2021 Episodes

Telling Buried Stories in Film and Life -- Episode 4: Kevin Willmott

Kevin Willmott – where do we even begin? How about at the beginning: Kevin grew up in Junction City, Kansas, a place aptly named because it’s a junction of cultures and histories. Because of the nearby army base, Fort Riley, Junction City mosaicked brown, black, and indigenous peoples as well as families from around the world in a swirl of Kansas hospitality, although it was surrounded by largely white communities where families rooted back generations. He said Junction City was and is “the America that the fight is over now” as a multi-racial democracy.

That influenced Kevin mightily as well as the injustices he experienced and witnessed, prompting him to work as an organizer right out of college in Junction, helping the homeless while also forcing the integration of some long-standing segregated institutions. But theater and film were always some of his big loves, and after graduating from the NYU Tisch School fo the Arts, he found his groove as a screenwriter as well as as actor, director, producer, and professor at the University of Kansas. Thanks to that last gig and his love of Lawrence, he lives here, aka Center of the Universe (where I also live).

Some of of Kevin’s films include The Confederate State of America, a daring and disturbing parody on what if the south won the Civil War. He’s also written Ninth Street, an independent film starring Martin Sheen and Isaac Hayes, about his growing up in Junction City. His other films are pretty vast, but here’s a sampling: The Battle for Bunker Hill, The Only Good Indian (starting Wes Studi), William Allen White: What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Jayhawkers, Destination Planet Negro, and a bunch of films he collaborated on with Spike Lee, including Chi-Raq, Da 5 Bloods, and KKKlansman, which won him an Oscar and thrilled our community and all who know him.

Kevin is a good man, a great guy, a generous soul who lifts up other artists, writers, musicians and activists in hundreds of small, quiet acts. He’s a family man with in love with his wife, grown kids, and his first grandson. He’s also kind enough to sit down for this interview with me. More on Kevin in IMDB and the University of Kansas. (Photo with Spike Lee to the left)

Special thanks to Kelley Hunt for the use of her music from our co-written song, “The Road is a River,” and thanks to Dianna Burrup for the logo design. See more on this podcast at my website.

Please support my podcast by becoming a patron (for as little as $3/month), plus you'll get weekly care packages for a creative life, cool perks, a writing guide, and more. More here.

Please subscribe to my podcast by following me here. You can also find “Tell Me Your Truest Story” on Instagram and Facebook.

Changing Our Story of Anger -- Episode Three: Harriet Lerner

Changing Our Story of Anger -- Episode 3: Harriet Lerner

How can anger be used from a place of courage, a place of connection? What do we do with our anger -- whether it's personal or political or both -- and our stories about anger, including who's allowed to get angry, what we believe anger can and can't do, and why anger is so threatening? In this in-depth interview best-selling author Harriet Lerner, author of The Dance of Anger, we talk about anger as a tool for change, when and how anger can be a shield for something as well as its own emotion, and the dos and don'ts of how to work with our own and others' anger. 

Harriet Lerner, PhD is the author of over 10 best-selling books, including her most recent superb book, Why Won't You Apologize?, and she is one of our nation's most loved and respected relationship experts. Renowned for her work on the psychology of women and family relationships, she served as a staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic for more than two decades. She is a beloved speaker and writer who has changed the lives of many with her words and research.

Special thanks to Kelley Hunt for the use of her music from our co-written song, “The Road is a River,” and thanks to Dianna Burrup for the logo design. See more on this podcast at my website.

Please support my podcast by becoming a patron (for as little as $3/month), plus you'll get weekly care packages for a creative life, cool perks, a writing guide, and more. More here.

Please subscribe to my podcast by following me here. You can also find “Tell Me Your Truest Story” on Instagram and Facebook.

If You Don't Tell Your Story, Someone Else Will -- Episode Two: Joseph Bruchac and Lyn Ford

If You Don't Tell Your Story, Someone Else Will -- Episode 2: Joseph Bruchac & Lyn Ford

Both Joseph Bruchac and Lyn Ford, long-time storytellers, writers, and people of place, embody how essential it is to tell our own truest stories, and in doing so, invite all voices to the table, especially those historically silenced or ignored. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you,” Joe said, and Lyn echoed in their interviews with me.

Telling our truest stories – the stories that name and claim who we are – is about representation but also transformation, healing, and liberation. “Story is one of the best vehicle for recovery, regaining balance, and for understanding who you are and where you are,” Joe told me.

Lyn and Joe tell and live stories rooted in place. Lyn is a 4th generation Affrilachian storyteller, an African-American Appalachian woman who also has native American heritage. Joe, an Abenaki citizen and elder, lives in the same house where he was raised by his maternal grandparents in upstate New York. Reflecting on how home and heritage informs her work, Lyn says, “It’s the language of the people, the memories of the places, and the heart that still connects me to the region where I was born. All of that integrates into who I am and how I share myself with others.”

Joseph Bruchac, a poet and storyteller, explores his Abenaki ancestry and Native American storytelling traditions in his work, writing, and life. A long-time scholar, who earned his PhD in comparative literature from Union Institute, Joe is a beloved storyteller and a prolific author of more than 170 books for adults and children. His publications includeTell Me a Tale: A Book About Storytelling and Keepers of the Earth (co-authored with Michael Caduto). He’s performed as a storyteller and musician around the world and has garnered honors from the Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Founder of Greenfield Review Literary Center and Greenfield Review Press, he lives in Greenfield Center with his wife Nicola, both of them licensed wildlife rehabilitators who help out animals from bobcats to porcupines. 

Lyn Ford is a nationally recognized Affilachian storyteller, a teaching artist with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, and a Thurber House mentor. Her writing has been widely published in storytelling magazines, teachers’ enrichment books, anthologies, and collaborative projects. Her many books include Affrilachian Tales and Beyond the Briar Patch, and with Sherry Norfolk, she editedSupporting Diversity and Inclusion with Story andSpeak Peace. She performs and gives keynote presentations around the country, telling stories to adults and children that illuminate hard-won truths and magical understandings. She’s also an award-winning recording artist as well as a Laughter Yoga Teacher and breath mechanic. She describes herself additionally as “a happy partner-in-life, mama, grandmama, great-grandmama, and good cook!”

The World is Made of Story -- Episode One: David Abram & Stephanie Mills

The World is Made of Story -- Episode 2: David Abram & Stephanie Mills

Our first episode gets its title from something one of our guests, David Abram, says in his interview. I also knew from my first inklings of this podcast that the first episode needs to focus on where we are, our literal ground, the living earth, which endlessly guides and inspires me to find the real story of being alive. Thomas Berry, in his landmark book, The Dream of the Earth. writes,

For people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. ...The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of a present situation.

Thank heavens for visionaries such as Stephanie Mills and David Abram, who embody new stories for meeting our deepest crises and questions and understanding our world. “Evolution has engendered bat wings and Laurie Anderson," Stephanie says. We talk about what we can learn, are learning, and need to learn from where we live about how to live in greater balance with the earth, particularly in times of such upheaval and danger. We also dish about place-based wonders and where we find our greatest meaning and homecoming.

Stephanie Mills caught the public eye with her 1969 commencement address at Mills College before becoming an editor of Co-Evolution Quarterly and writing widely for ecological journals. After falling in love with a place by way of the first North American Bioregional Congress in 1984 – where I first met her – she moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Northwest Lower Michigan, where she lives in a small home, surrounded by books and trees. Her books include Whatever Happened to Ecology?, In Praise of Nature, In Service to the Wild: Restoring and Reinhabiting Damaged Land, and Epicurean Simplicity. Stephanie has been called by her alma mater “a visionary ecological activist and pioneering bioregionalist whose unswerving advocacy for the preservation of our shared planet and powerful message of personal responsibility teach us that a single voice can transform the world.”

David Abram is a cultural ecologist, geophilosopher, performance artist and magician, he is the author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. He’s widely recognized as a visionary presence, teacher, and writer. His work, according to the Alliance for Wild Ethics, which he co-directs, “engages the ecological depths of the imagination, exploring the ways in which sensory perception, poetics, and wonder inform the relation between the human body and the breathing earth.” He lives with his family in the foothills of the southern Rockies and travels the world to teach and speak. I first met him in 1988 at a bioregional congress held his (and my) favorite places, Squamish, British Columbia.