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A new feminism: Author Elle Luna wants women (and men, too) to find their power to tell their story at SXSW

Nicole Villalpando

Artist, author Elle Luna is trying to create feminine power one woman at a time with her new book “Your Story Is Your Power: Free Your Feminine Voice,” (Workman Publishing, $17.95), which she co-authored with author and psychotherapist Susie Herrick.

The book takes women through three different parts of their world that might be holding them back. The first is the water they are swimming in: All those messages, those advertisements, those rap lyrics, those movies, that tell women that they are less than men. The second is their family story that might inform how they view the roles of women and men. The third is their own personality and how the nine Enneagram personality types might be leading women to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Luna will talk about the book and lead participants through a conversation about how we think about women in her talk named after the book at 9:30 a.m. Monday, room 10AB at the Austin Convention Center.

Luna was approached by her editor to write the book, which came out last week, in response to the 2016 election and the 2017 Women’s March. Women have continued to speak out in the ensuing months. “It is exciting,” she says. “Emma (González) in Florida standing on the front steps saying, ‘ENOUGH!’ … and Tarana Burke and the Me Too movement … She recognized that women need a safe place to share stories of sexual abuse and harassment.”

“We’ve really been looking at the stories we tell ourselves,” Luna says. She benefited, personally, from Herrick’s wisdom that comes from being about two decades older than her.  “We were both stuck in similar ways in our lives at different times,” Luna says. “She had been down this path.”

Luna, who grew up in Dallas, has a bachelor’s degree in English and art history from Vanderbilt University and a master’s of fine art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She spent her early career doing design for tech startups in Silicon Valley before she rented out a warehouse in 2013 and began painting again. In addition to being an author, Luna organizes #The100DayProject, which invites people to do something creative for 100 days and post it beginning April 3. About a million people in 65 countries have done so — everything from art work to embroidery to vegan cooking.

Luna definitely taps into her artwork for this book. It mixes words with artwork and painted words of quotes from famous people. Luna was inspired by Instagram and the way that people scan for information and are drawn to images. She sees it as a book that appeals 50 percent to the left side of the brain and 50 percent to the right side. It’s one that can be scanned, then glanced at, then read, then delved into more deeply depending on what you are ready to get out of it.

It’s for teenage girls and mature women, too.

The book uses the symbol of a labyrinth for discovering your power — which Luna and Herrick think of as electricity rather than strength or dominance over another person.

The labyrinth has two parts, the spiral and the meandering. The spiral represents going inside of yourself deeper and deeper and then coming back out. The meandering is the process of discovering. It’s very rarely a straight line.

“This book is how do we create that safe space internally where we can get really close to the water we are all swimming in and begin to wake up and flip on the light.”

For Luna, it’s the idea of when you find your power and work on the internal, then you can work on the external.

“In my own experience, when I stopped taking it internally, like hell was I going to take it externally.”

Working on the internal, that’s what helps women speak up. “That is what changes everything,” she says.

It’s figuring out why you get stuck in the ways you get stuck. She likens it to bowling and the book is the bumpers that help you avoid rolling a gutter ball. It helps you see where you want to go and helps you get there rather than making the same mistakes over and over again and winding up in the gutter again.

For Luna, it was about working on the voice in her head and how she talked to herself. Now she tells herself: “You need to say something nice to me, be my advocate.”

Sometimes the labyrinth can feel like taking two steps forward and 20 steps back, she says. “I’m still in the labyrinth.”

“Your Story Is Your Power” looks at the messages we are telling our girls and our boys. It looks at the fairy tales of Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty & the Beast. “What are we really telling girls, that they have to be beautiful housekeepers, slender and demure, get the prince and become the queen?”

While the book focuses on the messages girls receive, Luna also recognizes that boys are also receiving messages, too. One friend told her about being taunted as a 10-year-old when he recognized the beauty of a sunset and pointed it out to two friends. The response was “Who are you, a girl?” “Girl” was a derogatory term.

The men who have showed up at events for the book have expressed sadness for what they recognize the women in their lives have gone through, she says. Luna recalls one man who was from Israel and told a story about being in a synagogue where only the men could turn the Torah scroll’s rollers. When a friend’s daughter ran forward to try to touch the Torah, she was yelled at. He told the story with tears in his eyes because he knew the message that that girl had received.

For women, Luna wants them to work on the internal, but also help lift up fellow women. Right now her goal is to get more women to vote by helping to make sure their friends are registered, by helping to take people to the polls to vote.

“How do we stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough’? Now we’re not going to be quiet and be cute. We’re going to rock the boat until we right the ship.”

“Your Story Is Your Power: Free Your Feminine Voice”

9:30 a.m. Monday

Austin Convention Center 10AB