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Hi everyone! As part of The Breathing Ghosts Series Blog’s open call for interviews, stories, writing and artwork, I’m deligthed to bring you this interview with the uber-talented Veronika Sophia Robinson. Veronika is a novelist, author, astrologer and the editor of Starflower Living magazine. Her recent work, Cycle to the Moon, was featured as part of the October Feminism in London conference. So, without further ado…
1. Hi Veronika, and welcome to The Breathing Ghosts Series blog! For those not familiar with your writing, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
Thank you. I’m an Aussie transplanted to rural Cumbria where I live with my husband (a singer and voice coach) and 16-year-old daughter (who is already a novelist!). Our 18-year-old daughter recently left home to study music at Bangor University.
I live a handcrafted life, and feel blessed to have the best job in the world.
A lot of my books have a parenting (mothering) theme as I was editor of The Mother magazine (a holistic parenting publication) for 12 years. The books wrote themselves as a natural extension of my day job.
The topics cover ecstatic birth, homeschooling, breastfeeding, nurturing the family, baby names inspired by nature, how to officiate a Blessingway ceremony, a wholefood recipe book, and healing the adrenal glands naturally. I am now focussing on writing novels, too, which have strong themes around womanhood, spirituality, sexuality and transformation. Two novels are already published (Mosaic and Bluey’s Café), and I’m currently writing two novels, and also have two more recipe books on the go, as well as a couple more mothering books. I never get bored (except this week while doing my annual accounts!). I have more ideas than hours in the day. http://www.veronikarobinson.com
2. Your work arguably focuses on ideas surrounding womanhood, spirituality, nature and childbearing. Why did you choose to explore such topics?
I grew up in the home of a mother who was strong, independent, deeply spiritual, and gave birth to her last three children at home, unassisted. We didn’t go to the doctor, but were treated naturally through herbs and colour healing. My father worked overseas for the majority of my childhood, and I watched my mother not only raise eight children virtually single-handedly, but she also managed a large property with seventy horses. My mother was (and still is) one of the most creative women I know. She’s deeply inspiring, so it’s only natural that those early influences are infused into what I write about whether that’s non-fiction or fiction.
Being raised on 700 acres in rural Australia shaped me in ways that still impact me today. I recognise nature as my greatest teacher and ultimate healing balm. It is easy, in this modern world, to become disconnected from our allies of seasons, elements and planets. I hope through my writing (and my work as an astrologer) that I can remind women of how to ground themselves in nature and embrace their spirituality as a way of self nurturing.
3. Your latest work, Cycle To The Moon, celebrates the menstrual stages of a woman’s life. Menstruation and the menopause are often seen as taboo subjects within today’s society- why do you think that is?
Largely, menstruation and menopause are misunderstood. When we don’t understand something it becomes a taboo. That’s the way of humans. As a consequence of being so far removed from nature, both in terms of day-to-day living and our food and beverage choices, many women suffer intolerable menstrual symptoms. Our culture seeks to hide these through pharmaceuticals. Like birth, if women are in pain then it means we’re cursed. At a cellular level, we have memories of various human fears. This is the silent and unspoken message of recent generations.
Cycle to the Moon was written to help women find their inner Goddess and take steps to regain their health so that they find their power through menstruation and menopause. I want women to know that their cycles are natural, and are not designed to hurt or be uncomfortable. The issue isn’t our bodies, but our lifestyles and culture.
4. What do you believe are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a writer?
Most challenging: annual accounts!
Other than the above, everything else about being a writer (for me) is wonderful. I know there are many writers who find it a challenge, but I simply love sitting down to write, whether it’s at my laptop or in a notepad. I often get my best ideas when I’m in the shower and have to hope that I’ll remember to write them down when I get out.
I love the freedom of being able to write when I want and wherever I am, or to take a quick break and pop downstairs for a cup of tea, or hang washing on the line, nip out to the gym, put another log on the woodstove or watch the Sun or Moon rise over the hills as I’m writing. Writing is a flexible job that easily fits in around home and social life.
There is another challenge, actually, and that is that there are only 24 hours in a day. As a mother, the day must also include making meals, washing, and house cleaning. I go to the gym each day, so there goes another hour or so. I’m a prolific writer, and when I make up my mind to write I can usually achieve a lot in a short time. I don’t suffer writer’s block.
When I was a young child I knew I wanted to be a writer. It meant I’d have a job where I could stay home and be with my children. I’m so thrilled that I followed that dream.
5. Can you tell us a little bit about the magazine you edit- Starflower Living? What do you think makes this different from other women’s magazines currently available on the market?
Starflower Living is an online magazine that began in the Summer, so we’re still in the early days. We’ve just published our fifth issue. It is published on the New Moon each month. How many other women’s magazines do that? Editorially, the focus is on the themes associated with the zodiac sign of that new Moon. This is fun for me as an editor and an astrologer (even though the magazine isn’t an astrology one).
Our ethos is based on courage and living the life of your dreams, as well as thinking outside the box, so although we have themes, we will consider most topics. We’ve already featured wonderful articles such as The Crone, Finding beauty in life, wild courage, menstruation, and Festival of the Wise Grandmother. We have a regular herb column and fantastic family recipes, too.
6. Do you see your work as feminist, and if so, why?
It depends what you mean by feminist? For me, feminism is about owning and honouring the female energy (whether that is in a man or a woman), and bringing equality to women. It is not about bringing men down or thinking we’re better than them. I hope my work is empowering to women and men. If it is, then yes, that makes me a feminist.
7. What works of literature and/or art do you find meaningful or inspiring? (Or do you have any works that you think we should read?)
My all-time favourite book is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It is simply beautiful, and never fails to inspire me. As a marriage celebrant, I often guide couples to his pieces on love and marriage. He covers all areas of life, and was an amazing philosopher and poet.
For women, Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ work Women Who Run with Wolves should be required reading from the teenage years onward. I would love to see the messages in this book taught in schools.
When I edited The Mother magazine, we hosted family camps. At one camp, we featured stories from the book. I shared them in the dark, quiet space of a replica Iron-age roundhouse. We sat in a circle and shared deeply meaningful moments from our lives. Of all the camps, I believe that was the most powerful one. The stories really spoke to the women. I also adore the author’s audios, too.
I also recommend the novel or movie The Bridges of Madison County. It is a brilliant lesson in how women compromise themselves!
8. And finally… any words of advice for any other aspiring artists out there?
Believe in yourself.
Don’t compare your gifts or skills to other people. You are unique!
Find your support circle.
Commit to your art and devote time every day to developing your skills.
Invest in yourself, whether that’s through time on your own, buying magazines or taking a course. Do whatever you need to do to nurture yourself as a woman and as an artist.
If you’re struggling, I highly recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a self-help guide for finding your inner artist (artist covering all manner of creative outlets). Designed to be done over twelve weeks, it will help you unleash your inner artist. I found it to be life changing.
A great interview with some insightful answers! Thank you, Veronika!