By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Posted June 9, 2009 | Updated September 8, 2019
Kristi Tencarre is an author, artist and photographer who loves to travel. She visited 51 countries on 5 continents before the age of 30, and now lives in the country under a wide-open sky, surrounded by wheat fields, cattle, horses, and sheep. She's joined me today to discuss how travel influences her art, and how she managed to create again after overcoming a major creative block. Read on to explore the healing power of creativity in Kristi's life, hear her advice for young artists, and more!
Q: You recently attended a "writing spa" sounds like a fabulous time! Could you tell us more about this event? How was the "writing spa" different from other writing workshops and classes you've attended?
A: The writing spa was only four hours long; other writing workshops I've attended are often a full day, or an entire weekend. At the writing spa, the facilitator made lunch for all of us! Over lunch, we were able to talk casually and build camaraderie. It wasn't the normal 'get in, write, get out' pace, like so many other workshops I've attended. It had a slower pace to it. The facilitator brought in music and the visual arts as writing prompts, which I loved, because that's the way I write at home. I also use music and art in my own writing classes to inspire students to write it was fun to experience that from the other side of the desk!
Q: Do you have big plans for this summer? Any writing workshops, classes, or events you'd like to share with readers?
A: I wish I could tell you that I have a ton of workshops lined up so that you all could attend, but I'm creating my first baby right now! She's due August 10th, so I've left my summer schedule wide open just in case she comes early! I do plan to begin teaching writing again in the fall or winter, if I can, but I want to give myself time with the baby first and make her a priority.
Q: Your article on Creativity Portal, "Beauties Yet Unborn," is an inspiring read. What beauties do you hope to bring forth from your own treasure-trove in the next year?
A: I'm working on publishing a book for children whose parents are soldiers that have gone off to war. There are few resources out there for these children; this is a need that is not being met. I originally wrote it for the daughter of a friend, who is a soldier.
Q: What do you hope your work will inspire in others?
A: I hope to inspire those who want to write or create art to go for it to simply start creating. I hope people will fling open their arms to embrace their inherent creativity and throw off the shackles of doubt and fear. The world needs your contributions!
Q: Can you discuss your recent writing workshops in Vancouver? What was the biggest challenge of presenting this event to the public? What was the biggest surprise?
A: It was challenging to plan a workshop when I didn't know how many writers to expect, or how they would react to my ideas and prompts. It was a free event, so I wasn't sure how many would show up. I expected the usual trepidation at the beginning, and hoped that they'd get over their fears and be able to get into writing, which they did. As a teacher, that transition is so exciting and fulfilling to watch!
My biggest surprise was the quality of the writing of one woman in particular. At the beginning of the workshop, she had said she was "so not a writer. " She was able to put some of my suggestions into practice. When she bravely chose to share one of her pieces, I was so happy for her because this door has now been opened to her, and her insight was incredible!
Q: When in crisis, writers often experience a block, or a loss of words. You experienced something similar and wrote about it in It's All Write. Can you tell us more about what caused this loss of words, and how you managed to find your voice again?
A: Difficult life experiences can beat you up, throw you down and taunt you 'til you crawl and stumble your way out of the pit and back up onto your feet. Yet, these are the defining moments in a person's life. They are the moments when you take a step back, away from your day-to-day life, and ask yourself: "Seriously, can I keep living this way?" If you cannot, you must then ask yourself if you can change the situation or how you can change. Most often, you can only change yourself.
For me, it meant leaving an abusive husband. Abusive situations are tricky because they chip away at your confidence and wear you down, so that you no longer feel like fighting. But when you get truly sick of the crazy-making, you have a choice to make. You have to lay aside some dreams, and fears of becoming a statistic, and focus on your own health and sanity.
In order to survive, I numbed myself. What I was feeling was so intense that I had no words to describe it. That was scary, because I was in a daily habit of writing. I could no longer journal. I couldn't even think of writing stories. After a few months of simply "being," I found my words again through free-form poetry. Poetry can be short and intense with no structure. That was what I needed at that time, and that's how I began writing again.
My family and friends had always known that I wrote and was creative, but I'd been forced to hide it or put it on the back burner for years. However, I discovered that there are people who value me for who I am and respect the time I set aside to create. As I began valuing my time and vocalizing my passions, I found complete acceptance of my true nature. I also made a lot of new creative friends!
Q: Thank you for sharing your courageous story. I know it will inspire others! Can you discuss the healing powers of creative work and travel as they apply to your own life? Is it all about escaping the daily grind, or is there something deeper at work?
A: Sometimes I need to get out of the rut of daily living, in order to feel like there is time for my art. It is important to get away from the distractions that plague us at home. When you are out of your routine, and being bombarded by new experiences, you will find a change in your writing. Even a routine like writing in a journal changes in a new place, because you are writing about new sights, smells, and experiences! You can go to places on the page that you never would have dreamt if you'd stayed at home. There are so many new things to see in this world of ours how can you not be inspired?
Basically, it all boils down to time management. If you value your art time at home, you can create daily. However, some people need that time away in order to reconnect with their true selves. Seeing new sights every day can definitely be inspiring, and will quickly cure "writer's block."
Q: How do different cultures influence your art?
A: My eyes have been opened. I have seen such a variety of ways to live that I can no longer be ethnocentric. I have never been able to live in a bubble, and now that I have seen so many parts of the world, I think in terms of an even broader worldview.
For example: What we at home may consider simplistic drawings are what some cultures sell to the tourists, who buy them in abundance, thus creating a market and no need to specialize. Their artwork is accepted as is, whereas the market for that style of drawing back home would be criticized. The encouragement there for me is to just create and not worry about the outcome. If I like it, maybe someone else will too. As long as I enjoyed the process, it was worth my time.
In terms of writing, I see things from such a deeper understanding of the world now; things are no longer black and white. This means that I cannot simply write about "petty" things. I'm not yet sure how to write about some of my experiences, but I know they will come out in time.
Q: How does inspiration translate? Is your writing and artistic "voice" the same in any language?
A: No. When I write in French, there is a distance between my self and my writing. That was another technique I tried when I lost my words for a few months. I wrote some thoughts and poetry in French. I felt free because no one could read it, but also it didn't always feel like "I" was writing the words that appeared on the page. They were simply words that were in my handwriting. There is a freedom to writing in another language, because it creates a sense of detachment.
Q: Are you the same artist in Bali as you are in Canada? How does your location influence your creative expression and inspiration?
A: When I moved home from overseas and out on my own, I valued my inherent artistic tendencies and chose a home with two bedrooms so that I could have a permanent art room. I wanted to fully embrace this side of me. I had never had my own space to create before, and it made a difference. Being able to have a permanent space for a table and shelves of art supplies meant that I was free to work for as little time as I wanted I did not have to clean up in order to share the space with another activity. My art room became a weekly gathering place for my creative friends. I've moved a few times since then, but I will always have an art space wherever I am living.
When traveling, it's hard to tote around art supplies, so I stuck with writing because the materials are so basic pen and paper. It was impossible for me not to gather extra materials in order to be artistic in how I wrote. I bought bags of colored markers and pencils, scissors and glue sticks, stickers, and color cartridges for my printer, so that I could make art in my journal. I even ended up buying brushes and acrylic paints on a trip to Paris, because I missed painting so much! However, it's hard to carry around a ton of supplies when you're constantly on the move.
Q: You've travelled the world, following your Muses. Where is your all-time favorite place to write and create art?
A: I've learned that I can write anywhere from jotting down a few lines on a bus, to writing pages in an airplane, but my all time fave place to write is in nature in any country. Being able to listen to the life hidden in the trees birdsong, frogs, crickets, and monkeys makes something inside me come to life.
One of my favourite places to journal has been in coffee shops because I love people watching. When I was in Europe, I always sat on the terrace of a café so that I could watch the life in the street around me, taking breaks to jot down my thoughts.
Creating art is slightly different, because I prefer to work in my own space with all my supplies I'm a very impulsive artist, so I often change my mind in the middle of a project. Planning ahead to bring all those art supplies with me takes some of the fun out of the creative process. Plus, carting all that stuff around gets heavy!
Q: What is your vision for your career in the next decade?
A: I would love to start facilitating writing workshops for adults as well as children on a monthly basis. I'm seeing such a need for people to be able to share their life stories, and so many people simply need a gentle push of encouragement. It's all about gaining techniques for your toolbox! With my teaching background, I can offer students a deeper time of writing. Intensity is difficult to achieve in a classroom when half the students are not keen on writing, so when a student who likes to write can attend a workshop, they can go farther with their passion. That's exciting to me.
I would also like to publish more articles in various magazines and get a column in a newspaper. I have a few book ideas that I'm developing, and one that's ready to market, so we'll see where all this passion leads!
As for the art and photography side, I'm still having fun exploring these aspects. I've just been asked to do a series of paintings and a mural for a church near Jasper, Alberta in the Rocky Mountains. I've been submitting a series of my travel photos along with writing prompts as Adventure Series Prompts) to Creativity Portal and I would love to see that idea become a book someday. I would also love to create a writing resource for teachers to use in elementary and high schools. I believe that if we can share our passion with youth, the art world will continue to grow.
Q: Any advice, or final words of inspiration for creative wanderers who are new to this journey?
A: Go after your dreams! Don't let fear and anxiety steal your creative ideas or time. Value your gifts and set aside some time in order to create. Once you start valuing yourself, your gifts and your time, others will follow suit. Surround yourself with beauty on your terms. Indulge in art supplies so that you have the tools available to you on a moment's notice. This is not a luxury, but a necessity, a way of climbing out of the pit and freeing your soul to be who you are. Understand that dreams change as you grow and transform, and allow your dreams to change along with you. Give yourself the gift of time, and don't get discouraged if it takes longer than you planned to realize your dreams. They are worth the time. They are worth the effort.
©2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.
Kristi Tencarre (B.A., B.Ed.) has published her personal essays, poems, and articles internationally. ...