The Creative Spark: How Musicians, Writers, Explorers, and Other Artists Found Their Inner Fire and Followed Their Dreams
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About the Author
**Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Medal Winner**
**Independent Publisher Book Awards finalist for A Sense of Place**
**Winner of the Bedford Pace Grand Award and Lowell Thomas Award**
Michael Shapiro is a heralded journalist known for the keen insight he brings to interviews. Working for leading newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle) and national magazines (National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Hemispheres), Shapiro has interviewed many of the most creative people of our time. He's become known for his ability to forge personal connections with artists such as Smokey Robinson, Lucinda Williams, David Sedaris, Graham Nash, Melissa Etheridge, Amy Tan, and Lyle Lovett. These renowned innovators and many others share the secrets of their creative processes in The Creative Spark. Shapiro's previous book, A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration (Travelers' Tales) is a collection of interviews with the world's top travel authors, including Bill Bryson, Pico Iyer, Jan Morris, Paul Theroux, Simon Winchester, Peter Matthiessen, and Frances Mayes. In 2017, Shapiro delivered a TEDx talk entitled "The Space Between" about how travel can narrow the gaps between people all over the globe and why that's more important than ever. A native of New York, Shapiro graduated from U.C. Berkeley with high honors and now lives with his wife in Sonoma County, Calif. His National Geographic Traveler feature, about Jan Morris' corner of Wales, won the Bedford Pace grand award. His story about sustainable seafood in Vancouver earned the 2016 Explore Canada Award of Excellence in the culinary category. He has contributed several in-depth interviews to The Sun, a literary magazine, including conversations with oral historian Studs Terkel and oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Both are in The Creative Spark. Shapiro has written about the Naadam festival in Mongolia for the Washington Post, tasted tequila in Jalisco for American Way, and spoken with Jane Goodall for O the Oprah Magazine. From 2011 to 2018, he wrote a weekly column about gambling for the San Francisco Chronicle and for four years had a column in the Chronicle's travel section. He volunteers as a whitewater rafting guide and sea kayak trip leader for Environmental Traveling Companions, a San Francisco-based group that takes physically challenged people on outdoor adventures. In 2016, he co-led a river trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, rowing his wife and others through the river's fiercest rapids, including Lava Falls.
**2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards Bronze Winner in Performing Arts (Music/Dance/Cinema/Theater)**
"Michael Shapiro's finely tuned, informed and intimate interviews strike to the heart of the matter." --Tim Cahill, author of Hold the Enlightenment
Review by Peter Dabbene
(November / December 2019)
Michael Shapiro interviewed thirty-two luminaries from the arts for The Creative Spark. The book's subjects include well-known and obscure personalities, with chefs, scientists, and musicians among them. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and comedian Joan Rivers are included; the latter is one of several interviewees who has since passed away, giving those interviews the additional gravitas of their "final words" on creativity.
Each interview begins with a brief background on its subject and their accomplishments. Questions are knowledgeable, probing, and thoughtful, leading to moments as when travel writer Dervla Murphy discusses how the genre has changed since her first bicycling trip in the 1960s, or when Melvin Seals recalls his hesitancy to join The Jerry Garcia Band as "a church boy walking into a world of all these skeletons."
More expansive are observations such as Phil Cousineau's presentation of creativity as one aspect of excellence. His commentary draws upon the example of the Greeks; Sophocles and Socrates, he reminds the audience, were also accomplished in other fields, and they relied on a juncture of the mind, body, and soul.
Some interviews ran as little as fifteen minutes, including one with time-pressed Smokey Robinson; others were longer, but all are focused. The artists' discussions are organic and sometimes amusing, and their inclusion is guided by Shapiro's admiration of his subjects. Patterns develop based on proximity to his Bay Area home base; folk rock and Americana are overrepresented among the interviewed musicians, who include Judy Collins, Lucinda Williams, and Lyle Lovett.
Directed by eclecticism and diversity, the discussions of the creative process collected in The Creative Spark represent many valuable perspectives.