The Cut called her The Millennial Oprah, Fast Company named her one of the country’s 100 Most Creative People of 2017, and with featured articles and photoshoots in Elle, Time, and Entertainment Weekly, it is clear: Cleo Wade is not your average “Instagram poet.” A self-proclaimed social activist, poet, artist and storyteller, Wade isn’t just an online personality who wrote a book to cash in on her celebrity. For her, this comes from the heart and her words of inspiration and advice are anything but run-of-the-mill; they’re art that speaks to both your mind and your soul.
Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life (Atria/37 INK), Wade’s first book, is a poetry collection that reads more like you’re having a personal conversation with a close friend. In fact, that is what Wade told Elle magazine she wants this book to be— your best friend. One of the most anticipated books of 2018, upon release, Heart Talk quickly became a #1 New Release on Amazon.
Cleo Wade talked with BookTrib about the inspiration for her book, the one quote she wishes she had written, the best advice she’s ever been given, and what it means to be a social activist in an ever-changing world.
BookTrib: What was the spark— the thing that made you say, ‘I have to write this book, I have to write it this way and I have to write it now?’
Cleo Wade: At the time I was writing this book, every publisher that we spoke to in the selling process really just wanted a book of poetry. They all felt as though poetry was having “a moment” and wanted me to compile previous works into a book and get it out into the world as soon as possible to capitalize on that moment. I didn’t want to do that. It was important for me that my first book was not only beautiful but also useful. I wanted to put a tool out into the world. I feel like I know really intimately what people are going through and how alone they feel in some of those feelings and I wanted to write the book that spoke to them and could be apart of their healing journey.
BookTrib: There’s so much wisdom here. How did you decide what to include, and what to leave out?
CW: I could have written this book forever! Everyday, I was inspired by either my own experience or one of my friends or someone I overheard on the subway, and wanted to write a new page in the book. I think the thing about writing this type of book is that you feel like it is never really done. A big part of the process for me was allowing myself to release it.
BookTrib: You write with such intimacy; it’s all very personal like imparting a part of yourself on each page. What is your writing process? Were there any unexpected complications when you were writing?
CW: I would have very intensely emotional writing days. Writing a book is the ultimate collaboration with oneself. I didn’t drink alcohol, coffee or eat heavy foods during most of the process as I was so sensitive to any physical feeling that prohibited me from connecting with myself. On days where I was waiting for new ideas to come or chasing after them in my imagination, I had to be the most focused so that’s when I exercised the most discipline in my lifestyle choices, which I didn’t expect would be necessary. The most complicated part of creating the book was probably figuring out the flow of how the book would read. I really wanted it to be a book that the reader could pick up at any page or read front to back so I had to be really intentional when putting the pages in order. There were many days where my entire apartment was covered in pages from ‘Heart Talk.’
BookTrib: Of all the advice you’ve given and the advice you’ve received, what has been the best and most impactful?
CW: There is a page from the book inspired by something my friend Drew Katz said to me, that reads “If you are a grateful for where you are, you have to respect the road that got you there.” That is a mantra I work with daily and has deeply helped me with self forgiveness. One of the hardest things for people to do is forgive themselves for who they were 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or even 10 minutes ago. Because humans are these ever evolving beings, we live many lives in our lifetime and it can be so difficult not to hold shame in who we were or how we thought in our past.
BookTrib: This is your first book. What has this experience been like for you?
CW: I really wrote this book to be a vehicle for me to be able to meet my audience and get to know them in real life. Touring the book and meeting all of the people who are allowing the work to be apart of their lives is so rewarding for me. I truly love it. I am so inspired by their stories.
BookTrib: Let’s talk about activism for a minute – you are incredibly active not only on platforms where you talk about social activism, but you are a physical presence at rallies, protests, panels, and more. For people who are just starting to become politically active, what advice do you have for them?
CW: Be flexible with what activism looks like to you. Maybe you are the person who likes to be at a march, or maybe big crowds make you nervous, so finding an organization where you can make calls for candidates that stand by your principles is better. Maybe there are days where you are able to spend your entire day doing service work, or maybe the most you can do that day is pick up a piece of trash on your block or smile at your neighbor. Maybe you are someone who wants to call themselves an activist, or maybe not. It is important not to let the way other people participate make you feel overwhelmed. No one can do everything but there is always something you can do.
BookTrib: The Cut called you “The Millennial Oprah.” What was your reaction upon hearing that?
CW: I am bright red just thinking about it.
BookTrib: Is there a book or quote that you wish you had written, not just for this book, but in general?
CW: “When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses,” that’s from JFK.
BookTrib: What is the one message you want people to carry with them after reading Heart Talk?
CW: You are not alone. You are not alone in how you are thinking; you are not alone in how you are feeling. And, you are not alone in your fears.
For information on Cleo Wade’s book tour, visit her website at www.cleowade.com.
Watch ”Want To Change the World? Start By Being Brave Enough to Care: Cleo Wade’s TED Talk and poetry reading:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cleo Wade works to promote a more peaceful, loving, and accepting world for all through poetry, community building, storytelling and her uplifting social media presence. Cleo believes that kindness is easier than you think, bravery belongs to all of us, and love is something we all deserve. Cleo has been featured in Elle, W, Fast Company, Essence and a host of other magazines.