Jeevan Brown from Landover, Maryland has the resume that any journalist would die for. With PLAY Magazine, G.O.O.D. Music and Ozone Magazine all under his belt, it’s evident that Jeevan has a niche for storytelling. He’s taken those skills and transformed them into his first published book called “A Lesson Learned.” The 16 chapter anthology is like a millennial’s guide to scratching and surviving in today’s society. The book covers everything from unplanned pregnancy to the death of a close friend. The book is guaranteed to make you laugh and ugly cry… A LOT. Blame Ebro sat down with the book’s author Jeevan Brown to discuss the different stories in the book, his faith in God and his goal of connecting with the youth.
Blame Ebro: Given your history in music journalism and the entertainment industry as a whole, what made you write this particular type of book?
Jeevan Brown: Well, I’ve always wanted to write a book since I was in college. I probably wrote one chapter, I had the chapters named and everything. It was going to be about all my crazy, wild, raunchy times in college. It was going to be [written] Zane-style, but I started writing with Ozone [Magaizne] and interning with G.O.O.D. Music, then Ozone shut down. So, when Ozone closed down, I was still blogging with Jen from Ozone on different blogs and throwing mixtape parties, but I still had this idea to put this book out. Then I started maturing. Now it’s like whatever I do, I want to help give back, but I still wanted the book to have a little edge to it. I’m not straight up and down, I’m a person who has a little edge to them. I like to go off the cliff a little bit. So, I said whatever I do, I’m going to still write the book, but then add a little self-help to it. I know everybody loves those crazy, wild books like the hood novels and the Zane books, but people also love self-help books too! So, I decided to put the two together. I tell these crazy stories or interesting stories and then at the end of each one I give advice on how to get through it, or how they [the person in the story] got through it. So, it’s with a twist and I think that’s what keeps people’s attention. Because nowadays, people don’t have a long attention span. So I figured I’d combine the two.
Blame Ebro: In the book you cover everything I believe a person can experience in their late teens to early 30’s. The book has stories about STDs, a surprise pregnancy, financial difficulties, and so much more. The best part is they’re based on true stories. How did you convince your friends to tell their business for this book? [laughs]
Jeevan Brown: Well, most of the stories, if I wasn’t a part of it, I was there, or it was about me. I did change the names, but I was a part of a lot of these stories. These are my close friends. Every year for Christmas, me and all [of] my friends in Maryland and D.C., we go to church and have brunch together. It’s about 16 of us and a lot of them are featured in the book. So, when I asked them, they didn’t hesitate. When they were telling me their stories I could feel the hesitation, because they were rehashing some of those old feelings. Some of them are my cousins, so they didn’t have a problem doing it. They just opened up to me. I’ve always had a thing with me; if I’m really close to somebody, I can get them to open up and talk about their problems because I’m always the one [who is] trying to help. My mom always says I’m the fake Dr. Phil, so that’s how I was able to get them to open up. People have trusted me with a lot of their secrets and I don’t really tell anyone’s business. So. They knew I wasn’t going to do them wrong in the book, or be on some “The Best Man” type of stuff, where I’m hanging off a balcony. I let them know up front what it was, how it was going to be [formatted]. I charged the names in some of the stories, and they knew. They gave me their blessings with that and I thank God they did.
Blame Ebro: One of the stories that sticks out to me is “Co-Sign,” where your friend who couldn’t afford the next semester of school, moved back home and then got caught up selling drugs. I remember at the end of that story there was a note about student loans and FASFA. With those types of notes at the end of each chapter, what do you feel it adds to the book?
Jeevan Brown: It gives the reader a solution of sorts. If they’re going through a similar problem, it tells the reader “you’re not alone.” A lot of people went through these type of situations and felt like they were alone. They may know somebody who went through it, but they don’t publicly talk about it. Like the STD one [“Let It Burn”], nobody talks about that. The student loans story is more common. So, I was hoping to get students that are in college to know these are some of the tips I can give you to avoid being in debt, and [these are] different payment plan options, because I wish I would’ve listened back then when people were telling me! I would’ve researched more and be [more] ahead than I am now. I don’t want people to go through the same thing I went through. I want them to be able to ease out of it and [know] how to navigate the right way through it. I did research for the different stories I have in there, just to show it’s not only happening in one part of the country, but it is happening everywhere. These aren’t phony or fake stories I’m making up. I have scholarly articles, and data from the CDC stating that this is happening nationwide. Like the story “Live By Faith Not By Sight,” I had different scholarly articles about the [on campus] shootings that happened in California and Arizona. And I had Obama’s speech about the gun control problem. I want the reader to know this is real, and give them advice on how to get through.
Blame Ebro: Okay, here’s the hard-hitting question: Which story is your favorite outside of yours?
Jeevan Brown: Umm… I was about to say mine, [but, you said] outside of mine. Probably the first story, “Live By Faith Not By Sight,” about Shawn. Shawn is actually my sister’s best friend, and my sister is 13 years older than me, so Shawn is 13 years older than me. So, I remember him going and leaving for college, and I remember him coming to my grandma’s house to see all of us. When he walked in that door, it was like “dang!” I was young, but I could feel his pain. He couldn’t see me, he couldn’t see the TV, he couldn’t see all of us [sitting] on the couch crying. There wasn’t a dry eye in that room. I’ve seen blind people before, but I’ve never experienced anything like that. When you meet somebody that’s blind, it’s like “dang,” but I became really grateful when I interviewed Shawn and listened to his story. I went to get something to drink from the store after I interviewed him, and I was just happy I could see the lights. I could see the Gatorade sign, I could see this, I could see that, and he can’t see anything. When I interviewed him, his wife was pregnant and he was about to have his first daughter. And I was thinking, when she has the baby, he will never know what his daughter looks like. That really got to me and made me appreciate life a lot more. I can’t relate to his story, but in college, my roommate just got a gun and when he got this gun, he kept playing with the trigger in the house. Like some guys do when they’re just happy they got a gun. The whole time I could hear him cocking the trigger back, cocking the trigger back and I kept telling him to stop. Then, I finally told him that story and that made him stop. So that’s probably my favorite story and that’s why I chose it to be the first story in the book. Because it captured me emotionally. He actually spoke at my book signing party and everyone loved his speech. He does national speaking now and president of the national blind committe. That’s really perseverance and faith right there. If he can make it, what’s your excuse?
Blame Ebro: How did you decide the order of the stories?
Jeevan Brown: Like I said, with Shawn’s story, that one got to me the most and I knew that would shock everybody because that’s such a rare story. Like somebody gets shot and then goes blind? What happened? Then, the STD one [“Let It Burn”]. Every time I tell someone about the book and I say “STD,” I see their face go like “whoa”! It’s like a taboo type of thing, but it happens. I knew the first story was heavy, and the STD one was heavy too, but I made it humorous. My goal was to make that story humorous, then the third one I made heavy again. So, I was going back and forth between heavy and light. Then in the middle, I wanted to give the smooth, petty stories with the student loans [“A Different World”], and the fashion troupe [“Passion For Fashion”] and “Quarterback Sneak.” Those weren’t too heavy, those were lighthearted, then towards the end… Here we go again, back on this roller coaster.
Blame Ebro: You’ve received nothing but positive feedback with the book, I don’t know anyone who has read this book and had anything negative to say. How overwhelming has the love and support been since the book’s release?
Jeevan Brown: It’s been a million times overwhelming. I didn’t expect that at all. It took me two years to write the book. I have a 9 to 5, so I’m tired after work. I had to interview everybody, then put it in story format. I thought I was done after a year, but then I read some other [self-help] books, and said this book isn’t popping like these. So, I went back and looked up how to write a book, and how to make it emotional. I let my friends whose stories are featured, read their chapters just in case they wanted to change or remove anything. But, everybody was fine and everything got put in the book. What got to me was when they read their stories and some of them said they started crying, or felt a certain way. It brought back that old emotion for them. So, I said okay, that’s fine. It’s their story, they’re going to feel that way. So then my aunts, they’re really good at English and writing -it’s always good to have two, three sets of eyes. So, I let them read some of the chapters, then they said they cried. On some chapters they had all these different emotions come up. I was like okay, that’s my aunts. Of course they’re going to feel that way. Then I got two editors, Maurice Garland and Janis Carmichael. Janis said she cried while reading one of the chapters. Again, I’m thinking, I’m paying her, of course she’s going to say that. [laughs] Then Maurice Garland, I’ve known him since I started working at Ozone. He’s always been very honest with me -everybody at Ozone has always been cut throat with me. So, when he said he thought I really had something special and he could see Tyler Perry or one of those directors turning it into a movie, that’s when I started [to believe]. okay, I might have something, but I was still doubting myself.
Finally, when I put the book out, and I sent out the first batch, I started getting emails, notifications from Facebook and Instagram from people saying how much the book has helped them. Like the story about my best friend that died, [“Achieving While Grieving”] a girl told me how it helped her deal with her mom passing. I got so many messages from people who said they read the book and cried. I got so many crying messages, it’s like whoa, I didn’t want the book to be this sad! I knew it was sad, but I tried to bring a little humor to it with “Let It Burn,” and “HIGHway Patrol.” I tried to make those a little funnier. Then, I had a [former] professor send me a message on Facebook and say she hadn’t read a book like this in a long time. That’s when I saw it was something special. I rode up and down the highway to different colleges, because I’m trying to get [the book] into different freshman seminar classes. So, I’ve been going to different colleges and speaking to the professors, directors and deans. I’m actually speaking to the bridge program this month at Livingstone College and it was all by faith. My cousin passed and I was driving one way home and flying the way back, since flying round trip costed too much. So, I drove home and stopped at Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina A&T and Livingstone. I thought all of those stops would be simple stops, but they turned into two and three hour visits. It’s a nine hour drive from Atlanta to home [Maryland]. I can’t be here this long, I gotta keep going! [laughs] So when I pulled up to Livingstone, I prayed before I got out the car. I said “God, please let me meet the person I need to meet.” No lie, I get out the car, I’m walking around for 10 minutes and I see this guy -he looks like a professor. I told him who I was and everything that I was doing, and he said, “You know what? I could probably use you.” It’s the same guy who booked me to speak this month.
Blame Ebro: Wow.
Jeevan Brown: Yeah, nothing but God, man.
Blame Ebro: Speaking of God, I notice something that you tweet often about asking God directly for what you specifically want.
Jeevan Brown: Yeah, my pastor, Pastor Jenkins from [First Baptist Church of] Glenarden, spoke about that a few times. He said people may pray, but they don’t really say how they feel. Sometimes when I pray, I be mad! Like the other day, I was hitting the bed while I was praying because something wasn’t going right. He said “God already knows what you’re thinking anyway. So just say exactly how you feel, and say what you want.” I found out when I do that, things move quicker. It moves way quicker. I just say exactly what I want, I’m not afraid to ask. If I don’t feel right about certain situations, I just start praying right then and there. Once I do that, I feel some of that anger get off me. My thing is I need to feel happy all the time. I want to feel happy and have good vibes all the time. When you feel that way, you get more of that [postive energy] back. I’ve been practicing [that] for a long time with my pastor, watching sermons, listening to “The Secret” and reading “The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success,” “The Outliner,” and “The Alchemist.” All those books really helped me to have a good mind.
Blame Ebro: You’ve been successful in journalism, and now you’re a published author. So now the question is, what’s next?
Jeevan Brown: I have a lot of ideas. My mind is working 24/7. Having ideas constantly is a blessing. I have a clothing line I’m going to do. I had one before, but I’ve always had a passion for clothes. I’m also working on my second book. I’m not going to release the title yet, somebody might try to steal it [laughs]. It has nothing to do with “A Lesson Learned.” I’ll be leaving my 9 to 5 soon. I didn’t come all the way to Atlanta, away from my family, to be behind a desk. I can go home and do that. I’m going to take a screenwriting class, to [learn how to] turn the book into a movie. Once I release the second book, I’m going to start working on “A Lesson Learned II.” I want to talk to people in their late teens and early 20’s to let them know you don’t have to be a rapper. You can be a writer -an author! I plan to talk at schools. I want to show the youth that you can do a lot with writing and it’s not boring. I still love music, pop culture and hip-hop, so my way of going about things is in a guerilla style.
Blame Ebro: You’re self-published. What has that grind taught you?
Jeevan Brown: It taught me that you can do anything you put your mind to. It taught me that YouTube and Google is a beast! I watched YouTube and googled how to do a lot of stuff. It taught me to live in great fortitude, to be resilient and never give up. As long as you got God on your side, you’ll be ok. Its a bigger profit when you go independent. Like Jay Z selling albums out of his car when he first came out, or Slim Thug making a million independent without any label. The publishing game is just like the music game. No one is signing with major publishing companies anymore. And they’re all self-marketing. So, I think once I get big on my own, I’ll be able to negotiate my own deal with a publishing company. It turns into a “what can you do for me, what do you bring to the table?” situation. So, that’s what I learned. I did everything myself except the cover. Julian [Dangerfield] did that, but I had the idea. I tried to learn photoshop! I tried to learn from a workshop on YouTube, but Julian has something special. He did it all himself. I had these ideas in my head and I executed them. I didn’t spend two years out of my life just to release a book and let it go. I have everything planned and scheduled down to what I’m posting on Instagram.
Blame Ebro: What advice would you give to the next generation of writers?
Jeevan Brown: Whatever you do put your blood, sweat and tears in it. There were a lot of times where I wanted to give up and I needed to find your safety net. You need to find [out] why you’re doing it and the purpose behind it. Not just to say you did it, or for the money. Every time you are about to give up, think about why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for. I’m doing it for my family and my friends, it’s bigger than me. So think about what you’re writing. Is it bigger than you? Are you trying to help a generation? My audience is the youth. They’re different from us, they’re a little more off the chain than we were. So, I can help them navigate through these situations before they make a [bad] decision. They may remember a story from “A Lesson Learned” and decide not to make that bad choice. I’m here to help the kids that look just like me. When I went to talk to a high school, I could see a lot of them were just like me and I had their attention the entire time. The teacher told me afterwards that some of those kids were the baddest kids in the school, but they were really listening to me. That’s because I’ve been where they’ve been and they understood me. They knew I wasn’t coming in on some corny mess. So don’t give up! It’s going to be a long process, but you have to crawl before you walk. You got to have the discipline to do what you need to do, even when you don’t feel like doing it. That’s going to give you the biggest results. Keep going, keep striving for the best.