UNEXPECTED GIFTS ON THE PATH OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
ABOUT THE BOOK
In Gambling on Granola: Unexpected Gifts on the Path of Entrepreneurship, Simon shares a tale that is uplifting and inspiring but also raw and honest. This is a business memoir but also a love story―the love for her daughter, of a journey in uncharted waters, of the products and company she created, and of the continued challenge to follow her dream.
We see her growth and healing over fifteen years, as mistakes, weaknesses, and naiveté evolve into resilience, resolve, and inspiration. For Fiona, it started out as all new businesses do―with an idea. But her world quickly became more complex as she established her company, developed new product lines, forged personal relationships in a competitive environment, grew her business, and held onto her deepest values―all while raising her daughter, Natalie, as a single mom.
FIONA MARIE SIMON
Fiona Maria Simon is a former journalist, travel writer, editor, and communications director of the Boulder, Colorado, Chamber of Commerce. She is passionate about developing healthy food products, writing, traveling the world, and inspiring and empowering others with her story. Lured by the adventures of entrepreneurship, she launched her own organic granola company and led it to success despite having no business background and simultaneously juggling the demands of being a single mom. Her book is a story of challenges, hardships, and triumphs, both personal and professional.
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“Fiona’s story is both personal and transformative. She lays bare the hopes and anxieties, challenges, betrayals and lessons learned in creating her own business. From the mountaintops of a solar observatory where she was raised, to the struggles and triumphs, her story is like a path of granola crumbs leading the reader to understand how to succeed at any enterprise.”
– Jeff Kline, M.A. Ed., Chairman, Hispanic Communications Network, Washington, DC.
“Fiona Simon is an engaging storyteller and her narrative moves right along. It should inspire and motivate anyone who needs to remember the importance of persistence, belief in oneself, and vision in pursuing a goal. Her granola is good and so is her book.”
– Bob McCormick, Publisher, Editor, Author
ABOUT THE BOOK
Would God floss? Do spiders sing? Can you see the Universe in your reflection? Find the answers to these questions in more in this new book by Connecticut writer Jen Payne. Her poems in EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND investigate the human condition and its folly, the beauty of our natural world, and the possibility of divine connection. 80 original and vintage photographs include a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the book’s title.
ALA Notable Book author Dale Carlson calls the book “a brilliantly incisive commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.”
EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING speaks to the common heart that beats in you and in me, in the woods and on the streets, across oceans and around this planet. It asks us all to consider the effects of our actions and how they influence everything else in the Universe.
Jennifer A. Payne
Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.
Very often, her writing is accompanied by her own photography and artwork. As both a graphic designer and writer, Jen believes that partnering visuals and words layers the intentions of her work, and makes the communication more palpable.
In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is her second book.
Jen is the owner of Three Chairs Publishing and Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Installations of her poetry were featured in Inauguration Nation an exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven (2017), and Shuffle & Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (2016). Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.
You can read more of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing, http://www.randomactsofwriting.net.
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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
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:
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)
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!
“The poems in Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are a brilliantly incisive
commentary on our simultaneous human sense of beauty and waste and loss.” — Dale Carlson, ALA Notable Book author
“In Jen Payne’s exquisite introduction to Evidence of Flossing, she provides the purpose of this book: to illustrate, poem by poem, the very fraught relationships which define us, human to human, human to earth and animal, and human to the unifying spirit, which may or may not be her lower case “god.” She is sober, admonitory, enraptured and antic by turns, her illustrative photographs always a source of pleasure or irony — often both. This is a most unusual book, richly thoughtful and sorely, sorely needed.” — Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely, author, Letter from Italy, 1944
“It’s uncanny how Jen Payne grabs hold of seemingly ordinary strands of life — then surprises us with new meaning. A master at storytelling, Jen brings us to the realization that the stories she shares are actually ours. An engaging, thought provoking and masterful reflection on our collective legacy in this world.” — Mary O’Connor, author, Life Is Full of Sweet Spots and Dreams of a Wingless Child
ABOUT THE BOOK
Coated with a life of lies and deceit, Burtrum Lee Conner is sick to her stomach. Dozens of times throughout her life the feeling of not being who she is has tormented her. But she kept it to herself, believing that maybe it’s just a chemical imbalance of some kind considering she is one of the first artificially-inseminated babies of the nineteen sixties. Now, there’s more though, something much deeper, much more maniacal than she could have ever imagined. She’s not the first test tube baby at all, but the first….
Burtrum Lee Conner, born into a world of scientific mystery, discovers that the life she’s been leading for the past forty years, is the wrong one. Her parent’s Jed and Jane Conner, stealing her as an infant, brought Lee up as their own. Even her devoted grandmother, Clair Conner, kept this secret close to her chest until they were found out. And now, Lee Conner’s biological mother, Katie Lee, wants her back, but not before the diabolical Dr. Stone has his say.
When I was a child growing up in the Detroit area, I thought I wanted to be a painter, and then as a teenager the idea of being a musician intrigued me, then as a young adult, I realized that I’m a writer.
After attending Western Michigan University for two party filled years, I decided to leave academia and explore the real world to learn what life is truly about. For fifteen years I’ve traveled the country working in restaurants, writing and doing readings wherever I was welcome.
While living in Minneapolis during my twenties, I was fortunate enough to be tutored by Dr. Jonis Agee, who was at the time head of the creative writing department at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul. Her lessons were imprinted in me for all of these years, and have influenced my writing ever since.
My adventures landed me in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oregon, finally leading me to the Land of Enchantment where I’ve resided since 1994. Living in Santa Fe, and the beauty and isolation that surrounds me, has inspire my creative muse in ways that no other place has. While still working in the hospitality industry, my passion for the craft of writing has never been stronger. And I know with each sentence I write, and every paragraph I compose, my ultimate goal is to find the perfect word.
Keep on bookin!
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Finding My Muse
When I awoke this morning I looked under my bed to see if my Muses had tucked themselves away while I wasn’t looking. But all I found were shoes. I went to the closet wondering if maybe that’s where they’ve disappeared. But all I found were coats. I strolled into my work-room, knowing it’s one of their favorite haunts, but all I found were words. Grabbing my aged dictionary, I flipped through the used pages and surfaced in the land of the M’s. It was there I found them. Hanging out next to their name: Muse-To become absorbed in thought. To turn something over in the mind meditatively and often inconclusively. To wonder, to marvel, to think or say something reflectively. The Nine Sisters in Greek Mythology. Inspiration! I ponder these definitions, and ask myself what do I think about the most? What do I turn over in my mind and think of obsessively? What does inspire me? And the same two words keep surfacing. My writing! I think I found my muse!
ABOUT THE BOOK
After the trauma of a savage attack, a farm girl recovers physically, but her identity, faith, and relationships are shattered.
This is the true story of Leona Stucky’s childhood on a Kansas farm, surrounded by a loving family and the simple tenets of her Mennonite community. Violence enters her world in the guise of a young man who seems normal to everyone else but who Leona knows to be deranged in his obsession with her.
His unrelenting abuses take root, and Leona must deal with them utterly alone. Her pacifist father cannot avenge or protect her, nor can a callous justice system. Even God is impotent.
Leona is cast into a bewildering life of disgrace and poverty—with a baby, a violent husband, and battered faith. Through a series of page-turning events, she hacks through the bones of her naïveté to confront harsh realities and to probe the veracity of religious claims.
The Fog of Faith is a suspenseful and morally unflinching drama of shame and survival, as well as usable and unusual wisdom.
This edition includes thoughtful questions for readers and groups to further explore their own stories.
Dr. Leona Stucky
She fit bucking bales into God’s plan, but bucking fear left this Mennonite farm teen begging and now, after 30 years as a professional psychotherapist, Dr. Leona Stucky narrates her unflinching faith-and-violence dilemma in a riveting memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God, which spares neither God nor violence against women and has been recommended by MS Magazine.
Dr. Stucky first received a degree in psychology and philosophy from Boston College, graduating summa cum laude, before plunging into seminary, first at Andover Newton Theological School and then at Eden Theological Seminary. She earned a doctorate from Southern Methodist University with honors, and a Diplomate certificate from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors—their highest credential—for teaching, supervising, and offering therapy services. She currently has standing as a Unitarian Universalist community minister.
These professional explorations might have quieted her mind, but the areas where integration seemed impossible became mental sand kernels disrupting many intellectual resting places. Being fiercely honest in confronting contradictions, she honed her wisdom, gained unusual insights, and enjoyed a professional and personal journey that could only be shared by telling the whole story. After numerous failed attempts, Dr, Stucky finally completed The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God.
The provocative title aptly indicates the unflinching moral dilemmas she reveals. The gripping story reads like a real-life thriller that readers can’t put down. Still, each step grounds itself in nuanced networks of passion, relational complexities, cultural and religious dilemmas, circumscribed choices bound by woman’s poverty, persistent violence, and an untamable resilient desire to redeem herself with or without God.
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We looked enough like a normal Midwest farm community that you might not guess we were Mennonite unless you knew our history, motives, thought processes, or noticed our controlled impulses and abundant gentleness. What you couldn’t see revealed the most about us. Underneath our disciplined exterior burned passion. We focused it on doing what Jesus wanted.
Our faith, the well from which we drank our identity, defined what our lives should be. We learned how to judge each event and where to place our trust. We knew another world loomed out there, a bad one that often dismissed our re-purposing of Jesus’s sermon on the mount. My family didn’t touch or taste that world, and seldom did that world intersect ours. Being held in Jesus’s love and resting in His arms was poignant enough for us.
– The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God
Perhaps the one identity in which we were allowed to show pride, and not feel sinful about self-promotion, was in being Mennonite. That was the right thing to be and as a young girl I was certain I could be proud of that and of having a long line of forbearers who were also Mennonite as far back as anyone could remember or discover, on both sides of my family. I thought of myself as Mennonite through and through and had no desire to be anything else, in fact, I couldn’t have guessed what ‘anything else’ might have been, other than wrong in the eyes of God.
And, as is characteristic of most faith stories, when doubts or cognitive dissonance ruffled my brain, I found ways to get back into the straight and narrow, at least for a long time.
Here is the story of one such experience told in The Fog of Faith.
One Sunday when I was seven, our tribe came to church late. Embarrassed, Dad and we big kids—Mom tended her babies in the nursery—tiptoed into an empty pew at the back of Hopefield Mennonite Church. I was expecting another mind-numbing repeat of the good things we’d heard and said before. Dad pretended to tickle me, and I squirmed and slid down the pew to escape.
“Da-a-ad,” I whispered, giving his title three syllables. “We’re supposed to be quiet. You’re not helping!” Gradually I settled into boredom, until the spoken word about the Biblical David sounded a discordant note.
“What does this mean?” I mumbled to Dad. “David did all those bad things and God helped him? God even made him kill a giant and lots of other people?”
He shushed me, but my thoughts ran wild. Didn’t God tell us never to kill anybody? Wasn’t that our Church’s point? We didn’t believe in killing anyone, not even bad people! I was guessing that God was no better than the rest of the evil world, when a safer idea landed—this must be a bad minister who preached bad stories about a bad God. How dare the preacher tell us that God is not as good as Mennonites!
I poked Dad’s side and said, “How come our minister says that God does bad things, even killing people?”
“Honey, he’s asking us to think about things a little differently.”
“It’s more than a little different if you say God likes killing! Isn’t that what the rest of the world thinks? Those who go to war? I thought we weren’t supposed to like killing. That’s what the Bible tells us.”
Dad’s red face sprouted purple lines. Beads of sweat rolled down my back. I stood up, thinking I might run.
“Is what he says about David actually in the Bible?” I continued.
“Yes, it’s in the Bible, but in the Old Testament, in a time before Jesus.”
“Are you saying that God was mean before Jesus came, but then He got nice?”
“Sort of like that,” Dad said, motioning for me to sit down and hush up. I wanted to stomp my foot so bad it ached from holding it back. I sat with my arms crossed, fingers digging into my skin, and glowered at our minister.
But I considered that I was in church and I should be kind. Because … Because … Jesus wanted me for a sunbeam. I was no dumb bunny. I knew that for sure.
I should also confess to you blog readers that when I was young, and throughout most of my life, I harbored a deep desire to be a good girl. Few things are more boring to readers than good girls. As the old adage says, good girls don’t make history.
That simple fact separates my memoir from most other stories. I am not a heroine. I did not inherit a swift and decisive mind, a strong will that demanded others conform, a sense of justice that made me react instantly when I was marginalized, a body build that allowed me to win at sports, or an extroverted demeanor that dominated discussions and the moods of people around me. No. The classic heroine lives at the opposite end of the personality spectrum from where I land.
Thus you, as a reader, are in for an unusual experience if you pick up the book. Readers say that once they start the memoir they can’t put it down – that it moves fast and is thrilling and scary each step of the way. But the speed, I can assure you, has nothing to do with the grounded molasses that is me. I’m guessing that partly due to my lack of heroine qualities, Ms. Magazine calls The Fog of Faith a great summer read, and some critical reviewers have called it both a fascinating story and an important read. I wonder what your experience will be.
The voice of this woman’s spirit and courage rings clearly as she faces the personal challenges of her faith—when the adversity in life tests the veracity of her beliefs against the reality of terror. This book is an important, insightful book that I highly recommend.
– Michael Paymar, author of Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse
Naked with fear, aflame with rage, at once heart-pounding and heart-breaking, this true tale climbs from the wheat fields of Kansas to the promised Heaven above—and down again.
– Robert Mayer, author of The Origin of Sorrow, The Dreams of Ada, Superfolks, and other books
Peter Tesla, a prodigious young inventor, develops an electronic device to enhance the user’s free will. A major application is drug detoxification.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Peter Tesla, a prodigious young inventor, develops an electronic device to enhance the user’s free will. A major application is drug detoxification. Peter’s star client is the U.S. president. Along the way, Peter is tried for the mysterious death of a girlfriend and struggles with the machinations of a secretive industrialist.
Larry Kilham has traveled extensively overseas for over twenty years. He worked in several large international companies and started and sold two high-tech ventures. He received a B.S. in engineering from the University of Colorado and an M.S. in management from MIT. Larry has written books about creativity and invention, artificial intelligence and digital media, travel overseas, and three novels with an AI theme.
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Free Will is a concept or phenomenon that appears through all literature and common discourse since civilization began. In some sense, it definitely exists, but it means different things to different people. It is a semantic construct, not a defined constant like the physical law of gravity. With this latitude for interpretation, free will has become a favorite subject for philosophers.
Many scientist and religious philosophers argue that there is no such thing as free will. They go so far as to say that we have no more latitude of choice in thought and action than a bee in the hive. Others say we cannot describe the thought as mechanistically as describing a computer or a bee’s brain. They all agree that full understanding of human consciousness will not be completely understood for a long time, if ever.
Looking back on my life, I wrote, in part:
As a child on a farm
I knew the totality of creation
And in that wonder life had no end.
This is the mindset in which free will, as I understand it, can thrive. In my current book, Free Will Odyssey, I have my inventor protagonist grow up on a farm to illustrate the impact country life can have on free will. My father, who in real life was a prolific inventor and is thinly disguised in that same part of the book, advised me to project my mind to a new space when inventing. I received three patents and I now realize I was profitably harnessing my free will when following his advice.
Beginning in graduate school at MIT, I studied cognitive science and AI. Free will kept emerging as an important and misunderstood issue. In this book, I explore it from a number of points of view. I’m not trying to settle a philosophical argument. I’m trying to shed more light on the subject from many points of view and to emphasize its importance in some current societal problems.