"Dream big. Know that you are fine just the way you are. Be your own best friend and surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and bring out your higher nature. Keep that magic spark inside alive all your live-long days. Rest when you're tired. Play."
Mill Valley, California
She is the author of "RIP THE PAGE: Adventures in Creative Writing" (such a lovely book to open a child's world of creativity within! Yes I own a copy... Thank you Karen) and the new book "LEAP WRITE IN : Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch & Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind"
Karen is a poet in the California schools and Creative Writing guide for kids and kids at heart. She received her M.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco where she studied with poet Jane Hirshfield, and her B.A. in English/Creative Writing from California State University, Chico. Her poems have been published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Ploughshares, Poetry East, Rockhurst Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Heartlodge, Pilgrimage, Poetry Daily and elsewhere. A recipient of a few awards, grants from The Marin Arts Council, and residencies and fellowships from Hedgebrook and Djerassi Resident Artists Program, she lives north of the Golden Gate Bridge with her husband, nine year-old son, and a cat named Clive. It is an honor to share her energy and light with all today.
WHO IS KAREN BENKE? WHERE ARE YOU NOW ON YOUR JOURNEY?
I'm a poet and creativity coach who loves working with children and tapping the child within to play on the page.
I'm also the author of three books: SISTER (Confux Press, 2004) a poem sequence about the growing up years of two girls and the grief experienced after their father's death; RIP THE PAGE! Adventures in Creative Writing (Shambhala, 2010) is for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader who wants to forget about the punctuation police and play with words and images with tried and true writing prompts, dares, and double dares; and LEAP WRITE IN! Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch & Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind (Shambhala, 2013) is for the tween & teen Earthling--and adults--who want to invite their jittery mind into quiet slips of time and get inspired by what can happen when you pick up a pen. Now on my journey, I'm working with a lot of creative types who need creative nudges to start or finish a writing or life project. I'm also bringing my creativity play shops and poems-on-the spot table to book fairs, community events, schools...
People who are passionate about what they're doing, especially when involving some form of art or the encouragement of others. Community events with a "linking arms" approach inspires me. My son and husband inspire me when we're working on a project together. Gatherings that benefit the greater good inspire me. Bridging creative writing and community service very much excites me right now. Being in nature always quiets me which leads to being inspired.
My maternal grandmother was a teacher for how to be generous and loving in the face of great adversity and tragedy. A writing friend named Joan Kip was a teacher of all matters of the heart for me.
My son is a teacher for how to stay in the moment and just go with the flow. My husband is a teacher for how to never give up on what you love and care about. My writing mentors are the Buddhist and poet Jane Hirshfield and my colleague in the Poets in the Schools program and fellow author, Prartho Sereno. I also consider His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama a great teacher as well as all the people who are advocates for children everywhere.
I did. My mother liked to shop at flea markets and one weekend she brought home 10 old school desks and 10 matching wooden chairs that I set up in one of the downstairs rooms--we lived in a rambling house. Then I invited over all the kids in the neighborhood and set up a chalk board and gave them writing assignments. I now prefer to write at a big table or on the floor or in secret hiding places. Sitting under a tree or outside is another favorite. I lead experimental writing workshops at a local bookstore called Book Passage and at my house. Writing one on one is also something I enjoy. I'm also an avid editor of my and other people's writing, but I try not to move into this role too soon as it thwarts the creator.
I dream of re-visiting favorite vacation spots with my family: Ashland, Oregon; Honakaa, Hawaii; Todi, Italy; Oxford, England; Guadelupe...and also visiting new places like Australia and Thailand and Costa Rica...places I've never laid eyes on or felt the earth under my feet (yet).
I've learned that I must be careful with the intentions I set and that sometimes doing nothing and staying still with my unease and restlessness is the best course of action. I've learned that the best way to make friends with my mind is to drop it into my heart...Each moment is brand new, holding pure potential for anything. I've also learned how sometimes after great upheaval or a huge loss, much more about this precious and fleeting life can and will be deeply appreciated.
Holding grudges. Oh, and trying to keep the past alive. Focusing on the present is where it's at. That and finishing a few of the picture books I've started. One of which my agent has been encouraging me to pursue. In one of my favorite new new books, STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST by Austin Kleon, he says "Art is subtraction." This is soooo true, especially of writing.
My incarnation. My family. My heart.
WHAT IS LOVE FOR YOU?
Being fully present with whatever is in front of me. This and holding gratitude for everything. I read a bumper sticker the other day as I was waiting for a light: "Love Gods You." That summed it up for me. Love is a noun and a verb, you know.
I want to spend as much time with my son and husband as I can, since we are no longer living together. I want to finish that picture book and promote LEAP! and not take anything about being on this planet at this time for granted. I want to also continue my gratitude practice and cherish each day. My creativity coaching business is an aspiration that I'd like to have grow, since inspiring and encouraging people is something that gives me great joy. Seeing my book-children be born, used, and enjoyed has been a dream come true.
Dream big. Know that you are fine just the way you are. Be your own best friend and surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and bring out your higher nature. Keep that magic spark inside alive all your live-long days. Rest when you're tired. Play.
For more on Karen Benke visit