Author Archives: Loranne Brown

About Loranne Brown

Loranne Brown, MFA: Journalist and novelist (The Handless Maiden, Doubleday Canada 1998) teaches Professional Writing at Trinity Western University, Langley, BC. Blog: Twitter: @MFAGals @LoranneBrown

Some deep thoughts on the writing life…

… with “Monty”








Cirque Psychologique

Cirque Psychologique.


Nancy Stebbins has a story up at Cezanne’s Carrot!


“Be careful opening those things,” Erdly warns…. “You spill emotional baggage on yourself, it never comes off.”�

Similar book covers

The science of book jacket design is fascinating. Recently, while wandering a bookstore, my daughter found this book on the shelf:

Look familiar?

Holy cow!

We immediately ran over to the Twilight shelf to compare:

Publishing icon, instantly recognizable

They’re similar, but not identical, so they’re not based on the same stock photo–although they may well be part of the same stock photo set.

Nonetheless, the question remains: is HarperOne, publisher of the Lewis book, attempting to attract a Twilight market by using a similar image? It’s pretty blatant.  You’d have to have been living in a cave the past few years not to notice the similarity.

What do you think?


Several other collectors of similar covers: here and here.

Family Literacy Day

Today, January 27, is Family Literacy Day here in Canada.

Family Literacy Day takes place annually on January 27 to celebrate adults and children reading and learning together, and to encourage Canadians to spend at least 15 minutes enjoying a learning activity as a family every day.

One of my writer friends, Lois Peterson, asked, “Which book do you remember sharing as a family when you were growing up?” A particular book immediately came to mind, but it took me all day to remember the title and author. (I really need to run that de-frag program on my internal hard drive.)

There was no division between adult books and children’s books in our home. My dad used to read us stuff well above our levels and continued to read to us well into our teens.  Often, we would take turns. So I learned to love reading aloud, with expression and timing–sometimes even with different voices.

The Sparrow’s Fall, by Fred Bodsworth, is vivid in my memory.  It was first published in 1967 and I remember our volume being hardbound, so I was no younger than twelve when we joined Jacob Atook on his journey. I found this description on

a novel by Fred Bodsworth

The Sparrow's Fall by Fred Bodsworth

“This Bodsworth book deals with two of man’s most basic urges: love and the will to survive. It plays out in the Hudson Bay lowlands in the person of Jacob Atook, a Canadian Indian, who tracks a solitary starving caribou in the worst winter in memory.”

From this book, I learned several key pieces of survival lore:

  1. one should drink one’s urine [a detail my brother, eight years old at that time, found delightfully disgusting] to preserve body heat; and
  2. sphagnum moss is wonderfully absorbent and used by native women for their menses.

To this day, my mother and I say we’re “going out to gather sphagnum moss” instead of running out to Shoppers Drugmart for Kotex. [Interesting trivia: until recently, at least one brand of minipads used sphagnum moss in its absorbent core. I used the product religiously until they changed from this natural absorbent core to a synthetic, wondering all the while whether sphagnum moss is sustainable, or if the environment was being pillaged to harvest it.]

Amazing how books from youth stick with us.  Which book do you remember sharing as a family when you were growing up?

Pen names

A writer friend, poised on the brink of publication stardom, polled us on the subject of pen names. She has an uneasy relationship with her in-laws, so doesn’t necessarily wish to carry her married name into posterity. Likewise, she has no compelling attachment to her maiden name.

“I want my writing,” she says, “attached to a timeless name that is significant to me.”

Several women we know have kept their first married names (and publish under them) to avoid confusion for their children, and for professional reasons.

I decided to publish under my married name because my maiden name–Babic–coupled with my already unusual first name–Loranne–was just too much. Readers would never spell both correctly in an amazon search, I figured. (“Brown” at least they might get right, although you’d be amazed how many people try to add an “e” to Brown.  What’s with that? “Browne” is ever so much less common.)

As for the six people who might remember me from school–well, I hoped they’d be drawn by “Loranne,” check out my bio and photo, and realize–hey, that’s the kid from kindergarten we always called “Lorraine.”

We all agreed our friend should choose a name she’d like to carry with her into the future, something she’d be proud to have engraved on that Pulitzer or Nobel Prize.

Nonetheless, when choosing a pen name, you have to weigh the anonymity against the potential for recognition by the network you already have. Some things to think about:

  • If  you’ve been through an MFA program and developed a community, how will the 100+ fine writers who already know you recognize you behind a new name?
  • How many old friends who know you as YourNameHere will pick up a magazine article, story, or book and buy it because you wrote it, even if they never read it?
  • How will you explain the pen name to interviewers on the book tour? Pen names are rarely secret identities unless you’re also a super hero.

Your nom-de-plume: maiden, married, invented?

To me, pen names make the most sense when you’re writing and publishing in two genres.  You don’t want to compete with yourself or cause confusion in the marketplace. I publish my literary fiction under my married name.  My line of steamy romances (yet to be written, I hasten to assure you–but you never know when you’ll need a potboiler or 10 to pay off the student loans) will be published under the name Lauren Mitchell: nods to various members of my family.

Have you used a pen name or intend to publish under one?  How’s that working out for you and your career?
Lauren Mitchell

Meeting with thesis advisor

The Third Half of the Moon

Nancy’s story is up at The Saint Ann’s Review!

Masterful relaunch

Dateline: January 15, 2011

Seaside, Oregon

Today, the graduating cohort of Pacific University MFA in Writing celebrates the completion of  two years of hard work.  The ladies of fiction–Loranne Brown, Heather Sappenfield, Sue Staats and Nancy Stebbins–formed a very practical support group during these two years.  We’ve served on each other’s thesis committees.  We read each other’s work, laugh together across long distances, shore up each other’s spirits when exhausted by the insatiable demands of our beloved mentors.  We look forward to applauding each other’s successes in the years ahead.

Known privately as the Pop-up Princesses–“because every book should have a pop-up edition”–we’ve relaunched our blog to reflect the gravitas of our MFAs. Don’t expect us to be serious all the time, if ever, as we continue to share laughter and thoughts on the writing life.

Left to right: Heather Sappenfield, Loranne Brown, Sue Staats

Flash Factory Event

For the two hundredth week of Flash Factory contests, Richard Osgood has put out the word to all Factory members far and wide: we are aiming for two hundred stories this week. There are three prompts–a picture prompt, a five-word prompt, and an open prompt (which isn’t really a prompt at all). My goal is to submit three flashes this week. So let’s get to writing!

That Certain Tilt

I’ve had the opportunity to work with Kellie Wells for my final MFA semester. She’s a pretty amazing writer, and brilliant. Earlier in the semester, she used an expression that made a big impact on me: she was speaking of stories that had a magical “tilt.” It dawned on me that this “tilt” summarizes the writing I’m drawn to–and the works I hope to produce. The sorts of works that give the reader a surprising glimpse of the world at a different angle. This might happen through the employment of magic, the fantastic, humor, surprising juxtaposition or word choices., to name a few of the possibilities.

I was thinking about that while reading Kellie’s story, “Gathal Dethloff, Mother of Murder,” in this month’s issue of The Collagist. To me, her choice of words delivers sly little suprises. For example, at one point, when meeting an woman who is described to be as large as a grand piano, the narrator says, “’Hello?’ I said to Gaythal Dethloff, insufficiently.” That surprising adverb delivers.

I suggest you read it for yourself!

“Gathal Dethloff, Mother of Murder,”