A Christian Poet, Children's Book Author and Real-life Miracle
Like many other dynamic artists and communicators, author Pat Brannon draws from a wealth of life experiences to render her finest work, and readers of all ages respond to her entertaining, thought-provoking children's books, inspirational poetry and memoiristic nonfiction with open arms.
Today, Brannon and her husband of 34 years, Howard, reside in Amory, Mississippi, just outside of Tupelo (the birthplace of Elvis Presley). However, Brannon's journey began on November 6, 1953 when she was born in Morrilton, Arkansas, a small town situated about thirty five miles northwest of Little Rock. Brannon says she lived in a few different towns and states early on, but her family eventually returned to Morrilton and its surrounding areas. Brannon asserts, "Growing up in the South definitely shaped who I am today. I am a combination of both city girl and country girl, and am proud to be both."
Reflecting on her rural Arkansas upbringing, Brannon says, "I have spent many nights in a storm cellar, helped wring chicken's necks, gone to the smokehouse to help get meat, picked poke salad and berries in the woods, watched my grandmother make lye soap and piled on several layers of clothing to go with Daddy to find the perfect Christmas tree while snow was pelting us in the face." Having grown up without many of today's modern conveniences, she adds, "I've even used an outhouse more times than I can count---at home and school---because we didn't have indoor plumbing for a while at either place." But Brannon concludes, "I still treasure every one of those memories from long ago. This life may be totally foreign to some, but I will always look back with a grateful heart on that simple life that I was blessed to experience."
In addition to the values and work ethic that were instilled in her, Brannon vividly recalls a childhood during which her creativity was both embraced and nurtured. At the age of nine, Brannon was about to board a school bus for her morning ride to school when her father, Ben Baker, handed her a country song he had begun writing, and asked her to pen an additional verse. No doubt, the collaboration would prove to be a valuable learning experience for Brannon, but its impact would be more profound than perhaps her father could have ever imagined. "Writing that song sparked something inside me," Brannon explains. While she welcomed her first songwriting endeavor because of the challenge it presented, Brannon admits, "Back then I had no way of knowing I would be writing Christian poetry and children's books today and that I would continue to write songs, aspiring to get my songs recorded and become a professional songwriter."
Writing with Purpose
"While co-writing that song with Daddy sparked a love of writing in me," Brannon says, "it wasn't until after I grew up, got married, raised my sons, Jason and Shawn, and eventually quit working in the school system that I began to have the time to really concentrate on my writing. All through the years I had kept writing, but it was just a hobby. At that point I had never considered doing anything on a professional level with my writing. It was purely for my own enjoyment."
During her years of teaching high school, Brannon recounts how many of her students urged her to take her writing to the next level, but she says, "I didn't think anyone would enjoy reading the kinds of things I like to write." Her students' persistence paid off, however, and Brannon began writing in earnest, learned all she could about the publishing industry and, most importantly, prayed for God's guidance. "About the year 2000," she says, "I took my love for writing and my ten years of classroom experience as a substitute teacher in the Amory, Mississippi Public School District and started writing books."
Walk Softly: You're Steppin' on My Heart!, Brannon's first book, was released in November 2002. She describes the book as "a collection of 100 nonfiction Christian poems mostly about my life, beginning with my miracle birth." Conceding that she has been "told repeatedly that poetry doesn't sell," Brannon pays no mind to industry pundits, and declares, "My poetry is inspired by God. It comes from the core of my heart." So far, a diverse range of readers have enjoyed Walk Softly, and Brannon says, "I'm thrilled to say that both men and women have cried while reading it. That tells me that it has touched their heartstrings in a big way." She says, "My desire is that my Christian poetry will offer hope and encouragement to everyone who reads it," and she adds, "Walk Softly will always be a timeless book, because---as long as the earth is standing---there will always be problems to deal with and we will always need encouragement."
Pat Brannon is the author of Walk Softly: You're Steppin' on My Heart!, a collection of Christian poetry, and the children's books Filthy Farley O'Charlie McBarley and Food Fight Frenzy.
Brannon's first children's title, Filthy Farley O'Charlie McBarley, was published in August 2007. The author calls this book "a fictional chapter book about a third grader being bullied and belittled by some of his classmates and what it takes to turn their thinking around." Based on this book, Brannon says, "I wrote a character education presentation (monologue in character) that addresses the issues of bullying, lying, cursing, name-calling, dishonesty, gossiping and judging folks by their outward appearance and body odor. I visit many schools every year with this presentation. It's been a big hit with the students and staff at every school I've visited."
Brannon describes her latest book, Food Fight Frenzy, as a story "about an unexpected food fight in the school cafeteria and the problems that follow at the school that has been named Model School of the Year." Appealing to young readers with its humor and exciting illustrations, the fictional work teaches the importance of making wise decisions . . . even when those decisions might prove unpopular at the time. Brannon says the group of third graders in her story "must make the decision whether to be followers and possibly risk getting into trouble for their actions or step up and be a leader and avoid the unpleasant circumstances that are sure to follow."
"Writing for children," Brannon surmises, "is definitely something I feel led by God to do. I know He is opening up the necessary doors for me to get into schools with my children's books and spread the word about how important it is to treat others the way we want to be treated."
Pat Brannon's author visits are a hit at the schools. She is able to entertain and communicate positive messages without sounding preachy.
As for her approach to subject matter, Brannon says, "I try to write fun, informative and entertaining books that teach important life lessons without being preachy," but she says, "Sometimes I write funny stories that don't really teach a specific lesson at all. They are weird, wacky and warped, and I think the kids will love them."
Additional projects are due out this year. Elijah Teaches His Friends the ABCs was written for a younger audience, and several of Brannon's family members---especially her only grandchild, Elijah---and even the family dog are characters in the story. Parents will value this book for its educational content, but Brannon says Quirky Kids' Zoo, also slated for release this year, is "one of those fun, yet warped books I mentioned earlier that will just be a barrel of fun for kids to read."
Author visits to schools have proven to be a particularly effective means of communicating with children, and Brannon describes her routine thusly: "To begin my highly visual, attention-getting, eye-opening presentation, I make a grand entrance for shock value! It's then I have the full attention of both students and staff. I have a great time interacting with the children and adults. I do weird, unexpected things in my presentation, but I address a multitude of character education issues in a short period of time." The monologue is also well-suited for church groups, and Brannon says, "Folks that have seen my presentation will tell you that I pack a lot of important information into thirty or forty minutes."
From Her Own Unique Perspective
Brannon credits her interaction with students for enabling her to write stories to which kids can relate. She says, "Those ten years working with children in the classroom prepared me for writing children's books. They gave me great insight into how inquisitive and unpredictable some children can be."
Much of Brannon's Christian material is borne out of personal trials and triumphs and the role faith played in each situation. As a result, she is able to embolden the disheartened with words of comfort and reassurance. She points to a "series of miracles," and attests to God's faithfulness. Her mother had been told that she would never be able to have children, but her prayers were answered, and she had three! As a child, Brannon escaped death on two different occasions and, most recently, she fought a bout with cancer in 2006, and is now cancer-free. Today, Brannon is working on a book about her cancer experience and says, "It will take some time to finish this book, but I hope it will be powerful when it is done. Just like Walk Softly, I hope it will touch many lives in a positive way."
Brannon recently began teaching introductory writing workshops, and will soon begin work as a staff writer for Opinari Quarterly, a publication of Columbia, Maryland-based Opine Books. These developments will afford her the opportunity to further enlarge her sphere of influence as she instructs and inspires other Christian writers, particularly novices and young authors.
In addition to writing, Brannon describes singing as an "outlet of expression and something I love to do." Having made a number of radio and television appearances through the years, she welcomes every opportunity to perform and testify about God's grace. A member of Meadowood Baptist Church in Amory, Mississippi since 1983, Brannon says, "I am a regularly featured soloist, an active member of the Adult Sanctuary Choir and the founding member of Lifeline, a Southern gospel quartet in my church. Through the years, I have served in numerous positions and in various areas at church."
The Measure of Success
Brannon says, "There are millions of folks around the world that need to laugh and to feel that there is hope when it looks like there isn't any. I want to be someone that makes a difference in the lives of people." Acknowledging that success is often measured in dollars and cents, Brannon insists, "While I would never turn down huge advances or royalty checks from publishers, my view of success may be slightly different than some other writers. I feel I am successful if I have touched lives with my writing, from the youngest child to the oldest adult. And I want to make both little children and adults laugh again, even if it is through some unconventional book I've written."
Electronic mail communications with Pat Brannon, Amory, Mississippi, on June 16, 2009 and June 20, 2009
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