Podcast: Chris Baron And Rajani LaRocca

Jul 7, 2023 | Novels in Verse, Podcasts

What You’ll Find In this Podcast

Authors Rajani LaRocca and Chris Baron joined George Brown on our podcast to talk more about their novel in verse collaboration, how they balance their writing with fulltime professions, and hosting a workshop on crafting novels in verse.

Podcast Highlights

Rajani LaRocca on fitting writing in as a primary care doctor:

When I’m in novel drafting mode, I try to keep 3 or 4 mornings a week. First thing in the morning, that’s what I do, because I find that the most challenging for me. So first thing in the morning before the e-mails start and before clutter starts to enter my day, I try and get some words down.

Chris Baron giving a sneak peek of his and Rajani’s new middle grade collaboration: 

So there’s a lot of mysteries and puzzles inside puzzles and books inside of books.  And then the writing process was so fun because we would–[well] it’s an epistolary that we’d write to each other.

Rajani LaRocca’s message on drafting during the workshop:

My overall big message is when it comes to drafting, you just gotta do it and you don’t have to worry about [whether] it’s good or not. It doesn‘t matter; just try do a lot of thinking. Get yourself into the mode of writing poetry and writing about your character and then just do it, and then see what happens.

Chris Baron’s message during the workshop:

I think the main take away is just to value yourself as a creator, as an artist and allow yourself the space and time…it’s really learning how to value your time and putting together what you need to do to get the book done. But I think [we] need spiritual presence, but we [also] need the very practical presence and practices…. that “Let’s try to talk about what today was like; how can we get back on track.”

Full Transcript

George: Hey everybody, this is George Brown at the Highlights Foundation. I hope you’ll take a listen to this upcoming podcast with Rajani LaRocca, and Chris Baron. They were here talking about novels in verse and also talking about the novel in verse that they did together. I think you’ll like this podcast, a lot of fun listening to how the two of them work together and how they’ve gotten to know each other in their writing lives and a little bit about the workshop they’re teaching on novels in verse. Take a listen. Welcome to the Highlights Foundation gather podcast, where our mission is to positively impact children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves, today’s guests are Rajani LaRocca and Chris Baron. Hello, Rajani and Chris.  

Rajani: Hello. 

Chris: Good to be here.  

George: So thanks so much for joining us live here at the Highlights Foundation retreat center. You are here teaching a workshop called crafting novels in verse. It’s actually a workshop and retreat. I want to talk a little bit about that, but I also want to talk about your writing lives and some of your writing projects. So maybe let’s just jump in, Rajani, will you just tell us, introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your writing.  

Rajani: So I’m Rajani LaRocca. I am from, not far from here, near Boston, MA. And by day I am a doctor and also by day I’m a writer and I write picture books and I write novels. Some of them are in verse, some of them are in pros and I’m having a great time. My 2 novels in verse are Red, White and Whole which came out in 2021 and Mirror to Mirror which came out this year and it’s been a great joy thinking about writing verse novels and talking about them with Chris and with Cordelia Jenson and with our participants here. So it’s been, it’s been a wonderful couple of days.  

George: I’m glad to hear that. And Chris, welcome tell us about you.  

Chris: I’m from far away. Well, relatively far, from San Diego, where I live with my family, my wife and three kids, but I love being here. I think this is my fifth trip out here and I always imagine the life moving here and living in this beautiful place. But yeah, I write middle grade novels, novels in verse. My first ones were All of Me and The Magical Imperfect. And my next book, The Gray, comes out in June and I drafted it in verse, but it’s in prose. And then I have a novel in verse follow up and a book with Rajani and all kinds of fun writing projects and being here definitely inspires me. I always tell my family I’m like I’m here, I’m at home. So I want to keep that magic, bring it back with me when I return.  

George: And let’s talk about, since the two of you are here together. And you come in the fall, right? You’ve, you’re in a critique, so let’s talk a little bit about just the two of you and kind of how you’re writing together works. And it seems like you’re writing buddies in that way. 

Chris: We are writing buddies here you can tell them.  

Rajani: OK, so our friendship happened because of Highlights. Yes, yes. Yeah. So we were in both of our novels, actually came out the same day in 2019 

Chris: It did, yeah, it’s true.  

Rajani: But we joined an online book kind of book promotion group with basically all the novelists who had middle grade or YA books coming out and there was a small group of middle grade writers. We basically formed our own little splinter group and then we said, does anybody want to meet at Highlights to just hang out because we’re gonna have books coming out next year. And what are we going to do? We need to think and feel and have friends. So we met here in 2018 for the first time. We got here in the middle of a snowstorm. 

George: That was the snowstorm.  

Rajani: It was November.  

George: One storm that, yes.  

Rajani: And somehow we made it here. We had the best time. So there were, there were eight of us. Right? 

Chris: Yeah, there were 8. Yeah.  

Rajani: And we just. We bonded and had a ball and uh.  

Chris: But I think, I think one of the like parts of the bonding was the fact of the snowstorm and like we had to had to get out of a car with people I just met live the first time and like, push a car up a hill and figure out the way here and it was, it was incredible, yeah.  

George: That’s a great experience coming from California. You don’t get the the snowstorm on the beach.  

Chris: I was so excited. Like, I’ll push the car. I went knee deep, snow this is perfect. Yeah, that’s great.  

Rajani: So we just, we met and then we kind of talked about all the crazy stuff that was leading up to our novels coming out because none of us had ever had books coming out. I mean, like at least traditionally published for children before and then kind of compared notes that all of us had different publishers, it was very interesting but then we just we just became really close friends and then we met again in 2019 in September, which was better. There was no snow in September and then we just formed really close friendships and 2020 obviously no, nobody went anywhere. But then we met again in 21 and 22 and it was fantastic it’s been.  

Chris:  And it’s been so important to us cause Joan McCullough came in and zoomed into our workshop this week, and she was talking about how writing is wonderful and publishing is hard. So to have this group of friends on this journey has been really instrumental. And so it’s been important for us to meet together every year, like we talk all the time, all of us like online. But to meet together and, like, real life has been important.  

George: And so and it’s not just the two of you, I think there’s five or six at least that come together every year and that so and what’s your like, is this just e-mail threads throughout the year, or do you have like Zooms as a group throughout the year or how do you?  

Chris: We’ve done everything. I mean we have like Facebook Messenger, we have emails, we’ve done zoom. We’ve met after book launches, we meet together to talk about things. Yeah, it’s been every manner of communication.  

Rajani: Yeah, but mainly we’re just in the messenger group right now. And then we just like we try to decide at least a year in advance when we’re going to meet so that people kind of block it out.  

Chris: Right.  

George: And I think we have your fall dates, but yeah. Awesome.  

Rajani: Yes you do, because we made sure to get them in there.  

George: Yeah, yeah, alright. And but you both have day jobs, right? Chris, did you say you’re teaching?  

Chris: So I’m a professor during the day and a writer during the day. Like how you said that because it’s not like I secretly write some other time. But yeah, I’m a professor of English at a San Diego City College. 

George: OK. And So what, what does writing look like for you? Are you a daily practice writer or a as you can?  

Chris: It’s a good question. People ask me that I never not answer like the first book I wrote the kids were younger, so I wrote after they went to bed. The next book it was, you know, they were a little older, so I did it all in the morning. This last book was whenever I could. You know what I mean? But I think writing every day is part of my practice. And I’m getting better at it. I’m practicing the skill of like during my day job. I’m like, OK, I taught my class. I now have an hour or 30 minutes. I can write something so it varies.  

George: And do you have any way to break that up between fun projects you’re working on, drafts that you’re revising, does it just depend on where you are in a in a cycle? Or do you have a methodology?  

Chris: That question I like to say methodology, but I’m not sure I do. I think I try to put and I think Rajani says this too. Like I put whatever’s next in front of me and I write lots of notes to myself. I’m working on a manuscript. I’ll make sure that I’m communicating with myself. Meaning, like, here’s where you are when you return to this, remember to do this. So then I can go over and work on, say, a deadline project. You know, I have to revise something. So that’s been methodology so far, getting better at it, yeah.  

George: And Rajani, you’re working and writing. So how does your writing work?  

Rajani: When I first came back to writing, so I’m a primary care doctor, that’s my first job. When I first came back to writing, my kids were young and so as a working mom, I think I knew already that whatever else I wanted to do, I couldn’t be too precious about it. So when my kids were young, I would be parked in the parking lot, needing to get them from school and I would write or they’d be in their piano lesson and I’d be sitting in the lobby writing and, or I’d wake up early or I’d stay up late. I would just fit it in, however, and initially when I started writing, I was not intending to be published. I was just like this is just for me. But then I met my critique partners, you know, friends who and they wrote were writing amazing stories and they wanted to be published. And I thought, OK, well, maybe I can try too. And then at that point, the kids were a little bit older. And so they were in school. And even after school they had homework. After dinner like they would go upstairs and do their homework and my husband, and my husband would work and then I would write and I became more, I don’t know what the word is that I’m looking for, and I guess I became more intentional about it, yeah.  

George: Right. It started as just writing for you and then it became understanding of craft.  

Rajani: Yes, and then I said, OK, this is, you know, my next goal is to learn how to write a novel or a picture book and make it as good as I can possibly make it. And then the goal after that was to just try and send it to people and see if I could get further along in the process: get an agent or something like that. And you know, I think that as a person who’s was relatively successful until that point in my life, it was a very interesting education for me to be told no, over and over again. And I told myself, OK, like it doesn’t matter. You know, people say you need to just like, you know, wave it off and just say, you know, it’s fine and you do to a certain extent. But also there’s like a, that thinks, wow, this a lot of this writing is really me. Like, it’s really me on a page like, even if it’s a, you know, a work of fiction, it’s there’s a lot of me on the page and it’s hard to get rejected and have it not feel like it’s about you cuz in some ways it is. But eventually when I got to the point where I was like I’m gonna give up on this, I don’t want to try and pursue this. I told my kids and they were like, absolutely not they were like you, you always told us we should keep trying. If somebody told us no, so like you’re not, you can’t quit.  

George: Thanks, kids. Yes.  

Rajani: Seriously, I was like oh man, you listen to me when I said that, So yeah, so eventually I persevered. Believe me, my journey is not nearly as long as some other, so I’m not gonna, you know over dramatize it. But once things kind of clicked, I had a lot of projects that were kind of ready. So I think that, you know, I think a lot of times people think well how in the world are you getting all those books out? I was like, some of these books I wrote a long time ago, so, you know, all the work that you do, even when you feel like you’re not moving an inch further, all the work that you do is useful.  

George: Right, there’s that accumulation over time where it works. So now you know more about which project you want to work on next. 

Rajani: Yes, and in some cases I mean which is I think a double edged sword. In some cases, you’re already contracted. You’re like, I know what my next several books are. Also, it’s pressure because you you have a deadline. You have like, an actual deadline where a publisher is like.  

George: Sure, sure. 

Rajani: This is gonna be the season when we’re gonna send. So it’s like, OK, I gotta fulfill that. It’s kind of the, you know, this snowball effect, where once you have projects out in the world and people know who you are, then you get invited to be part of things like anthologies or, you know, tap to say, would you write this kind of book? And you say yes, of course. But then you have to find a way to work it in. And then nowadays my children are grown. One is out of college and one is in college. I, because I have many books in the world, I’m doing a lot of school visits so there’s a lot of other things that have come into play and I’m still learning how to pace myself and figure out how much I can deal with while still writing. 

George: You talked a little bit about your writing, but what do you do like daily, weekly? Do you have a regular you’re up at blank in writing or in?  

Rajani: When I’m in novel drafting mode, I try to keep 3 or 4 mornings a week. First thing in the morning, that’s what I do, because I find that the most challenging for me. So first thing in the morning before the e-mails start and before clutter starts to enter my day, I try and get some words down. I need to be in novel drafting mode, like pretty much right now, but I’m not. So I need to find my way back to that. And but revision, or picture book writing, I feel like it can do any time of day. So sometimes when I’m fatigued from the novel drafting stuff, I’ll go revise something else or I’ll write a new picture book or something. Just drop something different, but as Chris just alluded to, the thing about publishing is that you always, there’s this other job that you have to do about promotion, which it is highly unclear whether it makes any difference at all but also then there is a feeling of guilt. If you do nothing, there’s that takes up a chunk of time too, and it takes up energy and creativity that I’m like, hmm, there are times when I’m like, I’m not sure this is worth my time, but at the same time, I don’t want to stop because I feel like I want to show my publishers that I’m trying. I’m trying to, you know, help too.  

Chris: Well, and our hearts are like, yes, of course, I wanna partner with people, collaborate with people and this is what we love to do. But you gotta find that balance of usefulness and you want to write. Yeah, it’s really challenging.  

George: I think that’s so fascinating about this whole publishing process, like the writing is so you need the time like solitary time to do it. And then once it’s book time, it’s like, how do you get in front of everybody and it’s a whole different personality side that you have to pull out. All right, so you have a book together. Talk about that. Or just smile away.  

Chris: You start, you start. We’re so excited about it, I know.  

George: The video, see the smile.  

Chris: It’s like there’s a lot ofsmiling, you tell the initial and all.  

Rajani: OK, so Chris and I, during the course of our friendship discovered that we are the same kind of nerd in many ways in terms of literature like we love fantasy, we love sci-fi and I don’t know who had the idea to begin with, but I, some what we were talking one day we were like, what if there was a story where there were two kids who met at a summer camp and they found something and the something turned out to be something not what they thought it was kind of thing.  

Chris: Well, and because being here Highlights is a lot is camp like, yes and so you kind of kind of inspires those feelings, you know, of like of joy or like wonder around you.  

Rajani: So we had this idea and then COVID hit. And Chris said to me, we should write that book now. And I was like. OK. And he’s like, no, no. We should actually write the book now and I was like, OK.  

Chris: And at least one or two more rounds of no, we’re gonna write this book now  

Rajani: Like now. So we I think we just got on a call, we had a phone call and we kind of sketched out the general idea of the book.  

Chris: Wait, I think I first is that I think I sent you the document 1st so that said, Chris and Rajani project of the century just to make sure.  

George: Nice good way to frame it.  

Chris: It’s like when you, because when you put something on a on a document it’s like OK we have like a contract now but then we got a Google Doc.  

Rajani: Right, that’s true. It was a Google Doc. 

Chris: A Google doc. Yeah, yeah, we shared.  

Rajani: And that’s what, that’s what we worked on when we had our phone call. We just sketched out the broad plot of the story because it is and it’s wacky. And the other thing is from the very beginning, I don’t know why we decided it was going to be an epistolary. So it was going to be letters and emails. And texts and all this stuff back and forth between these kids. And I think after we did that, I think we each pitched our agents right before we wrote anything, right.  

Chris Right. Yeah, we said, we kind of asked like would a book like this have a place in the world, you know, kind of thing and they were so positive about it. Yeah, yeah.  

George: So do you have different agents? So is that how do you work that out? They’re both trying to sell the book for you? 

Chris: Can you explain that so that?  

Rajani: So it’s like a fam, it’s like an agent family because my agent is also Chris’s agent’s agent. Chris’s agent is Rena Rossner, who is also a writer and my agent, Brent Taylor, is her agent, so they’re used to working together. They were like, no problem.  

Chris: That part it’s work.  

Rajani: We can do that.  

Chris: Together is very familial in a great way.  

George: And so, with the epistolary style, did you write 1 persona’s letter and you wrote the other? Or did you switch back and forth?  

Chris: No, we embody each others character. You know, I, so I became Sam. You know this character and Rajani was Thrifty. 

Rajani: So it’s the OK, the premise of the secret of the Dragon Gems is that these two kids Sam and Thrifty meet at this summer camp in upstate New York, where they each had a terrible time. But they meet on the last side of camp and they kind of see like a shooting star and they go to this stream at the edge of the camp and they find these interesting looking kind of silvery rocks. And so basically, they’re both the rocks remind them of characters in their favorite fantasy novel called the Dragon Gems, it’s a series. They bond that night, but it’s the last night of camp and they each go home. Sam goes back to California and Thrifty goes back to Massachusetts and then they start writing to each other because strange things keep happening around these rocks and they begin to wonder whether the rocks are really just rocks.  

George: So it’s that last night that kicks off the whole series, told through letters. I love that idea.  

Rajani: It it’s fun.  

Chris: It’s really fun.  

Rajani: And The thing is that we it’s not just letters between the two of them. We also have excerpts from the Dragon Gems, the fictional series they love.  

Chris: That they love, yeah.  

Rajani: We have fan videos on Me tube instead of YouTube about like who is the mysterious author of this series of books? What else do we have?  

Chris: Yeah, the books they love are like a pop culture phenomenon that everyone’s reading. And so there’s, you know, there’s podcasts and YouTube channels, the ME tube channels devoted to it.  

Rajani: And the author is mysterious and nobody knows who writes them like does no press appearances, doesn’t use a real name. It’s very funny.  

Chris: So there’s a lot of mysteries and puzzles inside puzzles, and books inside of books, and then the writing process was so fun because we would, it’s an epistolary that’s we’d write to each other, so I’d write a letter to Thrifty, and then you’d write a letter back and it kind of went from there.  

Rajani: Yeah, the and then the last part of the book, they’re together again and they have to accomplish something together, so it’s journal entries.  

George: Nice and so is this back at camp the following year? Or was it?  

Rajani: It’s not even the following year.  

George: Or should we? Not supposed to tell. It’s just, yeah.  

Rajani: It’s like it’s, it’s they meet in a place and it’s the winter time. Yeah, yeah and the bad guy also has a POV in this book. The bad guy has journal entries. 

George: Uh oh, OK, who wrote the bad guy, it must be you, Chris.  

Chris: Do I appear as a bad guy? Some of those things were really fun cause we got to really have like a lot of fun talking about the villains and the books within the books and all that. So those, those good blending of characters and kind of collaboration in those.  

George: Yeah, this collaborative writing sounds like a lot of fun. 

Chris: It was really fun.  

Rajani: It was great. So we, we would in the initial the first draft we just would write a chapter and then e-mail it and say tag and then the other one would write the next chapter. But then, like at times we would meet for like when they were doing video chats and things like that, we would call each other and then type into the same Google Doc, which I mean honestly is like magic, like how is this even happening? But I always bring this up. 

Chris: I know you’re talking, yeah.  

Rajani: There are times so you know, we’ve both played role-playing games in the past. And like sometimes when you’re playing a role-playing game, the line between you and your character gets blurred and you begin to experience strong emotions that seem to be coming from you instead of your character. So we would map out these scenes in these video chats and like we knew what was going to happen, but. I would be like, in the middle of like typing stuff, I’d be like Chris, I just wanna let you know like this is not me, Rajani being rude, me being mean to you, this is the character to you being mean to say that I feel really bad about it, he’s like I’m fine and I was like are you sure  because I don’t feel good.  

Chris: We would hit these notes, you know, in any book where you, you know, there’s some real tension between characters and then it’s moving the plot, it’s doing all the technical things. But we would really feel it. I’d have to get up and walk away from the desk, and be like oh, what is this, you know and come back and like, but it was great for the writing you know, it made us like we had to take breaths. And go OK.  

Rajani: We’re OK, right? Like we’re OK. These characters are doing going to places that we’re not comfortable with. But that’s OK and.  

Chris: It kind of reminded me of, like, you know, like method acting, but like method writing, you know where you’re just I’m and through the Google Doc, I’m seeing your words here on the screen and I’m like she’s really saying this to me, like, as if it would really be for the character. It was pretty amazing, but.  

George: Does this fit in the middle grade? Is that so?  

Rajani: Ohh yeah, there’s, there’s nothing.  

George: It means there has to be a happy ending. That’s what I love about middle grades is there’s, I love that there’s always a nice resolution. 

Chris: There’s a lot of hope and joy and fun and.  

Rajani: It is definitely a feel good book, even though it has and the dark moments are never. Yeah, terribly dark.  

George: Sure, but you have to have tension and conflict. If you want a story. 

Rajani: Nothing horrible happens but it’s all it’s all like middle school, you know, upper, upper elementary, middle school. Kind of, you know, social interaction, which is hard and a lot of the things that we think about in this book are things that we worried about when we were that things that we experience like you know what happens when your best friend is no longer your best friend. What happens when you move schools and you don’t know anybody and you’re trying to find a way to fit in. It’s, yeah, real stuff.  

George: Well, thanks for sharing. Let’s talk a little bit about the crafting novels and verse the workshop. So Rajani you started yesterday. What were you talking about?  

Rajani: My presentation was on drafting a verse novel, and I started with kind of my background, like where how I came to writing in verse which was completely, you know, I don’t know like unjustified. Sometimes I feel like I was like I didn’t, I’m no poet. Like I didn’t consider myself a poet. I mean, I’ve written poetry. I’d written lyrical books. I had never written a novel in verse and it was because with Red, White and Whole I got an idea that felt that it was appropriate and necessary to write in verse that I just said, I have to try. And so I kind of read every novel and verse for young people that I could and then just tried and so that was my, that was my, the beginning of my talk and basically I was like, so that means that if I can do it, you can do it because I had no pedigree, you know about writing in poetry and then I just basically talked about like, you know what poetry is and like, why we care about it and like, what the aspects of novels and verse are that make them special. The fact that they combine the elements of fiction with poetry, it’s very powerful because you have the story, so you don’t get kind of lost or confused like you may with regular poetry sometimes but because you have spare language and you use poetic elements, you can kind of convey a lot with very few words. So I just talked about that and then I used specific examples from other people’s books and from my books about ways to think about the different pieces of a novel in verse, and then my overall big message is when it comes to drafting, you just gotta do it and you don’t have to worry about like don’t worry about whether it’s good or not. It doesn’t matter, just try do a lot of thinking. Get yourself into the mode of writing poetry and writing about your character and then just do it and then see what happens, and then later on we’ll let Chris deal with all the mess afterwards.  

George: And when you draft, do you draft in verse? Do you ever draft in prose and then try to translate that to verse or it comes out in verse? Once you get your headspace around it.  

Rajani: Well, with Red, White and Whole it was always in verse like that. Just my, you know, that was the first idea and it was the right idea. And so I just kept going and I talked about how I didn’t do it in order. I just would think of poem ideas and just write them in whatever random order and worry about figuring out the order later with Mirror to Mirror my second novel in verse, it’s dual point of view and originally one was in verse and one was in prose. And so I went, but they I sent the first draft to my editor and she’s like, I think they need to both be in verse. And I was like OK and, but I had months in between to figure out how to do that so, but even with that book, it was not a matter of taking a prose piece and putting it into poetry. It actually ended up just being a rewrite like the ideas were there, but I didn’t even look at the prose pieces anymore. I was like, OK, like, here’s this character, how are they going to? How would they say what they need to say. It’s it, was it was fun. It was a challenge, but it was really fun.  

George: That’s the fun. It’s the challenge.  

Rajani: Yeah. So that was, but I will say sometimes when I’m writing in prose, when I’m writing a like a longer novel and I’m just like having a hard time getting something out sometimes I will either take notes like just be like look these are the bullet points of what needs to happen or I will write a poem and I will say. And I will try and encompass a little bit of what’s going on in the plot and a little bit of the emotional response. And that informs me in how I approach the rest of the piece of the chapter, so that’s helpful. Sometimes when you’re like, I don’t know what I’m trying to say, you can just write a poem and then, and now you know you’re trying to say.  

George:  When I think both of you said in your talks about like the poem as this condensed version of goodness and like that helps, that makes sense. Chris, you were talking this morning about kind of sustaining that life and the.  

Chris I mean, I it’s so interesting because I love building on what, Rajani, as we taught you know, this kind of stuff together. And such a great job of kind of putting together like, what’s a novel and what’s a verse novel and that kind of scientific scientist in you that I love, that kind of puts it together in such a clear way. And my task or whatever it was to kind of talk about pushing through, because I think a lot of people get stuck, you know, you write a great poem, you write a, you have a story idea, but how do you move through the hard things. So it’s funny, I wrote the presentation and then I rewrote it and then I got to know everyone a little bit, and then I rewrote it again. Not completely, but I modified because we had one on ones and small work group workshops, and I got to know the participants here and they’re reading phenomenal stuff. So I was like, what can I change to be more useful to this particular group? Because over the years I’ve learned like poetry really is best taught in small groups like this and because people have very individual approaches to things and not every form fits every function for everyone, so today it was really just about a chance to talk like how do we push through challenging moments in our in our the creation of our work. So I try to share a lot of personal examples of my own process in writing books that have difficult topics, you know. So when you get stuck like, what do you do? The value of like knowing your why like why am I writing this? Returning to who you are understanding how this all got started because I think we get caught up in everyone else. What everyone else is doing, what other poets can do, or you’re an awe of other writers. So like taking a moment saying like, who am I as a writer? What’s the story I’m telling? What am I going for? Can be really instrumental and then I tried to get into like a lot of practical like how do we let’s take plot character setting point of view conflict theme and practice poetics within those elements in a very practical way, doing exercises for ourselves. And I think the main take away is just to value yourself as a creator, as an artist and allow yourself the space and time because someone even brought up like, but I feel guilty if I don’t do the other parts of my life. But we all face that. So it’s really learning how to value your time and putting together what you need to do to get the book done. But I think we and we, so we need spiritual presence, but we need like the very practical presence and practices that let’s try to talk about today was like how can we get back on track. And we did some exercises toward that, lot of fun.  

George: Well, and I like, the you know, we think about the format of this retreat and you talked about the poetry works best in small groups. And like I think it’s formatted that way, right? There’s this morning conversation as the whole group, everyone has time to go back and reflect and do some of their own work and then I think you have 1 to 1 and small group type sessions here.  

Chris: And it’s so relational in that way. I love how you say morning conversation together as a group and out of that will come more questions. But it’s done, the relationship and community and it works really well. 

George: So it’s like big group, small group, 1 to 1 group, individual time, there’s a little bit of each of those pieces.  

Rajani: Yes. And then meals.  

Chris: Meals, right? Absolutely, yeah.  

George: And you get a lot accomplished in those. It’s a big part of it, yeah. Well, thank you both Chris Baron, Rajani LaRocca for joining us on the HF gather podcast here at the Highlights Foundation Retreat Center. It’s lunch time, so I will let you go and enjoy your next meal. Thanks for joining us.  

Rajani: This is wonderful.  

Chris: You so much absolutely loved it.  

Thank you to our faculty for this Guest Post!

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