We had the good fortune of connecting with Kendra Griffin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kendra, we’d love to hear what makes you happy.
I’m happy when I’m free of fear. Fear mucks everything up, keeps us from living in the present, and drains joy and creativity. I suspect — and this is a theory I’m spending a lot of energy on lately — that we can draw just as much artistic inspiration from joy as we do sorrow, but we humans simply haven’t honed the skill.
I also suspect most of us live in constant fear. Fear of the year to come in world politics, fear of inadequacy in the present, fear that our past actions were hurtful. Fear burrows through our brain cells like that tracking device yanked out of Neo in The Matrix. Heck, I’ve spent half my life in fear of fear, fear of impending pain and loss, fear that I deserve said impending pain and loss, fear that I would always live in fear. At some point, I got so sick of being afraid that I just started to find it funny in a Holden Caufield “laughing while hyperventilating” kind of way. And while I won’t pretend that my head is now on so straight or my shite so perfectly together that I’m fearless, I have at least learned to call fear’s bluff. There’s little so satisfying as watching fear kick its legs helplessly after you’ve deposited that bully head-first into a garbage can.
When I was young, I dreamed that my family would all die before me. Soon my mother died of cancer, and I internalized the terror. “Be ready. Be on constant guard for the pain and loss.” But you can’t really love anyone while you’re terrified of losing them. A person can only be happy only in the present moment. We have little control over the future and none over the past, except for how we choose to feel about those moments, so we might as well find this life funny.
Besides, you are going to lose people. And jobs, and chances, and sometimes hope. And socks. You’ll lose many, many socks. That’s life.
I’m also made happy by kindness in the face of cruelty, courage in the face of oppression, candles in the face of darkness, and puppies. I mean, come on. They’re puppies, after all.
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.
I’m a novelist, developmental editor, and singer/songwriter. For the past ten years I’ve mainly written young adult novels, because teenagers are funny, smart, savvy, and world-wise yet innocent. I love focusing on realistic, imperfect characters. We’re all misfit toys, and labels serve no purpose in this upside-down world. I especially like telling stories not often told, stories about kids who haven’t grown up with money or in exciting circumstances or even with two functioning parents in the household.
I also play guitar and write songs. Essentially, after getting dumped in college, I picked up that guitar my parents bought me as a kid and wrote an album of broken-hearted tunes I can’t bear to listen to now. Over the years, I’ve kept up with songwriting, mostly indie folk stuff. I rarely play in public anymore, and when I do, people always seem surprised I can do this other nifty thing with my voice and my words and my fingers.
I also offer developmental editing, story-coaching, and writing workshops. I’m proud of my ability to encourage emerging writers and help them find confidence. That’s probably from learning how to coax my own in from the edges of the campfire.
Recently, I began writing serial novels on Vella, where I’ve discovered that some people find me funny. If so, I think it’s almost accidental. I’m so aware that life is metafictional, and I’m so sure I’m a character in some bizarre satyr play, that sometimes others have to laugh along with me. Long ago I dismantled the fourth wall between me and the Muppet Show judges pointing at me from the balcony, and there’s been no turning back.
I do, in all seriousness, care very much that I espouse important themes and empower teens to find their voice and stand up for themselves and their communities, because we’re going to need those voices, need more Greta Thunbergs in the world if we’re going to keep this world alive much longer.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Currently I live between two homes. When friends visit Colorado, I inevitably coax them into driving up to Red Feather to visit the Shambhala Mountain Center and their Great Stupa. The moment your feet hit the grounds, you’ll know you’re standing in your own footsteps again. The next day, we’ll hit Pinball Jones, the local arcade/bar, to relive our adolescences and play Skee-Ball and PAC-MAN. (PBJs is also my second date go-to. Shh.)
Then we’d take a road trip to Silver City, New Mexico, nestled in the foothills of the Gila wilderness. There we’d go to the Tranquilbuzz coffee shop nearly every day to enjoy good music and great coffee, and to talk with the locals about philosophy. I would also take visitors to the Lotus Center for yoga and meditation. And on Tuesday nights, we’d check out the Triple Crown Hostel’s jazz and open mic events around the campfire.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Nathan Faudree of DangerYak Creations taught me how to laugh at myself back when we were housemates in Staten Island. There in the APEHIVE (a mnemonic device Nathan coined for our phone number, necessary in a house full of ADHD, then-substance abusers, and creative types), Nate taught me that life was either ridiculously sad or simply ridiculously ridiculous. All comedy aside, Nate is one of the kindest and most authentic souls I’ve met in this lifetime. Plus, he’s played Bigfoot twice. Top that.
My nephews, Victor (Buddy) Herbert Fisher and Griffin Lance Fisher. They are compassionate, artistic, open-hearted, and curious souls who are currently quietly saving the world. The name “Buddy” is a nod to the Buddha. “Griffin” is a nod to me. No pressure or anything. Being their aunt and their “None-of-us-really-believes-in-god”-mother has provided me enduring motivation to at least believe in myself and model that for them.
Joanne Hollan, a counselor, professor, and mentor who helped me for free, for years, after repressed memories blindsided me and I stumbled into her office. Joanne taught me that the wish is always the fear, that to overcome trauma, we find as much joy in life as possible, and that every second we stay present is a win for the side of the Good. I don’t believe in angels, as made clear in the above post about my nephews. Except Joanne is an angel. Go figure.
Robert Crow Renya Craig Kendra Griffin