Halloween is an evening for trick-or-treating, dressing in costume, carving jack-o’-lanterns, playing pranks, and visiting haunted houses. Halloween is also a day for remembering the dead. This crowd-sourced episode is comprised of stories about Halloween.
Abigail Wald is founder of YES Bar and Real Time Parenting. Abigail talks about the serious health challenges faced by her two young sons, and how these experiences of adversity spurred her entrepreneurial spirit and led her to start two new businesses. Abigail also talks about how the parenting tools she learned helped her to achieve her lifelong goal of teaching people to communicate effectively and leave the world a little better off than how she found it.
Elizabeth Aquino is writer, disability advocate, and pastry chef. Elizabeth talks about the struggle to understand her own identity as separate from that of her now 22-year-old daughter, Sophie, who is profoundly disabled, as well as how the style in which she writes reflects this fragmentation of identity. Elizabeth also talks about the importance of creativity, what it means to give care to someone until one of you dies, and the questions that this caregiving raises about the value of a life and what it means to be human.
Cassandra Austin is an Australian writer and author of two novels who lives in Los Angeles. Our conversation explores how the profound sense of alienation that Cassandra experienced upon moving from the land with which she closely identifies has shaped her writing and helped her to develop her craft even while she struggled personally. Cassandra also talks about why she considers herself an Australian writer and how she discovered that writing time is more important to her than writing space.
Rhoda Makoff received her PhD in Biochemistry in 1961 when she was 23 years old. Our conversation explores how Rhoda developed an interest in science and how she built a successful career in academic research, teaching, and business despite the continual roadblocks that she encountered as a woman who envisioned a major career. Rhoda reflects on the principles that have guided her resilience and persistence in achieving her goals, including the importance of keeping your eyes on the prize and developing an egoless style of leadership.
Roger Freeman and Alexandra Decas are members of The Dinner Party, a national community of mostly 20- and 30-somethings who’ve each experienced significant loss. Our conversation explores how connecting intimately with strangers who have similarly experienced loss has allowed each of them to address their feelings of isolation and learn how to live with and speak about their profound loss. They also talk about the role of humor at Dinner Party tables, how they each seek joy in their lives, and the confounding issue of helping men—who have been trained to hide any weakness—to show up and feel safe.
Catherine Temma Davidson is a novelist, essayist, poet, and teacher of writing who grew up in Los Angeles and settled in London. Our conversation delves into Catherine’s creative process as well as her exploration of how culture shapes one’s worldview and what happens when we cross cultures. Catherine talks about the multicultural environment in which she was raised, her comfort with the “mixed mezze” approach, and why it is that she feels more Californian living in London than she ever did while she was living in the United States. Catherine also gives us a glimpse into the autobiographical novel on which she is currently working and discusses why—in the aftermath of Brexit—she has come to feel more connected to a larger community in England.
Syrie James is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels, as well as a screenwriter. Our conversation explores Syrie’s creative process, which involves a deep immersion in the lives of the real women writers who are the heroines of some of her most successful novels. Steeped in research about the lives and times of her characters as well as an abiding belief in the power of romantic relationships, Syrie’s novels explore the inner lives of the women at their center. Her novels about the writers Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte explore what inspired these mother’s of the novel to write. In our conversation I attempt to turn this question on my guest to explore the story behind the story in her work.
Today’s episode marks an ending of sorts and a new beginning. It is a lacuna, an interval, a gap. One door is closing and another opens. Today’s episode is the space between the Real Cancer podcast and the REAL podcast.
REAL will continue to feature conversations with individuals who‘ve faced the humbling encounter with reality that is cancer, and it will also explore other ways in which we engage with reality in the lives we live. REAL will broaden out the focus, exploring each week—through conversations with creative people of every type—the biggest questions we face in life: What does it feel like to be alive? How can we live meaningfully? Given the complexity of life—good and bad, hard and easy, exhilarating and depressing—how do we get on with living?
Jonathan Cohen is a gastroenterologist and founder of MD Medical Navigators. Jon discusses his attraction to the intensity of interactions between physicians, patients, and family, as well as the intellectual and emotional aspects of practicing medicine. He also talks about the desire to innovate and follow his curiosity, which is at the center of his personal approach to his profession. Jon discusses how his desire to explore from different perspectives, coupled with a keen sense of the need for humility, has led him to a new endeavor as an advocate for patients and families as they navigate their health care.
Today’s story is a personal one for the host of Real Cancer, as her friendship with this guest and his engagement with the search for a diagnosis led to treatment that saved her life.