It is with great pleasure that I feature Miah Oren as my first woman artist for "Portraits of an Artist." When she was writing her series, "Interviews of Artists on Art and Fear," she also featured me first. I am so happy to get to return the favor for this thoughtful, creative individual! I am so honored to call her friend.
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Miah Oren, and I’m a writer and photographer.
How did you start making your art?
Why do you keep going?
I became interested in photography when I was living overseas as a missionary. I struggled to find words for all the new things I was experiencing, so I started taking pictures to explain to people back home what my life was like. I grew more and more interested in learning how to take exactly the picture I wanted.
I’ve been journaling on and off for years, but I started to really pursue writing when I found an online class taught by Elora Nicole. During the class, I began writing my first book almost by accident; it started as a long email to someone else in that class who was a missionary overseas. And now I’m getting ready to publish my first book, The Reluctant Missionary, this December. It’s a memoir about my two years as a missionary overseas and what it was like when I returned home.
Was there an artist in your creative field you admired when you were young that inspired you to become an artist? Why?
When I was young, I read a lot. I read most of The Boxcar Children, The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, and the Choose Your Own Adventures books. But when I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, I got chills. I had never read about a character who seemed so much like me: Meg didn’t fit in at school, she would wander off to daydream, and she felt unsure of herself. But Meg still had grand adventures and her talents (and her faults) made a difference in the world. Madeleine L’Engle gave me hope that I wouldn’t always be a lonely, out-of-place teenager. And that’s a big part of why I write now: I’ve been so encouraged by all the times I’ve said “me, too!” to other people’s words. Knowing that I’m not alone has been really important as I still struggle to accept myself and my own faults.
What are you working on now?
I am currently writing an ebook about the seasons, I’m working on a children’s story about a dog, I’m making lists and gathering ideas for NaNoWriMo, and I’m doing research for my next book.
What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?
I am most thankful for the women in my Wednesday book club/Bible study. They have encouraged me, provided essential suggestions for my writing projects, and prayed for me during this year of transition. I’m also so grateful that all of my immediate family lives in the same city as me. For about 12 years we’ve been scattered, and I’ve loved being able to see them for our weekly Sunday lunches.
What am I reading/watching/listening to right now?
I’m rereading some mystery novels by Dorothy Gilman while wondering what it would be like to be a spy. I’d want to be the kind of spy who observes people from a cafe on a tropical island, but I’m not sure that’s a real thing. When I’m driving, I sometimes listen to the classical radio station and let my mind wander. When I’m writing, which is most of the time, my current favorite album to listen to is Tycho’s Dive. I’ll usually listen to the same album or playlist for a month, and then find a new one.
Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.
I would wake up early and spend the morning taking pictures at the beach, at White Sands, or in a rainy forest. I’d spend the afternoon writing on a cool, quiet porch with a cup of homemade chai. In the evening, I would go with a friend to see a play at National Theatre Live. Their plays are magnificent, and I always leave wanting to be a better creator and a better person.
Complete this sentence: "I cannot live without …"
I cannot live without God, and I cannot live without friends. And dark chocolate. My current favorite is the fair trade Bark Thins dark chocolate with pumpkin seeds and sea salt.
Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?
Some of the best advice I was given when I began writing and blogging was “choose yourself.” There are millions of websites, millions of books, and trillions of photographs in the world. It’s difficult to create with the constant pressure to check how big my audience is, how many “likes” I’ve gotten, and how I compare to others. And it’s easy to quit when I find someone whose writing resembles mine. I begin to think, I should give up. They are already doing so well.
But God has given me a unique story - if I stop creating because I believe that it’s not worth telling, I’m not doing what I’m meant to do. For me, choosing myself means claiming my space. Even if I have just one reader, that person is exactly who my words are meant for. It’s simply my responsibility to put the words out there, and God is responsible for what they do from there. There’s always room for you and your art.
Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.
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