Fresh out of college, a young writer accepts a job with an NGO, which takes her to Africa on several trips. The connections she makes there – with primates, with nature, with local communities – will give her a new perspective that lends her writing a sense of joy and delight.

The approach of outsiders coming in and telling people how to manage their land and their lives is wrong. (Rebecca Villarreal, 3:54)


Rebecca Villarreal is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón, A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & FriendshipBy day, she’s a community organizer who helps people of all ages to create innovative projects aimed at people 50 and over along with their families. Prior to that, she traveled to Africa gathering wildlife conservation stories in collaboration with local communities and later worked with education and corporate clients in public relations.

The Listen Podcast
S14, E2: Rebecca Villarreal on the majesty of the world

When Laura Kitchin decided to move to Barcelona, she knew she would be teaching English there. What she didn’t know was that she would be enjoying three-hour dinners, traveling to several countries each year, and getting an up-close look at the independence movement in Catalonia.

“I really consider Barcelona my home.” (Laura, 32:21)


Laura Kitchin moved from the United States to Spain in 2006 where she has been working as an English teacher ever since.  Laura worked for more than a decade in the field of mental health and has an M.A. in Special Education.  She currently resides in the center of Barcelona in a rooftop apartment where she lovingly tends to her large collection of plants.  Laura loves to travel, is a passionate reader, and is always exploring the city looking for her new favorite dining spot.

The Listen Podcast
S13, E2: Laura Kitchin on wanting to see the world

As a young girl growing up in LA, Jacqui took it for granted that she was Hispanic. Then came a questioning, a trying on of other labels like Chicana and Latina, and ultimately the feeling that identity is fluid in essence.

Jacqui Amezcua is an alum of Dickinson College, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she graduated Cum Laude and received her B.A. with Honors in Latin American, Latinx & Caribbean Studies. Her research has focused on political movements in Latin America and her published work is titled “Politics of Memory and the Escrache in Post Dictatorship Argentina.”

Jacqui’s most passion-driven work has been with The Trout Gallery, where she worked as a Foreign Language Coordinator to develop immersive curricula for Spanish and Portuguese language learners. She later went on to curate her own exhibit titled, “Agency, Tolerance and Imagination: Art and Civic Engagement,” where she honed her passion for making art accessible and using it as a tool for social change. Ultimately, she hopes to work towards revolutionizing the museum space into one rooted in equity and community empowerment.

Today, Jacqui works as Trainer at The Posse Foundation, a non- profit organization that provides 4-year full-tuition scholarships to leaders within the Los Angeles community.

“We gotta question why we use these labels.” (Jacqui, 29:48)


Jacqui recommends:


The Listen Podcast
S12, E2: Jacqui Amezcua on growing up Mexican American

As a young single mother, Nicole Powers slid down a slippery slope from alcohol and pot to an addiction to pain pills after they were prescribed for shoulder problems. It wasn’t long before she was introduced to heroin. After stealing from her employer to support her drug habit, she turned herself in on forgery charges and served 20 months of a four year sentence. She has now been clean and sober for eight years.

“Reach out to somebody that you know loves you.” (Nicole, 31:29)


Nicole recommends:
Alcoholics Anonymous –
Narcotics Anonymous –
Al-Anon –


Nicole Powers has a wonderful fiancé and four beautiful daughters. Add in her six grandsons, and it’s clear her life is vibrant and full of love. She grew up in Richmond, Indiana, graduated from Richmond High School in 1989, and has a Bachelors degree in Mass Communications from the University of Evansville. She has been an Administrative Assistant at Central Indiana Transport Express in Richmond, Indiana for the past two years. She feels super blessed to be alive and contributing!


The Listen Podcast
S11, E2: Nicole Powers on surviving an opioid addiction

A solid foundation is laid over four years at Juilliard, and incredible experience is gained over 25 years working on the stage and screen. Now, an actor uses her hard-won perspective and wisdom to coach her clients.

My dear friend Lauren and I could talk for hours, and sometimes we do! So glad we could capture one of our conversations and share it with you. We reminisce about our first tour together as young actors, then focus on Lauren’s work – first as a Juilliard-trained performer, and then in her current role as voice and speech coach to actors and non-actor professionals.

Check out this wonderful article Lauren wrote on “Speaking Well and the Line between Practice and Performance.”

“The body is a system.” (Lauren, 18:57)

To contact Lauren about private coaching, visit her website

Somatic Experiencing Institute:

You can also find her on Instagram: @yourdesertwitch


Lauren Lovett is a graduate of the Juilliard School Drama Division in New York City, and is now based in Los Angeles. She has had specific vocal training with Patsy Rodenburg and Saul Kotzubei. In addition, she studied Education at Monmouth University and Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Somatic Experiencing with Peter Levine. For 25 years, Lauren worked as a professional actor in theatres across the country, including the Mark Taper Forum and The Geffen Playhouse in LA. She has also appeared on TV in ER, Guiding Light, Days of our Lives, and The Whole Truth. She was the voice of the “Childhood is Calling” campaign for Rice Krispies for many years. She has been coaching actors and non-actor professionals for 20 years in voice, speech, dialect and public speaking confidence. Companies include Dreamworks Animation, B/S/H, Morgan Stanley and several others. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA, Actors Equity and VASTA.


The Listen Podcast
S10, E2: Voice and speech coach Lauren Lovett on letting the body lead.

Jennifer Niven thought James Bird would be a perfect fit for The Listen Podcast, and she could not have been more on point! James has a strong sure voice, and he is using it – to speak up for indigenous people, for children, and for all those who need our support.

 “First I wanna connect with my tribe, with my blood.” (James, 9:51)

Bird’s most recent book, The Brave, focuses on a young man struggling in school who is encouraged to drop out by his own guidance counselor. He does just that, backpacking across the country to return to his roots – the Ojibwe tribe in Minnesota.

To find out more about James’ work and his unique point of view, you can listen to the full interview below. You can also find him on social media – links below – where he posts oodles of photos of his son Wolf.

Insta: @jamesbirdbooks
FB: James Bird
Twitter: @Jamesbirdwriter


James Bird is a Native American author from the Ojibwe tribe. He was born and raised in Southern California and began his writing career penning screenplays and directing such films as Eat Spirit Eat, From Above, Honeyglue and We Are Boats. He met his wife, New York Times Bestselling Author Adriana Mather, at a nightclub in Hollywood. Together they moved to the east coast, where they both write books, rescue animals, and raise their son, Wolf. James’ favorite food is Rice Krispy treats and his favorite color is green. His goals in life are to be a great dad, one day open a vegan diner, and write enough books to fill up a bookshelf.




The Listen Podcast
S9, E2: Writer James Bird on supporting diverse voices
Casey Mallincrodt

If there is one thing you should know about Casey, it’s that her feelings about art conservation run deep. She is the Objects Conservator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT, where she oversees a highly diverse collection. She is well aware of the fact that, whenever a piece is treated upon arrival at a museum, it is potentially put at risk. She is fully committed to conserving the full history of the items under her watch.

Casey’s goal is not only to preserve the object’s identity, but also to respect the voice of the community of origin. This was the case as she worked on various projects involving African art and Native American pottery. However, taking the ethical path has not always been simple, given that some values and belief systems have shifted over the past centuries in some of the cultures Casey has worked with. In some cases, even the local people are reluctant to speak about their own history.
This is probably something we can relate to today, especially since the murder of George Floyd. We might feel ashamed about certain episodes of our history and, therefore, we may be inclined to gloss over various events. However, Casey’s interview shows us the importance of preserving our past, in order to understand our present and move into a wiser future.

“We don’t want to remove, we don’t want to reinterpret. We want to preserve what’s there.” (Casey, 35:42)

To find out more about Casey’s work and her unique point of view, you can listen to the full interview below. You can also check out her website at We are sure you won’t be disappointed!

Visit her websites:
American Institute for Conservation
Casey Mallinckrodt
Wadsworth Atheneum


Casey Mallinckrodt is the Objects Conservator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, where she oversees a highly diverse collection. The Wadsworth is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. She has a master’s degree from the UCLA/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. Her primary interest is the stewardship of material cultural heritage and the integration of specific and refined knowledge about the materials with cultural history and practice.


The Listen Podcast
S8, E2: Casey Mallinckrodt on the ethics of conservation

Arun’s interview is full of insights on the world we live in. As a yoga therapist and an Ayurvedic practitioner, he sees his craft as a path to discovering oneself and to understanding life. At a time when we are enduring a global pandemic that is changing the world, Arun shares his vision of the international response we are witnessing. According to him, it is up to us, the people of the world, to use our power to change course and build a better future for the generations to come.

“The power of the people of the world uniting for peace is more than any force that may try and oppose it.” (Arun, 47:57)

Arun sees the global pandemic as another way that nature is fighting back. Humanity is out of alignment and we have been deaf to her call to come back to ourselves and find stillness. Stillness is our essence. We can abandon it, but it can never abandon us. We just need to slow down, listen, learn and heal. We cannot align with fear.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Arun’s teachings. You can learn more by listening to the full interview or visit his website, where you will find information on upcoming workshops, including Healing the Heart, Healing the Mind.


Arun Deva is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, an Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, and a Vinyasa Krama certified yoga teacher. The founder of Arunachala Yoga & Ayurveda, Arun has the pleasure of serving both the National & California State Ayurvedic Associations, including as a Board Member. Arun teaches internationally, lectures at conferences, writes articles for various publications, has been featured on both radio and television and has a clinic for Ayurveda and yoga therapy in Los Angeles. He also teaches the Ayurveda and Yoga modules for many Teacher Training Programs around the world and is Director of Ayurveda at LMU’s YTRX Program. Born in India, where he began his studies as a child, Arun has made his home in Los Angeles since 1977.


The Listen Podcast
S7, E2: Arun Deva, on Finding Stillness
Brooke Berman

Although Brooke was initially trained as an actor, she felt a voice inside telling her that acting was not her calling. Today, she has worked as a playwright, a screenwriter, a director and a memoirist. In her interview, she tells us about how classical music, journaling and her training as an actor shaped her career and her life.

“(Journaling) is how I process the world.” (Brooke, ~09:00)

Brooke also shares with us her insights on her creative process. She is a firm believer in letting the page do what it wants to do. She lets herself go and drift away while writing her first drafts, she allows her characters to “audition” and then decides who she is calling back for the second draft. As a result, she encourages anyone who is writing or trying to find their voice to keep exploring without judgment.

Spalding Gray, Holly Hughes, John Leguizamo, Sandra Bernhard, Anne Bogart, María Irene Fornés, Anaïs Nin, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Aristotle, Adam Rapp, Marsha Norman, Natalie Portman, Kate Hudson, Tripp Coleman, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Mike Leigh, Nicole Holofcener, Michael Chernus, Peter Stormare, Peter Hedges, Jessica Goldberg, Jill Soloway, Merritt Wever, Ingmar Bergman and Mike Nicholls. I kid you not, all of these names came up in our conversation!


Brooke Berman is an award-winning playwright, filmmaker and memoirist. Her films have been recognized by such prestigious festivals as the Savannah Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Aspen International ShortsFest. Her plays, which include Hunting and Gathering (Primary Stages), Smashing (The Play Company) and Until We Find Each Other (Steppenwolf), have been seen across the US and internationally, and she is the author of three nonfiction books, including the memoir No Place Like Home. A graduate of the Juilliard School and Barnard College, Brooke lives in New York City with her writer husband and their upstart son.
9 Juicy Weeks to a Wonderfully Imperfect First Draft


The Listen Podcast
S6, E2: Brooke Berman on Crossing Frontiers to Write in Different Media

When Sara, an ex-pat living in Paris, falls in love with Peter, an older Brit, they discover a common dream of buying their own boat and sailing around the world. But they just kept putting it off, until they had a wake-up call. When Peter got sick, they realized they had to take this journey once he recovered. So, they bought a boat and sailed off together.

“Surprisingly, the ocean was a very empty place!” (Sara, 23:23)

Alone at sea, crossing the Atlantic, they had a safe and quiet trip. They settled into a routine of reading and spending time together. For Sara, the boat felt like home, so she could enjoy feeling comfortable while also having adventures and discovering new places and cultures whenever they reached a new port.

Sara’s history is truly inspiring. She is a firm believer in pursuing your dreams and putting yourself out there. If you want to find out the name of her boat and discover her special tricks for feeling at home while sailing, listen to the interview below.

If you’re interested, you can also visit her blog at:


Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Sara Turman is a public speaking and communications consultant who has lived in Paris for over 25 years. Her life took an indisputably adventurous turn when she met a man who shared a dream she could not resist: Sailing the world. Five years later, she and Peter Richards bought a 37 foot sailboat, and set off from northern France. Though Peter had his off-shore navigating license and “salt-water in his veins” neither had much experience. The couple crossed the Atlantic in 15 days in December 2019, and left their boat “on the hard” in Trinidad at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.


The Listen Podcast
S5, E2: American Sara Turman on setting sail from France to travel the world

Being a native Spanish speaker who learned English while growing up puts Jose in an interesting position: he actually has memories of the learning process! He was lucky enough to have a native speaker as his English teacher, and she helped him out with issues such as pronunciation.

But he was also committed to learning this new language due to his passion for role-playing games: he translated the entire manual of Dungeons and Dragons because there was no Spanish version available at the time. He was fourteen! Amazing, right? From a very young age, he found the inspiration and the drive to do something that he felt passionate about.

“I translated the whole book because I was a geek!” (Jose, 07:35)

Today, he is an English teacher and it is his job to inspire his students to enjoy the process of learning a new language. His secret weapon? Music! Jose is passionate about it and he encourages his students to listen to music in English, so as to awaken their interest in understanding the lyrics.  If you want to discover more about Jose’s anecdotes in the classroom while learning and teaching English, listen to his interview here!


Born in Cuenca, Spain, Jose García began his English studies at the age of 10. He first traveled to the UK at the age of 17, then later to Ireland, while studying translation at university. He has used English in his professional life as a translator, interpreter, tourist officer, clerk for the EU, and currently as a teacher, and is passionate about British and American folk music.


The Listen Podcast
S4, E2: Jose – A Brilliant Geek Teaching English

Ernesto and María, both from Central Spain, met in a research lab in Madrid, where they were carrying out their studies for their respective PhDs. In 2009, they were granted a scholarship to continue their studies at UC Berkeley. They packed their bags and off they went on their adventure together!

As Spaniards living in the States, they talk us through their experiences adjusting to this new culture that they were discovering. They lived in Berkeley for three years and eventually moved to Baltimore, MD, following the research project they were immersed in. There, they discovered that wealth and poverty can be just one street away.

When they had their first child in the USA, however, they stumbled upon one of the main reasons they ultimately returned to Spain: the private health care system. People from Spain are definitely not used to being handed an invoice on their way out of the hospital, after all…

When you receive the bill, you think:  “Oh, God… How much is it going to be?” (María, 38:50)

Ernesto and María explain their experience, not only with health care, but also with the work culture in the USA and with other aspects of residency. Tune in to their interview to learn more.


María Ángeles Recuero Checa and Ernesto Arias Palomo were born and raised in central Spain, and met during their PhD studies in Madrid. They decided to continue their research in the US, which led them to work at UC Berkeley (CA) and then at Johns Hopkins University (MD). In 2017, they returned to Madrid, where Maria is working as a high-school biology teacher and Ernesto as the head of a research lab at the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC).


The Listen Podcast
S3, E2: Ernesto & María – One Couple, Two Continents