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We are beyond thrilled to work with dream team duo illustrator and graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton and writer Courtney E. Martin, who created this powerful message of resilience and self-compassion. They share their motivations for creating this piece, just a few (😉) of their favorite thinkers and artists, and a little more about their lives and work. 

Holstee: Where is home for you?

Courtney & Wendy: We both live in the Bay Area — Wendy is in San Francisco and Courtney is in Oakland.

Q: What was the inspiration behind this design?

C&W: When Trump got elected, we cried. A lot. We had a lot of cups of coffee together and talked about what the f to do next. And then we challenged each other to stop crying and drinking coffee and do something constructive…

[The original design] is a letterpress broadside poster for artists and writers who are asking themselves “What can I do?” It’s an assignment of sorts to hang in a studio or office — a reminder to stop crying and make art. Because making art in a time of such deep disconnection and misinformation is hugely important. We need art in the same way we need friends. We, Wendy and Courtney, literally need both right now.

H: Can you tell us a little bit more about your connection to Hedgebrook and why you chose to work with the organization in particular?

C&W: Courtney was a resident at Hedgebrook awhile ago and cried openly when she saw the giant pile of firewood that had been cut for the women writers there. It’s a place that prioritizes giving women, especially women of color, a place to create, think, heal, decompress, connect etc. In a sense, it is literally everything Trump is not, so it felt like the perfect source of our friends’ generosity.

H: What is your definition of a successful life?

C: Wow, that’s a whopper. I wrote a book recently on this exact question —called The New Better Off (also a TED talk if you’re inclined that way). In short, I believe that genuine, resilient relationships are what it’s all about. Wendy?

W: I mean, I think courtney’s book summarizes it excellently and everyone should read it (PLUG PLUG.) but yes, I agree: relationships. And I’ll add purposeful work. That means different things to different people. What it means to me is putting the short time and energy I have on this planet to good use. At the end of the day if i can look back and say, “you used your minutes wisely and to the benefit of others (animals and planet included)” well, then mission accomplished.

H: Where do you find inspiration?

C: Almost everywhere, but particularly from my 3-year-old daughter (who is infinitely creative and surprising), amazing books (just read Goodbye, Vitamin and loved it and am starting Samantha Hunt’s new short story collection), movies (like that incredible documentary on James Baldwin), podcasts (On Being, Invisibilia, Revisionist History etc.) and my talented, kind friends, like Wendy.

W: Aw, stop. Right back at you Courtney. And it’s true. Collaboration, working with people who have different talents that i am in awe of, who see the world a different way, but share a common vision or goal, bouncing ridiculous ideas around and seeing “ART” in the silliest (yet also most meaningful) of places… collaboration breeds new ideas. So do walks. And talks. And plane flights without wifi. And long solo drives. And good books. And tiny hidden newspaper articles. And talking to strangers. And everything, really. Except Twitter. And Facebook.

H: What's your dream project?

C: This was it, actually. Dear friend, organic, joyful process, beautiful product, feeling of catharsis and collective action.

W: While I agree, I’ll also say that a dream project implies one that we’ve not done yet. So, I’ll call this project, Courtney, and raise you one. My dream project is the next one we do together, hopefully soon, hopefully celebrating a major shift in this country’s leadership and direction. Dream project number two involves visiting new places talking to strangers and drawing, which is also my dream life.

H: Which artists, writers, or thinkers influence or inspire you?

C: Parker Palmer, Krista Tippett, Wendy MacNaughton, Kehinde Wiley, Solange, Brittney Cooper, adrienne marie brown, Gloria Steinem, Eula Biss, Lindy West, Valarie Kaur, Elizabeth Lesser, Pat Mitchell, Lin Manuel Miranda, Anand Giriharadas, Sisonke Msimang, Dolores Huerta, Marshall Ganz, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Louise Dunlap, James Baldwin, audre lorde, Dennis Dalton, Nipun Mehta, Maria Popova…….

W: Oh Come ON. Too many to name. All of the above, plus:
Cipe Pineles, David Hockney, Saul Steinberg, Kathe Kollowitz, Nellie Bly, Carrie Mae Weems, Gillian Wearing, Ben Shahn, Maira Kalman, Tibor Kalman, Margaret Mead, Andrew Wyeth, David Horowitz, Adrian Piper, Rebecca Solnit, Chris Carlsson, Christoph Neimann, Liz Ogbu, Jon Mooallem, Sam Green, Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Nona Faustine. And Courtney MF’ing martin. And so many more.

H: Each month, we like to share one of our discussion questions from the monthly guide with our artists. This month’s theme is resilience, and one key component of building resilience on a day to day basis is through gratitude. Taking a moment to feel and express gratitude often brings perspective to our painful or challenging moments. What are five things you are grateful for right now?

C: My health, my cohousing community, my women’s group, my childcare provider, Betsy, and Hatch green chillis from Santa Fe where I just visited my parents

W: That things will always change.

H: Anything else you’d like to share with our community?

C&W: Thank you!

One thing: in social work practice, resilience is seen as one of the most important attributes to foster in individuals to help them deal with struggles they will face in their lives. It’s also the lens through which social workers view their work: social work practice identifies strengths and resiliencies and builds on that, instead of searching for weaknesses and pathologizing those. Given the state of the country, the theme of resilience is such a perfect thing for you all to be focusing on right now. We’re happy the FOCUS poster and a contribution to Hedgebrook can be a part of it.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Resilience.

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