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Gatherings and Gratitude – Interview with Sally Quinn

By Janae Jean and Spencer Schluter

For this interview, we had the honor of spending an hour conversing with author and journalist, Sally Quinn. Sally was a longtime Washington Post writer, columnist, television commentator, Washington insider, legendary hostess and founder of the website, On Faith from The Washington Post. Sally and Benjamin Bradlee, executive editor for The Washington Post, were married from 1978 until his death in 2014. Her son, Quinn Bradlee, is a filmmaker, author and advocate for disabled people.

Sally currently writes for several publications and has authored several books including The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining and her recent memoir, Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir. We spoke with her about gatherings, authenticity, gratitude, labyrinths, and more. To stay informed about Sally, follow her on twitter @sallyquinndc.

The following is only a small part of our in-depth conversation with Sally. To hear the rest of our conversation, download or stream the podcast episode. Don’t forget to subscribe, like, review and share the Conscious Community Podcast on your preferred podcatcher app.

Janae: What do you feel that magic is? In past interviews, we’ve discussed how magic is a word for things we don’t understand yet. What do you think about that definition? What is your personal definition?

Sally: The title of my book is Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir. The reason that I called it that was that I think that there is magic everywhere in our lives. People think of magic and they think of witches, sorcery, spells and hexes and that sort of thing. That’s a part of magic. Then there’s magic tricks and magicians. I think of it as something transcendent. Magic is an idea, and it’s also a frame of mind. It’s exhilarating. You find magic in all the things that happen in your everyday life.

Spencer: This reminds me of a past guest, Ian Simkins’ ongoing project, “Beauty in the Common.” It’s all centered around the really beautiful, simple things, such as sharing a meal with your family. So, they will come together and share a meal or have a sing-along. The meaning of life, if there is one, is celebrating little, simple things. People overthink it sometimes and miss the forest for the trees. It’s those little moments of beauty that give life magic
and meaning.

SQ: I did a column for The Washington Post a number of years ago that I only did for the holidays, starting with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, I called it The Sacred Table. For me, the table is sacred. There is nothing that I think is more magical and more wonderful than gathering your close friends, people you really love. I try not to have people who I do not like at my table. [All laugh.] Sometimes that’s hard, but I try really hard.

I always have candles because I think candles create magic, and if it’s in the winter, I have a fire. I have lots of good wine. The food does not have to be spectacular. Often people will say, “Oh, I can’t entertain. It makes me too nervous; I don’t have the confidence to entertain.” I say to them, “Look, have you ever had a friend come over for a cup of coffee and sit in your kitchen?” “Well, yeah.” “Well, that’s entertaining!” It doesn’t have to be a grand dinner. I’m not a great cook, and a lot of times it’s carry-out. People don’t care. You put it on the buffet or pantry and people serve themselves. What matters is the conversation and the sense of community and camaraderie.

So, in terms of entertaining, I love having people over. I really love it, and my friends like coming to my house, because they know they are going to have a good time. They know that it’s a safe house. I always want my friends to leave my house feeling honored and exhilarated. I want them to levitate. I want them to fly out of the house thinking they’re great, wonderful and have been honored, featured, loved, cared about, that there’s so much affection for them, and that there’s been laughter and tears sometimes. They’ve been enriched in some way by sitting around a table and exchanging ideas, thoughts and feelings.

JJ: I think that what you’re hitting on is how important it is to be authentic with your friends or others. Authenticity is what makes someone connect with a book or a newsperson. You want to know that they are sincere and it’s coming from their heart. Have you noticed this as a journalist?

SQ: I used to do a lot of interviews for the paper. I mean written interviews. Now I mostly do interviews in front of live audiences, and you can smell a phony a mile away. [Laughs.] When people start telling you things about themselves that aren’t true, you just know it and the audience feels it too. The audience gets it. I can almost feel myself backing away from someone who is not being authentic. One of the things I do when I’m doing interviews is to try to figure out who the person is. A lot of times when people have this mask, it’s not as much that they are phonies, but they are afraid to show who they really are. What I consider my job when I’m doing an interview is to get them to take that mask off and show who they really are.

JJ: At Conscious Community Magazine, we often focus on mindfulness, and you have a mindfulness practice that we both enjoy, walking the labyrinth. Would you like to share your experience with labyrinths?

SQ: People call it a “maze” because it looks like a maze. But, it’s different from a maze because in a maze, you’re supposed to get lost, but with the labyrinth, you get found. God knows, there are so many people who have terrible problems in this world. Sometimes I feel guilty about talking about ever feeling depressed, sad or stressed, when there are people getting killed or raped or other problems all over the world. My problems are nothing in the scheme of things. But, it doesn’t mean that we don’t suffer because other people suffer more than we do. I feel grateful, and I know that gratitude has gotten to be a cliché now. Everybody’s grateful for this or grateful for that. But, it really works for me. When I go to bed at night, I always think about what I have to be grateful for—even if I’m sad about something or upset about something that happened to me. And, in the morning, I wake up and think “What do I have to be grateful for?” If you really think that way about being grateful and being peaceful, it works.

Janae Jean serves as editor, social media manager, recipe columnist and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. She has an extensive background in new media and music education. She is also the founder of Perennial Music and Arts, an arts education and healing center based in downtown Geneva, IL. Visit and for details about Janae’s upcoming classes, lesson information, workshops, shows, articles and projects.

Spencer Schluter is the advertising account manager, social media manager and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. His experience includes visual communications, advertising, social media, marketing, public relations and business development. Visit for more information about his freelance design and consulting work. He is also a master level Reiki and traditional Chinese Qigong practitioner.


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