The Heroine’s Journey of Marcia Butler

What is the best thing that I love about my work?  I love being in charge of my creative output. As a writer, my limits are strictly within my mind, my command of the English language, and my imagination. This is unique to many creative endeavors, including music and interior design, which are professions I worked in for many years. Writing feels unfettered and free.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?   I have a difficult time with the concept of happiness. I am closest to this when I am unaware of feeling anything that is a specific mood – more like a state of neutrality – neither great nor negative. Somehow, I don’t trust the extremes.

What is my greatest fear?   I’m afraid I’ll be discovered as a fraud.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?   At my lowest, I am snarky. If I feel that I am not a member of a club that would never include me in the first place, I tend to be dismissive.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? I admire Richard Russo for his writing about deep hearted and flawed people in small towns, and his generosity to other writers. And Elizabeth Strout for the complex heroines in her books and her own heroism to keep persevering in her career throughout the years.

What is my greatest extravagance?   Lying in bed watching old TV shows. A lot. But I secretly consider this a necessity – not an indulgence.

On what occasion would I lie?  I tell people lies to spare their feelings. But that’s a good thing.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?  The ironic thing about being a writer is that I have 100% control over my words and almost 0% control over my ability to get published. That gap is maddening and bewildering at times. I just try to be the best writer I can be. That is where my truth and integrity reside.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?  I love being alone in a European city (Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Geneva) and hunkering down to write 8 hours a day. I try to do this once a year. There’s something about having a foreign language all around me that is exotic and inspiring. It causes me to come to terms with the fact that I am alone with my writing, which is where I must be.

If I could, what would I change about myself?  I wish I was less sensitive. We all suffer from this, but my personal struggle is more than most people realize because I hide it very well by presenting as extremely social and confident.

What is my greatest achievement in work?  As a writer, publishing my memoir The Skin Above My Knee with Little, Brown. As a musician, performing the Elliott Carter Oboe Concerto. As an Interior Designer, renovating and furnishing an historic Boston Brownstone.

Where would I most like to live?  Right here in NYC, which is where I have lived since 1973. Second choice is Amsterdam.

What is my most treasured possession? I am not attached to things at all, though I enjoy looking at the art work in my home. My most treasured possession is within my brain – my imagination and my capacity to harness it.

What is my most marked characteristic? They say I am funny. They say I am disciplined. I’m not sure which is most dominant or useful.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?  The Metropolitan Opera, where I see about 20 productions a year. When I am seated inside that hall, I feel most myself. Plus, Best Entertainment EVER.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? I love Rosa Mexicano opposite Lincoln Center after a performance. This is the best comfort food after listening to great singers and an incredible orchestra. I just want to fill my belly! And a few glasses of red wine too!

What books influenced my life and how? Junot Diaz – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, for voice and the brilliance of personal and historical trajectory. All of Philip Roth’s novels have given me so much joy through the years and I was devastated when he announced retirement from writing. I miss him.

Who are my favorite writers? Raymond Carver. Jonathon Dee. Junot Diaz. Toni Morrison. Alice Munro. Philip Roth. Richard Russo. Elizabeth Strout. Nancy Zafris.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? The Liebestod by Richard Wagner from the opera Tristan und Isolde. (See my memoir – The Skin Above My Knee!)

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Mrs. Dalloway – “She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.” Virginia Woolf

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? The artist Chuck Close is someone whose work I revere and would dearly love to meet and interview. Gloria Steinem – from Playboy bunny to rock star feminist.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?  Godfather 1 and 2

What role plays art in my life and work? I am extremely visually oriented and go to museums all the time. I’m lucky because NYC has many and seeing art seems to help me think in an expansive way, which informs my writing deeply.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?   My book agents have been a shining beacon for me throughout the last few years because they believe so fully in my talent. I actually believe them once in a while.

Whom would I like to work with in 2017?  I’d love to write an essay about super star opera singers at The Met Opera. Joyce Di Donato. Christine Georke. Anna Netrebko.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017? I’d love to meet Elizabeth Strout. (Is it obvious how much I admire this woman?) I hear she lives near me.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?  I am just about to start my next novel which is set in Maine and has to do with moose meat road kill.

Where can you see me or my work in 2017? My memoir, The Skin Above My Knee, is available in some indie book stores and of course on good old Amazon. And I am all over You Tube as an author and an oboist and an interior designer and as the creator of videos on You Tube about The Creative Imperative.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?  As long as I remain compos mentis, I will drum up some passion.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?  Geeta Kothari! She is a writer who had a wonderful collection released this year – I Brake For Moose.

How can you contact me?



You can find my book at via this link:

The Skin Above My Knee – A Memoir from Little, Brown 

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

What is Your Story?

Two 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?” fee is Euro 2.495 excluding VAT for a private tour with a small group of 1 or 2 people.

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



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