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The Creative Spark

How writers, musicians, chefs, and other artists found their voice and followed their dreams

by Michael Shapiro


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   Not today
Creative people have a certain spark: a brightness in their eyes, an inquisitive way of looking at the world, a desire to make things. But that spark doesn't reside solely in people seen as creators. It's in all of us — some of us just use that inherent spark more than others.

In the following collection of interviews with some of the most creative people of our time — musicians, authors, visual artists and chefs — these makers speak about what drives them, what helps them to see the world in fresh ways, and what inspires them turn their visions into art.

During the past decade, Michael Shapiro has interviewed some of our brightest creative luminaries. Among the authors are Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Rice, Pico Iyer, and Frances Mayes. His work as a music journalist has led to interviews with legends including Smokey Robinson, Lucinda Williams, Graham Nash, Lyle Lovett, and Jethro Tull bandleader Ian Anderson. Yet it's not simply that Shapiro has had access to so many supremely talented and creative people — it's that he gets them to go deep. Moments into his conversation with Lucinda (all her fans call her by her first name), she tells Shapiro about how decisions made about her mother's funeral led to fissures in her family. From this achingly personal conversation, readers can glean fresh insights into why Lucinda has such a devoted following and why her songs open listeners' hearts.

And there are some creative people who you might not expect to find in this collection, a magician-turned-gambler who won more than $18 million in a single poker tournament, a couple of chefs who are transforming the way we approach fine dining, and a pair of trailblazing comedians: Lily Tomlin and the late Joan Rivers, the latter interview conducted shortly before Rivers' untimely passing.

Unexpected revelations pop up in every chapter. Iowa folksinger Greg Brown isn't a household name, but his fellow musicians revere his poetic compositions. And like so many artists, he's well versed in forms beyond his own milieu. An avid reader of Irish literature, Brown describes Finnegans Wake as "James Joyce speaking in tongues."

Each chapter starts with a short biography of the creative person being profiled then segues into Q+A. This collection brings together some of the best-known artists of our time with others who may not be as famed but who have something important to say about living an artful life. Naturally one book can't cover all the worthy creative people on the planet, so this volume includes mostly musicians and authors, as these are the artists who have most inspired Shapiro.

The Creative Spark stands as a testament to human achievement, showing how creativity enlivens and illuminates our world and how it resides in each and every one of us, just waiting to break out.

Publication Details

Travelers' Tales
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Michael Shapiro (Author)

Michael Shapiro is the author of A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration. He lives in Petaluma, California.

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