a time to return to storytellers and artists…

The Heart of It Collection featuring YOU!

Creating Children's books changed my life

When someone showed me that I could make children’s books, it changed me. It changed my whole life and the trajectory of where I was going and why.

I learned that what I have to share with children is valuable, necessary even.

Through art and story I can teach kids like me that they matter, their voices, experiences and expressions are important.

“I see you and your immense creative power. You belong…”

I can say through my books…I see you and your immense creative power

Holding a book that I’ve created in my own hands is amazing, but seeing how my books affect our children up and out in the world is truly transformative. This is the heart of it! This is the way of the book!

And this is exactly the kind of experience I want to pass on. I want to share what I’ve learned from creating many award-winning multicultural children’s books, but more than that, I realized that I want you to experience what it’s like to hold a book that shows your work in your own hands and be able to share it with children. I want you to see. I want you to feel. I want you to know how deeply transformative this can be.

So in my e-course, The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter, (a class I’ve been dreaming about forever!), not only am I going to share everything I know about making children’s books from deepdeep, I’ll also guide you through the process of creating one full spread of your own and then have it published. A wonderful opportunity to gain experience and valuable practice for your own book and projects and put your newly learned skills toward “real world” application.

THE HEART OF IT Collection The Heart of It - Spring 2014 Collection Children's Bookwill be a small, full color, paperback children’s book featuring one full spread of art and story by each student and original art for the cover by me.

Your art and story hereThe small, independent press I co-founded will produce this groundbreaking little book! A collection of single spreads by different artists/authors united by the themes and experience of THE HEART OF IT course!

This will be the perfect vehicle to actively begin getting stories like ours up and out in the world and into the hands of children RIGHT NOW.

Return to Storytellers and ArtistsI want to start the ball rolling. I want to see things changing. I want to hold something in my hands. I want it now. We can be the change that we want to see in children’s book publishing. We have the power. What the world needs now is a return of storytellers and artists, peacemakers and tree talkers, people of color and elders, lgbtqi people and visionaries. We need everyone’s voice, we need everyone’s art. But most importantly our children need it.

Do you have a children’s book inside of you? Come learn the way of the book!

The way of the book, the heart of itIf you want to learn more about the course, check out the video below or find out more info on our course page.

Let’s create a children’s book revolution straight from the heart!!!

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Afraid of the Flow

Learning to live life the way I make art

Learning to live life the way I make art

Life is for BouncingNearly all of us have been divorced from the full strength of our creative flow since the freewheeling freedom of childhood. And honestly, I know many of us didn’t have the kinds of childhoods that encompass a whole lotta freewheeling. So it makes perfect sense that we may be a bit unfamiliar, wary, even afraid of the flow that we can sense is just within our reach, that all powerful creative flow we were born with.

We may have been warned about the dangers of dipping into such powerful flow. Through no fault of our caregivers, diversions, redirects, even dams may have been taught in order to “keep us safe,” or because that’s the “way things are taught,” or a million other reasons. It happens. It’s good to notice, be aware of our jam ups as we pass through them.

Truthfully, I don’t think hardly anyone in the Western world is in their full creative flow. The nature of our culture is nearly the antithesis of creative flow. Suppression, control, rationality, proof… are highly valued. I always felt out of step with our culture I think because of this.

Looking to understand myself and this amazing power that “seemed” best suppressed, I have spent my life a devotee of the creative force. I have watched how creativity moves through us; what supports it; what keeps it moving; how to access it when it seems far away. I have watched it in myself and probably thousands of children and adults. I have created structures from what I’ve learned to guide educators. Creative flow is something I think about probably every day. And yet, I too find myself afraid of the flow at times.

I can’t tell you completely why, but I have this irrational fear that I may drown somehow, be taken away by some enormous wave never to be seen again. When it comes to art, I can ride the highest tsunami and revel in a state close to ecstasy with only prayers of yesyesyes! on my lips. I trust where creativity takes me no matter how far flung. But when it comes to creating particular aspects of my life I find myself afraid to go too deep, ride the current, lift up on a wave. I hold back. I doubt. I fear. This is why I always use art to teach me about creating my life. I’m much smarter in the art department.

Lately, I can feel this lifelong pull pulling harder. Go here. Walk in this direction. Do it. Do it. I want to release more fully into my deepest self in some way that I never have. But then doubt. Fear. It takes me a moment to realize my fear. I don’t think, “I’m afraid.” That’s too easy. I don’t want to feel the fear. So I disconnect and just feel a bit uneasy, unflowing so to speak. Jammed up. But if I listen to my thoughts I can hear it.

What if this isn’t right? Who do I think I am? I am no one. There will be no one there to meet me. I am alone. My voice cannot be heard and if it could it would not matter. Do I really have what it takes?

I don’t think them all the time. These are my special thoughts I pull out when I’m about to step out of my own bounds. I have spent years resolving, you might say healing, numerous ways that I have pinned myself in with limiting thoughts, judgment, pain, fear. And here I am currently at the end of resolving one of my life’s most challenging lessons, being bullied. I have had much to learn about bullying. And now without it in my life, I find myself new. I am free.

Intuition Guides MeThis gives me the sense that I can do anything. I can relax without my inner eye looking over my shoulder to see if I will pay for my actions in some way. This is one of those strange moments, when I know exactly who I am and yet I don’t know who I will become. I have never been free like this before. I can hear something calling but I don’t understand yet. Will being free like this open me up to more flow? Who will I become? Will I be able to handle it? Will I drown? Can one drown in the creative flow?

What I notice is that when I can feel the fear and sit with it, there’s always this sadness underneath. This wild, howling sadness that has very little story, but immediately seeks release. It moves through fast and on the other side of this grief, this sense of loss I find my freewheeling, freedom of being that I was born with.

It remains. Intact. I can see it. I can feel it. I realize this is what it means to come back to my deepest self. It’s there, but it’s layered down. Now, I can sense the creative force flowing in a very real, visceral way. I am that flow. My body, my self, my life, my world are an expression of that great creative flow. I am at once the artist and the art. I can understand why I would have sadness, this is an amazing feeling. But it is so powerful! It feels overwhelming. It’s HUGE.

Afraid of the flow? A bit. I can tell I still have A LOT to learn. But I’m jumping in. I’m a devotee after all and if I can learn how to live my life the way I make art, well hell, I’m there. I am so there.

I feel like the empty paper just before the brush hits. I feel like the brush, loaded with paint about to touch down. I am the creator and the created. I am all things. The art and the artist.

I create my reality. I create myself.

I almost forgot.

______________________________
Believing is Seeing: Daily Journal of Transformation January 1st-31st, 2014Come join me this January for my new online class, Believing is Seeing: Daily Journal of Transformation, as we embrace the creative flow together to manifest what we want in life.

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Stirring Up some Peace & Manifestation

How supporting inner peace in ourselves can lead to a greater ability to manifest what we want in life!

inner-peace-rays
So much media I see about manifestation focuses on the physical plane. I’ve never really related to that. I like to have my rent paid, don’t get me wrong. But when push comes to shove, what I’ve really needed to take into any and all situations is inner peace. I’ve come to believe that providing myself with a foundation of peace automatically helps me manifest whatever else is in my best interest in life.

I wish I had known this from the beginning. Now I can think of no better way to begin experimenting with the principles of manifestation than peace. It doesn’t just provide inner strength and comfort that makes all the difference, it lends greater power to whatever else I’m trying to manifest in a couple of ways.

Relaxing into PeaceFor one, peace can lead to relaxation. This is a key factor that supports Continue reading

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What keeps you up late?

An invitation to Mira Reisberg’s Hero’s Art Journey with Maya Gonzalez

Girl with Flashlight from My Diary from Here to ThereAn invitation to
Mira Reisberg’s
Hero’s Art Journey
with Maya Gonzalez

Part of what makes life awesome, are those things you just HAVE to do. Those things that keep you up late, working in the garage or in your studio or at your kitchen table or wherever it is you’ve carved out a free space for yourself.

I LOVE the feeling of being so inspired that I have to explore and experiment and figure something out even if I’ve worked all day at my real job.  What about you? What keeps you up late?

For me, many of my favorite/ have-to-do activities concern art, children’s books and related history. So it’s no surprise that the “picture book whisperer” and my longtime friend, Mira Reisberg has managed to assemble a course that includes a chunk of my ALL TIME FAVORITE THINGS TO DO!

I MUST confess, these are EXACTLY, the things that keep me up late, running high on creativity.

They include:

  • learning about art history and mythological tales-especially outside of Western culture!
  • getting to know more  children’s book artists and their amazing work
  • playing with new art techniques
  • journeying through the unknown, facing fears, moving on and becoming a more fierce artist and human being through art

These activities are not just inspiring, I feel like they actually help make me who I am… they teach me about myself, about life, about the world and conveniently they also help me do my life work as an artist, educator and author.

Magically and perfectly, I have been invited to play alongside Mira in the online course she created that includes some of my deepdeeploves! It’s called Hero’s Art Journey. Of course!

I have known this gal for a decent amount of time. She’s a smarty pants in the children’s book department and loves to share everything she knows. I am excited and curious and inspired already! I know that working with this community I will come away with heroic stories and visions of power and courage.

I bring upwards of 20 years teaching art, developing curriculum, illustrating and writing award-winning multicultural children’s books, as well as an open heart, a curious mind and a sharing hand.

I promise, it will keep you up late! In the best way!
_________________

For more details about what’s sure to be an awesome course, and the last time it will be offered, on the Picture Book Academy website: http://www.picturebookacademy.com/heros-art-journey.html
 
 
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The Art of Our Lives

Reclaim the Creative, Change the World. 4 Ways to Reclaim your Creative Power Right Now.

“Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.” – Einstein

Reclaiming and exercising our creative mind is essential to our survival as humans and is key to creating long lasting change in our lives and in our world. We are born creative beings. I cannot find a separation between creating and being. Creativity is imperative to our existence. In order for us to thrive we must be adaptable to the ever changing nature of our world.

Creativity is inquisitive and open to that which is unknown. Creativity challenges us to not rely on the old, but bring our own experience and wisdom to our living. Creativity makes new connections through reorganizing and reframing, as well as peering through the superficial to illuminate the truth. Creativity allows us to see the world fresh. This gives us the advantage of organizing and mobilizing our resources into the most effective approach available for any given moment.

I used to think I was being creative because I made art, but making art is like a beautiful ritual that reflects the kind of art we are really making. The real art is the art of our selves and our lives. We are the art. We are living art. The power of our creative expression can be made more full and life changing when we allow it to flow through every aspect of who we are and how we live.

I was drawn to a great article recently titled, The art of sustainability: imagination, not spreadsheets will create change by Dr Joseph Zammit-Lucia, an independent scholar and commentator. He writes,

“I indulge in artistic practices because they take me out of the mind I spend too much time in – the rational, thinking, analytical mind – into a different space where almost everything is possible; where the challenge is to look at the world in a different way,”

Using our creative mind connects us with what makes our lives valuable and helps foster a sense of emotional connection with others. Freeing the imagination supports emotional, social, even moral intelligence. In contrast, as Dr. Zammit-Lucia highlights, recent neuro-imaging studies show that strong rational, analytical thinking actually suppresses these cognitive processes.

We need creativity. The world needs our creativity. Making art is a revolutionary act. Everyone has the potential to develop their creative mind, because everyone at heart is an artist. It is our birthright. Each of us living our work of art. We knew the power of our creativity when we were kids. We may have forgotten it along the way, or were told someone else was the artist, but our creativity is right there.

Start Now! Practice these 4 fundamentals to reclaim your creative power.

1. RELAX your mind, relax your body

It can be challenging to stop, fully stop and relax during the day, but the benefits are endless and begin immediately. Taking time each day to fully relax opens the door to your creativity. Take even one whole minute today, to just stop. Look around. Feel your feet on the ground. Breathe deep. And relax.

2. See it, REMOVE it: JUDGMENT

If you want to keep your creativity close by, provide lots of breathing room. When I go into classrooms, I always tell kids about my second rule of art, THERE IS NEVER A RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO MAKE ART. I notice adults are often in need of this reminder too. Choose something in your day that you need to do. It may be something you are totally confident at or totally not. It doesn’t matter which. As you do it, repeat to yourself that there is not a right or wrong way. This sort of practice frees up creativity in all directions as you begin to realize that what you may have thought of as a “wrong” way, may actually provide exactly what you needed to learn, and what you thought of as a “right” was is actually just one of countless ways!

3. be here now. PRESENCE is where it’s at.

Often our minds are so full of layers and layers of distractions we are only half paying attention to what we are doing in the moment. Experiment with paying attention to what you are doing fully, no matter what it is. Look at your hands-what are they doing right now? Feel the quality of your breath in your chest-is it deep and strong? Shallow and fast? Regular and easy? Notice your thoughts-are you thinking about this moment or are you off in tomorrow or something that happened yesterday? Notice every little thing about this moment that you are experiencing. Presence keeps creativity flowing.

4. PLAYplayplay~playplayplay!

You have full permission. PLAY! This is the most important work you can do. Don’t know how to play? Look at the children around you. This is the wisdom of the free mind. This is the essence of creativity. Play changes everything. Absolutely everything can turn into play. Open your mind to the possibility and see what you can turn into play. It may just be your whole life.

Practice these 4 fundamentals throughout your day. Whether you’re making art or making dinner. See how these simple things can begin expanding your creative mind and open up areas of greater and greater creative expression.

————

And if you’re interested, read more of the article I referenced, The art of sustainability: imagination, not spreadsheets will create change

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9 Interesting Frida Facts

Frida Kahlo

  1.  Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón. The name Frieda comes from the German word Friede, which means peace. She dropped the e from her name around 1935, and subsequently became known as Frida.
  2. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits and 88 are not
    She underwent 35 operations as a result of the bus accident she had in her youth
  3. She frequently included the symbolic monkey. In Mexican mythology, monkeys are symbols of lust, but Kahlo portrayed them as tender and protective symbols.
  4. The Louvre bought one of her paintings, The Frame. This was the first work by a 20th century Mexican artist ever purchased by the internationally renowned museum.
  5. Frida Kahlo’s ‘Roots’ holds the auction record for a Latin American piece of art.
  6. The 1943 work sold for US$ 5.6 million in 2006.
  7. Diego was 20 years older than Frida.
  8. Frida was injured in a bus accident at age 15, she died at age 47.
  9. Frida lived 4 years in the United States, including time here in San Francisco, CA

Want to learn more about the life and times of Frida Kahlo and use her powerful image as a source of inspiration for personal growth? Check out my 7-week online course for women: Frida Mirror: through Frida’s powerful reflection come find yourself starting August, 25th, 2013.

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BellyLove

BellyLove: birthing a revolution through honoring the bellyPerhaps you are like many women who experience dissatisfaction with their belly and have a hard time acknowledging this area of the body. You may feel disconnected or even disgust. And yet, the belly is the center of your body, the core of your being. It is the bowl of creation and intuition. It is the origin of love.

In this course we learn to honor our bellies through art and thought. We do not silence the inner criticism with fluffy affirmations, but instead lay the foundation to create real change. We learn to acknowledge the power and beauty present in our core and from this place the ability to affirm our selves and our lives will rise naturally and with greater potency. Bellylove is a radical and affirmative action in today’s world. Come join a community of women in a universal prayer for solid power sourced at our core.

More info or to register>>>

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Easter

pink jackalope
pink jackalope

 

it’s easter. it has me thinking of the ghosts of easter pasts. when i was seven i had a minibike accident over what used to be called easter vacation. i was in a coma for 3 days. a year later my great grandmother who i lived next door to and was very close with, died over easter. then when i was 12 my grandfather who also lived next door died on good friday. consequently, easter’s always maintained a certain glow to it. a body memory. an emotional tone. actual ghosts.
it wasn’t until i started working with rabbit as teacher that i realized how powerful a symbol rabbit is for me. when i was a child, the easter bunny became this mystical being. it crossed through many of my experiences and coalesced into this amalgamation of death and loss with spring and resurrection. the vibrantly bounding rabbit with baskets of treats with the crucified, grieved and resurrected christ. the crucified christ was a dominant image in my childhood. there were large, gorgeous carvings at the catholic church and a small replica above every door in our house. we were very religious and spiritual.
easter, death, rabbit, spring, coma, loss. as a child things layered into each other. easter was a strange mix of play and grief.
sometimes, i have visions and one of the most poignant to me was around this time. i had a vision of the easter bunny. i still smile about this one. i dismissed it as too cute for many years until i listened more to rabbit and who rabbit really was to me.
the vision was a shadow in my closet, a very simple hare form on its hind legs. i remember it still. my child’s mind, so graceful, so able to see the symbol in life and see through the veil of physical reality. i used my imagination to make sense out of life, i used the language of symbol, a communication more expansive and inclusive and complex and rich and simple than a host of words. rabbit.
rabbit symbolized fear, the unknown, loss, renewal and endurance. these concepts were too large for my child’s mind. sometimes they’re too large for my adult mind. so rabbit held it for me.
when i first started listening to rabbit, i had to walk past all the massive cartoon rabbits and the silent, cute, fluffy stereotypes.
our culture flattens rabbit out. it looks at the surface and takes away the magic. it’s interesting that rabbit is so prevalent in our culture but a spiritual connection with the type of rabbit our culture promotes isn’t possible. luckily i grew up with rabbits. the fluffy pet rabbits, who can be fierce and aggressive and the wild, dessert rabbits, who are beautiful and graceful.rabbit-lets-go-of-ghosts-thumb
when i was a child rabbit helped me hold my experience. rabbit was another myself, connected to nature, wild and free, but also fragile and hyper alert and sometimes protected and cared for.
as an adult i can reap the benefits of my child’s mind by opening up to the rabbit as my teacher and my self. working with personal myth and symbol helps me understand myself and my life and even the greater lessons of humanity.
rabbit also reminds me that they have long been my teacher when i look at the moon. i remember the ancient mesoamerican stories, in one the rabbit is the moon as an act of elevation and respect, in another the rabbit in the moon is an insult.
this reminds me how we use symbols on large and small scales to work out our lives and reality. when i can see the symbols that run through my life and run through our culture i have a broader understanding of my experience and our experience as a whole during this time. this helps me.
the world seems so unconscious and out of control to me sometimes. it is tricky business to remember, reclaim and embody our magical minds, our imaginative, intuitive, expanded perspectives that can see through physical reality to the symbolic nature of reality. our lives are rich with symbols.
today i am rabbit. and i see rabbits everywhere!

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living the creative life series/part one: BODY BEAUTY FULL

BirdWoman in Black Gloves with River Deer 2004

Living the creative life
Body beauty full
8 week online course for women, March 22nd-May 16th
registration open now>>

I began writing about the body beauty full course and the concepts behind living the creative life. I wrote about what you get out of the course and why it’s important and how it will affect you and your life and your body. I was being good and focused and informative. But all the while there was this other story that kept pushing, pushing, trying to break the surface. Finally, all I could hear was my inner voice telling me a tale.

So often with this work, if I lay it down in words, pin it to the page, it flattens out. It loses its luster, its inner glow. Its mystery, its depth and meaning start hiding behind the mind’s desire to dissect, define and categorize. So simply know this, somewhere deep in your bones. There is a form, a solid structure to hold you as you find your own path. This work is about reclaiming the song that you are. This work is about the river and returning to the wisdom you were born with and has always been yours. Your body, your life, your spirit are your art. Come live the creative life in your body beauty full!

Tale:
Once upon a time, a girl was born with a desire to know about the underneath. Underneath herself, underneath her life, underneath the whole world. But from the time she was very young, she was told that there was no such thing as underneath. To even pretend there was an underneath was madness. She was told.

When it came to the river where she lived, she was taught along with everyone else known to her, to stare at the surface, to watch the reflective, moving shimmer. And just like everyone else known to her, she was taught that this beautiful surface was all there was. It was the beginning and the end.

She loved the river and its beautiful surface. She learned everything she could about it. She learned so much that she assumed she knew everything there was to know about the river and that indeed maybe everyone was right. There was no underneath. This amazing shimmer was all there was or ever would be.

One day girl fell asleep on the banks of the river. The deeper her sleep went the farther she passed beyond the teachings she had been taught all her life and girl slipped into the knowing of her birth. She could see the shimmering surface and she could feel her longing to know the underneath. For a brief, suspended moment she thought she might die, as she intuitively fell into the river face first. Would she hit the surface? Would she cease to exist? Would everything end? Was she wrong? Would she be punished?

Girl had the strangest sensation. She slipped right through. Past the surface. All the way to the underneath.

She gasped and gulped in a bunch of water and sunk. It seemed like falling forever, but then, she landed softly on a silty bed. She looked up from her deep landing and could see the shimmershimmer of the surface farfar above her. What had she done?! Where was she? What was going on? Underneath, girl felt that she knew but was afraid to know what she knew. She worried that she should get back to the surface as soon as possible. This was madness. It did not shimmer in the underneath. Not in the same way. But still she looked around. She couldn’t help it. She was surprised to see that there was endless beauty all around her. It was like seeing everything at one time. The inside and the outside, the shimmer and the shadow, the surface and the depth, the top and the bottom and everything that connected everything in between. It was a whole world. Without end.

She saw rocks and recesses in this underneath world that corresponded to folds and fly ups she knew on the river’s surface. She saw greens and ambers, browns and deeper browns that corresponded to shadows and extra shimmery spots she knew on the surface. She saw fish swimming, plants rolling and floating on the current. She saw that the current did not originate on the surface. The surface was a reflection of something much deeper and stronger going on. The current began here below where it was deep and inclusive. It touched her entire body all at once. The current moved like a giant serpent here underneath. Different than the surface.

Looking up she saw the familiar beauty of the surface, but she realized that she did not always understand what was going on. Here in the underneath, she understood. She could see why the river moved the way it did, she could see why the river looked the way it did, she could see so much life teeming within the river that had been completely invisible to her before. She realized. She barely knew the river. Everything she thought she knew was really much more. More rich, more depth, more movement, more meaning, more knowing, more natural, more full, more life, more more.

Then on the brink of moremoremore, girl woke up, she was not underneath. She was right there on the bank. She looked over at the shimmer and she smiled. Then she laughed. Then she dove in face first while everyone she had known her entire life stood on the bank in shock.

be you. be full. be beautifull!

Body Beauty Full is the first course in a 3 part series designed to uncover what it means to live the creative life. Bringing together learning in the privacy of your own home with the importance of being in community with women on a similar path, Body Beauty Full is about loving the body you are blessed with while learning how to unleash your body’s wisdom and strength – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Online class begins March 22nd. Special Discounts available!  More info or to register>>>

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