I’ve never fallen in love over the internet, but I’ve fallen in major like. With a voice. April Elliott Kent’s voice. April’s often wry, bravely honest and hearty essays at BigSkyAstrology had me at hello. Now I’ve had a major crush on another lady Leo writer, too, so what is it about Leo writers?! April says, I think Leo has a gift for telling their own story in a way that helps other people see themselves in it, and inspires them to tell their own story. April & I have yet to meet, which neither of us can believe (she just informed me she is coming to San Francisco in June 2012!!) but I am always happy to promote her work and her second book, The Essential Guide to: Practical Astrology, published this summer by Penguin, gives me another excuse to love on April. Without further adieu, below: April reveals her celebrity astro-twin, secret moon practice, and offers advice to those trying to make the leap from technically correct interpretations to chart synthesis. Practically, of course.
J: You know I’m a big fan of your blog BigSky. Your essays always have an easygoing, no-nonsense style; it makes sense you’d write the book on Practical Astrology! Specifically, I love the personal stories and scenarios in your writing. What self-attributes, astrological & otherwise, most influenced your book –and your astrological approach?
A: Like everyone, I contain multitudes! There is an April who works fast, cracks wise, and tries to be entertaining and emotionally engaging; call it the Sun in Leo and Moon in Gemini. There is one who is thoughtful and philosophical (that’s my three million planets in the ninth house), and one who is pragmatic, detail-oriented, and handles the proofreading (Mars, Pluto, and Midheaven in Virgo). They all make appearances on my blog, in my work, and throughout this book, which reflects my personality to a degree that I wouldn’t have dared hope when I began writing it!
J: The back cover of your book says, “The beauty of astrology is that it doesn’t require a crystal ball to be useful. Once you learn the language of astrology, it make perfect, practical sense.” I get a lot out of observing the sign and house the moon is transiting in my chart, and the value of knowing that when the moon is in the 6th knowing I’ll be working and when the moon is in the 8th, I’ll want to spend more time alone. In that vein I appreciate your Monthly & Yearly Planner chapters with instructions on flowing with the moving planets. How do you use astrology in your daily life?
A: Because I do a lot of electional astrology, which involves looking at dates in the future, I can usually tell you the best time to do something two years from now while having no idea where the Moon is today! I keep my trusty Pocket Astrologer on my desk for reference, though, and I do try to avoid booking readings when the Moon is void of course and to hold off on sending important communications until the Moon is approaching a good aspect. I keep track of the New Moon and try to find a minute for some kind of ritual. And like you, I’ve learned a few things peculiar to my own chart, such as when I’m likely to be quiet and want some downtime (when the Moon is in Scorpio and my 12th house) or need to avoid being baited into fights (when Mars crosses my Sun or Midheaven). Just little things that make the days flow a little more gently.
J: I was just listening to an author interview and the interviewer asked the author what inspired that best-selling book. She replied, It was romantic. I was in love with a man and wanted to give him the tools I had only stored inside my head, but he had to go on a long trip-so I wrote them down. I thought it was such a cool question, I’m going to ask you this same: When you were writing this book, what or who inspired you?
A: I would love to be able to give a romantic reply like that. But honestly, my greatest inspiration in writing this book was that it sounded like such a challenge. When I first spoke with the publisher about it, it sounded like a completely impossible task to write a decent 400+ page book, covering so many astrological bases, in only two and a half months! Of course, dangling an impossible task at someone with Mars in the tenth house is like waving the proverbial red flag in a bull’s face. So before I really thought about what I was getting myself into, I was all, “Challenge accepted!” And once I was in the thick of it, I admit that I didn’t feel inspired by much other than sheer, unadulterated panic.
J: Because it’s well organized and accessible, I can imagine Practical Astrology being used as a teaching tool; with birth chart in hand, anyone reading the book front to
back would have a solid working knowledge of astrology. My stepdaughters, who adore looking at the birth charts of friends and love interests, are your perfect target market! Yet there’s an art to synthesis, and moving from astrological information to a live human being is a leap. What would you say to someone who has a basic knowledge of astrology, but they aren’t sure how to reconcile all of the contradictions and influences and tie it all together?
A: You’re right – it’s this “fuzzy” dimension of astrology that really throws students when they prepare to make that leap. Because as you rightly suggest, synthesis is an art – and no one can teach you to be an artist. But in astrology, as in any art, you need a good grounding in basic technique before you are able to go a step further and find an artistic voice.
So before you begin reading for people, make sure you’ve gotten a good grounding in astrology’s basics. If you’ve never studied with a teacher, treat yourself to some classes. Leaping into reading for real people is scary enough without feeling insecure about your training! A good teacher will help walk you through the synthesis and get comfortable with speaking the language, reconciling contradictions, and identifying the most important themes in the chart.
The rest, you’ll learn by doing. Just remember that, as the old saying goes, “The map is not the territory.” It’s more than astrology that shapes the person sitting across from you. It’s a set of life circumstances and choices that can’t necessarily be predicted in detail from looking at the chart alone. There are some things you can’t know – such as a person’s level of self-awareness and insight – until you actually speak to them.
And finally, it’s okay to ask questions! Saying to a client, “On the one hand your chart suggests this; on the other hand, it gives this message – how do you see this playing out in your life?” is totally valid!
J: Finally, to satisfy my own curiosity: If a Jupiterian benefactor gave you an extremely large chunk of money to write a book about anything of your choosing, astrological or non, what would that book be about?
A: I’m an essayist at heart – a sprinter, not a marathon runner. So if I could write any book I wanted … Well, I share a birthday with the late great Sydney Omarr, who, appropriately for a Leo, wrote a book called “My World of Astrology.” I think something like that, a kind of astrological memoir – a collection of essays – would speak to me most. Not because my life is so singularly fascinating – I assure you, it’s not – but because I think Leo has a gift for telling their own story in a way that helps other people see themselves in it, and inspires them to tell their own story. At least, that’s what I’m counting on!