Categories
Books Creativity

I’ll Be Right Back…

I have a confession to make. For the past six months, I have been disappearing down a rabbit hole, crawling to the backside of the wardrobe, hitching a ride on a tornado…and making my way to the empire of Une Belle Ville.

It started innocently enough — my nephew on his tablet in the backseat on our way home from an adventure.

“What’s that?” I asked, hearing huzzahs and sing-song chimes.

“Forge of Empires,” he said.

“A video game?”

“Yea, it’s cool. You build a city by collecting resources and building an army. I’m in the Stone Age still.”

When we got home, we sat on the couch together and he showed me his city. Just a few random huts, some dirt trails, an obelisk — but it had me at sing-song. So I loaded it on my iphone and away we went, my nephew and me sharing our cities and achievements.

“I’m in the Iron Age!” he announced.

“Me, too!”

“You caught up with me. I have three archers!”

“I built a fruit farm!”

We went on like this for a few weeks, comparing notes as we played dueling technologies. And then one day, I started hearing zap-zap-zap and kaboom instead of huzzah and sing-song, sing-song.

“What age are you in now?” I asked, curiously.

“I’m playing Minecraft.”

“Not Forge of Empire?”

“No. It was too boring. This is better, see…”

And so our paths diverged. He and his kabooms went one way, and I skipped along with my huzzahs from the Bronze age straight on through to the Industrial.

I know, I know…it’s a little puerile. It’s also one of those nefarious escape mechanisms that gets you strung out on dopamine.  But given the state of the world (and the state of my family of late)? I’m all in for an extra hit of dopamine thank you very much.

The funny thing is, my city — Une Belle Ville — is exactly the kind of place I’d like to spend my time if the rabbit hole jumping, wardrobe crawling, tornado clinging thing actually worked. My fellow villagers and I rank high in enthusiasm and participate happily as members of the local Guild. We trade instead of battle, we polish instead of plunder, we explore the world and give aid when we can. We have lots of trees and gardens, a rosarium and a butterfly house. There’s a mountain preserve, a Celtic farmstead, and a vineyard. We can see the Oracle of Delphi, the Arc de Triomphe, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Notre Dame, and a Statue of Zeus all in an afternoon’s walk. We can visit the zoo, laugh on the ferris wheel, take a hot air balloon ride, or climb the steps of the Observatory to see the stars.

So far, I’ve built a paper mill, am working towards a print shop, and look forward to the day I can build a library for my city, because we all need books, don’t we? Those other things that give us a beautiful out, an “I’ll be right back” excuse to leave the 21st century messes and remember what’s possible with a little bit of imagination and some escapism-flavored dopamine. Huzzah!


Categories
Creativity

The Sound of Crickets

Did you know that each issue of MANIFEST (zine) includes a Spotify playlist especially curated for readers? For the CRICKETS issue, I had fun playing off the themes of silence, finding one’s voice, and creating from the heart. It features an eclectic set of songs by artists like Disturbed, Grace Carter, Barry Manilow, John Mayer, Natasha Bedingfield, and Brandi Carlile. Take a listen now!

IMAGE: Midsummer Frolic, British Library Digital Library, When Life is Young, Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, 1894.

Categories
Creativity

WHAT’S THAT? Manifest (zine): Crickets

MANIFEST ZINE
Issue #4, Crickets
by Jen Payne

Storytelling is in our DNA says Brené Brown in her book Rising Strong. We share our stories because “we feel most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories.” That process, she explains, causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin, the chemicals that “trigger the uniquely human ability to connect, empathize, and make meaning.” So we write. And we create. No matter who listens or responds. Crickets be damned.

MANIFEST (zine): Crickets is a riff and a rant about the consequences of creative bravery. It’s a 24-page, full color booklet that includes a curated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.


INGREDIENTS: appropriation art, black-out poetry, collaged elements, color copies, colored markers, ephemera, hand-drawn fonts, ink jet copies, laser prints, vintage illustrations, watercolor paints, and “11 Cute Facts About Crickets.”

With THANKS to to the British Library Digital Library, Brené Brown, Leonard Cohen, Carlo Collodi, Francis Crick, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, Natalie Goldberg, Charles d. Orbigny, Pinocchio, George Selden, the Trustees of the British Museum, James Watson, and Margaret J. Wheatley.


Issue #4, Crickets
24-page, full-color 4.25 x 5.5,
Cost: $6.00

 

BUY NOW or SUBSCRIBE and get 4 issues for just $20!



Categories
Creativity

The Messy Business of Creating

In her heartbreakingly wonderful book This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart, photographer Susannah Conway explains that writing is “a vocation that pays out twice: first to you as the detective unraveling your heart and then again to the reader who consumes your work.”

This echoes a conversation I had recently with my dear friend Judith who reminded me that the life-changing moment for a writer is not necessarily being published, or even being read. The life-changing moment is the creative spark, that white hot moment of inspiration.

The rest, as they say, is gravy. More or less… (Read More)

Categories
Creativity

NEW! Manifest (zine): Crickets

MANIFEST ZINE
Issue #4, Crickets
by Jen Payne

Storytelling is in our DNA says Brené Brown in her book Rising Strong. We share our stories because “we feel most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories.” That process, she explains, causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin, the chemicals that “trigger the uniquely human ability to connect, empathize, and make meaning.” So we write. And we create. No matter who listens or responds. Crickets be damned.

MANIFEST (zine): Crickets is a riff and a rant about the consequences of creative bravery. It’s a 24-page, full color booklet that includes a curated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.


INGREDIENTS: appropriation art, black-out poetry, collaged elements, color copies, colored markers, ephemera, hand-drawn fonts, ink jet copies, laser prints, vintage illustrations, watercolor paints, and “11 Cute Facts About Crickets.”

With THANKS to to the British Library Digital Library, Brené Brown, Leonard Cohen, Carlo Collodi, Francis Crick, Charles Dickens, Mary Elizabeth Mapes Dodge, Natalie Goldberg, Charles d. Orbigny, Pinocchio, George Selden, the Trustees of the British Museum, James Watson, and Margaret J. Wheatley.


Issue #4, Crickets
24-page, full-color 4.25 x 5.5,
Cost: $6.00

 

BUY NOW or SUBSCRIBE and get 4 issues for just $20!


Categories
Books Creativity Poetry

25 – Feather Juggler

They never seem heavy
just multiplicitous,
as if she stood
beneath a galaxy
of starlings,
wispy afterthoughts

…………raining

……down

from murmurations

their murmurings
perhaps,
or muses
task masters
EXPECTATIONS…..you say

perhaps

she does
make it look
easy, though
effortless,
effervescent —
bubbling over
like champagne,
watching

….it

……..fall

…………to

……..the

page

giggling

who wouldn’t kiss the rim,
let it tickle
like a feather
against your soul

then juggle
the soft ideas
aloft awhile
until something forms
in midair:

………………ideas

…….dreams

…………a poem

….of feathers

…………….floating

Image: Hand on Feathers, Martial Raysse. Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Categories
Creativity Poetry

1 – Level Up!

He was a giant black dog

wooly from toes to eyes

— if he had them —

and every morning

on my way to school

at the end of the street

he would race down his driveway

…..growling

………..non-stop

……………full speed

………………..and full bark

full enough to scare anyone

most especially my 11-year-old self

who hadn’t quite figured out

what to do with her monsters yet

except run, run, run.

 

Then His name is Sam,

a voice yelled from a dark, dusty window

in the gray house set back from the road,

Sam, it rolled down the driveway

and across my path, a magic coin,

a power token, password — SAM

and I knew exactly what to do!

 

The next morning, I bravely stood,

hands on hips and waited

David me for Goliath he

at the end of his driveway

waited and waited and waited

until Sam came out,

…..charging

……….non-stop

……………full speed

………………..and full bark

SAM, SIT! I yelled as loudly as I could

SIT, SAM, SIT!

And then he sat.

And I did too.

First monster vanquished. Level up!

 

©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Categories
Creativity Poetry

It’s National Poetry Month!

Happy National Poetry Month! Here at Random Acts of Writing, we’re going to be writing a poem a day — #NaPoWriMo — so check back daily! But did you know that National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996? Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. Here are 30 ways you can participate…

  1. Sign-up for Poem-a-Day and read a poem each morning.

  2. Sign-up to receive a free National Poetry Month poster, or download the PDF, and display it for the occasion.

  3. Read last year’s most-read poem, Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Kindness.”

  4. Record yourself reading a poem, and share why you chose that work online using the hashtag #ShelterinPoems. Be sure to tag @poetsorg on twitter and instagram!

  5. Subscribe to the Poem-a-Day podcast.

  6. Check out an e-book of poetry from your local library.

  7. Begin your virtual meetings or classes by reading a poem.

  8. Talk to the teachers in your life about Teach This Poem.

  9. Learn more about poets and virtual poetry events in your state.

  10. Read about your state poet laureate.

  11. Browse Poems for Kids.

  12. Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.

  13. Make a poetry playlist.

  14. Browse the glossary of terms and try your hand at writing a formal poem.

  15. Create an online anthology of your favorite poems on Poets.org.

  16. Organize a poetry reading, open mic, or poetry slam via a video conferencing service.

  17. Sign up for an online poetry class or workshop.

  18. Donate books of poetry to little free libraries and mutual aid networks.

  19. Research and volunteer with poetry organizations in your area.

  20. Take a walk and write a poem outside.

  21. Start a virtual poetry reading group or potluck, inviting friends to share poems.

  22. Write an exquisite corpse or a renga with friends via email or text.

  23. Take on a guerrilla poetry project in your building.

  24. Read essays about poetry like Edward Hirsch’s “How to Read a Poem,” Mary Ruefle’s “Poetry and the Moon,” Mark Doty’s “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now,” and Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Life of Poetry.”

  25. Watch a movie, lecture, or video featuring a poet.

  26. Read and share poems about the environment in honor of Earth Day.

  27. Make a poetry chapbook.

  28. Submit your poems to a literary magazine or poetry journal.

  29. Make a poem to share on Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30, 2020.

  30. Make a gift to support the Academy of American Poets free programs and publications and keep celebrating poetry year-round!

National Poetry Month poster, with permission from the Academy of American Poets. Artwork by Samantha Aikman.
Categories
Books Creativity National Poetry Month Poetry Writing

Finding Inspiration

When I told a friend last spring that I was writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo, 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, one 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 books Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind and Waiting Out the Storm, available from Three Chairs Publishing.

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