Meet Mimi Cross.
Mimi Cross is an author, singer, and songwriter. She holds an MA from NYU’s School of Education, Health, Nursing, and Arts Professions and a Bachelor of Music from Ithaca College. She received her 200-hour teaching certificate from Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the largest facility for yoga in the country where she lived for a month in 2001. She is a performer, a music educator, and worked briefly in the music industry. Mimi is also the creator of Body of Writing, a practice that adds an additional dimension to the body, mind, spirit discipline of yoga: story. Body of Writing is designed to help participants discover and deepen their creativity and unlock their stories using specific yoga postures, breath work, and visualization combined with powerful writing exercises.
“Mimi fuses delicacy and power, heart and gut. Her writing and singing are inspiring, evocative and refreshing.”
–Grammy award winning artist Rosanne Cash
Mimi has shared the bill with such luminaries as Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Lauryn Hill, Jill Sobule, Loudon Wainwright, and Peter Himmelman. She enjoys performing for the benefit of others, and has played shows with many other New Jersey musicians including Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi to raise funds for the Light of Day Foundation.
Her YA novels Before Goodbye and Shining Sea, were published by Skyscape in 2016. She resides with her young son in New Jersey, across the street from the beach. She always says yes to chocolate. Her music can be found on iTunes.
Now onto the interview!
Author. Singer. Songwriter. Yogi. How do you manage all of your interests without your writing suffering?
It’s actually a constant struggle! I wish I didn’t have to choose, but I’ve finally accepted that I can’t do everything at once. For example right now, I’m not taking on any new yoga clients. The best I can do is maintain my own practice, although I am part of an enrichment program through the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ so once a week, when I go into the Red Bank Primary School, I bring yoga into the classroom. There’s nothing more adorable than a group of twenty little kids sitting in meditation! I also teach teens Songwriting at Project Right Now in Red Bank, but lately my own songs are from the POV of my characters. Musicians are always making their way into my stories and bringing songs with them.
I am fascinated by the idea of yoga and a story in your Body of Writing practice. Can you tell me the story of how it came to be?
Sure. At the 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference, author Patricia Lee Gauch talked about “letting go into story”. When she quoted Yeats’ poem The Circus Animals’ Desertion and spoke of the “rag-and-bone shop of the heart” and how we must go there for inspiration, her message went straight to my own heart. I knew it was time for me to create a workshop that connected two of my great loves: writing and yoga.
Starting the following winter, I began to carefully design a class series that would combine yoga postures, yogic breathing techniques, creative writing exercises, meditation, visualization, and readings, in ways that would inspire participants to get their pens moving and encourage them to open to the wisdom of their bodies.
In creating the classes I drew from my experiences in music, drama, and yoga, incorporating Deep Diving techniques I learned from artists as diverse as Olympia Dukakis, Rosanne Cash, and Julia Cameron, as well as instructors from The Metropolitan Opera Guild and aesthetic education classes at Julliard.
I was introduced to yoga at age twelve and in 2001 I became a yoga instructor, however before I taught yoga, I was a music teacher and a performer. For many years I taught people of all ages and abilities music, placing the emphasis on songwriting whenever I could. One of my last positions included teaching students who were suicidal and homicidal. Music and lyrics were a wonderful way to connect with those kids, but to help their teachers I used yoga.
In May of 2011, I offered the first version of Body of Writing. The 90-minute sessions met weekly at River Road Books in Fair Haven, NJ. Over seven weeks I witnessed the thrilling process of people discovering the stories their bodies held. Some were obvious, like the tale of a twisted ankle in Paris, the stiffness lingering years later, evoking memories whenever it rained, stories begging to be told. Others were hidden, stories secret even to those who carried them. Like buried treasure, sometimes you have to dig.
One of the most important concepts of Kripalu yoga, the style that I’ve studied more than any other, is the idea of letting go. In other words, allowing things to be just as they are, including who you are, with the idea that everything really is okay. Cultivating this kind of acceptance one learns to have compassion for oneself, and thus for one’s story.
Since then, I’ve offered Body of Writing to small groups and in private sessions, as well as at a couple of NJ SCBWI conferences, where I presented BOW as a four-hour intensive. It also works well as a weekend-long workshop. Body of Writing helps people find the stories they hold within, and teaches how to allow the release of those stories onto the page without criticism or judgment. Of course later, there’s editing, the most wicked yoga posture of all.
Music to novel writing. What did you find the greatest challenge as you transitioned from song writing to creating a novel?
Editing, definitely. Songwriting is such a small form, and when I first started writing novels, it was sort of word explosion. One of the biggest challenges for me was to understand that, although a novel is made up of thousands of lines, each one matters. Each sentence needs to be as finely polished and have as much impact as a line from a song.
So many good options in your workshops! I wouldn’t know what to pick. What is the motivation for you to offer (and inspire) other writers?
I had a really happy childhood, and my teen years were a lot of fun. I had friends, and I mostly did well in school. But like a lot teens, I felt “different”. I was popular, yet I didn’t feel like I fit in. I studied music and art all through grade school and junior high, but in high school I had to choose between them, and I think that’s where any problems I may have had started. That otherness that I felt, the difference in my thinking… I was an artist, but there was no real recognition of that, no support. Like so many people, I want to give the thing I needed growing up but didn’t get. And I think it’s because of this desire, that I’m good at helping people discover and deepen their creativity. I feel like this, more than writing even, is my gift.
Can you share any upcoming projects with us? If not, tell us a fun fact about yourself.
Ooh, well… I’m currently looking for a new agent, so I’ve just sent out a couple of copies of my latest manuscript. Like Before Goodbye and Shining Sea, it’s a contemporary YA featuring musicians, in this case, two best friends who are trying to make their way in the cutthroat entertainment industry. The story is populated with a cast of sexually diverse characters, several of whom are liars. It’s basically about music, manipulation, and murder. Sounds lovely, right?
Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Rae!
Thank you Mimi for stopping by! It was a pleasure.
Grab your copies of Mimi’s novels today at any of your local bookstore!