A Conversation With Dr. June (Mack) Maffin Author Of Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality by Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com
Today, Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest Dr. June (Mack) Maffin who has just completed her third book, Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality (to be published April 29, 2011 and now available for pre-orders on Amazon sites) and is now working on her next book.
Dr. Maffin has had a variety of careers: broadcaster, writer, television personality, educator, book & magazine editor, spiritual director, retreat leader, ordained minister, school chaplain, Creative Spirituality Artist, conference speaker, and BookPleasures.com reviewer.
Ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, June received her Doctorate in pastoral care with an emphasis on Ethics and in addition to the “Soulistry” book, authored “Disturbed by God: A Journey of Spiritual Discovery” which is available in paperback through Amazon, B & N, Book Depository, Chapters/Indigo and local booksellers and as an ebook from Amazon.
Norm: Good day June and thanks for participating in our interview
June: Thank you for the invitation, Norm. I’m delighted to be one of your interviewees.
Norm: How did you get started in writing?
June: Words have always fascinated me. As a young child who stuttered, verbal expression was uncomfortable for many years. So, I often wrote notes. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I was captivated by the writing of a girl close to my age and began journaling – only in those days it was called “keeping a diary.” In my teens, I was invited to be the Canadian editor of a well-known American teen magazine and a few years later, had the opportunity to co-write a children’s television program. Then came preaching every week, monthly newspaper columns and creating liturgies and rituals for churches and retreat centres. Writing became my way of expression as a child and has continued to this day.
Norm: What keeps you going?
June: Four things: love of the written word, the gentle encouragement of the Creator, the privilege of making a difference in the lives of readers, and the joy that comes as words become transformed into sentences and paragraphs.
Norm: Who or what has influenced your writing?
June: Along with the ups and downs of life, influences have included two excellent high school English teachers who offered constructive critiques, parents whose encouragement was both challenging and affirming, and photographs I take and use to challenge myself to write accompanying PhotoMeditations for my website and blog.
Norm: How has your education informed your writing?
June: I’m a voracious reader and lifelong learner and while early formal education clearly gave me tools of history, grammatical structure, excellent and not-so-excellent poetic and prose writing examples, the doctoral program offered me license to think-outside-the-box. Life’s difficult moments (two separate medical diagnoses decades apart that I was dying, divorce, life below the poverty level as the single mother of a seriously-ill child, hospitalizations, car accidents, arson of my home, and diagnosis of mercury poisoning) became informal-educational-moments and taught me the importance of written self-reflection and writing regardless of whether or not there is an audience
Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
June: I’ve never set out to ‘write a book’ and though I’ve just completed my third published work, what surprises me the most is how gently each book has evolved from an initial concept to the final edit. Writing is never ‘work’ though it does take a lot of time. Writing for me is a gift, oftentimes healing and always a privilege.
Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers? If not, why not? If so, why and what would that be?
June: Integrity. I believe that writers need to approach their work with the integrity of offering everything they possibly can in terms of the technical aspects of writing: grammar, syntax, punctuation, tight editing etc. along with their personal sense of integrity as they write from a perspective of authenticity.
Norm: Can you explain to our audience what is Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul?
June: SOULISTRY is a coined word combining SOUL and artISTRY. It’s an umbrella word for various activities (workshops, retreats, publications) that connect spirituality with creativity. It’s about helping people uncover the invisible presence of the holy, both in the visible world and invisible world, within.
A bit of background: Several years ago, I was diagnosed with mercury poisoning. It was a life-changing moment. Within 48 hours, the mercury moved into my body. My muscles (leg, arm, voice) began to atrophy leaving me unable to walk more than a few steps or speak above a whisper. The reading function of my brain ground to a halt. Sleepless nights, long days of exhaustion, pain, medical complications and doctor’s appointments became my way of life. I was aware that depression often occurs with those dealing with chronic illness and didn’t want to go that route.
Unable to sleep one night, I found myself looking at the top shelf of my office closet and before I knew it, I had taken a plain, wooden framed mirror and started adding embellishments. As I played and created, the pain seemed to lessen and eventually I was able to sleep. In the morning when I saw the mirror, I was struck by its beauty and simplicity and sensed that some new thing was happening. I could feel my spirit soaring! A part of my brain was working – my right brain. I wondered whether I could activate left-brain activity through right brain functions. And slowly, the creation of soul-artistry: Soulistry began.
Over time, left brain function and atrophying muscles started to function once again. People saw the mirrors and art cards that I’d begun to exhibit in craft fairs, and asked if I’d teach them how to make their own. Part of an intentional effort to move the mercury out of my body, a plan began to emerge – offer workshops and retreats. As an educator, it was a lovely and welcome challenge.
Designing and facilitating the workshops and retreats became a significant part of the healing process. Eventually, Soulistry moved from creating art cards and MirrorMeditations, to facilitating workshops and retreats, speaking at conferences about the connection between art and soul, and now to the writing of the Soulistry book. For me, Soulistry is a story of grace. Unexpected and gentle, its evolution has been filled-with-wonder … wonderful … and grace-filled!
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul?
June: Quotations. I’ve been collecting them for decades. They’ve found their way into my journaling, blogs and Facebook Wall posts; on yellow Sticky notes; as bookmarks; on my office bulletin board; into classrooms and sermons. Because of the mercury poisoning, I couldn’t read for almost a year but, as the reading function slowly returned, I began by reading short quotations, so it’s not surprising that they became an integral part of the Soulistry book.
There are almost 80 inspirational quotations from ordinary and extraordinary human beings – artists, philosophers, historians, poets, theologians, writers, calligraphers, lyricists (such as Joan Chittister, Martin Buber, Margaret Guenther, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Aristotle, John Wesley, Paul Tournier, the Dalai Lama, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Meister Eckhart, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Joy Harjo, Mattie Stepanek, Kahlil Gibran, Wangari Maathai and many more around the world living in different centuries) and accompanying Soul-Questions which draw the reader’s attention to the connection between the sacred and secular, creativity and spirituality, art and soul … challenging, nurturing and encouraging the reader’s spiritual journey in a unique way.
Norm: Where did you get your information and ideas for Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality?
June: As I read the quotations, questions (Soul-Questions) emerged. I spent time reflecting on the answers and found myself experiencing a gentle spiritual growth. In a “be still” moment of quiet reflection one morning, the idea for a book began. Slowly, quotations were selected, Soul-Questions were written and the process of seeking copyright permission began. With each step, I experienced my brain regenerating its cells. Nothing scientific … just an abiding awareness that it was happening. The idea for a Soulistry book deepened and work on the quotations/Soul-Questions continued. When the publisher of a new imprint of a well-respected publishing house enquired about whehter I might consider publishing with them, I realize the gift of such an offer and the wisdom of exploring such a possibility. I agreed and began to select quotations of ordinary and extraordinary people with a variety of ages, beliefs, living in different cultures and times; completed writing accompanying Soul-Questions; wrote mini-biographies of each of the quotation authors; and finished getting copyright permission to use the quotations.
Norm: What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read the Soulistry book?
June: My hope is that the Soulistry book will deepen the awareness of the presence of the holy in its readers in “all of the acts” of their day and help readers experience spiritual growth regardless of connection with any form of religion.
Because more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of balance in their lives (physically, intellectually and spiritually), there is a growing indefinable awareness that being spiritual is a vital component of being human, not only for those with a religious belief/practice, but those for whom there is no discernible connection with organized religion, no acknowledgment of the existence of God/Holy Other/Creator/Higher Power/G_d, no awareness or understanding of themselves as having a purpose in life. The Soulistry book seeks to encourage a re-connection with that intangible soul-essence of life.
Norm: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
June: Thank you, Norm. I offer my deep gratitude to each reader be they blog, website, Facebook pages, newspaper/magazine articles or reader of one of my books. I love writing and it is a humbling privilege not only to write, but to have people who appreciate the words that come forth.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
June: About the books: There’s a Soulistry page on Facebook, the Soulistry website has pages for each published book and a separate page for Soulistry book reviews and I’ve recently learned that there is a page on the Amazon sites for pre-orders of both the e-book and regular book format.
About me: Personal pages on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will find me – and there’s always a Google search. :-)
Norm: As this interview draws to a close, what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
June: How about … “How does the ministry of Soulistry connect with your ministry as an ordained woman?”
Carl Jung wrote somewhere that the role of a priest is to reawaken the spiritual and the imaginative dimension of life in people. I like that and find that just as the warp and weft of fabric are woven together into a piece of cloth, the ministry of Soulistry and ministry as ordained woman are integrated in my life even though I’m not aware of where one ends and the other begins.
My sense is that they meet in a spirituality of play – though in today’s intense world of terrorism, disasters, broken relationships, global economic crises and other stressors, a spirituality of play may seem to be a curious matter.
I love it that Hindus speak of the creation of the universe as the ‘play of God.’ I believe that when I play; when I enjoy the fullness of life with its curiosities, frivolities and insensibilities; when I don’t take myself too seriously; when I laugh and delight in life in playful ways, I allow my spirit to breathe and re-create.
It’s nothing that was taught in seminary, but believing that laughter and play are holy and healing has kept me close to God through some difficult times. I have found that a spirituality of play helped me live with absurdity, pain, paradox, sleepless nights, mystery and more, and that such a spirituality of play opened doors of intuition, vulnerability, child-like joy, healing, spontaneity, flexibility and hope in my life. So it’s not surprising to me that a spirituality of play finds a home in Soulistry – and me.
Thanks again June and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Thanks, Norm. I’ve appreciated this opportunity to share something of my love of (and passion for) the written word with your readers.
I wish you much continued success with BookPleasures. May it continue to rise to the challenge of providing excellent reviews by reviewers from all walks of life and all corners of the world for many more years.