Laura Cerwinske is a writer, artist, and a teacher of transformational healing. She believes Creativity to be the Supreme Expression of Power. Her books on architecture, design, landscape, and the decorative arts have been published by Rizzoli International, Thames and Hudson, Bantam, Dell, Doubleday, Simon and Schuster, and others. In her book and online course, Radical Writing, as well as in her writing workshops and seminars, she teaches the transforming power of self expression. A student of metaphysics and the healing arts for over 35 years, she has learned meditation, hypnotherapy, and reiki (laying on of hands), Reichian, primal, and traditional psychotherapies, as well as shamanism and the Wise Woman tradition of Healing. She has been a devotee of Guru Maharaji (now known as Prem Rawat) for more than 35 years. She is also a student of Lukumi and a daughter of Oshun.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida.
Tell us your latest news?
I’ve been busy creating and posting my first videos and an e-comic book, Mr. Slick Comes to Town @http://www.scribd.com/doc/59261805/Mr-Slick-Comes-to-Town. I’m also at work on the final editing and illustrations of my novella Blood Envy.
When and why did you begin writing?
My mother is a reading teacher. Books were a constant in my life. My beloved high school English teacher Harry Warren was really the one who launched me into my writing life. (We had to write an essay a day for an entire month.)
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wanted to be an artist, a dancer, and a baseball player. Writing came naturally and I was somehow always able to support myself with it. If I’d been able to support myself as an artist, I would probably have made my living that way. Nevertheless, I incorporated my visual abilities with my writing throughout my career as an art director, photo editor, photo stylist, book packager, and now publisher. I’m also a painter and sculptor. Everything I create ends up in my writing, somehow, and vice versa. I actually started out as an art reviewer and for most of my career my work was expository. Fiction was like playtime.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was called Daisy the Decorated Dinosaur and I wrote it as one of my mother’s car-trip activities when we were on vacation one year.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Lush language and elegant construction.
How did you come up with the title?
Titles pop into my mind all the time. I put them on a list and sometimes just start writing in response to one, without even plot or intention. Other times I apply an already created title to some piece of writing. It all comes from the same place – the subconscious – so one way or another, there’s cohesion. The title for my e-comic book, Mr. Slick Comes to Town, grew out of the title character’s image – a Madison Avenue mannequin who personifies “a smooth operator.” The title for Blood Envy derives from a philosophy of evolution I’ve been contemplating for decades.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Mr. Slick represents “the trickster”, the cool-seeming guy who loves to stir things up and then get quickly out of Dodge. The message is “Love is the Answer” and always available to us in our dreams. Blood Envy’s message is that The Worship of Nature and of Beauty, Sensuality, Creativity, the Extravagant, the Voluptuous, and the Ridiculous is our salvation, the very way of life to which human beings must return.
How much of the book is realistic?
The book is an ensemble of stories, and stories within stories, that chronicles the search for soul and soulmates. Following in the prismatic traditions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Louise Erdrich, Orhan Pamuk, and Tom Robbins, it weaves the lives of its characters together in place, time, and surreality. Artists and seekers, cowboys and nuns, arch matriarchs and wanton travelers inhabit the book along with a young lion and a significant cast of dogs. Their intersections are cast against a backdrop of art, scripture, and a female mythology.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of the characters are purely fictional, others are living out episodes that, more or less, came from my own life or from my reinterpretations of other people’s experiences.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I love contemporary female fiction like that of Louise Erdrich and Muriel Barbery and Herta Muller. I also love the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s dense, detailed novels. I adore just about everything published by Europa Editions, including the beautiful stock they’re printed on and their Dutch bindings.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Collette, Louise Erdrich, or Nawal al-Sadaawi
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading the splendid new memoir ThE LAST RESORT: Taking the Mississippi Cure by my friend Norma Watkins. Talk about baring your soul in a ripping good read! She tells how she escaped the suffocating life of an upstanding wife and mother of four in the 1950s/60s South by running off with a Jewish civil rights lawyer. Sex, race, humor, and heart-wrenching writing.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Norma Watkins, who is publishing her first book, The Last Resort, Taking the Mississippi Cure, at age 75!
What are your current projects?
I make books and art The internet has given me the opportunity to combine the two in a way that was only fractionally possible in my previous career as a book packager for number major publishing houses. In this project I can combine my passions for manuscript illumination, art history, and self-discovery. The prospect of writing, illustrating, designing, and publishing my own work is joyfully enticing. The text is written. The book remains to be illustrated, designed, published both on line and in a special printed edition, and then heavily marketed. I believe BLOOD ENVY represents the past, present and future of publishing in one elegant swoop. I also teach an online course, RADICAL WRITING: 15-minutes-a-day to Uninhibited Self-Expression. I’ve just completed my first two videos for You Tube about the course: The Story @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUi8J19P9c4 and Uninhibited @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iF5i_XFVkJ8
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My 11th grade Honors English teacher Harry Warren, who plucked me from despondency and provided an encouraging ear. More than 40 years later, I still go to visit and prostrate at his feet.
Do you see writing as a career?
I’m still trying to figure out my career. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I’m currently developing the illustrational format. I want the book to feel almost like a scripture, but shockingly contemporary too.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’m sure it’s in the genes. Also, my father was a lifelong reader of The New Yorker magazine, and, even as a kid, I was always submerged in either the cartoons or the fiction. Now I read practically the entire issue each week cover to cover.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Blood Envy chronicles the ways in which many of its characters either succumb to the emotional vacuums into which they were born or forge uncharted paths to transcendence, often believing themselves lost along the way.
Here are some excerpts from a few different chapters:
“At the age of seventeen Sister Mary Dolores had a vision. In it, a Marlboro Man in a turquoise-colored, 1964, 3/4-ton Ford pickup beckons her to ride off with him and join the rodeo. Two days after the dream, a delivery of firewood arrived in a turquoise-colored, 3/4-ton Ford pickup driven by a smiling, chisled-chinned, blue-eyed white boy in a blue jean jacket and old Stetson hat. He called his truck Genuine Jade. By the time the wood was unloaded and the fire inside the convent lit, Mary Dolores was packed and ready to ride off with her man to a life of sawdust and sweat. By the time Genuine Jade reached the Black Hills, Mary Dolores had changed her name.” from Year of Millipedes
“The rattling of the truck always reached me long before its image at the pasture’s edge. Already, for an hour, I would have been listening in wait, seeking the sound of the motor, then the spit of gravel that would portend the truck’s emergence through a haze of dust. As if the truck itself could express our eagerness to reunite, Ruben would flash his headlights into the final daylight, and I, naked with the baby in my arms, would run the last stretch of road to greet him.” from Bed in a Meadow
“My mother once decorated our entire Connecticut house in pearl pink. I never noticed the color – or much about the house at all, for that matter – until one day, after football practice, when I came stomping through the door, expecting no one to be home. I smelled cigarette smoke; it hung in the air like a veil, milky pink. Sally didn’t smoke – at least never around the family, and certainly not in the house. Yet I was sure the cigarette I smelled was hers. Then and there I decided that that milky pink color would be our secret, our signet. The one thing that only I shared with Sally. So, the morning I woke up with the girl in my bed…. Well, from the moment she opened her eyes and I saw the look on her face, I knew she’d want a cigarette.” from Anticipation of Sky
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing is never a challenge. Making art is never a challenge. I follow my instincts, allow myself to be lead by the process, observe the doubts I have and the decisions I make, channel the sensory experiences the processes evoke, and stay with it to the end. Compared to life, this is a cake walk.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m intrigued by Anita Shreve’s novels because of their pure, straight trajectory. I could no more write from point A to point B in a work of fiction than write a novel with my toes.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, I do most of my promoting via the internet.
Who designed the covers?
I work together with several graphic artists and digital graphic designers.
The hardest part is not writing it. Like Nora Zeale Hurston said, “There is no agony like an untold story.”
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The stories in Blood Envy emerged as part of an autobiographical review. I combined incidents from my own life with observation, speculation, and fantasy. It was the most effective form of emotional insight-gathering I've ever experienced...and that's saying something. I created an online course of uninhibited self-expression called Radical Writing.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
1) Don’t be afraid of the internet. It is a miracle of evolution.
2) Read voraciously
3) Forget about spelling, punctuation, grammar, logic, or perceived “mistakes.” Just keep going.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Take my online course RADICAL WRITING: 15-minutes-a-day to Uninhibited Self-Expression. The daily exercise, the safe, anonymous community, the directed free-form process will give you immediate verbal fluidity and intimacy with your thoughts. It will eliminate your fears about writing.
Thank you Laura Cerwinske for doing and interview with us!
Please be sure to visit her site HERE