I thought this may be of interest to some of the MTA community. I was recently a guest on Living the Writing Life podcast. We discussed the role of mindfulness in artistic creation and the connection between art and nature. May something I’ve shared resonate. Thank you to Nancy of Living the Writing Life Podcast! – Camilla
Hello MTA community! This is a quick post to let you know that I will be on vacation from Meeting the Authors from July 26th through August 9th.
I will most likely be on vacation from my personal blog, social media, and email during this time, too. No interviews, or other posts, will publish during this time. If you contact me during this time, please keep this in mind. Read more about the vacation time by going here …
With the current situation we will not be traveling anywhere, but I hope to take advantage of this amazing place we call home, to read, read, read, and just take some time to not feel like I need to post something, or feel like I need to engage with others.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Ever read a sentence in a book (or any writing) that reaches into your heart, gently opening a place where longing and sadness stay in hiding, something you’ve forgotten is even there (or pretend isn’t there), until you read just the right words, in just the right moment?
This sentence did that to me (for me?) yesterday. “I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.” Reading this sentence caused my eyes to sweat.
I absolutely loved this book, devoured it even. I’d had it on my list for over 2 years, as part of a list of books to read before suggesting them to Thomas and Lillian. I read it in two days, finding it hard to set aside. Beautiful, powerful book. – Camilla
As founder and host of this site, I wanted to share with you my personal thoughts on current events. I posted this on my personal website on Saturday, June 13, 2020.
(Photo by Jumana Dakkur from Pexels)
The fear of speaking my voice sits lodged in my throat. Yet, I can do this. It is nothing compared to the years of suffering my brothers and sisters have endured.
I can no longer remain silent about matters that offend my heart and soul. I have been quiet about current events as I begin to educate myself. I am 50 years old. I have been quiet for far too long. I know that no matter what I say in this writing, something will not be said in the best way, or the wrong words will be used. However, I cannot let that delay my speaking up.
I have been walking into my own discomfort for the past 15 years. I’m prepared to walk into the discomfort of learning about systemic racism and I’ve been doing it for a week, and will continue doing it until I feel I’ve educated myself fully, spoken, and continue to live from a different place with this knowledge. I love my fellow humans and I will do this for them, for myself, and for the positive advancement of the human race. This is an act of love. For me, love is not just a feeling one has for another. Love is an action. How do we expect change to happen unless we address it within ourselves first and foremost?
I support Black Lives Matter. I support BIPOC. I support the lifting of oppression. I support justice and equality for communities of color. I support the white population waking up to and educating ourselves, and then living from a different space. Once we educate ourselves there is no way we could continue to live from the same space we have been. I will not stick my head in the sand and pretend this does not exist. I will not bypass this portion of my DNA that needs to be opened, drained, and healed. As a dear friend recently stated, “this isn’t some fake assed thing that someone made up.” To quote her again, “It has some very real roots in it that needs to be addressed by every person.”
” ……. Resmaa Menakem is a teacher and visionary in this city, though I only became aware of his groundbreaking work a few months ago. Just before the pandemic sent us into lockdown, I sat across from him in our studio on Loring Park. He watched me as closely as he listened to my words. He caught me bracing at the term “white supremacy,” and taught me that noticing such bracing is exactly where I have to begin to live differently. He’s drawing on knowledge we’re just now gaining about systems and processes in our bodies that we’re only now learning to see: vagus nerve, psoas muscle, trauma, epigenetics. He draws a stunning connection between generations of trauma that white bodies inflicted on each other in the centuries we call the Dark Ages and the generations of horrific trauma inflicted on black bodies in the “new world” of America — which, as Langston Hughes wrote, “never was America to me.” We are all literally carrying – breathing, reliving, and so repeating — much that didn’t happen to us personally. It’s one way to finally grasp why talking about race, and “teaching our brains to think better” about race, has fallen brutally, tragically short: “The vital force behind white supremacy,” Resmaa Menakem writes in his extraordinary book My Grandmother’s Hands, “is in our nervous systems ….. ”
The work I have done over the past 15 years has been for my own self-gain, addressing my own mental and emotional health. The purpose of this current work is to help heal and restore dignity to BIPOC. I believe that every human being deserves dignity, freedom, and equality. I desire wholeness for myself and the world. This is a commitment to my personal and spiritual values. I am doing this because it’s the right thing to do. I know no one is going to congratulate me, or celebrate me. In fact, I fully expect it will turn some away. This will bring sadness, as I do not like controversy or confrontation. I’m sure some will choose to unfollow, unfriend, or ghost me. However, it is more important that I be in integrity with my values, my soul, my heart.
I commit to:
Continue to educate myself, expunging what is in my subconscious that I’m not aware of
Continue to research every candidate running for any position. If I come across any information which makes it clear the candidate does not align with the values stated above; they do not get my vote. (I did this in the election this past Tuesday, finding at least three candidates that were a NO due to this or for standing against the LGBTQ community.)
Continue to vote in every election. See above.
I will begin to support non-profit and community organizations that stand for justice and equity
Pay attention to other ways in which I can help
Here are a list of resources that I am making my way through. I have not looked through most of these. I am making my way through them and will come back and note when I’ve watched, read, or listened to a resource: please follow the link below to read further …
Born Survivors – Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden
Another true story written by Wendy Holden, who was interviewed on MTA in May 2019. The story of three young mothers who were pregnant when imprisoned by the Nazis. An unbelievable fight for survival by three strong and brave women. A must read! – Camilla
Follow this link to read a recent guest post/interview with Wendy on our Friday with Friends series …
**Throwback to 2016** – From the time Thomas and Lillian were born I read to them nightly before going to bed; leading to some time in 2017 when we all decided to discontinue doing so. Their tastes in what interested each of them had solidified by this point. We all continue to be heavy readers, reading daily.
Beautifully illustrated story about a time of prophecy, magic and bravery. Great illustrations too. We really enjoyed this one! – Camilla
Today we travel to Reno, Nevada, USA to chat with Camilla Downs (yep, that’s me) about how a Swedish actress, going for walks, chromosome deletions, tiny house living, a construction company, being a paralegal, nature photography, Scooby Doo, and tenacity come together to form the ingredients for the alchemy of Camilla’s life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey! I’m Camilla Downs (pronounced like Pamela, but with a “C”). I was named after Camilla Sparv, a Swedish actress in the 1960’s and 70’s. I’ve been told that I’m the great great grand-daughter of a full blooded Chickasaw Indian and Irish immigrants (haven’t researched this yet, it’s on my to do list for this year).
I have lived in Reno, Nevada, USA for the past 14 years, moving here from the Seattle, Washington area in 2006. I spent my first 18 years in Jackson, Mississippi and Houma, Louisiana.
I love walking. I am out for walks anywhere from three to six days a week. Nature is partly the inspiration for my writings and poetry. The other part is a desire to process my life experiences; to give them an outlet through writing.
Writing in this way allows me to feel and release experiences and to receive comfort and answers. I also write narratives of my life experiences and how I’ve processed the experiences; sharing these on my blog and in my books.
I have been single parenting fourteen year old Thomas and eighteen year old Lillian since Thomas was 1 year old. Lillian has a chromosome deletion simply called 18p-. This means she is missing the short arm of chromosome #18.
My kids and I call ourselves Team TLC to correspond with the first letters of each of our names. During 2015-2019 we were tiny home dwellers, living in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 810 square foot apartment. That was one heck of an adventure!
In addition, we are an unschooling family. Thomas and Lillian focus on what interests each of them and learn about that topic. I act as a facilitator and provide assistance when asked or needed. Lillian is a proud graduate of 2019.
I am inspired by this place I chose as home in 2006. When he was seven years old Thomas summed it up with one beautifully inspired comment ….
“It’s like we are at an art show and nature keeps changing the art for us.”
In which genre do you write?
So far, my genre writing of choice has been memoir, with this latest book being a free-verse poetry memoir. However, I feel a fiction, maybe a creative nonfiction, bubbling and brewing along with more books to follow.
How many published books do you have?
I have 4 published books. Two are authored by me and the other two are with my children.
Words of Alchemy – Published December 2019 Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories by Lillian Darnell with Camilla Downs – Published January 2018 Biggest Little Photographer by Thomas Darnell with Camilla Downs – Published October 2016 D iz for Different – One Woman’s Journey to Acceptance – Published February 2012
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading four books. I read different books during different times of the day, also depending on my mood.
Anywhere That Is Wild – John Muir’s First Walk to Yosemite, Edited by Peter & Donna Thomas What We Talk About When We Talk About Books by Leah Price The World of Serendipity by Marcus Bach Beyond the Known – How Exploration Created the Modern World and Will Take Us to the Stars by Andrew Rader
List 7 interesting facts about yourself.
We haven’t had a television since 2008, and do not miss it.
I have not used a microwave, for heating or cooking food, since about that same time, and have not missed it. However, I do use the timer and I store food inside it to keep it warm.
I’m headed into my second year of being a vegan and fourth year as a vegetarian.
I am certified in Reiki.
I was a paralegal for 10 years before I had children.
I swear a lot, I mean loads.
I’ve been a grocery checker, a bookkeeper, a receptionist, a paralegal, CEO of a construction company, social media consultant, substitute teacher, route delivery driver, pet and elderly person sitter, and an author.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
I didn’t set out to write poetry, an accidental poet, perhaps? I began an incredibly deep and profound healing journey after my divorce. A major part of the healing was going for walks, lots and lots of walks, allowing nature to help me in healing. When in nature, poetic words would simply bubble to the surface of my thoughts. That was the original inspiration. Following this, I began to receive intuitive nudges to take photographs while on these walks.
After a walk, I would scroll through the nature photographs, choosing one to post on social media. As I began to type a comment to accompany the photo, poetic words spilled from my heart and mind, through my fingers, landing on the screen. This began to happen more often with the poems becoming more in depth. Eventually the poems began to flow simply from events I was in the midst of experiencing.
I thought my next book was going to be a memoir or creative nonfiction, detailing the years from 2012-2019. It turned out to be something like that, just not what I was originally thinking. Every time I sat to work on the next book, my thoughts would turn to the poems I had written over the previous six years. I finally listened to that knowing and began organizing the poems; which led to Words of Alchemy being published on December 2019.
Is there something special you do with your book before sending it to a reader?
I personalize each book with a hand written message, at times including a special message within the book. It’s always a little different. Sometimes it’s a handwritten message on a small card, others it’s a micro short poem or message created from the words of a book destined for the trash.
In addition to that, I offer readings from the book via telephone. I’m happy to do this one on one or on speakerphone to a book club (or in person if you are in the Reno/Tahoe/Sparks surrounding area). This is done at no charge and I’m happy to have discussions after the reading. If interested, go here to reserve a slot … https://camilladowns.youcanbook.me/
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I go for walks, take nature photographs, read, meditate, do the grocery shopping (Ha!), cook for the three of us, have a solo dance party, update The Team TLC website, post on my personal website, post author interviews on this website, and keep track of and complete paperwork having to do with my special needs daughter, Lillian.
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
The absolute most enjoyable aspect of writing is the feedback from those who are touched, inspired, and moved by the words that flow through my fingertips.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done to help create a scene?
This has to do with the nature photographs I take … I have been known, and seen by onlookers, to lay flat on the freezing cold ground (or burning hot ground) to get at the perfect angle for a photo. I’ve contorted my body in all manner of ways, stood in precarious places … just so I could get the perfect photo. All of this fueled by my intuition. Many times I’m in the midst of a walk, and get the urge to stop, look up, look down, look sideways and know I’m supposed to take a photo. These photos are what inspired the early poetry.
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?
Yes, I do. When I was a young girl I kept a diary, and still have those early diaries. When I reached Jr High and High School, and throughout my early adult years, I discontinued this practice, picking it up again when I separated and then divorced in 2006.
Writing holds my heart and guides me to confront the unlovely and harsh thoughts that litter my mind at times. Yet, also to fully experience the joyful and peaceful moments. Writing gave me solutions and direction for decisions I was faced with making. Many of the poems in Words of Alchemy came forth in journal writing. I feel writing is therapeutic and I suggest everyone write, even if they have no desire to be an author.
What do you miss about being a kid?
I experienced a pretty rough child hood in my home life, and always felt like an outcast in school, so … I certainly don’t miss that. However, I do miss both of my grandmothers, Estelle Mann and Elnor Downs. Their essence is within me and I call upon it, and them, often.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Definitely the old school Scooby Doo, having adventures in the Mystery Machine! I would choose to be a new member of the gang, a cool cat! I’d be able to fit into all the places the rest of the gang can’t fit and I’d have a smashing sense of humor!
What were the last three movies you watched?
The Aeronauts – Based on the true events in 1862 of badass balloon pilot Amelia Wren teaming up with meteorologist James Glaisher to advance knowledge of the weather, while flying higher than anyone in history.
The Farewell – Beautifully warm true story of cultural differences when a family member is diagnosed with a fatal illness.
Blinded by the Light – A heartwarming true story set to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s songs.
A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?
Excuse me, madam. I’m sure you may not remember me. We were childhood friends in middle school. It’s been a lengthy journey finding you and making my way here. I wonder if you would like to have lunch with me. I have never forgotten you and would like the two of us to catch up with one another.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Laser focused attention to detail
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on getting the word out about Words of Alchemy, having my hands quite full with paperwork now that my special needs daughter has turned 18. If any book bloggers, or authors who blog about other authors and their books, are reading this, would you be interested in hosting me on your blog?
Tell us about your most recent book.
The writings in Words of Alchemy are a testament to how walks, nature, writing, and allowing myself to feel and process buried emotions and trauma alchemized my life experiences.
It’s been a hoot interviewing myself! I hope everyone enjoyed the show! HA! –Camilla
The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love … in one beautiful book.
In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.
During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.
Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.
Praise for Words of Alchemy
“Words of Alchemy, a heartfelt new collection by Camilla Downs, lives up to its namesake in numerous ways. Downs spans the broad range of nature, healing, love, and parenting, while making sure we have a little fun along the way. And the bridge she creates from the mindfulness of how we see the world at large to the poetry of everyday life is certainly worth a stroll or two across its borders.” – Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Award-winning author of Painted Oxen
“This poetry collection offers contemplative words, soothing thoughts and peace to the reader.” – Sue Bentley, Bestselling author of Second Skin
“Camilla Downs shares truth, vulnerability and wisdom in her Words of Alchemy collection, inviting readers to be inspired, contemplate and dive into her world of self-awareness and growth.” – G. Brian Benson – Award-winning author, actor and spoken word artist
“These poems take you on a calm and loving walk through the verses of the author’s thoughts. Alchemy is a perfect word for the title as Camilla Downs understands nature; connecting with its magical, medicinal qualities and beauty which she conveys throughout her poetry.” – Ailsa Craig, Author of The Sand Between My Toes
“Words of Alchemy is a chronicle of hope. These poems are an encouragement, especially when we are feeling at our lowest, to keep seeking the light that is our way forward, and focus on the real. This collection is a walk through the positive nature of life. Camilla Downs is to be commended.” – Frank Prem, Author of free-verse memoir Small Town Kid
If you’re in the U.S. and would like a personalised, signed book go to this link- free shipping! (I will ship internationally, if the reader would like to pay the international shipping fee): https://camilladowns.com/books/words-of-alchemy/
Camilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of MeetingtheAuthors.com and lives in Northern Nevada, USA with her two kids.
I’m late with posting this. However, I’ll be taking the month of December and beginning of January off from posting author interviews. Since the website launched in May 2019, we’ve shared two to four interviews per week.
2020 will see many more author interviews, along with the addition of book blogger interviews. I’m quite excited about adding this new feature of interviewing book bloggers.
Stay tuned for an announcement as to when the contact form opens for book bloggers and authors to submit for interviewing.
Until then, I’ll be busy launching and marketing my latest book, ‘Words of Alchemy’. This beautiful book has just been published, with the official launch happening in mid January 2020. Here are a few fun photos of myself and the proof book.
Please let me know if you would like to help spread the word about the book or if you are aware of any bloggers who would like to host a guest post, interview, excerpt, or has time to review the book. Go here to learn more about the book …