Kiersten Marek is a clinical social worker and writer living in Cranston, Rhode Island. She specializes in identity development for all ages. She has published fiction online and in print, and blogs on issues related to health, literature, and community at Kmareka.com. “Know Thyself” is Kiersten’s first book. She is now working on a cookbook for emotional wellness.
Description: Know Thyself is a book for children ages 5 to 15 to help them learn about the many aspects of their identity. With descriptions and pictures of 12 archetypes, the book familiarizes children with important parts of their identity including the caregiver, the warrior, the artist, and the leader. This book helps to teach coping skills, problem-solving, character development, and relationship skills. It can also be used by mental health practitioners as a tool for gathering diagnostic information and conducting therapy. The book allows children to rate their archetypes, color the pictures of each archetype, and reflect on themselves in new ways. It also gives practical tips for for how to build self-awareness, cope with difficult feelings, and relate better to others.
About the Author
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was seven, I wrote a story called “Sloppy Joe” about a boy who had, shall we say, organization issues. I loved the idea of double meanings and puns and was entranced by the idea of working with words and meanings creatively.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to take walks — usually about two miles through my neighborhood. I’m a fair weather walker — I like getting my Vitamin D therapy as I walk. I like to let thoughts run through my head and feel them kind of get released through my body as I walk. I’m also a practicing Episcopalian and a teacher in the church school for my parish, which brings me great joy, being with the children and watching them learn and grow. My private therapy practice is housed in the rectory of the church I attend and teach at, Church of the Ascension, Cranston.
Is there anything unique about your upbringing that you’d like to share with readers?
I am the youngest of six surviving children in my family of origin. We are quite a crew! My upbringing was in a very big, very old house in Connecticut near Bolton Lake, which is beautiful.
Where do you hang out online? Website URL, author groups, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc?
I don’t have much time to hang out online these days, but when I do it will be with the daily check-in on FB to see the status of my friends. I have a blog, Kmareka.com, which has been running since 2002. Right now I am kind of on hiatus from the blog, but I will likely return to it once my second book is complete.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I like to read books by Joyce Carol Oates and have a whole raft of them on my bedside shelves. In my opinion, she is one of the more fascinating and phenomenal writers of our time.
What would you like readers to know about you the individual?
Like my book, I have many different aspects to myself that are regularly expressed. I love being a caregiver as mother to my two daughters. I also love being a soul mate as partner to my husband of 15 years. In my day job, I love connecting with other people who may be feeling their Wounded Child archetype and need to be with another human being who will value their experience and offer hope for a better future. I use a lot of my archetypes at work, but primarily I express my Warrior, Leader, and Guru in that setting.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
That I work in a prison for my day job. I get to be buzzed through lots of security doors, I can’t bring my cell phone inside most buildings, and I can’t wear an underwire bra due to the metal detectors. All in a day’s work!
Your Writing Process
What excites you about writing?
What excites me about writing is when new ideas are happening in my brain, and I know that what I am thinking may not have been thought of with those words before, or that I am blending concepts or images or thoughts in a new way. I know when I am writing well because I suffer from akathisia (restlessness, can’t sit still — the technical term for ants in
your pants). I have taken to setting my computer on the radiator or counter when I am like this, and writing standing up, because it is important to get stuff down during those periods.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I have no work schedule for my writing. I just try to squeeze it in between work and kids and sleep and food and shopping and church. It’s a challenge, which is why I am publishing my first book at age 44. But it is all good. I wouldn’t give up one moment of my life for writing, and the truth about writing is the more I focus on it, the less productive I seem to be. I need the rest of my life to feed my writing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Decide how important writing is to you. You don’t have to be Joyce Carol Oates, and you must remember that she got to where she is because of her extreme talent as well as support early in her career with her position at Princeton. In her memoirs, she talks about how she can’t imagine why anyone who has an average amount of talent for writing fiction would dedicate their life to it — she recognized it as a way to set oneself up for much hardship and disappointment.
Writing itself is not a money-maker. It’s like being an artist. For the vast majority of people, there is very little money in it. Do it for the love of it. Don’t go into debt to become a writer, or if you do, make sure you have a solid plan for getting out of debt.
Your book is about to be sent into the reader world. What is one word that describes how
It is very exciting for me to imagine my book in the hands of a child or an adult because I know how powerful an experience it can be to look at the drawings of the archetypes and talk with someone about your own experiences of that archetype.
In my therapy practice, kids have told me astounding things about themselves in response to the book — things that
gave me and their family a whole new perspective on what they are struggling with emotionally.
I know how much thinking about my archetypes helps to ground me in my daily life, and I want to teach others how to use the archetypes to understand themselves and change their emotions and their lives for the better.
What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?
If all goes well, I hope to be producing my second book by the end of 2013. The working title is “Cooking for Emotional Wellness.” This is a cookbook and also an exploration of how archetypal figures can inform your cooking. For example, sometimes you really need to eat to feed your Innocent by making some perfect vanilla pudding. There will be 10 archetypes in this book and for each archetype I will be presenting about 10 recipes that work to nurture the healthy development of that archetype. There will also be gluten-free recipes as I think this is an exciting new way to eat and change your diet for the better.
Of all the books you have written, which would you consider your easiest to write? The hardest to write? The most fun to write?
I have also written two book-length fiction manuscripts and compared with “Know Thyself: a Kid’s Guide to the Archetypes” they were much more complicated to write, and my feelings about both of those book are much more mixed. Because fiction is often in some way autobiographical, I struggle with publishing my fiction writing. I also worry that my clients will feel revealed in my fiction even though I go to great lengths to protect confidentiality. So my first published book was the easiest and most fun to write. The layout and graphics for the book were a challenge for me, but I think I did well for a beginner.
Name one website you visit every single day.
I visit Rhode Island’s Future (http://rifiture.org) daily — it helps feed my addiction to local news, and it keeps me grounded in knowing there is a community of like-minded liberals out there. Without this, I tend to feel isolated and like I don’t know what is going on in the world. I also have a specialized interest in education in America, so I read Diane Ravitch’s blog every day. She is an amazing person who expresses many aspects of her identity in her blog.