The Heroine’s Journey of Tobey Hiller

What is the best thing I love about my work? Writing is ultimately a spiritual act—an act of connection in which the world’s texture seems to make you its sounding board —where I try to find a voice for, melt into, the complexities and landscape of the world within me and the world outside me via language, and then offer this to others. I feel both alive and absent from the usual ego when it goes well.

What is my idea of perfect happiness? I don’t think happiness is perfect—it varies, it comes and goes, the context of it changes throughout one’s life, even day to day. But one of my ideas of pretty perfect happiness is being with people I love, either family or good friends, laughing, talking, eating good food and drinking good wine. Another is lying on my back in soft grass gazing up at the sky through green leaves. Another is disappearing into art.

What is my greatest fear? It’s that fear, and the idea that the “other” (whoever we might think that is) is dangerous, will destroy us—our civilization and varied cultures, the other creatures who share this place with us, even the earth.

What is the trait I most deplore in myself? Ah well, different things at different times. Criticality about my work—which can also help. Too much engagement with solving insoluble problems. Being drawn in too many directions, and not putting my work at the top of the list.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? There are so many, both well-known and not. Of the very well-known, a few are Elena Ferrante, Jane Gardam, Robin Coste Lewis, Anne Carson, M.S. Merwin, Tomas Transtromer, Alice Munro. There are many, many more and I mention none of the wonderful writers and poets I know personally.

What is my greatest extravagance? Travel, perhaps. Volume-wise, though not the most expensive: books. And earrings. Can’t leave out earrings. Or bags and boots.

On what occasion would I lie? To save someone, particularly a child.

What is the thing that I dislike most in my work? When it’s bad.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I am usually happiest in my work when I am just writing, absorbed in it, and right after I’ve finished something and feel good about it. Had some moments of giddiness after my books came out and after I was short-listed for 2 short story prizes.

If I could, what would I change about myself? In terms of writing, I’d be more disciplined and regular about getting my work out into the world.

What is my greatest achievement in work? To have come far enough to begin to understand my own qualities as a writer.

Where would I most like to live? I’m glad to live in the Bay Area in California, though the current fires remind us all of the dangers of every landscape. I did always want to live for a while in Italy, but am glad that I live close to family.

What is my is my most treasured possession? Besides the love and well-being of the people close to me, my nature as a maker.

What is my most marked characteristic? Maybe alertness, which leads to all kinds of stuff, positive and negative—but this is for other people to answer.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Probably the liminal places, where city meets green, dry meets wet, hill meets bay, street meets sidewalk.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? There’s a pizza place on Diamond St. in San Francisco I just love, for the food and the good times with friends there, but I love too many restaurants, in too many places in the Bay Area, to say.

Who are my favorite writers? Woolf, Faulkner, Nooteboom, Borges, Austen, Conrad, Shakespeare, Stevens, Dickinson, WC Williams, Yeats, Hopkins, the Heian writers (a group of female Japanese poets in the 9th c. and following centuries who wrote in Japanese when Chinese was the official language of poetry), T.H. White, (The Once & Future King), and on and on. An eclectic bunch.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day? Bach.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Robin Hood for his social conscience and swashbuckle, (not so much the Sir Walter Scott Robin, but the guy that sneaked into various fictions, including the wonderful The History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey, another favorite book of mine), Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, my absolute heroine—ask any woman, and Robinson Crusoe for his fortitude and skills.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? All those people who stand up and speak out and those who reach out to help others.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Too many good ones. Maybe “Juliet of the Spirits” (Fellini).

What role does art play in my life and work? Arts of all kinds—dance, music, visual arts, literature & storytelling, conversation, cooking—are among the central experiences that make life worth living and help us do more than survive.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? There’s my husband, and also a bunch of good writer friends, though the crimes, whatever they may be, are all mine.

Whom would I like to work with in 2017? I’m not interested in collaborating right now, except in the sense of continuing my extremely rich and satisfying relations with writer friends.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Passion is a through-line of energy in life, carrying us forward. A form of love.

How can you contact me? , via Facebook, or at

My books: CHARLIE’S EXIT, a novel, and CROSSINGS, CERTAIN WEATHERS, and AQUEUCT, may be found on Amazon

My story “The Seventh Blue,” which was a finalist for the REYNOLDS-PRICE SHORT FICTION AWARD, may be read and heard on-line at

What follows is a message of Peter de Kuster,  the founder of the Heroine’s Journey

What is Your Story?

One Day Tour with Peter de Kuster  in the greatest bookstores of your favorite city. In Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Berlin, London and Amsterdam we offer this unique What is your Story? experience.  To (re) write your story about yourself and your work. In the process transforming your capacity to successfully have the creative life and work you love. 

In this journey, Peter de Kuster,  founder of The Heroine’s Journey explores with you the way we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves — and, most important, the way we can change those stories to transform our creative business and life.

“Your story is your art, your art is your story,” says Peter. As human beings, we continually tell ourselves stories — of success or failure; of power or victimhood; stories that endure for an hour, or a day, or an entire lifetime. We have stories about our creative challenges, our art, our clients, our money, our self promotion, our time, our families and relationships, our health; about what we want and what we’re capable of achieving. Yet, while our stories profoundly affect how others see us and we see ourselves, too few of us even recognize that we’re telling stories, or what they are, or that we can change them — and, in turn, transform our very destinies.

Telling ourselves stories provides structure and direction as we navigate life’s challenges and opportunities, and helps us interpret our goals and skills. Stories make sense of chaos; they organize our many divergent experiences into a coherent thread; they shape our entire reality. And far too many of our stories, says Peter, are dysfunctional, in need of serious editing. First, he asks you to answer the question, “In which areas of my creative life and business is it clear that I cannot achieve my goals with the story I’ve got?” He then shows you how to create new, reality-based stories that inspire you to action, and take you where you want to go both in your work and personal life.

Our capacity to tell stories is one of our profoundest gifts. Peter’s approach to creating deeply engaging stories will give you the tools to wield the power of storytelling and forever change your creative business and life.

Become a great Storyteller

That’s why I set up What is your Story? service in the great cities of the world and their great bookstores. A new way to use the power of your story.  To guide you to life-changing, eye-opening but often elusive works of literature, both past and present, the books of fiction that truly have the power to enchant, enrich and inspire.

In two days with Peter de Kuster you’ll explore your relationship with books so far and your unique story identity will be sketched. You will be guided to books that can put their finger on what you want to rewrite in your story, the feelings that you may often have had but perhaps never understood so clearly before; books that open new perspectives and re-enchant the world for you.

You will be asked to complete a questionnaire in advance of your session and you’ll be given an instant story advice and books to read to take away. Your full story advice and books to read list will follow within a couple of days.


What Can I Expect?

Here’s an outline of the WHAT IS YOUR STORY? journey.

Journey Outline


  • What is your Story?
  • Are you even trying to tell a Story?
  • Old Stories  (stories about you, your art, your clients, your money, your self promotion, your happiness, your health)
  • Tell your current Story
  • Is this Really Your Story?


  • The Premise of your Story. The Purpose of your Life and Art
  • The words on your tombstone
  • You ultimate mission, out loud
  • The Seven Great Plots
  • The Twelve Archetypal Heroines
  • The One Great Story
  • Purpose is Never Forgettable
  • Questioning the Premise
  • Lining up
  • Flawed Alignment, Tragic Ending
  • The Three Rules in Storytelling
  • Write Your New Story


  • Turning your story into action
  • The Story Effect
  • Story Ritualizing
  • The Storyteller and the art of story
  • The Power of Your Story
  • Storyboarding your creative process
  • They Created and Lived Happily Ever After


The “What is your Story?” one day fee is Euro 995 excluding VAT per person

Questions? Contact Peter de Kuster at 0031 6 33661772 or mail him at




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