Sweet Nothing Part II:
The Rocky Road to Nirvana

"O.T"(38)/ 2009, Peter Feichter

“O.T”(38)/ 2009, Peter Feichter

I have often thought of writing a novel, similar to Thomas Mann’s Confessions of Felix Krull, which would be the life story of a charlatan making out as a master guru . . . It would be a romantic and glamorous tale . . . also raise some rather unexpected philosophical questions as to the relations between genuine mysticism and stage magic. But I have neither the patience nor the skill to be a novelist, and thus can do no more than sketch the idea for some more gifted author. The attractions of being a trickster guru are many. There is power and there is wealth, and still more the satisfactions of being an actor without need for a stage, who turns ‘real life’ into a drama. . . It must be understood from the start that the trickster guru fills a real need and performs a genuine public service. . . A judicious use of hypnosis . . . will produce pleasant changes of feeling and the impression of attaining higher states of consciousness. . . charge rather heavily, making it dear that the work is worth infinitely more . . . Insist on some special diet, but do not follow it yourself. Indeed, you should cultivate small vices, such as smoking . . . On the one hand, you yourself must be utterly free from any form of religious or parapsychological superstition, lest some other trickster should outplay you. On the other hand, you must eventually come to believe in your own hoax, because this will give you ten times more nerve. This can be done through religionizing total skepticism to the point of basic incredulity about everything – even science. . . Disappear from time to time by taking trips abroad, and come back looking more mysterious than ever. . . If the universe is nothing but a vast Rorschach blot upon which we project our collective measures and interpretations, and if past and future has no real existence . . . The past is held against you only because others believe in it, and the future seems important only because we have conned ourselves into the notion that surviving for a long time, with painstaking care, is preferable to surviving for a short time with no responsibility and lots of thrills. . . Perhaps it all boils down to the ancient belief that God himself is a trickster, eternally fooling himself by the power of maya into the sensation that he is a human being, a cat, or an insect . . . How will you avoid being either a fool or a fooler? How will you get rid of the ego-illusion without either trying or not trying? . . . Who will answer these questions if yourself is itself an illusion?. . .

“…At midnight, the brilliant sun.”

-Alan Watts, “The Trickster Guru,” (1974)


I didn’t like a money-making machine with cultic roots telling me they owned the word “authentic.” Were they kidding? For me it was a cheesy word, akin to sincerity. It was warmed-over Sartrian existentialism, a more “authentic” version of which I had been exposed to as an undergraduate in a class at the erstwhile University of Massachusetts.

And didn’t the beret-wearing coffeehouse intellectual himself take his caffeinated prose from Heidegger? And this wasn’t just a matter of intellectual appropriation; they also insisted anyone who felt powerless needed to search for how they were being inauthentic. I wanted to know where the “inauthenticity” was in, say, feeling powerless in NYC during the events of September, 2001?

I discussed the point with one of the pretty unpaid volunteers in the back of the room. She said I should talk to the leader about it. I said I’d tried. (He was, alas, an airline pilot and I later did—his answer was that the airplanes hit the buildings, the buildings fell, and a bunch a people died—it happened; the rest was interpretation.)

Imagine you were a fly on the wall she said.

If I were a fly I said, I wouldn’t even be able to perceive it because my perceptual system would not even be attuned to spiders’ webs, let alone skyscrapers. Still, she’d been helpful, allaying my fears that there were taboo subjects.

Lack of sleep, combined with an ill-advised internet search, augmented my intractability. The second day I walked out of the room (glad to be able to escape for numerous “bathroom breaks”) during what I considered to be an offensively silly exercise in closing one’s eyes and imagining absolute fear. I didn’t need to pretend that all of Canada, let alone the world, was coming at me with a knife.

In the hall, after a bracing headstand, I flagged another of the unpaid helpers, a social work student who was surprisingly reading Being and Time, Heidegger’s magnum opus from which, I complained, much gobbledygook (especially the words “being” and “clearing”) had been culled in a philosophical mishmash.

It was a productive if brief conversation in which she worried I might be missing something crucial by leaving the room. What resists persists was a constant refrain, a rhyming encapsulation of Freud 101. So I returned to the room, defiantly opening my eyes as the group-think sheep tried to imagine the horrors that might befall them, getting in touch with their deepest fears and the notion that others feared them.

Near the end of the lunch break the leader called me over and we had a brief chat. I asked him if he knew the derivation of the stuff he was saying and reading. Did he know Alan Watts? Heidegger? Had he read Being and Time? Was he aware of the irony of claiming wholesale, garbled appropriations of eastern spirituality and western philosophy were Landmark’s intellectual property? I could not understand why he would use Donald Trump as an example of integrity, even integrity emphasized to stress its secondary definition of structural coherence. He said he hadn’t said that. What about the abuse? Scientology? He looked me in the eye and said I had a lot going on. I was trying to interpret too much. He didn’t seem enthused about Scientology. Heidegger he’d not read much, he admitted, though he loved Alan Watts. Me too, I said. We agreed on that one. Then it was back to the pscyho-grind.

Alan Watts

Alan Watts

(When I did some research on the matter afterward I found amazing the meandering intellectual and appropriative trajectory that led to Erhard’s efficacious amalgam. One of the most ancient seeds, sprouted as it were in the prehistory of American consciousness raising, was Napoleon Hill’s 1937 Think and Grow Rich. His advice comes after a twenty year engagement suggested by Scottish steel magnate Andrew Carnegie—not to be confused with another influence, Dale Carnegie who said the difference between happiness and success is that the latter entails getting what you want while the former entails wanting what you get. Hill made a study of success among the rich in the Depression. He strongly advocated planting conscious seeds in your unconscious mind if you didn’t want “weeds” to grow; and he says, rather surprisingly, that effective thoughts should be “colored” by the most powerful sorts of emotions, specifically sex and love. Hill, whose book’s sold 60 million copies, thereby anticipates neurolinguistic programming, which methodically finds the sensory correlates of good feelings and attaches them by exercises to desired outcomes.

I was struck by Hill’s notion that there are two realms of creativity, one that works by recombination and the other that creates without precedent somehow from scratch via a radical freedom that creates ex nihilo, as he says, from the “infinite intelligence” of the universe.

This is the “creative imagination” which creates from nothing, from pure possibility, and can be clearly seen in est rhetoric and Landmark philosophy. It is ironic that this idea, insofar as it is repackaged as money maker, is itself an example of its opposite, Hill’s “synthetic imagination,” which pieces preexisting stuff together.

Napoleon Hill also stressed that the greatest marketers sold ideas more than things. This must have inspired Erhard, taken with consciousness raising and money making simultaneously. Erhard, who attended Watts’s lectures and listened to his broadcasts, is on record saying that Zen “created the space for est.” And after manically pursuing a thousand different leads, Erhard had an experience, driving over the Golden Gate bridge, of the endless futility of all such purposeful pursuits—in contrast to the infinite potential and desire-less fullness of the infinite now. And he went on, expertly, to market that experience, to retro-engineer satori. Erhard’s great innovation was the serious joke of selling “nothing”—nothingness, the carefully created experience of it.

Even during our chat at the break I couldn’t help but think—and I mentioned this to Will—that at some point Erhard met up with the great Anglo-Californian popularizer of eastern philosophy—especially Hinduism, Taoism, and Zen—and mentioned his con idea. I know because I read about it in one of Watts’s tracts. Was it in The Book: Against the Taboo on Knowing Who You Are—a work I read straight through and that had an effect on me almost as strong as the Landmark Forum? In any case, Watts somewhere lets fly the idea of a novel based on a character who, posing as a conman—e.g, posing as someone who’s not a conman, as someone who has “authenticity”—performs a higher level bait-and-switch. Instead of running a sting (solely) for money, for example, the grifter generates a spiritual experience. He leaves the sucker not only duped but enlightened—and thus not, in the end duped.

How irresistible such an idea must have been to the young Erhard, on the run and in a lucrative but unfulfilling frenzy to come up with the perfect spiritual marketing scheme. Talk about having your cake and eating it too! Combine just the faintest wisp of this idea with Napoleon Hill’s classic marketing insight that the thing people really pay for is not things but ideas and you have a formula beyond winning. Erhard’s most famous quote about his system is that Zen created the space for it.)

At the end of the day, the Leader asked if this day had not been yet more powerful than the previous one. The room raised their hand as one. Not I. I found the Jerry Springer atmosphere in which people shared their deepest vulnerabilities and childhood traumas to appeal to a prurience, although I did admit to the Leader that in my homework I had had a “breakthrough” in writing “I love you” to a dead family member with whom I’d never gotten complete.

Jerry Springer

But the nonstop airings of abuse and body image problems, the universal inability to get through to family members, the tales of festering resentments and gastronomic self-sabotage were familiar from daytime television. What was different was the aftermath, in which the vicious cycles of our self-rationalizations were expertly analyzed by a relentless attempt to clearly distinguish facts from interpretations. This made it better than Jerry Springer.

I suggested that if their primary goal was not, as they said, to make money, then they should put such analyses on TV so that people could get beyond the cycles of televised exhibitionism and voyeurism to a healing beyond all gossip. What a show that would be! Still, the initial separation between facts and interpretations was not ironclad, and the idea that we are responsible for everything that happens to us—because that was our interpretation—became rather dicey when people are blamed for the way they feel in the aftermath of spousal dalliance, illness, rape or even, in an infamous example from est’s fearless founder, concentration camp incarceration.

We may be charitable and consider the LGAT’s technique a pragmatic caricature, designed to force us to realize our own role in the continuation of our own unhappiness. However harrowing the initiating events, our mental replay of them partners and participates in additional unnecessary malaise. Although crudely exaggerated, one can recognize here the essence of wisdom attributed to Buddha, namely that we suffer from the event (he called it the “first arrow”) but need not suffer additionally by dwelling on it—the “second arrow”—with which we stick ourselves.

(A huge est-Landmark source, Max Maltz’s 1960 Psycho-Cybernetics, which I recommend, compellingly argues that happiness is not based on anything so much as a choice we make as we break through the habit of pity and poor self-image. Maltz, whose most striking phrase is “nostalgia for the future,” shows convincingly that consciously changing how we think about ourselves feeds back into how we feel, transforming psychologically negative reinforcing cycles into positive ones.)

This much criticized technique, which often devolves into an impression of an abyssal lack of empathy and poor taste, in fact appears often remarkably effective, especially for those not deeply touched by suicidal tendencies or mental illness. (I am still toying with the idea of a board game called “Blame the Victim.”)

Still low on sleep I badgered my partner with the possibility that I would create the possibility of a public showdown. Alas, it was not to be: my resolve proved no match for their training, my curiosity stole the ball from my ego. After threatening me with bodily removal, our fearless Leader, Will Steele, did a brilliant job of catapulting us into a timeless present akin to the instantaneous enlightenment akin to the kensho* of Japanese Zen. After this threat I planned to leave at the next break but not to storm out, as I wanted to look good, not like a loser intimidated by the practices of the mercantile organization whose cultic practices I’d chosen to condemn. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll agree not to talk unless I raise my hand. You’re the Cult Leader.”

I had been hellbent on drawing the room’s attention to a manipulative technique I noticed when Steele tried to convince a petite Chinese woman that she had been duped into thinking that any part of her mind was not either engaged in vicious cycle-type rationalization or a personality trait developed to compensate for a perceived weakness—what Freud might call a “defense mechanism.” Of course I was right—any time you really meditate, have an orgasm, or lose yourself in work or play you are not really caught up in these ego games—but it didn’t matter.

What I didn’t understand was that the lie was performative, in service not of a truth so much as a kind of psychological theater. It was similar to what the clerics used to call a “pious lie,” one made strategically to take you, like Wittgenstein’s philosophical ladder that you can discard after climbing, to a higher place. The offered, but not real choice was clearly recognizable to me as mental manipulation. It was a force.

When the Chinese woman insisted there were moments when she was not involved in mental vicious cycles or defense mechanisms, and the leader reframed her answer with the request that she identify whether it was a vicious cycle or a defense mechanism—I’m not using Landmark’s own more colorful terms for these things—I recognized it as a linguistic version of a parlor magician forcing a card.

In the end, however, I realized that they were right and I was wrong. Or at least they weren’t any more wrong than I was. For what happened is they did not just intellectually conceive but they—Will—theatrically led us to experience a postmodern fillip, a self-reflexive deconstruction of Sartrian existentialism: that life is not only meaningless and empty but that it’s meaningless and empty that it’s meaningless and empty. Which thus allows it to mean something but not what it used to mean.

A performative, pragmatic version of spiritual askesis, a clearing out of clutter, albeit with some help from some mild, tactical harassment and sketchy, psi-oppy, mind-altering techniques, to bring on enlightenment, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Wipe the dust from the mirror of your mind.

After all the craziness and clutter and confessions they brought us to that fabulous place beyond fable, the pure being of right now. The crazy meaning-making chatter of the monkey minds of the attendees quieted. There were a few final flickers, like embers in a dying fire, and then these people too, stopped trying to make sense of it all. Everything already is—right now.

There’s no place, as Emerson said, to go. Most of us were smiling, and nobody perhaps more than I. When the leader quipped that we’d paid $630 for nothing, the irony that it was well worth the money was not lost on us.

A guy I’d talked to on the street the day before, a successful businessman and veteran of the program who two days later made a point to come up to me to tell me that he loved me, said he’d pay twice that just for the Nothingness part alone.

Of course I still have qualms. I’m not willing to abandon critical thinking or accept philosophical appropriations as the thing itself. I’m still concerned about state coercion, expeditious lying, and even and especially the production of “integrity” and “authenticity” as political commodities. I still enjoy my resentment and the unwarranted rationalizations, helpfully buried in my unconscious, that are expertly designed to make me look good.

On the final day, when registrants are encouraged to bring friends and family to the large hotel ballroom and enroll them in the possibility of changing their lives through Landmark—we had even been guaranteed a “breakthrough” if we brought three or more people—I raised my hand and even stood up, hoping to share a condensed version of my thoughts. I even jumped into the aisle, lurching toward the stage at one point.

Alas, calling on me may not have been the greatest business decision. Who knows what I would have said, but I could certainly see myself saying, with a broad, appreciative smile, that despite my initial resistances I learned a lot from the experience. I might have underlined that I got nothing out of it, and that that was a good thing. It’s hard for you to understand but I literally got Nothing out of Landmark, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

And Nothing is better than nothing.

Click Here to return to Part I…

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Bartley, William Warren, (1978). Werner Erhard, The Transformation of a Man: The Founding of est. New York, New York, USA: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.

Hargrave, Robert (1976). est: Making Life Work. Delacorte.

Maltz, Maxwell (1960). Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Technique for Using Your Subconscious Power, Wilshire Book Co.

Pressman, Steven, (1993). Outrageous Betrayal: The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile

Rhinehart, Luke (1976). The Book of Est. Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston.

Watts, Alan (1974). The Essential Alan Watts, Celestial Arts.

To return to part one, click here.

* This is the Rinzai Zen Buddhist idea that you use personality shock techniques to efface the ego or mind—showing it to be illusory, an effect of position and habit rather than in possession of a rock-solid reality—and thus achieve enlightenment instantly, in contrast to the Soto Zen idea of working gradually toward enlightenment through long practice.

Joy E. Stocke


Joy E. Stocke

See other contributors.

In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.

With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.

In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.

In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.

She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.

In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey.  Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.

Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013).  The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.

She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.



Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition


The Eagle of Ararat
The Eagle of Ararat-Part II: The Meaning of Freedom


Where Were the Shells Fired From?


Suzanne Opton and Michael Fay – The Human Face of War


Katherine Schimmel: A Meeting in a Garden and a Mystic Pen


Anatolian Kitchen: Cuisine at the Crossroads – For the Love of Beets


ABULHAB – Arabic from Left to Right: An Interview with Type Designer, Saad Abulhab

BELBRUNO- Ed Belbruno – The Colors of the Universe: Microwaves and Art

CLARKE – Rock & Roll, Cybernetics, and Literature: Bruno Clarke’s Intersecting, Interconnecting World

COMBS – Hazard: A Sister’s Flight From Family and a Broken Boy

FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir

EARLE – An Extraordinary Hope Spot: Sylvia Earle on the 20th Anniversary of Cabo Pulmo Marine Park and the Future of the World’s Oceans

FULBRIGHT –  Harriet Mayor Fulbright- World Peace through Education

JOSEPH GLANTZ –  Inner Lights, Electric Kites – The Sparks of Philadelphia’s Creativity

HALIFAX – Joan Halifax, Roshi – Letting Go, Letting in Light: Halifax Talks about Her Life & Groundbreaking Book, Being with Dying

HONEY – The New York Hall of Science Hosts 1001 Inventions – Muslim Heritage in Our World: A Conversation with Dr. Margaret Honey

KUPCU – How to Weave a Culture: The Art of the Double-Knot with Murat Küpçü

Jonathan Maberry’s Ghost Road Blues

MAJOR – A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age: Judith Major and Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer

MAURO – New World Monkeys: Primates, Boars, and a Conversation with Author, Nancy Mauro

MEHTA – Talking about Global Healing with Political Scientist Vipin Mehta

OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur, and Space Traveler

SHOR – Music in Stone: Jonathan Shor Constructs a Lithophone for Quark Park

SMITH – ROLEX ARTS INITIATIVE-Poet Tracy K. Smith: Memory, Creation, Mentoring, and Mastery

SODERMAN – The Solace of Vacant Spaces: An Interview with Visionary Peter Soderman

EVAN THOMPSON – Waking, Dreaming, Being: Philosopher Evan Thompson Explores Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience and Meditation

TIMPANE – This Has Never Felt Like A Job
Poetry, Science and the Big Bang: John Timpane Goes to Cambridge

YUNUS – Opening the Gates of Capitalism: In Ecuador with Economist Muhammad Yunus, “Banker to the Poor”

ZALLER – Robert Zaller – Cliffs of Solitude – A World of Activism: Talking of Troubadours and Poetry with the Historian

Every River Tells A Story: Founders Kim Nagy and Joy Stocke

Dorion Sagan and Tyler Volk – Death and Sex: Dorion Sagan and Tyler Volk Get Intimate about Their New Book

Orhan Pamuk – The Melancholy Life

Per Petterson: Language Within Silence


Istanbul, Memories and the City: by Orhan Pamuk, Translated by Maureen Freely
The Road to Home: Rachel Simon’s The Story of Beautiful Girl


Anatolia – Istanbul’s Flaming Horn
End Times Down at the Kingdom Hall
Reclaiming Friday the 13th


Love Affair with Turkey

Anatolian Days and Nights – The Steamy Side of Istanbul


The Bath: Athens, Greece


The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation


 2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..


Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson

Quark Park

Algorithms, Google & Snow Globes: David Dobkin

WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK

Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn


UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul


Conservation – East of an Aquatic Eden and into the Desert
Controversial Marcellus Shale Gas Pipeline Threatens Delaware River Basin and Rural Communities in the Northeast


Migration, Remittances and Latin America


The Slow Web Movement: Wild River Review’s Philosophy on the Media


Rumi and Coke


Post-Thanksgiving Plane Ride with a Soldier on His Way to Iraq
Turkey – Of Protests and Fruit: A Report & Updates from Istanbul

Kimberly Nagy

Kimberly Nagy, Contributor

Kimberly Nagy

See other contributors.

In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.  With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.

Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.

Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.

After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor MagazineRoutledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

TWITTER: kimnagy

Kimberly Nagy in this Edition


Postcard from Haiti


Lady of the Largest Heart: Remembering Muna Imady


Pamela Tanner Boll – Dangerous Women: Creativity, Motherhood, and the World of Art
Suzanne Opton and Michael Fay – The Human Face of War


Slim Hopes
Who Does She Think She Is?


Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs


Christine Matthäi – The Light of Innocence: On Playfulness, Trees and Growing up in the former East Germany
Every Face Tells a Story: A Conversation with Photographer, Beowulf Sheehan


The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song


ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes


Truth Hunger – A Meditation on Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir


PEN WORLD VOICES – The Chador and the Walled Homestead: Modern Poetry of Pakistan
PEN WORLD VOICES – Found Poetry: A Wishing Poem


Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative


First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture


NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change


ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson


Lady of the Largest Heart: Remembering Muna Imady


Living the Dada Life: Andrei Codrescu Style
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul


Controversial Marcellus Shale Gas Pipeline Threatens Delaware River Basin and Rural Communities in the Northeast
Down on Honey Brook Farm

Cool Chick


Cool Chick     

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Cool Chick is an inspired force of literary nature — a lifelong writer who is dedicated to the wild river school of writing.

Educated at Wild River Community College, later attending Wild River University, Cool Chick is working on her PhD in changing the world – one story at a time.

Saad Abulhab

Type designer, librarian, and systems engineer, Saad D. Abulhab, was born in 1958 in Sacramento, California, and grew up in Iraq. Residing in the US since 1979, he is currently Director of Technology of the Newman Library of Baruch College, the City University of New York. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnic University, and a Master of Science in Library and Information Sciences from Pratt Institute, both in Brooklyn. Involved since 1992 in the field of Arabetic computing and typography, he is most noted for his non-traditional type designs and the Mutamathil type style which was awarded a US Utility Patent in 2003. Designed more that 16 fonts families since 1998 and wrote several articles in the field of Arabetic typography and scripts.

Opal Palmer Adisa


Opal Palmer Adisa

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Opal Palmer Adisa, Ph. D, diverse and multi-genre, is an exceptional talent, nurtured on cane-sap and the oceanic breeze of the Caribbean. Writer of both poetry and prose, playwright/director, professor, educator and cultural activist, Adisa has lectured and read her work throughout the United States, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Germany, Spain, France, England and Prague, and has performed in Italy and Bosnia. An award-winning poet and prose writer, Adisa has sixteen titles to her credit, including the novel, It Begins With Tears (1997), that Rick Ayers proclaimed as one of the most motivational works for young adults.

She has been a resident artist in internationally acclaimed residencies such as Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assis, Italy), El Gounda (Egypt), Sacatar Institute (Brazil) and McColl Center, (North Carolina) and Headlines Center for the Arts (California, USA). Opal Palmer Adisa’s work has been reviewed by Ishmael Reed, Al Young, and Alice Walker (Color Purple), who described her work as “solid, visceral, important stories written with integrity and love.”

Following in the tradition of the African “griot” Opal Palmer Adisa, an accomplished storyteller, commands the mastery and extraordinary talent of storytelling, exemplary of her predecessors. Through her imaginative characterizations of people, places and things, she is able to transport her listeners to the very wonderlands she creates.

A gifted diversity trainer, literary critic, and proud mother of three accomplished children, Opal is the former parenting editor and host of KPFA Radio Parenting show in Berkley, California. Columnist for The Graduate Parent for the “Healthy You,” website and wrote a bi-monthly poetry column for The Daily News, St. Thomas. Adisa has published hundreds of articles on different aspects of parenting, writing and poetry and is currently completing a book on effective parenting.

A Distinguished professor of creative writing and literature in the MFA program at California College of the Arts, where she teaches in the Fall. She has been a visiting professor at several universities including, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and University of the Virgin Islands. Her poetry, stories, essays and articles on a wide range of subjects have been collected in over 400 journals, anthologies and other publications, including Essence Magazine. She has also conducted workshops in elementary through high school, museums, churches and community centers, as well as in prison and juvenile centers.

Opal Palmer Adisa is a vivacious, motivational speaker who will enthrall and mesmerize you with her words.


Works by Opal Palmer Adisa

Boonoonoos Children

Phyllis Carol Agins

Phyllis Carol Agins

Phyllis Carol Agins

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Phyllis Carol Agins’ fiction includes two novels: Suisan and Never the Same River Twice, as well as numerous short stories, published in Kalliope, Paragraph, and Lilith Magazine (Fall ‘06), among other journals. Her children’s book, Sophie’s Name, has been in print since 1990, and she also co-authored One God, Sixteen Houses, an architectural study. For many years, she served on the board of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and taught writing at Penn State Abington. Lately, she divides her time between Fairmont Park and the Mediterranean coast. She has completed a comic novel about young widowhood and is polishing a literary mystery centering on the Shakespeare authorship question. Her next book will follow a Jewish family as they leave Algeria to make a new life in France and America.

Works by Phyllis Carol Agins

Under Her Hat

Angela Ajayi

Angela Ajayi spent over ten years in publishing, mainly as a book editor, until she became a freelance writer. She holds a BA from Calvin College and an MA from Columbia University. Her essays and author interviews have appeared in the Star Tribune and Afroeuropa: Journal of Afro-European Studies. She currently writes book reviews for The Common Online. Her first short story, “Galina,” will be published by Fifth Wednesday Journal this fall. She likes to think she defies easy categorization, identifying through birth and citizenship as a Nigerian-Ukrainian-American writer. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter.

Bill Alexander


Bill Alexander

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Bill Alexander is a published fiction writer for Venture Magazine, Spectrum Magazine, and Drumbeat Magazine. As an intern for Wild River Review, he contributes to the column Wild Table, sharing his thoughts and insights on food and culture. Born and raised in New Jersey and a New Orleanian at heart, Bill is an avid storyteller and devoted writer who believes strongly in originality over faddism.


Works by Bill Alexander

Embers of September: Every Family Has a Story to Tell

Chris Allen

Chris Allen became interested in filmmaking during High School, and has pursued it ever since. He studied Bhakti Yoga (which he still practices) in Chicago before receiving a degree in Film and Television from New York University. After raising three children and producing videos in corporate America, Allen started his own film company, Open Sky Cinema, writing and producing documentaries. They include “The Delaware and Raritan Canal,” “Lost Princeton,” “A Warm and Loving Look — The Poetry of Stephen Kalinich,” and “Open Sky.”

In his documentary, “Quark Park,” Allen filmed and interviewed dozens of scientists, artists, sculptors, landscape architects, and architects in collaboration with Quark Park’s creators Peter Soderman, Kevin Wilkes; and with the Wild River Review.

Works by Chris Allen

An Interview with Rush Holt

Renee Ashley

Renée Ashley is the author of five volumes of poetry: Because I Am the Shore I Want to Be the Sea (Subito Book Prize); Basic Heart (winner of the 2008 X.J.Kennedy Poetry Prize); The Revisionist’s Dream; The Various Reasons of Light; and Salt (Brittingham Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin Press), as well as a novel, Someplace Like This, and two chapbooks, The Museum of Lost Wings and The Verbs of Desiring. Ashley teaches poetry in the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and across the genres in the MA in Creative Writing and Literature for Educators. She has received fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in both poetry and prose and a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. A portion of her poem, “First Book of the Moon,” is included in a permanent installation in Penn Station, Manhattan, by the artist Larry Kirkland. She has served as Assistant Poetry Coordinator for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and, for seven years, as Poetry Editor of The Literary Review. Her new collection, The View from the Body, was published by Black Lawrence Press in March 2016.