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.… Continue reading GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Inspiration

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!

buynow

BOOK REVIEW: Beverley Baird Reviews Evidence of Flossing

“These are definitely poems to ponder, with words and images to reflect on. Payne gives us poetry that moves us, challenges our perceptions and inspires us to look deeper into our place in the world and what our legacy can or should be. Evidence of Flossing is well worth the read – and one you will revisit over and over again.” — Beverly Baird

>> Click Here to read the full review!

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

GUEST BLOG POST: The Bravery of Storytelling

Today, I’m a guest blogger on Writers Pay It Forward, sharing my thoughts on…

THE BRAVERY OF STORYTELLING

Several years ago, I was meeting with a client I hadn’t seen in a few years. We started with the usual Hi. How are You? I’m Fine. How are You? small talk protocol, but then she saw a reliquary hanging on the wall in my office.

The reliquary — traditionally a container for holy objects — was a mixed-media collage I had created. Within the shadowbox frame was a painting of an angel, decorated panels, pieces of a poem, and symbols: an alpha and omega, a feather, a heart. An artist herself, my client asked about the piece, and I told her the story of lost love and deep sadness that had inspired it.

When I was done, she took my hand and thanked me. Then she told me her story — the disappointment that had shaken everything she thought she knew, her attempts to heal, and how the process changed her.

So there we were, two almost-strangers, pushing through the ordinary to the extra-ordinary moments in our lives. There was no protocol for the rest of our meeting that day, instead we talked about our common experiences, the different paths, the shared emotions.

“If we can sit together and talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive,” writes Margaret J. Wheatley in her book Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. “When we’re brave enough to risk a conversation, we have the chance to rediscover what it means to be human.”

Ultimately, isn’t that our charge as artists? As writers? To communicate the human experience — to bravely tell our own stories in an effort to share, to teach, to connect with others.

Make no mistake — it takes courage. It takes courage to be honest, to talk about love and loss, about success and disappointment. You have to be brave to talk about your passions and fears — both out loud and in your creative work. Writing, creating art, is not for the faint of heart. No. Writing, creating any kind of art that tells our story, takes big, brave hearts. It is from that place, from that wide open courageous place, that we create what is indeed, holy.

(Image: Divine Inspiration, mixed-media collage, by Jen Payne. Quotes from Wheatley, Margaret J., Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 2012.)

>>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


Flood Insurance

These are the things I thought to save:

……shells from Cape Cod circa 1977

……an orange Sears towel from my grandmother’s house

……and the necklace she gave me from her trip to Arizona

……the dissected photos of my parents’ wedding

……my Dad’s watch, overnight bag

……(also, his hardcover copy of Walden with margin notes)

……Winnie the Pooh……in the red shirt my mother mended

No matter the flood of seas or tears, accidental fire or the kind that comes with brimstone, and with all apologies to Buddha of course, I will suffer these attachments — these glimpses of a past life, the smells of cedar and déjà vu.

Poem ©2017, Jen Payne. Image: Water Album – The Waving Surface of the Autumn Flood, Ma Yuan. If you like this poem, you’ll love Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Click here to purchase your copy today!

Storytelling and a Man Named Ivan

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept that story is in our DNA. We are “wired for story” says social scientist Brené Brown. And, if current research is correct, we are quite literally “a part of all that I have met” as Alfred Tennyson wrote — past traumas, past loves, past experiences, co-mingling to make our stories all the more rich and interesting.

Our stories are what connect us, what make us see the common thread that unites us, despite all of the forces seeking to divide and conquer. Ultimately, it is the act of storytelling that keeps us alive — literally and figuratively — now, and even after we have passed.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago this when I read the obituary for a local man named Ivan MacDonald. I didn’t know Ivan very well — we worked together on a few small projects over the years — but he was a memorable character, for sure, with a fabulous story to tell!

The last time I saw Ivan was in 2014. He hired me to write that very obituary. It appeared in local papers, edited to fit, but I thought I would share it here in its entirety. To tell his story…

Ivan was 88 when he passed away on September 19, 2017.

IVAN MacDONALD

At an early age he was determined on a career in the theater. Detroit-born and educated, Ivan MacDonald began training with members of the famous Jessie Bonstelle Playhouse in Detroit.

He made his professional debut in 1946 in Maine at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Noel Cowards’s Tonight at 8:30 with Lilian Harvey; and in the world premiere of Michael Myerberg’s Production Balloon by Padraic Colum featuring McKay Morris.

The Detroit Dramatic Guild cast him in the juvenile lead in Papa is All, and a year later in The Play’s the Thing with Ian Keith and Joseph Macaulay, produced by Roger L. Stevens who later became one of New York’s prominent Broadway producers.

After his education was behind him, young MacDonald headed for New York to continue his theater studies, and landed a role on Broadway in Seeds in the Wind with Tonio Selwart and Sidney Lumet. Along the eastern seaboard, he made many summer theater appearances. He toured as Henry Morgan’s son in Father of the Bride, and with John Loder in O’ Mistress Mine. He repeated the same role at the Berkshire Playhouse, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, featured in O’ Mistress Mine opposite Peggy Conklin. The Myrtle Beach Playhouse, S.C., featured Ivan in a mystery thriller as a psychopathic killer in Twilight Walk by A.B. Shiffrin.

He appeared on all major television and radio networks. MacDonald was one of the pioneers of early television. For NBC, in the first live show on location (Delancey and Orchard Street, Manhattan), City at Midnight, he played a Jewish boy who was burned alive in a garbage can! For Robert Montgomery Presents, he played Omg Chi, a Chinese scheming extortionist in The Letter with Madeleine Carroll; on NBC, a romantic fantasy in the Chinese manner The Stolen Prince, portraying Long Fo, son of the royal cook; on the DuMont Network, a running part on Captain Video playing a Chinese communist; also Colgate Comedy Theater, The Florist Shop opposite Ruth Gilbert.

Uncle Sam took him for two years in 1950. The first year as an Entertainment Specialist for the U.S. Army Hospital, Fort Custer, Michigan; the second year, 11 months in Korea. On his return to New York in 1952, NBC cast him in Hall of Fame opposite Sarah Churchill (Winston’s daughter) in Fanny Stevenson. On CBS, Leave It to Larry with Eddie Albert; on ABC’s Boris Karloff Show opposite Karloff in Mr. I. Murderer by Arch Obler. On NBC Radio, he was George Bigelow on The Aldrich Family and was on Pepper Young’s Family and CBS’s Rosemary.

As he matured, casting became a problem. Ivan left New York and moved to Connecticut where he worked in a family business, MacDonald’s Motel in Branford, Connecticut..

Several years later, he developed an idea for an audio-visual film lecture on art and great gardens of the world. He performed live in a 60-minute lecture series, becoming a national speaker for major museums and colleges through the U.S., as well as for the Chautauqua Institution and the Caramoor Center for the Arts.

He found it a pleasure working with great talent and in three careers. Mr. MacDonald is the end of his family line.

©2017, Jen Payne. Detail of Spiral, Alexander Calder.

Sustenance

The gull tosses
the fish
with as much
JOY!
as the osprey
overhead
displays
his catch
and I
breathe
the fresh
sea air.

If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne