We had the good fortune of connecting with Tania Pryputniewicz and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tania, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Every time I sit down to write, I’m aware that risk sits at the table with me: both the invitation to take a risk and the fear of taking a risk. The biggest risk I’ve taken this year is to finish a memoir-in-poems I’ve been working on for over thirty years, titled, “The Fool in the Corn” (forthcoming from Saddle Road Press, December 2022). Mainly because of the emotional content, writing the poetry book was a great personal risk for me. I dove into a lot of intense material: I wrote poems about my fertile but confusing early experiences on a Midwest commune where the leader was voted out, poems about what it was like to grow up witnessing my father’s struggles with undiagnosed bipolar, what it was like to leave the commune and join mainstream society, how I struggled later myself with anxiety, and the ways the commune’s perspectives affected my journey through graduate school in Iowa, marriage, motherhood, and losing my own mother to cancer. My mistrust of authority figures helped seed my love for using the tarot cards as inspiration for writing and developing my intuition. So my title, “The Fool in the Corn,” refers to The Fool tarot card—an innocent, joyful adventurer—perhaps seen by others as foolish for risking, but brave for trying and blessed to journey at all.

Why write about challenging experiences? I learned from observing the memoirists in my writing community here in San Diego that joy often follows on the heels of coming out of isolation to share truths or experiences we’ve withheld. It takes courage to face what is holding us back, from fear of how the story might land with others to fear of how it might change our lives once our story is out there in the world, even if we transform into a stronger, happier self with more agency.

To that end, I hope that “The Fool in the Corn” helps start or add to the conversation for others coming to terms with the disillusionments and gifts of their intentional commune, cult, or community experiences. How do we stay connected to our heart’s compass and steer towards happiness despite adversity? I love to explore this question, not only in my own work, but with my students whether we are writing poetry, memoir, creating personal tarot card art to honor ancestors, or sharing writing entries for revision. It is worth risking fear, self-doubt, and self-judgment to get to the joy of creating. And it is easier to take risks when we have nurturing guidance and the support of kindred spirits on the same path.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Thank you for asking! I’d love to talk about the cover art for “The Fool in the Corn.” I’ve been playing in color with tarot concepts for about eight years now alongside my students, and I’ve been gradually creating tarot card art towards building my own deck. But I often think of each design as a tarot improvisation. So for example, the artwork on my “Heart’s Compass Tarot” book, which is an image of a candle at the very center of a heart, with compass points—is an image that resonated for me as an expression of the Fool card in the Tarot. I felt my heart traveled north, south, east, and west on a series of misadventures, some more foolish than others. But while drawing that image, and putting that gentle candle in the center, I began to experience a sense of compassion and forgiveness for myself.

That symbol, and that sense of forgiveness, helped me as I revised my poems for the new collection about my time in the cornfields; might it be true that all of us are foolish but loveable, from the commune leader to my parents to any of us trying to face life. And when it came time to choose cover art for “The Fool in the Corn,” I originally asked my youngest son to don a cape, sling a dream bag over his shoulder, clutch a walking stick, and hold aloft a sunflower from my daughter’s garden; we took a whole slew of photos. We also looked at some beautiful photographs of the moon and owls taken by my godfather. We mulled it over at Saddle Road Press, and my editor Ruth Thompson suggested I sit down and see what kind of image might come from my own art. I knew corn would feature, and I left a blank space inside the corn, and eventually the face of the girl emerged, and the three tassels of corn kind of like antennae, listening. It felt right, that the Fool was also that innocent girl, turning her face to greet the sun. I love learning; I never fail to delight in the experience of beginning again. If I trust the process, and just sit down and draw those first lines, the rest appears.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d take my bestie to the Women’s Museum of California over on 404 Euclid Ave in San Diego with its beautiful tall ceilings, plenty of parking, powerful exhibits and dynamic community. Or I’d take a walk beneath the osprey and seagulls along the seashore from Silver Strand State Beach by the Coronado Cays to Seaside Candy and Gifts in Imperial Beach, which also serves breakfast and has outdoor seating in full view of Cody the parrot. Or we’d catch a baseball game with the Padres: from Coronado Island, we’d hop on the ferry at the end of Orange Avenue. Or head to Liberty Station for a writing class at San Diego Writers, Ink, where you’ve got Liberty Market to peruse for all kinds of fun and vendors. Dick Blick Art Store in Little Italy is a favorite when I’m out of art supplies. And of course, Tree of Life bookstore for candles, way cool books, tarot and oracle decks, herbs, and more.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d love to give a shoutout to Katie Ruiz, Artistic Director at the Women’s Museum of California for the gift of her dynamic passion and creative direction that goes into making the museum such an inviting, interactive space. And I want to shoutout Laura Engel, President of the International Memoir Writers Association here in San Diego, author of “You’ll Forget This Ever Happened: Secrets, Shame, and Adoption in the 1960’s” (She Writes Press, 2022) for her hours of tireless leadership and for leading by example, publishing her powerful memoir. And last but not least, a shoutout to someone who personally inspired me to finish my memoir-in-poems, Nicola Ranson, writer and trauma therapist, for the gift of her memoir about her cult experience, “A Slice of Orange,” (forthcoming from TouchPoint Press in 2023).

Website: http://www.taniapryputniewicz.com

Instagram: @heartscompasstarot

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tania-pryputniewicz-06aa931a/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaniaPry

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heartscompasstarot

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbEfAbEcJ-PEX7w8yLVzc1g

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