Nina Lee Braden Interview - Page Two
Diane: What would you say to a potential reader of your book? What makes it special?
Nina Lee: My book is obviously influenced by the work of Mary Greerís Tarot for Your Self, and one of the things that makes it special is also one of the things that makes Maryís book so special. Since it is an exercise book (and Maryís book is a workbook), the reader actually is a partner with the author. Tarot for Self Discovery exists as a book which is the same for each person, and yet each personís experience of the book is totally unique. In a way, this is true of all reading experiences. My experience reading Sense and Sensibility wonít be the same as your experience, but with a workbook or an exercise book, the difference in reading experience is magnified. Not only is the reader reading, but the reader is actually writing as well, writing a subtext or an overlay or a commentary to the book.
In a way, my book is almost like a deck of Tarot cards. With a Tarot deck, you can shuffle and change the order of the deck at will. With Tarot for Self Discovery, there is no order to the exercises. Flip through the book. Stop where whimsy takes you. Work the exercise which appeals to you today. Tomorrow, work a different one or even the same one again. Tarot for Self Discovery is infinitely flexible. No two exercises are alike, and no two workings of the same exercise are alike.
And the final thing that makes Tarot for Self Discovery special is that it is a book which requires no special skill or knowledge of the Tarot to use, and yet if you have a great deal of skill and knowledge, you will find that this book enhances that as well.
Diane: How has the publishing experience been for you?
Nina Lee: All in all, publishing has been good. Fortunately, I have several friends who are authors in the Tarot field and in other metaphysical fields. I talked with them a lot before my book came out, so I knew a lot of what to expect. Iím also a freelance copy editor, so I had some knowledge of the publishing industry from that as well.
I didnít expect to make much money from this book, and I havenít. What I hoped was that publishing a book would bring me more speaking and teaching opportunities, and this has happened. In publishing Tarot for Self Discovery, I achieved my personal goal, and I like to think that Iíve helped and entertained some people as well, so Iím pleased.
Diane: What book(s)/projects are you working on now?
Nina Lee: There are several book ideas in the works, and Iím not sure how any of them are going to end up getting published because I donít have a contract pending for any of them. One of the things that Iím most excited about is my Tarot meditations. I write little Tarot meditations and send them out on an email list called Tarot Discoveries. Iím trying to compile these all into one of those meditation-a-day books. I get more positive feedback from this than from almost anything else that Iím doing. People will email me and say, ďI didnít know that anyone else felt that way,Ē or ďThanks for being positive and encouraging,Ē or ďIíve always had trouble with that card, but now I have a new insight into it.Ē Iím looking for a publisher for this book right now.
Iím also hoping to write a sequel to Tarot for Self Discovery, tentatively titled Tarot for Self Transformation. This would be another book of exercises, but it would be different. The exercises in Tarot for Self Discovery were written around issues or ideas or problems. The exercises in the next book are being written around the Tarot cards themselves. In other words, Iím writing a Chariot exercise, a Hermit exercise, and a Star exercise. I plan on writing exercises on most of the Minor Arcana as well. Iíve started this book, but I donít know if I will find a publisher for it or not.
Iím also thinking of writing an astrology book and a book on soulmates. I probably get more email on soulmates than anything else, and Iíve presented workshops on soulmates and have a detailed outline on finding and keeping a soulmate, so it would be relatively easy to write a book on it.
When I have time and am healthy, I write quickly, but I still have a day job, and so sometimes it is hard to find as much time to write as I would like.
Diane: You've been working with the tarot for many years. How do you keep it fresh and new for yourself?
Nina Lee: I keep it fresh in several ways. First, I keep learning something new. Sometimes I learn something new about the Tarot itself. At other times I learn something new about a related subject, such as astrology.
Second, I teach Tarot. If I find myself getting less-than-enthusiastic about it, I know that itís time for me to start up a new workshop series. Iím never tired of it when Iím teaching it. My students are always excited, and their excitement is contagious.
Third, when finances permit, I buy a new Tarot deck. New decks are wonderful, and each one is a gift to treasure. Each Tarot deck is really 78 gifts to myself, 78 opportunities to learn something new.
Fourth, I write something about Tarot. When I write, I learn so much thatís new and exciting, that I canít be bored when Iím writing.
Fifth, Iíll color a card. I love to color black and white Tarot cards. I usually color either the B.O.T.A. deck or the Rider Waite Smith deck. I find coloring both soothing and meditative.
Finally, sometimes I take a short vacation from Tarot. Iím always glad to come back, and everything seems fresh and new.
Diane: I understand you're presenting at the Readers Studio in April. Tell me about the program, which is quite unique, and your presentation in particular.
Nina Lee: The Readers Studio is the brain child of Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, founders of the Tarot School in New York City. It is being co-sponsored by the Tarot School and Llewellyn Worldwide. It is an experiment. Wald and Ruth Annís idea is to have an intensive weekend of study for intermediate and advanced Tarot readers, both professionals and serious amateurs. The number is limited to seventy-eight attendees. They are having only three teachers in order to focus more on depth than on variety. The three teachers that they have chosen for this experiment are Mary Greer, Rachel Pollack, and me.
The way that the Reader's Studio is set up is that we will have opening and closing panels with the three speakers and with Ruth Ann and Wald. Then each speaker will have a four-hour block. We are to spend approximately half of our time in presentation and half in hands-on application in groups. The speakers and panelists will work with the groups during this time. In other words, Mary will present her material, and then she, Rachel, Ruth Ann, Wald, and I will work with the groups.
What's interesting and special about this is that all of us will be working together. We'll have to become familiar in advance with what the others are doing so that we can be better "teaching assistants" or "lab assistants" for each other. We'll be talking and sharing in advance about our presentations, working to make sure that they complement each other and also working to help reinforce each other's work in the groups.
My own presentation is rather interesting. When Ruth Ann and Wald came to me, I thought, "What on earth can I say?" I was very humbled (and still am) by being asked to be a part of this venture. This is a true honor and opportunity for me. However, it was a bit daunting to try and come up with something that would appeal to seventy-eight serious students of Tarot.
I asked several friends for suggestions, and one of the first suggestions that I got really rang true for me. I asked a psychic friend, Gene, "What do you wish that someone had told you when you first starting doing readings professionally?" He said, "I wish that someone had told me that readings need to have a shape or a structure, a form, and I also wish that someone had explained to me the difference between a personal symbol and a cultural or universal symbol."
Zowie! I'm an English teacher who's also a Tarot teacher/reader. What could be more perfect? (Thanks, Gene!) So, my presentation is called, "Writing Your Reading," and it will talk about giving shape or form to your readings and also about interpreting symbols.
Click here to find out more about the Readers Studio.
Diane: I often ask the people I interview to suggest something for beginners, but in the spirit of your forthcoming Tarot Studio presentation, what kind of things would you advise the experienced tarot reader to do in order to maintain a high level of interest and grow within his/her practice?
Nina Lee: I think that variety is very important for experienced readers in order to avoid boredom. Nothing survives endless repetition. We donít eat the same food day in/day out. We donít listen to the same song endlessly. We expect variety; we thrive on variety.
So, I think that it is very important to learn new approaches, new theories, and new techniques. If you donít like what you try, donít use it. The important thing is to be open to new ideas, not necessarily to incorporate ideas, and never incorporate new ideas without careful consideration. Letís use our powers of wise discrimination.
I think that it is also very important to at least dabble in one or two other metaphysical arts. Sometimes learning something new about astrology or runes or geomancy can bring new life into Tarot readings. For example, learning how astrology looks at the four elements can help you gain additional insights into the four suits of the Tarot. You donít have to become an expert in astrology for your Tarot readings to benefit from your astrological studies. Just basic knowledge in a similar field can sometimes be enough to totally revitalize a sagging interest or a feeling of being in a rut.
Finally, it is sometimes helpful to know that most people hit plateaus or slow periods where their interest wanes a bit. It happens to me, but I donít worry. I follow my own suggestions from the answers to question #11, and I get back on track. Remember, itís the journey thatís important, not the arrival at an arbitrary destination.
Interview and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes