Choose Branson recently spoke with Andrea Brett, of the Brett’s Family Christmas Show. We discussed her new book ‘I Am A Veteran’.
The book began as a poem that Brett wrote around 2003. The intent was for it to be a part of their show to honor veterans. “I actually wrote it to be a part of the show. When we first came to Branson all the shows were doing patriotic tributes. There were only so many patriotic songs and we wanted our tribute to be unique to us. The poem became something, along with original song arrangements, we have used throughout the years.”
The 88-page publication brings Brett’s poem to life with 45 hand-drawn illustrations. Eight artists and two illustrators combined to create the stunning visuals. However, the book and poem may have never happened if Brett was not inspired by another poem she heard on the radio.
“When we moved to Branson from Dallas we began looking for material for our show that wasn’t used in other shows. I remembered hearing a poem on the radio back in Dallas that was moving to me. I thought it might be something we could use. I called the station to find out how I could get it, who wrote it, that kind of thing. They had no recollection of it at all. I tried tracking it down and could never find it and I got disappointed because I thought it was great. Then one-day inspiration came that said, you can write your own.”
“The thoughts started coming to me. Inspiration came from the veterans we were meeting each day at our show. At intermission and after the show they would tell us stories of their experiences. They were average looking people wearing jeans and t-shirts. Telling stories that were anything but average.”
“The poem is an amalgamation of those stories. Each line represents a story I heard.”
Writing a poem was the first step. Brett knew right away that she wanted it to become a book. Creating a book is a process. One that the Brett’s faced head-on.
“I realized I wanted to make it into a book. It was something that was nagging at me for years. When I would be on the stage reciting it I would think, ‘I’ve got to get this into a book.’ It was something I knew I needed to do.”
“With our schedule, this year, not doing shows in the Spring and Summer, I had a window of time to focus on it. I took that opportunity and knew that it was now or never.”
“The first plan was to get it done. I never looked beyond that to what I was going to do with it. I wanted to follow that inspiration to get it finished and let things happen from there.”
“During the process, we worked with artists who hand-drew in black & white, either with pencil or with charcoal, pictures that went along with the poem. The color in the book was applied digitally. There were two artists, one who also did some of the drawings, who took the black & white pictures and did the coloring. They turned out fantastic.”
“We self-published the book, which was interesting. It is not a cheap endeavor, especially with a hard-cover. It was about the quality that we wanted to make it though. We worked with a printer in New Hampshire who was great – along with all the artists and designers who were fantastic. It turned out to be a beautiful project.”
“We received the finished book in October and began selling them at our show. Since then we have started a website, IAmaVeteran.net, where the book can be purchased as well.”
“The hope for the website is for it to become a forum. There is a part of the site called The Project. One thing I want it to do is to be able to collect military artwork. I learned there are a lot of military veterans who like to express themselves through their artwork. I want the website to be a place that can display their art. Another thing I want the site to do is to be able to collect the stories of veterans. Not only stories of their service, but also what they are doing now. As we speak to veterans that come to our show, many of them are engaged in forwarding the cause of veterans in their communities. They are doing awesome things, we want to showcase that.”
The next step is to find out what the next step is for the book. Once you have it published the life of a writing is not complete. Much like a person, a book continues to find new life and ways to impact people.
“I would love to see the book in as many homes and libraries as possible. It would be great to see it in schools as well as public libraries. We are in the initial stages of that. We are hoping that doors will open and that we will know when to walk through.”
“My biggest goal is to get veterans telling their stories. So many are leaving this world with their stories still in them. They need to be told so the rest of us have a greater appreciation for their sacrifices. They are real people – with real families – and real stories. They come home and they get real jobs and are expected to take those experiences and live life. Carrying those experiences around inside. It is helpful to have a safe place where they can talk about it.”
“They are normal people who do extraordinary things.”
Be sure to check out IAmaVeteran.net to keep up to date with what is happening with Andrea Brett’s book. You can purchase a copy there, or if you want to pick up a copy in person – click this link to get a ticket for the Brett’s show from Choose Branson.