New York Times-bestselling author of Wintering
Photo credit: Alexa Loy Dent
About Katherine May
In a culture addicted to endless growth, fallow periods can feel like stagnation or regression. Katherine May found herself foundering after a trio of unforeseen circumstances seemed to derail her life: her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. However, she ultimately found that deep retreat and acceptance of sadness could provide unexpected nourishment and transformation.
May’s New York Times-bestselling memoir, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, explores how she endured—and embraced—the singular opportunities of this painful time. A moving personal narrative that combines lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, Wintering “proves that there is grace in letting go, stepping back and giving yourself time to repair in the dark” (Wall Street Journal). Wintering became an international bestseller, was adapted as BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week, and was shortlisted for the Porchlight and Barnes and Noble Book of the Year.
A smart, funny, and winning speaker, May candidly engages audiences with her talks on rest, growth, introspection, and wonder. Through her workshops and keynotes, she combines thoughtful and elevated takes on self-improvement with refreshingly humane strategies for combating burnout. As someone who received an autism diagnosis in midlife, May can also speak to how neurodiversity and burnout intersect, and how honoring different kinds of minds from the start can make all the difference in professional and academic settings.
Katherine May’s New York Times bestselling bok Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, is a balm for all of us who feel isolated, depleted, and trapped in a grind of constant change. In Enchantment, she asks: could there be a different way to relate to the world, one marked by curiosity and tenderness instead of anxiety and fear? May explores the restorative properties of the natural world, and invites all of us to find beauty and reconnection through deliberate attention and ritual.
A writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Katherine May’s previous books include The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club, The Best, Most Awful Job, an anthology of essays about motherhood which she edited. May’s chronicle of her physical and psychological journey of coming to terms with her midlife autism diagnosis, The Electricity of Every Living Thing, was adapted into an Audible audio drama.
May also hosts a podcast, How We Live Now: Pathways for a Post-Everything World. How We Live Now is a series of frank, thoughtful, and deeply personal conversations with some of the world’s most influential thinkers. This audio exploration of the current cultural, social, and spiritual mindset frequently ranks in the top 1% worldwide.
Katherine May’s journalism and essays have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Times (London), Good Housekeeping, TIME, The Observer, and Cosmopolitan. Her work has been featured on On Being, NPR, The Guardian, and more. She currently lives in Kent, England.
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It’s beginning to look like burnout is one of the hallmarks of our age. This feeling of complete exhaustion, coupled with anxiety and foggy cognition, can be understood and even healed, but it takes patience and a commitment to the long, slow work of change. In this talk, Katherine May explores the causes of burnout - from screen time to the moral injury of living in such complex age - and explain why it’s so often emerging when people attempt to return to normal after the pandemic. She also looks at the ways that we can recover from burnout, both as individuals and organizations, and suggest that the solution lies in acknowledging our whole selves again, learning to rest actively rather than passively, and finding a way to balance our need for solitude with our sense of interconnection with the people around us.
This topic can also form the basis of a workshop or retreat, in which participants work with May to explore the roots of their burnout, and develop strategies to live more sustainably in the future. May is an experienced facilitator who has supported many groups to creatively explore burnout.
This talk can be adapted to specifically address neurodiversity:
Burnout can be a particular issue for the neurodivergent community. As an autistic woman, May is able to talk from first-hand experience about the additional burdens of masking, passing, working in ways that don’t suit your mindstyle, and dealing with sensory stressors. However, she will also argue that neurodivergence can be a guiding light for those finding their way out of burnout.
Reimagining the Story of Success
We often imagine our lives as an upwards line on a graph, as we grow ever wealthier, happier and more successful. In this talk, Katherine May suggests that this should not be our goal at all. Not only is it rarely possible; it’s also undesirable. Instead, she’ll suggest that human lives are best lived in a cyclical way, travelling with the natural rhythms that sometimes urge us out into the world to grow and create, and sometimes invite us inwards, to retreat, reflect and restore. When we abandon a life lived according to the outward signs of success, we can find a rich and meandering pathway through our adult lives, one that prizes interconnection over competition, restful JOMO over exhausting FOMO, and gentleness over force. Key to this is a sense of enchantment, the value that urges us not to abandon our childlike sense of fascination, but instead to nurture it so that it can help us to feel awe, humility and wonder through our entire lives.
Winter: everyone’s least favorite season, a time to be endured until spring comes. But in dark times, winter can teach us the secrets of survival, and even flourishing. Drawing from her book Wintering, Katherine May explores the adaptations made by the natural world to survive the cold, shares some of her own adventures in icy landscapes, and points to the applications for humans and organizations. The key lies in acceptance of lean periods, and even learning to see their beauty and transformational potential.
Reigniting your sense of wonder might be low on your priority list during these tumultuous times. But in this talk, May shows that enchantment is not a naïve indulgence, but a crucial tool for the twenty-first century. Fostering our enchantment can help us to engage with our values and reconnect with our communities, but most importantly, it creates a way of life that’s worth saving. The good news is that we don’t have to start from scratch: we just need to return to the tingle of magic that we felt as a child, and start to notice the stories that our ancestors encodedCategories: College + University Speakers, Adventure and the Great Outdoors Speakers, Current + Social Issues Speakers, Innovation + Creativity Speakers, Mental Health and Disability Awareness Speakers, Motivational + Inspirational Speakers, New Speakers, Productivity and Time Management Speakers, Women's Interest Speakers
Praise for Katherine May
Praise for Enchantment
Featuring lyrical writing and clear open-mindedness, the narrative will speak to anyone feeling lonely in the modern world…May’s pursuit of enchantment will resonate with anyone feeling burned out or disconnected.— Kirkus Reviews
Luminous. Enchantment is truly enchanting. Katherine May’s authorial voice casts a spell that helps us see the magic in everything, including ourselves.— New York Times-bestselling author Martha Beck
Katherine May gave so many of us language and vision for the long communal ‘wintering’ of the last years. Welcome this beautiful meditation for the time we’ve now entered. I cannot imagine a more gracious companion. This book is a gift.— New York Times-bestselling author Krista Tippett
Praise for The Electricity of Every Living Thing
A manifesto for the value of difficult people. I loved it.— Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun
A windswept tale, beautifully told.— Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Path
Praise for Wintering
Proves that there is grace in letting go, stepping back and giving yourself time to repair in the dark…May is a clear-eyed observer and her language is steady, honest and accurate—capturing the sense, the beauty and the latent power of our resting landscapes.— Wall Street Journal
Every bit as beautiful and healing as the season itself. . . . This is truly a beautiful book.— Elizabeth Gilbert
Katherine May opens up exactly what I and so many need to hear but haven’t known how to name.— Krista Tippett, On Being
Books by Katherine May
Media About Katherine May
- 212 572-2013
- Katherine May travels from Kent, England
"I love Katherine May’s new book, Enchantment. She is so smart, tender hearted, thoughtful. It’s actually enchanting, so wise and lyrical, down to earth and mystical, personal and universal. It’s a beautiful offering of light, truth and charm in these strange, dark times." —New York Times bestselling author Anne Lamott