May 19, 2005
A Meeting of Kindred Spirits
I admit it: Yesterday I was playing hooky, away for the whole day
from my office, something that always makes me feel guilty. First
thing in the morning I had a networking meeting of local female
home-office business owners that I was invited to by my strategic
consultants. In my jeans and hiking boots I was hopelessly underdressed
and I had to run out in the middle of it since I had another meeting
to go to.
Well, off I was to to the ferry at the bottom of Bay Street, to
go to Center Island and meet my friend Sue
Kenney, a fascinating woman who I have already written about
a couple of times. What a beautiful feeling, for an occasionally
frustrated office worm like me to get out in the middle of the day,
hop on the ferry and enjoy the skyline of Toronto, viewed from the
tranquility of the islands.
Toronto's famous phallic symbol.
Sue and her friend Bruce Pirrie, another writer with lots of writing
experience for Second City and the “Red Green Show”,
met me and took me to an artists’ retreat in the pastoral
ambience of the island. It’s a fascinating place, I believe
a former school that has been turned into a retreat for writers,
painters, musicians who can rent studios at reasonable prices, set
in the middle of a park close to the sandy beach, a perfect place
Sue and Bruce took me around, showed me some of the studios and
introduced me to another woman, a very gifted painter, who is going
to relocate to Mexico for 4 months to housesit: well, I immediately
knew I am going to have to do an interview with her too. Sue introduced
me as a “writer”, something I had been called for the
first time in my life (I had always seen myself as an entrepreneur,
among other, maybe stranger labels), but what an odd, yet great
feeling! A successful published author called me a “writer”…..
Then Sue fixed us up a delicious picnic in the communal kitchen,
we packed up some sandwiches, fruits and chocolate and headed off
to the beach. Although it was beautiful outside, the cold wind drove
us back and we retreated inside to a big communal living room with
panorama windows and a huge fireplace and had an amazing conversation.
I always like listening to Sue and all the things she has in the
works. Sue has already written a book that has achieved Canadian
bestseller status, she has recorded story-telling CDs, is working
on a second book, planning a documentary and a film about the Camino,
she has done many personal promotional appearances and is a sought-after
workshop leader and keynote speaker.
I admire her for working so hard, being so disciplined and charting
a completely new direction in her life, a life that she changed
around thoroughly after completing her first trip on the Camino.
She sacrificed a cozy middle-class lifestyle for the often frugal
life of an artist, now living in an artists’ compound with
a shared kitchen and shared bathrooms.
But Sue is immensely driven, or rather filled with purpose: communicating
the message of the Camino: love, compassion, courage, awareness,
discipline, truth and simplicity. These are all values that I believe
in myself and I treasure connecting with such a like-minded soul.
What I really like about Sue is that she comes across as so tremendously
grounded and solid, she has figured out exactly what she wants to
dedicate her life to and that degree of certainty pervades all her
interactions. She just radiates centeredness, calmness and conviction,
qualities I admire greatly in individuals.
Bruce, with his dry wit and humour, shared his own experiences
from the Camino, how it made him a more open, flexible and receptive
human being, and how he communicated fabulously with a toothless
Spanish woman tending a flock of sheep while none of the two spoke
a word in the other’s language. Obviously Bruce put his well-honed
skills as a improv writer and actor to good use. These are stories
that warm your heart, that make you realize that human beings can
connect across borders, despite cultural and language barriers.
We also talked about the media and the concept of “celebrity”,
something which I have a feeling could come very soon for Sue since
she is developing a following across different countries and a well-known
international publisher has recently shown interest in her book.
Sue has already done some successful media campaigns in Canada,
making personal appearances, doing interviews in newspapers, magazines
and on TV.
I realize these are things I will myself have to do one day if
I want this website to be truly successful. Considering my hermit-like
qualities (strange, isn’t it, coming from a woman who runs
a very personal website, sharing intimate thoughts with a global
audience…), just the thought of talking to the media is giving
me butterflies in my stomach. I definitely have a mixed view of
the media and the last thing I am aspiring to be is a wannabe Paris-Hiltonesque
or Donald-Trump-like character that can’t get enough of basking
in the limelight while shamelessly and ceaselessly promoting themselves,
hogging the camera at any given moment.
This is indeed one of the dilemmas of writers: how do you make
your creative work personal without it becoming thoroughly self-centered
and narcissistic? That’s one of the issues I wrestle with
in my own head, but I figure that the underlying message I want
to convey – get out, explore, connect with others, break down
barriers and create better understanding – is a worthwhile
enough message that I can occasionally allow myself to ramble on
about my own personal insights.
From a practical point of view, when you write a book, or you publish
a website, you are obviously going to need to promote your work
to create a bigger audience. One day I would like my website to
be self-sustaining full-time project that I can dedicate myself
to 100%. In order to be able to do just that, the website will have
to make money. That’s still a long way off, but it means that
I will need to promote it and publicize it, while remaining true
to my values.
That’s why I treasure these meetings with Sue so much: she’s
been there, done it and done it well. She’s already a published
author and has completely remade her life from telecom consultant
to writer, all-around creative person and spiritual leader. I have
a lot to learn from people like Sue and I have great respect for
how she has chosen to promote her work, because the philosophies
of the Camino are definitely worthy of being promoted.
Last but not least, there is the possibility of joining Sue Kenney
on her next walk of the Camino in October. Not only would this be
a fabulous opportunity to go back to my beloved Spain, and to connect
first-hand with the Camino, but it would also allow me to face my
real fears first-hand since Sue will be doing a documentary on that
trip. How would I react with a camera in my face?
Find out how I first met Sue, through a presentation
at the Spanish Centre.
Read more about Sue's background in my preview
to her interview.
Now you can read Sue's completed
interview and get to know her in person.