Interview about MY WORLD PROJECT

The Missing Slate, Interview with My World Project Founder Karen Hunt

For me, this is a way of life. It isn’t a “cause,” it isn’t a “movement.” I can’t put some spin on it. There aren’t any buzz words. It is how I choose to live, and I really can’t help it. It is so much a part of who I am.”

Honored to have this interview, by Constance A. Dunn, published in The Missing Slate, an international arts and literary magazine. The interview tells about My World Project and the backstory leading up to it. Here is a brief excerpt from the backstory…

“I went on a personal quest…I met a woman named Alma Woods, who was responsible for single-handedly getting the Watts Library built. And to illustrate the politics, they didn’t want to name the library after her, they wanted to name it after some big-wig politician and there was a huge outcry and they had no choice but to buckle under public pressure and name the library after her. She was a simple lady, lived in a simple house in Watts and I would go and visit her and “sit at her feet,” as it were, she was a real guru, she taught me so much! She would take me around her neighborhood and I saw Watts through her eyes. If there were kids loitering outside the liquor store she would reprimand them and they would hang their heads in guilt and listen to her. She was respected. She was fearless. I grew to love her. She encouraged me to follow my heart and not be afraid of where it led me. It was after that that I went into Central Juvenile Hall and talked to the principal, Dr. Arthur McCoy, an older version of the nutty professor and the most amazing human being, and he let me start teaching there, along with the amazing teacher in the girls’ school, Cheryl Neely.

Like a beautiful, magical web, one person has led to another in my life. Not big celebrities, or what you would call “movers and shakers,” but the salt of the earth people. The ones who really have the power because they don’t care about it. They are the ones who truly balance the good against the evil. The ones we never hear about. I know I use the word amazing a lot, but really, there is no better word for all these people.

SUCRE, THE WHITE CITY OR, CIUDAD BLANCA

I have been busy lately! I have been in Sucre, Bolivia since April 7th and will be here until June 7th. What an amazing experience. This is a gem of a tiny city, all painted white. The sky is piercingly blue. The contrast is breath-taking. I was told that long ago a plague came to the city and they started painting the buildings white, I am not sure why, perhaps to indicate which house had the plague or which house didn’t. The habit stayed and eventually, all the buildings were painted white. And so they still are, today, making this city unique and memorable.

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I came here to write and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working on Cave of Secrets, the third book in the Night Angels Chronicles series. This place has truly inspired my writing. I have become obsessed with the churches. The heavy austerity, the gold on the alters, the light pouring down from high windows. I can never fully reconcile the contrast between the beauty of these monuments, built to display the power of God, with the poverty of the people upon whose bent backs these monuments were built. It is the same around the world, religion is used by the powerful as a form of control, through fear, of the masses. Yet, you also see how these awe-inspiring buildings bring comfort to those who enter them to pray. A young woman, an old man, I have seen so many people sitting in silence, staring up at a carving of a saint, and you know they have a heavy heart about  something and have faith that there is an answer and that these lifeless images hold that answer.

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I am here long enough to get a real feel for these churches and how religion is so integrated into every aspect of life. The churches dominate the city, they are the landmarks you look for when you are walking. If the door is open and you go inside, there is always something happening, musicians practicing for a performance, ladies placing flowers in front of statues, children laughing and playing, preparing for something, who knows what. The schools all seem to be associated with the churches and I have been told that children are brought here from the outlying villages. Since there are so many churches at the center of Sucre, children are everywhere. You hear them playing, practicing in bands, and at lunch break and at the end of the day, they spill out onto the streets in hordes, from the tiniest tots to college age. I really have never seen the center of a city so filled with children.

As a visitor, you cannot escape the overwhelming spirit and presence of the churches. Mostly, the doors are closed and locked, as are the gates in front of the churches. If you are a tourist, you can pay to visit certain ones of the convents or the churches, during visiting hours. At San Filipe Neri, my favorite church, you can climb up to the roof and enjoy a view of the city and the mountains. If you go at sunset the beauty is astounding.

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Remembering back to my time in the Sahara Desert, in Morocco, during the month of December, 2015, it would be hard to find two more contrasting places than Sucre and village Tissardmine. In the desert, I was finishing up Book of Angels, while in Sucre, I am finishing up Cave of Secrets. I signed the contract for Book of Angels while in Sucre. Both places inspired my writing but in such different ways–going from the stark desert, endless, undulating waves of sand and rock, to the up and down streets of Sucre and the ornate colonial buildings. Here, the altitude takes a bit of getting used to, as it is over 8000 feet. In the Sahara Desert, the wind and flies, the freezing nights and often hot days, the heavy shadows and blinding light, everything spoke of extremes. In Sucre, the extremes are in the altitude, the brilliance of the white against the blue sky, the heavy dominance of colonialism, almost as if old spirits still haunt the streets at night.

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At least a few times a week I face the challenge of walking up the steep cobbled path to reach La Recoleta, a big plaza with, yes, another church  and convent, established by a Franciscan order in around 1601. There is a garden café up here and I like to sit outside and enjoy the warm sun. Relaxation takes over, after hours of sitting at a computer, writing. In fact, I think I will go up there after I finish this! From there, you can look down on the sparkling jewel of a  city, with the Andes Mountains a purple shadow in the distance.

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Although I have been here for five weeks already, I still huff and puff my way up that hill, never getting enough oxygen. Once I reach the top, the feeling of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile. Fortunately, it isn’t a long climb, but the last block is extremely steep. Again, the plaza is often filled with children playing soccer, if they are on break from the school attached to the church. This church has a beautifully serene monastery with a one thousand year-old cedar tree. The tree stands outside the convent wall, somewhat forlorn and forgotten, looking down on the city below. I was shown it by a young girl who guided me through the various parts of the convent open to the public, all the while, listening to some television show on her phone. It was an odd juxtaposition of the past and the present.

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I am looking forward to being here on May 25th, Independence Day, which happened in 1809. I was wondering why early every morning I was awakened by bands playing the type of music you associate with military functions and political events. Well, they are practicing for Independence Day. Although, every day seems to be an excuse for some kind of celebration. The main square, aptly named Plaza 25 de Mayo, is always alive with music and parades.

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I still have four more weeks here and it is going by way too fast. This is my first visit to South America and I would definitely like to return. I knew nothing of Bolivia or Sucre when I came. At the place I am staying, Casa Verde, I have encountered only two Americans. Which is one of the reasons for its appeal, I wanted to completely escape from everything that was familiar to me. And I am happy I made this choice. It is a renewing experience.

I am thankful to have had the opportunity to come to this magical place. Of course, every place that I visited has been magical. I can’t wait to see where I will end up next.

MY WORLD PROJECT IN THE SAHARA

I spent almost the entire month of December in a village called Tissardmine, in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. My mission was to complete the final draft of ‘Book of Angels,’ #2 in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, and work on the MY WORLD PROJECT with kids in the village. Both endeavors were a great success. Most importantly, the experience of working with these kids enriched my life in ways that cannot be measured in words on this page. Instead of focusing simply on myself and what I could accomplish through my writing, I was giving children who otherwise had been completely isolated an opportunity to write their words and know that what mattered the most to them–peace and the environment–would be shared across the globe.

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The Sahara is an inspiring place in which to create–for one thing, internet is illusive so you really are completely disconnected and this affords a clear mind and a unique perspective, especially when weeks are spent like this, not simply days.

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Kids at the school come from three different villages. They travel up to six miles one way, six days a week, to reach the one-room building that sits on a hill overlooking the village. Lunch is provided by the school, it is the same every day, and everyone enjoys it and no one says, hey, how about something different for once.

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When I explained to the two teachers, Habib and Hafid, what I hoped to do, they were completely onboard and welcomed me warmly. They were two of the most dedicated and caring teachers I have ever met.

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The kids were happy, polite and a joy to be around. With the help of a wonderful young woman artist from Canada named Julie who spoke fluent French (mine was quite rusty), I was able to share the art from the kids we had worked with on the Hoppa Reservation in Northern California and Amazonian Ecuador.

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Above Moretecocha kids in Amazonian Ecuador. They most loved nature, but were worried that their world was being destroyed by the oil companies. And below, the art of the Hoopa kids. They, also loved their natural world. But every single child, when asked about challenges, responded with drugs, alcohol and violence.

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In contrast, the kids in Tissardmine couldn’t really think of anything negative about their world. They drew positive pictures and shared the words that meant the most to them. Overall, the most popular word was Salam…Peace.

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Together, we created a large painting, which I will be sharing with the Hoopa children at the end of March.

My World Project Key of Mystery

In the late afternoons, I would bring out some drums and the children would run out of their homes to greet me. We would climb to the top of a dune and play the drums and draw until sunset. It is bitterly cold in the desert once the sun goes down and there is no heating and no electricity. The village is quickly quiet. The children told me that they dream of finding meteorites and dinosaur bones. There are many such fossils, but the meteorites are valuable. Every child in every country has a dream. It would be nice if, as they grew older, the dreams stayed pure and sweet and did not become nightmares.

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Next stop, after revisiting the Hoopa, will be Syrian refugee children in Slovenia. And children in schools in Los Angeles. What are their dreams? What are their fears? In Tissardmine, and the other Saharan villages, a gunman coming in and shooting up the school is an unknown. Drugs, gangs, these do not exist. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other challenges. But perhaps we can learn from our children across the globe, that, really, we are all the same. We all have dreams that we do not want to turn into nightmares. Special thanks to Leia Marasovich, Jackie Lowe, Christina West and Julie Catherine for their dedication in conducting the MY WOLD PROJECT.

In closing, here is the beautiful letter to the world from Habib and Hafid:

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AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

TWELVE OF MY FAVORITE WRITING LOCATIONS

Although I live a simple life, and in fact, as a single mother, I have often struggled to make ends meet, somehow, through sheer determination and for the love of it, I have managed to write in some of the most astounding places. The views from my windows and terraces have inspired my works. How insipid and flat would be the world of the Night Angels if I had not climbed the dunes of Merzouga or walked the streets of Istanbul?  Here are twelve of my favorites, so far…

1. LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA

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This lake, that I came to as a child, just ten years old, and then as a teenager, vowing that I would come back and live here, and low and behold, I did as an adult. My daughter is half Slovene. I lived here when it was part of communist Yugoslavia and I still consider it my second home and visit often. I have many dear friends here and it is a place I always feel welcome. What a treasure.

 

2. FEZ, MOROCCO

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This most breathtaking view of Fez has a special place in my heart. After one month in the Sahara Desert without hot water, or even a real shower ever, or proper heating (don’t get me started), my friend Lux and I escaped on the night bus to Fez, where we found the most fabulous hotel in the Medina and climbed our way to the top to sit and drink martinis and be inspired, her in her art and me in my writing.

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What’s not to love about writing in a room like this, in the heart of the Medina?

3. LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND

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This is Ouchy, near Lausanne, Switzerland, on Lake Geneva. The little pink building towards the left is where I stayed with my daughter and my niece. I was working on my childhood memoir, Into the World, and had traveled all this way to visit the 17th century castle I had lived in as a child; chateau d’Echendens, on a hill above the city. In the mornings I ran along the lake side and the day we went to visit the castle…well, it was as if I was back there again as a child, running through the streets of the village after school, being chased by the children, who wanted to fight me and my sister, because they were convinced we came from the land of “Zorro,” since it was the only American TV show, besides Perdue dans la Space (Lost in Space). My sister and I would climb over the castle wall and peer back and taunt them.

4. DJERASSI ARTISTS RETREAT, BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA, USA

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This is the view from my time at Djerassi in Northern California, where I spent one week living in a pod-like room with this amazing view, and working on Key of Mystery, book I in the Night Angels Chronicles.

5. ISTANBUL, TURKEY

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And I suppose you could say my favorite place ever, the penthouse terrace on the steep little street, just off Istiklal Cadessi, in Beyuglu, Istanbul. From here, I could watch the ships come and go on the Bosporus, the knife that slices through the East and the West, the inspiration for Into the World and the Night Angels Chronicles.

6. MARTHA’S VINEYARD, UNITED STATES

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I guess they are all favorite spots. This is Martha’s Vineyard, where I have been three times as a writer’s resident at Noepe. I think I will keep returning. There is something magical about this island in October when all the tourists are gone, the shops close for the winter and it is just the ghosts of the past.

7. LAKE ARENAL, COSTA RICA

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Where I spent one month of bliss, in Costa Rica, writing every day. First, in a house overlooking Lake Arenal, then at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, right beneath the active volcano, and last, on the coast, the sunsets held inside of me forever.

8. SAHARA DESERT, MOROCCO

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Here is the view from my monkish room in the Sahara Desert, in Morocco, where I spent one month writing. It was not an easy time. But the magic is apparent. Birds were my constant companion, flying in and out of the open window.

9. SEDONA AND PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA

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Sedona and Phoenix, where I spend quite a lot of time, visiting my son and his partner, and writing, writing! These are both views from my rooms where I write.

10. OJAI, CALIFORNIA, USA

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Closest to home, and what feels most  like home, is Ojai. I go here on many weekends just to get away and write and see a peaceful perspective. The horse always says hello to me.

11. TYRONE GUTHRIE CENTRE, IRELAND

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Here, the most brooding and mystical place, where I must return, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in Ireland. This was my view from my bedroom window. This was and is pure magic.

12. HAMBIDGE CENTER, GEORGIA, USA

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And here, the little cabin I called my own while a resident at the Hambidge Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. My very own cabin, where I was free to dream and create.

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Most appropriate to end with the street that I walked up and down, to and from my penthouse flat in Istanbul. I would return there in a second. I think Istanbul, so far, is my favorite city, and my most city to write. I would say Ireland, so far, is my most inspiring countryside.

I say, SO FAR, because who knows what my favorite will be tomorrow?

Adventures in Writing

Guest post Bitten, Shifted…the not so Normal

buy Key of Mystery on Amazon

Check out my guest post about some of my traveling adventures while writing Key of Mystery.

Such as, the fantastical lake view from my window at Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, where I was lucky enough to be invited as a Fellow to work on my novel.

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DOORS AT THE END OF THE WORLD

This is my last day of a thirty-four day trip to Morocco, twenty-five days of which were spent in the Sahara Desert. I’m now back where I started, in Marrakech, in the Riad Dar El Aila, and it feels a bit like coming home. Hello, you’re back! they greet me, as if I have survived some incredible undertaking. And, yes, I have been through the fire and come out a wiser and more enriched person for it. That’s how life is, a series of adventures that, when looked back upon, grow into the essence of who we are continually becoming.

While in Fez, a couple days ago, my friend Lux (who survived the desert experience with me, more on that later),  and I made sure to walk through Bab Boushloud, the “Blue Gate.” This was where I walked as a ten year old, filled with wonder at this mystical city, wandering the Medina with my sister, looking for magic bottles with genies in them. All part of my childhood memoir, INTO THE WORLD.

Lux and I went to Volubilis, the Roman outpost that must have seemed to those stationed there to be at the end of the world. A rough place where a person might be forgotten in disgrace or be determined to rise up and use it as a stepping-stone to something better. Sort of like people who stop off in Las Vegas to work, their goal being to get to Los Angeles, and somehow, they never make it out of the desert.

I found it to be a place of majestic nostalgia. Everywhere, there were doors and, depending on how you perceive them, they could be leading to another reality or to nowhere. Doors at the end of the world…and the beginning of another.

Dreams of Marrakech

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So happy to be here in this city of magic. Staying at the  awesome Riad Dar El Aila. The door is about half my height but then you step into the airy courtyard.

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And as I am obsessed with doors here are a few…

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And this one in particular, I’ve never seen a door to a school quite like this before.

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Tomorrow morning I wind my way through the streets  to the bus station and eleven hours later will find myself in the desert for the next month. More on that later…

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Each path has its own story.

ISLANDS & LAKES & THE SKY IN-BETWEEN Part I

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The first two weeks of October at Noepe Center on Martha’s Vineyard, working on my Night Angels series, and what better place to create a sense of intimacy in writing. A perfect little world, detached from all the rest, no car, not even a Starbucks (hurray). Only sea and sky and wind-swept beaches, delicate forests that open onto ponds where swans glide, charming streets that turn magical and misty at night…all reasons for pulling out my computer in my favorite café, Espresso Love, and finding inspiration.

This is my third Noepe residency. I always return this time of year…. Pumpkin season at Morning Glory Farm. I wish I could take this natural farm with me everywhere I go!

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And all of this, including the historical Point Way Inn, inhabited during the autumn months by a few writers of all different disciplines, come to find their inspiration just like me. Even daring to drink from a bottle of wine called Writers Block. Yes, it was the mischief-maker, Renee Johnson, who brought that wine.

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Until next time…

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What more could a writer want? Maybe a trip to Lake Arenal in Costa Rica…my next stop!!!