Next Vancouver speaker

Riaz Meghji

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March 6, 8:30am • SFU Woodward's — Goldcorp Centre for the Arts • part of a series on Identity

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Come join us on December 6th for our Volunteers Take The Stage! event

CMVan volunteers are a group of diverse, inspiring, creatives that work in silence behind the scenes to bring this event to you every month. This month’s theme of Silence brings their voice to the front of the room.

Alexander Neff

Alexander is the founder of Drawing Thanks—a daily portrait series focused on highlighting amazing people who inspire and influence on both local and global scales. The individuals featured in his portrait series range from movers and shakers across the globe to the friendly faces of his hometown, Vancouver. 

When he isn’t out meeting and drawing inspiring people in his community, Alexander can be found at the Railway Stage & Beer Cafe, advocating for local music as Director of Community Engagement for Locals Lounge— a live showcase of Vancouver’s best musical talent, helping audiences discover the people behind the music. 

Alexander is currently working on his first book, Drawing Thanks: Convene. Through a series of interviews, stories, and portraiture, this book explores the roles of creative Vancouverites who are cultivating and empowering community through their creative practices.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

Creativity is a product of interaction. It is a result of listening to and interpreting your surroundings. Sights, sounds, feelings, emotions—when you tune into these experiences, interpret them, and express that interpretation, you are actively participating in creativity. My creativity is fuelled by community. In both my life and career, I strive to surround myself with people who can expose me to perspectives and experiences which differ from my own. The work I produce is designed to share these new perspectives. For some, that may provide relatability, for others, a new perspective. With every creative endeavour I approach, my goal is to reach an outcome of connection and newfound understanding.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

I find energy in human connection. Every form of creativity—in some way—is meant to connect. An artist is energized when their composition moves a viewer; a chef is energized when their meal is enjoyed; a musician is energized when a crowd dances to their music. I am energized when the stories I tell build and support community.

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

Your heroes are real people and they are accessible. If someone inspires you, tell them. Show your gratitude—that is a powerful tool which we all have access to. Be honest, be vulnerable, and let people know when they bring value to your life. I have been fortunate enough to develop relationships with many of my heroes just by reaching out and expressing gratitude. That has resulted in mentorship, collaboration, and friendship. A special type of magic happens when creatives support creatives. Never forget that it goes both ways.

What myths about creativity would you like to set straight?

“I am not a creative person”—speaking these words is the equivalent to giving up on a race that has not yet started. I will fully admit that I am guilty of referring to people as “creatives.” I have even done that in this interview. We need to stop looking at “creative” as an adjective which can be used to describe a certain type of person and look at it as an action—“practising creativity,” if you will. Creativity takes effort and hard work. It is a skill which anyone can develop. Sometimes people view my work and say “I wish I could draw like that.” I always respond with “you can.” At the time of this interview, I have drawn a portrait every day for 662 days. Any skill requires time and effort to develop; creativity and artistic ability are no different.

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings? 

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. When I first read his book “Flight of the Hummingbird,” I realized the impact art can have when it is purpose-driven. That realization is what transformed a sketchbook full of faces—drawn simply to “be a better portrait artist”—into an outlet for gratitude. The sense of purpose Michael’s work provoked in me was what really made me a better artist. I drew a portrait of him because of it.

What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?

I can’t recommend “Secret Path” by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire enough. It is another powerful example of purpose-driven creativity. I happened to read this book and experience the album around the same time I read “Flight of the Hummingbird” by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. That became a pivotal point in my life. I was studying in college and found myself in an incredibly competitive environment. I was conditioned to have a “be the best” attitude about my creative work. That exposure I had to purpose-driven creativity was the first step in retraining my brain to be inspired by other creatives and not view them as “competition.” I can say—with the utmost gratitude and pride—I owe my success to the creatives who have inspired and supported me throughout my journey so far. I now measure my success in the support I can provide to others through my creative work.

Christine Bissonnette

Christine Bissonnette is a performance poet, storyteller and speech arts teacher specializing in voice.

After receiving her degree in English (with a concentration in creative writing) and theatre in 2008, she’s trained extensively with some of North America’s leading voice and breath teachers. As a poet, Christine uses non-linear narrative and evocative/sensorial imagery to explore her relationship to growth, narrative, and imagination. As a teacher, she is interested in providing opportunities for students to explore/discover the nuance and power of language (especially when spoken out loud).

Her most recent project is a poetry, piano, and dance collaboration about the experience of anxiety — which will be released December 2019.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

In a keynote speech playwright Marsha Norman did for the Kentucky Arts Council 25th Anniversary Celebration Conference in 1995, she said “Art saves people. It saves us from our singularity, from our separateness. Art both documents our differences and saves us from them. Art is how a culture records its life, how it poses questions to the next generation, and how it is remembered.’

With this in mind, I would define creativity as our personal way of bringing voice to/expressing what’s important to us and how we perceive the world. Our creative impulses helps us experience our internal landscape, and encourages a deeper discussion on topics between individuals (across time, and in different cultures) that wouldn’t occur any other way.

I use my own creativity, to record, examine, and explore my life (my perceptions, beliefs, fears, curiosities, and hopes). My creative practice gives me a wonderful sense of perspective, and helps me to appreciate and acknowledge my own growth; the many ways I’ve changed.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

I find my best creative inspiration when I’ve slowed down, potentially lit a candle or gone for a long walk, and am in a place of calm. My favourite time to write, is first thing in the morning; my mind feels fresh, my thoughts are (generally) quiet, and I am more apt to make bold writing choices.

Although I also find that once I’ve made the decision to immerse myself in a creative project and commit to making it happen, I’m more likely to be inspired during all parts of the day. While walking, waiting for the bus, in the shower (it’s a cliché, but it’s true). That’s when that voice recorder app on my phone is really helpful. I love being in the middle of that creative energy.

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

There’s no rush. I wish I had given myself more permission, right away, to nurture and explore my creative practice and hone my skills. Although two years ago, I did end up stepping away and really focusing on my craft (leaving social media, and lessening my output), initially I really felt that I needed to get myself published immediately… potentially before I had properly listened to other perspectives, and begun to form my own opinion on the topics I wanted to write about.

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

I would love to hear Bo Burnham speak at Creative Mornings. Last year he released a film called ‘Eighth Grade’ that looked at social media use and their impact on experiences of anxiety in teens. This is one of my favourite films from last year, and his eloquence and thoughtfulness in interviews continues to inspire me.

Someone else I would love to see speak at Creative Mornings is Audre Lorde (although she passed away in 1992). Her essay [Poetry is Not a Luxury](https://makinglearning.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/poetry-is-not-a-luxury-audre-lorde.pdf) is an outstanding essay that I’ve considered deeply when approaching my own work.

Here’s an excerpt:

"Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives. As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.”

What books made a difference in your life and why?

There are a number of books which have had a big impact on my life, but there are a couple which come to mind which have been particularly important to how I approach my work.

The first is 'Addiction to Perfection’ by Jungian analysts Marion Woodman. This was one of those books that I wanted to throw against a wall. It really got under my skin. In my early 20s, I used to laugh about being a perfectionist, but this book made me rethink my relationship to this identification; I stopped referring to myself as a perfectionist after reading this book.

'Metaphors We Live By’ by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, was another hugely influential book for me. Using philosophy and linguistics, the authors examine the way different metaphors shape the way we perceive reality. Examples are time (time is a limited resource), and love (love is a journey). This book made me think about the metaphors which are most commonly associated with mental illness, as I was writing and working on Left Opened.

What practises, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?

Something I have done since I was a teenager, is take detailed notes on many of the books I read — recording the passages that really resonate with me. This ritual or habit has contributed to my creative practice in two important ways. First, it has helped me hold onto the ideas argued by different authors I read, and begin to draw connections between different fields and perspectives. Second, recording verbatim different passages from the books I read has helped me to become a better writer, by bringing my awareness to the way these different authors express their ideas, and how they work within the written form to be expressive, persuasive, and above all, engaging.

What are you proudest of in your life?

I’m proudest of the relationships I’ve healed, built, and nurtured with my mom, and my siblings. My mother is a pretty amazing woman (as are my brother and sister) and their presence in my life gives me an overwhelming sense of groundedness and support that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m also very proud of the relationship I’ve been building with my partner, and with my friends. When I get sucked into the mesmerizing allure of ambition, these relationships remind me of what’s truly important.

Annelies Tjebbes 

Annelies is passionate about making the world a better place and is not afraid to stir the pot to help enable this. She’s most fired up about addressing inequities and improving livelihoods in her global community. Annelies brings an expertise in Social Innovation and Systems Change work to her consulting practice that provides strategic planning, facilitation and evaluation support to Social Purpose Organizations.

As an engineer with a background in community development and social enterprise, she has experience in a diversity of sectors and brings a creative, rigorous and human-centered design mindset to her work. Annelies has facilitated hundreds of courses, workshops and conferences internationally, has served over 20 clients in the social innovation ecosystem, and has conducted Strategic Planning sessions that have dramatically advanced Canadian organizations.

She has a love for working with and investing in people and thrives on community, courage, creativity, communication, curiosity and compassion.

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

Creativity is the most open and honest expression of our vulnerability, playfulness, and personality. It enables us to communicate our greatest hopes, dreams, and fears and to connect deeply with ourselves and with our global community. Through no other form can we express ourselves in a way so truly aligned with our inner beings and this thus creates a very personal connection with anyone on the receiving end of our creative pursuits.

I try to connect with my creativity in all aspects of my life. Whether I’m designing a workshop to support youth wellbeing in Fort St. John, working with my co-owners of a community development housing project on the Sunshine Coast, or stringing together a series of passes that leads to a game winning goal on the soccer pitch, creativity fuels me and helps me bring a spark to my work and my life. It takes courage to express ourselves creatively, and I encourage everyone to find opportunities to tap into their creativity and share it with the world.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

I love working with my hands. Though I’m an electrical engineer by training, and a whiz on the computer, to me there’s nothing like taking pen to paper to help channel creative energy. I love working with different facilitation tools and tricks to generate creative ideas for workshops, strategies, dialogues and projects. I often map things out on flip charts or whiteboards with lots of coloured post-its, markers and stickers. Blocking out time to really dig into a creative endeavour to me is key. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but just carving out a space and a commitment to an output helps me engage in my creative process and move projects forward.

I also find a ton of creative inspiration from being out in nature and engaging in physical activity. Some of my best ideas come while riding my bike (Carmen) around town, or hiking in the forests of our beautiful province. I was part of a 1-month Social Innovation Residency at the Banff Centre and we did a lot of work out in nature and looking at Systems Change through natural systems. I would have never thought to talk to a rock to address some of my personal internal challenges, or to dance out a solution to gender equity, but this program really helped rattle some of my rigid training picked up in engineering, and helped me approach problems from a completely new angle using creativity and innovation.

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

In terms of creative process, my top strategy is to dive in, withhold perfectionism and just get something on paper or screen to get the ball rolling. I used to spend a lot of time trying to wordsmith or perfect projects as I went along, but being able to get something out there and then refine after a night of rest with fresh eyes has done me wonders! Instead of banging my head against the wall trying to do things in one long push, I break the effort up and approach it with a fresh mind each time which really helps me progress more quickly towards a creative output. Through burnout and overwork I have developed a philosophy around “working smarter, not harder” and this has been essential for me both in producing better work, but also maintaining balance and health in my life.

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

I would love to hear Gloria Steinem speak. One of her most recent books “My Life on the Road” gave me a much deeper understanding of what her life was like as a women’s rights activist and the challenges she faced and connections she made. Her dedication to this fight and her efforts to bring an intersectional approach to gender equity are admirable. The creativity she brought to community engagement, mobilization and dialogue are things we could all learn from, and her use of non-violent communication tactics are an inspiration. I am so grateful for the work she has done and am inspired by the dedication she brought to this cause in her life.

How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader?

I was destined to be a doctor. I loved helping the nurse out at school, was intrigued by the inner workings of the body, and suffered enough injuries and health challenges as a kid to understand the deep importance of medicine. At that age, the only professionals you really heard about were doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, veterinarians and firefighters. As a kid, all I knew was that I wanted to help people and from my simplistic view of career planning, I saw becoming a doctor as the best fit to do that.

With top marks in math and physics in highschool I was encouraged to explore engineering, and when I discovered Biomedical Electrical Engineering I figured this was the perfect combination of skills for me. While I loved the challenge of designing medical devices during the early years of this career, I felt too disconnected from people in this profession and from the ultimate impact I was contributing too. Having “retired” from the formal profession of engineering, I love that I can now use my engineering skills to problem solve social challenges that I care deeply about. Systems thinking is a core skillset for engineers and I believe this is key to addressing challenges from a holistic, root-cause perspective.

How will I tie it all together? While I have a deep admiration for doctors and the work they do every day to support our health and wellbeing, I think the western medical system has major flaws that lack upstream, preventative approaches to health and also the ability to address complex cases like chronic pain and mental illnesses. I hope to contribute towards evolution of the medical system to enable us to take a more holistic and integrated approach to health.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?

In 2015 I suffered 2 panic attacks out of the blue in what otherwise was a very “successful” and positive year. Diagnosed with panic attacks and admitted to the urgent care clinic I began the journey of painfully wrestling and grappling with the crashing down of my superhero identify and the navigation of what new path would work for me. In that first week I hadn’t left the house other than to be rushed to the ER, and when I took my first steps into my new world the sounds were deafening. It is excruciating dealing with demons inside your head and physical symptoms that can’t be explained, but the gifts that anxiety has brought to me and the insights that panic have given me have transformed my life and my relationship to my work, my creativity and my path. I have spent the past 4 years since this moment rewiring my brain, quieting old patterns and broken ideals, and re-envisioning how I want to live my life. There is a quote I learned during this time that “anxiety is a gift”. This has been one of the most challenging things to accept, and the first year of this re-wiring was excruciating, but the gifts I’ve been given through this experience have shaped who I am today and are essential to my being.

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?

Our world is facing extreme social, environmental and economic challenges and I use creative tools, frameworks and approaches to help tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

Have you listened to the Sunscreen Song lately? A simple video with some really profound insights that I’m still working to adopt in my life!

Beyond this, you’ll have to come hear my talk to learn some of the rest! 

Join us Nov1st. We’re thrilled to have Indigenous restaurateur, 60s Scoop survivor, author, and professional traveller, Inez Cook.


Inez Cook grew up in Vancouver BC and is a proud member of the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola BC. Inez is the co founder and owner of Salmon n’Bannock Bistro located in Vancouver as well as an author of the children’s book The Sixties Scoop. The Award winning Salmon n’Bannock Bistro opened its doors Feb 15 2010 and proudly showcases Indigenous cuisine with a modern palate.Inez and Salmon n’ Bannock have been featured in several international media outlets including National Geographic, CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, The San Fransisco Chronicle, der Spiegel, Samatha Brown , Moosemeat and Marmalade, and Power to the People to name a few.Inez has worked in the travel industry for over 28 years and has lived all over the world. She always dreamed of having a restaurant that could take guests on a journey, but did not know that the journey she is taking you on is the journey within.Q&AWhat’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

One creative piece of advice I wish I’d known as a young person is that there is not a wrong answer. Express yourself through your creativity and passion and the rest will follow.How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

Creativity - expressing myself and celebrating new ideas towards my life and brand

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

I think my travels have helped inspire me and often my best ideas come to me in a dream .. it’s even better when I remember them

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

That would be a tie / Maya Angelou or my Grandpa

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Might be riding a jet ski in Saudi Arabia with the Religious police chasing me Women were not permitted to drive let alone a jet ski

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?

I am a full time flights attendant that owns a restaurant and does catering … full time

If I could open a door and go anywhere where would that be?

Door to heaven to check in on loved ones passed the ones I knew and never met

Our amazing October speaker, Danielle Laporte will be joining us to talk about Creativity and Flow.


Bio

Danielle LaPorte is a poet, ‘entrepreneurial badass’ (Entrepreneur Magazine) and a member of Oprah’s Super Soul 100.

Specializing in conscious living, she is the author of ‘The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul,’ ’The Fire Starter Sessions: Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success, and ‘White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path — from One Seeker to Another’.

Her Desire Map Series has been translated into 10 different languages, and includes a day planner, multimedia course, and a Top 10 iTunes app. There are 700 Desire Map facilitators and coaches in 15+ countries around the world. 250,000 people have participated in her program and ‘desire-mapped’ their goals.

Forbes named ’DanielleLaPorte.com as one of the ’Top 100 Websites for Women” for her daily #truthbombs and poetry. Her website hosts an impressive 5 million visitors a month and has been called “the best place online for kickass spirituality.”

Danielle lives in Vancouver, Canada. You can find her on Instagram @daniellelaporte.Q&A

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

Creativity is concretizing energy.We’re all creating all the time. The higher aim is to intentionally make things that will lessen suffering, or bring ease, beauty, insight and connectivity to other living beings. I’m most interested in using my creative skills to generate conversations about consciousness, compassion, and service. I write and speak about stuff that I find in the cosmos, mostly love.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

In pain. And joy. No in-between.

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

More stillness leads greater creative depth. And the most effective stillness is about sequencing––it’s not about the amount of stillness you have, it’s about docking in before you begin, and after you end. The Stillness Sandwich is a powerful thing.

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

Francesco Clemente. Mary Magdalene. Rumi. DaVinci. Leonard Cohen. Joan of Arc.

What are you proudest of in your life?

I still have an open heart.

What music are you listening to these days?

Daniel Caesar, H.E.R, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Glen Hansard, The Highwomen, Pink Floyd

Where is your favourite place to escape?

Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

It’s not my problem to fix.

When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?

Crank the music and dance.

What object would you put in a time capsule that best represents who you are today?

My Vesica Pisces ring.

What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?

Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders

Join us for an exciting Sept 6th. when TJ Dawe will be talking about Muse and Creativity.

TJ Dawe is a Vancouver based writer, director, dramaturg and performer of new theatre.

He’s toured more than one hundred theatre festivals around the world. He co-wrote a play that became the feature film The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe as the TJ character. He co-created and directed The One Man Star Wars Trilogy, which has been touring the world since 2002, including runs in New York, London, Sydney and at Simon Cowell’s birthday party.

He recently co-created and moderated a multimedia interactive career retrospective with Richard Dreyfuss. He teaches a course at Langara on how to create a solo show.

He and his partner lead workshops on creativity and on the Enneagram.Q&A

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

Creativity is bringing something into existence that wasn’t there before. I create new theatre as my career - and help others translate their stories and ideas into stage shows.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

Either from taking in other creative works - books, movies, music, theatre, etc, or by going for long walks.

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

Your belief that it’s better to work on your own rather than in a group is a belief - it’s not the truth. Your unstated belief that you work better on your own than with a group - also a belief, not the truth. Not a law of nature.

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

George Carlin

What did you learn from your most memorable creative failure?

I did an elaborate drawing as part of an art class in university. I came up with the concept before I drew it. I could elaborately expound on the theme and significance of it, but it wasn’t really much to look at, compared with my classmates’ work, many of whom couldn’t tell you the theme of their drawings. Ever since then I’ve let inspiration lead, and figured out the themes and justifications as I go, or after the fact.

What books made a difference in your life and why?

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller got me addicted to literature, and taught me about out of sequence storytelling, multiple points of view, that comedy and tragedy can co-exist, and about building a theme and paying it off.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields got me seeking out the writings of women and other people with points of view and experiences different from mine. It also taught me about innovative storytelling that still hit you right in the heart - as have her other novels and stories.

Do the Work by Stephen Pressfield got me understanding the creative process in a new way, honouring and including the inevitable anxiety that’s part of it all. I’ve recommended this book countless times, and frequently reread it, like a spiritual vitamin shot.

We’re excited for August. Nayeli Jimenez will be speaking on our theme of Justice. Please join us.


Nayeli is originally from Mexico, and works as a graphic designer and art director in Vancouver, BC. She has been organizing for climate justice locally and internationally for the last 5 years, mostly focusing on climate resilience and opposition to fossil fuel expansion.


Nayeli has dedicated most of her design career to projects related to social and environmental justice, and is currently the Art Director at Greystone Books, a leading publisher of books about nature and the environment, social issues, science, and health. She is also an organizer with Our Time, a national youth-led campaign pushing for a Green New Deal for Canada.

We are honoured to present Carys Cragg as she shares her journey on July’s topic of End.


Carys Cragg writes narrative nonfiction, teaches in child and youth care, and mothers a wonderful young boy. Her essays, opinions, and reviews have appeared in The Globe & Mail, The Tyee, Understorey, New York Post, and The Ormsby Review, amongst others. She holds a BA in Human & Social Development and MA in Child & Youth Care from the University of Victoria, is faculty in Douglas College’s Child, Family, and Community Studies programs, and recently volunteered with Roots of Empathy and the DTES Writers Collective.Her first book - a true crime literary memoir that follows alongside her journey to correspond with and meet the man who murdered her father 20 years after the crime - was a Globe & Mail Best 100 Book of 2017, and finalist for the 2018 Hubert Evans BC Book Prize and 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award. She speaks to postsecondary classrooms and social service agencies about her experience as a survivor of crime and of restorative justice.As she finished writing her first book, she feared: will she ever write another? Soon after, she began to write more essays and book reviews; children’s books for her son, nieces, and nephews; an academic textbook for her students; and is excited for what she will be inspired to create next.Carys lives with her young son along the river in Port Coquitlam.QA

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

I believe creativity is the expression of oneself and how we contribute what we have to offer the world. Sure, creativity can be linked to aesthetics, design, fine arts, etc. but it’s also about how we create relationships, families, solve problems, find joy, and envision our world and its future. I liken creativity to an energy, a compelling force inside all of us. What we decide to do with that force is up to us. Will we create something – anything – that contributes to the world in some way? Will you build a building, care for a family, tell a story, go on an adventure, solve a problem…? Will you stay idle, and do nothing with what you have to offer the world? Or worse, will you destroy? I believe creativity has an ethical component: that we should listen to that creative energy, listen to what you want to contribute, and then go out and do that. And then try to shape the world so that other people have the opportunity to do that too.Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?
Dreams. Problems. Frustrations. Conflict. Difficulty. Desire. Hope. I find my best creative energy comes from intense emotional moments. I believe they are trying to teach me something: to do something with that moment. Make it better. Solve a problem. Respond to an issue. Address the conflict. Express oneself. Tell a story. Have one’s voice heard. How that energy takes shape & form is up to the context in which it appears. At my work, it may be a lesson plan or a project proposal that solves the frustration I’m experiencing. I wrote a children’s book for my nieces, nephews, and son when I wanted them to know my deceased father – their grandpa – but I didn’t know how to bring him up naturally in daily conversation. When I wrote Dead Reckoning, it was in part to respond to the question I received from many people: “How did that go?” I didn’t know how to respond in 3 minutes. How do you tell the story of how corresponding with and meeting your father’s murderer went? For me, a book was the solution. I used to be confused and afraid of these feelings. And now I do something with them.

What is one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

“Never feel bad for asking: Why?” “Keep doing what you are drawn to!” and “You don’t know this now, but eventually, you will direct and shape your entire personal and professional life around things you want to create. So keep going.”

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

I’d love to listen to someone who works creatively with kids. I just spoke at a book club gathering at Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art (Vancouver). They do amazing literature and art programs with kids of all ages. I’d love to hear how Christianne creates her programs, the stories of kids’ engagement and brilliance, and how that contributes to our community.

What’s your one guilty creative indulgence?

I love purchasing design magazines. Domino & Livingetc are my favourite indulgences. I flag the pages, collect tear sheets, and browse them when I want to look at something beautiful or envision the fabrics, furniture, artwork, and colours I want to be surrounded by. In another life, I would have been an interior designer. When I was a kid, I used to draw floor plans, rearrange furniture, and ask why buildings were one storey in this part of the world and not in another. Reading a design magazine on the patio, in the shade, with my kid playing beside me is my version of heaven. I also have an obsession with stationery – pens, paper, notebooks, planners, cards – I spend too much money on these items and I have no plans to stop.

What practices, rituals, or habits contribute to your creative work?

When I’m working on a creative writing project or want to be inspired to create something new, I read widely, write, and take myself on artist-dates (Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way). I keep a creative-projects notebook and record the various ideas that come to mind. I take my pen and notebook everywhere.

When I’m working on a specific creative writing project, I need an externally-imposed deadline. I tend to binge-write as opposed to sticking to any specific schedule. It takes me a while to get into a specific writerly voice, so I like to have long stretches of time to stay in that voice. I tend to write my first drafts of essays in notebooks. When I transfer those notes to my computer, that’s when I begin to shape, edit, build, and re-structure.

When I’m stuck during a project I free-write through the problem. I quite literally try to pose the problem as a question and then free-write a response to that problem. It can take pages and pages of writing to get to the solution but I always get to the solution or something better. When I procrastinate on a specific project, I tend to be pulled to work on another creative project. They all pull my attention in different directions. And I like it that way.

I also have the privilege of only working on writing projects that I want to work on. For me, to write something well, I must write it. That is: I only work on projects that somewhere deep inside me desperately, joyously, and determinedly must be written. If there isn’t that desire, I wait patiently until it appears. Once it appears, it doesn’t go away and I must see it through to its finish.

Ema Peter is a photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Over the past 15 years, Ema has established herself as one of the leading architectural and interior photographers in Canada and has worked with many of the leading architects in the country.Ema’s work has been published in the top international magazines including Architectural Record, Azure, Dwell, Western Living, Object and many more. Ema has won the Architizer A+ Awards 2018 both the jury and public vote, she has won the inaugural Architectural photography award, 2019 Canadian Architect. Ema’s key goal is creating architectural images that have a strong impact and include human element.Ema has a masters degree in applied photography from the National Academy of Theatre and Film art in Sofia, Bulgaria and PhD in Photojournalism. She was an intern in Magnum photo agency in Paris where she learned from some of the most famous photojournalists in the world like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka, Abbas, Rene Burri and Eliott Erwitt. Ema was head of the international photography team for VRX studios, the biggest provider for images to the hospitality industry and was responsible for creating the photography guidelines for brands like Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt and lead photographer for their ad campaigns.Q&AHow do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?
Creativity for me is finding that magic that you feel as a child in every new thing; the pure innocent excitement, the lack of any judgement, the freedom of expression. Creativity thrives in people that stay children forever. I have this theory that our minds really create the world and whatever world we want to create it starts from the moment we open our eyes in the morning.Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?
Light and clouds. I love chasing the light and seeing how it changes a building. You almost create a relationship with it and when you catch that perfect moment nothing compares to it. I am truly the biggest fan of clouds. Clouds are for dreamers and they help us see the world in a very different way. I keep posting them on Instagram and now I have so many people that say they are starting to notice them and that every time they look at them, it reminds them of me.What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Nothing really has changed in me since I was young. I had the same determination to succeed and I feel the opposite must happen. I must remember how my younger self was not scared of anything. It is my younger self that must give me creative advice to keep going and to keep believing.Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?
I would have love to hear Henri Cartier-Bresson talk about the Decisive moment. He truly is one of those people that waited for that perfect moment to happen. As he said, “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.”What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Craziest thing I have done is climbing 7 and a half months pregnant on a rooftop on a ladder in Oxford circus to capture a shot and all this with a tripod on my back to balance me. I did get the shot!What books made a difference in your life and why?
The book that made the greatest difference in my life is the Art of War by Sun Tzu. Strategy is the best way to be successful. I truly enjoy doing my own strategy, managing to navigate every situation and be victorious

Linda Solomon Wood is an innovator, entrepreneur, and award-winning journalist.


As CEO of Observer Media Group and founder and editor-in-chief of the National Observer, she works to strengthen public service journalism that investigates corruption, celebrates innovation, and illuminates and helps to make sense of the complex political and social challenges people face today. She previously founded Vancouver Observer and has led both publications to win Canada’s top awards for public service, investigative journalism and excellence in reporting. She sits on the Board of Governors of the National Newspaper Awards, representing digital media and Western Canada. She has participated in the Public Policy Forum’s roundtables on the state of journalism. She started her career as an investigative reporter at The Tennessean in Nashville, where she won the United Press International awards for Best Public Service Reporting and Best Investigative Reporting. She later freelanced for publications including The Los Angeles Times, Orion, and the International Herald Tribune. She studied journalism and American Culture at Northwestern University and received her MFA in literary nonfiction from Vermont College. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she’s lived and worked in Paris, New York City and now, Vancouver, where she enjoys Canada’s West Coast with her husband, two sons and two stepdaughters. She immigrated to Canada shortly after 9/11 and became a Canadian citizen in 2012.Q&A

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?

From nothing comes something. That’s creation. The process of making something from nothing (or something out of nothing) is creativity. I love collaborations. Creating together. Everybody has a unique gift.  Together we make something. It is born, grows, and ultimately, exceeds me, and us. Then there is the letting go process, the realization that the creation has a life of its own.

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

I get my best ideas when moving: walking, cycling but especially running. However, I think my creative energy comes from quiet, even getting bored. Things arise in silence, reflection, repose. On the other hand, I get a lot of inspiration from engaging with my children and my step-children. They are infinitely inspiring.

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person?

Get behind yourself 100%!!!!  Don’t let people’s reactions to you or what you think THEY think derail you. That’s the most important thing I wish I’d been able to fully absorb as a young person.

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at CreativeMornings?

If I could hear anyone speak at creative mornings it would probably be AOC or Nancy Pelosi. I guess that’s my American side coming out.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

My mother has been the biggest influence. She’s a photographer and she has lived like a nun in the temple of photography. I watched her struggle a lot with self-doubt, insecurity, fear of success, while creating an epic body of work. Now she’s collected in museums around the world and at 89 is publishing books, taking on commissions and winning awards. She told me last week: ‘Good things come to those who wait.’

What are you proudest of in your life?

My children.  Second to them, National Observer.

If you could interview anyone living or dead, but not a celebrity, who would it be and why?

I’d like to sit down and talk with Martin Luther King and ask him what it was like, was he afraid and what does the world look like to him now.

If you could do anything now, what would you do?  

Spend a month in New York City going to a different musical or drama every night.

Where was the last place you travelled?

New York City.

What music are you listening to these days?

My tastes are eclectic.

What was the best surprise you’ve experienced so far in life?

Having two really wonderful sons VERY late in life, then divorcing and remarrying and getting two really wonderful stepdaughters even later in life.

Where is your favourite place to escape?

The upper trail at Lynn Canyon Headwaters Park.

What was the best advice you were ever given?

“Live on the edge.”

What books made a difference in your life and why?

Too many to count. Lately, Sapiens.

What practises, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?

Working out.

When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?

Take a walk..

If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them?

Probably meditate.

What has been one of your biggest Aha! moments in life?

I was sitting on the edge of continent, in Point Reyes, California, watching the ocean, the birds, the waves against the shore, crashing, receding, rising up again, and I had my aha. Everything in life is transient. Everything is constantly changing. Transience underlies all forms of life.

What object would you put in a time capsule that best represents who you are today?

My  iPhone. (Ouch.)

What is the one movie or book every creative must see/read?

The movies and books that are running through our own heads; I mean, the narrative that is one’s own life.

Book I’ve been reading The Recovering: Intoxication and It’s Aftermath - A brilliant illuminating memoir that is also an examination of alcoholism and creativity and gender and destruction in literature by Leslie Jamison

How do you define creativity and apply it in your life and career?As someone who grew up in poverty, both of material and spirit, creativity is mother of necessity. As a result, I’ve honed valuable skills in finding inventive and creative ways to accomplish my goals. This has served me very well as a community organizer that works with and for the Two-Spirit community: locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. My community is one of most under-resourced communities; however, this has never deterred or inhibited me for working for a better tomorrow for my Two-Spirit relatives – I’ve just had to work smarter (and sometimes harder).

Where do you find your best creative inspiration or energy?

Quite simply creative inspiration dwells in places, spaces and situations of scarcity. When I hear, you can’t do that, or we don’t have a budget to “fill in the blank”, my thinking cap goes on in order to find a work around!

What’s one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you’d known as a young person? 

Simply, I’d offer and have offered the following advice: Know your creation story My Cree creation story tells me where come from, who am I, and what are my scared teachings:

• Wisdom, to cherish all knowledge;

• Love, to know peace,

• Respect, to honor all of the Creation;

• Courage, to face the foe with integrity;

• Honesty, with himself and the world,

• Humility, to know himself as a sacred part of the Creation; and finally,

• Truth, to know all of these things. 

Know who your people are.

This answer provides a rooting and grounding, humility, accountability, respect, transparency and a lived and embodied truth or medicine.

Know your purpose, gift(s) and medicine(s).

This answer this question; you have the motivation and guide for all your actions.

Always yourself, “why?”.

Just because something is done in the past, does not exempt it from questioning and that it must always be done that way. The answer to this “WHY” question also carries a responsibility, if no one else is saying what you are thinking, sit tall, square your shoulders, hold your head high and speak your truth – find your voice! When you this, you’ll know your purpose, will be for great good of your people and rooted in your creation story – everything is connected.

If not me, then who?.

If you are asked to do something or about something, ask yourself if you’re the right person to fulfil the request. If there is no one else, then the responsibility falls upon you.

Finally, believe and trust in yourself.

(this is the hardest teaching we all must walk) It’s scary walk on a new path, but that is often what a leader needs to do. Take for example, one of my current projects of first-ever Two-Spirit children’s book. What??? Who am I to write a children’s book??? What gives me the right is there is no Two-Spirit children’s book and there is a need for a Two-Spirit children’s book! 

Who (living or dead) would you most enjoy hearing speak at Creative Mornings? 

I would want to hear from voiceless and those pushed to the fringes of our society. At a recent national conference, I had the honor to work with and support a person struggling with a crystal meth addiction to share their truth – when this person was given the opportunity to show up in all their fullness – there was a not peep in the audience as they hung on every word. The medicine that was dispensed was everyone witnessed and honored the humanity of this individual. 

What did you learn from your most memorable creative failure?* 

I offer the three F’s of failure: 1) Figure out what happened, 2) Find a way or ways to not repeat this failure (therefore, a failure is not a failure, but a learning opportunity), and 3) forget the failure and dwell in the solution(s) and/or the lesson(s) learned. 

How does your life and career compare to what you envisioned for your future when you were a sixth grader? 

Oh my goodness, I could never imagine or dream of the life that I am living. When I was young, the two things I was most ashamed of was being an Indian: Wab Kinew notes that Indian always had an adjective: dirty Indian, drunk Indian or dumb Indian. And, me being a sissy boy and called many nasty words. After sobering up, my healing journey allowed me to pull those two things close and to own them and today are great strengths. I was called upon by President Obama was appointed to USA Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, where worked to provide advice and guidance to White House and Secretary of Health and Human Services. Why? Because I’m a sissy-boy Indian who does policy work! The overall lesson from my experience is it’s our secret that keep up sick. Things that we may think are our weaknesses may be our great strengths – all we have to do is make peace with them and call them home. Every day, I ask myself how did get to be so lucky and blessed to have the life that I have.

How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?

I work with and for the Two-Spirit community: locally, regionally, nationally and internationally for a better tomorrow for my Two-Spirit relatives, so they may not know or walk the journey that walked.

If I could open a door and go anywhere where would that be?

To a time when all my Two-Spirit relatives know honor, respect and dignity within their respective Nations and people, as they once had and enjoyed before the colonizer totally messed it up for us.

What keeps you awake at night?

Sugar and carbs… just joking, no really! Nothing really keeps me awake at night. I think one of the main reasons is because during my waking hours I acknowledge both past and current wrongs and then actively work for a better tomorrow – all the while knowing that I may never witness or experience what I am working for or towards, but I know that one day the seeds I plant will bear fruit.

We’re so thrilled to have Harlan Pruden talking on the theme of Creativity and Inclusive in April.

Harlan Pruden is a proud member of the Cree Nation, or nēhiyaw, in Cree. Harlan’s mother is from the Beaver Lake Reservation and father is from the Whitefish Lake Reservation, both located in northeastern Alberta – Treaty 6 territory. Harlan works with, and for, the Two-Spirit community locally, nationally and internationally.Currently, Harlan is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and an Educator at Chee Mamuk, an Indigenous public health program at the BC Center for Disease Control. Harlan is also the Managing Editor of the TwoSpiritJournal.com, an interactive multi-platform Two-Spirit media/news site, and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Vancouver Public Library. Harlan was just appointed as an Advisory Member for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health.Harlan also serves as a representative to the International Indigenous Peoples Working Group on HIV/AIDS. Before moving to Vancouver, Harlan was a co-founder and Director of the New York City’s NorthEast Two Spirit Society.In August 2014, Harlan was appointed by President Obama to the US Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and provided advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health & Human Services and the White House. (In December 2018, Harlan was (happily) fired from PACHA by Trump via Fedex.)

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