Let’s get acquainted
I’ve written for publication since I was a teenager—teen mags first, then health food store and vegetarian publications, and spiritual journals. I’ve written 13 books about well-being, spirituality, and Vegan living. My 14th, book, Age Like a Yogi, will be published in late 2024. VegNews magazine listed me among the Top 10 Living Vegetarian Authors, and I was on Oprah twice which, at that time, was like being initiated as a genuine writer.
What else can you say about your professional self:
I’ve been a professional speaker since the mid-1990s. I love the spoken word as much as the written one, and I’m never happier than when presenting for a group or giving a workshop. After the publication of Main Street Vegan in 2012, I founded Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators. I’m certified as a life coach and a holistic health coach myself, and I’m an RYT-200 registered yoga teacher, and I do. These interests give me the ingredients to assemble workshops and retreats on living well and aging well, ayurveda, spirituality, and thriving as a Vegan. I host the Main Street Vegan Podcast, available on all podcast platforms, and the Main Street Vegan Talk Show, streaming on Unchained TV.
I’m a co-director of the Compassion Consortium, an Interfaith spiritual center for animal advocates, and was lead producer for the 2019 documentary, A Prayer for Compassion. And I’m co-writer with my husband, William Melton, of Miss Liberty, a feature film in pre-production (that means we need to do fundraising) about a cow who escapes from a slaughterhouse.
Now on to you as a person. Give us some words that describe you:
Writer. Reader. Native Kansas Citian, adopted New Yorker. Anglophile. Mom. Animal person. Presenter. Aspiring yogi. Mystic-in-the-making.
What is your favorite word?
Irrepressible. It reminds me that I’m supposed to bounce back. Every time.
American Typewriter — probably because I wrote my first two books and at least a hundred magazine articles on a series of American typewriters.
What’s your astrology?
Aries sun, Taurus moon, Sagittarius rising — March 21, 1950, Kansas City, Missouri, 11:45 pm.
I had a $1 press card from Teen Life magazine. I took it seriously and got into my first Beatles press conference at 14. When I was 17, Paul McCartney bought me a drink. I thought, “You have to keep up with this writing thing. It makes miracles happen.”
Hypothetical alternative career:
Creator of a wonderful cruelty-free makeup line. In my 20s when the only color cosmetics to pass ethical muster came from Beauty Without Cruelty and had to be imported from the UK, I tried to start an import business. It was called People’s Paws and lasted only ten months, but I was left with enough eye shadow to use as give and gifts for the next two years, and over time more products became available. (See www.LeapingBunny.org if you’d like a list of them.)
Most meaningful movie:
Auntie Mame, the 1958 Rosalind Russell original, set in 1930s Manhattan. Mame, a fashionable free-thinker with a heart of gold, was my childhood role model. Still is.
Most transformational book:
Yoga, Youth & Reincarnation, by Jess Stern. It was the first book about yoga I ever read.
Where you like most to write:
The Rose Reading Room in the New York Public Library. It’s like the Sistine Chapel for writers.
Why you love living in New York City:
Walking. All the neighborhoods are different and because things change constantly, nothing is ever the same. And yet, paradoxically, the brownstones and the skyscrapers are as dependable as can be. There’s also an absolutely delicious energy here, the feeling that something amazing is about to happen and that there is almost a moral imperative to up one’s game. I came here at 50. Never too late to make a dream come true.
Most memorable place you’ve ever been:
Tibet. I stepped off the plane and knew the meaning of the word rarefied in a way I never had before. I agree with Voltaire’s powerful statement, ‘God is a circle whose center is nowhere and circumference everywhere,’ but despite this, Tibet taught me that there are places where Divinity concentrates. I think this is why people make pilgrimages. I’m due for one. Wanna come?
The place you like most to be:
England! London (where I moved on my 18th birthday), and a side trip to Glastonbury, where my mystical proclivities come out to play.
Animal rights. I would love to see all injustice relegated to the scrapheap of history but my calling in this life is to focus most on ending the suffering of other-than-human beings. As someone said to me recently, ‘Animals always mean well.’
To know God. Feel free to substitute a different word that means Big Picture, Truth with a capital “T,” the great Beatific Tah-dah.
What did you do during the pandemic?
I took Yoga Teacher Training and became an RYT-200 and a certified Raja Yoga instructor—52 years after my first yoga class. (And I grew out my hair. I’ll bet a lot of people did that.)
The change that really must happen in your lifetime:
New York City has to ban the carriage horse industry. It’s promoted as romantic and charming when it is, in fact, cruel and exploitive. Cities from New Delhi to Cancun have given up this outdated practice. New York is usually not a place that lags behind and we need to catch up on this one.
What are you nostalgic for?
Customer service. I wish I could call Google or Facebook or whatever company was being troublesome and talk with a human.
What refreshes you?
Body work (I always ask for reflexology or an ayurvedic massage for Christmas or my birthday)…chai tea with oat milk …conversations with friends…yoga (double that for aerial) and Gyrotonics, an amazing movement system that uses pulleys and dance moves and some kind of magic that makes me happy…getting Reiki from my husband (he’s trained in animal Reiki, but I can purr)…train trips…learning something new.
Name some random happy-makers:
Cities…old architecture…musical theater…documentary films…any time spent with my daughter, my stepdaughter, or one of my daughter-like young friends…speaking and teaching…being with animals…a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a really good newspaper…songs from the 70s…country music songs and musical theater: they both tell stories…biographies…audiobooks.
What are your challenges and limitations?
I guess the first challenge is not to let the former become the latter. Otherwise, let’s see, I have tinnitus, ringing of the ear; it can be bad, but not all the time. Old injuries that crop up and keep me from exercising (which I generally don’t love anyway) are annoying. And I can be frustrated by technology and the Internet’s demands to turn my New York apartment into a photo studio, video backdrop, and soundproof recording space. So many people do this brilliantly. I am in awe of them.
Who’s around your fantasy dinner party table:
Jesus. Yogananda. Indra Devi. Annie Besant. Harriet Tubman. The Bronte sisters. And Auntie Mame (so what if she’s fictional?).
Who are the most famous people you’ve ever met?
More than my share and more than makes sense: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mohammad Ali, the Dalai Lama, Oprah, Michael Moore.
What do you want for yourself right now?
A dog. When our rescue schnoodle, Forbes, passed away, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a dog who would ignore Thunder, our rescue pigeon who doesn’t fly. I am knowing with all my heart that somewhere there is a dog who needs a home and who has no desire to eat a pigeon.
Your hope for the future:
Every slaughterhouse on earth has closed for good.
What’s your world view?
Well, I believe that life makes sense, even when we can’t see it. I know deep down that we’re all connected, that the ‘we’ includes all beings, and that the connection is somehow Divine. I believe that all wisdom traditions are trying to get people to the same place, and that their mystical core teachings, what Aldous Huxley called the perennial philosophy, are true.I’ve had a few spiritual experiences so convincing that, even as a fan of rationality and accepting what is, and despite all the darkness and disappointment of which there is a staggering amount, I am thoroughly convinced that we’re all part of something magnificent.
No one has absolute security, in a house or in a life. Lease-free renters are said to live month-to-month, yet we all live just moment to moment by a genuinely amazing Grace that deals in hope, promise, and synchronicity.
—from Shelter for the Spirit
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