~ Izumi Shikibu
When Brian and I met at a dinner in 2015, it never occurred to either one of us that we would begin a life together. I had no inclination to step away from the world of academia I’d dedicated myself to for 20 years, and he was the artist of StoryPeople, already three years in to a contentious divorce that lasted until just yesterday...
Yet here we are. Beginning again. From scratch… here at Flying Edna. Creating a new company together.
This morning I think of a dear friend from South Africa… She and I met in a stairwell in 1999 at a conference in NYC, and have been like sisters ever since. Two years ago her car was burgled in a grocery store parking lot while she was inside buying milk. She lost irreplaceable intellectual property she’d spent years creating and didn’t have the money to replace the lost digital equipment. When she calmly told me the details, I asked her if she was ok, and she said something like, “I’m fine. This is South Africa. What happens to one of us happens to all of us. Why would I expect to be spared of the violence of spirit that is happening in my country to so many people…” This was her response. No anger, no blame, only compassion and understanding for the larger whole.
That Brian would lose the company he built and fed, is one thing. But to lose 19 years of copyrights to someone who had nothing to do with their creation is quite another. To separate the work from the living artist... to lose control of how your name goes out into the world... As a fellow artist, this seems improbable.
But, blatant lies are passed off as truth not only in our legal system, but all over the country right now.
He is fighting this, but currently this is the way things stand. Because there is nothing posted on the StoryPeople website that lets people know Brian no longer has any personal or financial relationship with StoryPeople, we are taking the time to clearly state that here.
As I think of my friend and breathe deeply. I summon her grace and expanded heart.
This is my country. What happens to one of us happens to all of us.
Our country is much bigger than this drama we're entangled in. And while we must continue to be authentic and speak up, what's equally important is to keep in motion towards the life we wish to live. Each of us gets to choose the stories we believe about any given moment in time. And while we may be surprised by something in life, the shock can be an opportunity to reframe something in an entirely new way, one that leads towards a life you love...
always in motion,
(added as of Sept 13, 2019)
Why air something so personal? Brian didn't just run a company, he created relationships with individuals that have followed his work for over 25 years. That was Brian who wrote all those stories and drew all the illustrations. Not a company. Not his family. It's like the stories he writes now. Though Yoshi and I live a life together alongside him, the words and heart of Brian's work belong to him. They will never be mine or Flying Edna's.
It is dishonest for StoryPeople to suddenly say, after 25 years, that there is a "style" that belongs to anyone other than Brian. The sons have very clearly stated in writing to their father they wish to have nothing to do with him. To promote they are stepping forward in his footsteps is ethically questionable. We can only think that this new story is to justify his sons copying his style without his permission. (here are Brian's thoughts on this).
The outcome of a divorce is one thing, fighting to maintain your reputation and rebrand your work after 25 years of SEO is quite another, especially when there is disingenuous marketing done by family members.
None of this ridiculous drama is your business, and yet, at the end of the day, businesses are simply people doing a particular thing in the world.
Narratives matter. Actions matter more.
p.s. Always attribute – never claim another’s words as your own. Even if you change just a few, the thought and heart, philosophy and insight is not yours. It is the original artist that was so accurate in a moment to inspire something so familiar, you thought it came from you. It didn’t. Attribute. Demand it of others… it will help people speak more freely if they know their words will not be taken.