Making it better

SJBROWN author picBy S J Brown

Each of us in our own way tries to make the world a little better. Writer’s help people escape their daily woes and immerse themselves in another place and time, making the world a little better.

SJBrown1I know a number of teachers that don’t end their connection with their students when the bell rings. They run after school programs, and tutor students. They go to work early and stay late with each student they guide they are making the world a better place.

Anyone who has met me, read one of my blogs or checked out my website site knows, like most wildlife photographers I feel a connection with nature. I try to do my part of make the world a little better. At home I grow my own veggies, compost, buy reusable products, and recycle.

SJBrown3 All of my paper and cardboard waste goes to a local nonprofit that recycles it and uses the money in local schools. I buy potted Christmas trees instead of a cut one and gladly share information on being more environmental friendly with friends and neighbors.

When I clean out my linen closet the sheets, towels, and blankets go to the local humane society. Once we were settled in our home Jay and I realized we had too much furniture. Instead of taking these items to the dump or selling them at a yard sale I listed them for free on a local website. When I remodeled my office I had several sliding glass doors that a gentleman from the area was thrilled to get. I am constantly finding ways to keep things out of the landfill.

SJBrown4Away from home I work with a number of other volunteers planting trees along stream beds. I do presentations for children and adults about wildlife, sharing my love of nature. I am a member of a local gardeners exchange group. There we exchange ideas, information and plants making our little corner of the world a better place.

Occasionally I will take friends or family members out into the field with me giving them a little different perspective on the natural world. I tag monarch Butterflies and take part in citizen science projects.

SJBrown2I buy books from fellow West Virginia writers whenever I can. My little purchase wouldn’t make a difference to Stephen King, but certainly counts to them. I have begun writing book reviews as a way of helping my fellow authors get a little more exposure.
There are so many ways each of us can make things a little better for another person, a critter, or even the world we all share. Take a minute or two and share with me how you accomplish this I am always open to new ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

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Visit my website to view more of my images


IMGP6507 By S. J. Brown

I hope everyone has been keeping warm in these frigid temperatures. Freezing temperatures add a whole new set of challenges for a wildlife photographer. It is a bit harder to sneak up on my subjects in layers of clothes and warm boots. Warm thick gloves make it a little harder to focus the camera and hit the shutter button.

1SJ Brown Waterfall

The cold can kill camera batteries quickly. Even keeping the camera tucked into my coat doesn’t work well for long. Any pictures I take in the extreme cold tend to be close to the shelter of a car or building. So in colder temperatures I rely on luck a bit more. Most critters only venture out into the cold to eat, so they are harder to spot.

So I try to concentrate on other things while I wait for the temperature to rise. This is the perfect time of year to work on those unfinished projects. Personally I have finished 2 articles I had outlined, scanned a bunch of images, and completed a few more chapters on a manuscript. Then I laid out a print Ad What do you think? Is it too crowded? Does it make you want to check out my website?

2 Book Maniacs ADThe local critters interrupt me a lot when I am working in my office. I have 6 windows and a set of glass sliding glass doors. So every bird that flies to the feeders catches my attention. Each squirrel that wanders past the doors distracts me. Before I know it I am behind the lens and my writing comes to a halt.

4SJ Brown DoveWhen I am writing I need quiet with no distractions, no television, no radio, no family members asking questions. I tend to be more productive in the evenings when the house is quiet, its dark outside and the woodstove has the house nice and warm.

What challenges do you face in the winter? How do you tackle those challenges?

3SJ Brown Rabbit  Thanks for stopping by and stay warm.

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IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

I borrowed the name for this month’s blog from a band. They are a country music band and although I am not a fan of country music I somehow ended up with one of their shirts. I have had it long enough it might be considered a vintage t-shirt. The shirt features a hillbilly with a guitar along with the name of the band.
There were no hillbillies or guitars on my latest photo trip. Jay and I headed south before the sun came up. We packed the car with drinks and snacks, hiking boots and water shoes tucked in with our duffle bags and of course camera equipment.


Our destination was North Carolina. North Carolina offers sandy beaches, warmer temps, woodlands, and wild critters. I had visited this part of the state in the past and found black bears, otters, birds big and small, turtles, rabbits, and deer. The area also has a small population of Red Wolves. However they are very illusive.

Over the years I have learned that some animals don’t mind having their picture taken and will let me get close,


Then closer,


and even closer yet.


On these occasions I generally get my shots, thank the critter for being so co operative and leave them the way I found them. Every photo trip I strive for that special moment, the encounter that stays with me long after I leave the area.
However on this trip I had two of those moments. A very fat, very co operative Black Bear gave me my second encounter. She was hard to find, but it was so worth it.


Then she decided I was less of a threat than the other photographers that had made their way close to us.


Yes I was using a telephoto lens, but I have never been within 5 feet of a black bear before. At one point she was too close to get a photograph. So I just stood still and let her pass by me on her way back into the woods.


Encounters like this just encourage me to go out and do it again. I hope all your critter encounters are good ones. Thanks for stopping by.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.


Visit my website to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.



Next Stop Home

IMGP6489By S. J. Brown

I hope everyone enjoyed their summer as much as I did. I was on the road a lot, but by choice not necessity. In early June I attended the WV Writers conference. As always it was an energizing three days. I attended a number of workshops, conversed with friends on the porch and ate a bit too much.

S J Brown 1 Conference

One event I did stay home for was to renew my wedding vows. We did this a little different than most people. We had a brief ceremony at home followed by a trip down river in canoes and kayaks. Then it was back to the house to celebrate with our guest that didn’t follow us down river. Several of our guests spent the night so we were up until the wee hours of the morning.

S J Brown 2 Canoes

Next I was off to Garrett County Maryland with family. This trip was filled with laughter, plenty of food, salamander hunts, and a visit from a skunk.

S J Brown 3 Salamander

Then it was time to unpack, repack and head to New Jersey. This trip wasn’t a photo trip it was a reunion trip. I was a bit nervous about my high school reunion, I wasn’t exactly an outgoing teen. Our reunion was at a place called the Funny Farm. Yes there were farm animals hanging out with us. I was delighted to spend time with my former classmates and the owner of the funny farm, also a photographer. The reunion turned out to be lots of fun and I am looking forward to meeting up with several people in the future.

S J Brown 5 Sunset

My next stop was the Philadelphia Pennsylvania area. There is a wildlife refuge close to the airport that I wanted to visit for a while. So Hubby and I packed up the car and drove north. We had a wonderful day at the refuge. There were a lot of birds to photograph and a loveable puppy that just wanted to give me kisses.

S J Brown 4 Bird

Before heading home Jay and I stopped for a Philadelphia cheese steak. But did we want a world famous cheese steak or did we want to get one from the king of cheese steaks? We just picked one and got our food from Genos. They were good, but not as good as the cheese steak subs I remember as a kid. We headed home with a cheese steak sub tucked in the cooler for a friend. Hey, it was on her bucket list.

After repacking my duffle bag, and checking my camera equipment I headed back to New Jersey. This trip was all about family. My sister Betty and I spent some time discussing “Sisters” our memoir.
Then we headed to our favorite sub shop from our childhood. Walking in the door the smell engulfs you and we were transported back in time. Yes, they are still as good as we remembered.

S J Brown 6 Sisters

Then it was over to see my uncle I hadn’t seen in decades. We laughed and talked and got reacquainted. My next stop was dinner then off to my little sister’s house in the Pine Barons for the night.

S J Brown 7 Pine Barons

I somehow found time to go to a baby shower before heading back home. My plan for September is to stay home. Okay I might fit in a day trip or two, but I am not packing my duffle bag until October when I head to North Carolina.
How was your summer? Do you have any plans for Fall?

Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook and be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.


S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

Available at http://www.sjbrown.50megs.comAcover

Cover 3-26-23

Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon at

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown

You can order your copies from her website

Sign up for S. J. Brown e mailing list to get updates on her latest work in progress

Place Add ME on the subject line









A Summer Mountain Poem

This post is by Abbie Johnson Taylor.



Now that the hot, dog days of summer are here, you may be planning a trip to the mountains. If you live in California’s Sierra Nevada region, according to an NPR news report, you could be able to ski right now. As I write this, Wyoming Public Radio’s weather forecast calls for hot temperatures throughout the state.

Here’s one of the first poems I wrote years ago while taking a creative writing class at the Wyoming Lions Summer School for the Visually Impaired on Casper Mountain. It has since been revised and appears in the summer print issue of The Avocet. You can click below to hear me read it. Happy summer.



A Piece of Casper Mountain


Gravel crunches beneath our feet.
With plenty of grass, bushes,
a cool mountain summer breeze,
the forest smells of pine
under a blue Wyoming sky.

In the distance, a chain saw shatters the silence.
Is someone clear-cutting or chopping firewood?

As we walk towards camp, the saw stops.
Moments later, a wood-filled truck passes.
Has enough of the forest been taken for one day?



Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

Baby Steps

IMGP6481By S. J. Brown

Recently I gave some advice to friend about recovery after surgery, my advice, baby steps, lots and lots of baby steps. No one can recover from surgery overnight. It’s the little improvements, those baby steps that count.

The same can be said about writing. As a writer I didn’t start out writing a book. I began writing essays in school then stepped up to magazine articles before approaching a full length manuscript. Taking baby steps allowed me to improve my writing and my confidence.

As a photographer I didn’t start out photographing large animals in faraway places. I began with birds and squirrels in my backyard

After gaining a bit of confidence I stepped out of my comfort zone, and traveled further in my pursuit of critter photos. I ventured into Maryland and photographed ducks, geese, and swans at a nearby park.

SJ Brown MallardThen it was time for another road trip. This time I headed to Pennsylvania. There I had my first experience getting up close and personal with some captive critters.

SJ Brown LemursSome little critters in New Jersey reminded me that taking baby steps when working around water could have helped you me avoid sinking in mud up to my calves.

SJ Brown DragonflyIn Virginia I learned wild ponies don’t take baby steps.

SJ Brown PoniesIn Florida I learned taking baby steps backwards can get you safely away from an alligator.

SJ Brown AlligatorIn the 17 years I have been photographing wildlife I have traveled to 2 dozen states. Every time I encounter a new critter I have to remind myself baby steps. Take the shot and use baby steps to get a better angle or a closer vantage point of my subject.

SJ Brown BearWe all take baby steps to advance ourselves in various pursuits. Every once in a while a giant leap of faith may be necessary. The important thing to remember is to keep moving forward.

Thanks for stopping by.


S. J. Brown

Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook and be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.


S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.


Available at http://www.sjbrown.50megs.comAcover


Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon at

Cover 3-26-23

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.


You can order your copies from her website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com874


Sign up for S. J. Brown e mailing list to get updates on her latest work in progress

Place Add ME on the subject line



History’s Value

post (c) Doris McCraw


I had the privilege to attend the 14th annual Pikes Peak Library District’s History Symposium.  The topic this year was “Enduring Legacies and Forgotten Landmarks, the Built Environment of the Pikes Peak Region”.  You can view a portion of it on face book here:

As I sat and listened, along with timing the speakers, I realized that despite my love and research into history, there was so much I didn’t know.  I spend a lot of time focusing on the lives and stories of people, but the day brought home how much our environment is a part of that story.

Santa Fe 253
Hospital in Santa Fe, refitted as a hotel

As I listened to how architects saw and shaped the buildings in our world, I thought of how we as authors shape the world we see through our words.  As the day wore on, it became apparent that sometimes the built environment is the marker of our past. The Santa Fe Trail, which became a railroad then highway and how those changes brought a difference to the area. The building of NORAD, the Western Federation of Miners building, which was the touchstone for those who wanted better wages and working conditions, all are there for us to learn from.

Sometimes the environment creates the people who live there, as is the case of “Salt Creek” in Pueblo, Colorado. The area helped to build the lives of those who made it their home.

The end of the day was a look at the Rural Cemetery movement and our own Evergreen Cemetery. As the speaker said, cemeteries are not the end of history, but the beginning. So as you walk, drive and ride through this world, take a moment to think about and honor the built environment around you. Think about it as you write the words that are in your heart and mind, and let their auras seep into your life.


 Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here




Treasures, Blessings, and Opportunities

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” – Mission of National Park Service as ordained by the Organic Act of 1916

Dad and Gayle_CedarBreaksI recently traveled the areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona with my father. We visited five national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon) and three national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Pipe Spring). We experienced sandy deserts, red sandstone cliffs, and high elevation forests, and we absorbed sights wondrous to behold! In those 2,000+ miles we encountered people from all parts of the United States and the world. We heard French, German, Japanese, Korean, British English, and American English (including Texan, Illinois-ian, and New Yorkan). One valuable lesson I learned: America’s natural gems are treasured throughout the world.

We Americans have environmental treasures throughout our country, from the high-plains deserts of Wyoming and Montana to the lush tropics of Florida and Hawaii. We are so incredibly fortunate that visionaries of the late 1800s and early 1900s ensured Grand Canyonplaces such as Yellowstone (set aside in 1872), Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon were set aside for those of us today and those who come after us can experience these unique, majestic areas for ourselves. Watching The Roosevelts on Public Television, I’ve been reminded that Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, saw the value in these lands; so did Bill Clinton when he expanded or established more than 20 national monuments, setting aside Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the Missouri River Breaks in Montana, among others, as national treasures worthy of protection – both presidents received great flack for their stewardship strides, protecting places for future generations to enjoy. Had it not been for these men, and many other people, my dad and I would not have been able to experience these amazing vistas nor now have this great memory to cherish. Additionally, communities’ as well as America’s economy would not be primed with cash from international visitors who take bus tours, stay in hotels, rent cars, dine out, and buy souvenirs … and who experience something their country doesn’t have: natural national treasures.

Nat Bridge_BryceI was very blessed not only by encounters with other park/monument visitors, but by the incredible scenery and the memory-making time with my father. Sharing this trip with my dad is something I will never forget. Having such majestic places to enjoy with him, and with my parents together as a youngster, is a majestic memory that will never be erased.

I often wonder why so many Americans do not value these national treasures; I’ve heard several say, “if you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all,” or “What good is a pile of rocks?” Ask that question of the numerous visitors from Europe and Asia who have no such place to enjoy, who travel thousands of miles to experience the beauty and majesty of vistas, canyons, rocks, and forests. Ask that question of the multitude of creatures that call those landscapes home: a treasure-trove of birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants that exist in the varied environments. Sitting on the porch of a rented cabin near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon one morning, I counted no less than seven bird species, and throughout our trip we saw a plethora of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, and other critters – neither the desert nor the forest is devoid of life.

Best Friends SignThe third lesson I learned is that I’m given opportunity; I only need to be vigilant. My parents taught me at a young age to conserve, to respect nature and to honor the Creator. My faith is re-enforced when I experience nature: a glowing scarlet sunset, the myriad of colors in a forest meadow or a shimmering rainbow, the individuality and creativity of each species of plant and animal. As a writer and an appreciator of nature (thanks in large part to my wonderful parents!), I see opportunity in traveling to these special places. There are magazine articles and blog posts (like this one) to write, there are potential business endeavors to create (offering to write brochure and other marketing copy for tourism-based businesses), and there are books to sell (I met several dog-oriented people during the trip and also made contact with a bookstore at which I may be able to sell my books – it’s located in Kanab, Utah and named for an animal and when I mentioned I write dog stories and am a supporter of Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary, the store’s owner indicated interest in carrying my books). Passing out business cards, not being afraid to tell others I’m a writer with a passion for pets and the environment, and sharing my experiences with readers weaves the tapestry of my life – and knitting those treasures, blessings and opportunities together creates a firmer foundation and solidifies the calling upon my heart.

Red Cat Bookstore_Kanab

What experiences have added to the woven fabric of your life? What has influenced your writer’s calling (or whatever other passions are instilled within you?)

P.S. The National Park Service celebrates 100 years as an agency in 1916, and National Public Lands Day is this Saturday, September 27th – I encourage each of us to go out and enjoy the bountiful treasures that are our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. Volunteer, visit, write, wonder, educate, enjoy – you too may find a treasure-trove of blessing and opportunity!

Red Canyon_BryceSage_Gayle_Children_LibraryGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She’ll be speaking about “Dogs with Jobs” at the Natrona County Library in Casper, WY at 2 pm on Sat., September 27th. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at