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I had the great honor of interviewing poet Marilyn McCabe, who will be teaching a writing workshop this September at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. We talked about MFAs, her video-poems, and the Adirondacks.

Marilyn McCabe is a poet with a penchant for video-poems, an essayist, a fiction writer, and a singer of jazz and classical music. A Room of Her Own Foundation awarded her poem On Hearing the Call to Prayer Over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning the Orlando Prize in the autumn of 2012, and Los Angeles Review published it. Judge Gray Jacobik selected her poetry book Perpetual Motion for publication for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection by The Word Works in 2012. The same publisher went on to publish her second full-length collection of poems, Glass Factory, in 2016. She blogs at https://marilynonaroll.wordpress.com.

Check out the interview here.

Read more of my interviews with guest authors at Hobart Festival of Women Writers here.

Register for the Festival here, and don’t forget to sign up for my writing workshop Wild Women on the Road!

What are your thoughts on MFAs? Are they great for connecting with authors, mentors, and agents … or not worth the hefty price tag?

Here are a few of my posts on MFAs:::

 

 

The Mad Are Holy: Mental Health in Ginsberg’s “Howl”

26 Jun

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So excited to share with you that Geez published my essay “The Mad Are Holy” in their current issue about the poetics of resistance. I explore how Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem “Howl” was met with legal resistance because of its language and sexual content, but how the poem was a call to embrace the people society had determined were “mad.”

Special thanks to my editor Aiden Enns and the entire team at Geez for putting together this great issue focused on the Poetics of Resistance. You can purchase the magazine here.

Recap: RA Araya’s Music Jam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

12 Mar

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Stephanie Nikolopoulos reading at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, accompanied by flash-back-puppy and Elinor Speirs. Photo by David Lee.

 

On February 16, 2019, RA Araya’s Music Jam rocked the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E 3rd Street, NYC).

The initial advertised lineup included Good Leaf, acoustic “Piedmont style” guitar picking vocals original compositions; Chris Barrera, guitar vocals original compositions; Cherylina, harmonium vocals yoga chanting; Professor Nancy Mercado, poetry; Alvaro Kitsa-to Andrade reads John Trudell’s poetry; Jeff Wright, poetry guitar vocals; FOAMOLA!! Sparrow, Violet Snow, Sylvia Mae Gorelick, Lawrence Fishberg, Gabriel Quigley; Michael Robinson, vocals guitar; Willie Martinez, drums and timbales, vocals; Gabriel Castellar, lead guitar; Angelo Segarra and his salsa merengue cumbia band, congas timbales piano sax bongos vocals; Antoine Alvear, piano; Joi Sanchez, poetry vocals; Paul Skiff, poetry drumming; Lorena Mnemosyne Cabrera, belly-dance; Alexie F., comedy; Ronnie Norpel, novelist actress comediane, Tract 187: Culture-Clatch hostess; Sasha Smith, poetry; Ahda Hann, performance art; Stephanie Nikolopoulos, poetry; Rachel Printy, poetry; Sebastian Gil, trumpet; Lydia Cortés, poetry; James Peach, free-style hip-hop; RÁ Araya, poetry vocals congas tabla harmonica….; Lighting Design by Julia McCabe; Photography, documenting this event by Katie Grammes.

Some weren’t able to make it, but there were a few surprise guests, including Bowery Poetry Club founder Bob Holman, and the open mic readers.

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Poet Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

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Poet Bob Holman

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writer Rae Printy

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poet Ahda Hann

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Paul Skiff read his ode to Loisaida (the Lower East Side of Manhattan, as Puerto Ricans renamed neighborhood after our friend poet and educator Bimbo Rivas wrote his poem “Loisaida” in the 1970’s. Avenue C in Manhattan was renamed Loisaida Street after Bimbo Rivas passing. It was a very deep emotional moment to all of us that know and knew all the Nuyorican and bohemian poets Paul Skiff mentioned, deep history.” ~RA Araya

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Ronnie Norpel, author of Baseball Karma and the Constitution Blues

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It was a sold-out show, full of energy!

It was such an honor to read my poetry with these legends! RA has been a huge supporter of my writing over the years, and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities he’s given me. As I always say, he is my Allen Ginsberg.

A heartfelt thanks for  Elinor Speirs for playing classical jazz violin while I read my poetry. She will be the musical guest for this upcoming jazz-poetry event I’m producing.

Special thanks to artist David Lee for capturing photographs of me reading at the Nuyorican and to writer Rae Printy for video some of you might’ve seen on social media.

Also thanks to all the friends who supported the event, including author Norma Jaeger Hopcraft.

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Photo by David Lee.

 

 

Find about my other upcoming events, in the Appearances section.

If you’re interested in booking me for a reading, book club, or writing workshop, you can contact me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.

Clip: 5 Networking Event Tips for Introverts

7 Mar

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Create & Cultivate created an empowering online platform and offline conference to help women achieve dream-worthy careers, and I’m ecstatic that they’ve recently included my “5 Networking Event Tips for Introverts” on their blog!

Growing up, I was cripplingly shy. It took a lot of work—and a cross-country move—for me to come out of my shell. When I moved back to the East Coast, I began attending networking events in Manhattan. It was intimidating at first, but I learned a few tricks that helped me out. From these events, I’ve made amazing friends and clients that I’ve worked with for years.

I’d love to share my introvert networking tips with you. You can read them here.

What networking advice do you have? I’m always eager to learn more!

Want more business tips from me? You might like this blog post on speed networking or this one on alumni networking.  You can find my other writing clips here.

Clip: Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper

5 Mar

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In 2017, my friend Mark Chalfant, author of Devereux Emmet: American Master, invited me on a road trip up to Catskill, New York, to visit painter Thomas Cole’s home. It was a crisp autumn day, and with so many of the colorful leaves having dropped from the trees, we were able to get an incredible view of the landscape that the Hudson River School painter became famous for depicting.

Strewn around the Thomas Cole National Historic Site were quotes from Cole’s 1841 “Essay on American Scenery.” Take this gem for instance:

May we at times turn from the ordinary pursuits of life to the pure enjoyment of rural nature; which is in the soul like a fountain of cool waters to the way-worn traveler….

Cole’s way with words, his love for the American landscape, and his reference to travel reminded me of that great intrepid traveler Jack Kerouac, whom Paul Maher Jr. and I had written about in the literary biography Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

Visiting the painter’s home had a profound experience on my weary soul. It invigorated me. It inspired me.

I ended up writing about my experience visiting the painter’s home, and last year I had the great honor of my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” being selected for the Landmark exhibit, presented by the Albany International Airport and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The exhibition, which was on view at the Albany International Airport, from September 29, 2018, to February 25, 2019, explored our relationship with nature and our ever-changing American landscape.

Here’s what the official press release had to say:

Landmark, at the Albany International Airport Gallery, features 10contemporary visual artists and seven writers whose works explore our relationship to the natural world, and share common ground with Thomas Cole’s greatest written work, Essay on American Scenery, 1836, which is among the most influential proto-environmentalist essays in America.

On view at the Albany International Airport Gallery September 29, 2018 –February 25, 2019.Opening reception: Friday, October 5, 2018, 5:30-7:30 pm.

Albany, NY (September 17, 2018)–The Albany International Airport Gallery will host the upcoming exhibition Landmark from September 29, 2018 to February 25, 2019. Developed through a partnership between the Airport’s Art & Culture Program and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, Landmark considers the legacy of Thomas Cole’s paintings and advocacy for environmental stewardship as they echo the concerns of artists and writers today. A public reception to celebrate the launch of Landmark will be held on Friday, October 5, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the Albany International Airport Gallery.

Thomas Cole(1801-1848) is recognized as the founder of America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and a proto-environmentalist who advocated for the appreciation and preservation of America’s landscapes. Kathy Greenwood, Director of the Airport’s Art & Culture Program, and Kate Menconeri, Curator at the Thomas Cole Site, invited 10 contemporary visual artists to participate in this exhibition, whose work has compelling connections to Cole’s, and engages the persisting resonance of the same issues and ideas from a 21st-century vantage point.

The 10 visual artists are Ellen Driscoll, Valerie Hammond, William Lamson, Portia Munson, Kenneth Ragsdale, Anne Roecklein, Lisa Sanditz, Kiki Smith, Darren Waterston and Susan Wides. The exhibiting artists have international careers and also maintain deep local ties to the Hudson River Valley, as did Cole. Artworks include works on canvas and paper, video, photography, new site-specific installations and sculpture, as well as woven jacquard tapestry.

“This exhibition is the perfect complement to this landmark year, as the Art & Culture Program celebrates its 20thAnniversary, which coincides with the 200thAnniversary of Thomas Cole’s arrival in America,” said Kathy Greenwood, Program Director and Landmark co-curator. “At its core, this Program seeks to showcase the outstanding cultural institutions and artists that populate this region, and it’s exciting and satisfying when we can accomplish that within a single exhibition.”

“We’re excited at the Thomas Cole Site to have this opportunity to work with the Albany Airport to create such an extensive project,” said Kate Menconeri, curator at the Thomas Cole Site and Landmark co-curator. “Thomas Cole was an advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and thoughtful development. What he saw happening to the landscape in the 19thcentury –new train tracks and industries expanding along the Hudson River –resonates with what artists and writers are responding to now. The project bridges art and ideas past and present but also inevitably is building new connections and conversations about how we might navigate today.”

Thomas Cole expressed his concern and regard for the American landscape through writing as well as painting and addressed the environmental impact of industrialization in his Essay on American Scenery, published in 1836. In the spring of 2018, the Thomas Cole Site launched its first call for writing and invited writers to respond to Cole’s Essay with their own writing and asked them to consider not only how the American landscape has changed but what should be preserved. The occasion sparked conversations between Greenwood and Menconeri that gave rise to the Landmark exhibition.

Among the contemporary visual artwork presented will be a selection of Ellen Driscoll’s large-scale works on paper from her recent Thicket series; Valerie Hammond will develop an iteration of her lyrical Forest installation; an immersive projection of William Lamson’s Infinity Camera will allow visitors a journey along New York waterways that defies a single viewpoint. Portia Munson’s Future Fossils will consist of an encased arrangement of common green plastic objects that both reflect and reject notions about ecology, resource consumption, and the persistence of plastics in the environment. Kenneth Ragsdale has produced a new site-specific installation for Landmark, titled Course of Empire. This work shares its title with Thomas Cole’s iconic 1836 painting series and expresses metaphorical cautionary concerns about the inevitable collision of expansion and consumption. Anne Roecklein’s panoramic vintage travel postcard collages are spliced-together landscapes both real and imagined; Lisa Sanditz’s vibrantly-hued paintings describe places in America that are both revered for their beauty and imperiled by human reach. In Kiki Smith’s 10-foot-high tapestry Harbor—jacquard-woven by Magnolia Editions—birds circle a rocky island amid star-studded sky and sea. A selection of Darren Waterston’s Ecstatic Landscape paintings reveals places habitable more by the spiritual than the corporeal form, and in Susan Wides’ I Kaaterskill series of photographs, relationships are drawn between Thomas Cole’s paintings of the Hudson Valley and those locations as they appear today.

The Essay contest, which was organized by 2017-2018 Cole Fellow Madeline Conley, received many outstanding responses. They were whittled down by a group of distinguished jurors: J. Jeffrey Anzevino, Land Use Advocacy Director, Scenic Hudson; Kathy Greenwood, Director, Art & Culture Program, Albany International Airport; W. Douglas McCombs, Chief Curator, Albany Institute of History and Art; Kate Menconeri, Curator, Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History, Towson University; and Alan Wallach, Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus, Professorial Lecturer in Art History, George Washington University.

The seven writers whose work was selected for the exhibition are as follows: Sandra Dutton, author of six books for young readers, who resides in Catskill and teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University; William Jaeger, a photographer and writer who lives in the Catskills and teaches photography and art criticism at the University at Albany; Jennifer Kabat, who lives in the western Catskills and teaches at The New School and whose essay “Rain Like Cotton” is in Best American Essays 2018; Herbert Nichols, a resident of Hudson, for whom this is his first published writing; Stephanie Nikolopoulos, a writer, editor, and writing instructor based in New York City; Justin Nobel, a magazine writer on science and the environment, who lives in Germantown and whose writing is in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 and Best American Travel Writing 2016; and Sara Pruiksma, a resident of Albany County with a visual studio practice, who revisits her early passion of writing to further her creative voice. Their writings, alongside Cole’s original words, are a crucial component of the Landmark exhibition.

THE ALBANY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT’S ART & CULTURE PROGRAM: Since 1998, the Albany International Airport’s Art & Culture Program has sought to showcase the cultural vitality of New York’s Capital Region through exhibitions and installations throughout the Airport’s terminal. Such presentations enhance the experience of airport travelers and foster the advancement of a thriving creative community. The Art & Culture Program has become a cornerstone for demonstrating the breadth and quality of the arts throughout the Region as well as a resource for learning about local culture. Through exhibitions presented in the Albany International Airport Gallery and the Concourse Galleries, the Exhibition Case Program, free public programs and group tours, the Art & Culture Program has extended the reach of area artists and museums to an audience of more than 3 million people each year. Additionally, DEPARTURE, The Shop of Capital Region Museums –the retail arm of the Program –has become an important community service and a unique shopping venue lauded nationally and prized locally.

THE THOMAS COLE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE is an international destination presenting the original home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement. Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House; Cole’s 1839 Old Studio; the recently reconstructed New Studio building; and panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. The Thomas Cole Site’s activities include guided tours, special exhibitions of both 19th-century and contemporary art, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enable visitors to visit the places that Cole painted. The goal of all programs at the Thomas Cole Site is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

I am so thankful for The Albany International Airport and The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, as well as my friend Mark Chalfant and his friend who did the driving, for making this experience possible.

Also, thanks to all the media outlets that covered the exhibition, including:

(By the way, you can find out where else I’ve appeared in the media here.)

You can read my “Essay after Visiting the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Written from a Skyscraper” here.

Discover my other publications here.

 

Calendar Girl

8 Dec

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Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: I’m a calendar girl.

That’s right. I am one of the featured authors in the 2019 Hobart Festival of Women Writers calendar.

The inaugural calendar features the work of the poets and writers who participated in the very first Hobart Festival of Women Writers back in 2013. The festival was co-founded by Cheryl Clarke, Barbara Balliet, and Breena Clarke. The calendar was edited by Esther Cohen and Breena Clarke and designed by Laura Tolkow.

I’ll be reading along with other writers who have participated in the Hobart Festival of Women Writers this Monday, December 10, 2018, at 6pm, at the National Writers Union offices (256 West 38thStreet, 12th floor).

The calendar will be on sale at the reading, but if you’re not able to make it that night you can get yours here. It’s a great way to support women writers!

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To find out about my other publications and where to get my new Lapland calendar, visit my Publications page.

Live More Fully

13 Nov

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My 2018 motivational calendar Live More Fully recently won Lulu’s Holiday Gift Guide Calendar Contest!

I was so excited to be chosen because I truly loved working on this project, and I want its message to reach the world. This year has come with many challenges but through it all I’ve encountered extraordinary blessings. I’ve spent a lot of time journaling, laying in the sun, dancing, traveling, eating amazing foods, and living more fully. I have felt freer than I’ve felt in a long time. I have laughed more. I have dreamed more. I have experienced life more fully.

I want that for you. I want you to let the ocean water splash up cold against your skin. I want you to take more time for play and creativity. I want you to take in more sunsets. Breathe more deeply. I want you to find the beauty among the ashes. I want you to radiate light.

If you want guided motivation each month of the year so that the next year is one you embrace to the fullest, inspiring you to make your dreams come true before your very eyes, you can get my calendar here.