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Summer Deals

Looking for a ‘beach read’? How about several? Right now all of my books are on discount as e-books! You can take them to the water’s edge, sink your toes into the sand, and read until that next sunscreen application. Get all 7 of them for around $25 bucks. They’re on Amazon and other retailers. As always, I’m happy to sign paper copies. Just send me a message on Facebook or Instagram. Thanks for reading!

-Brian

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First Take

The middle grade basketball story I’ve been working on is underway, and I wanted to share this first image. It’s a story written in verse and will feature illustrations throughout. I’m using a new illustrator this time around, and I’d love your thoughts on this ‘first look.’ We’re still a long way from the finish line, but it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for quite some time. Hope you like it. Feel free to comment below!

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The Good Life

BY TRACY K. SMITH

When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.

Poem copyright ©2011 by Tracy K. Smith from her most recent book of poems, Life on Mars, Graywolf Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Tracy K. Smith and the publisher.

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Exiles in this World

The striving to make this space familiar is paramount

until one day we recognize that the toxins around us

are temporary

The home we have created was purchased

through hours and hours of work

and online shopping

The house is rocked by wind we didn’t

create

Our family and friends move away

The chance to look beyond our mailbox is

a gift

Let us call it what it is –

a divine encounter

to traipse beyond the lawn

and see down the street

and across the other lawns

and in-ground pools

to the sky

and beyond

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3 weeks away

On January 2nd, my newest work [and first children’s book] will be released with Black Rose Writing! It’s titled The Scary, Gray Shark. This book is a culmination of being a first-time parent, seeing our family change and grow, and moving to Charleston, SC in 2019. It’s protagonist, a bull shark called Zella, is given my daughter’s namesake, and it covers topics such as bullying and isolation in the ocean. The artwork is done by Katerina Dotneboya of Finland. [Earlier press release for the book here and here.] I’m more than willing to sign copies sent to me and will ship back. Also, when the first box arrives from the publisher, I will gladly sign copies and mail them direct. Just let me know your reading needs and address!

The pre-order discount is still being accepted (PREORDER2019) at Black Rose’s website until January 1st. Get copies of this book for your family and friends and share the gift of ‘story time’ with others.

Also, stay tuned for reading events to be shared soon [both locally in Charleston and outside of South Carolina]. I do readings and am happy to talk about writing topics with your English classroom/group/church/business.

God bless in the new year!

-Brian

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Update: Ocean Ramsey reviews THE SCARY, GRAY SHARK!

Advance praise for The Scary, Gray Shark, from Ocean Ramsey, saying:


“Such beautiful artwork on each and every page. I love sharks – and it’s wonderful to see Zella make friends…find respect instead of fear in our ocean ecosystems. It is wonderful to see people speaking up for sharks.”

Her bio:

Ocean Ramsey operates One Ocean Diving, LLC in Hawaii, a company which facilitates dives with marine life. She gained international media attention for free diving with sharks, including great white sharks, to bring attention to shark conservation. Ramsey is based in Hawaii, and has dived with 32 species of sharks around the world as of 2013.

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‘Artists’ don’t stop

Austin Kleon’s newest effort – Keep Going

This newest work by Austin Kleon really hit me – at a time I needed it most.

2019 – Move to a new city

2019 – Renting in said city

2019 – Baby turns 1 year old

2019 – New job in city

2019 – New church

2019 – New routine

In the busiest season of our lives, this is a book that can help us grapple with the need to live, grow, and continue in the creative pursuits we started.

If you have a project, a non-profit, a mission, a manuscript, a quilt, whatever it is – let this be an encouragement to finish it.

When you feel stuck in a rut simply ask: What’s next?

Joseph Campbell encouraged what he called “creative incubation” in a safe place. Where is yours?

Kleon talks about the importance of action and says it’s not about being a writer (noun) but following the influence to write (verb).

He also states the importance of making gifts (as play). In a world where we’re trained to heap marketing phrases [even on our friends], our hobbies have been replaced by side hustles. This is never ideal. Remember fun things you did as a kid and revisit those.

Kleon points out Corita Kent’s life as a nun/artist as someone who found joy in everyday life.

There will inevitably be push back from what Jenny Offill calls ‘art monsters.’ And we’re encouraged to slay those monsters and never become one!

Kleon goes on to express the importance of changing our mindset as needed, and if the creative life becomes too cumbersome, to pause and tidy up, as tidying can be a form of exploration.

If the world inside your creative shell is too cramped (and demons are pushing in), he says “to exercise is to exorcise.” The solution: take a walk and get some fresh air. The stuff will be there when you get back to it.

Kleon relates a really interesting story of how gardening is a great example of his final point (Spend Time on Something that Will Outlast Them (meaning those demons). He describes how during the impending conflict of WWII, Leonard Woolf was planting flowers and his wife Virginia Woolf calls out to him (from his book Downhill All the Way)

“Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.”

Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard.”

It’s vital that we have things that will long outlast the hate, the violence that fuels this consumer-driven world.

My question(s): what is your iris? have you planted it yet?

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‘Real’ Artists Share

– from Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work

Our math teachers (I’m looking at you Allyson Upchurch Tucker, Teresa Rankin, and Michael Whittenburg) taught us to “show your work” in each step to solving a mathematical equation. It permitted us to see the process from beginning to end.

It also helped us prepare for scary acronyms like the ACTs & SATs.

Sure the graphing calculator could do a lot of the work for us, but it didn’t necessarily teach us how we arrived at the final number on our screen.

They (our teachers) encouraged us to write it out by hand.

The hand is tied to memory formation. When we scribbled down an idea in our notebook, it connected to our brain in a way the keyboard could not.

Much like Austin Kleon’s previous book, Steal Like an Artist, his Show Your Work manuscript expressed the importance of sharing, too.

It’s when we give away something, collaborate, take a trip together, that memories are shaped in ways that really stick (sometimes for life).

Much like in mathematics class, we don’t need to be a genius to:

discover something new,

to share our process with others,

remain intentional,

be curious,

tell our stories,

teach,

remain honest,

shoulder criticism,

accept gifts,

and not quit.

Don’t ever quit.

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Art as Theft

This was an interesting read for me when I really needed it (about 1 year ago).

I highly recommend it for a multitude of reasons:

1.) desire to be more creative 2.) desire to share ideas with others 3.) interest in drawing better doodles 4.) simplifying your schedule

Austin Kleon brings a whole new approach to business and the impact of sharing information.

He details it in a clear, very visual approach. And it really works!

He delves into the controversial topic that no idea is uniquely original, and we all ‘steal’ from our predecessors. He even thanks them in his acknowledgments section.

If you’re looking for a good place to see how he presented this to a collegiate audience, check out his message at: http://uajourn.pbworks.com/f/How+To+Steal+Like+An+Artist+(And+9+Other+Things+Nobody+Told+Me)+-+Austin+Kleon.pdf

This is information I’d have loved to hear in my collegiate years. It is all helpful (even beyond the creative process).

And what’s best of all?

He practices what he preaches. In reference to #6 on his list – The Secret: Do good work and share it with people – he practices what he preaches and does just that by making all these things available online – www.steallikeanartist.com.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

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Rediscovery

An early version of the prayer wheel.
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jer. 6:16a

Prayer has frequently crept into a back corner for me. The ‘I’m too busy’s take over. I look, leap, fall. I fall hard and awkwardly. (Picture Jim Carrey falling off the jetway and landing with legs splayed. That’s me.)

But, recently, I came across a book, published in 2018, that I missed and never heard any press about. (Self-help books all-too-often clog the bestseller shelves and do anything, if rarely, help.) I’ll chalk this discovery of rediscovery to divine appointment.

It’s called The Prayer Wheel.

It originated in a 12th century monastery, only recently resurfaced in a small private library in 2015 (NYC), and is known as The Liesborn Prayer Wheel.

It features concentric circles, featuring:

  • Petitions from the Lord’s Prayer,
  • then, Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
  • followed by events in Christ’s life,
  • then, a Beatitude blessing,
  • and finally its corresponding Beatitude promise.

Each of these circles begin and end with ‘Praying the whole path.’ Much like the circular design, it’s meant to be endless and perfect in design. It’s outermost ring has the inscription The Order of the Diagram Written Here Teaches The Return Home. It feels very Middle-Earthian, and it taps into the creativity at which God permits people to visit Him.

I never knew this tool existed, and I’m so thankful the wheel was rediscovered near New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art!

The Prayer Wheel website does a much better job describing its formation, usage, and application. How people are returning to these monastic practices, such as: fixed-hour prayer (divine office), labyrinths (walking prayer), and lectio divina (meditative scripture reading). Their site even features a downloadable wheel you can use!

Worksheet screenshot – The Prayer Wheel

But I love the foreword by James Martin, SJ, who writes, there’s no ‘one’ right way to use the wheel, much like there’s no ‘one’ right way to pray.

And, I’m constantly feeling the necessity to return to the ancient paths mentioned in the verse above. It shows me the importance of contemplation in my own life. These are divine appointments each and every time.

New isn’t always better, and in this case, the origin story, is as important as anything else in our daily lives.

No. Not just important.

Essential.

I pray this tool helps you in your prayer life today!