We had the good fortune of connecting with Dani Herd and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dani, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I’m a big, soft nerd, so one of my very favorite quotes is Walt Disney’s “Keep Moving Forward.” I don’t think I believe in “giving up” anymore. I believe that we are always growing and, therefore, choosing to move beyond a place or a person or a situation that once served you is always okay, even if it’s hard or painful at the time. I have always been especially inspired by one of my former co-workers, Gary. Gary worked in pipe organ repairs and then sales and then consulting all before finding himself talking passionately about animals at the aquarium. Whenever I feel backed into a corner or trapped, I think of my friend Gary and remember that life is a multi-chapter story. Choosing to end a particular chapter doesn’t mean you “quit.” (My worst fear.) “Around here, however, we don’t look back for very long… we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” When I feel stuck, I think of inspirational voices like those of Walt Disney and of Gary. Our stories do not have to be entirely linear and it’s okay to go backwards, sideways, diagonally, however you need to go to get to where you want to be. And if you get there and decide you’re not ready to stop, well, take a deep breath and keep being curious.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I used to joke that my Atlanta image was: “that tall sad girl who talks about Star Wars.” Since beginning my blog, Hope Is the Thing with Lightsabers back in 2017, I feel like I’ve done my best to embrace that! The creation of my blog was inspired by both my 2016 diagnosis of bipolar II disorder as well as the death of my idol, Carrie Fisher. My personal tagline as a writer is, “I want to talk about every weird feeling I’ve ever had, because I never want you to feel badly about any of yours.” What I might be proudest of so far was a message I received after our last in-person Write Club Atlanta show. I was a last-minute pinch hitter for the show and wrote my piece just that afternoon. I spoke about my experience, as usual, with bipolar II and, specifically, with hypomania. I received an Instagram message from a stranger the next morning to let me know that my piece had helped their partner to understand them better. As a blogger, playwright, and essayist, the themes and topics I find myself continually returning to are: mental illness, monsters, theme parks, friendship, identity, and hope. It hasn’t always been easy to talk about topics that are so close to my guts, but I’m glad and proud I’ve told the stories I’ve told.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh my goodness. So, my best friend lives in Chicago and, when we visit each other, our priorities are animals and breakfast foods. When I lived in Decatur, our perfect day was to start at Revolution Doughnuts before taking MARTA to the aquarium. I don’t drive and I now live in East Atlanta, so NOW, I think I would start our trip with a walk to Emerald City Bagels and then a longer, sweatier walk to Grant Park to visit the Zoo. Other important spots: (in my perfect, non-pandemic world) shows at my favorite theatres- Shakespeare Tavern, 7 Stages, Dad’s Garage, chocolate chip pancakes and breakfast burritos at Ria’s, going to look for turtles at Piedmont Park, more burritos at Raging Burrito, drinks at SOS (can you tell I miss Decatur?), pastries at Alon’s in VaHi, maybe a yoga class at either FORM or Highland Yoga to balance all the burritos. And, of course, timing our visit to coincide with my favorite time of the month in Atlanta: Write Club! I miss getting a whiskey ginger at the Highland Ballroom and hearing incredible words.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Well, as I mentioned in my answer, this Shoutout feels like a tribute to my good friend, Gary Connor. When the world makes sense again, go and visit him and all our aquatic friends at the Georgia Aquarium!
Image courtesy of Working Title Playwrights.