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Creating without Limits

English Reading Series presenter Maira Kalman inspires creators.

Author and artist Maira Kalman was the guest speaker for the November 16, 2022, English Reading Series (ERS). Globally renowned for her diverse creative projects, Kalman has won many awards for her work and been asked to give several talks, including TED Talks. Kalman finds daily inspiration in the world around her and uses that to produce beautiful and unique works. Artists struggling with improving their craft, finding their niche or voice, or weathering any perceived failure can find a lot of comfort in Kalman’s style of inspiration and creativity.

Kalman shared some of her recent and more significant works with ERS-goers. She talked about a couple of her illustrated books, Bed and Women Holding Things, her museum exhibit of her mother’s closet (called Sara Berman’s Closet), and her short film My Name is Alice B. Tolkas. With each work, she gave her thoughts on and experiences with the creative process.

When describing the creative process, she said, “It’s not about getting it right. It’s about getting it.” When trying to brainstorm to find out what that “it” is, if you blurt out something that seems ridiculous, that’s what you should listen to. “If nobody stops you from being incoherent, be incoherent as much as you can.” Kalman further encouraged writers that they don’t have to have limits with their genre, medium, or content, encouraged Kalman.

Kalman discussed how it’s also important to not be afraid, but that it is impossible to never be afraid. She said, “I’m afraid you will be afraid, but try not to be afraid all of the time.” Kalman assured her audience that if they find what inspires them and they keep trying, they’ll find what they want to say. It might take a long time; it took Kalman 50 years of not giving up. But she said, “You’ll either do it or you won’t. You’ll either stick to it or not stick to it. Keep on keeping on.” She encouraged her audience to stay daydreamers, to express themselves even if that expression isn’t positive, and to “persevere, persevere, persevere.”

If her words resonate with you—if you feel that little spark of creativity—and you want more, you can look at some of Kalman’s work on her website,, or come be inspired at future English Reading Series presentations. Find the schedule at

open book with "a little space to be creative" written at the top of the page.