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Art & Life with Tanaya Winder

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tanaya Winder.

Tanaya, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’ve always loved writing and different forms of expression. Empathy is one of my strengths and picking up on other peoples’ energies has always just come naturally to me. When I was younger, I channeled this connection through writing poetry to express myself or entertain my friends. But voice, voice has always been something I’ve loved and also struggled with in terms of finding the courage to share mine. When I was younger, I was so brave. I would record myself on tapes and send them to my grandparents to listen to. When I got older, I somehow became ashamed of sharing the gift I was given with singing.

But, I found poetry. I needed an outlet after experiencing some losses of loved ones who were very close to me. Poetry saved me. Poetry gave me a vehicle to harness my passion, my pain, my longing, my hope. I’m grateful that I turned that passion into my college major. I studied creative writing at Stanford University then went on to receive my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico. I have one full collection of poetry that was published in 2015, a chapbook that was published two years later. A year after that, I made my way back into music.

It took me years to find my voice again and it’s only been in the last two years that I’ve started playing guitar, writing my owns songs and singing. Singing is what has always made my spirit feel most alive, most at home. And now, I just released my first EP For Women and Girls On Fire.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I sing. I write songs. I breathe poems, some I turn into lyrics, others become part of a future collection of poetry. I’m fluid in my heartwork with words. It usually starts with a seed, a feeling, something inside me that needs to come out to find its place in the world. I often journal lines that come to me and later decide if it’s a poem or a lyric. I practice my guitar every day, finding new chord progressions then sing melodies. Then I write the lyrics. It’s usually always the melody that comes to me first, then the words. I try my best to create a song or write a poem that I need to hear, that beloveds need to hear, that those who are struggling or need to be seen may need to hear so that they know they aren’t alone in these human experiences.

I write about my life, about love, loss, longing, hope. I write about my experiences as an Indigenous woman. I write about working with Indigenous youth and the lessons I’ve learned in living a life of service. I write about healing.

When asked, why? All I can think of is that I am supposed to. Creator gives us each gift for a reason and we are meant to share the gifts with others. That’s what it means to give a gift – it’s supposed to make the recipient feel good/appreciated/seen/loved… that’s what I endeavor for my heartwork. I want my art (songs and poetry) to be a gift to those who need it. My artwork is ever-evolving. I strive to have my art make people feel at home in their hearts.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
Be brave. Take chances. Be prepared to fall and fail (because you will) but don’t ever give up on the dreams the Creator has placed into your heart because every dream you have was given to you for a reason.

Be kind. You never know who will come back into your life and play a role you never knew they would. Be kind because the world needs more kindness and people will be more willing to support you if you are a good person.

Never take any of it for granted. Give each day your heart, your passion, and your attention and be willing to put in the work. Some people out there may be more talented but they might not be willing to put in the hours of practice, commitment to their craft, and the energy to see projects through start to finish.

I wish I learned to believe in myself sooner.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I usually get booked at conferences or at different schools (high schools and universities) to give a keynote or perform. You can often find me performing with my fellow Dream Warriors artists (www.dreamwarriors.co) In July, I’ll be performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

I’ll share some ways to view or listen to my work online. The most support comes from sharing my poetry or music, helping me book gigs, or supporting financially by purchasing books or CDs.

You can also follow me online on Twitter or Instagram at @tanayawinder. I have a YouTube channel with some of my work: https://www.youtube.com/user/thebeautyofwords

My first book “Words Like Love” and my chapbook “Why Storms Are Named After People and Bullets Remain Nameless” are both available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Words-Like-Love-West-Press/dp/0991074270
https://www.amazon.com/Storms-People-Bullets-Remain-Nameless/dp/1977979262

You can also check out my EP “For Women and Girls on Fire” here or on Spotify: https://music.apple.com/us/album/for-women-and-girls-on-fire/1445490395

Finally, you can check out my website: www.tanayawinder.com or support me on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/tanaya.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Natahnee Winder, Viki Eagle

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