Did you know that WWII created a singing and dancing troupe of women who advertised the Hormel Meat Company? Learn about it by watching my “Hormel Girls” music video, created in collaboration with Prairie Public TV.
The following post was first featured on Mary Carroll Moore’s excellent writing blog “How to Write and Develop a Book”:
Guest Post by Memoirist and Singer/Songwriter Elisa Korenne
When I moved from New York City to rural Minnesota (to a town conveniently named New York Mills), songs were not the medium I wanted to express my experience. I started writing a memoir.
- See more at: http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.com/2013/11/using-image-board-to-get-closer-to.html
The following was first published as a guest blog post at The Self Improvement Blog.
Some of the most inspiring people I’ve encountered are some of the oddest.
I write songs, stories, and shows about oddballs in history. My subjects are real people who either beat the odds or got off the beaten track. The folks that make it into my songs might have marched to a different drummer, taken the road less traveled, or bucked the mainstream to stand up for their own views. They all make the hard decisions: the ones that are frowned on by their community. And by taking on a role that is different, and therefore threatening, they make more of themselves than they could have otherwise.
Oddballs bring me hope when I feel like I am doing it all wrong. Their examples assure me that just because my community may not understand my decision, doesn’t mean it isn’t the right one for me.
Here are some individuals who have inspired me so much that I had to write songs about them.
Victoria Woodhull (1838 – 1927) was the first woman to run for President, though nicknamed “Mrs. Satan” by Harper’s Weekly. She was also pioneer of the woman’s suffrage movement (though hated by her fellow suffagists), the first woman to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, the first woman to start a newspaper, and an advocate of free love, which at that time meant a woman’s right to choose to marry and divorce. And her life started in squalor and abuse.
Dr. Emanuel Bronner (1908 – 1997) was the creator of the iconic Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. Descended from fourgenerations of German soap-making masters, Emmanuel Bronner came to the United States to find persecution, involuntary commitment to an insane asylum, and poverty. He tried to preach his spirituality–defined by his signature phrase “All-One”– but couldn’t find an audience. So, he decided to use the skills of his youth to spread his beliefs. He printed his ideas on soap labels and mixed soap in his bathtub with a broom. Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap caught on with the camping and hippie set. Soon, after inauspicious beginnings and based in an unlikely marriage of preaching, soap, and commerce, Dr. Bronner’s family company became a natural soap empire.
Todd Robbins ( 1958 – present) is a legendary sideshow performer in New York City. My friend–who happens to be a clown–described a show of his where he took a lightbulb, a fork, and a knife onto the stage. He cut the lightbulb into small, bite-sized pieces of metal and glass. Then he put each piece in his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. Though I thought it had to be a trick, Robbins actually consumes lightbulbs. He trained for years to be able to eat them, which involves a lot of chewing. Once I sent him my song inspired by him, Robbins invited me to come see him eat lightbulbs for real. At the show I attended, he ate the lightbulb like an apple. Todd also eats bicycles, swallows swords, and hammers nails into his nostrils. He uses his odd skills to light up the lives of his audiences.
I never expected I would find myself in a similar position to the subjects of my songs. I don’t eat lightbulbs, I’ve never made soap, and I don’t expect to be running for president any time soon.
Then I moved from New York City to New York Mills–a town of 1000 people in rural west-central Minnesota. Immediately, I was the oddball. I had to learn to be the one that everyone stared at, to be the one that didn’t fit in.
I was lucky to have studied my song subjects so carefully. I used them as inspiration. I got comfortable with my “outsider” identity and reached out to my new community with a self-deprecating sense of humor about my city ways. Soon enough, I became the funny New Yorker. People laughed with me about my increased volume, my propensity to take the Lord’s name in vain, and my inability to talk for an hour about the weather before getting to the real purpose of the conversation.
Here’s my song “Love to Love” about Victoria Woodhull.
Today I’m my town’s very own New Yorker. And I like it that way.
What oddballs have inspired you? Tell me at www.elisakorenne.com/blog.
This blog post was first published as a guest post at the Frayed Passport blog.
I was nine months old when I escaped my bassinet on a flight to Israel and tried to unscrew a piece of the airplane. But it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized how much of a boon travelling could be—and had been—for my art.
Over the years, many of my songs have been born through travel. I have songs about the Dumas Brothel museum in Butte, Montana; a scene outside a Brooklyn window; and a border scare on the hills between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
I am not the only artist who has found inspiration in the exotic. For example, the iconic Polynesian images by the French impressionist painter Paul Gaugin would never have been painted if he hadn’t lived for a time in Tahiti. Travel is a goldmine for anyone who needs to create, be they entrepreneurs, software engineers, or artists. It spices up our production, shakes up our thinking, and gives us the seeds for masterpieces. And it doesn’t have to mean going far away: any trip to a place that’s unfamiliar counts, even if its just down the road.
Here are five reasons for artists—or anyone—to travel:
1. To fill the well
Julia Cameron, creativity guru and author of The Artist’s Way, says creative people draw upon an inner well to create that she likens it to a well-stocked trout pond. When an artist feels she has nothing more to say, it’s because the well is empty. To continue to create, we must “consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them—to restock the trout pond.” In other words, we need to constantly fill the well. Travelling is not just the stocking of a pond with a few trout, it’s more like stocking it with a tropical bay full of large, colorful fish.
There’s nothing like the Whammo! Eureka! feeling of inspiration that hits like a lightning bolt. I find that it’s when I take myself to new places and experience new things that inspiration seems to find me most easily. Try it and see.
3. Time to create (Artist Residencies)
One of the best-kept secrets about being an artist is the joy of traveling to artist residencies. These are places where artists—and other creatives—are given the most precious resource for a creator: time. And the productivity of residency time comes partially because a person has to travel away from home to get it. Generally, residencies require you to be away from home for a week to a few months. Some residencies offer housing for multiple people at one time, others offer space for just one artist at a time, but all of them give creative people the chance to get away from the daily chores like bills, cooking, cleaning, the dripping shower, etc. that distract from the process of creation. I create my best work at artist residencies.
4. Shake it up
All creative people get into ruts. In my case, when I find myself using the same chords, the same words, the same rhythms, I know I need to do something to change my surroundings. Give yourself a weekend—or, better yet, a month—in a new place, and I’m sure you too will have a new approach to your work.
5. New perspective on the everyday
G.K. Chesterton may have put it best: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” The art that moves me the most is art that helps me see the ordinary in an extraordinary way. By providing yourself with new contexts to compare to your everyday, travel makes you see your own world with new eyes.
What has travel inspired you to create?
I have dedicated this year–okay, well, maybe more like half of a year–to embracing social media. It’s been quite the learning process. Here are the things I know now that I didn’t know in July.
- Each social network is a different animal. Facebook is an ox. Twitter is a butterfly. One must post at least daily to Facebook, because the duration of a facebook post is about 3 hours. One most post multiple times a day to Twitter, because the lifetime of a tweet is about five seconds.
- Crime pays, but social media takes days. Social media is free, the time spent on it is not. Being active on social media requires a commitment of time and focus.
- It helps to have help. I hired the great folks at CyberPR to help me get my music out to the world. They’ve gotten me some wonderful reviews for my music. Check a few of them out here, here, and here.
- Planning can make it all easier. I found a few social media calendar templates online, and I’ve started playing with them.
- Choosing topics to write about is fun. Just decided on a few topic areas to focus my posts around. Looking forward to surprising my readers!
- Social media can create meaningful real-world interactions. The week after I lost my wonderful cat Tree to illness, I attended an Artslab conference. Numerous colleagues and friends approached me to offer their condolences for Tree, because they had seen my post on facebook. This led to wonderful and heartfelt conversations that helped me get to know each person better. What a treat to see that online doesn’t mean out of mind!
I’m thrilled to announce that the Minnesota State Arts Board awarded me their Artist Initiative Grant for the 2013-2014 year. This grant will enable me to strengthen my brand identity and my online and social media presence.
Elisa Korenne is a fiscal year 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Hello, readers. I’m pleased to inaugurate the blog portion of my new website. It’s been a long time coming, and a long, steep learning curve, but I believe I’ve figured it out. These days, I’ve been focusing so much on the writing of my memoir and the creation of a more up-to-date web 2.0 presence that I sometimes forget that it all began with songwriting.
Creative news today: another chapter from Hundred Miles to Nowhere, formerly titled How to Move to the Middle of Nowhere, was accepted for publication in a literary journal. I believe that makes seven chapters out to the world so far. More info when that piece goes public.
In other news today: I managed to figure out how to reconfigure my website’s homepage. Happy happy! Also, Meadow the yellow Labrador monster sniffed out a skunk in the yard.
After seven years, Elisa returned to her songwriting roots to create the rock, folk, and blues-inspired album, Concrete, featuring songs that characterized her journey from New York City to New York Mills, Minnesota.
We’re thrilled to announce our new website. Please enjoy the new functionality, including a store where you can purchase CDs and download mp3s.