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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ami McKay interview, part I

The Birth House, written by Ami McKay was released in the U.S. on August 22nd of this year. I have been anxiously awaiting
it's arrival to our part of the world, since it's release in Canada.
Ami is not only a successful novelist, but an unschooling mama. I am
honored to be part of her "wise women blog tour" and hope you enjoy reading her insights as much as I did!

Give us a bit of the "story behind the story"--how The Birth
House came to you and what inspired a focus on midwivery in Nova

Writing The Birth House came after several life-changing moments
in my life. I had been a single-mom living in Chicago, teaching
high-school music. Then,one morning when I was driving to work,
a car came out from a side street and plowed right into my car.
I was laid up for quite a while after the accident. While I was
at home healing, I wound up falling in love with an old friend.
He was also at a turning point in his life, so together
we decided it was time for some radical changes. A few months
later, we packed everything into a moving van and moved
into an old farm house on the Bay of Fundy in Scots Bay,
Nova Scotia. Little did I know that the house would lead me
to writing a novel!

It wasn't long after the move that I became pregnant with my
second child. As soon as I started to show, my neighbour as
well as other women in the area began telling me stories...
I soon discovered that our beat-up old farmhouse had belonged
to a community midwife in the early 1900's. The little village
(that still only has about 250 year-round residents) is fairly
isolated, and midwife assisted births were the norm back then.
I was so fascinated with their stories of the midwife and their
beautiful traditions surrounding childbirth, that I began to
research the history of midwifery in North America. (And even
wound up having a midwife assisted home birth.) After all that,
I couldn't help but put pen to paper.

The history of your home is amazing, what an astounding gift!
I'm remember the first time I read one of your articles at
soulfulliving.com and felt a connection to your spirit through
the written word. Obviously, that's partially a personal thing,
but beyond that, how do you connect deeply with your readers and
craft words that really resonate with people and help them connect
with your writing?

Wow, that's a great question...and something that I think about a
lot. To me, making connections is what it's all about. One of my
favourite quotes about writing (I even have it up on my personal
web site) was said by Raymond Carver - "Writing is just a process
of connections."

When I set out to write The Birth House, I wanted to write a book
that I would want to read. I would run to my writing desk
thinking,"What's going to happen next? What will I uncover today?"
I was trying to make sense of things in the past and the present,
and hoping to weave together women's traditions and history in a
way that helped me understand where we are today. I was making
personal connections within the context of story...as a writer,
this is how I make sense of my world.

On a larger level, I think storytelling has served this same
function in the lives of humans, well, forever. Storytellers
pass along traditions, information, and wisdom, in the context
of a tale...a tale that can be humorous, sad, frightening,
enlightening, etc. I can only hope that my stories - whether
in the form of a novel, a short story, a documentary, etc -
will have that same resonance with those who come to them.
On my end of things, I try my best to write in a way that is
honest and true to the story, and let the 'connections' speak
for themselves. If I've done it right, others will feel
something (for better or for worse, but hopefully never
indifferent) when they read my work.

You've really hit on something deeply important--something
I talk about often--and that is the need for parents to be
an example to their children of a passionate, interest-led
life, while involving their children in the process.
Many parents reading this might be feeling the urge to begin
expressing themselves creatively in some manner. Any tips
on where to start? How to get back in touch with that side
of your spirit in some form? Anything specifically for the
writer within?

One of the really beautiful things that happened when we
started unschooling as a family was that I witnessed my
son re-learning how to 'play' throughout his entire day.
He went through a transition period (like most children who
are used to being in school all day) where he sat around like
lump, wondering 'what will I do today?' But it didn't take long
for him to realize that his time was his own...if he wanted to
read a book all day and well into the night, he could! If he
wanted to stare at an anthill for hours, he could! If he wanted
to pretend he was a tiger for three days straight, I
said, 'go get 'em, tiger.'

Curiosity and play go hand in hand, and I think sometimes
as adults we forget that. (We feel play is frivolous, time
wasted.) For me, my best ideas come after I engage in creative
activities. Anything from playing with patchwork pieces of cloth,
to looking for sea glass on the beach, to dancing with abandon
to my favourite music can help me break through to new ideas -
in my writing and in my life. Play kicks everything up a knotch
and keeps my ideas and my perspective from being flat. (I'm just
learning about ATC's and I'd say they are truly a beautiful
example of creative play!)

The other thing that has helped me in my journey as a writer
is practice. I began playing piano when I was five and wound
up in music school after high school. While I find rigorous,
enforced training can be stifling, I do think that the idea of
'practice' as a form of meditative commitment, can be a wonderful
thing. What I mean by this is that you have to allow yourself room
to practice your art (writing, music, preparing beautiful meals,
dancing, painting, woodworking, photography, etc.) on a regular
basis. Even if you have other work or life commitments and feel
that your art is a hobby, it's important to feed your creative soul...
consistently and passionately. If you make space for practice
(instead of shoving it into your life in a haphazzard way) your art
will grow and you will grow with your art. Even if it's just an hour
a week!

When I first started making time for my writing, I would sit at my
desk and very little, if anything would happen. (Much like my son's
transition I mentioned earlier) But after awhile, I knew that the
time was mine and that it would be there, and that I was free to
do whatever I wanted with it. I chose to play.

Check back in for Part II of our interview and more of Ami's unique
brand of wisdom on Monday the 28th. Pour a cuppa tea and stay a while,
you're in good company!


Blogger kelli said...

Awesome Ren!

How did you come across this opportunity, to interview her?

9:46 AM  
Blogger Veronika said...

Wonderful to read more about Ami... and great to be reminded of how important PLAY is esp. for us adults!!
Blessings, Veronika

10:13 AM  
Blogger Ren said...

Thanks for dropping by! I am a bit frustrated, as this blogsite has issues with layout after you publish a blog. I've edited to get all the words lined up, but it seems the edit hasn't shown up yet this morning. Argh to the tenth power.:)

Hopefully it will look nice and aligned shortly.

Kelli, I "met" Ami through an article she wrote for soulfulliving.com. Through the article, I started reading at her blog and found that she really spoke to my heart on many levels. I finally just wrote her and told her how much I enjoyed her article (something I've never done before) and she warmly responded.

It was a nice surprise to find out she was an unschooling mama! Anyhoo, get the book!! I'm enjoying it immensely.

10:26 AM  
Blogger diana said...

:::twilight zone music:::
Just before leaving town last week (to begin our Unschooling Travel Extravaganza), I was invited to attend a birth of a very new, very intensely connected friend's 2nd baby (beginning October-ish). The honor of being witness to yet another life transition, to be at both ends of Life's Spectrum in one year... oh, Ren, it just moves me beyond words!! Whatever I did to become so worthy - or better, if this is what I need to do to BE worthy - I'm glad to be right here, right now!!
Aaaaahhhhh! all this baby talk, I'm gonna catch the fever and then what?!?!
Much love!!

12:12 AM  

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