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  • Oddity

Eli Brown

As a child

I was born in San Francisco, a child of high school English teachers. We lived in rural Santa Rosa, land of chicken coops and apple trees. There, my siblings and I used to cut tunnels into a massive blackberry bush and play like hares in the briars. When I was in second grade, my family moved to the Imperial Valley, east of San Diego. I spent a lot of time in the desert there, poking scorpions with sticks (they glow in the moonlight) and wishing for rain. Boredom pushed me toward creativity and I left sculptures made of moistened toilet paper on the bathroom counter and froze my action figures in blocks of ice so they could sleep during imaginary trips to distant planets. I hoped to be a biologist and kept tortoises, snakes, hamsters, and guinea pigs in my room. I named them after mythological heroes. I've never apologized to my parents for tolerating the stench of those critters which, combined with my own adolescent funk must have been strong enough to peel paint. I'll do it now: Sorry folks. Playing Dungeons and Dragons gave me a sense of freedom and agency which I still strive for today. My father taught my siblings and me karate (classes were obligatory) and forbade us to use it. He also instilled in me a love for folktales and mythology. My mother taught me how to write a decent paragraph, sew, and to giggle in the face of authority.

As an adult

After taking some writing classes at UC Santa Cruz where I studied visual art, I got a MFA in fiction writing from Mills College in Oakland California. I used to write poetry, which helped me hone my sense of imagery and brevity. Painting with watercolours helped me develop persistence, as my stack of rejection letters can prove. I love gardening, cooking, and parenting my two kids with my life partner, Melissa.

As an author

I generally work in coffee shops, where the quiet bustle of humanity and caffeine helps to keep me focused. I write notes with pen and paper as inspiration comes to me during the course of my life and then work them into my narratives on the computer, using a word processor or writing software like Scrivener. I have developed rigorous mnemonic practices, like memory palaces, to help me recall inspirations which occurred when I could not write them down. I rely heavily on editorial notes from trusted readers and I revise my material so thoroughly and frequently that my stories mutate dramatically as I go.

Ten things we didn’t know about [insert name]

  1. I'm a decent puppeteer. Just ask my kids.
  2. Some of my baby teeth never fell out. Can you spot them?
  3. I don't like touching chalk.
  4. I'm obsessed with brassica oleracea which is not a magic spell but a magic plant.
  5. I have never owned a cell phone. You can't make me.
  6. I love compost.
  7. I love fermentation and once found a rat living in my miso pot.
  8. I worry that dark-matter is a delusion that very talented physicists have wasted their careers on.
  9. My favourite cleaning product is a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Take that, filth!
  10. I'm compiling a list of common names for the breakfast where you cut a hole in bread and then fry an egg in that hole. What do you call it?

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