Women on a Quest

by Kimberly Nagy

The Women on a Quest essay and interview series features interviews and essay subjects who inspire me–a word that literally means to fill with breath–as well as “fill with the desire to do something creative.”

Women on a Quest will feature conversations with individuals who offer thoughts and viewpoints that, in my view, deserve longevity, and are from all backgrounds, religious persuasions and creative journeys. Whether they are speaking, writing, leading, singing, drawing, producing, painting, making films, cooking, inventing, exhibiting, digging up missing research, raising resilient children and nurturing grand-children, gathering others in community—all of my interviewees want to pass a caring and vital part of themselves on to the next generation–through determination, study, grit, delight, focus and daring. Stories, messages and legacies that will endure past the next trend and offer timeless sources of substance and renewal.

In my role as editor for Wild River Review, we spent years devoted to creating content in a manifesto we called-The Slow Web movement. That movement aimed to use all of the benefits of the digital world to carve out a slower place and pace for ideas we want to last (rather than chase) within the abundant information overload of our busy world.

I don’t know about you, but in the blur of emails and posts, volleys I scroll through and participate in every day, things start to get pretty fuzzy. I wanted to create a space to think about and uphold a series on my favorite women, my own role models of warm, authentic, wise grounded substance– right within the loud digital labyrinth that monopolizes our attention span.

The triple-question format has everything to do with considering the past, present and future in my approach. Because, while living in the present is a tempting catch-phrase, it can also leave us stranded in a social media environment that is a dangerous rabbit hole without context or focus. An endless scroll that might fool us into thinking that our projects could or should materialize overnight, when that kind of instant success is almost never the whole story.  The format calls for interviewees to reflect on their past-talk about the present–and offer some words about how they’d like to imagine or re-imagine the future.

Sara CooperThe Cooper Community Quest: An Interview with Sara Cooper

Take a few moments to learn about a fiery powerhouse who has worked the line in kitchens, been investigated by the FBI, won awards for her business leadership and who is now gathering a community and raising awareness about ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The Music Mountain Quest: An Interview with Ginny Brennan

Ginny Brennan led the search for an indoor space to continue her decades of theatre-education leadership and affordable live theatre. After running the Downtown Performing Arts Center (DPAC) for sixteen years, she found that perfect spot and she opened the doors of Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville, NJ in 2017.

Bertha MorganThe Sing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It Quest: Singer Bertha Morgan

This Monday Morning Muse, I invite you to meet gospel singer, Bertha Morgan, a vocalist with the ability to soothe, enliven and have you reaching for tissues–within a few notes of any song. She discovered her passion for singing at an early age.


The Minerva’s Quest: Emma Lapsansky-Werner

A historian and professor who owns a Bed & Breakfast by the sea, Emma Lapsansky-Werner brings the scholarly graces and healing arts of the goddess Minerva to mind. Minerva’s by the Sea, named for Emma’s mother and the myth, isn’t your average Bed & Breakfast. Find out more about the woman behind the quest to change her corner of the world–one breakfast at a time.

Lilli de Jong QuestThe Lilli de Jong Quest: Author Janet Benton

Award-winning author Janet Benton is my official muse of dedication and perseverance. A business owner and mother, Benton published her debut novel Lilli de Jong after steadily working for 12 years. She spent over 8000 (worth-every-second-for-readers) hours of thorough research and masterful fiction writing.

Honor YogaThe Honor Yoga Quest: Maria Parrella Turco

Maria Parrella Turco’s quest is to create a business model that empowers yogis to run a fulfilling and sustainable business, one that supports the growth of strong communities. With the creation of Honor Yoga, she has taken her 25 years of fitness industry experience and applied it to a network of community-based yoga studios where people can come to care for their bodies, their minds, and their spirits in a warm and welcoming environment no matter what their level of yoga experience.

The Glass Half Full Quest: Denise Machinia

“When I feel passionate about a cause, I want to help,” says Denise Machinia who regularly builds fundraisers into her schedule for her favorite causes. Just a few of the organizations that Arts & Carafes supports each month? Alzheimer’s Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, ALS Association and many more.

Muna Imady icon
Lady of the Largest Heart: Muna Imady

Syrian writer and teacher, Muna Imady used language and stories to connect, to spread warmth and soothe others with the combination of kindheartedness and deep intellect…


Edwidge DanticatCreate Dangerously: Edwidge Danticat:

“I think intimacy is crucial to any kind of creation. I spend so much time with my characters that I ultimately grow to love all of them, even the despicable ones. You have to become intimate with your characters in order to get them.”


The Art of Memoir Book Cover
Truth Hunger: A Meditation on Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir:

But be forewarned, to get inside that church for real, to feel that soft whoosh of unadulterated wonder, it takes a willingness to open your ears in sand-stuffed layers, of which there tend to be many calcified folds. We must always be on guard against partial thoughts at the expense of the whole-and our own natural tendency to pose and posture. Or the sentimental sludge that loops us into stories that sound damn good in our heads but are far more propaganda than the vital hum/roar of true emotion.

Pamela Tanner Boll Dangerous Women: Pamela Tanner Boll Talks About Creativity, Motherhood and the World of Art:

Poet, painter, teacher, former Wall-Street trader and mother to three growing sons, Pamela Tanner Boll once wondered how other mothers went bout re-entering the world of the fine arts. To Boll, creativity has a vital place in the life of every person (man or woman) and yet she points out that we often mistake the mysterious life-giving force behind creativity with the hard “proof” of material success. “You’re heart is the driver for all creative work.”

Tracy K. SmithThat Email Changed My Life: Tracy K. Smith:

In pages that illustrate her mother’s vitality and character, “there was something gleaming and spirited beneath it, something that instigated pranks and stunts that could bend the rest of us over in laughter,” Smith writes, painting memories that vividly recall her mother’s voice. “Or the evening when the topic of nicknames came up for discussion in the family…..When it was my mother’s turn, she said that she didn’t want to be called Mom, or Mama, and that we should cease calling her Mommy. She told us with a straight face, ‘Call me Sexy.’”

Beata PalyaThe Secret World of Songs Beata Palya

Even if I’m emotional, I want to turn those feelings into a nice, musically worked out song. I like words and meaning but I also like sounds, rhythm and melodies. So, I‘m like a mother, looking after her two children – words and music – playing together, I love them both. I want to make both happy, but I don’t want to see that one is pushing the other down.

Light of Innocence photography

The Light of Innocence: On Playfulness, Trees and Growing Up in the Former East Germany:

“When I am creative I often get lost in that playful realm of childhood, where I forget time and space. Creativity fuels me with energy and passion.” says Christine Matthäi.