S P A C E | Winter 2019-2020

‘Project Epicurus’


E X P L O R I N G _ T H E _ A E S T H E T I C S
of
Artful Living

Times, shifts, curiosity about new people and new ways of thinking, and the general crisscross of emails and vague fragments of thoughts are what we write and share about in S P A C E Works are creative nonfiction short stories, co-created with members of Design Kompany’s team both in Phnom Penh and in the places where we have been, and connected meaningfully with others, through our two-year roving popup, Atelier S P A C E.



Publication schedule

prologues

3 Dec

S P A C E | Kuala Lumpur, ‘Prologues’

10 Dec

S P A C E | Kuala Lumpur, ‘Project Epicurus’

17 Dec

S P A C  E | Kuala Lumpur, ‘Miniparty’

28 Dec

Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh

 

 


encounters

31 Dec

S P A C E | Phnom Penh, ‘The Mirror’

7 Jan

S P A C E | Phnom Penh, ‘Design Thinking’

14 Jan

S P A C E | Kraków, ‘Tomasz’

 

 


dream

21 Jan

S P A C E | ‘The Muse’

28 Jan

S P A C E | Blatnica, ‘New Amperes’

4 Feb

S P A C E | Starý Smokovec, ‘Ahoj’’

 

 


poetry

11 Feb

S P A C E | ‘The Years Between Us’

18 Feb

S P A C E | Huế, ‘The Book of New Things’


26 Feb

S P A C E | київ, ‘White Noise’

 

 


S P A C E posts every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. Occasionally we host ‘mini parties’ of no more than six people.

Experience it.

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Art: Aubrey Beardsley. Click to see DK’s next projects, in S P A C E.

Application window for co-creating S P A C E | Summer 2019, ‘In the Vernacular’

For the summer of 2019, DK and friends are co-creating the zine series, ‘In the Vernacular’. Free to apply. Apply here.

Select candidates will be invited to register (programme fee is USD $160) at this page.

Don’t miss the chance to be part of an international conversation in which new and different others DK has personally connected with in real life or on the internet are gathering to share, learn, and continue to discover ways of taking old ideas and breaking into the new.

WHEN. 1- 30 June 2019.

WHAT IT IS. Architects, designers, graphic artists, graphic illustrators, and writers are invited to co-create the series with Design Kompany’s A. Spaice. Hosting the conversations in asynchronous online exchanges, DK will gather the key points of the emerging dialogues and create custom prompts every Tuesday. To more the direction of the conversation so as to come up with a coherent set of thought to then pack into weekly digital zines. These, together, will get us talking, and talking together, in S P A C E.

‘The whole is something other than the sum of its parts.’

14 March | ‘The Resistance’

Let’s talk about ‘The Resistance.’ A conversation party and zine reading. DK and friends in Hanoi invite you to be a part of this very limited-edition popup, S P A C E | Hanoi. Save the date for 14 March. Hosted by A. Spaice, who was last in Hanoi to make ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE.

For S P A C E | Hanoi, ‘The Resistance,’ taking place on 14 March, the time and place will be shared *only* with guests who RSVP. This helps us keep the conversations small in scale and limits it to those who are interested, only. We’re excited to be back in the city after such a long time, and to connect and reconnect, but even better, to interconnect, new and different others whose paths might not have crossed. As per usual: in S P A C E.

To RSVP, go here.

1 March, New salon: S P A C E | ‘Postmodern nomads’

Sourced from Culture360:

In 1996 Michael Haerdter of Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien called artists ‘post-modern nomads’ or ‘wanderers between cultures’. Migrating artists, he said, ‘belong with the many transcultural messengers of a world whose keywords are nomadism and globalism.’ Goes on to say the fact that we see the invention (and spreading about) of residential art centers relates to the need of artists ‘to experience the world and its many environments and cultures, to realise in situ research and projects, to be temporarily part of creative communities, and to profit from the opportunity they offer for exchanging ideas and know-how.’

‘Postmodern nomads’: new salon

Let’s talk about it. Let’s meet, converse, connect and discuss, and get to places because of progressions and continuity, which can only come with a longitudinal axis of trust-building. Over. Time. Are you ready to begin this kind of trek with us? This one is a build on what we had begun in early 2018, with ‘Notes.’

It’s a special online salon about postmodern nomadism, or whatever else we want to talk about there. Note: eligibility; this open invitation is for those who are new to DK this year.

Starting in March, there’ll be much more to say. In online forums. These happen every week when I share prompts, in our online community, through email. It’s pretty straightforward and it works well, because it’s just a handful of us, for each conversation space. Curated because of the gut-feeling that ‘this works with that, I think,’ or ‘maybe so-and-so would enjoy meeting so-and-so,’ and that’s how t begins. In the style of ‘N’, and other of our events, workshops, ateliers, and gatherings, it’s about who shows up more than it is about what we each have to say… listening is the point. Seeing what emerges. That’s how each topic got started, in fact. Breakout sessions when a certain thread or strand was developing. Asking members and guests-who-could-enjoy-membership-if-they-let-themselves-make-time to weigh in with 2c bits and pieces. The new things are starting. It’s a lot of fun, already, in preconversation salons that are getting things into alignment.

 

S P A C E | ‘Strange Geometries’

LET’S TALK ABOUT learning. How we discover, find, and make new connections. Ideas, shapes of thinking and the input that comes from places that might not be the ‘usual’ ones. No more boring meetings: What are the containers that make great conversations *happen*? Cnversations that lead to better collaboration and better work? Those are important. Let’s not waste time. Let’s make things better, together.

Better and more enjoyable: that’s the key. How do we design the S P A C E that lets fresh thinking flow?

Let’s consider. Let’s discuss.

‘Strange Geometries’ is our first invite-only salon on this topic. Min 4. Max 7.

WHAT YOU’LL GET. DK will share:

  • Grice’s ‘Maxims of Conversation’, as introduced to us by Eric Chuk, who studied narrative ontology
  • Six Thinking Hats, a method of opening dialogue.
  • The Open Space Technologies how-to.
  • Free eBook, ‘SELF’, by DK’s Dipika Kohli (a USD $95 value).

Application required. Apply below.

This workshop will be hosted by DK’s Dipika Kohli. She has delivered seminars at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on the topic of Design Thinking, a series caled SELF as a 9-week experiential program at Stanford University, and for an architects circle in Seattle DK was invited to present, ‘Just Be You.’

LEARN MORE

DipikaKohli.com | Processed Identity | GOOD | TEDx | Ignite Raleigh | NPR | UNC-Chapel Hill | ThisBigCity

#innovation #design #designthinking

APPLY. To request an invite, first apply here:

It’s the thread that makes the necklace

IN A PRETTY FASCINATING kind of collage and layering, two things I am discovering are my ‘thing’ while I have 12 whole weeks to sit around and make zines and shoot the breeze whilst listening to the sound of, well, breeze–in aspen, in birch—I am doing something new. A podcast. I know that some people have been telling me that I should do this, for some time now. I know. I heard you. I just… don’t like the idea of… voice. That said, why then, have I recorded my voice over the years, starting from microcasette tapes on that world tour that led to the short film, ‘The India Tapes,’ which some people I knew well in Seattle got to see when it screened at the Tasveer short film festival in that city some time ago. A decade back? Where does the time go? Okay, well, that is a good segue to the next bit.

The zine S P A C E || Singapore // 2017

Intentionality.

Some of the time when I am writing I get all philosophical and esoteric. I ‘lose my audience.’ A lot of people tell me that, too. But then, they listen to my voice recordings, and they’re like, ‘Are you, um. High?’ ‘NO!’

‘Art, to me, is conversation. A very particular kind… the kind that has a certain quality…. the quality of S P A C E.’

OF COURSE NOT. It’s just that when the jam is good, I love a great conversation.  I’m super into it, when there is a high quality of S P A C E, that is, and only then, really… the back-and-forth of it, the improvisation, the silences, the whole thing. I love it. It’s like… my favorite thing, ever. I write in this style because this is how I talk. I know. It’s not straightforward. It’s not direct. It’s not even linear, for feck’s sake. It’s just what it is. And it’s me. Totally, honestly, raw, unedited. These things are very underworked, these blog posts, and now… the podcasting… I’m not going to promise a lot with the audio files. Not because it’s hard to make them: I’m discovering that with Zoom, QuickTime and a couple of friends in other parts of the world to help me push the sound clips together, plus a couple of websites with sweet sound effects (I was going to say ‘fx,’ but I’m not really that trendy), well—it’s easy. Podcasting with Soundcloud is super easy. I don’t have the equipment you would want to have if you were pro, but that’s okay. I’ve never been a big fan of expensive equipment. In fact, everything I make these days is based on what falls to hand. In bricolage style. The stories that I write now (there’s some new stuff coming together for the new zines, one of which launches at Oulu Arts Night on 16 August, and stuff, well, those as well as the visuals come into shape not because I have this predetermined idea of ‘what I’m going to do,’ but because, in the process of looking around and bumping into things, people, materials, magazines, stuff just falls into place, and makes a picture. Not a picture, necessarily, like a photograph, though I do have those now, because of the camera and the ‘Slow Moment’ photo journaling workshop that I’ve been hosting online since the start of June, but other kinds of pictures. Conceptaully, imagine that a conversation is captured and frozen into a moment. Then you spool that moment out. You maybe write some kind of short fiction piece. Or you actually record it and edit it into a sound file. Or make a short video and share it at a festival. Well. There are so many things you can do when you have the essence of the moment and you are able to see the art in it. Not easy, to see things. That’s part of what I talked about with some of the new guests in ‘Slow Moment’, in June, over email and forum-salon conversation spaces. Well, mostly email. Occasionally, a phone call. I am in Scandinavia now so I have so much wifi and since it’s way up here by the Arctic Circle, I also have tons of brightness and tend to be awake 23 out of the 24 hours of the day now. Which renders the time differences and timezones irrelevant.

Mostly.

This is good.

This is leading to some very important and unique moments of catching-up. And going back to the people who most intrigued, or left impressions, or seem to have been on their way to interesting places, back when I met them.

Reconnecting. Rekindling.

Writing letters. Making S P A C E. // 2017

‘It’s the thread that makes the necklace’

I’M EVEN GOING back to some of ht many, many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written in the past and doing that good thing that all writers must: rewriting. Thank you, Dropbox, for holding all this stuff in your digital vault. I’m ready to dump most of these archives, though. Keep only… the highlights. Because short and sweet is another thing I like. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Zines let me do that. So the zine form—8 pages, nothing more—is a good way to repack some of what I’ve written (while also giving it a little bit of a tweak because when you are younger and writing and when you’ve written much, much more and are writing, you are also able to see the thread, the thread!…. and it’s the thread, after all, that makes the necklace.

Pearls on a string. Here we go. Now it’s not so much about the discovering of the new pearls to add to this thread, as it is feeling like I’ve found what my set is, already, and have closed the loop, and am now going back through the circle, saying ‘hi’ to the many lovely gems of people and places and conversations and… artistic moments… that I’ve been lucky enough to collect. And sharing these new learnings and reopening those stories, but only selectively. Only in S P A C E. To the journeys, the new, the near and the next.

Next in S P A C E, today’s prompt, for ‘Slow Moment.’

Are you wondering where I am? It’s cool to contact me—I’m not that hard to reach. Email me, maybe? Here’s a form.

Feature photo credit: OMNI Studiophotos, 2012

The writing process

‘SHOW, don’t tell.’

That’s the advice writers get when we are starting to write.

I think that’s pretty marvelous advice, except, um. We’re writing. So how do you ‘show?’

Well, it’s a good thing I brought the new camera. I’m borrowing it. From BOSS. It has a bunch of cool lenses and I’m enjoying the depth of field play, for the first time in many years. I don’t have an iPhone, so I don’t take camera pics. I don’t carry the old digital camera (the one you can put in your pocket) around because that means having to bring the battery charger and remember all the parts and figure out how to load up things to the computer. Of course I don’t bring around my old Minolta X-375, because… film. And where is it, anyway? I hope it’s in some box safely tucked away in one of the many, many attics and behind-the-staircase closets of friends and relatives on another continent, where I remember seeing it last. But this new camera. Is reminding me of the old one. Except, you don’t have to advance the film. And, it doesn’t make that oh-so-satisfying shutter click sound. But there are pros. I never have to worry about running out of film. I’m not the kind of person who constantly checks the picture to see how it looks, either, so I do really stay with the subjects when I’m with them. That’s just how I am. I feel pretty strongly about paying attention to the things you photograph, which might be why I’m always complaining about people talking selfies indiscriminately here and there and everywhere, or meeting someone for two seconds and wanting to grab a picture with them. Howcome? What is the emotion there? There isn’t any. It’s not going to make an artful picture. So what is the point of making it? 

STRONG OPINIONS. If you meet me in real life, you will know that I talk about this a lot. About the lack of attentiveness to relationship-building. It has to start slow. Slow and steady. I feel. For it to last. Maybe not everyone wants a thing to last. But I don’t like this insta-pic culture, and I don’t like throwaway relationships, either. I like quality. I think I’ve been blogging those three words quite a lot in public and password-protected pages, here. I do. I want that. And for quality to happen, you have to build the space so that it is welcoming, inviting, comfortable. THEN you can get intimate. You know, I feel this way about the subjects I photograph, too. It’s not always portraits of people: sometimes it’s my zines. Or art books. Sometimes it’s butterflies, and lately, it’s birch trees. Koivu.

Some news…

  • There’s a two-page spread coming together for the zine, about Koivu. I’ll be sure to write about that in today’s issue of S P A C E. But that’s for the inner circles, people who are members of this community, and whose monthly subscriptions make doing this work even possible. (Thank you.)
  • This week I’m writing S P A C E | Karsamaki. In July, I’ll interweave the real-time writing process with the online salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ See if you want to write with 8 of us, when you check out that link, and apply.
  • I took some photos to mock things up, rapid prototyping being my favorite thing in the word. How is it going to look and feel? I need to sketch it out, quickly, to see if it’s actually worth doing. I think this one is. There were a lot of mini-tests in my first two weeks her win Finland, and I have a bunch of time before the International Zine Day event that will be the date I launch this new photozine. So I’m going to lay low, write some more, see if I can get a poem or two translated into Finnish.

This is my process. Thinking and jamming with people who are resonant with the things that are beginning to emerge. Letting go when the rapid testing shows, ‘Hey. This is a dead end.’ Getting over it. Being okay with it when your expectations fall short of the reality of a thing. Learning to enjoy the unexpected highs, like five-star cooking that appears every so often when you couldn’t possibly have imagined it, and it’s good, and what’s better, it’s warm. Friends, company. Learning, sharing. Making new kinds of books. Exploring needle and thread and improvising on bookbinding. Gathering more materials. Looking around. Walking outside. Talking to trees. Winston Churchill did that, I read once. It’s not crazy. Philosophy isn’t irrelevant, either. In fact, it’s the only thing that will get us out of this weird loop we’re in, of navel-gazing and anxiety-making, and othering, and line-drawing, boundary-making, political ensnarements, and the all around slap of ‘Really? This is the best we could do, as humanity, after all this time?’ But then I remember MB’s advice and conversations with him about this topic. Yes, this is the best it’s gotten. And it’s not all rotten. Remembering the slow moments. That’s the work, for now.

UPDATE. This is what the zine is looking like, so far. Not bad, huh? Now. Let’s get to writing. –DK

Protected: 2 July | DK’s online photography x writing workshop-salon

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16 April | STAMMTISCH in Phnom Penh

STAMMTISCH is MONDAY. Guest artist Mike Dynamo will talk with us about music and writing. More below. Ticket registration page is here.

 

Salons: What are they?

Design Kompany hosts conversation salons. This is what it looks like. Pictured, from left: ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC with Mercury Studio, MAKE at Fishmongers Durham NC, ‘Modern Sikkim’ in Gangtok India, ‘Breakfast in Cambodia’ at TINI in Phnom Penh, flyer for Designers Korner standing date at Stumbling Monk, which looked like the last image. Good fun. These happened 2011 through today, in (most of the time) very small circles.

Meet new people. Discover S P A C E. At Monday’s meetup in Phnom Penh, STAMMTISCH. What is it? A place that’s not home, that’s not work. For conversations with a center, and not sides. No agenda, not religious, just let’s meet and talk. But briefly. Let’s play?

When we first talked to Steve Zelle, or @idApostle, about creativity and the process, we realized the thinking would become more than just one short email conversation. It grew into a blog post, then a guest post, then a conversation salon, then a series. MAKE: ‘What is the creative process, who uses it, and what changes as a result?’ has happened three times and gathered more than 200 people. DK host MAKE in Phnom Penh as a low-key, small circle, at the standing date on Mondays called STAMMTISCH. (‘The creative process never looks like this’ graphic by Steve Zelle, first featured at his guest post, ‘A Sprinkle of Magic Dust’.)

 

Monday, 16 April’s programme: ‘Welcome to the Creative Process’

Phnom Penh-based musician and writer Mike Dynamo will be joining us at STAMMTISCH.

His blog post, ‘Has the Artist Been Killed and Replaced by the Entrepreneur?’, inspires this week’s session.

Meetpoint: Java 2F 4-6:30. At one of the outside tables.

Here’s a light agenda…

  • 4PM Podcasting
  • 5PM Artrepreneurship II
  • 5:30PM Short Salon: ‘MAKE: What is the creative process?’

 

About Mike Dynamo

Mike Dynamo is a Phnom Penh-based musician, writer, and thinker. He knows a little bit about a wide mashup of topics—culture, film, video games—and can converse at length about anything with remarkable energy. Substantially, not trivially. (Though he does host a weekly trivia night at Lucky Gecko). His piece, ‘Has the Artist been replaced by the Artrepreneur?’ starts like this:

There was an interesting piece in the Atlantic from two years ago that was about the relationship between art and commerce throughout the ages – what it means and where it is heading. The writer, William Deresiewicz, delved into the paradigm shift between the “hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional,” and the birth of the creative entrepreneur. I could barely wrap my head around it because it’s so difficult to understand what exactly I’m trying to create while still clinging to the old ideas that art isn’t meant to be a pursuit of massive attention as much as a divine gift from beyond to be used for its own sake. Read the full story >

 

About Dipika Kohli

Dipika Kohli is an author, artist, and designer. Her studio, Design Kompany, was founded in 2006 in Seattle WA USA, and has been exclusively freelance since. While in the US, she orgnanized a salon, MAKE: ‘What is the creative process, who uses it, and what changes as a result?’. This gathered more than 70 creatives and scientists around Research Triangle Park (aka ‘The Triangle) in NC to talk about these questions, together. Out-takes are at this writeup on Processed Identity. Ahead of the event MAKE, DK had asked the Ottawa-based graphic designer who runs it, Steve Zelle, to share a guest post with DK. That post, ‘A sprinkle of magic dust,’ is really great. And it’s here.

 

FAQs

 

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?

Ages 16+

 

Can I come for just a portion of it?

Sure. But as we have very limited seats, be sure to register to confirm your attendance.

 

Can I pay on the day?

You can, but we do have limited seating. If you’d rather show up on the day, bring exact change to help us out. The tickets are: $15 + 1000 riel, so as to cover handling fees.

 

Where can I learn more?

Get an idea of what will happen when you check out the range of Design Kompany’s events. To do that, go here: http://designkompany.com/ateliers. Questions welcome, send them on to Jas Plac, that’s me, at DK, through the form at this page.

New tracks for April & May online workshops

HERE IS A QUICK outline of what’s happening in April and May, in case you feel like applying to join DK in one of our new writing streams. Things have evolved since the 2014 cojournal, with the new suite of stories unfolding at Design Kompany’s active spaces just for conversations in forums to evolve, progress, and develop. Some of what’s new for just-beginning with DK is outlined below. We are especially interested in hearing new voices, so if you are new to DK this year, we are interested in hearing from you. Scholarships are available for anything for the right candidates.

Three new tracks for April & May workshops

  1. SELF. SELF IS AN online workshop: this time, we’re focusing on the ideas of composition and sketching out the ‘who do I want to become’ question. This track is inspired by the work of Kandinsky. Another section, focusing instead on ‘how am I feeling now?’ questions, is inspired by Nin. Both are just underway so you can join us this week to be included in the new cohort for the 12-week programme. I’ll send you the orientation pack. The first prompt goes out Monday. SELF is USD $160. The artist’s way, the creative process, exploring the composition: that’s what we’ll be doing this time in both tracks. It’s for people who are in transition, who are curious about a new way of taking a good look at personal values and clarifying next steps. Built from a past career as brand designers, at Design Kompany, and working on, uh, a bunch of memoirs, hey! We are going to share more about that with anyone who decides to apply this week; learn more about SELF and how to apply at this page.
  2. MIRROR SECTION Z is also happening, starting 23 April, by application. If you missed it in January, this is your chance to get ‘in’ on some of what people have been calling ‘astonishing,’ and ‘an opportunity.’. THE MIRROR Z is USD $160-200. Find out more here
  3. COJOURNAL18. Next Cojournal is also coming into play, from 7 May. It’s 8 weeks or 12 weeks of writing to prompts designed to get us creatively engaged, and accountable, with and to one another. Limited seats. Application required. USD $120-$160. More here.

New ways of connecting, in S P A C E

Making the best use of the interactive form that is the blog, we are now:

  • Conversing with people in the S P A C E community through weekly prompts and new forums, which have passwords and stuff to keep things intimate.
  • These are the current active spaces.
  • New subscribers to S P A C E will get the first dibs on exclusives. Subscribe here.
  • View all upcomings

Check it out! ✨

Drawing: Wikipedia Creative Commons

 


Start conversations with DK in S P A C E.

 

Atelier S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur

MAKE A ZINE with just a handful of others, in this international atelier series, Atelier S P A C E.

ATELIERS. These pop up from real life when we converse offline with new and different others. It brings storyfinding back to person to person contact, while ‘journalism’ becomes increasingly less human-centered. Who will we tell our real selves to? Each other, in real life, offline, away from package-making for others and towards more listening for common threads and similar experiences. In so doing, we feel more connected, DK have found, and inspired to improve, too.

Starting in Battambang in Cambodia in Sept. 2017, we are moving in Asia to discover people who are curious, creative, and ready for something new. Our cocreated Battambang issue was on the topic, Ennui. In Singapore (10-12 Nov) our zine was on the theme The Third Place. In Penang (6-11 Dec) we took a different focus, Growth. Each theme is based on what conversations emerged when we meet new people in real life in those places, and simply take time to talk. Then we work to make a zine that is cohesive, and is hyperlocal to the place and the contemporary narratives. What will happen, whom we’ll meet, who will join, and what zine we will then together produce is an open question. Let’s consider the possibilities. Let’s make a space.

Meet us there?

Order tickets for Atelier S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur here: https://atelier-space-kualalumpur.eventbrite.com

Questions? Contact us through the form at this page.

Chapbook | Nostalgia Cà Phê | Kismuth Books

A new book from Kismuth Books is set to launch on 5 November in a small cafe with just a few people. Join author Dipika Kohli for this once-off low-key event, in which you’ll get to discover the creative process and ask any questions you have about how to start writing your own personal stories. Kohli was an editor for a small paper in southwest Ireland and a daily in Seattle before shifting to more work in sharing essays and first-person stories. Her book Breakfast in Cambodia (September 2016), was based loosely on two columns (for Saathee Magazine and Northwest Asian Weekly), about life and travel that landed her in Phnom Penh. Dipika was a Ted Scripps fellow in Boulder for environmental journalists in 2003, and the winner of two Japan Foundation grants for photography. She is currently co-hosting Atelier S P A C E with a small circle of people interested in co-creating something together, in sprints, and packing hyperlocal stories into short zines. Don’t miss this chance to connect in real life with a handful of others, and talk together about life, nostalgia, publishing, and the culture of drift.

Book to confirm your spot.

To book, order Nostalgia here.

When you do, Kismuth Books will send you a meet point and programme for 5 November’s small scale conversation and short reading. You’ll have the chapbook to read as a soft copy, too.

The Prospect of Beauty || Atelier S P A C E pre-event

Join DK and very small handful of others at this new, and different, style of conversation salon. Our theme is ‘The Prospect of Beauty’. Discover the parlor games ‘Art of Not Knowing’ and ‘Excerpts of Note,’ as shared in similar small scale salons in Tokyo, London, New York and Hanoi. Welcoming the very curious and looking forward to receiving you. A meetpoint, and programme, to be emailed to registered guests *only.* Advance bookings only. (Ticket sales close at midday on Wednesday, 1 Nov.)

This is a pre-event for Atelier S P A C E || Singapore.

Order your ticket here.

A Q&A with author Michelle L. Stephens: ‘Venturing into the unfamiliar’

[Update: Before Design Kompany became a roving atelier to gather people’s stories on the spot in real life, we were gathering perspectives in our online community, behind protected-pages at this blog. This post was originally an exclusive for a forum, ‘The Village,’ on work, life, and relationships.]

TODAY I INVITE you to read a short email conversation with Michelle Lynn Stephens, a poet I’ve been in touch with since the time we met at a fun open mic. We share roots in Durham, NC, and recently reconnected when I hosted a tweet chat about self-publishing. That opened a space for an entirely new conversation, in which I got to know more about where things have gone for Michelle since we met. Here’s our interview, which took place over email through the spring of 2017. This piece was originally published as an exclusive for our online community, S P A C E.

 

Venturing into the unfamiliar

DK: We talked in our email conversation about journeys. And leaving, and how that can inspire us. Can you talk about this a little bit?

Michelle L. Stephens

MS: How interesting that you should ask this question, as I met you at the beginning of my open mic journey! I am definitely the adventurous type. I love trying new platforms and traveling to different venues. I have met so many wonderful people who have been very supportive and eventually became my creative village.

DK: Can you tell us about what you’ve written, so far?

MS: My book is The Divorcée Chronicles. And I co-authored an anthology, Single Mama Dating Drama.

DK: OK. Besides writing and traveling, I think we also talked about family. And… dating? 

MS: The sequel to Diary of a Divorcée Diva is all about dating, but nowhere near finished. There is a tad bit of dating adventure in the first book and my short story in the anthology is about getting back out there after divorce. The anthology is focused on single mothers, so that may be where you are remembering the parent thing.

DK: But then, there is the massive adventure of parenting right? The ultimate adventure into the unknown? 

MS: Kids are fun and inspiring! The only downside is losing sleep sometimes when they are young and finding courage to let them go off own their own when they are older… While my toddler is my only biological child, I have had a plethora of little ones in my life and don’t feel particularly new to parenting. I have always taken care of children and it feels very natural to me.

My mom tells me that I wanted to do whatever she did with my baby sister, such as feeding her, combing her hair, rocking her and such. I took care of my baby cousin, I have several godchildren who call me ‘Ma’, I volunteered at daycare and after school care programs as a teen… I once had stepchildren who I adored and I take my niece and nephews around with me quite often.

DK: After we met in Durham, where have the journeys taken you?

MS: My circle in Durham encouraged me to share my talents with so many others. I may have been afraid to venture back out after my California dreams faded into the working world, if it were not for my arts experience in Durham. It is a place that embraces and supports the arts tremendously. The path from Durham led me to the next town over, then to major cities like Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to share my words. I gained the confidence to submit my work to some heavy hitters in African American literature and became a part of a book project that turned into a #1 National Bestseller. My territory is ever increasing and I dream of seeing my work on the big screen someday, but I would also like to remember where I came from and remain a part of the circle that started me on my way.

DK: On your way… to where? Curious.

MS: I have back and forth from the DMV area often, as my significant other takes on mostly government contracts. I love the arts up there as a spectator, but unfortunately have not been able to participate much as an artist. I have no support system there, as far as babysitting goes. There’s always a book festival, library event, or museum to stop by in DC and the scenery is quite inspiring…

DK: Venturing out seems important to you.

MS: I am a firm believer that venturing out into the unfamiliar serves to strengthen your creativity. It opens your eyes to things you have never seen and expands your worldview. I have not traveled as far as you have, but testing the waters up and down the East Coast has been very fulfilling. Even before I began doing poetry and publishing, I was off to California and exploring the performing arts world. I experienced being among the best performers, in the audience of great theaters, in studios, filming for television on Hollywood sets, at casting and modeling agencies and briefly attempted to form a singing duet. My time there was amazing and continues to influence my writing and stage performances today. There is, however, a time for stillness when it is time to gather your thoughts on the page.

DK: Who are your favorite artists?

MS: My favorite artists are two alumni of North Carolina Central University, my late aunt, educator Barbara Tuck Ebron and the incomparable Ernie Barnes, a Durham native.

DK: Art venues?

MS: My favorite museum is the Smithsonian American Art Museum. They have very diverse exhibits with everything from presidents to Native American experiences to African American musicians and writers on grand display.

DK: Can we share an excerpt of one of your books?

MS: Yes…

From The Divorcée Chronicles: Diary of a Divorcée Diva… 

I never felt so free as I did on that flight to LAX. The sky was the limit and I was literally on top the world, looking down on it from Cloud Nine. No one could tell me anything would ever go wrong ever again at that moment in time. After chatting it up with Darren a little bit about my hopes and dreams as always, he suggested that maybe I should look into moving to Cali, too. It would be the perfect place to start a totally new path in life and get away from all my troubles. I daydreamed myself about it right on to sleep.

“Good evening, passengers. This is your Captain speaking. I hope you have enjoyed your flight. We are approaching our destination and fully expect a safe and uneventful landing. Thank you for joining us. Have a good night.”

Waking up to stare out the window at the stuff that dreams are made of was surreal. The view of the Concrete Jungle, with all that water surrounding it, was amazing. I saw nothing but miles and miles of highway and bright lights! I had on my cute little sleeveless cotton dress that was hit just above the knee and got a rude awakening when I stepped onto the tarmac. The cold, sweeping air hit me right in the face.

“Whoa!! How can it be freezing in California in the middle of July?!”

“Kay, this ain’t Cackalacky. Ain’t none of that humidity out here. Don’t you know this is the desert?” Darren was always so thorough in his ex-planation of everything. Always had been, even back in the days when he was trying to tell me why we needed to break up and just be friends.

“You gone love the way it feels outside tomorrow when the sun is out, though. I’m telling you, Kay. The wea-ther is addictive.”

“Ok, I’m just gonna have to trust you on that one ‘cause it’s just freezing my legs off right about now!”

That night as I looked out the 12th-floor window of the hotel at all the lights that put the dark, tree-lined streets back home to shame, I was hooked and my mind was made up. If the rest of Cali was like the view from here, I was gonna call it home and soon.

The next day, Darren and I headed out to paint the town. He was right about the weather being gorgeous and we checked out the usual tourist traps like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater, then watched the many talented hopefuls acting out at Venice Beach. We toured the star homes and rode past all the famous places like Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Capitol Records, and the Hollywood sign. We even checked out South Central and in the words of Ice Cube himself, I gotta say it was a good day.

“Tomorrow we’ll go look at the apartments I found online”, Darren said.

“If you decide to move here, you can just find something when you get to town because people move in and out around here all the time. It’s not like back home.”

DK: Thank you! Last question: What’s the best advice you ever got?

MS: Never give up!

The Village

A CONVERSATION SALON in virtual spaces about family, fromness, and the journeys that interweave. A 12-week programme. Starts 1 June. Application required. Limited seats.

How did this get organized? ‘A lot of people have been in correspondence with me through the last few years about ** family ** and I thought it might be neat to bring us together in a forum-style space. The idea is to convene a small group I know personally, and whom I feel I can trust, as we design and build this next thing (a book? another co-created anthology like THE MIRROR? something else?) together as we go,’ says host A. Spaice.

Request more information.