Oh, the pleasures of reading and writing

Oh, the pleasures of reading and writing

In today’s issue of Creative Sparks I thought I’d share with you several of the books I’ve been reading lately, spanning the realms from shamanism to fiction to poetry (my personal favorite).

May these inspire you to your own fertile explorations into the wide pleasures of reading (and writing! and living!).

If writing has been calling to you and/or you’re feeling stuck in your writing, I’m offering a day-long creative writing workshop, called Romancing the Muse, in Sacramento in May. This is a super fun, inspiring day that will get you fired up to write. Early registration is now open and encouraged. Click here to find out more: https://brilliantplayground.com/romancing/

I’m delighted to share the news that my poetic essay “Falling and Flying: Rediscovering Language” was published recently in The Citron Review. Click here to read it.

Read on, dear ones!

To your dreaming and being,

The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise
                                       by Martin Prechtel

RainDustPrechtelThis is a gorgeous, wise, inspired, little book on grief and praise and how we have forgotten how to do either of them well in contemporary, Western cultures. Written in Martin’s one-of-a-kind poetic style and steeped in his perspective as a shaman who lived among the indigenous Mayan people, Martin beautifully describes the gifts of grief and praise and the inseparable bond between the two, and he explains the woes and ailments that beset people and whole societies when we fail to do a good job with our grieving and praising. Highly recommended.


Of Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe

WolfeTimeRiverAt over 900 pages, this classic novel is a commitment. I read itbecause I watched Genius, which is a great, engaging film about the relationship between the author Thomas Wolfe and his editor Max Perkins. Hypnotic, exuberant, excessive, stunning prose that goes on too long and ultimately fails to have enough of a satisfying plot line, this is nonetheless a pretty remarkable novel of one young man’s journey to become a writer. It is really an epic window into America in the 1920s and/or 30s, which is marred by occasional bouts of racist descriptions. I found it rapturous until about page 500, and then it became increasingly a slog. It reminded me of the best that literature can reach for and attain, and it refreshingly breaks so many conventions of fiction. I’m both glad I read it and glad it’s over.


Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads 43 of the World’s Best Poems 

PagliaBreakBurnGiven her high standing and radical reputation as a scholar and cultural critic, I was surprised by how unexciting and unsurprising her readings of these poems are, by and large. I’m about half-way through and not all that drawn in. I loved her introduction, which was the best part of the book, and I’m enjoying the poems she chose and learning some historical tidbits and references about them. If you’re a relative novice to poetry, you would probably enjoy it more and get more out of it. I disagree with some of her interpretations, and she insists on reading sex into everything in ways that often seem absurd and totally forced (no pun intended). Nonetheless, I intend to finish it, as the selection of poems is good, and her readings of them worthwhile overall.


The Shadow of Sirius poems by W.S. Merwin


Now in his late 80s, Merwin won the Pulitzer Prize for this collection of his poems from 2008, his second Pulitzer. Merwin is one of America’s major poets and a unique voice. Although the first section in the collection didn’t speak to me as strongly, pretty soon I was taken in by these beautifully-crafted, spare poems, which impressed and touched me with their concision, craft, humanity, vision and elegance, a true master at work.

My Story…

My Story…

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination.”
– Poet  – John Keats

I’d like to tell you a story, a sacred story, of sorts. In some of my classes and workshops, I tell the story of how I came to do this teaching work that I do, but I realize I’ve never shared that story here through my Creative Sparks E-news. So, this is my story.

I have always been an extremely creative person, who loved the realm of the Imagination, the Arts, Creativity and creative play. Since I was a child, I’ve been making things with my hands, playing music, making up stories and poems and songs, dancing. In high school, I acted in and directed plays, sang in a choir, played the violin, studied drawing and creative writing and photography, took dance and yoga classes. I’ve sewn my own clothes without a pattern, designed and helped build my own home (with my former partner), taught myself to be a professional graphic designer. . .

And yet all through my growing up, no one ever suggested I might be an artist, that I might have a calling or talent for the arts. In my family “artist” was always equated with “starving,” and the attention was placed on excelling academically (I did this) and finding a good job with secure, reliable, sustaining income (I didn’t do as well at that).

Nonetheless, when I got to college, I chose to major in Music. It was what I most loved and wanted to do. I threw myself into it with passion and rose to become a shining star in the music department of my tiny liberal arts college, winning awards and getting a lot of praise. But my parents kept asking, “What are you going to do for a living?”

Sure enough, when I got out of college, I sank like a stone. Suddenly, I didn’t have a supportive community, eager to hear my music, and loving teachers to guide me. And I didn’t have any idea how to make a living. I found myself living in real poverty, scared and confused.

A Story of Longing

After five long years of casting about for a career I could love, abandoning each path as soon as I saw how little time it would leave me for creating, I took a huge leap of faith and decided to follow my big dream and enroll in graduate school for music. I got accepted to a prestigious school and went deeply into debt to go there, but I was sure everything would work out at last because I was “following my bliss.”

Instead, the opposite happened. Almost immediately I found myself having a nervous breakdown. My self-doubt about my abilities as a musician, my deep sense of inadequacy, my doubts about whether my music had meaning or purpose in our world, my perfectionism and ambition and hunger for approval, my ego-involvement with my art, became crippling. I spent nine months in a very dark, suicidal depression and then dropped out of graduate school literally to save my life.

I was so devastated. I felt I had failed at my one true dream, and was unable to play or write music for nine years after that, despite the fact that I missed it every day painfully. I thought my life was over, but in reality, this is when I began to truly find my heart path.

I started on a profound healing journey that led me to deep transformation within, to cultivating a healthy, joyful, sustainable relationship with my creativity and myself (something that had seemed impossible), to fostering my creative path as a writer (which I’d loved since I was a child, but had thought I wasn’t good enough to do), and to finding my spiritual path and amazing teachers and tools to help me on my way.

One of those remarkable tools was The Artist’s Way, which played an important role in healing how I relate to my creativity, my dreams, myself and my life.

A Story of Soul

It is truly astonishing the life I’ve been able to co-create, thanks to my journey of transformation, healing and creativity. As I healed, I became passionate about sharing what I’ve discovered with others, so that I could help spare them the pain and confusion I caused myself, and so that our world can benefit from the gifts that each of you uniquely brings to our world when you follow your dreams and learn to have a loving relationship with yourself.

I was called to teach and have been teaching The Artist’s Way, creative writing, poetry and creative dance since 2004. This teaching has brought profound depth, fulfillment, joy, and also challenge, growth and learning to my life. I’m deeply grateful for this sacred work.

If you are curious about how working and playing with me might transform your life and help you walk your own heart path, I encourage you to find out more by clicking here: Offerings. I would be truly honored to walk that path with you.

Three Mantras To Live By—Part 1

keySeveral years ago in one of my Artist’s Way classes I confessed to my students that all of my teaching could be distilled to three things, but, I added, if I told them those three things straight off, I wouldn’t be able to make a living. Nonetheless, I went on to tell them the three core tenets of my teaching, and I am going to share them with you now.

But before I do, three quick disclaimers:

Disclaimer 1: I actually do teach a whole heck of a lot of priceless and insanely valuable tools, practices and perspectives that have changed many people’s lives. I don’t say this lightly. Life-changing is the word my Artist’s Way students most frequently use to describe their experiences with me.

Disclaimer 2: In my creative writing and poetry writing classes, these three core mantras are in the background. They are cornerstones of my own life, so they are with me everywhere, but they aren’t out front in these classes. What is in the foreground is a panoply of approaches and methods for sparking inspiration, making writing a joyful experience that flows, and actually seeing your dreams for your writing life come to reality. In addition, I share with my students a wealth of knowledge about how to write beautifully, powerfully, compellingly, i.e. the tools of the trade, delivered to you in a form that makes them exciting and empowering to learn. Again, I know this is true from what my own students say. If you want to see for yourself, have a look at the testimonials on my website.

Disclaimer 3: If I thought long and hard, I might no doubt come up with one or two more mantras to live by, but these three have held sway for many years, and they will get you a long way toward a good life.

Disclaimers happily out of the way, let’s move on to those three mantras to live by, the essence of my teaching and how I guide my own life.

WomanBlowingHearts_123rfDo What You Love — Follow Your Heart:

You may have heard it in various forms, but that doesn’t make it any less true or wise. If you would like to live a rich, joyful, deeply fulfilling life, your heart must be your guide.

I don’t mean your emotions that change like the weather. When I say your heart, I mean that incredibly wise, deep, knowing part of you that knows the way. It doesn’t need to weigh the pros and cons; it just knows what feels right.

One key to your heart path is what lights you up, what brings you joy, what thrills you, what Joseph Campbell called “your bliss,” when he instructed his students to “Follow your bliss.” Those things that fascinate you, that you are passionate about, can’t get enough of, are inexplicably drawn to, that you deeply enjoy—those are big signposts to your path of heart. Follow them. Make time for them. Honor them.

Start practicing tuning in and listening to your own amazing, wise heart. Trust what it says and follow it. You will be grateful and glad you did.

Stay tuned for Mantra #2 in my next issue.

An Introduction to the Artist’s Way

Maxima KahnIn this free 55-minute Introduction to the Artist’s Way with Maxima Kahn…

You’ll discover the spiritual, philosophical and psychological foundations of the course and exactly how it works to bring such life-changing results to thousands of people.

  • The Artist’s Way helps free you of creative blocks that are limiting your full expression as the unique, remarkable being you came here to be.
  • It guides you beautifully to discover your own heart path, your gifts and passions.
  • And it teaches you how to co-create your own life of passion, purpose and deep play, from wherever you are starting now.

In this free introduction, you’ll also be guided through a meditation to connect with your own creative spark and discover where it is leading you at this time in your life.

Letter From a Student:

“The Artist Way course with Maxima was one of the best experiences that I have ever participated in hands down. Not only was that whole time period so vibrant and alive for me, but truly unexpected life changes, especially the ones I didn’t even know I desperately needed…, so potently and beautifully emerged throughout the course in such powerfully synchronistic ways. I loved it!! Months after the class had concluded, the most beautiful unanticipated gifts had suddenly become part of my life…or maybe more accurately they Returned to my life. 

I remain tremendously in debt to Maxima to this day. The healing and journey continue for me, alternately bringing me back ‘home’ and thrilling me in the healthiest ways. Maxima’s skill set is so vast, she is an exceptionally gifted channel for this path of healing and creativity. She generously offers a multitude of supportive practices that are unique to her instruction which go way beyond the course as shared in Julia Cameron’s book alone.” —M.A.

Click on the play button below to listen to the free Introduction to the Artist’s Way now! Right-click to download.

Note: There are about 15-20 seconds of music before the teleseminar begins.

To find out more about the course and when it is happening next: click here!


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  • Ignite and sustain your creativity
  • Identify and realize your heart’s true dreams
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