BOOK REVIEW by Writer David W. Berner

“The French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo, wrote, ‘The reduction of the universe to the compass of a single being, and the extension of a single being until it reaches God—that is love.’ Jennifer A. Payne expands on those words with an unflinching account of our unshakeable relationship to the modern world around us, God, nature, and ourselves.” — David W. Berner

>> Click here to read the full review.

Click here to buy the book now!

INTERVIEW: Bookworm Interviews Author Jen Payne

Anjanette Potter from Bookworm interview Jen Payne about her book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind

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 ( 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.

Click here to buy the book now!

9 – Moon Haiku

the blue moon / full moon

but for the first bird awake

silent smile, makes no sound

Photo: Full moon over Grant Tetons. Photo and Poem ©2018, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month 2018, #9. If you like this photo and poem, then pick up a copy of my new book EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND today! CLICK HERE

The Serendipity of David Sedaris and Evidence of Flossing

The April 2018 Calendar of Events from Bank Square Books (above) features the April 15th Book Signing for my book Evidence of Flossing side-by-side with the April 14th performance by David Sedaris. In a little twist of serendipity, the first book I ever bought from Bank Square Books – the book that literally saved my life – was Sedaris’ While You Are Engulfed in Flames, in 2009! Also to note? He is known for being a passionate litter picker-upper. (Do you think he ever finds flossers?)

Book Signing for Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind
Bank Square Books, Mystic, Sunday, April 15, 1-3pm

On Sunday April 15 from 1pm – 3pm, Mystic’s Bank Square Books will host Branford author and naturalist Jen Payne for a book signing featuring her book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Discover this curious collection of poems and photographs that NPR contributor David Berner calls “an unflinching account of our unshakeable relationship to the modern world…God, nature, and ourselves.” Bank Square Books is located at 53 West Main Street in the heart of downtown Mystic, Connecticut.

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.)

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!

You can read more of Jen Payne’s poetry in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind available from Three Chairs Publishing.


Help. Thanks. Wow…2018!

I spent some time at the local Library last week — right before New Year’s. It’s part of my two-fold effort to a) read more and b) de-Amazon myself. The read-more part of that equation includes my membership in Goodreads, which lets me keep a running list of To-Read books, conveniently accessible from an app on my phone. So, that’s me there, in the stacks, with my iphone held out like a tricorder, looking for my next book.

Last week, though, I went sort of old school and resorted to the card catalog. I say “sort of” because it’s now a computer, and the only reminder of the spiffy wooden drawers and actual cards were the sheets of paper and midget pencils that truly, truly gave me much joy.

Anyhow…on the card catalog computer, I searched for the next book on my list, Ten Restaurants That Changed America, but what came up instead was Ten Prayers That Changed the World. For several reasons, that sounded interesting (or important, maybe), so I used one of those pencils to write down the book’s GPS and headed to the Religion section of the Library.

(I think, by the way, that Library should be capitalized. It is due that respect. Wouldn’t you agree?)

As I was saying, I made my way to the Religion section, and found book 242.8, Ten Prayers, but it was dry and historical and…yawn. Then, as I slid it back on the shelf, my eyes spied Anne Lamott on a spine and I smiled. So THAT’S why I’m here.

If you have not read Lamott before, she is one of the most witty writers you’ll find, funny and thoughtful, She writes a lot about faith, most notably the classic Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (2000).

The book I found last week, Help Thanks Wow, narrates “The Three Essential Prayers,” according to Lamott: HELP, THANKS, and WOW.

It is (of course, because this is how the Universe works) exactly what I needed. At this moment. Here at the completion of a year that has been fraught with wide world crises, full of more personal Help moments than I would like, yet balanced with enough Thanks and Wows to keep me almost hopeful enough for the year ahead, just enough faith (we are in the Religion stacks) that 2018 will be a breathable year at least, a shining year even? Perhaps, maybe, I pray.


HELP me to remember to breathe and stretch and move, to set good boundaries, to seek out joy and laughter, to practice good self-care, to keep an open heart.

THANKS for the roof over my head, the food in my cupboard, the cat, the car, the…daily blessings so often overlooked; thanks also for the ability to make a living on my own terms, to confer daily with my creative muse, and to live in this most beautiful spot on the planet.

and WOW! because I am blessed with and surrounded by the most amazing friends with whom I get to share this journey.


©2018, Jen Payne. More of Jen Payne’s writing can be found in her new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, available online from Three Chairs Publishing.