Pouring through pain with a pen
Mason K. Brown says she is living her true passion.
A decade ago, at age 60, the Forest Grove resident started writing, and she hasn't stopped.
Brown has been published about 150 times in the past several years. Her most recent story appears in the new book, "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman," which was released May 1.
"It has been my dream to write since third-grade," Brown said. "My teacher, Mrs. Phenow, planted the seed for writing in my heart."
But it took decades for Brown to put words to paper. She lacked confidence in her work, she said, and considered herself a poor typist.
For years, she believed she would never be able to be a writer, but the purchase of a computer several years ago — with its delete key and cut-and-paste functions, she said — made her dream a reality.
Chicken Soup for the Soul, a publishing company based in Connecticut, releases a dozen new books each year, most tell inspirational true stories from authors across the country.
There is a great deal of competition among writers to be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul's books, Brown said. The publishing company receives thousands of submissions for every edition.
Brown has been published in eight Chicken Soup books to date.
"Just being selected is a huge accomplishment," she said.
Brown's latest "Chicken Soup" story, entitled "Take a Man," takes place in the mid-1990s.
"It is about an event that took place at a very difficult period in my life," Brown said. "I was at the absolute bottom emotionally."
Brown's son, who is developmentally delayed, was a teenager at the time. They were both tremendously depressed after an unexpected and unwanted breakup of their family, she said.
At the same time, Brown said, the slow-but-sure demise of her high-mileage and not-even-close-to-paid-for car was pulling her under financially with its constant breakdowns and high-repair bills.
As a newly separated woman with a single income, no credit history and no one to advise her, she had no idea how best to proceed, she said.
The car she eventually purchased was the car of her son's dreams. It was dark when she drove it home, she recalled.
"I just pulled it into the garage," Brown said. "I knew he wouldn't see it when I drove in. Even though he knew I had been car shopping for two days, he knew I was having a hard time of it."
She didn't mention the purchase to her son, but the pair got up early the next morning. When they went outside, she still hadn't said anything about a new car, Brown said, she just opened the garage door.
"All right, mom!" he said, thrilled, and gave her a high-five.
"It was one of the best days of our life together," Brown said. "Things had been so terrible for us, we just needed a good moment."
Brown said this story holds a special place in her heart because it includes her son.
"It is nice to have this story in print so I can remember that special moment," she said. "He has had a very difficult life."
Brown's personal philosophy is to leave more in this world than she takes out of it.
Brown grew up in San Diego County, Calif., and worked as a nurse, health educator, nonprofit administrator, innkeeper and as a mail carrier throughout her working life.
Brown moved to Forest Grove in 1996 when she married her husband, Douglas Brown. She retired from the United States Postal Service in 2010 after being a city mail carrier in Forest Grove.
Her husband's death in 2015 was the biggest challenge she has ever faced, Brown said.
"It just seemed I couldn't do anything," she said. "Getting out of bed was a struggle."
Managing the activities of daily living was more than she could handle some days, she said. Writing was out of the question.
"The few things I did try to write and submit to my usual publishers were returned unaccepted," she said. "I knew why. They were full of my grief and angst, sometimes my bitterness and anger."
For a while she focused on submitting work she had written prior to her husband's death.
"It had my familiar voice and humor, Brown said. "I continued to be published even though I was on a writing hiatus."
Brown has turned her challenges and triumphs into art. She shows no signs of slowing down.
Brown has started a storytelling ministry, telling her stories alongside stories from the Bible. She just returned from a three-week trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories where she told Bible stories at the actual places the stories occurred.
In the last year, she has gone to Guatemala twice and Ecuador once to serve with medical mission teams, fulfilling a lifelong dream. She will be going to Guatemala again in July. This time she will be working with the medical mission team studying Spanish and doing volunteer work.
And she keeps writing. Brown writes anecdotal stories, inspirational non-fiction and humor. Sometimes she is inspired by things she sees in nature; a tree, a bird, a sunset or a dragonfly.
"Animals are also a great source of story material and I have always been a real James Herriot fan," she said. "Often, God just puts something on my heart. I know I am supposed to write about it."
She writes for a quarterly devotional magazine, which has 200,000 subscribers around the world.
"I am what they call a 'Pantser,'" she said. "I write by the seat of my pants."
Most of her writing is short, at less than 1,500 words long.
"Even though I am a woman of words, I can write tight," she said.
Despite her success, Brown said she is always shocked when she is notified that one of her pieces has been accepted by a publisher.
"I still doubt myself and I think I always will," Brown said.
Brown said her writing mentors Judy Bodmer and Lisa Crayton helped her through writing courses at the Christian Writers Guild.
"I would still be staring at a blank screen without them," she said.
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