David Carson was raised in Oklahoma Indian Country and is of Choctaw descent. He is the author of How to find your spirit Animal, Crossing into Medicine Country: A Journey into Native American Healing and is co-creator of the bestselling Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power through the Ways of the Animals, which explains how to receive guidance from animals. Last week we phoned David in New Mexico and asked him some questions for our Watkins Wisdom interview series.
Watkins: Which books and authors inspired you to get started writing?
David: Well, not an easy question for me. I was mostly taken with various tribal people, old wise ones who seemed to me to be sad and beyond ego and had sparkling eyes that held a lot of love. They were more than happy to share what is today known as Native American oral literature—and that was the reason I was pointed to stories. You could say elders inspired me to do something. I became a sort of bookworm for years and years afterward. At first I read books like A Thousand and One Nights—with that amazing collection containing stories such as Aladdin’s Lamp, Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and so many tales within the grand overplot. It’s a jewel of world literature. Then I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen. Much later I read La Fontaine’s Fables. I was touched by many works of fiction—Orwell, Huxley, Steinbeck. I read everything by Hemmingway and the books in translation by Dostoevsky and Hesse. I read the American classics, Twain’s Huck Finn, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and several works of Jack London. I think it was the American writer Emerson, but I’m not sure, who said something like your relationship with nature is your fate. I’ve carried that around as a sort of Zen koan. I’ve never solved the riddle of it but it has certainly kept me aware that we live in a larger milieu inhabited with magical creatures from ameba to elephants. All writing that sees print is inspiring. If it’s really bad you realize you might be able to do better. If it is really good you have a worthy opponent to try to match.
W: What are your goals and intentions as a writer?
D:I do intend to write. Once you attach that label to yourself “writer” it seems to me you have to put up or shut up. I try to be like the ant—down to earth, persistent, orderly. Ants don’t shirk. I try to stay open for the muses to come and give me hints. My antenna are pointed at the sky.
W: What empowers you in your daily work and life?
D: Too much to say—a cloud, a rock, a smile, the moment. Breakfast.
W: What is your next project?
D: Along the lines of previous works, I’d say, with a few new twists and turns. I do like writing satire and I’m dabbling with writing a sequel to my book, The Strange Case of the Golem of Taos, which is based on some very eccentric characters native to Northern New Mexico.
W: Is there anything you would say to your readers?
D: Yes, I bow in gratitude to my readers and feel privileged to have engaged with them. Without readers, it’s like one hand clapping, right? I’m appreciative.
How to Find Your Spirit Animal
Available from Watkins Publishing