Wednesday, March 28, 2012

June Maffin Interview re Soulistry

 Dear Readers and Writers:
June Maffin, author of Soulistry, has given me an interview.  I think you'll find her ideas stimulating!  cheers, Laura Hoopes
LH. You’ve written Soulistry - Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture Your Spirituality recently.  Can you tell us what Soulistry means and something about the book?

JM: *Soulistry* is a neologism and shorthand for artistry-of-the-soul (SOUL and artISTRY).  The Soulistry book contains over eighty inspiring quotations from ordinary and extraordinary human beings of all ages around the world , living in different cultures, along with accompanying Soul-Questions.  Its intent is to encourage readers to recognize and celebrate their inner wisdom, embrace life in new ways, connect/re-connect with the intangible soul-essence of life and deepen their awareness of the presence of the holy around them, regardless of any connection they may/may not have with any form of religion. 

LH: What features of your life led you to write this book?

JM: Words have always fascinated me.  As a young child who stuttered, verbal expression was uncomfortable and difficult, so writing became my way of expression.  I had two books published before Soulistry and was working on two more (a children’s book; a book about euthanasia) when a life-changing diagnosis of mercury poisoning was determined.  Within 48 hours of that diagnosis, my muscles (legs, arms, voice) began to atrophy, leaving me unable to walk more than a few steps or speak above a whisper.  The reading function of my brain ground to a halt and while I could recognize letters of the alphabet, I couldn’t put the letters together to read words for almost a year.

A lifelong love of quotations helped focus my attention on putting sounds with letters.  With a lot of work, I taught myself to read once again using quotations from a variety of sources.  As I read the quotations, questions (Soul-Questions) emerged. I spent time reflecting on my responses and found myself experiencing a gentle spiritual growth.  In a “be still” moment of quiet reflection one morning, the idea for a book began.  Slowly, quotations were selected, Soul-Questions were written and the process of seeking copyright permission for the quotations began. With each step, I experienced my brain regenerating its cells.  Nothing scientific … just an abiding awareness that it was happening. 

It seemed that the more Soul-Questions I wrote for the quotations, the more frequently I incorporated ‘play’ in my life (embellishing wooden framed mirrors, creating marbled art cards, etc.), the more my left-brain activity was increasing.  My soul was being nourished in new ways as the connection between creativity and spirituality was nurtured.

LH  You live in such a beautiful place, Vancouver Island. Have you always lived there?  Has it influenced your spiritual development?  

JM: I’ve lived on the west coast for over forty years and on Vancouver Island for the last twelve years.  Here, I experience an abiding sense of peace that deepens as I pass farmlands, look towards the snow-covered mountains, gently walk along wooded paths surrounded by trees that reach to the sky, and feel the pebbles under my bare feet at the water’s edge. Here, I connect with nature in its simplicity, beauty and grace.  Here, I am aware of myself as human ‘being’ rather than human ‘doing.‘   Here, a life of simplicity, (focusing on ‘kairos’ rather than ‘chronos’) emerges.  And here, a growing holy connectedness to the world, Holy Other, others, myself, is nourished. 

LH:  What or who influenced you to develop your ideas of how spirituality can grow from dealing with our wounds, both physical and emotional?

JM:  Life’s experiences and a deep belief that each day presents choices (as to how I respond or react to those choices) continue to be my teachers.  Life’s wounds have been deep, but over time, spiritual growth has come as I learn and re-learn what it is to be human, to make mistakes, to forgive, to heal.

LH:  When one nurtures spirituality, what changes should be expected in one’s life?

JM:  When my spirituality is nurtured and nourished, the more I am in tune with others, myself, and the world and the more I become aware of beauty, gratitude and joy within myself. 

The more I focus on my breathing (inhaling peace, wholeness, healing; exhaling tension, anger, hurt, negative feelings), the more I become peace-filled and forgiving.  The more I experience time as ‘kairos’ rather than ‘chronos,’ the less “time-pressure” I feel.  The more I play, the more playful I become.  The more I look for beauty, the more beauty I see around and within me.  The more joy I express, the more joy I experience.  The more ways I seek to be creative, the more creative I become.  The more I anticipate a day to be filled with blessing, the more blessings unfold for me. The more I give, the more I receive.

LH: Do you lead workshops or give talks about the subject of your book?

JM: SOULISTRY has been a blessing in so many ways in my life.  It’s become an umbrella for a variety of workshops, retreats, and conference speeches on a variety of topics (e.g. Creative Spirituality Writing; Spirituality of Play; Awakening the Creative Spirit; The Soulistry Story). I am humbled by the invitations to lead retreats, facilitate workshops and speak at conferences on a variety of subjects.  So, in response to this question, yes, I do.  And I love doing them.  :-)

LH: Can you share something about what you mean by “spirituality of play”?

JM: When I play … when I enjoy the fullness of life with its curiosities, frivolities and insensibilities … when I don’t take myself too seriously … when I laugh and delight in life, I allow my spirit to breathe and re-create - spiritual growth results. 

Believing that laughter and play are holy and healing has been a blessing in many difficult times in my life and a spirituality of play has helped me live with absurdity, pain, paradox, sleepless nights, mystery, frustration.  And because a spirituality of play has opened doors (of intuition, vulnerability, child-like joy, healing, spontaneity, flexibility and hope) in my life, it’s not surprising that a spirituality of play finds a home in SOULISTRY - and a home in me.   :-)

LH: Is it particularly hard or easy to write about spirituality? 

JM: Pierre Teillard de Chardin helped me understand that I am not a physical person having a spiritual experience, but rather I am a spiritual person having a physical experience.  To that end, I believe that every thought I think, every thing I experience, every person I meet, and every act I do is a connection with my spirituality.  Writing about spirituality seems to be an extension of who I am and while it can take a lot of time (chronos), it has always been experienced as a time of blessing (kairos) for me.  So ... all things considered, setting aside the time factor, the writing part has been easy.

LH:  What writing habits or helps have you found in your writing practice?

JM: If I’m writing for publication, I tend to get an idea about where I want to go and then let the thoughts/words/sentences flow freely without editing. I leave the writing for a few days and then return to hone it.  I’m not a disciplined writer (e.g. I don’t have specific times or location) when I write.  Rather, I’m a writer who writes responsively and spontaneously to a situation, conversation, thought, image.  I don’t find writing to be ‘work.’  Writing for me is gift, oftentimes healing and always a humbling privilege - not only to write, but to have people who appreciate the words that come forth let me know that the writing "speaks" to them.  Joy comes to me as words become transformed into sentences and paragraphs and in discovering that those words/sentences/paragraphs have made a difference in the lives of *Soulistry* readers, retreatants and workshop participants.

LH: Can you refer us to your blogs or websites for more information?

JM: The primary resource about SOULISTRY would be its website ( and Facebook page (  My personal FB page is  I’m a book reviewer (  and while I’m on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter, I haven’t become familiar enough with them to use them very much - yet - but I’m working on it. :-)   And of course, there’s always a Google search.  :-)

LH:  Any other thoughts you’d like to share with the readers of West Coast Writers?

JM: Thank you for this invitation to share with your readers, Laura.  I’ve appreciated the opportunity to share something of my love of the written word, my passion for SOULISTRY and the delight I experience in the privilege of encouraging people who are intrigued by the connection between creativity and spirituality.  

Life is full, and I feel blessed in many ways, and connecting with you and other West Coast Writers has been yet one more blessing in my life.  So, thank you for this opportunity.

I wish you much continued success with this wonderful blog, and I look forward to reading about other West Coast writers here and someday, meeting you in person. 

SOULISTRY ... the book, retreats & workshops
... connecting spirituality and creativity in new ways

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview with Bart Bultman on Subtle Ties

LH: Hi Bart. How did you get interested in writing?

BB: Idle hands are the devil’s playthings, but they’ve served me quite well. For a couple summers in college, I worked at the college’s physical plant, under the outfit of “campus services.” We were the guys who fixed/moved everything. If fifty folding tables needed to be taken from storage to an auditorium, for a conference, we did it. If all the furniture in a dorm room, for the entire floor, needed to be stacked and consolidated in the corner so the carpets could be steamed, we did that. The point is, it was odds-and-ends stuff that you couldn’t predict, almost like working for the fire brigade, which meant there was down time. Not right away, but eventually, I filled it with reading. The first summer I worked at campus services was the first summer I didn’t play baseball, as I had been cut from the team the previous winter, and along with it, all of my illusioned dreams of baseball as a career. I wallowed that bitterness, reading the Russians, starting with Dostoevsky. It was two-thirds of the way into The Brothers Karamavoz, that part when you find out who has the money and where it is, that I was hit in some fatalistic way, like how the Titantic struck the iceberg, and that was quickly followed by the realization that to write what I had just felt must be better/stronger than to read it. It was the opening of the possible. I think Keats had a similar moment when he stumbled upon a line of poetry, “the sea-shouldering whale,” or so the story goes. Then I read, and read, until I realized reading is not writing, and I took up the pen. (sidenote: I hate the keyboard, it’s Neolithic and I can’t wait for it to be trumped by thought-recognition technology.)

 LH: Do you have any favorite authors who inspire you?

BB: I like the best of the best.
Shakespeare. Shakespeare. Shakespeare.

LH: What do you most enjoy about writing?

BB: Elbow room.  

LH: How do you get the ideas for your books?

BB: How does rain fall from the clouds, it sort of happens. But without getting mystical, I like to look at the news. Subtle Ties is a treatise on Machiavellian power played out on a college campus. Directly though, it was a response I got from reading The Great Gatsby for the fifth time. Old money has to have, at some point, accrued that wealth by some sort of opportunistic exploitation, whether by mind or force, something Fitzgerald avoids in his book. So that’s what I tried to show. The rich are rich because they’re smart. Looking back now, I was reading Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, at the time, and that Darwinian rethinking might have influenced me as well.

LH: How much of your own story and experiences do you weave into your fiction? How do you keep the line between fiction and memoir clear? BB: I think you write from your total knowledge, and I think I only weave something semi-relatable to my own life, into my fiction (I stay away from memoir), if I’m “stuck” and need something semi-important to get me going again that will later, probably, be cut from the finished product anyway. That’s in terms of plot actions. Metaphors are on different grounds, where it’s always open season.

LH: Would you say your emphasis is plot, character, or setting?

BB:It’s hard to have characters without plot, and plot without characters, so those are 1 and 1a, and depending on the day, they might be 1a and 1. Setting, however, is 99z, but something I’m working on, but something that seems to be misguided. It seems to me if you value setting, you should paint or make movies. The flat, black and white letters grouped into words and aggregated by punctuation, does not seem to me, the best medium for setting. What I like is motion, and setting is set.

LH: In your latest novel, the beer pong table, Bellatrix, is close to being a character. How did you get the idea for that?

BB: That might actually be something that I sort-of, somewhat borrowed from real life. One of my college roommates was an engineering student and he crafted a beer pong table that you could imagine strutting forth from the R&D facility at Alfa Romeo. And for the plot of Subtle Ties to work, I needed something desirous, something unique, something college students are passionate about. Beer Pong.

Then there’s the whole MacGuffin theory/technique that was pioneered by Hitchcock. It seems to work. Although I’ve never deliberately applied it.

LH: Where do you get your titles? Do you spend a lot of time working out the right title for a novel

BB: Yes, the need for a title, a good problem to have. But it will probably develop an angst which you could easily misdiagnose as an ulcer. It’s funny to look back at the classics and see how easy they had it, The Old Man and the Sea, David Copperfield, Don Quixote, The Stranger, Ulysses, The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hamlet, all boring titles. A title shouldn’t matter, but it does, because the marketing of literature deems it so. So, over the dusty covers of time, a few solutions have appeared, mainly pilfering from other texts. That seems to be the common route. But the pages of Shakespeare and The Bible are so pillaged that they suffer from deforestation. However, the titles they have as their text—were imagined—and if you can’t learn the process to sprout-organic imagined things, probabilities are that your book doesn’t need a great title, unless you want it to clash like baby fingers pounding the piano.

Bottom line is that there’s no reason to think a title requires any different magic than what it took to come up with the next line in your fiction.

Where do I get my titles from? Wherever I can. Subtle Ties is the double innuendo of friendship split in two to state quiet significance, which I thought was what the book was about and perhaps, somewhat, how the style of it was written. The end game is that there should be a matrimony between title and text, not a love affair.

As for the time it took me to conjure Subtle Ties, I think Marlowe said it best, “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?”

LH: Your ebooks are self-published so far. What can you tell us about marketing? Any tips to share?

BB: Take the following with 4 TBSPs of Na+, to date I have not sold much beyond my circle of friends and family.

For fiction, I’ve heard the best thing to do, in terms of marketing, is to publish short stories. With them, you receive eyes on your work from readers who probably already like your style of writing, and the publisher pays you for your advertisement that’s wrapped-up in a short story’s clothing. It’s supposed to be win-win.

Along with that, it’s also said, for fiction, you need more books to sell a book. Five authors, each with one book, will sell less copies than one author with five books. Readers buy books that are credible.

Time could be better spent writing, and improving, than marketing, as the theory goes.

LH: Who would you consider your ideal reader? Do you imagine writing for anyone in particular?

BB: Ideally someone with the same humor and interests as I have. That person (hopefully persons) should be able to pick up on the little clever quips that, to us, would be inside jokes; while, hopefully, the common reader would pass over them noticing nothing good or bad.

Demographically, if I had to pick, I’d go for the 16-30 year olds.

No, I don’t imagine a “reader” while writing the first draft. From thought to words is tricky enough without putting some phantom proxy in the middle. However, if I correct, I try to do if from the perspective of Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

LH: Any other thoughts to share with the blog readers?

BB: No. I try to weave my greatest hits of thoughts into my fiction, and then sell them. (

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Interview with Jean Baker re Margaret Sanger: Life of Passion

Hi Readers and Writers,

Jean Baker, author of Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion answered some questions for us on her new book.  Professor at Goucher College and author of many books, expecially explorations of women of power and might, Baker brings her sense of history to bear on Sanger, a woman who fought for some of the same rights that have recently come under fire in the political machinations of state legislatures and also presidential candidates' rhetoric.  Was she perfect?  No, and Baker makes that clear, while showing us that some of her supposed faults, particularly her ideas of eugenics, were shared with many in her time, including famous scientists and even presidents, many of whom are highly regarded today and not devalued because they believed in this doctrine back in their own time, as Sanger has been often.  Enjoy the interview!   Laura

LH:     Your most recent book is Margaret Sanger: Life of Passion.  How did you choose Margaret Sanger as a subject to study?
JB: After publishing a book on the suffragists, I wanted to see what happened to the woman’s movement during the 1920s when it stalled. Alice Paul could not get her Equal Rights Amendment (still not federal law) through the judiciary committee. But there was one reform that flourished during the 1920s and that was birth control. I came to see that much of the reason, besides changing attitudes about sex, was the savvy leadership of Margaret Sanger. And as I began my research I saw that Sanger was being unfairly vilified by opponents of abortion rights who used Sanger to threaten her institutional legacy—Planned Parenthood of America.

LH:     What kinds of archival material did you use for the biography? Any sources that recently became available? 
JB: The Sanger archive is formidable  and consists of over 200 reels of microfilm. There is new Sanger material, especially on her personal life, in the Sophia Smith collection at Smith College. I also did some interviews with Sanger’s grandchildren. Of course there are also ancillary areas that demand attention, such as eugenicism and birth control technology, particularly relating to endocrinology. All subjects live in a certain period and it is essential to find the context for their lives.  

LH: Do you have any recommendations for biographers in terms of finding sources? 
JB:  Read the footnotes of previous biographers and check world Cat and the Library of Congress catalogues and think imaginatively.

LH: Could you have written your book if Sanger were still alive?  How did she feel about biographers?
JB:  Sanger detested efforts by biographers to write her life, once saying that she did not want to delve into the past. She always looked to the future.

LH: Did you interview people about their interactions with Sanger?   How did you prepare for interviews if you did?

      JB:  My rule for oral interviews is to wait until I am well into the research before setting up any interviews and to try to not let the subject control the interview—sort of the opposite of what Howell Raines did in My Soul is Rested.

LH: What strategies do you use to recreate the feeling of a life lived while staying true to sources?  What about dialog, setting, costume?
JB:  I  try to read as much as possible about the time period and especially the places. In Sanger’s case her birth place Corning New York became almost a character in the book as did Tucson Arizona where Sanger lived during the late 1930s until her death in 1966. Quotes from the original material are also important to set the scene . As an historian I do not make up dialogue although some historians like Simon Schama do.

LH: I was researching a woman geneticist who was befriended by Charles Davenport when he ran the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, and I’ve read about his very active support of eugenics, so I know eugenics was a well-accepted scientific theory in the US.  Evidently, several presidents also espoused it too. But now, people tend to equate it with Nazism.  How hard was it for you to deal with Sanger’s ideas about eugenics?
JB:  Yes, this remains the great elephant in the room for any biographer of Sanger. I tried to place her in the context of a progressive movement that most Americans accepted during the period . I tried to make the point that she used eugenecists who were the leading scientists of her day to give credibility to her movement and that she offered a feminist form of eugenicism and that was birth control!
          LH:      It seems to me that her emphasis on birth control for the poor has made a lot of people in the       blogosphere think she was racist.  Is there evidence of specific anti-African American attitudes?  How did you deal with that issue?

JB: Margaret Sanger was ahead of her time in so far as contemporary racial attitudes were concerned. She set up a birth control clinic in Harlem in 1931 because Black leaders like W.E.B. Dubois asked her to do so. She opposed racial segregation well before most American did and she never singled blacks out as a group
LH:     Did you go into your study of Sanger as a partisan, hoping to rehabilitate her reputation, or did you ask the material to “show me”?
JB:  The latter but of course all biography and history are the enactments of the past in the mind of the historian and I support women’s right to abortion and of course birth control.

LH:. The nature of truth in biography can be singularly slippery.  Did you have any experiences in researching this book that underlined that problem?
       JB:  I do not believe that there is any single truth about biographical subjects. Rather I think that there are different interpretations—see my interpretation of Mary Todd Lincoln.

LH:  Recently, your books have focused on prominent women.  Do you feel a special bond with women who fought for the rights of other women? 
    JB:  Of course—and perhaps that reeling is enhanced by our contemporary politics. 

You can buy Jean Baker's biography of Margaret Sanger on  (click here to order the book on Amazon).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alphabetaphilia Windup Extended Until April 1

Hi friends,

I am not getting around to the ending of Alphabetaphilia quite as fast as I'd hoped, so if you want to enter the contest or the PDF, you may do it until April 1.  By then, I hope to have clear decks to take care of your entries.

I hope you're enjoying the spring time.  I am thrilled to see, on the International Crane Foundations' pages, that the whooping cranes are migrating and arriving safely at their summer homes this year.  It's so good to think we can sometimes get it right when we try to help out nature.  There is so very much that we don't know about how natural beings interact that trying to "fix things" that people have ruined, such as the near loss of all whooping cranes, can go terribly wrong.  But this time, it has not.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Winding Up Alphabetaphilia for 2012

Thank you to all who participated in Alphabetaphilia this year.  I apologize for disappearing but my mother passed away and I needed to go to Tennessee very suddenly.  Now, it's time to wind up our alphabet game.

If you want to participate in the CONTEST, open an email and put CONTEST on the subject line, then select the 10 daily contributions you want to use, OK to repair typos, and send them in the email body to

If you want your contributions to be considered for the PDF of Alphabetaphilia 2012, to be made available on this website free of charge, put PDF in the subject line as well.  Be sure to include the name you want to use.  A pen name is fine, but I need your real name in the email, please.

best, Laura