Wednesday, May 30, 2007
As I am preparing to launch my new novel, One Smooth Stone, I took great encouragement from this verse when it arrived in my inbox the other day. The calling of Samuel has always held a fascination for me. There are many things to be gleaned from that passage of scripture, many that pertain to being a writer.
Samuel responded to the call even though he was not sure what it was, where it was coming from or where it would lead. Sometimes the nudges we get from the Lord are like that. We’re not sure about them, but we move forward. Sometimes we feel God is telling us to write a certain article or poem or book. We have no way of knowing what God intends for that piece of writing but we move forward, show it to friends, have it critiqued, finally submit it and perhaps see it published. Then we stand back in awe at the amazing things God does with it.
Samuel sought out the wisdom of his mentor and it was Eli who directed him to turn to the Lord and to respond. Our mentors, our encouragers, our critique partners are all vital in our growth as writers. They have been put in our lives for good reason. We would be wise to seek their counsel and help often. We would be wise to listen to the critiques of our work, recognize others see weaknesses that we are blind to and be willing to make the changes necessary.
Samuel stayed close to the Lord throughout his life and became one of the great prophets of Israel. He learned obedience at Eli’s knee and never forgot it. Note the last phrase in the scripture above – “the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” All of what Samuel spoke to the people of Israel bore fruit for God. Nothing was wasted.
It is the Lord who directs and guards our words. It is the Lord who will take them to the right people at the right time and use them to His purposes. Note the word, “none.” I take great encouragement from that word alone. Nothing God pours through us is wasted. Each article, each poem, each novel, each devotional, each book will bear the fruit He has in mind. Even those things we write that may never appear in print are important as part of the process. They are doing things in us and the results will show in our work. We may not always see the results God has intended, but we can be assured that it will be accomplished.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Now we're getting ready to do some promotion in our own area. Crime Writers of Canada is working with the Toronto Reference Library to put on "Look Who's Reading Canadian Mysteries" June 5th and I'm privileged to have my book being read by Herbie Kuhn, the Air Canada in-house voice of the Toronto Raptors. Okay, switching sports there a bit, since the events of Glitter of Diamonds are set in the milieu of professional baseball and its surrounding media, but Herbie and his wife both like mysteries! And I'm sure they like baseball, too.
I also have a book launch from 1 to 3 PM Saturday, June 9th, at Chapters in Markham (on highway 7 between Warden and Woodbine).
Then I'll be participating in Book Expo, where I get to read from Glitter of Diamonds and then do signings for booksellers and librarians.
And a panel in Burlington on Monday, June 18th... (See my schedule for updates.)
And I'm working on creating a press kit and a new website for Glitter of Diamonds, and putting together a promotional tour in Canada this fall, and getting more radio and TV interviews, and looking for more places on the internet to connect with, and more reviewers who will read the book, and ...
And I sometimes wonder what happened to my being a writer! But such is the world these days that most writers have to reinvent themselves as salespeople if they want their books to sell. A marketing guru I recently heard speak said that most publishers are good printers. In other words, they can bring a book into physical being, but even they don't know how to guarantee the book's success in the marketplace. So it's left to the authors, who presumably have the most invested in their books, to get out and flog them.
I'll leave you with this word of advice from my recent experiences. The next time you walk into a bookstore and see a lonely author hawking his or her wares, don't be afraid to walk up and say hello, and ask what the book is about, and how long it took to write, and what it's about. You don't have to buy the book unless you decide you really want to; we won't mind. We're just glad of the chance to interact with you. What we really dislike is watching someone see us and quickly walk the other way or go around three tables and trip over a dolly in the middle of the far aisle in order to avoid walking near us. That tends to get embarrassing. And yes, it really happened.
Monday, May 28, 2007
At this conference, I excitedly signed up for every class and booked one-on-one appointments for every spare moment. I couldn’t get enough! I learned all about writing for children, writing for newspapers, writing for magazines, writing for publishing houses etc.
From there, it was a process of elimination. I tried just about everything.... I tried writing poems, writing for children, writing articles, writing songs, writing book reviews, writing short stories etc. I liked it all but felt torn and unfocused. I needed to narrow my love of writing into where I best fit.
I took two excellent on-line courses; a devotional writing course and a children's writing course. From these, I learned that writing for children was too tough for me, yet devotional writing felt natural. In the meantime, I wrote a nonfiction book on health and fitness, articles on health, a weekly faith column for mainstream newspapers, and I started a novel.
Through all this, I learned that I don't mind articles but only if I'm invited to submit. I don’t want to interview people. I don’t like research. I don't want to be a journalist. I like to write songs but feel that'll be in the future. And so on.
I am glad to have the opportunity to pursue my interests slowly and discover in my own time where God wants me. I also pray and ask for guidance daily. If you are called to write, there are many opportunities to use your gift – have fun and enjoy exploring your call!
Friday, May 25, 2007
Besides traveling around to bookstores, my husband and I motorcycle for the sheer pleasure of the ride. Every spring, the open road calls our names and the first ride of the season is always the best.
Though it’s not everyone’s idea of a relaxing time, riding behind my husband on the back of our 1982 Goldwing is an incredibly restful experience for me.
My very best writing occurs on the back of that motorcycle for, as most authors know, the best “writing” comes before the pen hits the paper. We don’t have intercoms on our bike so, if my husband and I wish to communicate, we have to shout our messages to each other. Most of the time, we are content to watch the scenery go by in silence.
Free from all responsibilities, I write dialogue, work out plot structure, craft poems and plan articles. My mind becomes saturated with wonderful words as they flow unhindered and uninterrupted over the miles.
We usually haul a trailer behind our bike, full of camping gear – and books. On one of our longer trips, the weight of my books bent the trailer axle. With the number of books increasing rather than decreasing each year, my husband, one of those people who can fix anything, found a way to reinforce the trailer frame so that it can carry more weight.
There is a message on the back of our trailer proudly declaring that we are “Grandma and Grandpa.” If you see our maroon bike and trailer on the highway, wave and we’ll wave back – at least my husband will. If you want to draw my attention away from word crafting and sentence structure, you might have to beep your horn - and then wave!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
What goes before a fall? The Good Book says ‘Pride’.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
What is pride, anyway? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines pride as: ‘overweening opinion of one’s own qualities, merits’ and ‘proud’ as ‘haughty, arrogant’.
Roget’s Thesaurus speaks of the double-edged nature of pride. Many people use the term to refer to satisfaction in their children’s accomplishments, or to self-respect. But Roget’s Thesaurus reminds that pride is also connected to:
arrogance, haughtiness, insolence, loftiness, lordliness, overbearingness, presumption, superiority, narcissism, vanity, egotism.
Hence we see the origin of the 1960’s slang phrase “ego trip”.
Paul warned Timothy three times to watch out for the proud and arrogant false teachers in his midst. In 1 Timothy 6:3, Paul commented:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited/proud and understands nothing.
The Greek word for pride (tuphoo) has the root concept of ‘smoke’, almost like our modern concept of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ used by spin-doctors. Again in 2 Timothy 3:1-2, Paul said:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive...
The danger of pride is why Paul cautions against ordaining new believers, lest they come under the devil’s condemnation through unteachability. (1 Timothy 3:6)
Why is pride spoken of as the first of the seven deadly sins? Perhaps because pride causes us to forget our Maker:
Your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 8:14)
Pride is basically non-productive and unteachable:
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)
Pride is self-destructive:
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:10)
Pride is the spirit of the mocker:
The proud and arrogant man-"Mocker" is his name; he behaves with overweening pride. (Proverbs 21:24).
In High School, many ‘Big Men on Campus’ become proud and mocking while they are ‘the big fish in a small pond’. But things change when they go into the real world. Pride goes before a fall.
The most difficult thing about pride is that it is like bad breath: easy to detect in others, and hard to detect in ourselves. Pride has to do with a sense of entitlement, that we deserve everything that we have, that the world owes us a living. The most famous human being once said in Mark 7:22 that pride comes from within our hearts and actually makes us unclean (non-kosher). Pride separates from others, by seducing us into thinking that we are better than others. Pride is the root cause of every caste system, every class system, and every system of racial hatred.[i] That is why the Bible says:
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:16)
Pride goes before a fall.
Pride makes it very difficult to admit our need for anyone else, even God himself. Dr. Albert Runge comments that “Pride is the greatest hindrance to prayer.”[ii] Pride feeds the illusion that we are completely independent and self-sufficient. That is why Jesus said:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 19:24)
Yet real breakthrough happens when we admit our need, our helplessness and powerlessness over life’s struggles. CS Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidman, resisted her need for God for many years. She writes:
God had been stalking me for a very long time, waiting for his moment; he crept nearer so silently that I never knew he was there. Then, all at once, he sprang. For the first time in my life I felt helpless; for the first time my pride was forced to admit that I was not, after all, 'the master of my fate'.[iii]
Pride and humility are total opposites. That is why both James and Peter quote Proverbs 3:10: “God opposes and resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Let me ask you a question: Do we really want the Maker of the Universe to be opposing and resisting us? Yet that is what is guaranteed if we don’t deal with the pride issue. God will resist us at work, at home, in society. Pride may not be a big deal to us, but it certainly is to God. Why is God so opposed to pride? Because it cripples our ability to really love others around us. As the famous poem in 1 Corinthians 13 puts it, love is not proud. Why are so many people successful in business and failures at home? Pride goes before a fall.
Pride, like alcohol addiction, is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It is almost impossible to destroy head-on. Dr. Albert Runge comments that “our pride may lead to false guilt and self-condemnation, which refuses to accept God’s gracious forgiveness.”[iv] That is why Jeremiah 17:9 says: “Our heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” The secret to taming one’s pride is gratitude and thanksgiving. As John Fischer puts it,
a thankful heart cancels out pride and arrogance. No need to judge other people when you are thankful for who you are. No need to measure yourself by and compare yourself to others when you are thankful for what God has done in your life.[v]
Gratitude is a deep sense that life is a generous gift from a gracious giver. Gratitude is best expressed by the ancient words: “All things come from You, O Lord, and of your own have we given You.”
My prayer for those reading this book is that each of us as Canadians will gratefully lay our pride and self-sufficiency down at the foot of our Maker. It is our hidden pride that is holding back the waves of God’s revival to our thirsty nation.
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
[i] AA Allen, The Price of God’s Miracle-Working Power, 1950s, http://www.agapao.de/download/books/allan.pdf p. 89 “Pride generally takes one of five forms: 1)Pride of FACE –How much better I look than those around me. 2) Pride of PLACE – Don’t ask that of one in my position! 3)Pride of RACE – I come from an excellent family and must uphold the family honour at any cost! 4) Pride of PACE – Everyone should be able to see that we are the most capable and efficient person available. No one else could keep up with me! 5) The last and worst one of all: Pride of GRACE: Look at my spiritual accomplishments, how humble I am, the length of my fasts, my visions, dreams and revelations, the gifts I possess – I must be a special favorite with God!
[ii] Albert Runge, A Brooklyn Jew Meets Jesus, Christian Publ., Camp Hill Pennyslvania, 2001, p. 197
[iii] “Extraordinary Joy”, http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001188.cfm
[iv] Runge, p. 178
[v] High Praise Media Group Page http://home.bellsouth.net/p/s/community.dll?ep=16&groupid=281535&ck=
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
My deadlines include keeping my website up to date. Here I can promote my book and, in order to entice people to visit often, I change various pages to keep it current. Next, I send out review copies of my book to relevant publications and I spend time searching for appropriate magazines and newspapers; my deadline in this instance is to find at least six such publications every couple of weeks. The third deadline I have is to write for this blogspot every few weeks as scheduled, exercising my brain to think of a suitable topic on which to write and making sure that I put it on to the site on time. I also write talks for speaking engagements related to my book.
These are some of my deadlines and, indeed, they could take the life out of me if I let them. However, I prefer to see them as lifelines as they continue to put life into my book. They invite those who read my web pages or reviews to buy my book and read further about God’s love for us and the Divine gift of spiritual life.
Yes, the deadlines are work but they are cause for thanksgiving and, if I see them as such, I can name them lifelines. The word deadline reminds me of the straight line, with its accompanying monotone, on a patient’s bedside monitor that indicates the person’s death. The word lifeline reminds me of the path on which God leads me into spiritual life and light.
At this time of year, I see earth’s creatures all around me meeting their goals, and there is not a hint of death in their activities—all rush toward life. The birds have returned from their winter homes and, in the few short weeks allotted to them, they mate, build nests, lay eggs, hatch and fledge a family, bring them to maturity and prepare them to return to their southern homes. No one makes them do this; they know it has to be done and they do it whole heartedly bringing their lives to fulfillment. For the plants, it is the same thing; they push up from the winter ground as soon as the snow has gone; they bud, blossom, come to fruition and spread their seeds for next year’s cycle of life.
Deadlines suggest anxiety and force; lifelines suggest joy and responsibility. The next time I think of the things I need to get done as deadlines I will make the effort to change their name into lifelines. This will be to my benefit and to God’s glory.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
So it is with faith. As long as my faith is a series of loosely held convictions contained within my private belief system, but unrelated to the way that I live my life, it can absorb and include any new idea that comes along. It is all-inclusive, but directionless. However, when what I believe begins to shape my choices, my decisions, and my behaviour it shifts from a collection of disparate ideas to values that determine who I am and what is important to me.
We have the option of keeping our thoughts to ourselves and simply enjoying the mental gymnastics of tossing around ideas or creating a make believe world peopled by figures from our imagination. What a waste of our gifts that would be! It is only as we put our random thoughts on paper and organize and regroup and reshape and rework them until they somehow convey our convictions that they begin to find meaning. As we give birth to our imagined characters we introduce them through our stories telling of their feelings, their adventures, their joys and their sorrows. Their fictional lives reflect the realities that our readers know so well. When we dare to confine our vagabond thoughts to the printed page they take on a life of their own, nurtured by the investment that we have made and nurture those who interact with them as they read.
Our faith too can remain a private affair, a vague force that is available for sustenance in case of emergency. Such a faith will not stand up to the onslaught of disaster. The faith that is needed when difficult comes is one that has been explored and tested. It is certain of realities such as the omniscience of a gracious God, revealed in Jesus Christ, the fragrance of whose presence permeates all of life through the activity of the Holy Spirit. Not only does this faith sustain us in the challenges of life; it offers hope to those who observe the authenticity of it as they see its impact in our ordinary lives. It is not aggressively in their faces. It is graciously written in the fabric of our lives.
When our words have been committed to print, they may be misunderstood, misinterpreted and disputed. They will be scrutinized, criticized and affirmed. There is often little that we can do. What we have written we have written and we must let our words stand for themselves.
When our lives have been committed to living out an authentic faith, they too will be misunderstood, misinterpreted and disregarded. They will be judged, criticized and affirmed. Often we will not even know how others view our faith. It is not our affair. We are those who have committed our lives to a God, who knows all things and who sees the hearts of all. What He does in us and through us will endure and will nourish the faith of others.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
-an article for the North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column http://www.nsnews.com
My goal was to hear God’s still, small voice. Three and a half years ago I spent a one-month sabbatical in a small cabin on top of Sumas Mountain. I was reluctant to go on this sabbatical, because I was convinced that I was too busy. The truth is that I was ‘too’ busy, and needed to get away to just be with God. I thank God for my fellow clergy who covered for me so that I could have such a mountaintop experience.
Friday, May 18, 2007
In The Lightning File, Josh Radley, a feature writer for the Toronto Times, stumbles on a terrorist plot. He identifies a network of companies laundering drug money to finance an attack on US interests from Canadian soil. But just when Josh needs to concentrate on breaking the mysterious file that holds the key to the terrorists’ targets, his life crumbles around him. He wife demands a separation and he falls under the spell of a beautiful Pakistani psychiatrist.
Is The Lightning File a Christian book? No, well, yes. You might ask; if you are so ambivalent, why did you write it then?
I wrote it as a pre-evangelistic novel. It does not present the gospel, per se. Instead, I sought to present a realistic, very human protagonist, who struggles with marriage problems, sexual temptation, questions about his childhood faith, stress at work and cynicism about church practice. My hope was that in describing a couple of evangelicals as flawed, but likeable characters, non-Christian readers might become more open to their message. After all, the gospel throws a lifeline to seriously flawed people—like me.
Besides, the media bias against serious Christians is so pervasive that something should be done. On every hand we read of Christians being portrayed as greedy hypocrites, narrow legalists, child abusers or simplistic sheep. In this area, popular fiction rarely rises above stereotypes. Witness Barbara Kingsolver’s very well-written novels; The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer. Many others examples could be cited. The reality is so vastly different that honest reporting requires the injection of some balance.
I wrote it as a suspense novel because I enjoy a plot-driven story. And yet the unrealistic characters and ponderous detail about US government agencies and military hardware contained in most of the stories by Clancy and Cussler, et al, drive me a bit crazy. I wanted a contemporary story set in Canada dealing with real dangers, including our country’s naiveté and the erosion of press freedoms.
I included several other loves as well: my enchantment with the Ontario countryside and my love for foreign locales. Since my years in Pakistan left their stamp on my character, I included a Pakistani sub-character and a code written in Urdu and Arabic.
After struggling for a year and a half or more to find an agent or a publisher, I’ve decided to self-publish. If you feel led, I would appreciate your prayers that it might have some modest success. Check my web site www.countrywindow.
Eric E. Wright
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
More huffing and puffing on behalf of the flatly ridiculous anti-God crusade
In the 21st century world, ideology is dead but spirituality lives.
Cardinal Schoenborn, the Pope's anti-Darwinist point man says some pointed things on faith and science
Quantum Theory and Faith: A physicist's thoughts
New Book! The Physics of Christianity by Frank Tipler
Lighter moment: Doubtful student receives letter from God.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
A giant-print Gideon Bible given while he was in the hospital and a question asked by the giver. Eighty years of stubbornness did not fall away that day, but a new life started. For just a couple of years he has lived that new life, slowly changing from the inside out. There are reconciliations that have not happened. He had not progressed so far. My clumsy efforts to bring two sides together had found no fertile ground in which to grow.
So many memories. So many times in their home. They babysat our girls for years, both of them in ill health. His wife, a strong Christian, loving without reservation. Him also, loving our girls, masking it by teasing. It was a good home for them to spend many hours in, though he was not always an easy man to like.
I wonder if he is puttering in a garden in Heaven even as I write these words, still astonished to be there, a hand reaching down to touch his amputated leg – now restored. I wonder if he is flexing his knees, overwhelmed by freedom from pain, looking for the familiar wheelchair or canes, feeling the loss and delighting in it. I wonder if he as started a half dozen times to spout off about some politician, then stopped, his mind tripping over some startling GOOD thought about that person.
What does Heaven look like through the eyes of a crusty old man? What does a man experience who has not taken a pain-free step in half a century – when he finds himself more alive than ever before?
Death – it takes us by surprise, and it bears its share of pain. But the one thing it is not and cannot be is the final chapter in life’s story.
I wish I could be there for his send-off. I’ll be working the day of his funeral, unable to attend. The temptation to slip a piece of cardboard wrapped in foil in a Cadbury milk-chocolate wrapper into the casket would be strong. He delighted in giving my daughters such a “gift.”
He is home now, and though there is reason for sorrow, there is also reason to rejoice. And who knows, since I’m getting older and crustier myself, I may learn before too long what Heaven looks like through the eyes of a crusty old man. Maybe I’ll even putter with him in the garden a bit.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
For eighteen Mother’s Days, I have been privileged to write articles in the Deep Cove Crier.
In my first May 1989 DCC issue, I commented that “No computer, no microchip, no hi-tech invention can ever replace that very special person in a child's life. Motherhood is one of the most demanding, time-consuming, diversified roles in our modern culture.” On Mother’s Day 1990, I prayed that “many moms may feel loved by their husbands in a way that they have never before experienced, that the mothers of our children may feel listened to and cared for not only on the 2nd Sunday of May, but all year round.” On Mother’s Day 2,000, I gave thanks for mother-in-laws, especially my own mother-in-law Vera who passed away that summer. On Mother’s Day 2003, I wrote: “Where would we be without our mothers? Mothers keep the world on track. Mothers never stop caring. Mothers never stop giving.”
Those of you who have been reading my Deep Cove Crier articles for the past two decades will know that I am a big Mother’s Day fan. God knew what he was talking about when he built the honouring of Mothers right into the 10 Commandments itself. God said in the 10 Commandments that honouring our mothers (and fathers) would actually affect how long and how well we lived out our lives.
Mothers are mentioned 226 times in the bible. The first mother, Eve, was called the mother of all living. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, was called the mother of nations. Moses’ mother gave her own child away to an Egyptian princess just to spare his life. Samuel’s mother dedicated her son to the Lord at a very young age. King Solomon reminded young people in Proverbs 4 not to forsake the law of their mother. Young Timothy’s leadership was based on the prayers of his faithful mother Eunice and grandmother Lois.
Why does God want us to honour our mothers? God knows that when we honour and love our mothers, everyone wins. God wins, our mothers win and we win. Proverbs 10:1 teaches that when we foolishly do not honour our mothers, we bring grief to them. Many mothers literally die of broken hearts because of the selfishness and waywardness of their adult children. The Good Book teaches that there is a spiritual law of reaping and sowing. As the famous movie Gone With the Wind reminds us, the person who brings trouble on his family will only inherit the wind. (Proverbs 11:29). Honouring our mothers is in our own best interests.
It is very easy to focus on our parent’s flaws. Proverbs 15:20 says that the foolish man despises his mother. Have you ever noticed the number of interesting swear-words that involve the use of the term ‘mother’? There is so much anger and hatred in our culture towards the feminine. Proverbs 30:17 symbolically says that those who dishonour their mothers will have their eyes pecked out by the ravens and vultures. To reject motherhood is to go blind to the things that really matter in life. I believe it is time for us to rediscover the ancient wisdom of the Ten Commandments, the very foundation of our Canadian legal and moral system. Honouring our mothers is not a multiple-choice option.
Our culture has a tendency to make fun of women when they are older, calling them disparaging names and treating them as irrelevant. It is no wonder that so many women feel afraid to admit their real age. Proverbs 23:22 says: “Do not despise your mother when she is old.” Blessing our mothers is a wonderful privilege that we should not miss. Many people sadly save all their blessings for the funeral eulogy. My challenge to you is to not wait until your mother is dead and buried. Bless her today before it is too late. Give thanks for her this week, because life is so short. And make a fuss of her this coming Mother’s Day on May 13th. She deserves it and needs it. Happy Mother’s Day.
The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, BC
Anglican Coalition in Canada
Thursday, May 10, 2007
But now I've changed. Flannery O'Connor's short stories first started to whet my interest. They fascinated me and even haunted my dreams after I read them. Most recently, Alice Munro has me thoroughly in love with hers. I want to read everything of hers I can get my hands on. Since she is prolific, I have lots of enjoyment ahead.
I'm also excited by what Bethany House editor Dave Long has done over at his Faith in Fiction blog from time to time by running short story contests.
Most recently, Dave teamed up with the new Christian literary magazine Relief Journal and its new fiction editor J. Mark Bertrand (who blogs Fridays at The Master's Artist), for the Daily Sacrament Contest.
The winner and a runner up will both be published in Relief---which is a great magazine. I encourage you to support it. And I hope one day soon, we'll have a Canadian outlet for good short stories by Christians.
But what's also amazing and encouraging is how good the other runners up are. One of them is by Canadian author Susan Fish. Go and read her Four Feasts. It's really good and I still find myself thinking about it even though I read it several days ago.
One of the advantages of short fiction is that it allows a writer to experiment with point of view, voice, character and so on without making the massive commitment to follow through with a full length novel. Which is not to say short stories, when done well, are easy to do.
One of the aims of Relief, the contests at Faith in Fiction, and our own The Word Guild awards to be announced June 13, is to encourage better and better quality in Christian writing.
Or writing by Christians. Unfortunately "Christian" as an adjective has come to mean "inferior" or "derivative" or "preachy" or "narrow" or "overly sweet" in some quarters. Authors who are Christian have gone a long way to show the stereotypes are unfair. Check out Susan's story.
Some authors of short stories published on Dave Long's blog have landed contracts on the strength of their work.
Marci Laycock placed first in the contest Dave ran with Infuze Magazine with her wonderful "Missing Christmas."
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
In my opinion, the best poetry invites readers in. I’m not saying we should “dumb down” our art, but simply that we need to communicate what the readers need to know in order to find their way through the poem.
The reason poets don’t simply come out and tell you certain things is because you need to dwell within the poem, figuring things out enough to make yourself part of the process. This only happens when you have a little work to do. Poetry is meant to help you experience something, not to just tell you about it. If you’re told a girl is sad, you will only process that mentally as a statement of fact; if the poet can draw you into feeling the girl’s despair, he’s created art.
Sometimes a poem can begin in a very confusing manner, but as you read on, things begin to make sense. You stop reading, and return to the opening lines with new understanding. Poetry should leave you with something to reflect upon, and to make your own. This doesn’t happen when poems are merely rhythmic sermon illustrations — on one extreme — or too difficult to understand — on the other. When you read a poem, you often won’t totally understand everything the poet says, but you should be able to understand enough after reading it through once to continue. Hopefully something will grab you in a way to make you want to spend more time with it.
Often people respond by finding their poetry elsewhere. They cherish the lyrics to popular songs, or quote lines from the movies they’ve seen, but rarely do such sources demand of writers as much as poetry does; rarely do they reach such poetic heights.
In my poetry chapbook, So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed, I tell stories of my grandparents years in China as missionaries. My desire is to create poetry that is accessible to intelligent readers who’ve not spent much time with poetry.
If you believe you don’t understand poetry, I would encourage you to spend a little time with the writing of such poets as Luci Shaw, Wendell Berry, or George Whipple — writers whose poetry is often quite accessible. A fascinating world is waiting to welcome you in.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I thought about that statement this past weekend as I waged war on the weeds who dared to squat on the flowerbeds reserved entirely for my perennials (and annuals yet to be purchased) and reacquainted myself with muscles who had blissfully slept all winter long.
As I slogged away, I had to be careful, take my time, and exercise patience because those nasty rascals popped up right alongside my flowers. Sometimes they were so close, pulling out the weeds wasn't an option for I would have plucked out the newly-born flowers, also. So, kneeling down and with a knife, I painstakingly dug the weeds out, one by one, hopefully removing all the root system, and without jarring the new little plants who have popped their brave heads out of the ground.
My back, needless to say, was not a happy camper but at the end of the day, when I sat on my deck, resting with a cool drink in hand, and surveyed my kingdom, I was well pleased. It had been hard work, exhausting work, but a joyful work. In my minds eye, I saw my reward: I could picture the beauty of the flowerbeds in full color that would begin in the next week or so and continue to bloom throughout the hazy days of summer and into the first frost of autumn.
The kingdom I labored to build in my backyard--by digging out flowerbeds, yanking out weeds, planting flowers and shrubs and trees, creating a border for the gardens with rocks brought home from our trips up North, and putting the finishing touch of decorating the beds with ornaments I scoured for in the local garden centers--is just a small taste of the beauty of heaven. An imperfect reflection of dazzling color and unlimited potential. And yet, still, so beautiful!
Yes, the garden is joy and beauty, work and reward, but oh, so much to enjoy. Even the pesky weeds. And the resident robin who squawks at me while he supervises my gardening.
Monday, May 07, 2007
It makes me think of the long process toward maturity as a writer. The road can seem hard and the desired end result a long time coming. But like the trees around us, there is growth and progress even though the environment doesn’t seem to be cooperative. Rejections give us further resolve to work harder. Friends give us the encouragement that keeps us going when we are discouraged. And those wonderful moments of accomplishment give us a sense of awe and humility as we recognize the hand of God in it all.
God’s hand is moving us along the path toward becoming a mature writer as surely as he is directing the course of the seasons. The blossoming of the trees and flowers is never late, in God’s timing. Neither is the timing of our “arrival” as writers. He is in control. It’s for us to keep moving forward, persevering as we learn the craft, and rejoicing as He uses our gifts to His purposes. And delighting in the journey.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
When I first began my journey as a published writer I deemed only those who engaged in authentic Christian Writing as true Christian Writers. There were journalists and academia and newspaper reporters and poets, plus a few other varieties…and then there were Christian Writers. I wrote for the local newspapers but one day I was going to be promoted because I knew that somewhere deep within my soul was an article or a book that would shape the believer and shake the unconverted in ways only God knew were yet undiscovered. After all, wasn’t that the highest calling and, indeed, the only legitimate definition of Christ-centred literature?
In my mind the take-away value of such writing always included at least one of two specific purposes: To speak to Christians of their privileges and responsibilities to live according to Scriptural injunctions or conversely, to scare the opposite of heaven out of non-Christians. If a writer was really skilled then both issues were addressed within the allotted word count.
I recall the first Christian Writing conference I attended in Guelph, Ontario. Phil Calloway was the keynote speaker and Denyse O’Leary, the instructor of the workshops I chose to attend. Like some long-dried-out sponge I soaked up all my overloaded brain could absorb. I’ve forgotten a lot of it but not an expression that has become a beacon in my career. During those few days I learned that I was part of an emerging force of Writers Who Are Christian.
Writers Who Are Christian? Not, Christian Writers? A transformation of sorts took place that day and I can’t think of a better way to explain it than to describe two gardens.
We have the privilege of living next door to our eldest son and his family. Our properties are joined by a curved, white-stone pathway. Manicured lawns obliterate any sign of a property line and hundreds of flowers bloom across our spaces in an explosion of colour. That’s because I don’t look after them - but you should see my vegetable garden! While Len and Grace trim and cultivate and dead-head blossoms, any attempt at growing beans is futile for them. Conversely, our vegetable patch is great and it’s with satisfaction that Ed and I take them baskets of vegetables and bowls of succulent berries. I also conduct regular funerals for any flowers I attempt to grow. The best part of it all is that we’re family and we all contribute our own expertise. Just like us writers.
I still secretly cherish the thought of writing that block-buster book but if that never happens, I can say with praise to Him, I am a Writer Who is A Christian.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Announcing – my new book!
Publication Date: May 1st, 2007
Size: 126,500 words, 384 pages
Time from conception to delivery: 8 years
Actual writing time: About a year including editing
Price: $24.95 US; $29.95 Cdn.
Writing Glitter of Diamonds was actually a labour of love. It got interrupted big-time by other things – primarily founding The Word Guild – but the time I actually spent working on it was great. I love all my characters – well, I created them, so why shouldn’t I love them? J if you’re familiar with the line in Chariots of Fire where Eric Liddell’s character says that when he runs, he feels God’s pleasure, that pretty well perfectly describes how I feel when I was writing Glitter.
The old adage, write what you know, often frustrates aspiring writers (that’s so ordinary!), but I originally thought of doing a book involving Major League Baseball when I sat down to make a list of what I know. On my list, I put “baseball” because the truth is I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. I cheered for the New York Yankees way back when Mickey Mantle was still playing. Later, I cheered for
I didn’t want to use the actual Blue Jays team or any other “real” people, so I created my own team, my own stadium, and my own sports media. What fun!
And, of course, I’ve brought back Paul Manziuk and Jacqueline Ryan, my police team from Shaded Light. Paul is a baseball fan when he can find time; Jacquie knows nothing whatsoever about the game, but she’s not going to let that keep her from solving the crime.
Yes, of course there’s a crime. This is a mystery. There is a body, but not much blood. JAfter Stasey Simon, an outspoken sports talk show host, asks on air for volunteer to knock some sense into the baseball team's temperamental new Cuban pitcher, Manziuk and Ryan have to hustle to catch a murderer swinging a lethal bat before the case explodes into an international incident.
I've already had some good reviews from mystery fans. And yesterday, someone who was given an advance reading copy posted this note to a large group of mystery readers and writers:
“I promised to loan the book to a friend who is a former coach retired) and coaches Little League these days…. He loved the book. Told me ‘The suspense was terrific and either this woman really knows baseball inside and out or someone advising her does.’”
Wow! You know, the thing even close to the feeling you get when doing something you absolutely love is the feeling you get when someone else loves it too.
Hmm. Just wondering how God feels when we tell him how much we appreciate one of his creations…Read the first chapter of Glitter of Diamonds here.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I loved being treated with respect. When I produced my Library Card, the librarian would smile with her eyes, acknowledging me as “one of ours”. I was only limited by the number of books my bicycle basket could carry. I did not need to justify my choices – they were all good. Everyone knew they were good, just because they were in the library.
I loved the cozy chairs I could crawl up into and get lost in comfort. I loved the round tables, perfect height for me, with chairs to share my discoveries with another “one-of-ours.”
I felt comfortable. I felt at home.
And I still do. I love the library. I feel especially called to the children’s section. I still love the inviting places to sit. I still love the fun colours. I still love the joy of discovery, of learning.
I want to be part of this world still. I want to “Peter Pan” my library past.
Today’s librarians may frown at a full-grown adult sprawled on her belly in the middle of the reading carpet, giggling at a picture book. But if I were the one who wrote that book, that would be another story right? And if I read that book to a group of children on that very same carpet, and we all sprawled together, and we all giggled together, that would then be okay, right?
I want to stretch out on the floor and laugh as I read. I want to share this joy with children. I want to create magical memories for them, just as my memories are kept alive with each visit to the library.
Can you relate?
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