Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, author of The Sky Begins at Your Feet, launches her blog tour!

Monday, September 21, 2009
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg received her doctorate from the University of Kansas and was recently appointed the Poet Laureate of Kansas. The author of four poetry collections she is certified in poetry therapy and has led workshops for many groups, including people living with physical and mental illness. In 2000, Caryn founded the Master's level program in Transformative Language Arts, that focuses on the effect of written and verbal language on the community, at Goddard College where she teaches. Her writer's guide Write Where You Are is unique in that it is directed to teenage writers.

Caryn co-founded Brave Voices with singer/songwriter Kelley Hunt to provide singing and writing workshops. Songs written by Caryn have been performed by the Kelley Hunt band both in the United States and Europe. Caryn's musical talents also include playing the cello.

Along with her husband, writer Ken Lassman, and children, Caryn calls the countryside south of Lawrence, Kansas home.

Find out more about Caryn by visiting her website,, and her blog,

The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body

By Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

This tender but humorous memoir chronicles Caryn's tale of resiliency and love in the face of breast cancer. She braves breast cancer, the breast cancer genetic mutation and the loss of a parent by connecting with an eclectic Midwest community, the land and sky, and a body undergoing vast renovation. Along the way, she swims with stingrays in the Gulf of Mexico, searches for cream puffs for a Pennsylvania funeral, leads a group fighting to protect ecologically-essential land in Kansas, and helps students find their own voice in Vermont. In searching for a new definition of the erotic through our awareness of nature, this memoir illuminates how our bodies are our most local address on the earth.

Published by Ice Cube Books (April 2009)
Paperback: 229 pages
ISBN# 1888160438

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Caryn's memoir, The Sky Begins at Your Feet, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.

We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Caryn. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, The Sky Begins at Your Feet. Although your most recent book is a memoir, you're also the Poet Laureate of Kansas, as well as the author of non-fiction books on writing and a biography of writer Sandra Cisneros. Do you have a preferred type of writing?

Caryn: I began as a poet when I was 14, but I write fiction, memoir, personal essays and songs. I don't have a preferred type of writing, but rather, a passion for finding the best form for whatever I'm writing about.

WOW: So, you think it's important for a writer to explore different types of writing?

Caryn: I always encourage my students to read across genres to find a wide range of ways that language can be used in fresh and powerful ways, and also how language can be used for healing, liberation and celebration. At the same time, it's important for writers to read in their own genre deeply to learn more about the specific possibilities in that genre.

When it comes to writing, I believe the best thing is to do what Annie Dillard says in her book, The Writing Life: aim for what you're writing about rather than how you're writing about it. She gives the example of cutting wood, and how you need to aim for the block under the piece of wood you're cutting, and that's always said it well for me. So even if you've written mostly personal essays for 20 years, if you find yourself writing about something that wants to be a poem, let it be a poem. Another way to say this is that we need to put our ear to the writing we're doing, and let what the writing wants to be, rather than what we think it should be, tell us what to write.

WOW: How beautifully expressed. It seems your struggle with cancer, both personally and as a witness to your father's illness, called for two genres. What made you decide to write a memoir about the experience even after you had already written many poems on the topic?

Caryn: I began writing this book as journal entries about my journey through chemo, which I called "Chemopause" and gave to my oncologist each time I visited for more chemo. With my permission, he put this writing in my medical file, which I loved because I felt seen as a whole

After I finished chemo, I felt compelled to simply write the story before chemo, and as the story after chemo unfolded in very powerful and difficult and also beautiful ways, I wrote that also. At some point, I realized it was a memoir, and not just a memoir about cancer treatment, but about losing a parent, connecting with community, learning to live in and appreciate my own body, finding strength in land and sky, and learning more about how precious and impermanent life is.

WOW: We've had past authors talk about the emotional toll of writing memoirs. What were the most difficult (or most rewarding) parts of writing a memoir?

Caryn: You know, for me, the writing wasn't so emotionally draining. Living the story certainly was at times, however. Probably the most difficult and surprising thing to write was about the aftermath of my double mastectomy, when I realized--only when I was writing about it--that I couldn't remember hardly anything from the time I arrived at the hospital until I was back home afterwards. That lapse was stunning, painful, and also a moment I felt enormous tenderness toward myself.

WOW: It's surprising what we learn about ourselves through our writing. I know you're also helping others learn about themselves through writing as a teacher in the Transformative Language Arts program at Goddard College. Can you explain the program to us?

Caryn: Transformative Language Arts (TLA) is a program within the Individualized MA program at Goddard College, in which students--who are almost all non-traditional, older and full of life experience--design their own MA studies according to what they're passionate about, how they need and want to connect with their community, and what work they want to cultivate in their lives.

It's low-residency, which means the students and the faculty come from all over the country (and sometimes the world) for a week-long residency, at which time students design their semester's work, choose a faculty mentor to work with, go to lots of workshops, meetings and celebrations, and usually jump-start their lives for the work they want to do. Then everyone goes home, and students send their faculty mentors a packet of their writing, research, study and questions every three weeks for a total of five packets. Faculty, in turn, write students long, individualized letters, helping the students go deeper in their work.

TLA is an emerging academic field that I helped found, and it's all about educating ourselves to use writing, storytelling, drama, and more for community building, personal transformation, social change, spiritual exploration, etc. TLAers are writers, storytellers, performers, researchers, etc. who often
facilitate workshops, lead retreats, do consulting or coaching, and more in schools, community centers, prisons, youth centers, art programs and many more venues. It's a new way to make a living using the ancient impulse of changing the world through our words. For more information visit or drop me a line at

WOW: Can you give us some personal examples of how you or your students brought language and creativity to a community?

Caryn: Absolutely! I facilitated writing workshops for low-income women of color at a local housing authority in Kansas for eight years, helping women who were often silenced and unseen come forth with their poetry and stories. Eventually, we published a collection of our work--A Circle of Women, A Circle of Words. I will also treasure the image of about a dozen of these women sitting across a stage at the local arts center, all dressed to the nines, reading their work and sharing the invisible lives of our town with our community at the book launch.

Brian Moore, one of our graduates, began an ecological writing center in
Eugene, Oregon, which offers workshops on using poetry to connect with the earth. Yvette Hyater-Adams in Philadelphia started a business, Renaissance Muse, which now offers transformative narrative coaching--helping people find in their life stories ways to aim their lives toward the stories they're ready to live. Suzanne Adams, in Houston, works with teenage girls, using art and writing to help them empower themselves.

WOW: Any ideas how we, as individual writers, can bring the joy of words to our own communities?

Caryn: Start your own writing circle. Bring together other writers to simply write together, making up writing exercises or drawing them from any number of great books (see Writers can and should also approach--if they feel called to do so--community centers, public housing, local hospitals and clinics, schools, prisons and other places to inquire about starting pilot project workshops or collaborative performances. Of course, writers doing this also should connect up with others in the field through training and networking. I recommend the TLA Network (see, which is a great way to learn about how to make a living doing the writing you love in community.

WOW: What's up next with your very varied writing career?

Caryn: As Poet Laureate of Kansas, I'm doing a lot of traveling. My main project is helping train people in various communities to lead community writing circles, which can help people find greater meaning in their lives and create poems, stories, essays and more. I'm also doing a monthly radio show, "Write from Your Life," on High Plains Public Radio (, which offers people a local writer and a writing exercise to try at home. In addition to the memoir, my fourth book of poetry, Landed, was just published, and I'm traveling here and there to do joint readings on both the memoir and the poetry book. And I'm doing what brings me continual peace: hanging out with my family and watching movies or taking walks, and studying and practicing yoga.

WOW: Thank you, Caryn, for taking time to chat with us today! You're an inspiration to writers and women everywhere.

Want to join Caryn on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

September 21, 2009 Monday
Caryn will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win a copy of Caryn's memoir!

September 23, 2009 Wednesday
Caryn stops by Anne-Marie Nichols' blog, This Mama Cooks On a Diet, to chat about cooking, cancer, and enjoying life.

September 24, 2009 Thursday
Caryn stops by Meryl's Notes today to give us some writing tips and a chance to win her memoir The Sky Begins at Your Feet.

September 28, 2009 Monday
Writing can be so many things. Today Caryn stops by Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life, to discuss how writing can get us in touch with our environment.

October 1, 2009 Thursday
Visit Mom-e-Centric for a quick chat about living life with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

October 2, 2009 Friday
Stop by Jan Lundy's blog, Awake is Good, for an interview with Caryn about her staying positive in the face of adversity and the healing power of writing.

October 9, 2009 Friday
Stop by Peeking Between the Pages today and read a review of Caryn Mirriam Goldberg's memoir The Sky Begins at Your Feet.

October 12, 2009 Monday
Stop by Mary Jo Campbell's blog, Writers Inspired, to learn what Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has to say about writing and enter to win her memoir The Sky Begins at Your Feet.

October 14, 2009 Wednesday
Stop by the Memory Writers Network today for an interview with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg about memoir writing.

We may have several more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Caryn's memoir, The Sky Begins at Your Feet.


Donna Volkenannt said...

Jodi and Caryn,
Thanks for an inspiring and insightful interview.
Caryn, I especially appreciate your comment about how as writers we should "put our ear to the writing we're doing, and let what the writing wants to be, rather than what we think it should be, tell us what to write."
Congratulations on being selected as the Poet Laureate of Kansas.
God bless!
Donna V.

LuAnn said...

What wonderful advice for budding writers! Thanks.

Krysten Lindsay Hager said...

Great interview. Annie Dillard is a favorite of mine, too. I love the the focus on appreciating your body & health. Often time we take things like that for granted.

Ruth J. Hartman said...

Thanks for a wonderful interview. A memoir writer myself, I know how much it can take out of you to tell your story. Thanks for sharing it with us.


Anonymous said...

I had 6 chapters of my memoir written & my computer died.
I lost it=+( I just can't get into writing it again. You've inspired me to pick it back up.
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Children's Author
Coming this winter Klutzy Kantor picture book

Chynna said...

Very inspiring. My grandmother fought and beat breast cancer TWICE back in the '50s and '60s. That was during a time when the survival rate was very low. She used art and writing to get through it too.

Thank you for sharing your story and for being here on WOW!


tamirichards said...

Thanks for sharing this inspiring and encouraging interview.

WOW! said...

Hi Ladies,

Thank you for your comments! We held a random drawing and picked a winner of Caryn's memoir.

Congratulations goes to J. Aday Kennedy!

Please email Angela & Jodi at with your mailing address and we'll have Caryn send you a copy of her book. :)

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg said...

Thank you everyone for such marvelous and insightful comments! I feel very blessed to read your words.

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