We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalie Fedak and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Natalie, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Storytelling is the most magical form of real life alchemy. With nothing more than curiosity and imagination, storytellers can activate very real chemicals in listeners’ brains (feelings and thoughts) and create entire worlds and experiences within the mind, experiences that can feel as potent and as meaningful as events in real life. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. So, I suppose you could say I pursued storytelling as a career because I wanted to learn about magic. I wanted to know how to use it, how it works, and what it can do, which is, as it turns out, quite a lot.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My debut work as a writer was called “Riverdance,” and it was a graphic novel I wrote when I was seven about my Beanie Babies’ tumultuous adventures as Irish Dancers. It received glowing reviews from Natalie’s Mom Magazine, and boosted my recognition as an emerging child writer among second graders in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. As with many artists who find sudden success, the rush of fame went to my head, and I did not produce new works for many years.

In high school, my love of writing resurfaced and I began writing screenplays. I moved to Bellingham, Washington in order to pursue a creative writing degree from Western Washington University. There, my first feature length script was reviewed by Mike Petryni, writer of Moonlighting and Angel Flight Down, who rated it “garbage.” My second feature length screenplay was received as “not completely awful,” and my third screenplay was deemed “actually on the right track.” With such praise, I unleashed myself on the low-budget film community of Bellingham and made several silly short films, an award winning documentary called 3022ft, and co-wrote the audio drama Sight Unseen for Wondery Productions. In 2017 I wrote a short script called “Luna” that won rave reviews from the Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival, and spurred an offer to join a writing team in Hollywood. It was the opportunity I’d been waiting for! All those years of hard work would finally pay off!

But I turned it down. Because in all that hustle and bustle to win the game of art and creativity, I lost track of the joy. I lost the wonder of the seven-year-old me that spent hours and hours writing about tap dancing Beanie Babies. Writing and creativity had become about the success, about money, about recognition… not about the relationship to wonder, which is, to me, the heart of all art. And, on top of that, I didn’t like the stories I was seeing in Hollywood. I was an emerging gender-queer baby gay, and I didn’t see any hope for someone like me in the social hierarchy of LA. So I said screw it, and went on my own Hero’s Journey.

I applied to be a Quest Leader for Majestic Adventures LLC, a live-action-role-play camp for kids that uses storytelling and swashbuckling with foam swords to teach children 21st century skills. As a quest leader, I play every character the kids meet, every monster they battle, and serve as their guide through epic struggles, both in game, and in real life. It was through this work that I learned about the power of Non-Violent Communication, and started to see how so many stories in our culture depend upon toxic, manipulative and immature methods of communication to function. I grew disenchanted with stories like Harry Potter, in which the adults are so blatantly authoritarian and dismissive towards children, and how it’s treated as standard. That doesn’t have to be the standard. No it does not.

After an amazing summer diving into the playfulness of live storytelling and experiencing the raw power of children’s imaginations, I packed a bag and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. I wandered around the UK, Ireland and Norway trading work for room and board. I became a tall ship sailor, I learned how to weave baskets, how to make hard cider, how to socialize with disgruntled Danish opera singers, and, most importantly, how to muck out a cow-pen. I never would have expected to find catharsis while standing knee deep in cow s**t, but the world works in mysterious ways.

When I returned from Europe, I resumed Quest Leading and began Quest Writing, and once more found purpose, passion and play in writing and performance. I became Quest Coordinator in 2019, and spent several years updating the fantasy world in which all quests take place, making it more inclusive and removing the colonial, sexist and racist elements that have traditionally been par for the course in fantasy writing. It was my mission that every child who comes to our programs knows they have a valuable, valid and important place in the world, and that they have agency, no matter who they are.

That mission became so important to me that I created “Allie Odds and the Allie Odds Squad,” a fantasy podcast aimed at delivering the same message of worthiness, empowerment and love to a broader audience. I perform over 60 voices in season one, including a goat, and I offer live in-person readings whenever I release new episodes. It’s been a blast and a half for sure.

Season One of Allie Odds can be found on all major podcast apps and Season Two is on the way! (It’s written under my pen-name, Leighona Cara.) I’d love for the show to be turned into a book series someday, and I have a Patreon page to gather funds for potential self-publication. How glorious it would be to place a bound copy of Allie Odds beside “Riverdance,” with some twenty-odd years between them.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite place in Bellingham is Taylor Dock, a little floating public dock on the bay. It’s my favorite swimming spot, and when it’s really windy and stormy you can stand on it and surf the waves.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Much of my story mojo has been cultivated by working as a Quest Leader for Majestic Adventures in Bellingham, Washington, where I lead groups of kids on live-action-role-play adventures in the woods. As a Quest Leader, I play every character the kids meet, every monster they battle, and serve as their guide through epic struggles, both in game, and in real life. For the last three years I edited and wrote the stories we use at our programs, and between Quest Leading and Quest Writing, I learned more about writing, storytelling and improv than I ever did from years of studying creative writing and theatre in college. My boss at MA, Harper Stone, and the originator of our questing system, Mark Hoge, completely changed how I engage with storytelling, and taught me the sacred importance of working with and listening to children. Children always tell the most important stories.

Website: www.allieodds.com

Instagram: @leighonacara

Facebook: Natalie Fedak

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN3H4xcSYNo0Is3pUfKAvng

Other: patreon.com/allieodds youtube channel for Storytime with Leighona Cara: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-WLn7nLmP3_7CZls5iLXIg

Image Credits
Kellen Lynch, Harper Stone, Sage Romey

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