Writespace member Brooke Summers-Perry is a creative who uses her love for spirituality, art, and writing to help others find themselves and their place in the world. With her son, she co-founded the organization We Practice Life to support those who want a meaningful and fulfilling life. Learn more about her here.
We're proud to call her a Writespacer and introduce her to you.
Tell us about your writing. What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a lot of different projects at once. I write poetry and memoir. I have written four children’s books and self-published three of them. I also have a how-to book on different practices.
In regards to memoirs, I’m working on one or two. And I’m currently working with an illustrator on a children’s book.
What type of writing do you love to do?
Writing with nature as my muse is my favorite thing. I grew up on a hundred acres in the middle of the woods in Kentucky. Because of this, there's such a deep appreciation for all creatures that flow out of me. I just need to put my pinky toe on the grass. And I'm connected with nature. It's my happy place.
Where can we find your writing?
You can find my self-publishing works on Amazon and other writings on my blog. I’m about to start contributing again.
I’m part of a writing group that started out of a Writespace workshop, set to celebrate its third anniversary soon! A lot of my writing comes from prompts and workshops within that group.
You have a certification as a Spiritual Director. What drove you to a career in spirituality?
Creativity drove me to this career. For me, It's very difficult to compartmentalize things. After working in the corporate world in architecture and becoming a mom, I went through an identity crisis that I took as a spiritual crisis. All forms of creativity - writing, painting, and teaching - became a spiritual calling. I asked myself how to be the main character in my life since I was trying to be part of myself.
I had a big crisis in 2007, and I enrolled in a three-year program with the Spiritual Direction Institute, where I formed the majority of my spirituality.
I didn’t exactly set up to make a career out of it. I wanted to pursue something I was meant to do, which is still a working process.
When and how did you start to integrate spirituality into your art and writing?
It was accidental. Way before the time I went to the Spiritual Direction Institute. The first time I did that was when I mentored kids through an organization I started called “It’s Cool to Care.” I became involved because the children wanted to make a positive impact in the world and didn’t have the attention of adults who saw and heard them. I became that adult for them. It was integrated as we started to do art and craft projects, advocacy and fundraising campaigns, and more. We expressed spirituality in a practical way.
It became more personal when I started to empathize with my children’s preschool teachers and think about how hard it was to be a teacher. Teacher appreciation day came around. I did a watercolor painting that reflected each teacher’s happy place and gave it to them as their teacher appreciation gift. One of the teachers was enrolled in the Art Institute and had to do a project on an artist she looked up. She chose me, and it floored me because I never called myself an artist before.
These things were all part of a spiritual awakening. It showed me, too, that there were opportunities to express myself through art.
You founded the We Practice Life organization. What is it about, and what is its purpose?
“We Practice Life” is about sharing integrated and simple practices that have helped my own journey and the journeys of people in my life, from my children to my friends. We practice things that help us practice doing all parts of life better.
We give our cliff notes to people, and it’s an ongoing practice for me to continue developing the content and practicing with people.
Our group’s purpose is to have fun becoming better people in the stages we’re at in life.
You also host pop-up art cafes. How did this get started?
The pop-art cafes started because “We Practice Life” gained a studio space during the pandemic and out of people’s longing in our community for a safe space that allowed them to explore their creativity. I invite people to come and play with the different painting tools and experiment and express themselves.
If interested, sign up for our next pop-up art session here.
Why is it important for people to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually well?
We're not put on this planet to make lives harder for each other. My life’s purpose is to leave this place in a better state in all the little ways. We’re capable of having a positive impact on other people when we’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually well.
How do you prioritize your writing with your schedule?
I'm currently doing The Artist's Way as a 12-month instead of a 12-week program with a group of people at Autumn Counseling. I write in my morning pages most mornings. Through this, I'm reminding myself that my art matters and that I have to prioritize my writing and visual art. It helps me stay balanced.
When did you first call yourself a writer?
In 2017. I had already self-published books by then, but it wasn't until I wanted to get a job with Writers in the Schools that I gave myself that label. Although I could see myself in the classroom, I didn’t see myself as a writer. I pushed myself to look at the application, which required me to submit writing samples. I thought, “Oh gosh, which one should I use?” And then I thought, “Oh, I’m a writer!”
How did you join Writespace Houston?
When I used to work at a spiritual center in downtown, I met with Elizabeth White-Olsen, the founder of Writespace, to collaborate and bring organizations together to do some programming. I visited Writespace’s location at the time and followed them online. All the workshops sounded great, and it got to the point where it made more sense to become a member than not since I was all in on the programs.
How has the organization helped you with your writing?
A writing group came out of Cameron Dezen Hammon's spiritual memoir workshop. I meet people from that group, and we continue to have regular meetings.
Workshops build communities, and events are constant reminders of the craft.
I read for the first time at an open mic event due to Writespace. When I go to this type of event, I’m deeply moved as a listener.
A better question might be, “How would I be a writer without Writespace?”
Tell us about your favorite Writespace workshop. Why was it your favorite?
This question is a hard one because the writing group that came out of Hammon's workshop has been ongoing for three years!
I want to lift a workshop by Joyce Boatright. In one of her classes, her prompt was about where our name came from, and, believe it or not, I was still working through the identity issue. I got a lot out of writing about where my name came from. And I got so much out of each participant and their reflection on the same prompt, too.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
Do it. Don’t overthink it, just do it. Don’t worry about the critics, and keep practicing.
What is the worst piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
When I started my journey as a creative and trying to make my life, I had to leave the architecture field because it was not authentic for me to be that. The worst advice I ever got was, “You just need to get a real job, ” when I lost my job at the spiritual center. And while it’s not about writing, it totally is.
What advice do you have for an aspiring writer?
Be and stay true to yourself and whatever practice it takes to do that. Give it enough space - whether it’s through a mic, pen, or typewriter - to that inner guide, that voice on the inside.