Book Review: The Creative Fire

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. The Creative Fire. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.

Clarissa guides us through the dark labyrinths of the psyche in search of la chispa-the ember that is the elemental source of all creative work. Learn about the hidden aspects of creativity, including the negative complexes that prey upon our energy, as you discover an abundance of insights to spark the creative fire in you. discover an abundance of insights to spark the creative fire in you.

This is only available as an audiobook, which was actually a good thing because had I read it myself, I would have missed out on Dr. Estes’ amazing storytelling voice, which greatly enhanced the stories themselves. I heard about this shortly before I began The Artist’s Way, and listened to it a few months ago. I will definitely listen again some time.

The Creative Fire was a perfect companion to TAW because it talks about some of the same things. One such topic is lack of creation. Julia Cameron says that a lack of creation means that the artist’s well has run dry, and the artist needs to “refill the well.” Dr. Estes points to the Persephone and Demeter mythology, agreeing with Cameron that cycles of productivity and rest are natural, and even encouraged. She tells the story of the myth and analyzes every aspect of it, relating each one to the creative cycle. I learned from both women that instead of feeling bad about periods of rest from creation, I should see it as a chance to recharge my batteries and prepare for the intensely creative time that will follow if I allow myself to be open to it.

Estes goes through several different stories, using each one to teach ways to break out of creative blockages, and about the creative cycle, and about ways that people either nurture or are consumed by the creative fire within. I highly recommend this to anyone who is struggling to understand their creativity, or who thinks they are not creative, or who is working through TAW and would like some more insight to supplement what they are learning in the course. And at just about 3 hours long, in 3 parts, it’s not very long at all — though I do suggest you take some time to digest in between, as there are a lot of juicy bits here.

This entry was posted on April 27, 2011, in AdultBook.

Book Review: My Little Red Book

I read this book a few months ago on my Kindle, but now I have the hardcover (free, won in a contest on a blog). I love it, and will give it to my (future, hopefully) daughter when it’s time to start talking about puberty.

Nalebuff, Rachel Kauder. My Little Red Book. New York, NY: Twelve, 2009.

My Little Red Book

Whatever a girl experiences or expects, she’ll find stories that speak to her thoughts and feelings. My Little Red Book aims to provide support, entertainment, and a starting point for discussion for mothers and daughters everywhere. Royalties from sales of the book are being donated to charities promoting women’s health and education. Let the dialog begin! -Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, Editor (from

This book is a gem that I wish I’d had when I was at that tender age that all girls experience: waiting for (and then getting) my first period. The editor compiled stories of women of all ages, from the 1930s through 2008, recalling their first period. Most of the women come from the United States, but there are also stories from Australia, Canada, China, Ghana, India, Kenya, and Turkey. Some are famous women, like Gloria Steinam, Judy Blume, and Meg Cabot. Some are teens of today. Women around the world and of all ages are very different, but one unifying element is menstruation. It’s amazing how this book shows this universal aspect of womanhood.
Do you remember your first period? Many women will never forget. Pride, shame, joy, sadness, confusion… if all women menstruate, why don’t we talk about it? I like how that new Kotex ad is making fun of the fact that ads for tampons and pads are so abstract (you know the ad I’m taking about: “Commercials for pads are so helpful, showing that blue liquid… so that’s what’s supposed to happen!”), but we need to be even more proactive. I hate how when I’m talking about my period with friends, there is almost always someone who says something like, “I’m sorry if this is TMI” or “I know this is gross, but…” Why do we need to preface it like that? Why can’t we just accept the fact that we all know what you’re saying, and we’ve probably experienced the same thing ourselves?
The point of this book is to open the doors to communication. It’s great for girls who are expecting or experiencing their first periods, because it gives them some idea of what to REALLY expect (“I awoke to a sticky feeling in my pajama bottoms” recalls one woman, page 25; another woman remembers the color: “it was the rust color that confused me. It wasn’t red. In books it’s always red,” page 146-7). It’s also a great jumping off point to start a dialog. When I read this book, I immediately got curious about other women in my life. I talked to my mother about the book and we shared our memories of our first periods.
I think it would be amazing for mothers to read My Little Red Book with their daughters so they can field questions and discuss it. Instead of mothers trying to tell their daughters about what it’s like for them now, a time in life that the daughters won’t reach for many years, the mother’s relating her first period brings everything down to her daughter’s experience level. This would definitely lead to a more helpful conversation.
There is a website for My Little Red Book, and among other things there is a page that invites women to submit their own stories. In this spirit, here’s my own story.
I don’t remember a lot about my first period. What sticks out in my mind is what happened a few months before. I was 12 years old and having a routine checkup with my Pediatrician, and he asked if I’d gotten my period. I said no, and he said that because of my size (now full-grown I’m just 5’1) it might not happen until I was 16. I don’t even remember who of my friends had gotten it, we might not have even talked about it. I was embarassed at the thought of having to wait four more years, and tired of waiting for it when it had been at least a year or two since I’d first been told about puberty.
Later that night my mom asked my dad, who had taken me to the doctor, what had happened. My dad didn’t even say the words. He said, “he asked her if she had started to end her sentences yet.” I had to think about that before I realized what he meant: many sentences end in a period. That may have been because he didn’t want my brother and sister to know what he was saying, but to me it felt like menstruation was shameful. He didn’t even say the words.
I didn’t have to wait until I was 16. I got my period the day before I started sixth grade. I was 12 years and 5 months old. Now instead of just having a new school to deal with, I had my period too. I told my mom and said she could tell my dad, but not to make a big deal out of it.

This entry was posted on May 19, 2010, in AdultBook.

Book Review: Girl Seeks Bliss

I am totally reviewing a book I’m not even half finished reading… I’m not even done with chapter 2 yet!

I hope to do book reviews as a not-so-regular feature on this blog. I am a librarian, so I will have the full MLA citation. I will have the image of the cover as a link to Amazon, if possible — I am not currently an Amazon affiliate though I don’t rule that out for the future. And then I will have a bit about whether or not I like the book, and my reasons. Maybe a quote or two. Really basic, simple. So here we go…

Beland, Nicole. Girl Seeks Bliss: Zen and the Art of Modern Life Maintainence. New York, NY: Plume, 2005.

I love this book so much, I would go so far as to say I heart it. (You know, like when you’re a teenager and you write a heart between your initials and those of the guy you have a crush on… MM ❤ MH.) It’s like a women’s magazine with a lot more substance. I can’t get through five sentences without finding something to remember – luckily I decided to take notes in a spiral-bound book and NOT by highlighting, because every page would be almost completely fluorescent yellow.

So why review a book that I haven’t finished reading? Because it makes Buddhism accessible to me. I have tried reading other books about zen, but nothing before brought it forward to me. In Girl Seeks Bliss, Beland talks about the Four Noble Truths in a way that is relevant. She explains the first noble truth, that suffering is a natural part of existence, by assuring the reader that, “Supermodels, Oscar-winning actresses, ridiculously rich heiresses – they will all curl up in their beds, cry their hearts out, and feel like crap countless times over the course of their lives.” This of course is reason not to envy them, not to think that their lives are perfect.

And did you notice that language? Name me another book that explains Buddhism by saying that everyone feels “like crap” many times in their lifetime. No really, please. I’d be interested in checking it out. I never before thought Buddhism could be hip, but this “Zen Guide to Modern Life Maintenance” does just that. The first chapter breaks down Buddhism into the basic information. The second is similar to Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching 101, saying that you can stop negative thoughts and change them by stepping back and looking at things objectively. There are several meditation techniques and “tricks” too, at least in the first two chapters. Plus lots of gold I haven’t even come to yet.

I was born and raised Catholic, and I still consider myself Catholic although I don’t go to church every week. But the more I read Girl Seeks Bliss, the more I want to incorporate Buddhist ideas and practices into my life. I think this will help me to cultivate presence and help me to control my quick temper. I can’t wait to see what else I can learn from this book, and I can already see it as something I will come back to again and again.