The Weekly Mixed Tape: Community, Browning Lovers, Chad Stokes, and More


Before I lay down some of the best articles, books, and tunes I’ve found this week, I want to ask a question:

What have you given up for Lent? Or, better yet, what have you taken up?

Folks, let’s make this an accountability pact. A pact to see these 40 days through, to arrive at Easter Sunday as changed souls. For the better.

This season I’m giving both coffee and the snooze button the coldest shoulder imaginable. This means I’ll be up and at ’em at 5:02 AM every morning, the time I used to rise before I became too adept at justifying 10, 20, 30 more minutes. And the coffee? Just an extra measure of torture.

The truth is that these two habits directly affect my writing. The more I bat the snooze button, the less words I put down on paper that day. Without access to a coffee machine, a French Press, a local coffee shop, I spend more time complaining about creative fogginess and less time creating.

I’m trying my hand at discipline.

For 40-some days.

Now for a little weekend motivation.


ONE: The Browning Letters

Although a leftover from Valentine’s Day, the romantic correspondence between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning deserves a second wind of attention. As the result of a digitized collaboration between Wellesley and Baylor University, the poetic couple’s 573 love letters turned available last Tuesday – in their original formats.

You can now take in the handwriting, the impassioned words, even the wax seals on the back of the envelopes, no doubt ripped open with trembling fingers and baited breath.

Gentlemen, take notice. Robert had Elizabeth at these words:

I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett…

Consider this sound wooing advice. Compliment the art, and the rest will soon be history.


TWO: “What Every Creative Needs”

This article isn’t new, so call it vintage if you must. But it’s good, so good that I couldn’t leave it from my list.

Keith Jennings makes a sound claim: intentional community challenges creatives. We need it, no doubt about it. It offers us identity, credibility, collaboration, competition, and courage.

Community gets us moving, creating, and shipping our best art into the world.

Because sometimes you can’t make it on your own.


THREE: Gilead

Marilynne Robinson wrote this Pulitzer Prize winner back in 2004, and I’ve only now gotten my hands on a copy.

Every word rings poetic and rustic and poignant as John Ames, an Iowa minister, writes a letter to his son as the hour of his own death creeps closer. The sentences unfold into honest answers, answers to our endless questioning of existence and meaning.

There’s a world of magic within these pages, the type only found within the wisdom of final moments.


FOUR: Chad Stokes’ Simmerkane II

Head on over to Noise Trade for a FREE copy of the lastest album from Chadwick Stokes, Dispatch frontman turned solo artist.

If you didn’t grow up amidst cornstalks and combines like I did, this might be lost on you: His album feels a little like going home. It has its roots in back road Americana, whispers of bare feet, banjos, and summer storms.

Here’s a sample to get you started:


What did you stumble across this week?