Writer Jennifer Niven on Digging Deep

My conversation with Jennifer did not disappoint! Like two Hoosiers sitting around catching up, we touched on lots of subjects, shared some belly laughs, and came to some common insights.

An author plans to hole up and write on a remote island, but on the very first day she meets and falls in love with a man who bears a striking resemblance to her lead character.
Her website/blog is jenniferniven.com

“Never limit your imagination.” (Jennifer, 43:55)

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Jennifer Niven is a #1 NY Times and internationally bestselling author, who has written ten books, including All the Bright Places and Holding up the Universe. Her work has been translated into more than 75 languages, and All the Bright Places has won literary awards around the world. The film, for which she co-authored the screenplay, is now streaming on Netflix.

Jennifer’s latest novel, Breathless, has just been published, and she is hard at work on her next two books. She also oversees Germ, a literary and lifestyle web magazine for girls and boys age high school and beyond that celebrates beginnings, futures, and all the amazing and agonizing moments in between. Her previous works include four novels for adults, as well as three nonfiction books. She divides her time between Los Angeles and coastal Georgia with her husband, kids, and literary cats.

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Jennifer recommends:

The Cut: thecut.com
Hyperbole and a Half: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com
Too Damn Young: toodamnyoung.com
French Girl Daily: frenchgirldaily.com

 

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Writer Jennifer Niven on Digging Deep
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Shelly De Vito on creating space

Shelly de Vito

Ten years ago, Shelly and her husband James set out to create a contemporary arts center. The space they chose is a former 18th century papermill in the Loir Valley in France, where they make a constant effort to hold space so that other artists can express themselves. Their goal is to revitalize the campus with the goal of bringing the arts to everyone, while shining the spotlight on the social issues and situations facing society today.

Turning their dreams into reality was not easy for Shelly and her husband. After all, they took a leap of faith when they created their arts center, and that is why their story is so inspiring to so many people. They did not go into the arts for the money, but rather followed their hearts and stayed true to their vision.

However, this does not mean that art should be free, but rather that it should be accessible. Everyone deserves to be in the presence of excellence, even the people who lack the economic means to do so. After listening to Shelly, it is clear that artists from all disciplines need to be supported. And in the context of the current coronavirus crisis, it is clear that galleries and museums need institutional support if they are to keep from closing their doors.

“Supporting the arts isn’t just financial.” (Shelly, 37:22)

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Shelly De Vito is a Paris-based stage director and playwright originally from New York. In 2010, with her husband, visual artist James Porter, she founded Les Moulins de Paillard contemporary arts centre in a former 18th century papermill in the Loir Valley of France. For the past ten years, the couple has directed their attention and efforts to the work of other artists.

Take in their website for Les Moulins de Paillard

 

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Shelly De Vito on creating space
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Sarah Ronan, on Converting to Islam

Even though Sarah grew up in a Christian household, she drifted away from religion when she was 17 years old. After years of partying and doing her thing, she started looking for a deeper meaning at age 28. She researched multiple religions and discovered that merely picking and choosing her favorite elements of a religion is not an option. Just when she was looking into Islam, she met the man who would become her husband. He came from Egypt and was a non-practicing Muslim.

It soon became clear to Sarah that she would convert to Islam. She found a sense of peace and dignity, as well as a loving community that changed her life. She started wearing the hijab and went to University. She used her degrees to work as a teacher at Islamic schools. She found everything she was ever looking for.

“I think we all find our path to God, and Islam happens to be my path to God, and the path that has worked for me.” (Sarah, 38:56)

However, being a Muslim in America wasn’t always easy, especially after September 11th. Even though Sarah never felt seriously threatened, she decided to stay at home for a few days after the attacks. Listen to her interview to find out more about her experiences, her insights and her decision to wear the hijab.

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Sarah Ronan is a 49-year-old American who raised four children while completing two university degrees, including a Master’s in Education. She has used this degree to travel the world and teach abroad. She is currently an elementary librarian at the largest Islamic school in the south, which is located in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas.

 

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Sarah Ronan, on Converting to Islam
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American Devora Rogers on Writing her Novel, The Spanish Painter

Devora Rogers

“When I was 16, I learned my mother had been lying to me all my life. It was a big and terrible lie, as lies between mothers and daughters often are.” These are the first words of Devora’s novel, The Spanish Painter, published in 2017.

In our interview with Devora, she talks about the story behind the novel. How it took her thirteen years to finish The Spanish Painter, how she met a German man in France and followed him all the way to Spain, landing in a small town called Cuenca. Little did she know back then that the experiences she would encounter there would have nothing to do with the man who had captivated her. Instead, she would meet Flores, the woman who inspired one of the main characters in her novel.

There was a story to be told, I just didn’t know how to do it!” (Devora, 03:45)

Devora’s friendship with Flores continues to this day. Devora still remembers her cooking, her devotion to keeping her house spotless, her pristine white apron, her perfect silver bun. Flores created a home for Devora that she had never experienced before, and told her stories about her love affair with a Spanish painter under Franco’s dictatorship.

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Devora Rogers is a writer and consumer researcher. She is co-author of Fire in the Zoo and author of The Spanish Painter. Devora is a regular public speaker and her TedX talk on the Future of Shopping and Retail has been viewed over 235,000 times. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter and ornery cat.

 

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American Devora Rogers on Writing her Novel, The Spanish Painter
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Estonians Ats & Kätlyn on cycling across Europe and back again

Estonians

These two adventurous Estonians had the courage to cycle their way around Europe. Starting from their front porch in the middle of the woods, with the goal of reaching Portugal, they packed up their bikes and started riding. They visited a total of 16 countries and spent 8 months on the road.

“Let’s take a chance and we’ll see!” (Kätlyn, 08:31)

On their way, they got the chance to meet friendly, kind people who helped them whenever Ats’ bike broke down, which was… pretty often! And even though they only speak English and Estonian fluently, they also feel confident using a different type of communication: body language! A kind smile in the right moment was all they needed.

Though there were times of struggle and uncertainty, they acknowledge that this experience has shaped their mindset. Today, they feel their priorities have shifted and they feel more confident when taking on risks.

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Ats Remmelg and Kätlyn Jürisaar cycled across Europe and back again in 2016 and 2017. Natives of Estonia, their trip began and ended on their front porch. Ats is now in his final semester of a BA in Geography, and previously studied woodworking, while Kätlyn has a Masters in Communications Management. They work at the same high school, Ats as a geography teacher, and Kätlyn as a project manager.

 

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Estonians Ats & Kätlyn on cycling across Europe and back again
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Laura – A Belgian World Traveler

Laura

Being born and raised in Belgium, a country with three official languages, has surely shaped Laura’s perception of the world. While growing up, she spoke Dutch at home and learned German, French and English at school. Crazy, right?

How fascinating is it that in Belgium everything is subtitled (as opposed to dubbed). From TV shows to movies and the news, you get to hear the whole thing in the original language! At a very young age, Laura discovered how listening to the original voices broadens our perspective of the world.

“Your voice and your expressions are part of who you are.” (Laura, 15:15)

However, living in such an environment doesn’t mean she didn’t encounter friction when traveling the world. When she first traveled alone abroad, she discovered how difficult it is to express one’s emotions and feelings in a foreign language.

Now, she knows that communication is not only about words, but also about facial expressions, gestures, tone, melody… Language and communication are part of who we are.

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Laura Vander Kerken is a 27 year old Belgian who has participated in exchange programs in such countries as the US, Spain, France and England. She is addicted to learning foreign languages and experiencing new cultures. Recently she and her Spanish husband biked from Belgium to Spain, then backpacked in Colombia and Ecuador, on the ultimate dream honeymoon. Laura, who is now working in the tourism sector in Belgium, plans to keep on dreaming and traveling.

 

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Laura – A Belgian World Traveler
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Javi & Silvia – From Spain to London and Back Again

Season Three: Coming Home

After living in London for nearly a decade and having a child while abroad, Javier García Nieva and Silvia Martínez Andres decided to move back to their native Spain to put down roots and continue to grow their family and business.

Javi and Silvia had known each other their whole lives before they embarked on their journey together as a couple. Today, they live in Central Spain with their daughter and son, but it was a long journey to get here!

The couple moved to London in search of better job opportunities. The work culture in the UK, they tell us, differs from the one in Spain. If you work, you thrive. This is the main reason they left their home country in the first place: it was now or never.

“In Spain, I always felt that there was someone not wanting you to progress.” (Silvia, 12:09)

While thriving on a professional level, they also faced many challenges, especially regarding language. Not being able to express their needs and emotions precisely was definitely a humbling experience.

With the birth of their daughter in 2016 and in the middle of the Brexit turmoil, they decided to move back to Spain, where their son was born. Having lived and worked in two countries, Javier and Silvia share some interesting insights on other topics such as dealing with the taxman and universal healthcare. What was their experience like? Tune in and find out!

 

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Javi & Silvia – From Spain to London and Back Again
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Pavan & Olga of Juno Health and Wellness

Pavan and Juno

Our guests for our first interview of Season 2 are Olga and Pavan Gulati, who in 2014 launched Juno Health & Wellness in San Francisco. Their goal is to promote integrative wellness using a holistic approach through educational courses and retreats. They provide their clients with specific tools they can use to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Olga, having survived an eating disorder herself, gives us some insightful reflections on how the birth of her daughter and the founding of Juno Health & Wellness inspired her to overcome her own illness. Today, she supports others in their search for balance. She and her husband Pavan also take us through their creative process and the first steps they took when founding their company. Having lived in San Francisco and Olga’s home country of Colombia, they moved to Alicante, Spain, where they have lived for the last two years along with their young daughter.

“Let’s just jump! We’ll figure it out when we land.” (Olga, 22:30)

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Olga is a psychologist, life and nutrition coach. Since 2009, she has been dedicated to helping people heal mind, body and soul from an integrative perspective. Pavan has a background in science and today he is the creative director of Juno Health & Wellness.

For more on Juno Health & Wellness

 

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Pavan & Olga of Juno Health and Wellness
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Agnieszka, A Daughter of Poland Mothers in Spain

Season One: Mothers in Another Land

Dealing with Cultural Clashes –

Season 1 kicks off with Agnieszka, a Polish mother who is raising her two young daughters in Cuenca, a small city in the heart of Spain. As a mother living in a foreign country, there were some topics that Agnieszka had to look at from a fresh point of view.

“We have a cultural clash, let’s talk about that.” (Agnieszka, 08:51)

For instance, it is a common and widely accepted tradition in Spain that parents pierce the ears of newborns if they are girls. This idea shook Agnieszka to her core! It took a shift in power as she stepped into her new role as Mother, making her voice heard and choosing not to pierce her daughter’s ears.

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A native of Poland, Agnieszka Koniak studied International Culture at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and met her husband Salvador while on an Erasmus scholarship at the University of Castilla-La Mancha. After finishing her degree some ten years ago, she moved to Spain. Today she is a teacher in a public school and the very busy mother of two beautiful girls: Sara and Emilia.

 

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Agnieszka, A Daughter of Poland Mothers in Spain
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