Broken Pieces

Carla Woody – What Inspired Me to Write Portals to the Vision Serpent

What Inspired Me to Write Portals to the Vision Serpent

by Carla Woody

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a coming-of-age novel, a young man’s journey into shamanism and the Maya world on a quest to find himself. Here’s a quick synopsis.

Preston never felt he belonged, like many of us. He feels an ongoing sense of isolation and longing for connection. He doesn’t have strong ties, except to the invisible realm—and he can’t share that with others. He doesn’t really know who he is. The not knowing is painful. He begins to recall memories of early childhood when Mama Luna, a brown-skinned woman, cared for him after his father disappeared, and his mother began her frequent absences. Mama Luna opened him to things his heart calls out for now. But she vanished long ago. The story moves back and forth from childhood to present-day as Preston seeks to resolve his ever-present discomfort, and to discover his origins and path in life. His is an initiation journey, carried by faith, to fill the gaping hole left by not knowing his people, even as they insistently call to him.

My inspiration for the story actually came first out of my own search—and then the lifework that resulted from it. So parts of the story have been with me for many years. The themes I drew on are self-discovery, family genealogy, travel as a spiritual journey, and the importance of indigenous traditions.

Through circumstances and family secrets, I didn’t know my own lineage. It left a hole. I was drawn to Native American traditions even as a young child, long before I knew why or even much about the cultures. In later years after, having met many indigenous people, I noticed that they’d identify their village and clans going back a few generations. I’d been told the purpose was to offer any mutual connections. But it’s also a clear statement of identity and place in the world that gives them strength. Hearing these introductions always stirred a yearning in me. Strangely, when I was writing the novel, some things unfolded fairly quickly, giving me many of the answers to my own questions. I wrote about it on my blog in a post called
Lineage: Calling on the Ancestors.

I’ve been mentoring people for over twenty years on how to live through their deeply held values. Most people don’t. I had to come to that myself. Depending on how out of sync you are, it can cause great emotional turmoil and feelings of loss. One of the things I offer are spiritual travel programs visiting sacred sites and ceremonies with Native leaders and healers who serve their own communities. Over many years of travel, I’ve been fortunate to build relationships with such people who offer themselves as powerful conduits. It takes a lot of courage for travelers to engage that way. When you put daily life on hold and drop yourself into an unfamiliar environment, you can rediscover what you forgot. It’s life-changing. The novel shadows Preston as he goes through this process.

In 2007, I formed Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a nonprofit organization. Our mission is about preserving indigenous traditions that are in danger of extinction. I donate ten percent of profits from all my books to help support our projects. I’ve personally witnessed the wide occurrence of acts done again Native people and the land they value. I really wanted to bring greater awareness to these issues. So a number of these calamities appear in the book.

I started the novel about ten years ago but set it aside. The ideas would go away for a long time and then visit me again. Each time they were more formed as my own experiences in Mayalands became richer over the years. When I finally sat down in late 2011 to finish what I started, Preston, Mama Luna and all the major and supporting characters came rushing out with full voice.

What are your inspirations for writing? Let me know in the comments below.


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Preston Johns Cadell is tormented. He attempts to outrun discontent and the void in his heart. His mother is hardly around. His father’s origins and disappearance are shrouded by family secrets. His sole remembrance of his father is flying through the stars nestled in his arms.

Any comfort Preston derives is from an unseen advisor who teaches him of the invisible world. Now he is coming of age. Memories arrive from long ago when a brown-skinned woman cared for him. But she, too, vanished. Finding the buried remains of his father’s altar, Preston must answer the draw to his destiny, to discover his lineage–even though he has no idea how or where it will lead him.

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a Hero’s Journey into the realms of shamanism and the Maya world. Interwoven are the struggles of indigenous peoples to preserve their way of life and tragedies that often come from misunderstandings. Through a family saga of dark wounds and mystery, spiritual healing unfolds.

The author donates 10% of profits from book sales to Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a 501(c)3 nonprofit she founded whose mission is to help preserve Native traditions in danger of decimation.

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Genre –  Fiction / Coming of Age / Historical

Rating – PG

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