Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Bookish Conversation with 'Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin' Nadia Natali @nadianatali

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook. 
Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.


Thanks for this interview, Nadia. Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?

I had a difficult time in school writing and it took years for me to be able to write without too much trouble. I think gong back to school to get a Ph.D. and writing many papers helped but I also think coming into my own voice which did not exists as a child or young adult affected my ability to write. And lastly the computer has helped. I can write faster and then go back and rewrite in a way I
couldn’t on a pad or typewriter.

When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
I like to talk with people who are interested in the same things I am which is inquiring into what it is to be a human being. I like to cook, and? I love animals. And I love to read.

Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?

On December 8, 1980, my husband, Enrico, our three-year-old daughter, Francesca, and I finished our cross-country journey to Ojai, California, where we planned to make a home on land we had seen only once but had long been dreaming about, away from city life and, especially, away from my difficult and powerful family.

We’d caravanned in separate vehicles, hauling all that we could carry in and on top of our cars, in addition to a foldout trailer hitched to Enrico’s Toyota jeep. At the end of a long, winding two-lane road that followed Matilija Creek, a brown metal gate barred our way. Beyond the gate lay the Los Padres National Forest, wilderness, and a mile farther up a dirt road through the canyon, our property. We had to wait for a key to open the lock, a key that a forest ranger was going to hand over—the key to our new life. I gazed toward the jagged and intimidating mountains that leaned over the canyon. Inhaling the sweet smell of the dry chaparral, I couldn’t help but compare it to the lush, green landscape of my childhood home in Connecticut. This is going to be a very different life, I thought. My privileged upbringing seemed the polar opposite of this place, and maybe that was what attracted me to it. Observing the struggles of my family and seeing that money and fame had failed to bring happiness, I’d learned I needed to find my own path. I had not fully formulated my goal, but it was something unique and original, and I had to find it on my own.

A moment later a forest service truck pulled up by the gate. “You sure found yourselves a beautiful piece of property out here,” the ranger said, as he offered his hand to shake. “I’m Dave Brown. I suppose you know there are some pretty dangerous natural conditions you’ll need to look out for.”
Enrico shook Dave’s hand as he asked, “And what does that mean?” Dave took a big breath. “Well, you should know about this if you guys are planning to live here. There’s the flood. That’s real serious this time of year. There’re two creeks you have to drive through that rise fast and wild when there’s a lot of rain. The water turns black and fierce. You could get trapped in here for weeks.”
Enrico and I exchanged worried looks. We had not known about this. “Also,” he continued, “as you probably know, there are rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. The bears won’t bother you much if you keep your food well covered. But the mountain lions . . .” Dave trailed off, as he looked at our young daughter. “If you suspect there are any about, better keep your little girl close by.”

I glanced at Francesca to see if she was listening. She was busy poking the dry dirt with a stick, her red corduroy cuffs turning brown with dust. I wasn’t sure I wanted her to hear all this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it. I imagined grabbing a stick of my own and drawing pictures in the worn shoulder of the last bit of paved road.

“The thing that would bother me more than anything though,” Dave continued, “are the kooks that come out here.” That was all he said on that subject, as if he expected us to know just what he was talking about. Then we noticed a large parking area at the side of the road for vehicles, and figured that must be where people parked who were going to walk in.

I hoped he was exaggerating. Kooks? Francesca continued to prod the ground, making scratching sounds that in my mind echoed off the hard landscape and the ranger’s words. Suddenly, a sweep of fatigue from the packing, driving, and camping for many nights hit me. I was beyond tired.

“But,” Ranger Dave went on relentlessly, “the fires are the biggest threat. This is the most dangerous canyon in California, if not the whole country. It hasn’t burned in fifty years, and it’s real serious when it does.

Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing?  Can you tell us about your journey?

I would say that it was a rocky road but nothing is simple and straightforward. I had gone through this process once before so there were no surprises this time.

I self published first and then looked for a PR agency that would help me launch it. The PR agency that took me on was also a publishing company. I offered to pay for the printing when they showed interest in my book. I found the whole process tricky trying to figure out where to go and whom to trust. Even then I’m not sure I got a good agency. However, I am happy with my decision because I don’t know of a better one.

Going to publishing companies is very hard and what is best about them is that they distribute the book on your behalf. Although that part is pretty good, the promotional aspect with my two publishing experiences was and is minimal. They suggested I use social media but in my case that suggestion wasn’t sufficient. I didn’t have the skills.

If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?

My memoir is about how I grew up in a family of genius, fame and fortune and had to leave it behind to find my own truth, my own voice and authenticity as I moved into the wilderness with my husband where unexpected challenges were faced.

What makes your book stand out from the rest?                                                                       

The story of a family of genius is interesting in itself, but more important are the layers of truths that get uncovered as I reveal a new one in each chapter, and ultimately find a unique way to impart the value of my journey into a somatic therapy designed to help others reorganize their own nervous system damaged by trauma.

If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?

I suppose the feeling of Christmas would be the holiday given the possibility that we all can have the gift of our personal truth and the ability to express and live it out in our lifetime.

Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?

Yes, I would consider turning the book into a series.

What’s next for you?

I am writing a second cookbook right now and considering writing a book about healing trauma through dance/movement.

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