The COVID-19 pandemic opened time for many people to devote to projects and hobbies. It allowed Windsor author Mary Anne (Ripp) Brown, to publish not just one book, but three.
Many know Brown, originally from Dane, from her first book, “Rise Above…Down-to-Earth Thinking from Wisconsin,” written a decade ago. That self-help book is meant to help readers get past difficult circumstances. Ripp’s goal was to donate $1 million from its sales to charity. Over time, the more than 5,000 copies sold have raised $24,000.
Brown published two additional self-help books in the “Rise Above” series and a third unlike any of those. “Cheese…Cheese Wedge” is an illustrated, work of fiction inspired 15 years ago by her son’s play on their kitchen counter.
She describes her first book, “Rise Above…” as a book to enter survival mode after tough times.
“’Rise to the Next Level’ will help you dig in a little deeper into some of those harder areas like death and relationships and maybe even really big physical issues you might have, like illness,” Brown said.
Progressing on the total wellness journey, “Complete Healing” allows readers to fully dive in and address the mind-body-soul connection, Brown said.
“It will take you into those things like exploring angels and things you can do instantly perhaps to feel some physical things and emotional things, things people perhaps may have not even tried,” Brown said.
“Complete Healing” was written before the pandemic in 2019 and includes a chapter on germs.
“I didn’t know why that had to be in there. I honestly write what I’m guided to write, and it makes total sense,” Brown said, referring to emphasis on hygiene during the pandemic.
Brown wrote “Rise to the Next Level,” the second step up in the “Rise Above” series, about five years go.
The quiet year also gave her time to revisit “Cheese…Cheese Wedge,” the work Brown and her co-author, son Wayne, call “an all-ages” book.
“It’s really meant to get people to sit down with kids and have something interactive to do together,” she said.
She remembers one morning 15 or 16 years ago, Wayne, age 10, was pushing along a toy car, driving a tiny cheese-wedge shaped eraser.
“He said look, Mom, Cheese Wedge, gotta get the bad guy,” Brown said. “It just gave me a break in the craziness of the morning. We just started talking, and his imagination was just moving. As we started talking about it more, my other kids would chime in, too,” Brown said.
The story ideas began to develop eventually evolving into a book about a secret agent undercover as a small town dairy farmer.
“He’s a farmer and his secret headquarters and hideout is in a place you would never imagine – on a dairy farm,” Brown said.
Brown and Wayne began meeting with illustrators to capture the Cheese Wedge character, who is modeled after her older son Jake. She sent illustrator Glenn Fuller photos of Jake and other images for the book.
While writing with Wayne, Brown said she had notes “all over the place” on various scenes and details that poked humor at Wisconsin life. Wayne, Jake and their sister Nicole all had ideas for it.
“It was fun developing the story, so I just continued to talk with my kids about funny things we could put in there about Wisconsin, and they were awesome as far as being my editors and reviewing it all,” Brown said.
The book’s first draft included a sports celebrity, but Brown was unable to obtain permission to use the person’s name. It was revised afterwards.
“I thought, that’s not really what I’m trying to capture anyway,” Brown said. Really, the book was meant to portray the loyalty Wisconsin sports fans have.
The book sat unpublished as Brown and her children’s lives got busier. Then the COVID-19 pandemic slowed Brown’s life down.
That wasn’t the case for Wayne, a full-time Air National Guardsman for the past six years who has been deployed three times.
“I was just finally stateside again for the first time in four years, and I actually made it a point to her and myself to do this for us,” he said.
The two are very close, he said, adding that she has been there for him through his deployments to South Korea, Poland and Afghanistan, and before that.
“I put her through stress,” he said.
The book gave them a chance to spend time together, even when it had to be over the phone. Back in the states, Wayne has been assigned to civil unrest duty, COVID-19 testing and election support throughout Wisconsin.
Once the two could meet in person again, they began the editing and fine-tuning process.
The entire family loves the book, he said, adding the Ripp family is large.
“A lot of our family didn’t really know about it. It’s kind of funny. We kept it between me and her,” Wayne said.
If not for the pandemic, the two may have never pursued the publication. Mary Anne Brown said she is grateful for the time with fewer obligations.
“Whether it’s things that you do with family or events, and things being closed, you realize you can simplify your life a lot more,” she said. “It was very quiet for me for about a year. I didn’t isolate myself; I went outside. But all that extra time helped me get a little more clarity. It helped me hear what life is guiding me toward a little better, and it definitely gave me time to work on these things.”
Brown was due to launch the new books at the Empower the Mind, Body & Spirit Wellness Expo in Madison April 24.
“Complete Healing,” “Rise to the Next Level” and “Wedge…Cheese Wedge” are for sale at Sweet Pea Floral and M-N-M’s Coffee House in Waunakee. Brown is seeking other retailers to carry the books and will donate a portion of the sales to a charity of their choice.
For information on the books, visit AnniePress.com.