creativity

The Joy of What’s Next — Season 1 Finale of the JoyProject podcast

In the Season 1 Finale episode, I talk about what I learned from the 20 episodes in Season 1 of JoyProject, what’s coming up for Season 2, and how I’d love for you to be involved.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • A tribute to Christa’s stepfather, Joe Nucci, who loved this podcast and who sadly passed away on December 11, 2022
  • The inspiration for the name and content of this podcast
  • A brief recap of all the interviews in Season 1
  • What’s in store for Season 2
  • How you can be involved in Season 2

Links to resources:

About Christa:
Christa Avampato is an award-winning author, business leader, and biomimicry scientist. She is the creator and host of the JoyProject podcast. She is equally inspired by ancient wisdom and modern technology. She’s a proliferator of goodness, champion of nature, opener of doors, fan of laughter, and proud New Yorker.

Transcript:
Hi everyone. I’m Christa Avampato and I’m your host. This is the finale episode of Season 1 of the JoyProject podcast. In a nutshell, I started this podcast because I wanted to spread more joy to more people in more places. That simple premise was something my stepfather, Joe Nucci, loved. He felt it would help anyone who listened to it and that with each conversation I’d make the world a better place. I’m sad to share that after a long and difficult health battle, my stepfather passed away on December 11th. So, this one’s for him.

This podcast started out as a short film I titled JoyProject. I wanted to interview people about what brings them joy and then film their joyful acts. When COVID-19 hit New York and shut down our city, filming people became nearly impossible. So did finding joy. 6 months later, I was diagnosed with cancer and because of the pandemic I had to go to almost all my treatments alone. In addition to the privilege of having great medical care and modern science, I knew I had to do everything I could to keep up my spirits. As a yoga and meditation teacher, I have experienced and witnessed the power of the mind-body connection. I wanted my body to heal, and I knew that meant I had to maintain an optimistic frame of mind. I had to believe to my core that I would restore my health. Finding joy became my daily practice. I’d start every day by asking myself what brings me joy, and then I’d write it down. I made it my mission to find joy, especially in the lowest, most frightening moments. When I had my bilateral mastectomy. When all my hair fell out and I sobbed in the shower so I wouldn’t scare my dog. When I was hospitalized and almost died, twice, because I had a life-threatening allergy to a common chemo drug that tried to shut down my lungs. When I had to teach myself to breathe again. When radiation left a baseball-sized burn over my heart. When my expanders under my chest muscles caused constant pain for 14 months. When I had to start medication to put my body into medical menopause. The darker things became, the more joy I became determined to find. I refused to give up. The more the world pushed me down, the harder I worked to reach for the light. As the late great Babe Ruth said, it’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. And I would not give up.

Joy became my constant companion. The more I looked for it, the more of it I found. Joy was, and is, everywhere. Once I was officially declared cancer-free and vaccines against COVID-19 were readily available, the idea of JoyProject came back to me with more purpose than ever. After all we’d survived, it was time to inspire and spread joy as far and wide as possible. And while I could do that with a film, a podcast felt more approachable and would allow me to connect and talk to people all over the world. I wanted to ask anyone and everyone the same question I had asked myself for nearly a year, what brings you joy?

That’s what every episode of this podcast is about. The answers and conversations are varied and wide and beautiful. I’m not the only one who is finding joy everywhere, far from it. There are so many of us who are joy seekers and joy makers. If you’re here and listening to this podcast, welcome to our joyful community. I’m so glad you’re here.

The title for each episode is “the joy of” followed by whatever the subject is about. When I was a kid my Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary bought me the book The Joy of Cooking because I loved being in the kitchen. I still love being in the kitchen and I still love cooking. It is one of the things that brings me a lot of joy. So, it’s no surprised that 4 of the interviews in Season 1 center around food: The Joy of Pizza with Rachel Josar, The Joy of Baking Birthday Cakes with Dana Phillips, the Joy of Baking Challah with Vicki Eastus, and The Joy of The Great British Bake Off with Abby Anklam. Food brings people together and these foodies were a delight to interview.

I also love to travel and in 2022, I returned to traveling a bit more now that we have COVID vaccines and my health is restored. The Joy of Travel Planning with Dr. Edith Gonzalez and The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli reignited by wish to get out into the world, meet new people, see new sights, and have new experiences. In 2023, I’ll be taking a few more trips and some of those will involve what’s coming up in Season 2. More on that in just a moment.

Passion is a common theme through all of the interviews in Season 1. Quite a few of them involved interviewing people about their passion projects. The Joy of Book Clubs with Libby Seiter Nelson, The Joy of Making Shoes with Kaylee Scoggins Herring, The Joy of Fostering Animals with Mary Talalay, The Joy of Winnie-the-Pooh with Christine Caccipuoti, The Joy of Water Skiing with Kate McGormley, The Joy of Old Time Radio Shows with Zachary Lennon-Simon, and The Joy of Podcasting and Neurodivergent Stories with Carolyn Kiel showed me that joy can truly be found anywhere and everywhere. Their passions inspired me to try new things and revel in the joy of being a beginner. I also want to give a shot out to Carolyn Kiel. Her podcast, Beyond 6 Seconds, recently won 2 podcasting awards and I’m so proud of her.

Three of our podcast guests have turned their passions into their careers. The Joy of the Unknown with Eric Fisher, The Joy of Photography with Amy Selwyn, and The Joy of Old Things with Ashley Semrick inspired me to bring my own passion projects that comprise my career into this podcast. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing in Season 2.

Speaking of Season 2, here’s what’s on tap and how I’d love for you to be involved. This year, I started a new Masters Program at University of Cambridge in Sustainability Leadership. In 2023, I will start the year-long process of writing my dissertation. Protecting the health of the planet is a passion of mine, and with my dissertation, I’ll combine my love of storytelling and science. To do this, I’ll be interviewing people all over the world who are expert storytellers. I want to learn from them about the elements of the most joyful, uplifting stories that inspire people to take action in their own lives, and I want to apply that learning to inspire everyone to help restore and the health of the planet which supports the health of all beings. My hope is that some of the people I interview will allow me to share our conversations about storytelling during the second season of JoyProject.

Now here’s where I could use your help. Are you an expert storyteller? Do you know an expert storyteller? Have you ever heard a story that changed your life? I’m looking for stories and storytellers from every corner of the globe on any topic. The only requirement is that the stories and storytellers are so captivating that you can’t forget them and that you couldn’t help but change something about your life because of them. Got something (or someone) that fits that bill? Please get in touch with me.

You can find me on Twitter at @christanyc, on Instagram at @christarosenyc, via email at christa.avampato@gmail.com, and through the website for this podcast christaavampato.com/joyproject. The website has all of Season 1’s episodes, links to everything we talk about on the podcast, and links to our incredible guests.

Thanks to all of you for spending this season with me and JoyProject. I hope you’re finding joy in some way every day. Take care of yourself and take care of those in your corner of the world. Season 2 will begin in 2023. Stay tuned for the launch date! I hope the episodes in Season 1 inspire you as much as they inspire me. I hope joy becomes a daily practice for you. I hope you create it, revel in it, and share it. I’m Christa Avampato and I’m so excited for what’s next. I hope you are, too. Happy New Year and I’ll talk with you again about joy and storytelling in 2023.

writing

The query letter that helped me attract a publisher

I believe in generously sharing my journey, especially when it comes to my writing. People often ask me, “how did you get a book published?” When Emerson was first published, I had been querying agents without much success. Most never responded and any others that did respond were rejections. My favorite rejection was a response I received 5 minutes after I sent my query letter, and it had just two letters: “No”. That was the entire response. I am a pro in rejection.

I eventually found my first publisher by live pitching the book to them at an event I attended when I lived in D.C.

My new publisher that will republish my first novel and the other two books in the trilogy I got via query letter. I didn’t know anyone there. I’d never met them, they didn’t know my work prior to my query, and I sent it to the general submissions inbox that was listed on their website. The query process is often harrowing (or at least it was for me!) but it does work.

Here is the timeline from query to contract with my publisher:

  • October 29th – sent query
  • November 16th – I got a request for the full manuscript
  • February 1st – I was invited to a meeting to talk about possible publication.
  • February 11th – Met the acquiring editor via Zoom
  • February 14th – They made an offer to publish the whole Emerson Page trilogy

In the spirit of generosity, I wanted to share the letter I wrote that led to my publisher requesting the full manuscript. I hope as you’re crafting your query letters, this letter will help you!

Dear Editors,
My novel, EMERSON PAGE AND WHERE THE LIGHT LEADS, is a young adult adventure novel that draws inspiration from Greek and Celtic mythology. Given your interest in publishing stories that push the boundaries, I thought Emerson’s story would be a fit. Per your submission guidelines, please find a brief synopsis and my bio below. 

Synopsis
Fifteen-year-old Emerson Page is committed to fulfilling her mother’s legacy— gain access to a fantastical underworld hidden below Dublin, Ireland where an ancient book authored by the Greek muses is being held hostage. A world-renowned anthropologist, her mother gave her life to protect this book because it contains the secrets to unlimited human creativity. In the hands of someone who wants to build a better world, this book is a priceless gift. In the hands of someone who seeks to control humanity, it’s a dangerous weapon.

With her two best friends and her service dog, Friday, Emerson sets out from her home in New York City in a race against a formidable enemy—a former family friend turned traitor with powerful gifts of his own who seeks the book for himself. Emerson and her friends face near-impossible physical, mental, and emotional struggles on their journey that push every limit they have. All the while, the clock is ticking. The window between this ancient world and their home is only open for twenty-four hours.

Publishing history
This is my second novel. Thumbkin Prints published my first novel, EMERSON PAGE AND WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS, in 2017. It received strong reviews and was featured by Kirkus Reviews and Midwest Book Review among others. It won several awards including: 2017 Nautilus Book Award for Young Adult Fiction (Silver), 2018 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal in Young Adult Adventure and the Wind Dancer Films Award, was one of 25 finalists out of 1,200 submissions the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition, winner of TopShelf Magazine Award for young adult mythology / fairy tale, was #1 on Coverfly’s THE RED LIST for 2019 Adventure Book Manuscripts, and remains at #5 on THE RED LIST two years later. I was also chosen as a featured speaker at the Virginia Festival of the Book in 2018. Unfortunately, Thumbkin Prints closed its doors due to recent financial hardship. Thankfully, all rights for my novel reverted back to me when they closed.

Bio
I write stories about women and girls who are underestimated and determined to rise. I have a career and life that melds my passion for storytelling, business, and scientific research in the field of biomimicry. A proud graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State University, my work focuses on collaboratively building products, services, and experiences that create a better world. I also have a deep love for discovering history’s hidden narratives, secrets, and perspectives.

I’ve been an invited speaker at SXSW, Games for Change, New York University, Columbia University, Cornell Tech, City University of New York, the Brooklyn Brainery, and Wildlife Conservation Society. My non-fiction writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Royal Media Partners publications, Pipeline Artists, The Biomimicry Institute’s Ask NatureThe Henry Ford magazine, Inside History, and Natural History Magazine. I was a producer for the PBS television series Live at 9:30 and am now a producer for Carnegie Hall’s digital media initiatives.

I began my career managing Broadway shows and national theater tours. I spent over a decade as a product leader in the technology industry. Now I’m the Founder of Double or Nothing Media, a company that provides product development services and the business strategies to bring those products to life. Powered by joy and curiosity, I live in New York City with my rescue dog, Phineas, and am equally inspired by ancient wisdom and modern technology. I share my never-ending curiosity on Twitter @christanyc, Instagram @christarosenyc, and my personal website, Curating a Creative Life, at christaavampato.com.  

Thank you for your time and consideration of my work. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely yours, 

Christa Avampato

choices

Inspired: I’m Proud of My Contradictions

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

I encourage authenticity in all people, and their right to make every choice that is right for them. It took me a long time to be proud of who I am at my core. I:
Love children and love love though I know the traditional family set up isn’t for me;
Grew up without enough and learned that I am enough;
Believe equally in the ancient wisdom of yoga and modern technology;
Am a New Yorker who lives in peace;
Am petite in stature and bold in personality;
Believe I have to be prepared to be lucky;
Have a plan and can let it go;
Am tough and fair, kind with a fierce sense of justice.
Who are you, contradictions and all? I’d love to hear from you!