Q&A: Cerridwen Fallingstar, Author of ‘Broth from the Cauldron’
We chat to author Cerridwen Fallingstar about her new novel, Broth from the Cauldron, which releases on May 12th. She chats about how she decided what to put in her novel, how she found writing a memoir over fiction, and much more!
Hi Cerridwen! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I have been fortunate to lead a life doing what I love, which is guiding people more deeply into magic, mystery, and the sacred through my teaching and my writing, and also through private counseling where I get to help people wrestle through their obstacles to awareness. My husband Elie used to say I reminded him of Sacajawea, leading expeditions through the wilderness. I was also fortunate to be married to such a marvelous man, for almost 26 years before his untimely death. We still communicate. I am blessed with a splendid son, Zach, a wonderful daughter-in-love, Loryn, and two mischievous sprites, Ruby and Zoe, my grand-daughters who just turned three, as well as some dear friends, some of whom you will meet in my book.
You wrote in your introduction to Broth from the Cauldron, “Stories simmer in our minds, often for years.” With a lifetime of lessons and so many unique experiences to include, how did you go about selecting those that you wanted to include in this book?
Many of them are teaching stories that I have used over and over in my classes. I use these stories to demonstrate to my students that our spiritual growth is not found outside of our ordinary human lives, but within them. And I use them to show my students that I am fallible; I show my vulnerability—not in a way that makes them responsible for healing me, just in a way that makes me authentic and accessible. If you want to make money, you present yourself as an infallible guru and manipulate people. Our culture is so abusive and controlling, people will almost always fall for that. But if you actually want a healthier, more functional world, if you want to truly help heal people and guide them to their true power—then honesty, and humor, and heartfulness are required.
Many of the stories included in Broth are deeply personal—which elevates the book from a collection of essays into something that feels so genuinely heartfelt and inviting that the experience of reading felt more like having a very warm conversation with a close friend. How did you find that perfect balance sharing so much of yourself with your reader with writing about such intimate personal moments of your own life?
That’s so kind of you to call it a perfect balance. I worked hard to try to provide, or imply, a ‘moral to the story’ without being preachy. It is such a balance for all of us to strive for, this union between the head and the heart, the spirit and the will. Lots of rewrites and the occasional insight from a friend or editor, letting me know when I missed the mark and needed to try again.
I know you also write fiction, and other narrative nonfiction. How was this memoir experience similar? Different?
Memoir is a lot easier to write than fiction because the memories are mostly floating around like leaves on the top of a pool—easily scooped up. The issue with memoir, of course, it that there may be people described who are still living, whose feelings might be hurt. There were chapters that I agonized over keeping in the book for that reason. Of course, I can and do change people’s names if I think they might not like how they are portrayed. The thing is, I know from experience that there are readers out there whose lives may be changed—or saved—by some truth that I write. But only if it is the truth; a lie, however pretty, does not have that power. Our culture encourages us to bury unpleasant truths, to paper them over with addiction and denial. There is a popular meme that encourages us not to tell the truth unless it is kind. But I believe that ultimately, the truth is always kind. Denial is what is killing us. And the truth will set us free.
There are so many wonderful lessons in Broth, and so many clever bits of compassionate wisdom that stuck with me, personally, that I could list off a dozen things that I will stay in my heart from this book. However, if you had to give your readers one takeaway that you hope they keep from this book, what would it be?
None of us want hard things, none of us want grief, failure, loss. The children’s stories in our culture almost all end at marriage; the ‘happy ending’. But in reality, there are no ‘happy endings’. There are happy beginnings, and happy middles. But endings suck. There is a Shultz cartoon of Charlie Brown and Lucy that I love, where Charlie Brown says, “Well, life is full of ups and downs,” to which Lucy shouts, “I don’t want ups and downs! I want ups, and upper ups!” The American dream is just that; ups and upper ups. But the downs, what I ruefully call ‘the unguided tour of the underworld’ –the downs are where the depth is. As Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘To comprehend a nectar, requires a sorest need.’ Spirituality reaches for the heavens, but soulfulness grows in the dark. Again, we don’t have to like loss, or court it. But we can believe that, as Rumi said, ‘There is a secret medicine, given only to those who hurt too hard to hope,’ and watch for the medicine inherent in every loss to emerge.
I think you might agree that everyone—regardless, perhaps, of faith or upbringing—can learn from not only the “teaching stories” you’ve written about, but those that you teach about, which makes the book not only accessible but something very special. With your many years of experience as a Shamanic teacher and Wiccan Priestess, how have you translated your lessons to those who walk a different spiritual path?
Rumi said, “Beyond all ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Take any spiritual tradition deep enough into the mystical and they will start to sound alike. Because, deep within us, we know what is universal, we know love, we know truth. The Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” Well, what do you know—the Dalai Lama and I share the same religion. Rumi and I share a religion too. Beyond the label for my spiritual path, and the label for yours, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
Lastly, I always like to ask ‘what’s next’? Can you share anything about what you’re currently working on, or other ways your readers might keep up with your next books and/or ventures?
I am currently working on a ‘humor memoir’, similar to what author David Sedaris produces, where the stories are both poignant and hilarious. This memoir is titled ‘Rocket in my Pocket’ and is due out in 2022. You no doubt noticed my sense of humor in ‘Broth from the Cauldron’. It will be more pronounced in ‘Rocket’. My website at www.cerridwenfallingstar.co–that is co, not com—will have further news. Although I am semi-retired, I will still show up to give talks at festivals and events, and I do individual readings by phone or—post covid—in person.