Thursday, August 1, 2019

Clare Mulvany and Michael Warden - Authors on Tap

By Cheryl Oreglia

Author Clare Mulvany, is an author I met at the OnBeing Gathering, she stems from Ireland and says of the gathering, "The On Being Gathering was a huge adventure for me. It was so encouraging to feel part of a wider network of people who are also working to build a better world for future generations. I will never forget meeting the giant redwood trees at the venue, they had a deep effect on me, reminding me to think beyond our span of time. I’m still in touch with quite a number of people from the Gathering and it feels like there is much more to come!"

Clare did not grow up with books, but she did grow up with play and magic. She said, "our house was one which cherished childhood and our door was always open to the menagerie of children on our street in Dublin. Strangers were welcomed; generosity was a given. We had a plum tree in our back garden which gave so much fruit it fed half the neighborhood. To give away was to receive; to play and explore was priority. I owe all that to my parents. It is a foundation which only later in life do I really appreciate for its rarity."

Is anyone else interested in knowing when Clare knew she wanted to become a writer? Writing has been a lifeline for her. Something her eleven year old self knew would be a good thing, and it was then that she picked up a journal and never stopped writing. Her journal today is a constant companion. All her works stem from this personal, daily practice of capturing her thoughts, ideas, observations, insights and inspirations on the pages. Clare says, "I think journalling it one of the best gifts to give to ourselves, and it is a gift that keeps on giving."
Does Clare see her writing as a passion for social justice, occupational subject, business ethic, lifestyle, self-reflective, spiritual practice, fictional, historical, or story-teller? I realize I listed a lot of subjects but she's brave and dove right in. "Before thinking of myself as I writer, I think of myself as a storyteller. I am driven to find and narrate new narratives for our time, asking myself what is the story that the world needs now? I am curious about how our cultural narratives inform, and transform, our social policies and practices. ‘A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers make nations sick’, said the writer Ben Okri, and I am interested in that eternal enquiry: How do we tell a better story for our time?"

Clare went on to explain her fascination with the role of narrative in our personal lives: what is the story we are telling of ourselves and how does that story shape how we show up in the world. If we can change the story we tell of ourselves, can we change how we perceive our value, worth and place in the world. Stories then are like maps, and we the eternal explorers. 

She said writing is part of the storytelling arsenal, one of the tools she uses to navigate in the world. She said, "I use it as both barometer and compass. When I am unsure of what to do next, I take to the blank page. When I am trying to unmuddle a muddle, the blank page calls. Each time, as the words unfold themselves and arrange themselves in new orders on this blank canvas, I can find a thread in the muddle, tug at it, and with time, allow the muddle to unravel."

From a personal perspective, writing has been one of Clare's ways of serving the world. She started a youth magazine, she's written copy and articles for the non-profit sector, scripts for short documentaries, blogged for 10+years, written for online publications, designed learning programs and curriculum. 

Clare published her own book entitled One Wild Life: A journey to discover people who change our world (available at Amazon). It is an account of an eleven month journey around the globe to interview social entrepreneurs about their life stories. She is also a photographer and her words accompany her images. She says, "the space between these- the text and the image-  holds a magic too: the space for imagination, interpretation and meaning making." 

Clare is interested in the intersection of things; where art meets science, where social justice meets art, where spirituality and entrepreneurship both collide and combine. She said, "I started writing mainly about social innovation and creativity but now my work increasingly is reaching into these intersectional spaces to explore new combinations, patterns and hopefully can shed a light on new ways at looking at things- if only for myself. This excites me and keeps me showing up to the blank page!"

She is also working on a memoir at the moment, drawn to the power and role of story in her own life. She's been diving into the silences in her own family lineage, and following the story of how those silences have rippled through the generations. Her story ultimately finds its way to the sea, the memoir in one sense is a homage to the redemptive power of wildness, nature and the landscape of our bodies within this sea of our own individual experience. 

When asked about her primary audience she said, "Me! I write to make sense of things. If my words are useful, then that’s a bonus. When I am writing, I tend also to think of the people who are on my mailing list and network- I want to serve these people with useful resources, links, ideas and tools. Readers range from those interested in the question which Mary Oliver so eloquently poses, ‘So, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life’, and those interested in tools and practices for leading their own one wild life. My readership crosses the business, entrepreneurial, yoga/ spirituality and social innovation worlds. Many are women, who really want to step up and lead new ways of being in the world.

The mission or focus of Clare's work is constantly evolving. She said, "right now, it is to host more learning experiences and journeys for people to support them in their quests to figure out what it is they want to do with their one wild life, and then providing tools and practices to honor their choices. So that involves hosting gatherings and retreats here in Ireland, leading online learning programs, and of course, writing. The world is changing so much and more and more we need people with creative skills, empathy, and practical tools for building new ways of being in the world." 

I snooped around about her networking style and asked how she promotes her mission? Yes, I was digging for tips. She said, "replace the word networking with conversations, and it all becomes easier. What are the conversations you want to contribute to? Where are those happening? How can you be of service to that conversation? Who else is having it and who else can you invite into it?  It’s about building relationships, trust, webs and weaves of interconnections. In this light, it also is about reciprocity; creating circles of connection which has a natural flow between give and receive. You invest time, energy, intention and in return you get to withdraw time, energy and intention. It’s not a linear give and take."  

She believes what one does in the world is probably one of the least interesting things about the person, but who you are, how you show up in the world, who you want to be when you grow up- these are interesting questions to Clare.

When asked how much contact she has with other writers?
She said, "I make it a practice to connect with other creative thinkers. Musicians, artists, innovators, design thinkers, environmentalists, film-makers, entrepreneurs; people who are asking big questions and figuring out new ways of making work happen. I am very lucky in Ireland, and particularly here in West Cork- I am surrounded by writers, artists and creative thinkers. I only have to go to the local coffee shop and spark a conversation!"

So then I entered into the sticky topic of research and how important it is to her writing? She said it depends on what she is writing and that when research becomes procrastination, it is time to write! So true.

Clare is fortunate to live on the beautiful west coast of Ireland. She simply walks out to the shore and writes there. When the weather is bad, she takes to a lovely coffee shop, overlooking the harbour in her village, and writes with the sea by her side. She loves to work late at night: fire lit, candles lit, my little dog snuggled up, the silence enveloping it all. However, she tries not to be dependent on any of that to be able to write. She's written on buses, trains, planes, in petrol stations, in the back of pick-up trucks driving across dirt tracks, or in boring queues. She doesn't want to wait for ‘the right conditions’. The conditions can help, but should never curtail the writing process. 

Clare advises, "Read. Read. Read. Write. Read. Read. Read. Write. Writing is a practice and a craft. There is always more to learn, more ways to experiment and explore. Whenever I feel I am falling into the formulaic, I try to read outside of my comfort zone and learn from a different genre. More and more I find this essential to how I think and how I can show up in a spirit of service in the world. I love reading children’s books, and poems by children. There is often a simplicity and truth in them which brings me back to the essentials." 

When asked if writing was her primary work? She said, "my work right now has a few strands. I am a creative mentor, supporting people through their own creative and leadership journeys, with practical tools and accountability to keep up the momentum. I have recently also launched writing and leadership retreats here in West Cork, Wild Edge Retreats- I want more people to experience the power and magic of this place- a wonderful place to write, create, think big and explore the ‘what’s next’ in your life. I also host online learning programs, including one about the celtic seasonal calendar and living and working seasonally, and have a few more courses in development. Writing helps me to weave all of that together."

I asked how active she was on social media because I need a template myself? I wanted to know if she found this essential, burdensome, or just part of being a writer? Honesty counts! "I’d say I am very active; but I have had to put some boundaries up too - mostly for my own mental wellbeing. I use Facebook and Instagram for sharing my writing and connecting with others; but I find the constant noise of ‘stories’ and ‘streams’ very challenging. I try to plan out my communications and before I post anything, I ask myself, ‘how is this being of service? I frequently turn off the phone and the internet so I can have extended focus time. When I slip and fall back in the constant scrolling syndrome I find it has an impact of my mood and motivation- so I have to really careful, like so many of us I am sure."

My final question, what does literary success look like to you? 
She said, "to keep writing, no matter what. I’d like to publish more books - I have a few on the go- but the primary aim to to keep learning, keep curious. The books will come from that. 

Her final thought to our readers, "stay curious." 

Link to Clare Mulvany Website 

Michael Warden attended the first annual OnBeing Gathering 2018, hosted by none other than the beloved Krista Tippett. He was one of the four hundred invitees eager to engage, immerse, and challenge the way we participate in civil conversations. We all walked away “nourished, emboldened, accompanied” as beautifully noted by Krista Tippett
I had to start the interview in honor of Krista Tippett's famous first question concerning significant childhood influences. Michael writes, “I grew up in a highly dysfunctional environment which prompted me from an early age to seek creative ways of escape. I discovered books quite early and fell in love with them almost immediately. The stories I read took me out of my context and honed my imagination, so that before long I took to creating my own made-up adventures, which I wrote or just acted out in that way kids do so effortlessly. Those early experiences prepared my imagination for writing fantasy fiction later in life.”
The son of a pastor, Michael explains that spirituality was a core focus in his early life, “my dad served as both as Christian pastor and then later as a missionary throughout my childhood and adolescence, so a big chunk of my early life focused on the idea of God and the spiritual realm and what it meant to live in connection with those things. My own experiences of God started very early in my life, and continue to this day. They continually inspire me to engage my writing not just as a skill, but as a spiritual practice, which is to say, I write as a way to know God, to better understand life and what it means to be truly human.” I love the tapestry of life, there are no wrong answers, just diverse ways of being in the world.
While I was chasing boys, Michael was an early player on the literary front, he started his first novel in the 6th grade, “a riveting adventure about a motley crew of five quirky individuals who were the only escapees from an alien takeover of the entire world. There was a grisly but good-hearted captain of an old space barge, a professor, a movie star, a country girl, and…you see where this is going?” Michael inadvertently lifted the characters from a popular sitcom called Gilligan’s Island. He regrets throwing the novel in the trash because it would be hilarious (and possibly sentimental) to enjoy a visit with his younger self.
Michael sees his writing as a way to connect with God and inspire others to as well. “It’s also my primary form of inquiry. I’ve kept a journal since I was a child, and it’s always been my way in to exploring and understanding life better. In public arenas, such as my blog, or in my novels, I see writing as a provocative invitation to explore, experience, or think about something differently than perhaps you have before."
He wants his writing to inspire change, "sometimes that means speaking directly to social issues I care about, but more often I speak to the transformation of the self, the process of becoming whole as an individual, and living fully from that place in a way that naturally transforms the world for the better. To me, the need for each of us to heal up and grow up into our Truest, Highest Self is the issue at the root of all the other problems we face as a species. It’s like that saying, ‘I’ve seen the problem, and it is us.’" #truth
Epic or high fantasy is Michael’s fictional genre targeting “anybody who loves fantasy and science fiction. In the nonfiction realm he explores his own spirituality and tends to connect with people from opposite ends of the spectrum, those deeply immersed in mystic Christian traditions, or those far removed from Christianity, yet passionate about their own spiritual journey."
When asked about writing rituals Michael revealed some usual practices, “I live in the Colorado Rockies, with an office full of windows that offers and expansive view of the mountains. So you’d think I’d write staring off into the wonder of all that beauty. But in fact, the opposite is true. When I write, I close the blinds, turn off the lights and light a single candle across the room from where I sit at my laptop. When I write, I go to far off places in my imagination. Anything that ties me to my immediate environment, even a panorama of mountains, only serves as a distraction.”
Michael is a life coach, “I used to work full time as a freelance writer, but found that tying an income to my writing had a way of choking out my enjoyment and creativity around writing. Now I can write whatever I want, without having to worry about whether it will sell.” You can enjoy Michael’s blog at
He enjoys connecting with inspirational people, whether writers or not, so I dropped the social media question in his lap, “I used to hate social media, particularly as a requirement for growing a platform. I’ve mellowed in recent years, however, and now focused on finding ways to have fun with it. I think seeing social media as a chore comes across to the person on the other end. If that’s your attitude, it’s probably best not to do it at all.” Good advice.
As I worked my way to the most important question on how the Gathering changed, illuminated, embodied, directed, focused, or most importantly connected his work to others? Michael writes, “I definitely see myself as a cultural bridge builder. I can speak across difference, and help shine a light on the threads of our common humanity. The OnBeing Gathering only deepened my sense of that in myself, my commitment to it, and inspired my courage by exposing me to so many other people, in all walks of life and belief, who are largely up to the same thing. Together, I really believe we can bring the world together.”
Currently focused on finishing a trilogy Michael will “see what success looks like after that.” (for my blog, and coaching work)

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, interviewing authors, finding my place in the world.

Join me in the comments!

No comments:

Blogger Template by Designer Blogs