We had the good fortune of connecting with Tania Pryputniewicz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tania, why did you pursue a creative career?
I grew up in a house in upstate New York with a salvaged pink piano and a musician father. We kept an Underwood typewriter and jars of colored pencils on the kitchen table no matter where we lived. We used to play the dictionary game (back before it was a formal board game), inventing definitions and voting on which one seemed the truest, though we had a lot of fun one-upping one another with outlandish responses. We’d also play an art game, where you divide a page into four sections, draw the top of a face, fold it over, and hand it to the person next to you, passing three or four times to create a composite face. These word and art games brought joy and levity into our home which wasn’t without its challenges. Living for a number of years on an Illinois commune braided my love for words and art with spiritual teachings and literature. Ever since, I’ve built a life poised at the borders of poetry, art, and, since my early twenties, tarot. I love the way creativity gives us a way to translate stories, experiences, and questions that inspire not just our own growth, but benefit others when they see themselves mirrored. Poet Jane Miller, one of my graduate poetry thesis advisors at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, reminded me, “Remember, you chose to be an artist so you could be free,” and I’ve always taken that to heart. Like the sentiment expressed in the Ace of Windmills tarot art and haiku featured here that I created alongside my students, I try to use the creative process to heal adversity.
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.
Thriving as a writer and an artist depends on doing my own work, teaching, and doing my part to show up in my community. To that end, I teach poetry and tarot writing classes at San Diego Writers, Ink and Antioch University’s Continuing Education program. I love watching my students grow whether through writing and revising poetry, introspection through journaling to tarot cards, or creating art. I am involved in several amazing writing groups, one here in San Diego and another made up of members I met at a writing retreat. I help select work for a number of local projects, such as the Shaking the Tree anthology and the Memoir Showcase, both sponsored by the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. I serve on the judging team that selects KidsWrite! entries, a contest that seeks to elevate and celebrate strong, diverse children’s writing, also run through the San Diego Writers Festival. Some of my focus goes to a number of small presses, either through assisting with marketing (Weeping Willow Books run by Marcia Meier) or helping select work for literary publication (most recently joining the team of peer reviewers for Whale Road Review, run by Katie Manning). In terms of my own writing and art, I am preparing for the launch of Heart’s Compass Tarot: Discover Tarot Journaling and Create Your Own Cards, my workbook that features student cards and tarot-inspired essays, poetry, and layouts (forthcoming from Two Fine Crows Books in February, 2021). It also includes tarot card art I created alongside my students, such as the Ace of Windmills featured here. My work revolves around helping others listen to their inner voices and discover their own symbols for guidance. The workbook encourages us all to trust ourselves and get in the driver’s seat instead of looking to an exterior spiritual authority.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We’d start at Balboa Park with a stroll through the rose, butterfly, and cactus gardens, and check out the artwork in the Spanish Village. We’d hit the rare book collection on the top floor of the downtown San Diego Public Library, stop by Liberty Station to visit Chai Chocolat for truffles and grab some Mama Thai to go. The next day we’d get up early and head to Mission Trails Regional Park to summit South Fortuna trail. We’d also stop at the Visitor Center with its tiny but magical library housed in one of two tall, cylindrical end rooms. Then we’d take a half day road trip out to Anza-Borrego Galleta Meadows to see the massive rust-red Metal Sculptures. The next day, we’d take the ferry from Coronado over to the waterfront along Harbor Drive to see a handful of sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, such as the “Serpent Tree”. We’d continue our tour of Niki’s work by driving to Escondido, Kit Carson Park, to see Queen Califia’s Magic Circle Garden which is modeled on a garden in Tuscany where Niki created house-sized sculptures based on the tarot’s 21 Major Arcana cards (also known as the soul cards). We’d also head down the I5 to Ocean Beach and visit The Tree of Life Metaphysical Books and Gifts store and carry on to the Meditation Garden in Encinitas at the Self-Realization Fellowship where you can walk high above the ocean cliffs just down from Moonlight Beach. The variety of cacti and the koi ponds never fail to delight. Though some of my favorite breakfast places like Café 1134 in Coronado have had to close their doors due to Covid, I’d be happy to order a burrito from Clayton’s side window or an omelette from Night and Day Café. We’d finish our visit with a sunset walk down the Silver Strand State beach across from the Coronado Cays.
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 Marni Freedman, co-founder and programming director for the San Diego Writers Festival and programming director for the San Diego Memoir Showcase, for the classes she teaches, books she shepherds into fruition, and her selfless mentorship of so many writers in the San Diego area. And I want to thank Kristen Fogle at San Diego Writers, Ink, and SDWI founder Judy Reeves for keeping teachers and students inspired and connected during the pandemic. I find inspiration in the work of playwright Thelma Virata de Castro, founder of San Diego Playwrights. And last but not least, love and gratitude goes to my husband and my three children for putting up with a kitchen table I keep covered in art supplies, manuscripts, and tarot cards.
Wind wakes up my senses.
In it I feel my borders.
Of all oppositions
May I create alternate beauty, art, joy.
Facebook: Heart’s Compass Tarot and Writing