o matter the genre, a writer’s job is to notice the extraordinary in the ordinary—not always the easiest task. But one writer and artist has built a prolific career on this skill, and works with others, both writers and non-writers, to develop their own ability to celebrate both the ordinary and extraordinary.
SARK (Susan Kennedy) is a best-selling author and artist, with sixteen titles in print and well over two million books sold, including the national bestsellers Succulent Wild Woman, Bodacious Book of Succulence, Eat Mangoes Naked, Prosperity Pie and Fabulous Friendship Festival.
Her newest book is Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change Into Gift And Opportunity. SARK’s books are frequently chosen as One Spirit selections, and are translated into a number of foreign languages. Her work is widely used by colleges and universities as required reading and course material and she is a distinguished contributor to many magazines and periodicals.
SARK is one of the featured trailblazers in the critically acclaimed PBS Series, “Women of Wisdom and Power.” An acclaimed speaker and teacher, she has been teaching and leading workshops for over twenty years. She is a transformational role model offering inspiration and guidance to people in their process of living more powerfully and authentically, and being more actively creative on a daily basis.
She is also the founder and CEO of Planet SARK, a thriving business that creates innovative products and services to support empowered living, including her newest ePrograms: SARK’s Transformation Exper!ence, Juicy Journaling with SARK, Magical Journeys with SARK, SARK’s Awesome Anytime Adventure, and Dream Boogie with SARK. You can call her on the Inspiration Line at 415.546.3742.
WOW: Let’s start with the most obvious question—can you tell us about your evolution from Susan Kennedy to SARK?
SARK: As a kid, I knew there was more for me and a different name for me. I always felt like I never had enough of a name as “Susan Kennedy.” I started reading Henry Miller’s books Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. I was drawn to his avatars. I started reading everything Henry Miller wrote—I found in him a “paper mentor”—he mentored me through the pages of his books.
In the early 80’s I had a dream. Henry appeared—he said, “Your name will be SARK and your outlook will be famous before your writing.” I put it in my journal and put it aside. Two weeks later, he appeared in another dream. I didn’t realize he was dead. He said, “Your name will be Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy.” I said, “Oh, that’s so pretty. I’ll change it legally.” I realized it spelled SARK. And that was how I came to be SARK.
WOW: What a great story! It sounds like you were destined for great things early on! How long have you been writing? Can you tell us how you got started?
SARK: I’ve been writing since I can remember, but I had another wonderful mentor when I was 10 years old who led to my writing my first book. That mentor’s name was Mr. Boggs and he was about 80 years old. I was being abused in the house I grew up in by my older brother, so I went to Mr. Boggs and he called me his “twirly friend” because I was always turning cartwheels. He wanted me to look close and look far, so he bought me a microscope. He always believed in me and my dreams. He got really sick and went into the hospital. My mother said, “I don’t think he’ll be coming out so you have to be prepared.” So I said, “I’ll write something every day that he’s in there.” He was in for 30 days and did come out. He said, “I think you saved my life.
No one else called or visited.” I went home and told my mother that I am supposed to be a beacon of hope. She said, “Eat your peanut butter sandwich.” That led to me writing my first book—Mice from Mars.
WOW: I love your tips and advice for a happier life, which seems so simple but is actually hard for some of us to do. What inspires your philosophy?
SARK: It has all come from my experiences in living. Whatever I write, I’m practicing myself. As I grow and learn, my writing grows also. I would tell people who think that the writing is “simple” to try it themselves.
WOW: Very true. Now, let’s talk about your books. All of your books and products have such a distinctive look—we definitely know if something is a SARK product. Who comes up with the concept?
SARK: I have paid a price because of the look of them. People think they are not serious or do not have depth. I believe in color and I believe in happy. All the books that I wrote are the books of my heart. Write for yourself first and the others can be truly delighted. I do it to delight myself first. I was incredibly inspired by comic books as a child, and I love art and words. I’m as much an artist as I am a writer.
“I’ve learned a lot about perfection and procrastination, and how both of them stop the flow.”
WOW: How do you continue to channel your creativity and come up with such unique books? How do you keep it flowing?
SARK: I do it through exquisite self-care. I do it by finding my energy system and what supports it most. I’ve learned a lot about perfection and procrastination, and how both of them stop the flow. I no longer procrastinate and I admit to being a part-time perfectionist, which I never thought I’d be able to achieve. So many people do so much self-criticizing before anyone else, but they never turn anything in.
WOW: Yes, I think we’re all our own worst critics. All creative beings have dry spells. What’s your advice for getting through those times?
SARK: I am the almighty SARK and I never get stuck! The words flow from my pen like honey...now, that’s not true! I’m prone to all of the same “stuck-ness,” indecision, anxiety, fears, that anyone is. I think the difference is that I respond to them differently—I respond but don’t spend too much time there. It’s a lot more fun to create and offer writing than it is to be crabby and dry. I use a three-step approach:
- Refuse to believe in writer’s block.
- If you must believe, consider building a castle with the blocks.
- If neither works, realize that writers’ block is mostly made up of inner critics and you can either give your inner critics new jobs in faraway places or you can learn to dialogue with them and turn them into your allies, which I have done.
I face inner critics that try to stop my writing with blocks, but I now know how to acknowledge them and keep going.
Acknowledge the inner critic—become aware of what’s happening. Some people think that a block is something that comes upon them and stops them and they forget that they’re the ones generating the blocks. So they can also generate un-blocking. I have a method called “micromovements” that I teach. It’s a process of admission to get started and keep going. I picture a wheel and the writer is at the center of the wheel and each spoke is something I’m writing.
WOW: What’s your favorite piece of advice from any of your books?
SARK: Probably the most important thing I would say is “You are seen. You are known. You are loved.”
WOW: Where do you come up with your ideas?
SARK: They’re everywhere. I am flooded with content at every step and every breath. I’m someone who walks into a store to buy milk and can write a book about that experience. My mother loved me and was mystified by my creative mind. One day she sent me to the bakery and I came home and said I had to lie down. She said, “Why are you always so tired? All I did was send you to the bakery!” And I said, “Do you want to know everything that I saw and what I did?”
I started talking and a half hour later she told me to stop and I wasn’t anywhere near finished. In school, I had a teacher who wanted us to do Show and Tell, and none of the other kids ever wanted to do it. I would always do it. My teacher let me go to a different grade every day and do show-and-tell. I said that Show and Tell should be me every day.
WOW: How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you keep a notebook or journal as many writers do?
SARK: I write a lot of things down. Post-It notes are my favorite. I use notebooks, especially when I’m out walking. I keep journals for ideas. I’ll write on my arm or hand if I don’t have paper. I use my iPhone now.
“I’m a very sporadic and erratic routine person. I’m kind of predictably unpredictable. If I told you my routine, I would immediately change it and say that wasn’t it.”
WOW: How do you come up with such unique titles?
SARK: Dreams. I’ll most often ask for the title in a dream. The way I know it’s the right title is if the hair on the back of my neck stands up or if I feel a bit uncomfortable. Or I’ll hear an expression, like “eat mangoes naked” and I’ll think—what does that mean?!?! Succulent Wild Woman came from a walk in San Francisco. I’d stood on a sidewalk and someone had written “Succulence is Powerful.” I said, “I am a succulent wild woman!” and that was that book’s title.
WOW: Can you tell us about your writing routine?
SARK: I’m a very sporadic and erratic routine person. I’m kind of predictably unpredictable. If I told you my routine, I would immediately change it and say that wasn’t it. The minute I notice a routine, I change it. I think we’re meant to change routine, habits, etc. all the time.
WOW: What do you hope your readers learn from you?
SARK: I definitely intend and know that my greatest wish is that people learn how to love themselves and be themselves and share all of the great stuff that comes with that with the rest of us. I’m an advocate of having a great life and being a great writer.
WOW: Which of your books is your favorite?
SARK: I have 16 “book children” and as any mother would tell you, none are the favorite. All are favorites for different reasons.
WOW: You’ve become more than just books—I regularly see your posters, notecards, tote bags, and magnets, to name just a few, on store shelves. Can you tell me how you grew into such an empire?
SARK: To me, everything I’ve created outside of the books are another version of the books. Posters are pages from the books. Most everything has colors and words that refer back to the books. The blankets have words from the books. I believe in creating things that awaken and enliven people’s creativity—most important thing in the world is that people have access to their creativity and live that way. All of the products are the results of making my creative dreams real. Have moved beyond the books into courses that do the same thing.
I have e-courses, including a new one called Dream Boogie, which is an eight-week online/phone course for people to make their dreams real. They’re incredibly effective—I hear from people who have finally finished that novel, for example.
WOW: I see many of your products that tell us how to be “succulent wild women.” What is a succulent wild woman, and how do we become one?
SARK: In my book, I write that the succulent is a plant that nourishes itself on the inside, so that makes it self-sustaining. When I defined it, a succulent wild woman is “ripe, juicy, whole, round, exuberant, wild, deep, firm, rare, female.” Succulence is also the opposite of dry and cracked. Dry and cracked is how we live when we forget the importance of adventure—adventure in our everyday lives and adventure that doesn’t cost any money. People get “adventure amnesia”—they forget that they don’t have adventure, only know that something is missing.
Sara Hodon is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Match.com’s Happen Magazine, History, Young Money, WritersWeekly.com, and LiteraryTraveler.com, among others. She lives and writes in Northeast Pennsylvania. She discusses the trials and triumphs of the writing life on her blog, Adventures in the Writing Life.
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