Archive for April, 2014


photo-7It’s time for our monthly look back to see how far we’ve come. You were here as I wrote and posted them (thank you for that!). These are my thoughts on the writings of April…

Let’s start with a little disclosure—yes, more than usual. Behind the scenes, my house sold this month—which may explain my fondness for lists as art follows life and I have been living by them. It’s been a crazy, bumpy ride, including my dog’s bout of gastroenteritis the night before the house inspection, but in the end we all lived. It’s going to get crazier as I finish packing and actually move across the country over the next two months or so, but I plan to keep blogging, writing poetry, and writing the two books I’m working on. My hectic schedule hasn’t stopped me yet, so forge ahead I will. More details on where I’m going and why will certainly be released through the blog. I can tell you: It’s all good news, and it involves more writing.

Back to April: Right off the bat, we started out with a little trickery with Researching the Clef. Though it was presented as an April Fool’s joke, it’s a look inside one of the books I’m working on. Now, if only I could figure out a title… I still plan to launch a Kickstarter or an Indie-Go-Go campaign to fund the writing of the book, but got delayed because I’ve been advised that I should create a video for it, which is a nerve-wracking notion for this mild introvert. So, in “Go big or go home” fashion, I’m considering some “practice” videos on YouTube where I read my Zombie Sonnets. Oh, yes I am! I’ll get you the links when they go live so we can laugh together.

I got a little list-happy in April (and now you know why) with Word Nerds: Top 10 Ways to Know You’re a Poet, Four Essential Ways to Deal with Writer’s Block, The Writer’s Bag of Tricks, and Three Steps to Getting the Writing Done. For the most part, these were written after public events in response to audience curiosity.

With Three Steps to Getting the Writing Done, I reworked it a bit and reposted it a few hours after the initial post. Those of you with the email feed got the original (and if you’re a word nerd like me, you’ll now read both and compare). The original made perfect sense in my head, but in reality it just didn’t. I spent the evening at work rewriting it mentally because I just couldn’t let it go, and when I got home I reposted it. My apologies for the sloppy first try.

My favorite, by far, was Indelible. I’m also a little partial to yesterday’s List-Makers, which again shows my affinity for lists this month, even though the post is not a list in itself.

And, there was poetry: Emergence (which is my favorite word), Quake, and two Zombie Sonnets rounded out April with iambic pentameter intact.

My very special thanks to all of you who Liked posts, Commented on them, and Shared them. I’m honored that you read me. I truly am.

Well, the second quarter of 2014 has been quite the roller coaster—and the ride’s not over yet. Join me here next month. You know, tomorrow. We’ll see where the writing takes us.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

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List-Makers

Super HeroWhen I was little, I was asked (as I now ask my nephew), “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most times, I wanted to be a writer. But I went through a few other phases: hair stylist and orthodontist, based on fun adults I knew who got to do those things. There was also my archeologist phase, and the phases where I wanted to be Wonder Woman and Daisy Duke. (I admit I haven’t outgrown all of these phases.)

And of course, I always thought I’d work my way up to making a gajillion dollars, because that’s what the great people did.

And as a kid with an allowance (a minor allowance compared to heap of chores I had to do, with no help from my sister—Just checking that my mom is reading this), I would dream up all the things I was going to do with the money once I made my first gajillion. I would help people; I would donate; I would travel and meet people and learn as much as I could. I would change things for the better. I would make a difference.

Don’t we all have a list like that? A list that we keep adding to, even as adults?

Listening to the news makes one wonder where all the list-makers are. I’m stunned and saddened these last couple days that bigotry is not dead. That having your gajillion doesn’t equate to having culture. That you can travel the world and gain nothing but a closed mind.

It’s time to let childlike wonder bring us back to center again. Find your list. Add to it. And if you never made one, make one now and carry it with you. Look at it often enough that you begin to see how you can accomplish those listed things, even without the gajillion dollars.

We list-makers, we believers in hope, in inclusivity, and in betterment, our time is now. We need to take the world back, by living one check mark at a time.

~
Upside Down Kingdom is my first book.

First World Problems

cloud and rayLast fall, someone close to me was very, very sick. On the day we finally started getting some answers and the doctors thought they could pinpoint the problem and even solve it, I was finally able to see the forest for the trees again. After all the agonizing, the worry, the prayers, suddenly, there was the ray of sunlight from the dark cloud overhead. One small ray that opened up all possibility.

Everything I’d been unable to do for a while: rest properly, eat a decent meal, think about something silly, returned–slowly at first, and then gradually more and more.

Around this time, I tentatively walked into one of my favorite restaurants to get some food to go, and I sat at the bar to wait while I measured my relief by my returning appetite.

A friend who works there came up and asked me how things were going—she hadn’t seen me in a while. Even with my appetite and growing relief, I couldn’t talk about everything that had happened yet. I just couldn’t. And I wanted to be sensitive to others around me and stick to a positive conversation, something light. So I chatted about my cat and dog, and the way they were shedding all over the house, even though it was the beginning of winter and they’d certainly need their fur… It made my friend laugh, and that felt good.

One fella at the bar was paying out and getting up to leave—I recognized him as a server at another area restaurant. As he passed by, he muttered, “First world problems,” to me.

I can’t tell you how deflating this was, except to point out that it’s taken me all this time to write about it, and that of the great and wonderful things that have happened in life over these past 6 months, that moment, that comment and the awful way I felt when he said it, is still something that I remember.

That moment, though, had something to teach me. Rather than dwell on the wound every time I remember it, and oh, I want to, I remind myself to drop it and instead realize that everyone is dealing with something. Whether they want to talk about it, whether they show it or not, everybody’s got something on their plate that’s tough to handle.

And while some say respect is earned, I say respect is one of the few things in life that we can offer freely. It’s not easy—it takes practice and patience, and the belief that people are more than just the silly things we say. That takes discipline on our part—but we’re better people for it.

Begin a practice of listening to everything that’s not being said around you, and offer respect to that silence as if your very character depends on it. You know I’m going to say it: Because it does.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

The Doorkeeper

I just finished dinner with a great friend. And throughout the evening’s myriad list of discussion topics, we reminisced on our time at Yad Vashem in Israel.DSC00947

I was thinking about this earlier today on a smaller level, that when life gets overwhelming and even when it seems a bit pointless, the best thing to do is to surround oneself with art to rejuvenate the soul and begin to believe again.

Emerging artists, in particular, have a dichotomy, a contradiction between the near-hopeless, “Will I make it?” as an artist and the “My art saves me,” hope of every day life that truly keeps us striving.

This is what I was thinking about as I headed to dinner, and, without my saying a word about it, one of the things my friend reminded me about tonight was of our time at the holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, “the place of names and remembrance” where we saw level upon level of heartbreak.

“But remember the art,” he said, the art that became the reason for existence; the smuggled sketch, the wood carving, the poetry, the diary entries. These things were a matter of life, of life! They captured life stories, they chronicled and described day-to-day struggles, they were grasps at beauty and the comfort of memories in a dark world.

Art is the finding of beauty in the every day, and it serves as the doorkeeper to belief: in oneself, in a higher cause, in everything that’s better than the circumstances taken alone. When in times of trial and in times of darkness, look to art. Go to a museum, read poetry, Google paintings if you must, but find art and immerse yourself in it.

It will recharge a battery within that has been lacking. And life will look better when you emerge again, of that I’m sure.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

 

This week, a friend of mine told me he’s a lousy storyteller–but that he wants to get better. “Most people talk about their day,” he says. “So I tried it, but, I don’t know. See what you think: Yesterday, I got up. I brushed my teeth. I ate breakfast. And I got a shower, and by the time I got out of the shower I was starting to feel like I could actually get through the day. Before that, I was just too tired. And the house was quiet; I was all by myself. See? That was terrible!”

photo-5“Not necessarily,” I said. “I’m curious: tell me about the quiet. Was it like, ‘It’s spooky and unnatural to be so quiet and I’m lonely’ or was it, ‘This is awesome! The whole house to myself, I can leave my underwear on the radiator’?”

To this he replied something like, “Have you been spying on me?”

Anyway, dear readers, I daresay that his story isn’t bad. In fact, I think it was just a few lines shy of getting really good.

When I’m not sure how to tell a story, I find that the 2-year-old approach of asking “Why?” at the end of every sentence is always good for drawing the story out. (I play this game with my nephew, and I strive always to come up with an answer to his Why-Fest. Aunts can get away with that.)

What my friend does have is a lack of bad habits. His story is full of clean lines. Maybe not a lot of description or emotion, but not all stories need that.

I’d like to say there are no bad stories, but, well, there are some that I just don’t want to listen to, even as they’re told. Take, for instance, if we removed half the predicates from my friend’s story above and replaced them with phrases like, “And then, like, you know… So, like… And then like… And I was like… And then she goes, ‘Yeah,’ and I go, ‘Yeah,’ and they go, ‘Yeah…’”

Now that, in my opinion, is a bad story. True, if I were more than half listening, I could fill in all the blanks with my own fun details, but then it’s my story and not what I’m supposed to hear. But this bears further thought: Do we need to tell better stories or do we need to tell them to better listeners who will help us draw them out?

Think about it. And in the meantime, go forth into storyland with the curiosity of a 2-year-old.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

At my Capstone Event showcasing one of my projects last night, I was asked, “How do you get all this writing done?” I get this question a lot. I never thought I was doing anything differently than anyone else; at the moment, I work a couple of part-time jobs and I have multiple writing projects going simultaneously.  But this question keeps popping up, so I decided to give it some serious thought. And the answer shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.

Organize
I began by writing down my obsession with list-making and schedule-mapping. I described the way I map out each week, blocking time slots when I need to be here or there for work or a reading, as well as all the upcoming deadlines. I then add a bulleted list of projects I’m working on underneath my crude map. But, thinking about it, I realized this time map is just a step in organization, and any method of organizing time, so long as it works, is just fine.

Focus
Another tidbit I realized is that I carry the schedule map with me everywhere throughout the week, and I look at this slip of paper and re-read the list of projects every time I have a couple seconds of downtime–like when I’m standing in line somewhere or when I’m folding laundry. (A lot of creativity happens as I’m doing other things.) Re-reading the bulleted list keeps my mind focused on my in-the-works projects, so that when I do sit down to write, the words line up faster and easier.

Exalt
While writing down my weekly map-making process, I wrote this revealing line: “After mapping out time spent at my paying jobs, I plug in the ‘holes’ in the map schedule by blocking out time for my personal writing projects —things I don’t necessarily get paid to do, but treat as if they’re my job and my future depends on them (because it does).”

And that’s the crux: I treat my creative writing projects with the same respect, time commitment, and sense of responsibility that I give to my paying employment, all the while knowing that I’m building my own future with the writing I choose to do.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

A Cordial Invitation

WOLFor the past two years, I have been meeting and recording my interviews with a WWII veteran, who is now 91 years old. Tonight, for the first time, I’m excited showcase some of these transcripts*: Words to live by, inspirational messages, the ugliness and poignancy of war, and the resolution to strive for better, all from a perspective that’s seen 91 years and multiple continents.

Hers is a story steeped in history, yet what she can teach us is universally timely. Despite all that she’s seen and experienced, including her time spent at the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, she has compassion and hope for mankind. Through these interviews I sought to find out why, and I think I found the answer. And it’s something that can inspire everyone regardless of heritage, race, religion, background, ability level, or financial standing.

I plan to write this story this fall, pending further grant approval as my current grant has reached its end. But, fear not, I believe in this story and I’ll find a way to do the writing, even if the grant doesn’t come through and I continue to work multiple jobs. You can keep up with my work at JodyBrown.com and here on the blog.

If you’re in Rochester today, please stop by the Creative Salon on 1st Avenue SW. I’ll be there from 6-10 p.m. with my work, along with photographer Ana Gotmer. There’ll be music from Thomas & the Rain, some snack provisions, and of course, wine. It’s an open reception, so stop in for as long as you like. Consider yourselves, now and always, cordially invited in to my work.

-J

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you

*This activity is made possible by the generosity of the McKnight Foundation through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council.

Another Zombie Sonnet, from my reading yesterday at RCTC. This one’s by request:

Zombie Sonnet #3: Zombies at the Mall

The Lost and Found is full of body parts
The photo booth took on the stench of gall
The toilets only flush in fits and starts
This means the zombie boys are at the mall!
They cruise for undead girls among the stores
Toss pretzels–and some teeth–into the trash
Fill up arcades for Zombie Crusher wars
They seek a zombie victory for cash
But zombie boys do not respect their roots
Instead, they crave some style and clothes so fine
They’re tired of the rags and worn out boots
They want Armani, Prada, Calvin Klein
Their parents are the ones who feel the blow
You just can’t teach these zombie kids, you know

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

The Zombie Sonnets

Here’s what all the fuss is about! I was invited to write and perform some Shakespearean sonnets at Rochester Community & Technical College today. So I got to work on my iambic pentameter, rhyming quatrains, and couplets–not forgetting “the turn” in language at Line 9…
And this is what happened: The Zombie Sonnets.
(No one ever said you had to write about flowers.)

Zombie Sonnet #4: Zombies in Love

The sockets of your eyes are deep and dark
And they accentuate your cavern nose
The way you limp along gives me a spark
I even love all seven of your toes
I’ve never felt like this, I feel insane
As if my heart were still inside my chest
For you are better than the freshest brains
And lovelier than all those second best
But I apologize that you felt gross
That night I kissed your ear and it fell off
I have it still; I like to keep it close
‘Cause in this sicko world, you cured my cough
With that, my squishy dumpling can’t you see
How much I love you, will you marry me?

~

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’ll sign it for you.

Indelible

I’ve got Hobbits on the brain today. (Who doesn’t??)

But I’m a little disgruntled, and here’s why: Adventure.

In the movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo sprints from the Shire shouting about how he’s “going on an adventure.” He’s almost bragging about it. And his news is simply taken at face value.

Ah, but in the book, Tolkien goes into a great explanation about Hobbits and their ways, especially the extent of their ways of comfort. They don’t go far. They don’t seek what’s around the corner. And they’re distrustful of anyone who does. They do not go on adventures. But if a Hobbit should try, as Bilbo certainly does (with some definite coaxing), he will be looked upon as different. And not in a good way.

Bilbo’s adventure took risk. Not just risk of life and limb, but risk that he’d be shunned by his friends and neighbors, by everyone with whom he’d spent his life to this point. Eyes will roll. Backs will turn. Doors will close.

Bilbo’s entire way of life, from the moment he decides to step out his door, is forever changed. And he knows it.

And he also knows that he must. And the moment he realizes this, the very moment he becomes aware, he knows that whether he goes on the adventure or not, he’s already different.

He’s awake now, and cannot live his life as though he were asleep.

photoThink of your own family, going back and back and back. Were they always from wherever you now sit? If so, you may be the first to find that spirit of adventure. But, more likely, somebody in your line took a courageous step to get to where you are right now. Yes, it’s quite likely that the indelible spirit of adventure and of determination in the face of adversity already courses through your veins.

Well, that’s a big cat out of an equally large bag. Now you know why you’ve always felt a little bit different. I’m with you. I’m a little bit different, too. And we’ll get through this…

With gusto.

~
My first book of adventures, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

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