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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
02/16

The Power of Private Writing is LIVE!

This free workshop is for email subscribers, so sign on up if you haven’t already and you’ll get the links in your welcome email! 🙌

02/09

How to Work With Me (if You Can’t Afford to Work With Me)

Inspired by Rachael Rice’s question,

“Can we imagine the impact of our work beyond those who can afford it?”,

I offer a clear progression as to how any aspiring writer (or other creative person) can benefit from my experience:

  1. Watch the Life Without Envy mini-workshop and read the essays I’ve posted on Medium.
  2. If that content resonates for you, sign up for my mailing list so you’ll get access to my free resource library. Watch the The Power of Private Writing and do the prompts. Also be sure to check out the Life Without Envy mini-workbook inside the resource library—the success-to-satisfaction paradigm shift is particularly important.
  3. Ask for Life Without Envy and A Bright Clean Mind at your local library. (Depending on the library, some librarians are able to order books that patrons have requested for the collection.)
  4. By now, you probably have at least a few questions percolating. Ask as many of them as you like, and I’ll make one or more videos especially for you as part of my office-hours series.
  5. Watch the video(s) I’ve made to answer your question(s), and ask any follow-up questions you may have.

At any point in this progression, you can DM me on Instagram or Twitter or send me an email to introduce yourself; I will be very happy to connect with you, I just ask that you respect my time and psychic energy by refraining from asking me to read your manuscript (which is something I don’t even do for paid coaching clients before we’ve established a rapport) or writing emails that require a long private reply (like many folks these days, my email inbox is a source of anxiety for me, so relatively quick messages are the way to go).

As a white woman from a middle-class background who has sometimes been “broke” but will never be “poor,” I also ask that my fellow white writers take some time, in general, to reflect on what they truly can and cannot “afford.” I want to practice generosity in sharing my experience with everyone, but I am also trying to avoid being taken advantage of (which has happened more than once, alas, and usually with people who could have afforded to compensate me for my time and insight).

Over the next few years, I’m looking to develop a free group mentoring program for aspiring writers from marginalized communities, and if that sounds like something you’d love to be a part of, then get started now! And if you feel so inspired, I’d love it if you shared my free resources with any friends or colleagues who would find them useful. Thank you, and I hope we’ll be in touch soon. 🙏💕

01/26

Emotional Hygiene Resources for Writers (and Everyone!)

If you’re reading this, then you probably already understand that your emotional wellbeing is the bedrock of your creative practice. Not only are you not capable of your best work while you’re in “hot-mess” mode, your unexamined, unmanaged emotions may very well be creating a more stressful environment for your loved ones, friends, and colleagues. I’ve been the daughter, sister, friend, and girlfriend foisting her toxic storm of feelings onto her loved ones, and it’s high time I shared what I’ve learned about emotional hygiene since Life Without Envy came out in 2016.

More recently (in May 2019) I made a video as part of a Life Without Envy web workshop on YouTube, and the recommendations in that video are still good. I’ve gone deeper into my private writing practice since then, though, and I have one daily prompt to share that will hopefully be as big a game-changer for you as it has been for me (it’s at the end of this post).

Quick disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, merely a fellow artist committed to taking responsibility for her emotional wellbeing and developing her emotional intelligence.

More on YouTube

Guy Winch’s TEDx talk, Why we all need to practice emotional first aid [I still haven’t gotten around to reading his book, but I bet it’s as helpful as the TED talk.]

Dr. Abdul Saad’s Self-Transformation Series [I really appreciate his pleasantly neutral presence and delivery—it makes the concepts he’s sharing much easier to grasp]

Read on the web

An excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now

7 Ways to Practice Emotional First Aid [also Guy Winch]

Byron Katie [There are free downloadable worksheets on her site, though you don’t necessarily need to fill them out; for me the key takeaway is to ask after every judgmental or otherwise negative thought you have, “Is that true?” Because it’s usually not.]

Heather Demetrios, Halting Your Thought Traffic and Hold Your Seat [+ her whole blog!]


Books

[Full disclosure: I’m using Bookshop.org affiliate links.]

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now and A New Earth

Joe Dispenza’s Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself

Pema Chödrön’s Comfortable With Uncertainty

Trevor Blake’s Three Simple Steps

Dr. Eric Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within and Mastering Creative Anxiety

Lauren Sapala’s The INFJ Revolution [I’m an INFP and I still felt like Lauren was reading my soul!]

And the daily practice that has helped me most:

Since last spring, the first thing I do each day (after going to the bathroom and brewing coffee) is to write down how I’m feeling and why—and if I don’t know why, I keep writing until I have some semblance of an answer. And if I find myself feeling grumpy or frustrated during the day, I pause whatever I’m doing, go back to my journal, and ask the two questions again:

  • What am I feeling right now?
  • Why am I feeling it?

I didn’t really learn this from anyone, it just occurred to me one day that it would be beneficial to articulate my emotions in real time, and I noticed soon afterward that I was much less reactive. I’m also much more patient with myself and others—there have been several occasions over these past eight months when I paused and thought, Before, I would have snapped. Owing to a few unfortunate episodes in my early childhood (flagged “TMI” in the context of this post), my “pain body” is activated when I feel invisible in social situations, so (for me, at least) it’s the “self witnessing,” “self validating” aspect of the exercise that has resulted in this shift. I articulate my emotions without attaching a sense of “rightness” to them, remaining as lovingly neutral as it is possible for me to be in that particular moment.


I hope at least one of these resources offers you some relief from the COVID pressure cooker (in addition to all the “usual” stresses of life). I’ll add to this list whenever I encounter more helpful content. If you have any favorite books or links to share, I would be grateful if you left a comment. [And a big shout-out to Rachel for inspiring this post!]

At the beginning of February I’ll be launching a new email opt-in goodie, a concise 30-minute private writing workshop video + workbook. (How is “private writing” different from journaling? Watch this.) If you found this post helpful and want more, sign up for my list and you’ll be notified as soon as the workshop’s live. (I’m also available for 1-on-1 coaching sessions!)

12/31

Comet Party Summer School: the Vision Statement

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What are the two most powerful words in this or any language?

I am.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since Jill Louise Busby dropped me a DM after reading Life Without Envy. Thank you for being a vessel, she wrote.

I am a vessel, I thought. I said it out loud. And the more I said it, the righter it felt.

In the beginning, I only wanted to tell stories. I wanted to be clever and I wanted to be recognized for my cleverness. The other day I cracked a journal I kept in 2007, scanned one entry, and felt a sweet surge of relief that I am not that person anymore. (This is why I keep my notebooks.)

The evolution out of a desire to prove oneself into a desire to contribute is the central tenet of Life Without Envy, and for me that first twinkling happened in the summer and early autumn of 2010 when I volunteered on my friends’ homestead farm in Vermont. I have never been quite so content as I was those days I spent planting and weeding and watering, sleeping in a platform tent, rising before six to watch the sun coming up over the treeline as the fog withdrew from the rolling meadow before me. Best of all were the people: Gail and Paul and their neighbors, their daughters, and my fellow volunteers. That summer we all felt like Gail and Paul’s brood. Nature + making myself useful + community as close as family, that’s all I need to be happy.

My experiences at Sadhana Forest and Squam Art Workshops the following year brought the new desire into focus: more nature, more community, plus ethical veganism, art, and handicrafts. At Sadhana Forest I helped with meal planning and prep for something like 35 to 45 people, and I became my grandmother’s granddaughter (more fully than ever before) even though the cuisine couldn’t have been more different than the lasagnas and salmon loaf of my childhood: food is one of my love languages. It’s how I love my family and friends, it’s how I love myself, and it’s how I express care and concern for people I don’t know all that well yet. And I loved the feeling of being at sleep-away camp and making beautiful things alongside new friends who had also come to make beautiful things and bask in the tranquility of Squam Lake.

I thought of how one of my grade-school friends had gone to music camp every summer; I remembered the name of the organization, so I Googled it, curious as to how much it cost. Well, I don’t know how much it was back in 1995, but in 2013 it was $8,000 for a six-week program. I started to think, wouldn’t it be great if kids (whose parents could never afford a typical sleep-away camp) could have an experience like Squam? And what about kids who didn’t have parents to come home to?

I’ve been to Squam many times now—as student, teacher, and staff—and each time it bothered me how white and upper-middle-class we were as a group. Elizabeth has done a wonderful job of highlighting and supporting the work of artists, artisans, and teachers of color, but the economic inequities remain; I’m sure many knitters would love to spend four days taking classes at a lakeside cabin but will likely never have that $1,400 to spare.

On one trip I stopped at the general store in Holderness and found a rack of greeting cards with quotes attributed to Rumi: “Live your life as if the universe is rigged in your favor…because it is.” I had a flashback to a church my family and I visited above Lake Kivu in Rwanda, where 11,000 people were murdered during the genocide. Slavery, lynchings, civilian casualties. I felt this fury any time somebody brought up the Law of Attraction. The universe is rigged in your favor: this was a message appropriated by and intended solely for privileged white women like me.

I met Rachael Rice at Squam in 2014, and I referenced her excellent blog post in Email Marketing and “Authenticity,” but the message is too important not to share again here:

“Can we imagine the impact of our work beyond those who can afford it?”

Nowadays the summer camp in my mind is primarily for grownups—at least to start with—purely for logistical reasons. During quiet afternoons at the Providence Athenaeum I would dream of a library in the forest with cozy carrels where writers of all stripes and sensibilities could focus on their manuscripts. Everyone would see themselves represented on the shelves in this library. Attendees who could afford to pay for their retreat-time would subsidize those who could not; or maybe it would be a pay-what-you-can model? Filling vegan lunches packed with care, just like the ones that fueled the Bones & All revision at Hawthornden. Childcare. Hammocks and more hammocks, hammocks everywhere, and a home-sewn quilt on every bed. Writing workshops, painting and drumming workshops, workshops on foraging and herbalism and anything else people want to learn about. Safe spaces for members of marginalized communities to come together (“safe” meaning that every soul in the place understands why “no white people in this room for the next two hours” is not racist). A food forest. A swimming pool. Campfires and jam sessions. Tiny houses, perhaps—though after reading Sunaura Taylor’s wonderful book Beasts of Burden, these spaces I was dreaming of became ADA-compliant. And because white saviorism is something else I’ve been thinking about a lot, I saw myself asking, What do you actually want and need? How can I help make it happen and then leave you to use and enjoy it?

Every day—up until just a few months ago—I’d been asking myself, how the heck am I going to get from here—making next to no money off my writing at the moment, without much saved—to there, that pretty plot of acres with architectural blueprints in hand? 

I’m not sure what’s shifted, exactly, I just know that I don’t need a bridge, I AM the bridge. I’ll bring this retreat into being one plank at a time. The workshops? I can make those happen now. That’s why I wanted to publish this post on the day I launch The Bright Idea Kit and finally hang my shingle as a writing coach. The course is a $200 investment and coaching is $100 an hour, perhaps a tad ironic given the vision I’ve just shared with you, but I’ve poured all of my twenty years of experience into this class and I’m feeling confident that it’s going to catalyze a lot of creative awakenings. In terms of walking my talk, I am making myself informally available for any aspiring writers who can use the mentorship, and I’ll allot more bandwidth (creating an actual program, perhaps?) as I get myself sorted financially. I’ll also be hosting free workshops starting later on in 2021 (first up: the power and potential of private writing!)

I see myself—white hair, liver-spotted hands—working away in one of those carrels. I am a writer. But my greater work for this lifetime is to “take up space” by holding space for others, to create a warm, welcoming retreat and inhabit it for the rest of my life without ever claiming it as mine.

If you’d like to be a part of this community (virtually for now and eventually IRL), you can join my mailing list to watch it all unfold and participate as much as you feel like. Thank you for reading this, and I wish you a healthy, joyful, and fulfilling 2021! ✨

05/22

Provisional Confidence is LIVE!

My first online course, Provisional Confidence for Writers, is now live on Teachable! I explain the genesis in this three-minute YouTube video:

A few notes on this and future offerings:

  • There will be more where this came from—the Bright Idea Kit, which is a more in-depth course on generating “original” ideas—and you can check out the workbook preview (inside my new resource library) by signing up for my newsletter.
  • “Too much useful content” is a splendid problem to have, but I don’t want to contribute to anyone’s feeling of overwhelm. Every course or webinar I put together will be something that feels necessary—something my readers have asked for. (Comment on this post if you have a request!)
  • I’m working on making my course materials as accessible as possible: accurate closed-captioning, transcripts in a sans serif font, etc. (I did use a serif font in my worksheets, but I’ll be using sans serif from now on—once I’ve finished The Bright Idea Kit I’ll circle back and re-design the Provisional Confidence worksheets.)
  • I will not show up in your inbox every day for a week because consumer psychology dictates that you will be more likely to purchase the course (it annoys the snot out of me when people do this!) I sent out an email announcement, I will do at least one Instagram promotion, and then (as usual) I’ll be on to the next thing.

Here are the three goals I set for 2020:

  1. Put out my first online course (because I have been talking about this for at least three years. IT’S TIME!)
  2. Write 200 messy pages of the new [time-travel!] novel.
  3. Publish a manifesta envisioning the retreat center I intend to create (hence the name “Comet Party Summer School”).

At first I figured I’d publish Provisional Confidence and get back to novel-writing, saving the Bright Idea Kit for 2021, but I think I can put out a second course and get that messy first section of the manuscript drafted. Let’s see if I can deliver on the Bright Idea Kit in time for Preptober and bang out my pages during NaNoWriMo (that’s “National Novel-Writing Month” for the uninitiated, “Preptober” being the outlining and such that happens during the month of October).

Oh, and did I mention the online seminar I’m developing for all the vegans who’ve told me that A Bright Clean Mind isn’t for them because they’re “not creative”?! Somehow this will all get done in between working the best day job I have ever had!

Big love to my friends Neil Kramer, Nova Ren Suma, Dr. Giavanni Washington, Elizabeth Duvivier, Heather Demetrios, Rebecca Mahoney, Chantal Schreiber, McCormick Templeman, Joelle Renstrom, Jason Atkins, Erin Callahan, and Steve Saranga for inspiring me to get this thing DONE and out into the world! 💕💕

10/04

A Bright Clean Mind Corrections and Clarifications (Please Comment Below!)

My new book on veganism and creativity will be out in the world very shortly, and as I line up promotional whatnots I’ve been thinking a lot about something author Maya Gottfried said in our conversation that appears on pages 226-229:

Even as vegans we’re not perfect—a book we write that’s totally vegan may not be reflective of other values we develop in the future, and it’s always going to be that way. We just have to acknowledge that things have changed and move on from there.

I have made mistakes in this book—I have no doubt of it!—but at a certain point a writer has to know when to let go. I’m publishing this post to acknowledge the issues I’ve already spotted (and will add to this as needed), and also to create a space for readers to articulate any questions or concerns they may have. If you have any constructive feedback to offer, I prefer that you offer it here, publicly, so that other readers can benefit from your perspective and reply with any reactions you may inspire. (Please note that I will not approve or respond to any anti-vegan defensiveness, no matter how subtly you manage to articulate your hostility. Arguing with you is not a productive use of my time.) Thank you in advance for your input!

Future “transparency reports” will serve a different function: reporting the amounts I’ve been able to donate to animal rights and vegan social/food justice organizations (20% total from each royalty check, a different charity or charities each time).

If you’ve arrived at this page because I have referenced your work in A Bright Clean Mind—whether you are vegan or “future-vegan”—I would be glad to send you a copy. Email me with your address.

Now on to the corrections and clarifications:

A Note on the Illustrations

I am not happy with the print quality—it does not do right by the artists—but there is nothing I can do about this beyond requiring a QC safeguard in all future publishing contracts for illustrated books.

Recalibrating Your Language

I ought to have included the singular “they” in this callout. My apologies for the cisgender brain blip!

FOMO or Faux Moo?

After I turned in the manuscript I found out that according to the Food Empowerment Project, FoMu does not use Fair-Trade chocolate. (If you click here you’ll see them listed under “Cannot recommend but at least responded”). I decided not to cut the chapter because I believe the message outweighs my embarrassing hypocrisy. I’ve emailed the owners for an explanation and will add an update here when I have one.

Jane O’Hara

When you check out Jane O’Hara’s Sacrifice on page 109 (click here to see it properly), do note that her Instagram handle is now @janeoharaprojects.

Where’s Wilbur?

It didn’t make sense to mention this within the chapter (it would fall under “TMI” even as a postscript), but I would like to clarify that after I wrote it Chrissy and I decided we’d both be happier not being friends, and as a result I am no longer volunteering at either Maple Farm Sanctuary or Unity Sanctuary. To the best of my recollection I volunteered four or five times total, which isn’t much, I know, but I hope to volunteer again at these or other farm animal sanctuaries when I eventually have my own car (getting there by public transportation just isn’t realistic, alas).

“Vegan for the Future”

My boyfriend tells me this phrase does not make sense given the animal-centered definition of veganism, but I don’t see why I can’t be “vegan for the future” as long as I am also for animal rights. (Otherwise, yes, one would be eating a plant-based diet as “an environmentalist for the future.”)

The Back Cover

Especially-careful readers will note that sixteen vegan artists have been interviewed in this book, not fifteen. We caught the error too late not to delay printing, but it will be corrected in the event of a reprint.

08/27

Clever, Lovely, and Absolutely Thrilling

Here is a collection of kind things readers and reviewers have said about my books over the years. I made this for a Youtube video I’m working on called “How to Write a Book Worth Reading” (there’ll be a text version on Medium as well), and this is my cred. (I may frame it for those inevitable days when I don’t feel so confident!)

07/20

A Bright Clean Mind preorder bonus!

Oh, hello! I’ve had a knitting-and-sewing post sitting almost-finished in my draft folder for ages, and I will get to that soon—in the meantime here’s an excerpt from and fun little preorder bonus for my next book, A Bright Clean Mind: Veganism for Creative Transformation:

09/24

A Forest on My Shoulders

Oh, hello! It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about a craft project, so I do have a bit of a backlog. (Also, how wild is it that this blog is over TEN YEARS OLD?!?) There’s a chapter in my next book about making my own clothes, so I really needed a good pic of my most recent FO: a lace shawl in Vegan Yarn Albireo, a fingering-weight blend of bamboo and organic cotton. The color thrills me to the bottom of my soul!
My friend Dan and I spent the day in Newport recently, and he was kind enough to take these photos on the cliff walk. Newport is one of those places you’ve got to admit is deservedly touristy. We did a lot of browsing in the shops (including an antique mall in an old armory), paused for a round of delicious cocktails, drove by the Newport mansions on Ocean Drive, and wept and gnashed our teeth when we discovered a local vegan restaurant had closed.
I used to think shawls were old fashioned in a way that wouldn’t work for me, but after seeing so many beautiful ones at Squam and online over the years, I eventually changed my mind. I wanted a garment I could feel embraced by, and I don’t care if that sounds corny. A shawl is perfect for a cool summer evening, and in the fall and winter you can wear it more like a scarf.
A few project notes: I don’t necessarily recommend the pattern I used even though it’s a nice mix of easy lace and even easier garter, because if you’re going to charge for a pattern like this (and you should, don’t get me wrong), you need to include stitch counts. That’s just basic. Thank goodness another Raveler took the time to count and write them out! And of course, the yarn was an absolute dream from start to finish. (I adore Heidi so much I’ve interviewed her for Tenderheart.) For full details, see my Ravelry project page.
Still need to identify this plant! [Edit: a kind reader informed me that it is Canadian goldenrod.]
04/23

Alec’s Favorite Vegan Recipes

Readers of The Boy From Tomorrow will notice that Alec and his mother are newly vegan—as Mrs. Frost says, “if you have to make two major life changes, you may as well make three.” So here’s a recipe round-up! Some dishes are mentioned in the novel, and others are just recipes I imagine Alec and Danny would enjoy as much as I do.

Weekend Breakfast

Pumpkin pie pancakes from Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet

Fruit salad: banana, pineapple, mango, strawberries, blueberries, with whipped coconut cream (GF)

Chickpea-Flour Omelette (with tomato and red onion) with tempeh bacon and hash brown haystacks (GF)

Weekday Lunch

On a sandwich: “chuna” salad, tofu “egg” salad, peanut or almond butter and fig jam, or Tofurky deli slices with lettuce and tomato  (to make GF, omit deli slices and use gluten-free bread)

Carrots with hummus; a banana or apple; and a leftover cookie! (see below) (GF)

Dinner

Tater-tot casserole (it’s healthier than it sounds, especially with a side salad) (GF)

Pizza from scratch (with marinara, caramelized onions, pre-sauteéd mini-bella mushrooms and broccoli rabe, and tofu ricotta)

Macaroni ‘n cheese (add peas, chopped tomatoes, and/or broccoli to make it healthier)  (to make GF, use gluten-free pasta and breadcrumbs)

Classic chili with cashew sour cream and cornbread (GF if using gluten-free flour in the cornbread)

Snacks

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas (GF)

Baba ganoush with pita chips (dip is GF)

Banana-peanut butter smoothie: frozen over-ripe bananas, peanut butter, cinnamon, vanilla powder, almond milk (GF)

Desserts

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles

Lavender-chocolate cupcakes (using maple syrup instead of honey) (GF)

Chocolate Cake to Live For

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Gingerbread People (GF)

Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.