The SARK Story, expanded.

On Thursday the 27th, I met SARK!

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, I'm back.)

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!

6:36 AM | french toast girl | #

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