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Meet Regan Brown 

by Anne Marie Turner

"Dare you! I dare you to follow your dreams," is exactly what Regan Marie Brown might say to a colleague, friend or an up-and-coming Austin Mama. She's the kind of woman you'd want on your side in a cat fight or the executive boardroom (if you could keep this potent-but-restless, winning woman corralled in a corporate setting).

Steal a look at Brown's resume and you'll realize that she's hitched a ride on a few daring dreams herself. Her career as a wordsmith -- author, reporter, songwriter, editor of books, technical publications, and Internet classes -- has been peppered with hard labor and diverse experiences ranging from warehouse worker, stone carver and hay bailer, to housewifery, quilt design, advice columnist and points between. The variety has lent spice to Brown's life, allowing her to fuse many interests with opportunities presented along the way. Not surprisingly, it's also been terrific background material for a new book, The Woman's Way: Celebrating Life After 40.

"I always thought I'd first publish as a novelist," admits Brown. However, a different focus emerged soon after a visit with Austin's psychic extraordinaire, Joe Nicols. Nicols confirmed that Brown was definitely a journalist at heart but that she had another book struggling to get out… something on women's issues. A Woman's Way was the result.

"We read so much on the good stuff about aging as a woman, but it's all interspersed with messages about plastic surgery, dieting, cosmetics, etc. I wanted to write things that people wanted to read -- the good things about life over 40."

Brown's book offers support, smiles and sassy wit for women over 40 -- or anyone who knows one. "Sometimes, you admit it," writes Brown on page 68 of her book, "you glance at those dumb articles in the women's magazines in the grocery store checkout line. When you read those articles about 'How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed and Make Him Your Eager Love Slave' you realize - rather smugly - that you are far more knowledgeable on the topic than whoever wrote the article."

Brown's capability and confidence took over the book project, too. "I started out to write a proposal, and ended up just writing the whole book. The flow just happened. I was exhausted at the end, but just kept going until it was done."

Regan (pronounced Ree'-gun) says the book promotion process has been remarkable. "People tell me their stories. I don't have to say much. They tell me amazing things! It's so interesting to see how people react, whether they pucker or glow."

Listening, observing, and following her dreams is what keeps Brown's material coming. She's trying to focus on one project at a time, developing more book ideas. "There are a lot more books that need to be written," she says. Brown is also taking time to lovingly explore her late mother's papers. "Mother was a journalist and creative writer that didn't show much of her work. She had an MFA in fiction... I'm midwifing her papers, getting to know another side of her."

If pressed, Brown will admit to a hidden passion for discussing the Pre-Raphaelites. "It's a little known fact about me... that I'm a self-taught amateur expert, and I almost never run into anyone who wants to talk with me about these 19th century artists and writers who led such fascinating lives."

The unusual interests, the jobs, the changes in scenery always carry Regan back to a common thread of working with words. "It's a curse and a blessing to have done many things, to be so open to new jobs and experiences," says Brown. "But one constant element has been that when things are going well for me I've always been connected to a circle of women."

Here's what Regan had to say to AustinMama:

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?

Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway. Oscar Wilde and George W. Bush. Molly Ivins and just about anyone.

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

Who inspired you when you were growing up and how?

Gladys Smisor -- a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, Capri-pant-clad old piano teacher back in my Western Kansas hometown. Not that I wanted to BE her. I just needed to know there was an alternative to terminal female niceness, which surrounded and smothered me as a girl. Whenever I find myself slipping into Geisha Girl mode, thinking of Gladys gets me in touch with my tough-minded, clear-seeing, unsentimental Inner Bitch.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

You're not responsible for the unhappiness of your parents. Ignoring math now means you'll feel like a dummy-head with numbers your whole life long. Observe the world around you. Write in your diary every day, recording the life around you with your eyes, your heart, and your mind. In 40 years you'll be glad you did. And hey, you don't really need all those Monkees and Beatles records, do you? Instead, put all your allowance into blue chips stocks so by the time you're 46 you'll be a millionaire. And if you insist on buying all those records, wouldja mind not PLAYING them, please? Just put them away in the original cellophane. There's going to be this thing called eBay....

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?

Doing the hardest, most important job in the world in a culture that really doesn't support, appreciate, or encourage what mothers do.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

Lots of words that begin with C. Confidence -- Self-doubt takes up way too much of my time and energy. Consistency -- Staying on an even keel and breaking projects into small, manageable components is a sizable challenge. 
Connection -- I tend to be a loner who tries to tough it out all on her own. This almost always turns out to be a mistake. Without fail -- whenever I let go and trust the universe, wonderful things happen.
Compassion -- I have it for everyone in my life -- except me!
Courage -- In terms of writing projects, it's hard to lavish endless care on projects that are, statistically, more likely to be rejected than not. Trying to get better at this.

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to all new mothers? To mothers during trying times?

I heard a good line at a writer's conference this weekend. Someone wrote about being in a place "where trust replaces fear." There are so many ways in which our culture makes mothers doubt what they're doing, and this can be very overwhelming. So my wish for new mothers is that they could wake up every morning worrying less and trusting their instincts more. We all need to get better at defusing what makes us feel inadequate, but this takes a feisty attitude (hard to muster when you're feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and/or all one your own). To quote Whitman (I have this written on my bathroom mirror), "Examine everything you have been told... and dismiss what insults your soul." Hang out more with people who support you and less with people who make you feel like you should apologize for breathing.
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Thanks, Regan!

cover
The Woman's Way: Celebrating Life After 40.  Buy it now!

 

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Dottie / Sarah Higdon