What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.
Our most recent release is my book of “1,000 Permissions Granted: a creative collection of permission slips” which has been incredibly fun to see launch into the world! In my creativity practice, I just finally realized that most the people who show up to work with me are people who are stuck at a point of permission giving. They can’t seem to give themselves permission to do things like: grieve in more than 5 stages OR take the risk that needs to be taken to live their dream OR take time totally unplugged to recharge their souls! So I began writing up these little “You have permission…” statements for people. I began sending them out on Twitter. People went ga-ga for them. So when I hit the point of having written up 1,000 of them, we decided to make the entire collection into a print book. Like I said, it was been so fun to see people light up when they open to the first random page and read a permission.
Tell us something about yourself.
Well, all my writing and exploring in the grief & creativity world really comes from doing my own work in my own life. My own son died at birth after a perfectly healthy, full term pregnancy in 1999. There was no reason he should have died, no medical answers. So my own practice of creativity started the day after my son died. I had to come up with some reason why I should get out of bed that day after his death. It took an enormous amount of creativity to find a reason!! And my everyday practice grew from there. I began using tools like writing and art-making and shifting perspective in my own life. As people saw this, they asked about it. They wanted to know more. So I began sharing and mentoring others. Today I have a full time career as an author and artist, using my creative materials to help mentor others who are trying to find their way, too.
What inspired you to write this book?
As I said, this “1,000 Permissions Granted” book really came from the everyday, back and forth with other people where I could clearly see they were stopping themselves at a point of permission. It was as if people needed to begin practicing how to give themselves permission. Sometimes it was permission for doing emotional work. Sometimes it was permission to just be whimsical or silly. It really runs the gamut. There is not one single prescription for this process that will fit every single person. It was more about showing up to meet people where they are. As I responded to each individual, this collection sort of took its own course and screamed out to be a book.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
This book is self-published via our KotaPress imprint using Lulu.com as the POD. We decided all the way back in 1999 to self-publish as much of our works as possible. It really stemmed from the intense, personal writings I first did after my son died. I felt then that those writings were all I had left of my baby. And there was no way I was going to submit my baby to some random publisher who would dictate to me how best to present my child to the world and such. So we jumped in and started our own press, got a block of ISBNs, and back in the day, we learned how to work with printer in one place, cover printer in another place, bindery in another place, storage, inventory, fulfillment, everything! As technology has progressed, we have moved to process like Lulu.com where I can upload finished PDF, and they do all that! Yes, they take a larger percent of each sale than it would cost me to do large print run locally. But honestly it is so worth it to not have to deal with multiple vendors, storage in our damp Seattle climate, running constantly to the post office or having an intimate relationship with my UPS man!! Because Lulu does all that part for me, I am freed up to spend more time writing, promoting, connecting with people. The POD process has really been a blessing to our work flow.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
Writing started with crayons as soon as I could understand the concept of paper and play as a child. I wrote stories, drew pictures, and later wrote prose and poetry and articles. But I did not really think of myself as a *Writer* till I was 21 years old. Out at a nightclub one evening, my friends and I enjoyed a rockin’ group. After the show, we hung around and eventually the band members joined our table. As I talked with the lead singer, he turned out to be a local boy. I mentioned to him that I was in a program at Carnegie Mellon University mentoring with Jim Daniels. In reply, the singer said to me, “Oh! So you are a writer.” I was stunned for a moment. And then as my breath returned I said, “Well, yes, I guess I am a writer.” It was very… Odd?? Moving?? Like being crowned officially and given a title?? So, yes, I’ve been a writer always. But there was something in accepting my reality that happened at age 21 in that nightclub!
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
Ha! The hardest part of writing for me has absolutely nothing to do with the writing. The hardest part of this writing life is distribution. Getting the writing into the hands of readers. That is where all the slogging work of the work happens for me. The ideas flow easily. The words come. I can even visualize cover art pretty easily. But taking the finished product and getting into the hands of readers!? That is hard stuff!
What are you reading now?
Let’s see. In my current reading pile, there are the following:
In the Midst of Winter edited by Mary Jane Moffat
The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead by Robert Moss
The Translucent Revolution by Arjuna Ardagh
Taking Flight: Inspirations & Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings by Kelly Rae Roberts
1,000 Artist Journal Page from Quarry Books
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I really love to read anything. My fancy runs in fits and starts though. Sometimes I can’t get enough poetry. Other times I crave books about cultural context. Other times I’m looking more for art books, visual inspirations. I do like some fiction, but I’m pretty picky about it. That is something that came about after my son’s death. Before he died, I would just plain old read anything. But since his death, I have a hard time with fiction where made up dramas play out for fun. I especially am offended by fiction about the death of a child. The world is dramatic enough. The death of a child is REAL if you are unfortunate enough to live it, so reading someone’s made up story about it offends me. That said, if it is fiction about death written by a bereaved parent, I get it. Hamlet, for instance. Now that I know about the death of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, I completely and totally understand everything in the play Hamlet. “To be or not to be” has a whole, REAL context for me now. It is fiction, but it is not fiction. If that makes any sense at all?!
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
There are a couple books cooking on the stove at the moment. One is a collection of poetry that has been brewing a long time, but it still feels scattered. It will take a little more time before it finds a blended flavor for me to really serve up to the world. The other book is again poetry — a bit of prose mixed in there — but it is a collaboration with a bereaved grandmother. So she is writing pieces from the perspective of a bereaved grandmother after death of a grandchild. I’m writing replies to her words from the perspective of a bereaved mother after death of a child. A grief & creativity conversation to be sure! But we are just at the beginnings of the conversation, so I don’t know how long it will be before we are ready with that one.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Just keep taking a next step, a next step, a next step. Last step was a mistake? Who cares! Move onto the next step! Last step was brilliant? Who cares! You can constantly repeat the magic. Just move onto the next step. With every step — regardless of how you judge that step — you are learning about your craft and life. Live it fully. Say it out loud. Don’t be let anyone intimidate you. We are, ALL of us, worthy of saying what we need to say in this world!
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
We actually are doing a really fun promotion for the “1,000 Permissions Granted” book. We created a series of poster-sized versions of 21 of the permission slips that can be hung up like an art exhibit. The show is currently on display at a local bookshop. Everywhere you look around the show, there is a huge permission calling out to you. The second the show opened, the books started flying off the front counter of the book shop. We’ll be doing a reading, release, celebration there as part of the events in the shop this month, too. I’m thinking about setting up a table full of blank permission slips so that each attendee will have the opportunity to create their own permission slip while there. Once the show closes there at the end of the month, we’ll look into sending it out into the world as a traveling exhibit.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Readers can learn all about my writing, art, and creativity practice via my website at www.MotherHenna.com
And then the books we do via Lulu are all in the bookshop at www.Lulu.com/kotapress
We do also have some books from the large, local print runs available via KotaPress directly at