So it's with great pleasure that she agreed to be interviewed for my blog. Not only is Mary anne an exceptional artist, she's a unique and wise writer of five books, -- including her latest Live with Intention -- numerous framed poster and sayings that stay with a soul like "Live like this is all there is" because of course, it is. The gate to our ranch hosts a sign she inspired: "We seek neither convenience nor ease but to live at the edge of possibility." She's also a skilled, generous and sensitive teacher both in person and with her on-line courses offered through her website I've taken three of them and found inspiration within each. For many years she taught writing at Oregon's State Prison with men sentenced to life. Her Christian faith has taken her to a variety of places as she seeks justice, loves mercy and I find her always to be walking humbly with her Lord. I hope you'll enjoy meeting Maryanne.
1. You describe yourself as a writer and a teacher. I found you first as an artist/writer. How did you come to decide that writing and teaching were your deepest callings?
Writing, creating beauty and teaching others are the things that, throughout my life, I have been compelled to do. No matter what. I am happiest and most fulfilled when I am acting in one of those three capacities. Beyond my own view, I demonstrated the greatest service to others when acting in one of those capacities. That’s a sure fire way of validating a calling!
2. One of the things I love about your writing is the way the words take on life sweeping on the paper, twisting or jogging to bring depth to the meaning. Have you always played with words?
Yes. I have always played with words. I “wrote” quite a statement in permanent marker on our breakfast nook wall when I was two. I laughingly say that was my first exposure to a critic! As to sweeping, twisting and jogging….I began my love of movement and dance about the same time as I fell in love with words. My lettering style is my way of allow the words to do a visual dance.
3. I have a cousin who is an interior designer and she says as a child she played with the color chips from the hardware store letting them run through her fingers and stuffing them in her stockings so her mom wouldn't know how many she had. How does your experience with color affect your writing and artistry and did it begin at a very early age?
All I have to do is glance behind my studio desk to affirm I have a similar malady to your cousin. Color chips! I appreciated color at a young age, but came to writing first and foremost. I simply have a positive relationship with color and form that I have cultivated over the years. Words inform my art, they spark the image.
4. What led you to become a teacher? Was your prison teaching your first experience teaching your craft? What were some of the challenges in that setting? Were they unique to that setting or do all students face the same concerns as they try to bring their voice to paper?
I love to learn. I’m an enthusiastic student. Teaching others was a natural outgrowth of that verve. In grade school, teachers recognized this peer to peer gift and allowed me the opportunity to teach others, beginning in fourth grade. I’m so thankful for the intuitive teachers that have nurtured me as I’ve grown!
I taught personal writing practice and simple art methods for years before I volunteered in prison. I found the students inside prison walls more vulnerable and willing to learn than those on the outside. They were fundamentally aware of the walls that surround them and wanted to break down barriers from the inside – out. The fears and anxiety that beginning writers face are essentially the same, regardless of life circumstances.
Another advantage to teaching is that, inevitably, I learn something entirely unexpected.
5. One of the Focus Phrase™ processes I took from you involved your giving us a phrase each evening to inspire us for the next day. (For information on this see mary anne’s author site: maryanneradmacher.net; registration for January’s process closes on December 27, 2010)) The next evening we sent you no more than three paragraphs about how that phrase worked its way during our day and you'd comment back to us. How did you decide to create that course? And how did you ever find time to comment to each of us!
The roots of the Focus Phrase process are found in my early Scripture study habits. The method I teach now is honed from decades of discovery and experience based on my early study experiences. It’s a profound and impacting process. Reading and responding to the writing of my participants is invigorating to me (another sign I’m acting within my own giftedness). I look forward to each submission. I hold them for the gift of trust that they represent.
6. Your latest book, Live with Intention, Rediscovering what We Deeply Know, just recently came out. It's filled with your wisdom like "Walk to the Edge" and "play with abandon" and one of my favorites, "the most important promises are the ones we make to ourselves." Are there times when you haven't walked to the edge or played with abandon or kept a promise to yourself?
Yes, Jane, some days the best thing that I can say is that I simply showed up. We all have those days. I have a life long aspiration to being better at the end of every day. And by better I mean, that I’ve learned, served and acted in full accord with my blessings and my gifts.
7. What did you hope to accomplish through this latest work?
I want to tap gentle souls on the shoulder and hold a mirror up to their knowledge and goodness and say, “Remember? You knew this once. Remember?” Live With Intention represents ten core elements that enliven and enlarge my days. I invite others to either borrow mine or connect with their own. “Same ‘ole, same ‘ole,” never again has to be someone’s answer to, “How are you doing?” And I wouldn’t mind at all if this one visited the New York Times best seller list for awhile.
8. Describe for us your word birds.
The “word birds” that I feature throughout LIVE WITH INTENTION are honed, condensed poetic observations on life. I want them to help the reader’s own thoughts and observations take wing – and fly!
9. Twice while reading this latest book of yours, the page fell open to "What if we just acted like everything was easy." Since I've just gone through some chaotic times moving, adjusting to new routines, saying goodbye to hundreds of people I've come to care about as we enter a new phase of our life away from our Homestead, the idea of looking at the change as "easy" really struck me. I like it! How did that bit of wisdom work its way into your book?
It took me a few years to recognize that I used that question to talk myself through difficulties of all sorts. Particularly computer challenges. I’d ask myself to act like I do when I know something really is easy. Just introducing that mind set would slow me down, soothe my rapid fire thinking and help me focus.
Things usually ARE a lot simpler and easier than I am at first inclined to think. While writing this book I changed software. While writing this book I “lost” one half of the content when I was almost done. Whew. I pretended it was easy all the way to when it actually was!
10. Could you describe your creative process for us? I know, that's a book in itself! But do you work daily, do you intentionally spend a certain number of hours or have a special writing place? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I work from the large and compress into the small. I sift through the MUCH to select the MUST. You could say that I actually “edit” the elements of my life. Pare away the non essentials. Every task in my life, with due dates, wish lists or “wouldn’t it be nice” goes on a single piece of paper and gets filed in a portfolio. That way, when a task starts tapping on my temples, screaming, “You should be doing MY Priorities NOW,” I can just identify some action steps, put them in writing and put them in the book. Then I feel as if I paid some attention to it, won’t forget it, but it will take its place in line with all the other items wanting to be done. I practice the one thing at a time method…one right after another. And make sure I provide lots of happy dances and celebrations for individual accomplishment along the way.
I do have a studio with a writing desk but the world is my favorite writing place. I always have a journal with me and am writing where ever I go. I draw my inspiration by staying close to the truth of Spirit and by living close, as often as I can, to my core values.
11. You have a number of websites and a variety of product that carries your wisdom. The household blocks with reversible sayings and designs; the framed posters; other blocks that look quite lovely in my bedroom and inspire me each morning. Even the tote bag has the ten thoughts that begin with "Live with Intention." How did you get in to the marketing world? How do you find it fits with your writing life?
I began my own poster and greeting card company in 1986. Everything was hand made…I lettered every card by hand for the first two years. Oh my! As my words started traveling around the world, people who wanted to use my words and art began asking me. To date I’ve never had to ask any manufacturer to the party…I’ve been fortunate enough that they’ve asked me. But as to the marketing world – ah. You’ll notice I didn’t list that as one of my gifts. If it were given over to my inclination, I’d give everything I make away. I love doing that – ah, but it is my living. I’ve come to view marketing as an opportunity to serve and to offer others the opportunity to be of service. I have a strong commitment to private philanthropy and public citizenship. When people support my livelihood by taking a course or purchasing a book or product – they are not only supportive of the dozens of people along the chain that are required to bring my products to the world – but they are validating the message of inspiration and empowerment that I offer to the world through my work. The more firmly convinced I’ve become (over the years) that I am acting in accord with my calling, the bolder I’ve become about simply asking people, “Please buy my work.” The words will inspire and I will be able to earn my living and keep doing what I do.
12. As you work, if you looked out your window, what would you see?
That depends if my eyes are open or closed. Open? I see a parking lot for the small complex in which my studio is located. If my eyes are closed I might see the Cathedral and main plaza of Venice, or the waving autumn grain of the growing fields of the Western States of Oregon and Washington. I can close eyes and be any where. See anything.
13. Tell us about your class coming up and how we can sign up to be inspired by the wisdom of your work? How many students on-line can participate in your classes?
Registration closes for HONEY IN THE HEART, December 27. Beginning January 3 I guide the first Focus Phrase™ of 2011. The theme emphasizes: health, promises to yourself, service with compassion and gratitude. Enrollment’s $229, which includes a signed copy of LIVE WITH INTENTION. And another surprise or two. You know I love surprises.
This writing process is even appropriate for people who think they are “non writers.” People can write: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register.
My class size depends on the amount of other demands I have at the particular time. I’ve closed classes at six registrations and have accommodated as many as 54. It just depends on the what else is happening at the time of the process. When someone wants to enroll in a process that is full, I make sure they have a priority position in the next offering. Or, they can visit the three people I’ve authorized to teach Focus Phrase™ and see if they have enrollment space. (They can be discovered on Facebook at “A New Way – Radmacher Focus Phrase.)
14. Is there anything you want to be sure we all know that I've failed to ask?
I admire you endlessly. I appreciate the generosity of spirit that you continually demonstrate by introducing your fans to the work of other writers. I am grateful to you for introducing one of your readers, Wallace Roark, to my work. Because of you, two years ago, Wallace took a Focus Phrase process. It turned out to be a key element in helping him realize his forty-year dream of publishing a book. LEARN TO THINK LIKE AN OCTOPUS was released this summer and Wallace is already well into writing his second book. You are a great talent and have huge heart….and while I know you are blushing, this is my interview so you really can’t edit out my unreserved appreciation and admiration!
Can I tell you that I hope you never stop giving us your gifts though I do want you to take time to play with abandon every day!
The great thing about almost everything I do is that it IS play because I love it so much. Play is less something I do than it is the attitude with which I approach most of all things that require “doing.” I’m hoping to apply that principle next month when I Get to create numbers of Profit and Loss Statements for various aspects of my business. I’m pretty sure I’ll just pretend it’s easy!
mary anne radmacher