Happy Anniversary Random Acts of Writing!

Thank you all of you for reading these Random Acts of Writing (and art, photography, poetry, et cetera) for the past 10 years! It’s been a blessing to share this journey with you!.

You can take a look back on our past 10 years HERE, but if you’re like me, it’s the What Comes Next that’s the best part! I hope you’ll come along!

With love and gratitude, Jen

If you’re reading this…

If you’re reading this, then you follow my blog Random Acts of Writing — either by email, or from Facebook, or within the blogging community at WordPress.

According to WordPress there are about 1,500 of you who might, at any moment, read something I’ve written or see something I’ve seen. How cool is that?

Of course, some of us remember the old days of WordPress, when we seemed a little more connected than we do now. But that was before the shorthand days of Facebook, the cryptic moments of Twitter, and the no-words-necessary glances at Instagram and Tik-Tok.

We weren’t memes back then, we were writers and poets, philosophers and considerers, photographers and artists, sharing ourselves with the world. And the world shared back. Not just with a thumbs-up or heart emojis, but with questions and conversations. Some so real, we’d find ways to meet in person to keep talking. Imagine!

One of my dearest friends today is someone I met right here, in the comment field of this very blog. Seriously! Here we are, seven years ago, meeting in-person for the first time. >>>

Some of you have been following Random Acts of Writing from its very beginning — 10 years ago this month! Some of you have joined us along the way, and some of you are brand new to this hodge-podge of writing, photography, art, and musings I call my blog.

No matter your history here, I’d like to say Welcome and Thank You and Please Keep in Touch. Because if you’re reading this, you’re curious and inquisitive and maybe of like mind to start a cool and lasting conversation. I’d like that.

This Anniversary: A Celebration of 9

In Chinese culture, 9 is a most auspicious number. It represents wealth, accomplishment, and attaining personal goals — like the 9-year run of this blog, Random Acts of Writing!

Nine is also an important number in the Chinese practice of feng shui — the ancient art related to the flow of energy (qi or chi) — because it signifies the fullness of heaven and earth. Illustrated in the 9-square feng shui bagua map, that fullness of positive energy includes the varied aspects of our lives, from love and abundance, to well-being and creativity.

Feng shui has a special place in my heart — it changed my life, after all. And it’s what, in a meandering sort of way, inspired the creation of Random Acts of Writing back in 2010.

So, it seems somehow appropriate to use the nine baguas to share some of my favorite posts over the past 9 years.


WEALTH & ABUNDANCE
Great Cape Escape II: Words Like Abundance, May 2013

FAME & REPUTATION
Moments of and Brushes with Fame, August 2012

RELATIONSHIPS & LOVE
At Every Moment, Angels, August 2014

FAMILY
Food for Thought Friday: Shoofly Pie, June 2010

HEALTH & WELL-BEING
Open Heart, May 2015

CREATIVITY & CHILDREN
Take Two: A Creative Life Redux, April 2011

KNOWLEDGE & SELF-CULTIVATION
A Journey’s Final Reckoning, January 2016

CAREER & LIFE PATH
WOW! Women on Writing Interviews Jen Payne, November 2017

HELPFUL FRIENDS
Thanks Giving, January 2019


The number 9 is considered a good number in Chinese culture because it sounds the same as the word “long-lasting,” and it is often associated with dragons and magic.

There is certain magic to all of this, as the longevity of the original intentions to write and create (Gotta, March 13, 2010) undulates like a dragon’s tail across the weeks and months.

How lucky am I to find regular inspiration, to sit with the practice of creating, and to make this on-going connection between this and you! It is most auspicious indeed, and I am blessed.

Thank you for following along and being part of the on-going magic!

Love,

Nine, photo ©2019, Jen Payne. Bagua collage ©Jen Payne. Photo, Nine dragons. Location, Chinese garden, the Hidden Realm of Ming in the Hortus Haren in the Netherlands, by Dominicus Johannes Bergsma. Click here to read more about dragons because…why not?.

 

On Winter, Recovery, and Preparation

This week, I spent a day in the company of a magnificent barred owl. Perched outside my office window for much of an afternoon, it was a reminder of the Magic we sometimes miss as we go about our fast, frenetic lives.

If you’re like me, you’re looking at DECEMBER on your calendar and realizing just how busy busy you’ve been this year. December? How did that happen?

Well, the good news is that Winter fast approaches, with December 21 marking the first day of this often-maligned season. Yes, I said “good news.” I realize that a lot of folks are not thrilled with the impending cold weather, the threat of snow, the darkness. But I am of the same mind as travel writer Paul Theroux, who describes Winter as “a season of recovery and preparation.”

Recovery from the weight of the past 12 months — its success and failures; its triumphs and losses. Winter is a chance to take stock of what we must put down, what we will save as memory, what we choose to carry forward.

Choose to carry forward into the life that lies ahead. 2019 – How did that happen?

A time for Preparation, indeed!

While one cannot prepare for Magic (or Disappointment)…it is possible to set down good Intentions for the coming months. Call them Resolutions, if you will, or simply Affirmations. Good and positive thoughts for the year to come. What are yours — do you know yet?

For my part, I am making room, clearing space for that “what comes next.” It is both a literal process — organizing piles, taking filled boxes to the thrift shop, making lists — and metaphoric in that I am likewise clearing the clutter in my headspace to allow for something new to show up.

Is it Magic then, or coincidence, that Owl is the harbinger of change? Of Owl, Elena Harris at Spirit Animal writes: “When the owl shows up in your life, pay attention to the winds of change. Perhaps you are about to leave some old habits, a situation that no longer serves you, or maybe bring something new in your life.”

So, what old habits will you leave at the feet of 2018? What doors will you close? What new ideas, challenges, or adventures will you welcome?

Wherever your journey leads, and whatever you find along the way, please go easy and take good care of yourself. Enjoy the blessings of this season meant for recovering slowness and preparing for the possibility of Magic ahead!

With Love,

Jen Payne

National Selfie Day 2018

IN HONOR OF NATIONAL SELFIE DAY, WE’RE REPOSTING THIS POST FROM OCTOBER 2016. ENJOY!


RoadTrip 16: 14 Days, 14 Selfies

mondaysept5

Leaving Connecticut at the crack of dawn. We start with a happy send off, and head out on our adventure. The only task ahead? Drive as far as we can and get as close as we can to our first official stop in Wisconsin. We’ll be on the road for about 12 hours through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and the very beautiful but wide state of Pennsylvania, before we rest our heads in Wauseon, Ohio for the night.

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Discovering a beach at the shore of Lake Michigan.
A personal request that we stop in Gary, Indiana (any Music Man fans out there?), yielded this unexpected find! While our route took us just south of two of the Great Lakes, a little clever navigating led us to Marquette Park on the shore of Lake Michigan, home of the Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. After two full days of highway driving, and a stop at the Mousehouse Cheesehaus for provisions, we end our day in the lush, rolling hills of Spring Green, Wisconsin, along the Wisconsin River.

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Spun around by the House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin. Our hotel, Spring Valley Inn, is the former Visitor’s Center for Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate. Built by Wright’s architectural firm, the Inn has gone to great lengths to mirror the popular arts and crafts style in its furnishings and decor. It offers a quiet respite after our day-long visit to the eclectic, cacophonic House on the Rock and its sprawling collection of dolls, music machines, mannequins, carousel creatures, and oh-so-much more.

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Jolly Green Giant Selfie, Blue Earth, Minnesota. Day Four presents a free-form driving day from Spring Green to somewhere between Wisconsin and the Black Hills of South Dakota. We’ll enjoy a leisurely ride along a flooded Lower Wisconsin Riverway, then across the Mississippi River into Iowa and north to Austin, Minnesota (home of the Spam Museum) and Blue Earth, before resting “6 feet under” at the unique Earth Inn in Jackson, MN.

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Marking the halfway point between the Atlantic and the Pacific, along I-90 in South Dakota. A rainy start does not deter an early departure on a day whose highlights include a pilgrimage to Walnut Grove and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pipetstone National Monument, Porter Sculpture Park, and the iconic Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. At day’s end, after hundreds of miles of prairie and farmland, the road dips down dramatically to meet the Missouri River, our stop for the night.

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Exploring Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We wake to the sun rising over the Missouri River and an easy 300-mile agenda. Today. we’ll explore Badlands and the famed Wall Drug, before making our way to the Black Hills of South Dakota. The juxtaposition of the other-worldly National Park with the vapid consumerism of Wall Drug is startling; we are happy to find our way to Hisega Lodge, nestled creekside just far enough away from everything.

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Finding Art Alley on a Sunday in Rapid City, South Dakota. After six days on the road, we welcome this day of rest. Relatively speaking. Gourmet breakfast with fellow guests in the common room of this charming lodge begins the day. Then a load of laundry before we explore Chapel in the Hills, a stave church with Norwegian influences, and enjoy lunch and shopping in downtown Rapid City for the afternoon.

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Monumental moment at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. An interesting discovery about the Road Trip genre of travel is that very often “attractions” are road trips themselves. Take, for example, our journey into the Black Hills to see the Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore via the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, Needles Highway, Wildlife Loop Road, and Iron Mountain Road. With no regrets! We’ll drive through the one-lane Needles Eye Tunnel, catch our first glimpse of bison and pronghorn, and wind around “314 curves, 14 switchbacks, 3 pigtail bridges, 3 tunnels” before heading back to Hisega some 10 hours later.

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Searching for the landing strip near Devils Tower, Wyoming. We leave Hisega soon after sunrise for what USA Today’s Jodi Thornton O’Connell calls “the most scenic route from the Black Hills to Yellowstone National Park.” Today’s 400-mile leg will take us north through Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon along U.S. 14 Scenic Byway, into the wide open grasslands of Wyoming for a stop at Devils Tower National Monument, then west toward the Big Horn Mountains. We find the most challenging part of our journey here, along the Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway. Entering Bighorn National Forest, we are enveloped by a dense cloud bank that stays with us up and over the mountains. When it finally lifts, we have climbed up to and back from an altitude of more than 9,000 feet, some 3,000 higher than New Hampshire’s Mount Washington! We rest well in Cody for the night.

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Classic photo opp, Artist Point in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Continuing on the “most scenic route” into Yellowstone, we leave the Big Bear Motel in Cody for a day-long drive. Without a doubt the most breathtaking drive of this trip, we’ll travel along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, 47 miles through Shoshone National Forest over the Absaroka Mountains, connecting to the Beartooth All-American Road, and into the snowy wilderness of Montana’s Gallatin National Forest. After lunch in Montana, we dip back down into Wyoming and cross into Yellowstone National Park at the northeast entrance. Along the way, we’ll see herds of bison and pronghorns, spot a lone wolf and a bald eagle, then sit idling while a grizzly bear forages curbside some 50 feet away.

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Crossing into Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming. Author Rossiter Raymond once wrote of Yellowstone that “Nothing can be lovelier than the sight, at sunrise, of the white steam-columns, tinged with rosy morning, ascending against the background of the dark pine woods and the clear sky above.” Indeed, except if it were highlighted by a rainbow such that we saw as we made our way into Yellowstone from its eastern entrance. So blessed, we’ll witness the wonder of Old Faithful before driving south into Grand Tetons National Park—our final destination. Along the way, we see evidence of the wildfire that moved our accommodations to Jackson Lake Lodge, with no complaints. We’ll spend the next three days with a front-row view of the snow-covered Tetons!

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Reflecting on an amazing journey’s last stop, at Colter Bay in Wyoming. The last days of our adventure, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, are too beautiful for words. We have seen more beauty and wonder, experienced more moments of awe, than any one photo or paragraph could do justice. This morning is no exception—at sunrise we listen to the call of an elk family that wanders into view, while we watch the harvest moon set behind the mountains. The word of the day is “saturated,” as we are filled-up with sights, experience, memories…and gratitude.

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Celebrating a successful adventure, dinner at Jackson Lake Lodge, Moran, Wyoming. As is tradition now, we end our journey with a celebratory feast. This one included whiskey, sweet corn and smoked trout soup; beef tenderloin with purple Peruvian potato puree, grilled asparagus and a huckleberry demi-glace; Colorado rack of lamb, wild mushroom bread pudding, Brussels sprouts and a huckleberry gastrique; a “deconstructed carrot cake” that included roasted carrot cake, a cream cheese diplomat, carrot caviar, pineapple coulis and a rum raisin walnut strudel; and lavender champagne crème brûlée topped with a caramel cage and lemon cotton candy. Cheers!

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Sunrise over the Grant Tetons and a final selfie says it all.

RoadTrip16, Text and Photos ©2016

Eight, Eight, Eight is Great!

hooray!
Random Acts of Writing
Celebrates 8 Years!

one
the very first post
Gotta!, March 13, 2010

two
books published from
what you’ve read here
LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness
Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind

three
top posts of the past year
A Room Full of Poets, April 2017
Star Gazer, November 2017
The 2017 Goodreads Challenge, December 2017

four
things we write about a lot
1. Poetry
2. Creativity
3. Books
4. Nature

five
famous people we namedrop often
1. Henry David Thoreau
2. Ted Andrews
3. Emily Dickinson
4. Alice in Wonderland
5. Buddha

six
top countries
from which people visit
1. United States
2. India
3. Norway
4. Brazil
5. United Kingdom
6. Malaysia

seven
by the ten thousands,
the total number of visits
to this blog since 2010
7.2082
(Total: 72,082)

eight
reasons we keep doing this
1. creative outlet
2. a writer’s gotta write, write, write
3. having a voice
4. shared experiences
5. finding common ground
6. meeting other cool bloggers
7. YOU

so, hooray!
Thank YOU for being part of the history of Random Acts of Writing! I feel very blessed to have had such a diverse and creative community in which to share my musings for the past eight years, and look forward to more good things to come!

Love,

Photo ©2018, Jen Payne

Blogging as a Creative Tool

One of the most inspiring art exhibits I’ve seen in recent years was called “Suddenly This Overview.” On display at the Guggenheim in New York, it featured 250 small sculptures by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The sculptures were made of a pale gray, unfired clay, and were presented individually on white pedestals around the curving spiral ramp of the museum. Clean, Times New Roman captions explained Pythagoras Marveling at His Theorem, Jesus Walks on Water, the Fish Are Amazed, and (my favorite) Mr. Spock Looks at His Home Planet Vulcanus and Is a Bit Sad That He Can’t Have Any Feelings.

At the time, I was in the middle of a blogging challenge to write a poem a day for the month of April – National Poetry Month. A friend asked what it felt like to write a blog post every day, and I couldn’t help but think of the Fischli/Weiss exhibit.

In an interview with Artspace, Weiss explained “The intention was to accumulate various important and unimportant events in the history of mankind and of the planet—moments in the fields of technology, fairy tales, civilization, film, sports, commerce, education, sex, biblical history, nature, and entertainment.”

That’s a sweeping, broad source of inspiration for them—and for us! (Aren’t those the very things WE write about, think about, create about?)

One of the Fischli/Weiss sculptures was a plain block of clay entitled Without Words. Their starting point, perhaps — a blank page of clay onto which they were challenged to put their thoughts and ideas. It’s that place we all start when we first listen to our own inspirations—what will we create today?

Blogging is like that block of clay. It gives us a place to start and a medium to shape into whatever our Muse suggests — a poem a day, for example. A book review. A photo essay. Random musings about mankind and the planet.

A blog can no more sit idle than that block of clay. It’s very nature is to be used, shaped, molded. To be a vessel for our creative efforts is its raison d’être.

All we need to do is show up…and shape it.


Photos of Without Words and A Copy of Jack Kerouac’s Typewriter by Jen Payne from “Suddenly This Overview,” by Peter Fischli and David Weiss at the Guggenheim Museum, April 2016. David Weiss quote from “The Pleasures of Misuse: An Interview With the Irreverent Swiss Artist Duo Fischli/Weiss,” Artspace, February 2016. (https://tinyurl.com/yc6cz5yh)


In addition to blogging, Jen Payne is the author of LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Both books are available for purchase from Three Chairs Publishing.

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INTERVIEW: Lisa Haselton Interviews Author Jen Payne

Welcome, Readers. My special guest today is poet/author/photographer Jennifer Payne. She’s sharing a bit about her new collection of poems, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. (Click Here to read the full interview!)


What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
Many of my poems show up as whispers of ideas. Maybe one line or two that reveal themselves…suddenly, from out of nowhere. That’s the most exciting part—that magic! Then…what comes next? where will that whisper lead me? To your question, what I enjoy most is allowing the poem to show up and become what it needs to become, allowing myself to be open to the creative spirit so I can tell the story.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
One of my favorite poems in the new book is called “Microcosm.” It’s about two separate encounters, one with a spider on my desk, and one with a fish by a pond—and me, wondering what they might be thinking about as we crossed paths. You know, in that same way you wonder about the lives of people in the lit-up rooms of houses you drive by at night?

Microcosm
The spider had a curious look —
not curious as in odd,
but curious, inquisitive, intrigued.
I saw him from the corner of my eye
watching me, then rummaging
through a pile of paper,
back again for a second look,
peering as if to say Who Are YOU?
(or WHAT I suppose)
Perhaps the same look of WHAT?
the fish had as it soared over the pond
yesterday afternoon…
Who are YOU? to the osprey,
and WHEN did I learn to fly?

Another favorite is “I Am Just the World.” It was one of those poems that just showed up, as I was saying before. I was walking on my favorite trail in the woods, and heard the something crawling. I followed the sound and found a spotted turtle making its way through the fall leaves. Spotted turtles are listed as a species of concern/endangered, so this was a very special sighting. And poignant.

I Am Just the World
Pay no attention.
I’m just here
beneath these trees,
their forgotten leaves
warm from the sun.
Never mind
my slow traverse,
I’ll step aside for you.
Make myself small
so you forget
I am light and love,
the god to which you pray,
the universe upon my back,
everything.

I think some people take offense that I anthropomorphize the creatures I meet in the woods – give them personalities and narratives. But, it’s not like I think they are skipping around in the forest singing and such. I use personification to get the reader to think outside of themselves, to consider the other creatures with whom we share this planet. We’re all connected…that is, ultimately, the theme of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, and of a lot of my other writing.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I write mostly free form poetry. It’s simply how my muse speaks to me right now. However, I have been working with a group of local poets, the Guilford Poets Guild, for the past few years. Very often they write in specific forms— a sonnet, a villanelle, haiku. I’ve been thinking I’d like to challenge myself to look to form a little more in my work. That could be fun!

What type of project are you working on next?
For the near future, I’ve been thinking about publishing a short story I wrote called “Water Under the Bridge.” It’s an epistolary novella told through a series of emails. And then another book of poetry, but that won’t be for several years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember — grade school creative writing, high school newspaper, college journalism, freelance writing, zine publishing. For the past 25 years, I’ve been the wearer of all hats – editor, copy writer, marketing wordsmith – as the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design business in Branford, Connecticut.

I maintain a regular blog, Random Acts of Writing (www.randomactsofwriting.net) on which I write essays, travelogues, book reviews, flash fiction, and poetry.

I have written poetry for much of my life, but have gravitated to that form almost exclusively for the past three or four years.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
Just write. That’s my advice. It’s very easy to get caught up in the “business” of writing – editing, researching, preparing, submitting (and waiting), then doing that all over again for the next poem. I call it “hoop jumping.”

Better to just make time to do the writing, perfect your craft, connect with other writers. Just write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do my best writing at 3:00 a.m. I love the quiet of the early hours of the morning, before anyone else is awake. There are no distractions – none of the bells and dings and buzzing of our social technologies. Just sweet dark quiet…and coffee.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Honestly? I wanted to be Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. I loved her little bottle house! Wouldn’t that be a great place to write? Plus, she had magical powers. What could be better than that?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes. Don’t fight with your craft. Let it be. Let it do what it wants to do. I see a lot of angst-ridden memes about writers. Quotes that talk about the suffering we must endure, the anguish of writer’s block, the agony of rejection letters. Forget all of that and Just Write. Here’s a great quote to think about from writer Alan Moore…

“To me, all creativity is magic. Ideas start out in the empty void of your head – and they end up as a material thing, like a book you can hold in your hand. That is the magical process. It’s an alchemical thing. Yes, we do get the gold out of it but that’s not the most important thing. It’s the work itself.” ― Alan Moore

(Hey! So, maybe I have magical powers after all.)

Thanks for being here today, Jen.
Thank you, Lisa, for this chance to talk with you and your readers about writing and my new book!


This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

Today, I’m a guest blogger on CMash Reads, sharing my thoughts on…

FINDING INSPIRATION

When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, she asked me how I found the inspiration for 30 poems.

“It’s like rummaging around in a junk drawer,” I told her. “You’re bound to put your hands on something!”

And sure enough, in April, I found inspiration from a seagull, bugs, a haiku class, a trip to the Dollar Store, and pizza. Among other things. (See the full tally here: https://wp.me/PKhyg-3lf)

Now granted, they are not all masterpieces. But that’s not the point. Like any writing challenge — NaNoWriMo, HistNoWriMo, SciFiWriMo — the goal is simply to get into the habit of writing.

“Simply” of course being somewhat of an issue if you are lacking inspiration. Which brings us back to that junk drawer. There are so many things in your junk drawer – think about it!

the first time you rode a bike
your best friend from kindergarten
your mother
what you had for breakfast
your first kiss
last night’s dream
what you saw on a hike last weekend
your favorite painting
the song you can’t get out of your head (and why)
an object sitting on your coffee table

So, GO! Rummage around — see what you can find. Reach way far back if you have to…and then CREATE! Describe, elaborate, enumerate, paint a picture with words (or even paint if you are so inclined). It doesn’t have to be perfect…as Nike says, JUST DO IT!

Here is some evidence of rummaging. This quirky little poem showed up from a post-it note I found on my desk one morning:

(Chinese Food)

The note says (Chinese Food)
but it is random
out of context on a piece of paper
in a stack of papers
at least 2 months passed

my past included (Chinese Food)

but what?
and with whom?
and what is the purpose
of this little clue
set out for me to follow
too early even for General Tso,
though I never met him personally

rumor has it, he was a press man…

as a proponent of the written word
do you think he rose early
to consider form and function,
rhyme, reason and rice —
like this poet now hungry
for the pork fried variety at 6?

But a fair warning about rummaging…you have to be brave. You have to be brave because you never know what you’re going to find in that drawer. Sometimes, it will be as benign as a post-it note about Chinese take-out. Other times, you may pull out a ghost, some long lost memory that needs to see the light of day.

Hans Christian Anderson is credited with saying: “Everything you look at can become a fairy tale, you can get a story from everything you touch.”

Ultimately, isn’t that our job as creatives? Telling the story. No matter our medium — poetry, painting, prose — we are charged with the task of putting our hands on the story and sharing it with others.

So, get in there! Rummage around for the inspiration. Reach way far back if you have to…and then TELL THE STORY!

>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

buynow


INTERVIEW: Bookworm Interviews Author Jen Payne

BOOKWORM is participating in another blog book tour courtesy of WOW (Women on Writing). Today’s guest is Jennifer A. Payne, author of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Today I’m posting an interview, Q and A style, that I conducted with Ms. Payne so that you can read her thoughts about her calling, her choice of direction for her writing, and her thoughts about mindfulness. I’m also posting a review of her most recent work “Evidence”. Enjoy. (Click Here to read the interview and book review!)


How long have you been writing/ what made you decide to write?

I don’t know if I had a choice, really. Writing is how I’ve always communicated with the world. My earliest memory is writing letters to my Dad when he was away on business trips when I was young.In grade school, I used to write short stories, but I also had a dozen pen pals I kept in touch with regularly. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and studied journalism at UMass. My first job was writing press releases and advertising copy, before I started my own business doing the same. I published a zine in the early 90s, and graduated to blog writing about 10 years ago.

I’ve been writing all my life!


What made you take this direction for your writing/this work?

I think those early days of communicating real-life stories and experiences to my Dad and pen pals have kept me pretty firmly rooted in non-fiction writing. You can see that on my blog Random Acts of Writing (http://randomactsofwriting.net). Over the years, it has hosted everything from my food writing, travel journals and book reviews, to photo essays, social commentary and poetry.In the past couple of years, I’ve been writing more poetry, mainly because that is how my muse has been talking to me. But also, I was invited to join a local poetry group, the Guilford Poets Guild, and they have inspired and encouraged me a lot!

Both of my books, LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014) and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are direct results of my work on the blog. LOOK UP! includes essays, poetry, a collection of quotations by philosophers, naturalists, and famous writers, plus 100 of my original color photos. It’s a journal, really, that narrates my own journey from working 24/7 to reconnecting with our natural world, finding balance and mindfulness in the simple act of going outside. Evidence of Flossing is a follow-up to that concept. It features 73 of my poems and 80 original and vintage photos that continue a conversation about our divine connection to nature, and how important it is to find our way back to that.


What is it about mindfulness that interests/fascinates you?

By day, I run my own graphic design and marketing business. By night (really in the pre-dawn hours of the day), I do my creative work. My brain and I work at a very frenetic pace – as you can imagine – but somewhere in all of that, there has to be some downtime. Some quiet. Some peace.

I tried traditional methods of meditation – sitting on pillows, candles, oms, guided groups, recorded sessions. But nothing really “stuck.” I remember one group meditation…there were 10 of us in a small, candlelit room. We did some breathing exercises, and then the facilitator guided us on a meditation…down a path, into the treetops, up into the sky. I spent the whole meditation frantically running to catch up, because I couldn’t breathe right, couldn’t visualize right…couldn’t get out of my own way!

About that same time, I had started taking regular walks in the woods. There is a nature preserve near my house, and I can do a nice, easy 2-mile walk in a space that feels very far away from everything. I remember this one day very clearly. I’d been walking for about 20 minutes with lots of busy thoughts in my head. But then it was suddenly quiet. All I heard were my footsteps on the pine needle path. I wasn’t aware of my thoughts or my body, just the sound of footsteps, like a heartbeat, and breathing.

It was brief and wonderful.

I think of it now as my “ah-ha, so this is meditation” moment.problems, inspirations for my writing, connections to some mystery I wouldn’t have had time for if I wasn’t allowing myself to disconnect from busy and reconnect with nature. It’s that simple…and that complicated, I suppose. Perhaps that’s what so fascinating about it, and why I write about it. The difficult part of mindfulness is getting there—stepping away from our busy-ness, allowing ourselves that time to reconnect. But once we do, it’s really quite simple. It’s really quite amazing.


Use this space to give yourself a shameless plug?

I was at a workshop last week, and the hostess came over to me and pointed to a copy of my book on her coffee table. “I keep your book here,” she said. “In a place of honor. That way I can pick it up and read something from it whenever I want. Which is often. I just love it.”

She’s not alone. People seem to really connect with these books, with the writing and the photos. I think it’s because they talk about our collective concerns about our society in a way that is heartfelt and thoughtful. They’re smart books that you can skim for meaning, or dive into for a deeper understanding as they apply to your own philosophy and spirituality, your own experience. But they are both easy reads – you can read an essay, read one poem, open to a page and meditate on a photo or quote. They allow the reader to take that moment of mindfulness, to stop and consider…maybe…a better way to move about in this world? I hope.

This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!

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