Meet a Grubbie: Nadia Colburn
GrubStreet runs on coffee, printer ink, and community. This series features just some of the Grubbies who make our community strong. In this edition, meet Grub instructor Nadia Colburn. Nadia is the founding editor at Anchor, a spirituality and social justice magazine. Her poetry and prose have been widely published in such places as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, LA Review of Books, Spirituality and Health, Harvard Review, Yale Review, Slate, The Boston Globe, and many other places. Catch Nadia in action during her A Larger Purpose: Why Your Writing Voice Matters class, starting April 28th.
What's your favorite writing prompt?
My favorite writing prompt is not a traditional writing prompt: instead I like to do some yoga and meditation before I write. I find that puts me into a different mindset—it gets me out of my left brain and into my body. It also tends to make me feel more creative and uplifted. So this is both my favorite writing prompt and what I do to beat a bout of writer’s block. Whenever possible, I try to bring these practices into my teaching—it’s amazing how quickly our energy can shift with just a few minutes of meditation and movement. It helps us tune into what really matters, and after all, that is why we write, to get beyond the surface of things.
What's your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is that every person has a unique voice, and that everyone who wants to be a writer can be a writer. After all, we can all speak; we can all tell stories; we all have unique stories to tell. I say this having grown up among “great” books in New York City in the publishing world. I have a great respect for tradition and craft and skill and talent. And I believe that many of these skills can be taught and are acquired. And yet, what matters most is that unique spark that each of us has, and that needs to be trusted and listened to. This unique spark, this ability to listen to ourselves, ultimately can’t be taught, but it can be nourished, and what can be taught are the tools that people need to get to that spark and then communicate it.
What are you working on right now?
A collection of essays that weave in personal memoir-like experiences about mothering, being a woman, and an awareness of global, social, and environmental issues with my experiences of reading authors such as Whitman, Dickinson, Melville, Jorie Graham, and Mary Oliver. I like to think about how reading interacts with our lived experiences. This is a kind of hybrid form that I’m inventing, and I really enjoy writing these pieces.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to writers?
Don't allow your self worth to get too wrapped up in how “good” your writing is. The fear is that if we don’t worry about how “good” our writing is, it won’t be good at all. But what I really happens is that that worry of goodness keeps us small and afraid. When we worry about how good we are, we get cut off from our body, fragmented. This is pernicious, and part of a long tradition that stretches back to some idea of original sin that I think we can all push back against: what if we trusted in our inherent enoughness and aliveness and creativity? What freedom would that give us to create? How much bigger and more important—and more fun—could our writing be? I think there are too many urgent issues in the world right now to waste our time worrying about whether we are “good” enough.
What is the strangest place you've ever been?
I don’t know if this is a strange place, but the most magical place I’ve ever been was the valley of the kings in Egypt. When I was fourteen, my parents had the opportunity, through a work connection, to take me and my sister to Egypt. We visited many of the ancient temples and the place felt utterly magical and completely different from anything I’d experienced. I promised myself that I would return, a promise I have yet to keep, but I hope to go back one day.
Do you have a favorite local, independent bookstore? Where and why?
My local favorite independent bookstore is Porter Square Books—I live close by, and I love stopping in and browsing the new books, meeting a friend for tea, and sitting outside in the nice weather. I’m really glad to see how well the store seems to be doing!
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