The Star – Tarot for Writers

Hey writers and creative souls,

Sherri and I are preparing for our new in-person retreat in California April 24-29th.  When we first dreamed it into being, I was excited about the deep play and the joy that even the prospect of being together again brought to my heart.  Apparently, that resonated, because on the basis of a single email, one-third of our 12 spots are spoken for.  So don’t sleep on this if you are interested in joining us!  Here’s a direct link to our retreat page.

Today, I want to offer you a quick tarot card for the day. As many of you who have worked with me before or scheduled personal readings know, thus far I have exclusively worked with Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe Tarot*.  It’s a deeply spiritual and optimistic deck, which does not ignore the challenges and difficulties we may be experiencing, but helps us see how they may be unwound. We will be using this deck at the Grove retreat in workshops and evening card pulls for instant inspiration.

But for the first time, I am sharing a card from a different deck – also by Rachel Pollack, in collaboration with Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean – called the Vertigo Tarot, which draws from characters from the Vertigo DC comics, including The Sandman.  It is the antithesis of the Shining Tribe in its darkness; for a long time, I was actually afraid to buy it.  But in the words of Gabrielle Roth, founder of 5Rhythms (and we’ll be doing some somatic practices and dance at the Grove which are very loosely inspired by her powerful creation), “There is no way in unless we embrace the dark.” As we are about to mark two very dark years of Covid, I am excited to share with you the the beauty and release that I have personally been finding from that embrace.  

Enough with the preambles.  Let’s talk about The Star.



Number 17 in our life’s journey through the archetypes of experience and transformation, the Star comes toward the end of the Major Arcana; specifically it signifies a rebirth after our act of willful destruction, the Tower, in which we burn to the ground all that imprisons us, suffocates us, does not serve us.  The Star has always been one of my favorite cards, and in the Shining Tribe, Rachel evokes a peaceful Persephone in her image, suggesting spring, nourishment, new life and escape from the underworld. In the Vertigo Tarot, the image (associated with Venus) confronts us with more than battle scars: her head and arms have literally been blown off. She has given everything, held nothing back: we see her pure spirit and essence in the flakes of gold that rise from her body, and her grit and courage in the fact that she can and will still offer the liquid gold she came with, even if she has to bind her vessels to her body.  To me, this is the warrior, the pandemic survivor, the wounded healer, and also the advocate, the truth-teller, the witness. The one who embraces the darkness to release the light. As a writer who has focused on World War II and Hiroshima in all of her books, perhaps I should not have been as surprised as I was at how much assurance I find, how much recognition there is, in the terrible beauty and power of the Vertigo Star.

Some prompts, then, that can be used for your personal journal, your creative project as a whole, or to be applied to specific situations, scenes or characters in a story you are working on:

  • When you put it all on the line like the Vertigo Star, what are you giving up or letting go of? Maybe these are expectations, or habits, or maybe they are fears that you only think are keeping you from harm. And what do you set free as a result? What new beliefs are possible, what feelings? When you have risked it all, what new risks are you now able to embrace?  Or perhaps there is an actual battle – a character or a person who needs to be confronted. What is the truth that will sustain you and keep you from straying off your path?
  • If you are resonating with Persephone, what have you emerged from? What are you here to celebrate or instigate?  Also, notice her youth; she is the daughter, the maiden, she is bringing the spring. You might look to a younger self or earlier time for the seed of your inquiry or story. Though the dark isn’t evident in this card, Rachel points out in her description that Persephone still means “She Who Shines in the Dark.” How does that touch you? What images does it evoke?
  • The Star bring a gift. What is the liquid she is pouring into the world? What nourishment, knowledge, what alchemy does she offer? What do you offer?  What do you give yourself?  What does your story or voice give to the world?

My suggestion is to sit with one of these questions that resonates with you, or if none do, pick the card that attracts you and look at the image for a bit, then ask your own questions about the image, and then begin a free write.  If you need a way in, start with “What if?” What if the gift is… etc. See what comes up and how specific you can get.  If you find yourself launched in a new direction or diving deep into a scene, go with it.

Happy writing!  And don’t forget, Sherri and I would love to see you at the Grove.  We will send a teaser on what she will be offering soon, so please subscribe to our mailings (at the bottom of the contact page) or watch your inbox!



*The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by Rachel Pollack, comes with a detailed book that describes the nuances and the inspiration behind each card. If you want to know more, or have your own Tarot practice, I strongly recommend it. Similarly, Rachel wrote the text to the Vertigo Tarot (out of print), which highlights the differences between the images and the “traditional” interpretations of the specific cards. My descriptions here, and interpretations of the cards and how to use them, are my own. 

Ten of Stones – Tarot for Writers

My preoccupation, lately, has been about my path. What is it, really? The question comes out of rupture: just the latest in a list of personal and societal ruptures that we have all been dealing with, for much longer than just the no-good-horrible-very-bad year of 2020. For me, this rupture came out of nowhere; it will move me in space and strip me of most of the basics that I have come to associate with my life for more than a decade and a half. But it also revealed to me, immediately, how much strength, support, kindness and love I still have around me and within me to forge a new path.  Or, perhaps, to understand that all the trappings of daily life that I’d gotten used to were not essential to the path I am on.

Of course, I am not alone in this.  I have been wanting to pull a card for the community in transition, in upheaval, in hope. I thought about pulling it on Thursday but was frankly too overwhelmed by all the gratitude emails filling my inbox.  Then, I did not want to detract from Native American Heritage Day, or Small Business Saturday (if one has things to buy, this is the year to support small stores). But Sunday seemed to be a day without a directive affecting millions, so I pulled it today, with the question, “What is the Path?” and the answer is: 

The Ten of Stones

I associate this card with wealth, completion, achievement and security.  As the last “minor” card in the suit of stones, it indicates that our path toward manifesting our lives has been traveled, and we have arrived at success.  But because this is the Shining Tribe deck, the card also points to spiritual wealth, a profound value in what life has given you, and the ability to transform through sharing your prosperity with others. That transformation, honestly, is something that has always scared me: in the image on the card, human footsteps lead into the rocks but come out as bird tracks. Not only do we not sit back and enjoy our luxury, we may become something entirely other: perhaps evolved, or awakened, but unrecognizable to ourselves.

Our strength, our success, our security…it’s not about what we built.  It’s about preparing ourselves to let go.

As writers in the world, I am guessing there is something in my personal experience that you can relate to. And of course, for you, the card may be an acknowledgment that you are doing well, and that you have created something wonderfully successful.  For all of us writers on the page, a couple of ideas for the work that this card raises:

Revision: Is there a transformation in your work, one that comes at a time when the reader might think that they know and recognize the end in sight? Are you coasting toward the expected finish line, or is there another level of understanding that you can kick your resolution into?

Visual Association: Think about a scene, or some aspect of your work, where there is a major change, transformation or epiphany. Then take the elements of that idea and correlate them to the elements in the image on the card. What is the barren landscape (the hopelessness or danger of the current situation?) What are the rocks? (The magic, the talisman, the possibility, the power that only the character can see?) What are the hidden clues – perhaps embedded in the text but not yet fully revealed – that will transform the potential (the suggestion of threads of light on the left side of the card) into the multicolored strands of pebbles on the right? And lastly, what kind of bird will emerge?

Happy writing!

Nine of Birds – Tarot for Writers

So I pulled a Tarot card today.  This one, for us, in preparation for our virtual convening, The Grove.  Honestly, I was hoping for something inspirational, something like The Star to indicate rebirth and a new beginning.  I know – and I say it all the time – that there are no “good” cards, or “bad” cards, especially in the Shining Tribe deck, but in times like these, times when I feel like I am long past being able to process or accept one more curve ball from the news or my community, I will forgive myself for wanting a little bit of reprieve.

But the Tarot knows what it needs to say.  Today’s card is the Nine of Birds.

Like the Star, this figure emerges from the realm of the dead – in this case, a burial mound.  She stands at the entrance, accompanied by the wisdom of the owl, and equipped with a weapon which both and urn and a scythe.  It’s a barren image, of grief and death and sorrow. 

BUT.  Isn’t that where we are now?  Haven’t we been literally been surrounded by it for longer than we can fathom? One of the key messages of this card is that we are in the doorway, and we have our protections and defenses.  But to move forward we have to process and acknowledge all our feelings.  We have to accept our losses, and empathize with others’ suffering.  

This is a card that calls for rituals of mourning and release.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of shouldering all the burdens, fighting all the battles, and feeling so stuck in the process.  

So the Nine of Birds, of course, is the Star’s shadow self, and a great plug for our intensive, creative, restorative gathering coming up on October 24-25thThe Grove.  Four teachers and ten hours of rituals and techniques to clear away, reach for, and gather what you need.

And for those who aren’t coming, I encourage you to find a ritual for release.  Clear a space where you can feel safe and let out something you have been holding.  For me, these feelings immediately start my creativity swirling.  If you need a more specific exercise for your creative project, imagine (possibly for your character if you have one, and if not, just embody a watcher/voice) the moment when “you” have risen out of the land of the dead, when the effort has been expended and all the emotions have surfaced – the moment that is too full to hold back anymore.  Don’t forget, if you are writing a story, that quite often our characters don’t actually know what they want – they often fight against what they need only to arrive at the place they thought they didn’t want to be in.  So this is a great moment for a narrative.  It’s unstable; it needs to be embraced or emptied or it needs to explode. This might be the emotion right before or right after a major climax.  On the other side is the new world, a new epiphany, a new possibility.  We can’t see it yet, but it’s coming.

Come to The Grove if you can. Sign up for updates from the Two Trees Writers Collaborative if you want to hear more about our upcoming offerings.  Stay safe and happy writing.

WE CREATE OUR OWN MONSTERS, a conversation with Amy Danzer at The Rumpus

(September 24th, 2018)

“I read Rahna Reiko Rizzuto’s recently released novel, Shadow Child, in preparation for a panel I moderated at Chicago’s thirty-fourth annual Printers Row Lit Fest (PRLF). Shadow Child is a captivating mystery that centers around Lillie—a Japanese woman, American born—who comes of age during World War II and lands repeatedly between deadly rocks and hard places. Through the narrative of Lillie and her daughters, Hana and Kei, Rizzuto explores the scars, shadows, and hauntings of war, internment camps, natural disasters, racism, and other injustices.

“Shadow Child is brilliantly written, resonates eerily with current events, and left me with questions beyond the ones I had time for at the PRLF, so I was thrilled when Rizzuto agreed to interview and entertained more questions. I was equally delighted when, on a recent visit to New York, Rizzuto welcomed me, at the last minute, into her home where I got to gawk at the cavalcade of books and sculptures that lined her walls, feed on her homemade granola and yogurt, and spend several hours lost in conversation with her about fatal diseases, ecstatic dancing, and everything between.

“We tackled the ways in which Shadow Child examines trauma, identity, and monsters:”

For our full conversation, click here to go to The Rumpus.  A teaser?

“Shadow Child has lots of monsters, hauntings, ghosts. But that is not where the real peril comes from. My monsters are the guilt and sorrow kind. They rise out of despair, helplessness. They are a manifestation of “dis-ease”; and they are invisible. Hidden.

“I have often said, even in this conversation, that we create our own reality. So it follows that we also create our own monsters. Sometimes, they are inside us, in the acts, or feelings or impulses that we don’t want to admit to. They are born out of our decisions, and how we choose to deal with things beyond our control. They remind us that the past is not easy to erase and ignore. They are also—just as trauma is in this story—inheritable.

“There is one moment—I’ll try not to make this a spoiler—when one of the characters realizes that the monsters can be wielded, controlled; that she can choose to evoke this notion of the monster and it is quite a powerful thing, though of course, it doesn’t go as planned. Very little in this novel goes as planned.”



Once Upon A Time in Hiroshima

“When I was growing up, I knew very little about Hiroshima, and what I did know was typical of what many Americans knew: that the bomb was a marvelous weapon that saved lives and ended the war. When I was about 30, however, I interviewed my great aunt who had been in Hiroshima with the American Occupation and had seen the destruction first hand. She told me about her experiences as a translator for American doctors who were trying to convince grieving mothers to give up the bodies of their stillborn babies for scientific study. She told me about the disfigured Hiroshima Maidens whose injuries took over 30 surgeries to fix. She told me about the massive American cover-up. She was so angry. I confess, it was too much for me. I couldn’t hear what she was saying then. It was years before I could finally get my head around it enough to see if it was true.”

This is an excerpt from my essay, Once Upon A Time in Hiroshima, featured on Medium.  In it, I reflect on the different stories we tell ourselves, and the different realities we create.  In this cultural moment, there is nothing more important that understanding what truth is, and what cause and consequence are, and in finding the courage to see clearly what we have suffered and wrought.  As the current top highlight on this essay underscores, “We can’t learn from our mistakes if we were never told we made any.”

One of the things I love about Medium is that readers highlight passages that are meaningful to them. Feel free to stop by Medium, read the whole essay, and tell me what you think. Meanwhile, here is the passage that resonates most with me:

“The truth is, we are ordinary. Not super-powered. We are human, and fragile. We make mistakes and we break. Our government may indeed have the ability to bring about unprecedented suffering, but the suffering will fall on humans just like these little boys. Just like my own. Because the one super power we don’t have is the invulnerability to keep the fallout from coming back to strike us.”



Fiction and the Chaos of Trauma

As a writer, and a woman, and a human, I’ve thought a lot about trauma.  And in this cultural moment of #metoo, gaslighting, nationalism, disenfranchisement, and violence against just about every kind of human that is not a replica of those in power, and also our planet and other living things, I have grappled with the question of how writing can help us heal that, for the writer and the reader.  Electric Literature published my thoughts on this, which begin:

“I started writing my second novel in the aftermath of violence. In a more-common-than-you-think incident — one that is often used for titillation or as the opening scene of some revenge movie involving a father or a husband with a gun — a friend of mine was raped. I was haunted by the details: the red binders of mugshots my friend searched through at the police station; the bizarrely stubborn fingerprint dust smeared all over her walls. I was haunted by what happened to her but also what had happened to me, because of course I also have my own versions of this story, which I have never told.

“It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s more that I don’t know how. For me, as a fiction writer, narrative has a purpose: it’s how we humans create meaning. It’s where our lessons are. Our maps. But my stories have no beginning, no ending. No cause and consequence. No comeuppance.

“They happened. I escaped.”

To read the rest, click on this link, which will send you to Electric Literature: How Writing Fiction Helps Me Give Shape to the Chaos of Trauma

Hawaii vs. Trump

Hawaii’s fight against Trump’s Muslim travel ban has long roots of resistance

In 1942, as the US president moved to exclude and incarcerate 120,000 people based on race, Hawaii chose to call B.S. My article on details how the most decorated American fighting unit in history grew out of that choice, and reminds us of the dangerous ground we now find ourselves in, and the possibility of choosing a different path:

“The mission that was accomplished by Roosevelt’s Executive Order was not safety for America. Despite the excuse of national security, there was not one single case of espionage during the war. The result was the successful cleansing of the West Coast of all persons of Japanese ancestry, and the transfer of between $150 million and $400 million of assets back into Caucasian hands.

“In the territory of Hawaii, however, events spun out differently, with history-making results. There, martial law was also declared, with similar exclusion orders. However, the commanding general, Lt. Gen. Delos Emmons, refused to evacuate the Japanese Americans, who made up 37 percent of the population and a significant portion of the economy. Emmons flipped the script, arguing that it was better for the overall economy to leave them free. He refuted the rumors, false claims of espionage and the violently anti-Japanese sentiment that was fueling calls for exclusion. Instead, he chose to do something radical: to treat the Japanese Americans as lawful, loyal citizens, and trust them. He even gave them back their guns.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Gone Fishing

Fishing was everything to my father.

It wasn’t the only thing — he was a math teacher, Dean of Studies, a college counselor and the head of the Lower and Middle schools at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy. He loved rowing and took Iolani’s crew to the 1964 Olympic trials. He was the first person in his family to go to college, at age 16, and he went on to get his master’s degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He was a photographer, an erstwhile TV personality, a whiz at Trivial Pursuit, a model in the September 1960 issue of GQ, and a gifted storyteller.

But no matter what else he was doing, he was always fishing in his mind.

Sunday was Column Day. He started writing before I could walk, and crafted thousands of articles on fishing in Hawaii for newspapers, websites and magazines from Australia to Italy. He was a two-time winner of the prestigious Outdoor Writers Association of America Award, and his books, Modern Hawaiian Gamefishing, Fishing Hawaii Offshore, and the Fishing Hawaii Style series are essential and engaging, reading.

But his heart was here, in his monthly columns for Hawaii Fishing News and in this weekly roundup of the best, and strangest and most exciting fishing stories, The Kona Fishing Chronicles, which started running before there were computers (let alone internet) in West Hawaii Today.

As a kid, dad used to bike down to the Delaware River with his spinning rod, where he caught striped bass in the shallow, fast-moving water beneath the “Trenton Makes, the World Takes” sign on the railroad bridge just blocks from his home. Sometimes, in his stories, he was alone, escaping work in his father’s sweltering shoe shop; other times he and his father were together, catching buckets of bluefish, which were the reason — so he claimed — that he could never stand to eat fish.

He was a freshwater fisherman when he came to Hawaii in the early ‘60s — a fly fisherman whose casting was as regular and soaring as music. He learned to fish Hawaiian style in Molokai from my Japanese grandfather. Every August, our extended family would land at the tiny airport, jump into the two trucks my grandfather’s local cronies left for us (keys in the ignition, windows rolled down, my cousin Chris reminds me) and drive to the Quonset hut where we lived and fished off a flat bottom boat for papio, or slipped on tabis to wade offshore for oi’o longer than most of us kids.

Fishing was family style in those days. Back in Waimea, we had a 16-foot Glasspar, the Shiranti, a boat so small that, once he set the steering and went to the back to put out the lines, dad could simply lean in one direction or the other to turn the boat. We kids were his crew, and at ages 5, 6 and 7, we spent most of our time jammed up in the only seat with him, hiding from the spray. It was an arrangement he would sometimes regret, especially the time when we were pretty far past the windline at Mahukona, and the three of us threw up a spectacular rainbow of the morning’s Fruit Loops into his lap.

We fished by ear: he knew our speed by how the engines sounded. We fished by eye: lining up cinder cones and outcroppings with water tanks and stands of trees to find the never-fail school of ‘opelu. We were “run up and down the coastline” fishermen, who made a point of hitting the 1 o’clock ono bite at Black Point, and more than once we had two singing reels on the strike of the clock.

For years, we never got skunked because dad always had a trick up his sleeve. And he had flags, too. We kids insisted. Even if all we caught was a kawakawa, we ran our flags up the outriggers and did a wide, fast, victory lap in the harbor before we went home.

Although he didn’t lack for company, dad did sometimes go out alone. One of his favorite stories was the one about the quadruple ono strike. If I were a better storyteller, or perhaps a better daughter, I could tell you where he was exactly (my sons think between Black Point and Mahukona), and what he was trolling (Kai would bet he had his favorite red and black leadhead right down the middle). I can’t tell you what the weather was like, and which line went first. But what I can tell you is that he cut his hand pulling in the first ono and was bleeding all over the deck, with three more on. So he grabbed a towel (or was it a rag?) and wrapped it around his palm and tied it so he could get the other three into the boat.

You could find him on the Kailua pier by the King Kam every August during the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament where the marlin were being weighed. You could find him, just as easily, hanging out at Kawaihae, waiting for Flash to come in on his 14-foot skiff. He wanted to know what they caught, and he was full of questions: what, where, when, on which lure?

That is the stuff of his column, for sure, but he wasn’t gathering stories so he had something to write about. Just the opposite. He wrote because there were so many stories to tell.

My father is known as an expert, a mentor, an educator, but I think of him as a student. In 1969, we had the good fortune of moving in next door to Zander Budge, who was running the Spooky Luki out of Kawaihae. Zander taught dad not only big game trolling, but also how to make lures.

Dad was a quick study. He absorbed anything anyone could teach him, and then tried to add his own spin. When he came to visit me in New York, he dragged me to Canal Street Plastics for flashy inserts and unusual skirt materials. The house was – and still is – littered with lures, from polished to gummy, and you could often find him wandering around sharpening hooks (which he had the habit of sticking his fingers with later).

As dad got older and we left home, he stopped taking the boat out as often. Even when the next generation of Rizzutos hit the water with him — including my son Kalei who insists that he pulled in the first and only black marlin ever caught on the Rizzuto Maru (he was 2), and my son Kai, who did in fact pull in a grander on the Ihu Nui when he was 16 (my brother says dad “just would not shut up about that!”) — you might believe that he had mostly stopped fishing.

But you would be wrong. Because, every Sunday, he was out fishing with all of you.

Sundays often found my father wandering back and forth between his office and the living room, stopping to gaze out toward to ocean. Some weeks, he’d been doing interviews and gathering stories for days already and now he was writing them in his mind.

Other times, he was waiting for the Charter Desk to call. You never failed him, and in your adventures, he found his own. Storytellers live in their heads, which is where all good fishing tales grow, so it was easy for him to join you. He was there when you pulled out of the harbor. When the fish hit. He knows what happened when it spotted the boat.

It doesn’t matter if you were in a kayak or a charter boat. Whether you caught a record, a wandering Spanish mackerel, or a baby sailfish the size of your palm. He could find you a cute title, a who-dunnit ending, an excuse to quote Emily Dickinson (“Hope is a thing with feathers”) because he was a fisherman, too.

I don’t think any of us understood just how sick dad was until he couldn’t write his column on Sunday, two weeks ago, which was doubly-upsetting because there was a tournament he had promised to cover and he hated to break his word. He passed the following week, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It seemed fitting that his spirit chose Column Day to take off and go forever fishing with you.

This article first appeared in the West Hawaii Today, to announce my father’s passing and his celebration of life. Reposting here for Father’s Day.

The Thriller in the Shadows

“My novel was sparked by a true crime, but it refused to become a thriller.

Nearly two decades ago, a friend of mine was raped. In these days, when trending hashtags have empowered women to talk about sexual harassment and assault, this statement may elicit no more than a knowing nod, and a half-raised eyebrow about why a crime that I wasn’t present for would be important to me. It was the stuff of my nightmares: a woman alone; an attack in the night. But it was also my fault.

My friend had come to New York for a life that fell through before she even arrived. She stayed in our guest bedroom for what was supposed to be two weeks while she waited for her promised apartment to be finished. But as a New Yorker will have already guessed, her visit stretched into months, with her move-in always around the corner. We were approaching a year-long “visit” when I suggested that she look into a sublet: a place that could be her own, even for the short time she would need it. Instead, she pressed the developer and he deemed her apartment ready—the only one in an otherwise uninhabited construction site. I told her not to move in.

It was a matter of days later when the phone rang with the news that she had been followed to her building. The shock, and the guilt that it would not have happened if she had stayed with us, were crushing. Of course, she moved back in. We fed her, read her bedtimes stories because she couldn’t sleep, tried to make sure she was never alone. I sat beside her in the back seat of police cars as we drove our nighttime neighborhood to see if she could spot the guy on the sidewalk. Rapists have patterns, it seemed, and generally didn’t bother to go far from home to find their victims. I went with her on trips to the police station to make statements, to search through stacks of red binders full of mug shots. Threaded through all of it, the hope and fear that we would find him: the hope that she could be saved by his arrest, and the fear that, with his existence confirmed, the terrible night she had suffered would have to be relived in court.

I had started writing a new novel, my second. It was historical, literary, domestic, and yet parts of my experience started to appear on the page. It wasn’t an account of the attack on my friend that was worming its way into my novel. What haunted me, and left me in tears, was the reminder of our lack of safety. Even months later, as we returned from a weekend away, I could barely breathe as the New York skyline grew in front of us. I did not trust my home.

But I stayed, and my novel about two sisters—one labeled good, the other bad—took shape in the ravaged, ragged aftermath for another year. After several drafts, I decided it was finished and my agent sent it out and got a bite from a major publishing house. It was deemed “good…but.” The good was the urgency that had kept the editor up all night reading. The but was that she wanted me to rewrite it as a thriller.”

Read the rest on Crime Reads.  Here’s a taste of what’s to come:


Keeping the Faith – Tarot for Writers

I have been thinking a lot about the artists’ vision. I spent four days at the CraftBoston holiday fair with my partner, a ceramic artist, surrounded by incredibly beautiful handmade objects. Every artist had a different vision. Some found their collectors more immediately than others. What makes one “better” than another? Why do we even ask that question? Of course we artists/writers want to make a living through our art, if at all possible, so we fall back on financial measurements. Who sold the most things? Whose prices were the highest? Who hit the bestseller list this week? Who got a agent? A book deal? But is that outside, external measurement of our worth really the right way to assess ourselves, or is it eroding our vision?

So the question I am pondering, especially in a world where the outside measurements have seemed a bit capricious and capitalistic of late, is:

How do we keep the faith?

I have been pulling a single tarot card to answer my questions, and this week, the card that came up is the Six of Rivers.

In the Shining Tribe, this is a card of pleasure. The figure, floating along in the river – which signifies emotion, the unconscious, creativity, dreams and stories – is hiding their face, content to be solitary. Embrace of another, embrace of the world…these are images for other cards. This answer to our question is a reminder that faith is personal, individual, that it starts and must endure within ourselves.

An anecdote, if I may, borrowed from the life of another writer who reached out to me because something wonderful had happened: an agent was interested in her work. Did I have advice? I thought about my own journey through agents, as I have had more than one. I thought, not about who the agents were or what they had to offer (or not just, because of course all that comes into play) but who I was – a different someone – each time I had to go out a find a new publishing partner. Over decades, I have moved beyond the “You really like me!” excitement, and past the “What do I say, what do I do, can I tell them that I sent my book out to others at the same time? (of course you did, you can’t wait on one stranger for months)” conundrum that has echoes of that first crush when you were a kid, when you were sure there was something magic to the exact sentence structure of what you might say to the unfathomable mystery that was the person you were crushing on, or the timing of your response. I have come to a place in my life where honesty, humanity, and above all gratitude, are evident, and they start in the self. In the personal gut that says I know my artistic voice, what it sounds like, and what I need to say in the world, and now what I need – and what I have the right to – is to take my time and find the right partner, who shares my dream and sees that vision clearly.

The Six of Rivers comes as a perfect confirmation of this conversation. The answer then to the question of how we keep the faith?

Be true to your passion

Trust your voice; go back to what moves you. Trust yourself and your worth. If you try to create the fad or the book you think will sell, you are putting your faith in other people and things, and what they think has value. If you follow your passion, your audience will find you.

A writing exercise to go with the tarot card? This one is simple. Write this sentence:

“What she/they (pick the pronoun that suits you of course) didn’t say, what they couldn’t say no matter how hard and fast the words collected in their mouth, was this:” then fill in the blank.

You might find this person is a character you are working with, or a persona. Or maybe it is someone new, or yourself. It may relate to a project you are working on, to crystallize the central urgencies you already know, or to give you insight into something you care about. Or it it may remind you of how your own passions are already infusing your creative work.

Wishing you inspiration and passion!

*In this feature, I’m working with The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack, who taught me that the Tarot “is a vehicle to remind yourself of what you already know.” If you want to know more about the deck and its images, or have your own Tarot practice, here are the links.

**P.S. If you are interested in more Tarot, I am doing a tarot workshop at the Pele’s Fire writing retreat this year.  More info at the link or on my website. We have one cabin left, due to a cancelation!

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