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Welcome to Pursuit of Spark!  Join us for conversations about creative approaches to the challenges, possibilities, and pleasures of everyday life and work.

Thanks to Dick Nodell and Stephanie Lyness, we have much to share with you over the next few months in Work Mysteries and American Gumbo.  If you have a question for Dick or Steph, send it to us at info (at)  We would love to have you join the conversation!

If you're in New York City, please join me at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for Spark Conversations.   You can find out more about this new series here.

We look forward to hearing from you!




Four Lessons in Creativity
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Spark: How Creativity Works has stories from artists, musicians, writers, and directors about where they find their spark.  It's also available as an audio book.

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Spark with Julie Burstein

I am inspired by people who pursue their creative spark, whether they're artists or parents or scientists or entrepreneurs. So please join me for conversations about creative approaches to work and life.



A tragedy, a mystery, a revelation about how memory works

Over the past few months I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore a world that was completely new to me -- neuroscience.  I've been working with neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki to create a new podcast series called Totally Cerebral for Transistor, a new initiative from PRX.  I have loved learning about the creativity that is at the heart of great discoveries.

In our first episode, Wendy talks to pioneering experimental psychologist Brenda Milner, who in 1957 completely changed how we think about learning and memory.  Brenda studied the famous amnesic patient HM, and the story is a tragedy, a mystery, and a revelation about how memory works.  I'm thrilled to share it here:


Sound, Space, and Awe

Last month, I had the pleasure of talking about music, architecture, and awe with the architect Steven Holl, neuroscientist Robert Zatorre, and musician and theologian Peter Bouteneff.   Our inspiration was the music of Arvo Part.  It's just been announced that Arvo Part and Steven Holl are both being awarded the Praemium Imperiale!  

You can listen to our conversation, in which neuroscientist Robert Zatorre explains how music can engage the reward system deep in our brains—the same system that responds to food and sex; Steven Holl describes making spaces for music, and shows how music influences his work; and Peter Bouteneff talks about the thread of spirituality that weaves throughout Pärt’s masterpieces.



In Jody Oberfelder's 4Chambers, we're pulled into the power of the heart by dancers who let us feel their heartbeats -- and make us aware of our own.  In my story for Studio 360, dancer Mercedes Searer offers a visceral experience of being in the piece -- and shows us it's possible to dance on the radio!



Liz Forkin Bohannon and Sseko Sandals

Wonderful news from France -- Liz Forkin Bohannon is a finalist in Cartier's Women's Initiative Awards!  Liz was my first interview for Pursuit of Spark, here's her delightful and inspiring story again.

I met Liz Forkin Bohannon in 2010 at Seth Godin's fantastic workshop for women entrepreneurs. Her ebullience and humor are what I noticed first, and then I began to understand the determination and imagination that have allowed her to develop a successful company from scratch. With the money she'd saved from babysitting jobs and a sewing machine her parents gave her for her birthday, Liz beganSseko Sandals, which employs young women in Uganda so they can earn the money they need to go to university. This week Liz talks about how she got Sseko off the ground. 


A.R.T. in Middlebury Vermont


Last fall when I spoke at Middlebury College, my hosts told me about a fascinating program at the vocational/technical high school in town, where students learn how to weld, paint, sew, hang lights, and build just about anything, all in service of theatre. Alumni from the program are mixing sound for Motown the Musical, rigging Cirque du Soleil, and acting on TV shows such as The Office. I'm thrilled that NPR's Weekend Edition asked me to report a story about the Addison Repertory Theater high school program at the Hannaford Career Center. Here it is.

Many thanks to Sarah Popov for production assistance on this story, and Laura Bertran at NPR for her insightful editing. And thanks to Steve Small and all the students and teachers at A.R.T.