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Eye Interview

ENCORE Interview–Designer Coleen Christian Burke On Decorating the White House for Christmas

 

Coleen christian Burke/author Christmas with the First Ladies/Photo: Coleen Christian Burke

Coleen Christian Burke at the Winter Wonderland themed tree,
East Room, White House, 2014

By Patricia Caso/December 11,2016
Photos Provided by Coleen Christian Burke (@ByColeen)

‘Tis the season for wishes to come true. One entrepreneur, blogger, designer and author, Coleen Christian Burke lobbied for four years to get the chance of a lifetime to help decorate the White House for Christmas.

“I could never have planned this life out. If I were a little girl saying I am going to be a designer and design the White House for Christmas and then I’m going to install it and then I’m going to talk about it, it just would have been so far fetched.” Coleen Christian Burke

She got that first opportunity in 2008, and other years have followed since. These experiences inspired her to write a fascinating book, Christmas with the First Ladies: The White House Decorating Tradition from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama (@SimonBooks).

Intrigued with her almost-magical story, I caught up with this former television producer just as another busy holiday season kicks in to find out just how Coleen’s hunches turned into  successes…   [Read more…]

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TWE Interview: Breast Cancer Survivor Dara Kurtz Shares Her Crazy Perfect Life

Dara Kurtz – Breast Cancer Survivor and Author of Crazy Perfect Life

Dara Kurtz – Breast Cancer Survivor and Author of Crazy Perfect Life and Crush Cancer: Personal Enlightenment from a Cancer Survior

Dara Kurtz – Breast Cancer Survivor and Author of Crazy Perfect Life and Crush Cancer: Personal Enlightenment from a Cancer Survior

Dara Kurtz, author blog Crazy Perfect Life

By Patricia Caso/December 5, 2017
Photos Courtesy of Dara Kurtz
TWITTER: @crazyperflife

At 42, Dara Kurtz’s perfect family life and career as a successful financial advisor were upended with the diagnosis of breast cancer. Admittedly she cried, was shocked, scared and a mess.

“When I was finished going through treatment and it was time to go back to work; I knew that I wanted to find my voice.”  Dara Kurtz

Dara chronicled her journey by pulling together her honest insights into handling cancer’s downs and ups in a blog, “Crazy Perfect Life,” and her best selling book, Crush Cancer: Personal Enlightenment from a Cancer Survivor.  What struck me about Dara’s story is how she came to her wonderful uplifting choice to “live life in color rather than black and white.”

I caught up with Dara by phone to find out more about this now unabashedly grateful author whose mission is to be others’ companion through the toughest time in their lives…   [Read more…]

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TWE Interview: Documentary Photographer Paola Gianturco on ‘Wonder Girls: Changing Our World’

Documentary Photographer Paola Gianturco with Co-Author and granddaughter, Alex Sangster with their book, Wonder Girls: Changing Our World

Documentary photographer, Paola Gianturco, with co-author and granddaughter, Alex Sangster, and their book, ‘Wonder Girls: Changing Our World’

By Stacey Gualandi/October 11, 2017
Photos: Paola Gianturco

Today is the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child and the publication date of an inspiring new book, Wonder Girls: Changing our World by award-winning documentary photographer and author, Paola Gianturco.

There are many concerns about the well-being of young girls around the world. They are often victims of child marriages, domestic violence and trafficking, and they are denied an education and equality.

But Paola, during her travels documenting changemaker women and grandmothers around the globe, became aware of young activist girls who are banding together to fight these cultural threats, and they are succeeding.

Paola, along with her co-author and 11-year-old granddaughter, Alex Sangster, interviewed 102 girls and created Wonder Girls the first book to document the work of these activist girls. I grabbed some precious time to interview Paola on TWE Radio to learn more about these activist girls and the work of her amazing young co-author and granddaughter, Alex.

EYE: Hello Paola, how are are you?

PAOLA: Hi Stacey! I am well. Happy to hear your voice.

EYE: I can’t believe it’s been five years since we first spoke to you, and a lot has happened for you. In fact, you are one of the incredible women featured in our new book, 20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World.

PAOLA: It feels wonderful to be in your book. I was so honored to be included with those other wonderful women who are really, as you say, taking action around the world.

Documentary Photographer Paola Gianturco's book, "Grandmother Power"EYE: The last time we spoke you had a new book called Grandmother Power and that was the second in a trilogy. Now your third, Wonder Girls is out. How do you think Grandmother Power changed people’s perspectives about women around the world?

PAOLA:  Yes, my new book is being released on the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th. It is the third in a trilogy that began with a book titled Women Who Light the Dark. It was stories of women activists around the world who were tackling the most intractable problems facing women and their families.

Similarly, Grandmother Power, a global phenomenon, looked at grandmother activists around the world. I was so honored and pleased on behalf of the women in that book when it was awarded the top literary prizes, four of them as a matter of fact, in categories as diverse as women’s studies and multi cultural non-fiction. So we had women, then we had grandmothers and now we have girls!…Wonder Girls, Wonder Girls: Changing Our World!

EYE: Was this always the plan? Did you think ,”I’m just going to take some pictures and I’m going to change the world?” Was that your to-do list?

PAOLA: Long ago when I started my first book, this is number six, I simply wanted to amplify the voices of women who were in fact changing the world. You talk about that phenomenon in 20 Women Changemakers asking, “Do you want to change the world?” In fact, I was so aware that women around the world were causing change, invisibly.

EYE: Yes, that was the sadness about it. All of those amazing things were going on in the dark until you brought them to light.

PAOLA: You all have done exactly that as well, talking about ordinary women doing extraordinary things. We were essentially “kissing kin” from my very first book, In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World. In that book, I talked with women artisans who were just starting businesses at the very beginning of the microcredit surge. They were so conscious of the fact that women were able to send their daughters to school.

In cultures where men were very often given the prerogative to spend the money they earned, the men wanted things like radios. Women were the ones feeding and educating the children. I wanted to document that. That was really the beginning from the very first book. It was an area that really excited me.

I have discovered that girls, now, have joined this trend. These are not girls who are working individually like Malala. Of course, she is doing fabulous work. Wonder Girls is about groups of activist girls, who have found strength in numbers and have really caused changed. They are really very young, ages 10-18.

EYE: Just when you think kids can’t rule the world, on some level, maybe they are! They’re making a difference.

PAOLA: I was dazzled. They are not just changing the world of the future; they are really changing the world right now. The present. For example, there are girls who belong to the Girls Empowerment Network in Malawi that was launched by a young woman, aged 13. She was so appalled that her younger sister, age 11, had become pregnant. She vowed to work to end child marriage in her country, and she has organized girls all over Malawi.

They worked together for five years, tirelessly, to lobby Parliament to change the law. This was such a pervasive practice in Malawi that half the girls in the country were married before they were 18 and most of them before they were 15. So two years ago, Parliament passed the law to outlaw child marriage in Malawi! Now they are working to implement it.

They are not naïve enough to think they can stop, now that the law has been passed. They are continuing their work, spreading the word and causing social change that follows legal change. What a huge step from very young girls!

EYE: And you have another story that is equally powerful.

PAOLA: There were two sisters, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, ages 10 and 12, in Bali, Indonesia. They were so outraged by the amount of plastic that is now dumped on their beaches, ocean and land, that the island is no longer paradise-like, as it has been known to be. So they decided to organize the kids on the island of Bali and they started the campaign to gather a million signatures on a petition to outlaw the use of plastic bags on their island.

They now have 71,000 signatures on their on-line petition, in addition to the ones they got by standing all around at the airport. When they had their first batch of signatures, they asked for an appointment with the Governor. He denied it. He dismissed them as “just kids.” So they called the press and explained they were going on a hunger strike. Their group is Bye Bye Plastic Bags. The Governor saw them the next day.

EYE: What is fascinating is that you have a co-author, Alex Sangster. I first wondered if this was a boy or…and this is your 11-year-old granddaughter!

PAOLA: Yes, it is my 11-year-old granddaughter from whom I learned more than you can ever imagine! It was wonderful doing this project with her.

EYE: She actually wrote parts of this book, too!

PAOLA: She interviewed 70 girls via Skype and FaceTime and asked the girls in each group what kind of help and support they need from the readers of the book, and the girls in their lives. So she wrote the last page of every chapter in the book based on her interviews inviting people to become engaged with the girls who are featured.

EYE: I love that she wrote, “Keep kind in mind.” What do you think your granddaughter, and the 90 girls you interviewed—what motivates them to do something like this? Most 11 and 12-year-olds seem to just want to sit on a couch and play video games…

"Wonder Girls: Changing Our World" by documentary photographer Paola Gianturco and Alex SangsterPAOLA: I think we underestimate them. As we were working on the books, Alex was just outraged when she heard about child marriage. Girls in Kyrgyzstan told her about bride kidnapping, where boys drive up to the high school, grab a girl off the sidewalk, and take her home with them. Their families are waiting at home for the marriage. They may not even know the boy!

EYE: So these girls go into action with no money, no funding?

PAOLA: I think young girls have a natural sense of outrage and injustice that it propels them into action. What is interesting is that these girl-led groups are not well-funded. Some of them have seed grants. Some have grants from the Global Fund for Women. The girls essentially invent their activism from the air.

For example, collecting the 71,000 signatures on the Bye Bye Plastic Bags petition that they wrote and circulated in Bali. In Malawi, they found women chiefs whom they established collaborative relationships with and women in Parliament. They sought out women with power and became their associates and collaborators. It takes imagination and these girls have that.

Working for justice, peace and equality—those three things are at the top of the list for the girls. Their arsenal is creativity and confidence and determination and dreams. So, they are compelled to cause change by their shock and righting wrongs.

EYE: What would you like to see happen with this book? With all the turmoil in our world, this is a bright spot…

PAOLA: Just like your book, 20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World, this book provides role models and ideas about the effect women can have in causing change. I also hope that Wonder Girls will inspire adult women to work with the girls because these girls can do the types of things we’ve been talking about. Surely we can give them frequent flyer miles, sign their petitions, etc. There is much we can do to support them.

EYE: Wonder Girls Changing Our World is out October 11th, the same day as the International Day of the Girl Child. It’s available at your independent bookstores and Amazon. There will be an exhibit of the photos from the book from September through the end of November at the World Affair Council in San Francisco.

PAOLA: Next it will go to Santa Fe and I hope it will go to other places, too.

EYE: We just learned that Wonder Girls was featured on ABCNews.com!

PAOLA: Yes! It was just featured on the ABCNews Home page.

EYE: What did this ‘Wonder Girls’ experience do for you?

PAOLA: It inspired me and lifted my spirits. Our world, as you say is so troubled, not just our country but our world. I feel really privileged to have been given these stories by these inspiring girls. It is a bight spot for me.

"20 Women Changemakers: Taking Action Around the World" co-edited by The Women's Eye's Pamela Burke and Patricia CasoEYE: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today about Wonder Girls: Changing Our World. It’s just a beautiful, magnificent book. Very inspirational. And, thank you for being one of our 20 Women Changemakers.

 

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“Geek Girls Are Rising” Say Authors Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens

Authors Samantha Walravens and Heather Cabot of Geek Girl Rising/Photo provided by them | The Women's Eye Magazine and Radio Show

Authors Samantha Walravens and Heather Cabot

By Patricia Caso/July 28, 2017
Photos Courtesy Samantha Walravens and Heather Cabot

“Dream It, Do It, Own It” is one of the chapter titles for Geek Girl Rising–Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech, authored by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens. That title is bigger than a motivational thought. It aptly describes the women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) who have been consistently breaking through in the tech world for years now.

Geek Girl Rising is on a mission to elevate the voices of women in technology and encourage women and girls to join the digital revolution — and create the future!” Samantha Walravens

In fact, now there are more support systems, role models and careers for young girls who have STEM interests. I wanted to find out more from Heather and Samantha about their findings on what STEM opportunities and challenges face young “geek” women and coming generations… [Read more…]

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Children’s Book Author Theresa McKeown Talks the ABC’s of Reinvention

Theresa McKeown/Stacey Gualandi/Photo Provided by Stacey Gualandi | The Women's Eye Magazine & Radio Show

Stacey Gualandi and Theresa McKeown

By Stacey Gualandi/July 10, 2017

When I recently caught up with author Theresa McKeown at a cool patio bar in North Hollywood, CA, I wasn’t meeting her for the first time. Far from it. Theresa and I go back to the heyday of tabloid TV working at Inside Edition, and covering the misadventures of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Tonya Harding and Heidi Fleiss. Oh, and of course OJ.

But in 2015, after several successful years as a Hollywood television executive, she decided to listen to her true calling: writing children’s books. Together with her devoted sisters, she created The ABC’s of Everything, a company established to self-publish a series of educational books and content.

“Our tag line is ‘Raising happy, healthy, conscious children in body, mind and spirit.’ So it’s a holistic approach. They are the future of our world.” Theresa McKeown

Her first rhyming book How to Eat your ABC’s stars a happy honeybee named BuzzBee who shares his joy for fruits and veggies. And the just released The ABCs of Being Me — part-journal, part-scrapbook — is getting rave reviews as the perfect summer project, and a book that as one Amazon review says, “could be used by every marriage family therapist, social worker or psychologist who works with children.”

Our reunion was long overdue, but I’m proud to share how Theresa switched gears, said no to fear and found the best version of her self… [Read more…]

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Bestselling Author Lisa See Explores the Bond Between Mothers and Daughters

Lisa See, author/Photo: P. Burke

Lisa See at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Scottsdale, Arizona/Photo: P. Burke

By Patricia Caso/June 6, 2017
Photos provided by Lisa See (@Lisa_See)

TWE’s Stacey Gualandi’s wonderful interview with the New York Times bestselling author, Lisa See, posted in 2011. Since then Lisa has written several more compelling historical fiction books, the latest being The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

“I feel with every book, I put in everything I ever knew into it. Yet I am still growing and changing from that first book to now. Life changes…even in these last three years, I have learned new things.” Lisa See

This time Lisa, who continues to explore women’s relationships and the concept of mother-love, writes about China’s transnational adoption with a backdrop of the little known Akha people and the tea pickers of an ancient tea, Pu’er. I wanted to find out what more she has uncovered personally and professionally on her themes of women’s friendships and her interest in the dual cultures of China and America… [Read more…]

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TWE Interview: Award-Winning Sculptor Kristen Visbal On Her “Fearless Girl”

Kristen Visbal with her sculpture Fearless Girl/Photo: provided by Federica Valabrega

Kristen Visbal with “Fearless Girl”/New York City

By Patricia Caso/May 14, 2017
Photos: Kristen Visbal
Black/White Photos: Federica Valabrega

“Be Bold For Change” was the theme for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017. I wonder how many of us would see that boldness in any given little girl. Kristen Visbal, a noted sculptor, found that boldness and a way to inspire conversation on women’s roles, attitudes and future when she was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to create a sculpture, “Fearless Girl.”

“I think the work is an important statement not just for the empowerment of women, both inside and outside of the financial world, but it also serves as an example for all young women.”   Kristen Visbal

“Fearless Girl” stands facing Wall Street’s famed “Charging Bull.” Kristen’s work ignited a firestorm of opinion. I wanted to know more about how she came up with her unique sculpture and her own background. I grabbed some precious time from Kristen in between doing what she does best, creating remarkable bronze sculptures using something called the lost wax process. .. [Read more…]

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INTERVIEW: Entrepreneur Nely Galán On Her Inspiring Self Made Mission and Movement

Nely Galán, Entrepreneur, on Her Inspiring Self Made Mission and Movement

Nely Galán

Nely Galán and her book, Self Made

By Catherine Anaya/February 21, 2017
Editor: Haley Christopher

Nely Galán, is a women’s empowerment advocate, an Emmy Award-winning television producer and the founder of the Adelante Movement whose goal is to unite and empower Latinas. Her new book Self Made: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way inspired me and I want to share it with you. Her message is her mission and it’s becoming a movement.

“When you take a risk, when you dip your toe in the water, when you just take a small action, the repercussions of that action in your life and your family’s life are immense.” Nely Galán

Nely arrived in America from Cuba when she was a young child and worked her way up from her first job as an unpaid intern to the first Latina President of a U. S. television network, Telemundo. I couldn’t wait to chat with her on The Women’s Eye Radio Show. Here is an excerpt…    [Read more…]

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