Sunday, October 27, 2013

Heaven Revisited - Conversations with Madelaine Standing.

In 2012, I sat down with Vancouver based author Madelaine Standing to discuss her journey both in literature and her spiritual wellness endeavors. Back then, I was struck by her dedication - both to the craft of writing and her desire to promote spiritual healing and wellness through a codified practice.

Every so often, an author appears from out of the cacophony of authors and you just know right away that there is something unique about them - something that you can't quite quantify. There is a magic about them - the way they devote themselves to the craft, the subsequent offerings they present that seem to transcend genres and the enthusiasm which they project in talking about the craft. You just can't help but be encouraged in your own enthusiasm for the craft that we share as authors and you want to share it around as much as you can. 

When I happened across author Madelaine Standing and struck up a conversation about her craft and her life more generally, I was immediately captivated by her spirit, her desire to connect and foster a sense of goodwill in the world. 

Standing describes herself as a writer, but she has embraced so much more onto her palette that is worthy of highlighting. From yoga instruction, to volunteering for charities devoted to women recovering from abuse, Madelaine's accumulated life experience, her vigour and positivity stand out as something really beautiful.

Her journey towards writing began when Madelaine left home at the age of seventeen after completing high school in Florida. She took a left turn by enrolling in a season of acting classes at Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City. Though theatre life was one of intrigue and fun, Madelaine recounts that it wasn't long before she became wrapped up in the world of words written by Anais Nin and Ayn Rand, thanks to her older sister’s suggestion. 

I began travelling down the California coast starting in Santa Cruz, California and I stopped at Santa Barbara for a few months where I took a side route and immersed myself in painting with the locals on the mountainsides.  A writing course at a Northern California Institute of healing and fine arts led me back on the trail of expression through letters.  

Soon after, Madelaine moved to Los Angeles where she lived and worked for an independent movie production company.  

Before too long I was being given scripts to read and study, and eventually report on by writing synopses on them.  When one of  my  feedback points regarding a movie script was incorporated into the movie by the director, I realized then, that I might understand stories more than I was yet to understand. What was especially exciting for me were the occasions when those scripts - with my contributions - made it into the notable Cannes Marketplace. I felt a further sense that writing was where my future lay.

A year later while living in the Midwest in between European travels with extended family, Madelaine began to explore her own way with words.  

My first attempts were comical, both to myself and to those close to me who were reading them, but that did not deter me. Through perseverance over the next six years, writing notebooks atop notebooks of ideas and stories I came to understand that writing, for the strong of will, is a gift that can be nurtured, thought it may not be first nature at the start.

Creative Writing classes at Emily Carr Art Institute and University of British Columbia with Paul Belserene, in addition to the course taken in Northern California, helped give her a basis for the craft of novel writing.  Books by Steven King, Betsy Lerner and others also gave her a great deal of insight along the way and from these seemingly separate threads a tapestry was beginning to weave itself together, forming the direction that Madelaine was destined to take - the destination being her first novel.

In Croatia and the United States I wrote the first draft of what is now Heaven in the Meat Packing District, my debut novel.  My travels, my love for humanity and the natural environment have fuelled me and continue to do so in my creative process.

Heaven in the Meat Packing District  follows a neuro-scientist named Sheldon as he attempts to rewire the counterproductive patterns in the brains of willing volunteers who have been recruited from the Meat Packing District of New York. When the experiments go awry, newscaster, Ana McKenna, is asked to develop a way to rescue the unconscious volunteers by way of her involvement in a top secret news story at the local station.

As the title suggests, the novel is set in the Meat Packing District of Manhattan. It is a thought-provoking piece in the sense that it invites readers to explore the environmental challenges of our day, but it is also highly-entertaining - as attested to by its accumulated readership thus far.

I wrote the book on the premise that readers are given the opportunity to delve into the world unseen that well-written fiction offers, while the book also encourages readers to consider their individual place within the world.  I hope people will leave the book upon completion with the sense that they are a unique human being, as well 
as the notion that there is still so much more for us as a collective community to wonder about when we step out the front door in the morning and look around.

Madelaine's literary achievement has continued this year with the release of her new novel "Jail or Garden". Similar in style to "Heaven in the Meat Packing District", Madelaine's new novel can be described as a uniquely drawn coming of age tome in which her protagonist, Tova, embarks on a journey of discovery that will change her life in profound ways.

Tova’s mad dash into the world begins two weeks before turning eighteen. She moves from the broiling sun of Florida to the State of Virginia where she seeks to uncover the truth about her late brother’s death. Tova finds refuge at a farm that is held under city-inspection for its defiance to stick to the rules.

Featuring Madelaine's signature lyricism, "Jail or Garden" is an emotional gripping tale of self discovery featuring uniquely drawn characters, sumptuous setting and an involving journey for the reader. It is very easy to be drawn into the world Madelaine has created through her artistic voice. 

Outside of her writing, Madelaine lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where she balances her career as an author with study, learning and teaching holistic arts such as varying types of Yoga, Meditation, Pilates, Life Exploration, and Reiki.  Looking from the outside in, one might wonder how she manages two professions of such contrast.  She explains how they effortlessly balance one another.

Hours of sitting at the writing desk, glued to my computer, leave me needing to not only meet up with community, but also to move! And, vice versa, so much time spend outward, socializing, and helping others through the craft and vehicle of the healing arts, leaves me needing to go within. Be still. Reflect, and then express the discoveries that arrive from having done so.

In re-visiting Madelaine here in October 2013, Madelaine's commitment to spiritual wellness and healing is now bearing fruit. Just this month, Madelaine launched her business enterprise Steady Stream Wellness. Madelaine describes Steady Stream Wellness as a suite of well-being offerings ranging from Yoga, Pilates, Meditation, Life-Empowerment Classes, Narrative Therapy Sessions, and Healing Thai Yoga Bodywork on the bio-mat. The true genius of the idea behind Steady Stream Wellness lies in its commitment to bring Health and Wellness to your front door - serving clients in the comforting environment of home. 

When I first featured Madelaine, I remarked at the time that, as an author, she cannot be pegged into any particular genre. Her unique approach to life and writing are as interesting and diverse as any author I've encountered. Her commitment to spiritual healing and wellness further defines her as human being for whom creativity and spiritual nourish one another. 

She is all kinds of beautiful.

Visit Steady Stream Wellness here.

Connect with Madelaine here.

Purchase Heaven in the Meat Packing District here.

Purchase Jail or Garden here.


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