The meeting was a class at the Learning Annex in NYC. The class
was called "Being a Succulent Wild Woman", so of course it was
right up my alley. I have 5 or 6 of her books; my first introduction
to SARK's work was when a friend gave me a copy of "How to be
an Artist" and mentioned that I had already done half of the things
listed on it (and he was right). Ever since then, I've been just
crazy about her work.
We got to the class and were invited to take a nametag from the
many stickers around the door. You were to pick the one that most
spoke to you that evening. Mine was "Believer" and my mom's was
"Wise". I met two women from the MMB. (that's the message board
on SARK's website - we had mentioned there that we'd be coming.
I had attached a photo and said that I had big black hair and
that I would probably be wearing a shirt with a fairy on it. I
was easy to find.)
We were warm and wet (it was raining), but we forgot all of that
when SARK was introduced. The woman who introduced her told about
when she first met SARK and went out to dinner with her and another
writer. They went to a very chi-chi restaurant, and SARK ordered
chocolate cake - the WHOLE chocolate cake - for dessert. The waiter
placed it in the center of the table and SARK told everyone to
put their hands behind their back and just chow down on it. And
they did! And when the waiter came back, he was asked to join
in, and he did, too! That was probably one of the most interesting
nights that restaurant had seen in a long time.
After the introduction, the lights went out, and under a table
draped with a cloth appeared the light of a flashlight. SARK (yes,
who was under the table) told about how when she was young, she
would always make blanket forts and read and read and read.
Eventually, she popped out from under the fort and laughed. She
laughs a lot, and it's a joyous, loud laugh that makes you want
to laugh right along with her. There was a huge sketch pad on
an easel with notes on it, and half of the time the easel was
about to fall over, and half of the time she changed her mind
and decided we weren't doing that section just yet, and things
were not what you would call 100% organized - and that was more
than just fine. It wasn't polished, it was real and from the heart
and we were all having a great time anyway.
Everyone had about 5 sheets of paper at their seats. One of the
first things we did was draw our inner critics (the part of you
that tells you you're no good or not smart or talented enough)
- and then we ripped up the papers and sent them away because
there was no place for them at this meeting. "They're having their
own meeting, off in Central Park somewhere," she said, dismissively.
"Don't you worry about them."
Each of us made a Dream Book. On the cover, I wrote "Elena's
Dream Book" as instructed. On the next page, I wrote a dream.
She asked people to share it and I jumped up. "I'm Elena, and
my dream is to illustrate children's books." (oohs from the group)
"Preferably, in Florence, Italy!" That got applause.
Throughout the evening, others shared their dreams, and we got
into small groups to discuss them and to encourage each other.
We shared email addresses and whatever resources we could.
Periodically, SARK would throw out a paper airplane from the
arsenal she had on the table next to her. Whoever's lap it landed
on had to stand up and read it out loud. One girl got a phrase
that was something like, "I am a succulent, wonderful, woman!"
and she had a hard time getting it out without getting embarrassed.
SARK made her say it three times! "Isn't it interesting," she
said, "That we could all read that about our friends and agree
with it, but when it comes to announcing something like that about
ourselves we freeze up?"
Then she told a story (this still gets me) that the Dalai Lama
didn't understand the western concept of self-hatred. He had it
have it explained to him several times until he got it, because
that feeling wasn't present anywhere in his culture. And then
he cried. (Excuse me while I have a little moment here... okay,
So we talked about self-love. And the difference between that
and narcissism. And believing in yourself. And allowing others
to help you. And a million other things. And whenever the spirit
moved her, she'd toss out another one of those airplanes.
We also discussed micro-movements; the tiniest scheduled movement
you could make towards your goal. Suppose you need to clean your
closet, she said. It's overwhelming. But if you write down that
you're going to do a teeny step at a time, and do it, you don't
set yourself up for failure. For instance, your first micro-movement
could be to open the door. You can't clean the closet if the door's
closed! Then maybe the next micro-movement is to take out just
5 coats and decide if they will be given away. And little by little,
your goals can be accomplished. (This, by the way, is the hardest
part for me. I can't think of a small enough task; the best I
can come up with is to refill my watercolor trays.)
At one point, she announced the people in the audience that she
wanted to honor. She named her publisher, her editor, the author
Sabrina Ward Harrison was there (if you like SARK, you should
check her out; she wrote her first book at like, 19) and then
she said, "I have a couple of people I would like to stand up....
is French Toast Girl here?" Well, okay, I was shocked, but I stood
up, and so did Fairy Faye (Faye) and Karmabttrfli (Loretta) when
they were called. She had been reading the message boards on her
site and knew we'd be there! She said she considers us friends
and she wanted to honor us for coming! After she called us, I
heard a couple of people whispering, "That's French Toast Girl!
I know who she is!" and when I sat down, the cute girl in the
braids sitting next to me said, "I've sent you postcards!" It
turns out that I was sitting next to fellow Postcard Fairy Jessica
Bisagni, who only lives about an hour away from me!
At the end of the evening, I took my book (Eat Mangoes Naked)
and sidewalk chalk and myself over to get on line to meet SARK
and get my book signed. While on the line, I met: Wendy, who started
peace chalking with her family after reading about it on my site
and is going to send me photos to post; a lovely girl who drove
there herself from PA who wanted to know when I was going into
college and was shocked to learn I was 30 (I love this girl!);
others who had visited my site; at least three people who were
authors and wanted to see my artwork, including one from Scholastic
(!); and two girls from Westfield, my town! After further discussion,
it came up that Tasha still lives in Westfield, while Peggy now
lives in Basking Ridge (where I grew up!) We decided to all go
back to Penn Station together.
Finally, it's my turn to meet SARK. I presented her the bucket
of chalk and told her that the first time I saw the book I was
having signed, I opened it right up to the part where she talks
about chalking, which I do too. She laughed and said that when
she used this chalk, she'd think of me. My mom took our picture
together (I was talking though, hope it comes out!) and we were
on our way. It's probably good that they had a closing time because
we could have easily all stayed and talked to each other all night.
On the way home, we walked and talked with Tasha and Peggy, until
we got outside Madison Square Garden, where Cher was doing her
farewell tour. We charmed our way inside, until we found that
all the elevators were going down, since the concert was almost
over, and floods of people were leaving. When they found the first
staircase, Mom and I decided to go back and just meet them at
the train, because we didn't know what time it left, and if we
missed it, it would be another hour and we were really exhausted
at this point. So we wished them luck and went on our way. Well,
this is where I eventually smacked myself on the head, because
it turned out that we had 45 minutes until the train came, and
they made it in and saw the end of the concert and got back with
plenty of time to catch the train. So we got to hear all about
it vicariously through them.
All in all, it was an exciting, emotional, and exhausting night,
and well worth it. If SARK comes to your area, don't hesitate
to get a group together and go!