Whale: An Illustrated Poem

whale poem, illustrated poem by Katie Ness

Summer Solstice Blessings everyone!
Here is a new illustrated poem. This was created for my best friend but could not get it finished in time to give her a print when I saw her in February.
Whales are part of my animal totem and they represent following your own truth, being both a nurturer and go-getter, whale people recognize there is more to life than meets the eye and they tend to be very mystical individuals.
Dandelions symbolize healing of emotional pain, emotional intelligence, surviving through challenging times and having a youthful joy regardless of lifes difficulties.
I made this for my best friend because we tend to experience similar issues at the same time (soul sisters) and we both love whales because they are like elephants of the sea!

This is another illustrated poem that will eventually go in the poetry book I am creating. I’ve always wanted to publish a book and many people have said they love my poetry for it’s fusion of mysticism, nature, eroticism and magical realism. The same is said about my illustrations so I figured why not bring both forms of creativity together?

I have also decided to include in the book, some collages and black & white photography  that has a strong mystical element. I hope to have about 50+ poems in this poetry collection and I already have 15 that are completed.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. This is the direction my writing is heading which is why I’ll no longer be writing for Yogi Approved soon, I have two articles left to write for them and eventually I will stop writing for Bad Yogi also. I do want to continue writing for online platforms when I feel called to write and if the site or magazine suits my writing style. But I can no longer dedicate myself to writing regular monthly articles, I have other things to work on and I’ve grown so much, I need space to cultivate this new venture which includes more dream-catchers, more poetry and prose, more personal yoga journeys, more content for this blog (such as book reviews, travel tips and yoga thoughts) and more time to set up classes so I can teach yoga, art and dance in my community. It’s time now to show what I am made of.

Joyful Things 24

book nerd travel problems

Cute steampunk styled illustrations of a girl and her pet Octopus.
Enchanting European Libraries captured in beautiful photos, a book lover’s dream!
These are gorgeously dark fairytale styled illustrations by Alexandra Dvornikova
This yogi, yoga teacher and artist is a new favourite of mine to follow, she’s amazing.
Very cute and perfectly round butted chinchillas! Their butts are so fluffy!
Here is the NYTimes top 52 places to visit in 2017.
This article about the wild feminine really makes me want to howl at the moon.
Here are some of the oldest colour photos, showing what society looked like 100 years ago.
I am currently reading this book about a girl born with wings, it’s a beautiful book.
Artist and his daughters create 3D paintings on glass, so lovely.

From the photo above you can see we are packing for Bulgaria, our coach leaves tomorrow at 4:30pm. We arrive at the airport in London around midnight and fly at 8am on Saturday (why such a long journey just to catch a flight? Well we live in the South West where there’s no such thing as airports or civilized things, much like Wales there is only sheep and Dartmoor ponies).

I actually quite enjoy this part of the trip because we purchase loads of snacks to take on the journey with us and it gives us plenty of time to engage in deep conversations (or sleep in strange places like the airport floor). The biggest problem I have with travel is choosing what books to take with me, this time we are only going to Bulgaria for a week and yet I have six books piled with my clothes, three of which are poetry books and rather slim, the other three are magical realist novels and rather chunky.

Even though this holiday is going to be a short one, I very much need the rest and so I am not even going to take my note book which is essentially my work book full of lists of things I need to work on. I don’t want to see it whilst I’m at my mom’s because if I do I’ll end up writing an article (for example) instead of simply winding down, doing yoga in nature and reading or writing for leisure. Which is another reason for the six books.

The weather here in the UK has been divine, we’ve had a beautiful heat wave and I’ve spent a good few afternoons sat in our back garden reading and soaking up the sun. Today the forecast is changing, dark clouds are whirling in and thunderstorms are predicted. This is actually perfect timing for us, whilst the UK experiences a very wet weather system, Bulgaria’s weather is glorious! So I can not wait to relax by the pool and take leisurely strolls in my summer dresses down the cobbled streets of Veliko Tarnovo.

The Girl of Ink & Stars //Book Review

the girl of ink and stars, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, book review

The Girl of Ink and Stars is a children’s novel about a young girl called Isabella who is a map maker’s daughter, embarking on a magical adventure on the island she grew up on. I purchased this book for my partner’s niece who is also called Isabella, she has just turned seven and it seems she is becoming a bit of a bookworm who no longer enjoys picture books but “proper reading books” she says. At first I was a little bit reluctant to gift her this book because she is slightly under age, with the target age group being 8 years and up due to themes about death and monsters lurking in the woods. However her reading ability is very advanced for a seven year old and she’s watched far more scary scenes in Harry Potter films.

Having read this first before handing it to Isabella to ensure it is appropriate for her, I was captivated from the moment I read the first paragraph. This middle grade fantasy novel had beautiful magical realism elements woven into the story and at times felt like I had been transported to a dream world or perhaps a fairytale.
The Girl of Ink and Stars is one of those rare treasures that is as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside. The book cover is simply beautiful as are the lyrical words and sentences throughout.

This book is absolutely stunning from beginning to end. Set in a beautifully imagined parallel world, The Girl of Ink and Stars is Isabella’s tale. She is such a strong and fierce character and I’m sure that she will be an inspiration to many young girls. This is truly a tale of strength and love of friends and family entwined with myth and legend and a heavy emphasis on female empowerment, devotion and never giving up hope regardless of the sadness.

The world Bella resides in, is a kind of alternative version to Earth, with place names like Afrik and Europa … the main land of Joya seems to be an alternative Caribbean island, heavily influenced by both Spanish and African culture.

There are a lot of things I loved about this story. First of all, the protagonist was intelligent, resilient and loyal. After her friend Lupe leaves, Isabella is singularly dedicated to saving her and helping her father, even if it means working with the Governor she despises. Reading the magical maps is far from straight forward, but Isabella figures out how to use them on her own. I also thought that the mythology surrounded the Yote — the demon that curses the island — was really interesting and well-written, it reminded me a little bit of Disney’s Moana. It has scary elements even though this book is definitely intended for children ages 8+.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is brilliant at keeping her readers hooked, and getting them really attached to the characters. Her writing throughout The Girl of Ink and Stars was spellbinding, and shows that sometimes all you need are a few words to keep the readers thinking about the book long after the turn of the last page.

The only criticism I have of this book is that I felt perhaps the plot was too simple and characters could have been given more development or back stories, but then I read this book through an adult’s eyes and not a seven year old girl. I also disliked Isabella calling her father “Da” instead of “Dad”, it just bugged me as it felt like really bad English. I also personally felt that the death of her best friend at the end was a little inappropriate, especially for the age range however I am aware that children see more horrific things going on in the world, more so than ever before and like The Brother’s Grimm Fairytales, The Girl of Ink and Stars perhaps wanted to gently highlight these topics of war, death and colonialism to teach kids that these things are really happening right now in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, and a little girl somewhere in the world will have lost a best friend or loved one to some kind of catastrophe so perhaps The Girl of Ink and Stars teaches our children to have empathy, to appreciate others, to be brave and above all always remember those who gave their lives so we can live today.

This is such a magnificiant book and I read it in one sitting, it did feel like this won’t be the end of Isabella’s adventures, there were hints to a possible sequel and I think it could work really well, developing the story into a mini book series or even a film. I give this story 4/5, it is beautifully crafted and it is reminisent of vintage storytelling being passed down through the ages. I felt swept away and taken in by the exploration of the island, the magical maps and the myth that held the main plot together. Bringing enchantment to a small, mundane quiet island The Girl of Ink and Stars is simply captivating.
You can purchase a copy here: The Girl of Ink and Stars

I’ve also written book reviews for Yogi Approved click, on the links below:

Six Soulful books for the summer

Five books for the Winter reading list

Five books for your Fall reading list

Here are some other book reviews published on the blog:
Review of The Rialto Poetry Magazine
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Quotes I like from The Book of Dharma by Simon Haas
Book review of Alchemy of the Heart by Elizabeth Prophet
Book Review of Shamanic way of the Bee by Simon Buxton
Book Review of Love poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Book Review of Yoga for Travelers by Jennifer Ellinghaes
Book review on yoga books (miscellaneous)
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book review on the Book of Symbols by Taschen
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Book Haul on Art Therapy Books
Book Haul on more Art Therapy Books

The Rialto Magazine //Review

The Rialto Poetry Magazine
I had been meaning to purchase a copy of the Rialto for a short while now, because I love poetry so much I am so glad such a magazine exists! This latest edition’s cover by Artist Alexandra Dvornikova really spoke to me and I know they say to never judge a book by its cover however this particular one really drew me in, probably because of my love of folkloric and pagan stories, the illustration reminded me of the pagan Kukeri costumes of strange beasts roaming through the villages of Bulgaria so I treated myself and bought it.

The Rialto magazine has been around since 1984 and was created by Michael Mackmin in Jurnet’s Bar at Wensum Lodge, Norwich, UK. Michael is still dedicated to the magazine to this day as the senior editor and continues to read the submissions and edit the content for all the books and the magazine. Mackmin has a stubborn idea that poetry is very important (which I agree with) and he works very hard to seek out new voices to be read.

The paper stock is a beautiful matte finish and of very high quality, there are 64 pages in this particular issue and 70+ poems covering a wide variety of subjects. Some of the poems selected are finalists from the Rialto’s pamphlet competition and the Rialto are very dedicated to supporting new talent, being inclusive and they are always hosting competitions and offer opportunities to write for their blog or create your own pamphlet which can be sold through them. Both Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy are advocates for the Rialto also .

Since the weather in the UK has been absolutely gorgeous I ventured to our local park, lovingly called “Squirrel park” because it is home to many friendly squirrels and I sat in the sun, upon the grass to read the Rialto’s current edition. I have not read the magazine in its entirety due to wanting to savour every page but so far my favourite poems are “Pu” by Sean Wai Keung who is a British-Chinese poet and his poem “Pu” has a dream-like simplicity to it that I adored, I will be checking out more of his poetry soon and I also loved Rosemary Norman’s short poem entitled “Scent” with my favourite line at the end of the poem being “Let drop, a love surpassing sex and sonnets?” because of its raw sadness mixed with sensuality.

The Rialto brings a fresh new look at poetry and offers readers an array of poems, some simple, others difficult. Some by well known poets, others by unknowns from around the world. It has so far been a pleasure to read and I believe I will subscribe to their year long subscription. I would also love to see even just one of my poems published in their magazine, not just for myself but in honour of my aunt who was an amazing poet and playwright however she passed away in her early 50’s and lead a tragic life. A lot of my passion for writing is with her in mind.

I highly recommend purchasing this magazine if you love poetry or if you want to get more into poetry and you are not sure where to start? The Rialto’s selection of poetry is so varied and so beautiful, there is something in there for everyone.

You can visit their website for further information about subscriptions, submissions, pamphlets, books, competitions and written material on their blog. You can purchase back issues also.

Click here to visit their website: The Rialto- The poetry magazine

Fancy reading more book reviews? Click on the links below:

Fancy reading more book reviews? Click on the links below:
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Quotes I like from The Book of Dharma by Simon Haas
Book review of Alchemy of the Heart by Elizabeth Prophet
Book Review of Shamanic way of the Bee by Simon Buxton
Book Review of Love poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky
Book Review of Yoga for Travelers by Jennifer Ellinghaes
Book review on yoga books (miscellaneous)
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book review on the Book of Symbols by Taschen
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Book Haul on Art Therapy Books
Book Haul on more Art Therapy Books

An Interview with Melanie Salvatore-August: Author of Fierce Kindness

Melanie Salvatore-August
Melanie Salvatore-August is a tour-DE-force in the yoga world as a yoga teacher, brand ambassador for Lululemon active wear, author of two books Kitchen Yoga and Fierce Kindness, founder of the Fierce Kindness organization and busy mom and wife to a beautiful family in San Fransisco. She is currently on a book tour around the USA to promote her recent book Fierce Kindness however she very lovingly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions. Learn more about Melanie and her beautiful perspective on life and work in the interview below

Melanie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am driven by connection. I always have been. That moment of feeling in true understanding with another is enthralling for me. With that the power of feeling seen, heard and uniquely valuable I energize and am inspired. When I was a little girl (to my siblings dismay) I jump up during the commercial breaks to dance and gyrate in front of the TV. I definitely wanted attention, liked making my parents laugh and yet the deeper essence of it was that I ached for the regular life distractions to stop and make heart connection. My poor siblings, I can still hear the echoes of “Mom! make her stop. Get away from the TV!”.

The folklore of my family is that from the earliest days I loved everybody and anybody and that was especially inconvenient in the grocery store as I would reach my arms up to be lifted out of the cart to any kindly passer by. Again, connection and I learned that I could make people laugh too with my impersonations of others, plus dancing and an eager spirit to please the only natural path it seemed was to be an actress. It was an equation that seemed fitting and yet it did not truly align with my heart and dharma. I graduated with a BFA from a conservatory drama school University of North Carolina School of the Arts and went on to work in the entertainment industry in NYC and LA for over 10 years before I shifted into full time yoga teaching. I have been a SAG member since 1991 and done my share of live theatre, commercials and film. I spent many of those years writing and performing comedy with a group of super funny women many of whom are now veterans in the entertainment world. The cycle of rejection and constant self-focus kept me anxious and dark. My yoga practice created peaceful power and a larger view of myself and the world around me. The more fulfilled and empowered I became through yoga the less tolerance I had for the entertainment career aspect of my professional life. It organically and gradually shifted away.

During that shifting I met my husband who is a writer, filmmaker and yogi. We fell in love, married and soon after started a family. We are blessed with three boys under the age of 10 and currently live on a budding urban homestead in San Francisco Bay Area. I am an aquarius, a part-time introvert and fan of big wheels, basketball and looking at the sky.

Fierce Kindness
When did you walk into your first yoga class, and what drew you in? And who or what made you decide to become a yoga teacher?
My first yoga class was at the Manhattan Actors Equity Building and Gym in Hell’s Kitchen NYC @1994. It was in a darkened (with red tracked lighting) meditation room where I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I never saw the teachers eyes and yet I remember his beard. All I really knew was that I for one moment at the end of savasana felt relief from the feeling of despair that was always with me. It saved my sanity and my life I think.

I came to yoga with anxiety and depression. It made me feel better and I wanted to help other people feel better too.

Often, I would wistfully say out loud,”I just want to teach yoga.” and Rafael, my husband turn to me one day and said,”Then do it.” With his love and support, I did.

What are the three biggest ways your yoga practice has impacted your life?

Just three? Oh my good question, I will really have to distill it. It freed me of feeling stuck in my immediate circumstances and gave me daily, visceral embodiment of freedom and timeless peaceful power. It helped give understanding that I AM. I has given me tools to regulate my thoughts, ride my emotions and direct my focus to fully living. It reminds me that time here is short and helps me let go of limiting mental construct and say yes to oneness and love. Is that three? It also gives me tools for joy and for my life to be a prayer, it has made me feel so much better.

In addition to being a yoga teacher, you are also a gifted writer. Can you please share a bit about your journey as a writer in finding your unique voice, sharing it with the world, and ultimately becoming a published author?
Thank you! All the twists turns and culminations of my life; from my childhood, to years in the arts, to many hours in the asana/meditation room led me to writing. As a preteen I had a fascination with all things metaphysical. One of my first influential books was Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization, it had a huge impact on my thinking. I have been a voracious reader of all new and old spiritual texts over my whole life. Affirmations and visualizations to journey into deeper parts of my consciousness have been a staple of my life practice. The week before Lisa McGuinness now friend and my book’s publisher contacted me to write Kitchen Yoga I had written down the intention on a piece of scrap paper of writing my first book as a vision and seed to manifest. I was amazed and yet not surprised that out of the blue a publisher contacted me. I believe in the connection of life and purpose. I believe my purpose is to share hope, joy and love through all the different avenues of arts and communication.
Interview with Melanie Salvatore-August

How did your current book Fierce Kindness come into being and tell us a little bit about your first book Kitchen Yoga?
Lisa (the publisher at Yellow Pear Press) attended one of my yoga classes and from my understanding she had an experience that confirmed and supported a powerful decision she was working through in her life. She remembered me from that experience and when the time was right for her publishing company Yellow Pear Press she contacted me with the idea of Kitchen Yoga. She offered the concept and I attempted to create an accessible, daily practice book that supports from the inside out, meaning from the thoughts out to the actions to create a balanced and intentional life. The book is multi-layered with each chapter having various affirmations, inspirations, asana, pranayama and meditations that coincide with the chakra system. I was in labor with my 3rd son when Lisa contacted me. I wasn’t sure if I could manage writing, teaching and three kids with one a newborn and yet it happened rather seamlessly. My son was on my lap sleeping and nursing through the entire book writing process so he has to be credited as a silent author. Lisa and I work well together, she cares about being intentional and making a difference in the world with her offerings. Fierce Kindness: Be a Positive Force for Change was again a natural progression of our growing relationship and I think for both of us a passion project.

In relation to the book, can you tell us about your project The Fierce Kindness Movement and how can someone be involved?
Over the last 5 years, through the development support of lululemon (who I have had the pleasure of being a long time ambassador for) I began to actualize a greater impact for good in my community and beyond. Through one of lululemon’s ambassador development retreats it came to me that my understanding of how to make change was to be harnessed and structured so I could reach more people. In the last 4 years, FK events have given athletic shoes for foster kids, toys for Children’s Hospital Cancer patients, food for families in crisis, toiletries for women’s shelter, warm socks for homeless and more. Fierce Kindness is about connecting to purpose and love, using that as power to change the inner conversation from fear to love and while you help yourself your also being of service to the world.

Do Good, Feel Good. Fierce Kindness is a way of processing and approaching life with the tools of how to connect with love and use fear for deeper self knowledge and ultimately how to return over and over to love. It is a call to action to live your belief in love and act upon the power that this belief gives you. The book supports with immediate and actionable tools and mindset shift as well as daily directives to be of service to others. Both the tools and the connection in the world to be of service will make you feel better, happier and more powerfully contented. Through live and online trainings and events, the movement is growing and by 2018 will have a full online education platform that will have tools for self-development as well as leadership support and community building. This year has not only brought forward the book it has also given me an amazing partner in the organization Kaitlin Pratt MFT who is a former deputy sheriff and now a trauma therapist. She embodies fierce kindness and we are excited about the future of Operation Fierce Kindness.
Fierce Kindness and Kitchen Yoga

When we step onto the mat, we set an intention for our practice. What is an intention/mantra/quote that you live by, that helps guide you throughout your days, your teaching, and your life in general?
Guru Chant is how I step into my practice and in to life. I am surrendering and stepping in to my highest and eternal self, which is beyond my immediate circumstances. It reminds that I come from love and will return to love so move forward with faith.

In your book you talk about taking charge, being positive and living your life with fierce kindness and that’s such a profound concept that a lot of people can really benefit from, can you tell us how to apply that to daily life?
I am so glad that you think it is of benefit. The application is in small daily choices and actions that are repeated. The power is in the consistent pause; as it is the pause to feel, discern, redirect the mind to be in alignment with the heart/soul will create fulfillment, power and expansion into the best truth of yourself. Fierce kindness is for the person who believes in love and yet doubt has moved them just out of alignment with that belief. It gives them simple yet life changing tools to update their operating system and live in their beliefs. That creates powerful synchronicities as like attracts like and that amazing ripple effect of do good, feel good, feel good, do good that is transformational.
Yellow Pear Press Publishing

Photo by Marilyn Isaac Photography

What’s your advice to other yogi-preneurs for staying balanced, maintaining the vision, and making their dreams a reality?
You don’t have to be finished or perfect to do good and create the life that you dream. Ask yourself the raw and hard questions about what you truly want and why you want to do it. Make consistent daily positive actions while trusting the timing and support of the universe and love. Notice when you are struggling and get to the root of what is causing this fear response, then use your practices to clear it and create again. Live, love and be grateful now, the rest will come. Trust the process and truth of your purpose which comes from love.

what does living a conscious lifestyle mean to you?
Waking yourself up over and over to the wonder of the moment and life itself as it is a blessing and is precious. Doing the best you can in any given circumstance to return to love as efficiently as you can.
Yoga teacher interview, author

What does the future hold for you? Another book perhaps? Give us a glimpse into your future goals and aspirations.
I’m excited about the launch of our online educational platform Operation Fierce Kindness as well as the Audible audio version of Fierce Kindness which will release in the fall. I’m in development for a TEDtalk-type version of Fierce Kindness as well. I am called to write more books and have a couple of projects in early stages that I am giving space, trusting the timing and process of it all. I am very thankful to have channels of service and expression. Thank you so much for your interest and kind support of Fierce Kindness.
Melanie Salvatore-August

Photo by Marilyn Isaac Photography

Melanie has been a delight to get to know, I truly resonate with her words, her incredible zest for life and her personality is beautifully radiant. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed reading & reviewing her latest book ‘Fierce Kindness‘ on Yogi Approved and Bad Yogi. Very soon I will be reviewing her first book ‘Kitchen Yoga‘ on the blog next, stay tuned for that!

To connect with Melanie click on the links below:
Melanie Salvatore-August’s Website
Her Instagram: melsalaugust
Her Facebook Page: MelanieSalvatoreAugust
Join the Movement: Operation Fierce Kindness

Buy her books:
Fierce Kindness: Change Yourself to Change the World
Kitchen Yoga: Simple Home Practices to Transform Mind, Body, and Life

Want to view more interviews? Click on the links below.
An Interview with Krista Marie Starr on Yogi Approved.
An Interview with Rachel Wainwright on Yogi Approved.
An Interview with Sarah-Yoga Teacher & Psychology graduate
An Interview with Artist Rebecca Liggett.
An Interview with Nicole of Pure Soul Holistics
An Interview with Jenny of Alligator Smiles glass artistry
An Interview with Violeta a Jewellery designer from Surray