Society of Woman Geographers
Society of Environmental Journalists
National Federation of Press Women, New Mexico chapter
New Mexico Women in Film
Healing Beyond Borders
Director, Global Diversity Film Project
Senior Editor, Voices for Biodiversity
LANGUAGES: fluent spoken Dari (Afghan Persian), reasonable French, some conversational knowledge of Spanish, Urdu, Pashtu, Tibetan, Nepali, and Russian
Unconventional; attended University of California, Berkeley, 1972-1974
Attended University of Sussex, Brighton, England, on UC Study Aboad Program, 1974-75
B.A. in Natural Theology in Sacred Healing, 1991 (a non-accredited four-year seminary program at
Healing Light Center Church, Sierra Madre, California)
Ordained Minister of Healing, 1991, Healing Light Center Church
Certified Healing Touch Practitioner, 2002
Certified Healing Touch Instructor, 2006
First Place, Novels for Adults, 2022 National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest,
for her novel on Afghanistan Love and War in the Land of Cain
2018 Cat Book of the Year from The Conscious Cat blog for her cli-fi time travel novel
First Place, 2020 New Mexico Press Women Communications Contest, for-profit blog,
Weather Menders Cli-Fi Blog, "Climate Action and Earth Healing: Choosing Joy and Love."
Second Place, 2020 National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest,
Specialty Articles, Green/Environmental for "Protecting the Arctic Refuge: Gwich'in People Defend the Sacred," published on Voices for Biodiversity site
BACKGROUND: Debra Denker has aspired to be a Renaissance Woman since she first started writing novels as a child. For most of her adult life, she has pursued multiple unorthodox careers in creative media and healing arts. As an author, freelance writer, photographer, lecturer and fimmaker, Debra has been deeply involved with Central and South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Tibet, since 1979. In the October, 1981 National Geographic, she wrote about the winter solstice festival of the shamanic Kalash tribe of northern Pakistan, into which she was adopted as a bloodsister. She journeyed disguised as an Afghan woman into the war zone in 1983 and 1984. The latter trip was documented in the June, l985 National Geographic cover story on the war in Afghanistan and the impact of Afghan refugees on Pakistan. An excerpt was featured in the 1997 book, From the Field: A Collection of Writings from National Geographic.
Her first book, the non-fiction memoir Sisters on the Bridge of Fire: One Woman's Journey in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, was initally published in October, 1993 then reprinted by Schaffner Press in April, 2002. Her literary historical novel set during the 1980s Afghan-Soviet war, Love and War in the Land of Cain, was reprinted by Catalylst Artistic Productions in 2021 and won first place in the 2022 National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest. Her cli-fi time travel novel Weather Menders, published by Catalyst in 2017, won the 2018 Cat Book of the Year Award from The Conscious Cat blog.
Completed works for which she is soliciting literary represenation and publication include a non-fiction book on contemporary Tibet, exponential change, and the possibilities of paradigm shift called Messages from the Dharma Cybercafe: a 21st Century Tibetan Odyssey through Impermanence.
Debra is currently Senior Editor at the award-winning non-profit storytelling website Voices for Biodiversity, a volunteer position that keeps her busy.
Her occasional blogs can be found on her award-winning Cli-fi Blog on weathermenders.com and at globaldiversityfilm.org
As a screenwriter she is currently seeking production for Second Chance Mesa, a screenplay set in Taos, New Mexico. Works in progress include screen adaptations of her novels Love and War in the Land of Cain and Weather Menders. Other projects are End Times, a screenplay set in Tibet during the 1987 uprising; Drumsong of the Sangomas, reflections on race and healing stimulated by traveling in South Africa with an African-American woman a year before Nelson Mandela was elected; and the screenplay and novel, Shadow of the Hawk, an environmental love story set on the Navajo Nation.
Debra is Project Director of the Global Diversity Film Project. In association with her company Catalyst Artistic Productions and GDFP’s Tibetan Video Archive Project, a project of the non-profit Perception International, she has produced and directed two documentary films: We Are All Mothers, shown in the Santa Fe Film Festival in December, 2007; and Loving Mother, Bon Children, screened at Taos Mountain Film in September, 2005.
A project interrupted by the pandemic is One Breath: One Life, a documentary on the ancient spiritual traditions of Hawaii as taught by the late traditional healer and wisdom keeper, Kahu Kauila Clark. A trailer has been produced and fund-raising for completion will soon resume.
The Lost Worlds Archive, a project of Global Diversity Film Project, features archival photos, and eventually videos, from the past 50+ years of Debra's and her parents' travels in over 50 countries. The images are available for download for voluntary donation under a Creative Commons Type 2 license, in the spirit of the Gift Economy.
Long term projects include post-production of three more documentaries: Light on the Roof of the World, a film about her teaching Healing Touch in Lhasa, Tibet in 2006; Circling the Mountain, a short film about a pilgrimage on horseback circumambulating Amnye Machen, a sacred mountain in eastern Tibet; and Between Worlds: Africa, a documentary examining how the wisdom to prevent the Sixth Great Extinction may be found between the worlds of shamanism and science, the traditional and the modern, the indigenous and the global, and animal and human perceptions. Meanwhile she has completed shorts including Brilliant Baboons and Healing Touch in South Africa: Planting Seeds of Hope.
In 1985, she co-produced a one-hour documentary, A Nation Uprooted: Afghan Refugees in Pakistan, which was re-released in 2001. It was broadcast in major cities throughout the U.S. and the world, and has been exhibited in several film festivals, including the Hawaii International Film Festival and Mountainfilm in Telluride. She also contributed to the project as co-writer, assistant editor, and translator of the Persian language.
Through Catalyst Artistic Productions, Debra has also produced the DVD Jackie Camborde’s Real World Yoga, as well as short films on performer Sandra McKnight’s one-woman show Oops! That’s Life, a promotional short for world-famous lecturer, author, mountain climber, and activist scientist Arlene Blum, and a fundraising short for Seeds of Light, a non-profit working with AIDS orphans and their communities in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Her film Community Garden: Many Hands Make Light Work focuses on the common ground between community gardens in El Dorado, a prosperous neighborhood outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Acornhoek, a mostly poor rural community in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province.
Debra and Catalyst Artistic Productions currently offer full service HD video production, shooting on a Sony EX-1 and editing in Final Cut Pro. She is based in New Mexico and also available to travel in the U.S. and internationally.
Debra’s academic publications include an article on the Kirghiz tribe of Afghanistan in the November, 1983 Central Asian Survey. Over the years she has also written many features, book reviews, and op-ed pieces for publications such as the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian (U.K.), New Mexico magazine, The New Mexican, The Arts Paper in Boulder, Colorado, and The World Times, a Santa Fe-based paper that focused exclusively on positive news. She has written stories on alternative healing, the environment, and Native American issues for the Tucson-based Awareness Journal, New Mexico’s Crosswinds and FYI, L.A.’s Whole Life Times, Alaska Wellness, the Healing Touch International Newsletter, and Energy, the online Healing Touch Progam magazine.
Her photographic work has focused on exhibition and lecturing. She was a featured presenter and artist at Moutainfilm in Telluride, 1997, speaking on “The Hidden Strength of Mountain Women” and exhibiting photos focusing on Afghan women in wartime Afghanistan and in Pakistani refugee camps. Photos of Baltistan and Trans-Himalayan regions were used in the 1982 exhibition and film, "The Silk Route and the Diamond Path," shown at UCLA, Asia House in New York, and the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian. Her work on Afghanistan and the refugees was shown in Portland, Oregon in June, 1985; Bakersfield, California in November, 1987; and at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, in the travelling exhibition, "Forced Out: The Agony of the Refugee in Our Time" in the fall of 1989. Some of her work is now in private collections.
Photos on various subjects have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, Angeles magazine, Traditions Southwest, HG: House and Garden, Mimar: Architecture in Development, Crosswinds, the New Mexican, Albuquerque Journal, The World Times, Healing Touch International Newsletter, and Energy magazine. A story and photos on Mescalero Apache Medicine Man Paul Ortega appeared in the August, 1997 issue of New Mexico magazine.
She has given lectures and slide presentations on many subjects including human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan, The Spirit of Tibet, Socially Responsible Journalism, various ethnic groups of the Himalaya, Karakorum, and Hindu Kush, and alternative and culturally appropriate technologies in developing nations. She lectured in the National Geographic Society's "Masters of Photography" series in fall, l986. Other venues have included universities and colleges, high schools, private schools, service clubs, and bookstores across the U.S. She has also made many radio and TV appearances, in both English and Persian, in connection with these subjects and with holistic healing.
From 1985 to 1992 she was Communications Director of the Geltaftan Foundation, promoting education on appropriate architectural systems. She edited the foundation's publication Elements, produced educational videos, wrote successful grants, coordinated workshops, and documented all activities, including research and development projects partially funded by a National Endowment for the Arts grant. She also lectured on Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture, assisted the late world-famous architect Nader Khalili in teaching workshops, and taught at a women's prison. Her photos were featured in Geltaftan Foundation exhibitions at the Claremont Graduate School in June, l989 and June, l990, and in the Burning Gate Press edition of Khalili’s book, Racing Alone.
She has served on the boards of many non-profits, including the gYungdrung Bon Temple Foundation, International Orphan Care, Blue Valley Foundation Healing Camp (Alberta, Canada), and Perception International (current). She has been active in fund-raising and grant-writing for the Afghanistan Women Council since 2001, and has been creatively fund-raising for Tibetan orphans in exile in India and other Tibetan-related causes since 1987. She also has served as an event planner and concert producer for non-profits including the Tibetan Association of Santa Fe, IPOLA (Institute for the Preservation of the Original Languages of the Americas), the gYungdrung Bon Temple Foundation, and Aid to Bon Children.
Her cross-cultural experiences while traveling led to a keen interest in traditional healing modalities and their interface with modern medicine. After completing a four-year course in energy healing at the Southern California-based Healing Light Center in 1991 as an ordained Minister of Healing with a B.A. in Natural Theology in Sacred Healing, she served for five years on the national faculty. She was certified in Healing Touch, a form of energy healing well respected in the medical community, in 2002, and became an instructor in 2006. She teaches Healing Touch in New Mexico and Alaska, and taught in Lhasa, Tibet in summer, 2006, and Acornhoek, South Africa in 2009. She has lectured to professional medical audiences on holistic healing, and has also been involved in three cutting-edge scientific studies on the effects of distant healing as an adjunct therapy for patients with advanced AIDS, sponsored by California Pacific Medical Center. She also participated in a Saybrook Institute study into the characteristics of healers and other “sensitives.”
Alongside her careers as writer, photographer, and filmmaker, she pursues her private practice in Energy Healing and teaching while continuing to explore the approaches of other cultures, ranging from various Native American tribes to indigenous cultures in Asia and Africa, in search of a truly holistic approach to healing in the 21st century.