Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Writer's Needs


"A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others." William Faulkner 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beautiful Sentences: Haunting Power


Ran into some unexpectedly powerful sentences (and literary criticism – or is it evaluation?) while listening to a bio of Nobel-Prize winner Pearl Buck.

Buck grew up as a Presbyterian missionary’s kid in China before the Boxer Rebellion, & devoured Dickens especially, reading his entire ouevre every year for a decade:

“As a prospective writer herself, she responded avidly to the haunting power of an imagination that accesses horrors lurking deep beyond the reach of the conscious mind through symbolic imagery and drama, gluing the narrative together on the surface with the bland sentimentality that soothes and reassures readers. The split between dream-like purity and contaminated reality … would become a crucial part of the implicit bargain she too would make later with her American public.”

-Hilary Spurling, Pearl Buck in China

There’s also a lovely sentence describing the effects of famine:
“Gaunt pregnant women gnawed from within” that grabbed me by its accuracy and its horror.

Death Only Scares Us, Not Them

I was listening to the Teaching Company’s superb “Classics of British Literature” this week and Professor John Sutherland, while discussing Victorian literature, said (and I paraphrase): 'The Victorians avoided the one bedroom scene (sex) but faced the other bedroom scened (death) straight forward.'

Wow! We’re the exact opposite today aren’t we?

BTW, you could hardly do better than listen to this course to fill in any gaps in your literary learning. It’s well worth every penny. Link (which won't embed), is here:
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=2400

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best Books 2011

If you're seeking a killer read as a Christmas present, everyone's publishing their Best Books of 2011 lists, from the New York Times to Publisher's Weekly to NPR to Esquire. If I'm unsure, I like to look at all of them & see which titles appear on multiple lists.

Do you have any favorites for 2011?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Flannery O'Conner . . . Cartoonist

Yes, we know about O'Conner the short story master, but did you know she grew up wanting to be a cartoonist? Yep, and they're quite funny. The Guardian delves into the story here, as does Austin Kleon. There's a new book celebrating her cartooning talents for the first time that may be worth the purchase for completists. I know it's on my list.

Interestingly, John Updike also had great interest in being a cartoonist, but ended up in prose as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writing to Music: My Current List

While I'm writing and writing my long story, I'm often listening to something so that the musical creativity feeds my momentum. At present, depending on my mood, it's Switchfoot's Dark Horses, Bach (anything), Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. A listening list never does make sense, does it?

What do you listen to - if anything - when you write? Any idea why you choose the choices you make? For me, jazz creates that happy medium of an upbeat tempo without lyrics to clutter my mind. Then again, sometimes I need to rock out:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Faith-Based Novels: No More Catholics?

Catholics once helped set the standard for literary excellence, or at least contributed their fair share of classics this century. Think Flannery O'Conner, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh.

This article makes a (not-completely convincing) case that their faith has diminished, as have their novels. Many in the comments dispute that case with facts. Whatever the case, I always find discussions of faith-based novels invigorating.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Choices: Writing Books

If you're writing fiction, then put these titles by Charles Baxter on your Christmas list, as they're invaluably insightful:
Both are available at Graywolf Press, which has an impressive library of creative writing choices.

Suggestions I've made in the past include:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pixar in Print Yields Unexpected Treasures

One of the joys of print is that it's easier to stumble upon the gems you were meant to read instead of the articles that initially drew you. So it was that I skimmed into "Second Act Twist" (New Yorker, Oct. 17, 2011), a profile of Pixar director Andrew Stanton's latest directing endeavor, John Carter of Mars.

It went from being a creator profile into becoming a primer on creating. The director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E is hardcore on expunging "lazy thinking," revising (scenes in previous films are discussed as why they worked & didn't), failing early (just dive in & "be wrong fast." You can fix it on the second draft, but you've got to have a first draft before you can fix it.) and a striving of artistic perfection ("Any scene that's an eight he'll tear up to try to make it a ten.", "What makes me care?")

More importantly, little throwaways were keepers. He keeps storytelling index-card

Inevitable but not predictable. reminders on bookshelves stating:
  • Inevitable but not predictable.
  • Conflict + contradiction.
  • How they choose is who they are.

Every one of those is vital if you're telling a story with believable characters.

Finally (and there's more worth gleaning), he re-reread Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing, which emphasizes distilling stories to "one
crisp sentence before making them. For Finding Nemo it was "Fear denies a good father from being one," and, for Wall-E "Love conquers all programming."

All keepers as I continue to create. And yet another reason to check a pile of print culture from your library and skim anything that looks interesting. Soon enough something you didn't expect will hook you into better storytelling.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Transpositions: C.S. Lewis's Guidelines for a Christian Journal

Cole Matson has a nice summary of Lewis's thoughts about Christian literary journals. He writes, "What might be surprising here is that C.S. Lewis, famous and outspoken apologist for Christianity, is advocating that a Christian journal not wave a Christian flag."

Do you think Lewis is right?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food for Thought: Small Men, Big Shadows


This is a meaty quote for every writer, no matter what your form:

"When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set." -Lin Yutang, writer and translator

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Food for Thought: Why Art Needs Science

"There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous." -Raymond Chandler

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Power of Biography

Book News
So what's the most popular book on the shelves right now? Well, Forbes is slating Steve Jobs' biography to be the biggest seller of the year. There is even a bio aimed at young adults under Macmillan's children's book imprint that is also focusing on Jobs' story.
Steve Jobs Hits China
Shoppers in China stood in line before stores opened and bought all 250,000 copies of the Chinese edition within the day. The story of an American entrepreneur having such an impact in China is noteworthy. Among the cultural, economic, and sociological implications, I am wondering why this is so popular specifically.
What Readers Are Saying
Cheng, Shanghai resident, said:“I am buying Jobs’ biography for my son and I want him to learn about the spirit of the great man.”
Ms. Pan, who took part in an online discussion with users of Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, said:“We hope reading about his experiences will inject vitality into our hidebound culture, lead young people to dare to seek out change, dare to be themselves, dare to push the limits and pursue creativity.”
Notice the concern with the story educating young people? That's similar to what the children's book publisher creating a young adult bio sought.
"I think Steve Jobs is one of the most important figures of our generation," says Feiwel of her decision to publish the biography. "He is of interest to kids not just for the computers, iPads, and iPods he created, but for who he was and how he lived his life. He was a visionary who was very complicated, and he had his ups and downs, which makes him very human and appealing."
Likewise, a Chinese reader commented:
“I felt like he was talking to me face-to-face, I’ve been touched by his astonishing honesty and absorbed in meditation over his ideas.”
The Pentecostal Steve Jobs?
If the power of biography and personal narrative can be so effective, isn't there a prominent place for telling our stories, especially the early figures of Pentecost in North America?
For me, this is personal. I remember reading Bug and Nona on the Go as a child and it changing my life. I assumed that was a coming-of-age experience for all Pentecostal young people. But recently I asked my English class how many had ever read a book by Sister Nona Freeman. I anticipated a room full of hands shooting up to prove my point on the value of writing as a ministry. Yet only 3 of the 33 students said they had read any of those books.
A generational gap? Perhaps. But what do we do to bridge that? What is the next version to share the power of personal narrative?
Next Steps
  • Maybe the next wave of biography will come through video? Is it time to turn to film for storytelling?
  • At the very least we should explore online options. Blogs offer an avenue for anyone to tell his or her story so we can catpure and share personal narratives. Maybe we can start by telling our own stories and also use this to share those of our elders.
  • Check out UGST's Symposium site for papers soon to come on this year's theme "Telling Our Story." In the words of Dr. Vinson Synan, we should be recording the stories of the older people among us. We have lost many from our first generation, but we can still capture many stories critical to the history of our movement.

There is power in a personal story. It is incumbent on us to use this power. As we tell our stories, we build a bridge to tell His story.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trophy of Language

"Language is the armoury of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests." -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Booker Winner Announced. Betting Endorsed.

If you missed the shortlisting for the Mann Booker Award (I did), they announced the winner last week - Julian Barnes.

This is the British Commonwealth's most prestigious (and, I believe, best-paying award), so it's always healthy to take a look at their winner, their short list (the finalists) and their long list (the contenders) to see what the Brits consider quality. Of course there's always a clunker now and again, but --hey!-- it's chosen by a committee! What do you expect?

The other aspect I like (but I shouldn't, as a Christian), is that they allow the British Isles to bet on the winner. Of course, for people to bet intelligently, they have to read the books first. So, if you dont' have Oprah, then betting on books gets non-readers to read and that's not a bad thing. (Is it?)


The Perverse Monstrosity of Our Beautiful Work

Another thoughtful article on writing by L.L. Barkat that helps put criticism into perspective: "It’s important to be realistic in two directions. You need to be realistic about your weak points, but you also need to be realistic about your strong points."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Strange Sources

I’m still plugging away on a long project, updating it almost daily – sometimes a new paragraph, sometimes a line edit, sometimes 2-3 pages of rewrites. As I do this, I find myself veering into unusual reading terrain, as I know of no working author who doesn’t voraciously read, be it for research or inspiration and instruction.

To dig deeper, I find myself reading music criticism (because the language offers a precision on topics I rarely describe), a book on smiles (because I want to see how a professor classifies the physical difference of a smile of lust and a smile of love; a politician’s smile and a parent’s smile. I can implant this authenticity into my piece.), and even the liner notes from the albums of jazz great Miles Davis (because it’s the background color and history for some amazing music).

My audio book choices have veered as well. I’m suddenly listening to 18th and 19th century tales of adventure: Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Three Musketeers (all choices I now regret passing over earlier in life) because somehow contemporary stories (which I’m writing), especially those with a strong voice, taint my own writing through their influence. It’s terribly hard to explain except to say there’s too much contemporary overlap for me to remain uncorrupted – especially when I’m making progress on my own work – so I must discover founts from other eras.

In the meantime, these tales by Dumas and Stevenson offer a certain timelessness with tricks (Dumas makes a loooong conversation between the four musketeers riveting because his protagonists bet they can eat breakfast in a battle zone for an hour. It’s a lovely case of moving the story forward, revealing character, foreshadowing, and straightforward action.) I would do well to learn.

New language. New ways of seeing my areas of interest. Writerly insights. If it stops, then my writing is likely to wither away. There’s always something new to discover.

It’s a strange state to live in—but it’s working.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Do You Write

It's International "Why I Write" day! You can add your reasons @ #whyIwrite or read the reasons of others on Twitter!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Worth Reading: James Wood on Denis Johnson

New Yorker lit critic James Wood offers some great insights on writing and choosing the best word in this short review of Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.

Like this:

There are continuities with Johnson’s earlier work; the visionary, miraculous element in Johnson’s deceptively tough realism makes beautiful appearances. The hard, declarative sentences keep their powder dry for pages at a time, and then suddenly flare into lyricism. The story’s unaffected tact and honesty are admirable. There are several compactly realized minor characters, caught in a sentence or two; Johnson’s gift for quick, glancing portraiture is evident. Johnson’s fiction has always turned on questions of vision. His characters are often weirdly privileged noticers, sometimes stoned. Grainier is not stoned, but he is a steady noticer of the natural world, and the prose follows his eye with frequent exhalations of beauty, for example, a cluster of butterflies, fluttering “magically like leaves without trees.”


Thursday, October 6, 2011

E-Book Readers or E-Mag Readers?

Great article in The New York Times on the changing nature of book and magazine reading.

“On the one hand, a Kindle or a Nook is perfect for reading a 1,000-page George R. R. Martin novel,” said Eric Simonoff, a literary agent. “On the other hand, these devices are uniquely suited for mid-length content that runs too long for shrinking magazines and are too pamphletlike to credibly be called a book.”

and

"Many of the works sold as e-books are more of a hybrid between a long magazine piece and a serialized book. Each Random House-Politico e-book will be in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 words, and the releases will be spaced out over the course of the campaign."

“We think that the nature of a book is changing,” said Jon Meacham, an executive editor at Random House and a former editor of Newsweek. “The line between articles and books is getting ever fuzzier.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

They Lived Where?

Narrative Magazine offers fun Tuesday literary puzzles. Recently they offered a look at the homes of favorite authors - from Twain to Louisa May Alcott to Nabokov!

Take a peek! (You'll need to scroll down.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Writing Tips: New Yorker's Book Bench

The New Yorker, that bastion of the short story, always interviews the writer who wrote that week’s story in their Book Bench column. Whether or not you’ve heard of the writer, or like their story, they often have great insights into the writing process. For instance, Ben Marcus shared these gems:

On Setting

I first used Ohio as a setting because I hadn’t been there and knew almost nothing about it. It seemed like a perfectly plausible place to live, and it kept me from relying too much on autobiographical details, which would, I was sure, lure me into terrible spasms of sentimentality. I felt that I needed to avoid this at all costs, so I leaned on places totally removed from my experience. I prefer using personal experience that is emotional—feelings I’ve had, feelings I’m afraid of having—rather than experience that is specific to geography. Denver gets this treatment, too. “Write what you don’t yet know” is maybe the motto. I think the vacuum I sense around a place I haven’t been, like Cleveland (I guess I’ve been in the airport), is helpful to me, absolving me from being a tour guide, letting me focus on the story itself.

On Using Real Life

I’ve noticed how flashbacks (childhood causes, memories, back story, etc.) can take the sting out of a story, trading drama for information, mystery for facts.

Character Tension

The reader, by having access to Paul’s thoughts, the little crimes of his mind, has much more information than Paul’s parents and sister. But these characters, in turn, have information about Paul’s past that the reader doesn’t have. Maybe a tension becomes possible because of this, everybody knowing something different, no one on the same footing?

Be sure to bookmark Book Bench for regular visits. There’s always something interesting going on.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Characterization: Radical Uncertainty

The Guardian (of the UK) has consistently been the best literary spot on the web for the devoted reader for about 10 years now. Apparently, they're also sponsoring Master Classes on writing fiction.

They've got a bunch of short, tantalizing articles on "Creating Suspense," "POV," and this on "Characterization" that I quite liked:

“At its simplest, its barest, characterisation is about a writer's grasp of what a human being is. When we set out to write, we do not do so out of a sense of certainty but out of a kind of radical uncertainty. We do not set out saying: "The world is like this." But asking: "How is the world?" In creating characters we are posing to ourselves large, honest questions about our nature and the nature of those about us. Our answers are the characters themselves, those talking spirits we conjure up by a kind of organised dreaming.”


Friday, September 30, 2011

The Lingering Voice

Here’s the truth about most of what we read—it’s forgettable. It might be thrilling, fascinating, or earth-shattering at the moment, but somehow it merges into the nether regions of the mind and we often barely remember if we even read the piece months later.

However, that’s rarely the case if an author conveys a powerful voice in their piece. (I refuse to use the word “book” instead of “piece” because Tom Wolfe was famous for the voice he brought to magazine pieces, and certain bloggers are irresistible due to the special angle they bring to a topic.) There’s something amazing about a strong voice that tells a tale in such a way that, in a book, can overcome weak plotting or poor pacing or incomplete characters.

Professionals hem and haw about whether writing can be taught. Some say yea, most say nay. I'm in the yea camp--except for voice. You can't make a bore interesting or a mediocrity unique. To some degree, you can teach characterization and plotting and POV, but I would go so far as to say writing with a strong voice is the one part of writing that can’t be taught—you either have it or you don’t.

Most of the canon—Tolstoy, Dante, Shakespeare—and classics—Raymond Chandler, Harper Lee, Marilynne Robinson—are memorable because of their book’s unique voice, inimitable and clear, that sticks with us like that song on the radio that you just can’t get out of your head.

So it’s a great help to anyone writing that more Intelligent Life is offering evaluations on the writing voice of great authors. Here’s Nicholas Shakespeare on Graham Greene:

"Greene’s prose has the clarity of a pane of glass, yet it creates an air of menace, almost an airlessness, which intensifies the drama. His simplicity makes him appear modern, and two of his novels, “The End of the Affair” and “The Quiet American”, have been re-made for the screen since 2000."

There’s an entire series of these, covering the voices of Joan Didion, W.G. Sebald, Chaucer, and others worth your consideration.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Write What You Know? No!

Although the much-lauded Atlantic Monthly Fiction Issue always features excellent contemporary fiction (thus the title), what often goes unnoticed is the essays that are also included. For my purposes, sometimes they are worth the price of the magazine alone.

This issue is no exception: Bret Anthony Johnston of Harvard's writing program offers some fantastic insights into separating the real from the true by avoiding that ancient fiction trope of “Write what you know.” His examples and metaphors are perfect for the task, for instance:

Instead of thinking of my experiences as structures I wanted to erect in fiction, I started conceiving of them as the scaffolding that would be torn down once the work was complete. I took small details from my life to evoke a place and the people who inhabit it, but those details served to illuminate my imagination. Before, I’d forced my fiction to conform to the contours of my life; now I sought out any and every point where a plot could be rerouted away from what I’d known. The shift was seismic. My confidence waned, but my curiosity sprawled.

If you’re called to write fiction, then this is a must-read piece.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Word to Hymn Writers

"Let this be an encouragement to modern hymn writers—a cause for inspiration to those who are suffering from writer’s block."

I've long admired the music and songwriting of Fernando Ortega. When I say admire I mean that he is among my top favorite musicians of all time, Christian or not. He has classical training but incorporates elements of folk music that suit the the simplicity of the gospel in a way other genres just can't touch. His gentle vocals stir the soul. While, he writes a lot of his own stuff, he has also recorded numerous hymns that were in danger of being forgotten. In this article, Ortega offers his wisdom to modern hymn writers and worship leaders.

"Sing to Jesus" is a hymn written by Ortega in the spirit and tradition of the ancient hymnody. Enjoy!

Image: FernandoOrtega.com

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pentecostal Poets

This week in World Literature class, we read “Credo” by Maxine Kumin—a reflection on Native American beliefs regarding nature and creation. As I stressed to the class a need for an Apostolic expression of our credos as well, I wondered where we are as Oneness Pentecostals with a presence in poetry.

I know, I know… I discussed the value of poetry last post too. Not sure why I’m stuck on it. I’m still not saying I prefer poetry to prose, but I see its place. And I see a need for Apostolics’ place in published poetry.

An argument for Apostolic poetry:

  1. For readers... We’ve talked before about how reading is mutating in the twenty-first century. Kent mentioned changes in traditional book printing, which I believe reflect cultural changes as much as those in technology. I don’t think people are not reading—I just think they’re reading different types of things—looking to the Internet for “literature in a hurry.” Poetry fits the bill. It’s not overwhelming. Read a poem here or there, skip around, whatever. It is not an intimidating commitment, unlike the shelves of novels the busy North American bypasses. So poetry is a target for readers in today’s culture.
  2. For writers… There’s no evading the fact that writing takes work. I’ll not deny that. But the culinary enthusiast who may despair at the thought of baking a wedding cake may thrive at the challenge of grilling a porterhouse. Instead of months of structuring elaborate plots and subplots, hyper-focus on a stanza or two. Poetry is do-able. (And it doesn’t have to rhyme…. But that’s a post for another day.)
  3. For publishing… The Internet provides new avenues for publishing all genres, not the least of which is poetry. Any given blog could become home to a writer’s collection of poems. But traditional publishing is especially feasible for poets. Chapbooks (think cheap-books) are collections of writings around the forty page mark, and they are just as popular now as they were in the 1400s when they surfaced. They can be printed inexpensively, meaning writers have a workable plan for publishing their work without some of the big questions marks a novel represents.

So… do we have any Apostolic poets out there? Let us hear from you. Send a link to your blogs/sites/etc. And please pass on any tips you think would help other poets in progress.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Time is It? Time for Nimrod 2011

The Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers is coming up on October 22 at the University of Tulsa. I have attended the past three years, and can attest to its being a worthwhile trip.

I'm thinking of continuing the tradition because one of my favorite contemporary novelists, Ron Hansen, is included in the line-up. Hansen is the Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor at Santa Clara University and is author of a number of novels based on historical figures, including Exiles, a novel about G.M. Hopkins and his renowned poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland". Hansen teaches fiction, screenwriting, and literature.


Fiction I: A Timely Past: Historical Fiction — Ron Hansen, Diane Seebass
Discover techniques for making the past live in your work.
Check out the full schedule. As I recall, registration is $50, but there are some scholarships available for students.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PWF is Free!

Membership in the Pentecostal Writer's Fellowship becomes free in November. Check out their Facebook page for details. It's a good place to network.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Writer's Group Surprise

So I joined a writer’s group out of the blue & I’ve been amazed at how my productivity has zoomed. Part of it is that I had a story in my head with a lot of foundation components completed, but part of it was the 2-3 pages I turned in every couple weeks for the others to read forced me to make decisions. Before I was plodding forward, but the tough decisions (names of characters, some key back story moments, the point of their actions) were being avoided “for later.”

No more. Because I had to offer something readable each meeting, I had to name the hotel manager, I had to decide if the main character was going to walk to the Ice Cream Shoppe or drive. Instead of a one sentence “Gets to Ice Cream Shoppe” because I didn’t want to handle these transitional descriptions -- I can write 3 pages of dialogue with the same speed as about 1 bad paragraph of description. Dialogue flows for me. Descriptions of places grind me to a complete halt. – I wrote them anyway.


Plus, because I had my foundation down, I feel like most of the decisions I’ve been forced into have been positive, or at least not detrimental. I’m sure if/when I hit page 300 I’ll look back and groan at some of these choices, but early on, it’s been a huge plus and deeply satisfying.

All of this decision-making has also made my imagination more fecund. Ideas come alive throughout the day. It doesn’t mean I still don’t get stuck or all the ideas are impossibly original – it just means I feel like I’ve been especially productive and fresh and don’t really have anything to atribute it to except joining the group. (Though I am faithful with my audio books, writing daily, and eating smarter, too. So those factors can’t hurt.)

If you haven’t joined a writer’s group, try one. (Ask around or Google for local groups or check out the bulletin boards around a university or in a coffee shop.) It might make you take your writing more seriously – and help it become more rewarding.

That said, no matter how fast I write, it seems like I never complete that many pages. Oh well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Updates All Around

Collideoscope discusses the Facebook Church, while Momo's Musings returns with weekly evaluations of college and pro football. It's fun, educational and uplifting! Don't miss out!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Snapshot: eBook Sales Rocketing 161% . . .

...while paperback sales crash 64% (year over year). Galleycat shows a great chart of current sales in all areas, thanks to the APA. No word is offered on whether Borders crashing into bankruptcy and oblivion is directly related or not.

Meanwhile, The Economist offers an article on book digitalization, pointing out that crime blockbusters and romances have been especially successful in ebook format.

If you love to read or write, both articles are worth your time.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

$5,000 Writing Prize

From The Missouri Review:


Dear Writer,


I wanted to remind you about an exciting prize and publication opportunity available through The Missouri Review. There's one month left to submit to our Jeffrey E. Smith Editor's Prize Competition -- for which we offer over $15,000 in prizes. We accept submissions in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Winners in each category receive a prize of $5,000, plus a feature in our Spring issue and paid travel to our gala reading and reception. Contest finalists will receive cash prizes and have their work considered for publication as well.


While the contest has a postmark deadline of October 1stof this year, we encourage early submissions. We accept submissions online or by mail. Winners will be announced

In January of 2012.


Don't forget that your $20 entry fee gets you a one-year subscription to The Missouri Review. Subscriptions are available in print or digital versions. Our downloadable digital subscription includes a full-length audio version of the journal.

You can find more information about the contest through our website: http://www.missourireview.com/tmrsubmissions/editors-prize-contest/.


Interested in reading a past Jeffrey E. Smith Editor's Prize winner? Check out the essays "Big Jim," "Letters to David," and "My Thai Girlfriends" on textBOX, the Missouri Review's free online anthology: www.missourireview.com/anthology


Thanks very much for your help in making this year's contest a success. We look forward to reading your submissions!


Best regards,

Claire McQuerry
Contest Editor
The Missouri Review
357 McReynolds Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia
, MO 65211

contest_question@moreview.com

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Typing in Tongues

Sister blog Collideoscope offers some thoughts on a Pentecostal woman who types in tongues. Seriously.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pleasant Surprise: Writing Convention Appears

So if you really love writing and reading, you need to tap into writing conferences/conventions to learn more about the writing process (and your genre), publishing realities, and maybe even meet some giants in the industry. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that BoucherCon is in St. Louis this month. The Mystery/Thriller con rotates host cities and now it’s at my doorstep.

You might find yourself equally fortunate, by Googling your genre of writing or “writing conventions” and getting on some e-newsletter lists!

Happy writing!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Insight: "A Way of Talking"

I always go out of my way to read arts criticism (from the usual suspects: The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, anything by Joseph Epstein, Christopher Hitchens, & James Wood) because often the insights expressed, no matter the art form, are startling adaptable to my writing.

So in the same issue of the New Yorker (August 1, 2011) where music critic Alex Ross penned the envy-inducing phrase "sonic decor" in regards to the composer Bruckner, David Denby had this great comparison between some classics and today that seemed especially true:

“In the remarriage classics (The Awful Truth, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday), the former partners have a way of talking and being with each other that they don’t have – and couldn’t possibly have – with anyone else. That sophisticated metaphor for sexual compatibility made for uniquely satisfying romantic comedy. But Crazy, Stupid, Love holds to the boring modern convention that good people are inarticulate, and Cal and Emily mainly stumble around trying to fill the silence.”

Someday, you're likely to see a couple I write getting back together, foreshadowed by a magnetic language only they can speak.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2nd Novel Jitters

When you’re writing your first novel, there’s no pressure because there are no expectations. But for the second, there is pressure because people know you’re an author and expectations abound. Julie Otsuka @Powell’s Books shares her thoughts on successfully tackling the 2nd book.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thinking in Metaphors: Bloom, McEwan

The Browser, which I had never heard of before this week, conducts a “5 Books Interview” with literary critic Harold Bloom, who offers some hifalutin’ thoughts on literature, criticism, a liberal arts education today, and this little gem about metaphors:

“What Angus Fletcher taught me, and teaches others, is a very complex matter of what it means for thinking to take place in a literary work. It’s the question of how Shakespeare thinks in his plays and sonnets, of how Henry James thinks in his late, intricate work, or of how Emily Dickinson thinks in her extraordinary poems. I've tried to extend Angus Fletcher’s way of looking at the mind as represented in art to the greatest American poet, Walt Whitman, who thinks through metaphors. My real subject, increasingly, is metaphorical thinking – which is how Shakespeare and all poets and novelists and storywriters think.

Constructive Doodles

Booker Prize-winning novelist Ian McEwan, among others, is also given a “5 Books Interview” worth reading:

“Sometimes I experimentally write out a first paragraph – or middle paragraph, even – of a novel which I feel no obligation to write. Those kind of dabblings I always set down in a green, ring-bound A4 notebook. It’s full of paragraphs from novels I will never complete, or hardly start. But sooner or later, one of those paragraphs will snag my attention, and I’ll come back to it asking: why does that interest me so much, why does that seem to offer a peculiar kind of mental freedom? And so I might find myself adding a page or two. It was with a complete free hand, for example, that I once wrote what turned out to be the opening of Atonement – with no clear sense that I was committed to anything at all, I was just playing with narrative positions, with tone of voice, with a certain descriptive moment. Or I might decide that what I’ve written belongs to the middle of a novel, and then I’ll spend some idle time tracing out a beginning. Then abandoning it. It’s a way of tricking myself into writing novels.

The Browser's Literature and Writing sections are definitely worth examining when you get a moment. (Haven't poked through the others sections to offer an opinion, so that's not a back-handed compliment.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Poetry Matters

So when it comes to poetry, most of us either love it or hate it. Well... maybe we don't "hate" it, but we just don't "get" it. It doesn't click. Doesn't resonate. We get lost in the metaphors and frightened by the lack of structure.

You've probably sensed from that I'm more of a prose person. I like to think I have an appreciation for both. But just like the American Lit vs Brit Lit (I prefer American) and the Hamlet vs Macbeth (I prefer Hamlet) either-or's, I prefer prose to poetry.

But occasionally I'm reninded of why poetry matters. This was one of those weeks. A friend was showing off a book she just picked up to check out a poet named Czelaw Milosz. Milosz was a Nobel Prize winner in literature after having been part of the Polish underground literary community during the time of World War II.

As my friend was telling me this, I began flipping through this particular volume of his collected poetry and stumbled upon something I'd like to share with you today:

"On Prayer"
You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.


Prayer: a velvet bridge leading to the shore of Reversal. Have you ever thought of it like that? I hope if I'm ever questioned by a nonbeliever, like the speaker of the poem has been, that I can convey it with that much beauty, that I can liken prayer to something so charged and hopeful.

And that's what poetry does and that's why it matters. It's the quilting of words not otherwise 'entangled' to itself weave a bridge leading from our tangible world to others. I hope you find a poem this week that takes you there.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bridging the Gap Between the Arts and Worship

Image Journal offers a web interview with thought-provoking Duke Professor Jeremy Begbie. It's short & worth your perusal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Words to Live By: Faster!

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Snapshot: Book Editor Salaries

Galleycat has an interesting take on what Book Editors Earn. The sample is (very) small, but still illuminating, especially if you contrast it against the Comments below it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rick Warren, Atheism, NAYC & More

Sister blog Collideoscope offers some takes on Rick Warren in Europe, whether "fun" should be in fundamentalist or atheism, North American Youth Congress, and other cultural topics.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dilbert, Goethe, and Creativity

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has an interesting take on how boredom leads to superior creativity. Not everyone who comments afterwards agrees, but that doesn’t make the article less relevant.

I would also say that times of great ugliness can create an unexpected climate of creative productivty. I just escaped extended months of ugliness, but was surprised at how the last six weeks of that season was accompanied by an unexpected bonanza of disciplined creativity.

Too often in the past I got bogged down or allowed unhappy circumstances to grind down my writing progress. This time (perhaps because I was so desperate to flee parts of my reality?), it was the opposite. I flew to the laptop at every opportunity to see what my muse would reveal. (Frankly, I was shocked she was showing up so often.) Sometimes time and circumstance would allow me only a paragraph, sometimes it unleashed pages, but at every point my story progressed, producing a great peace within me, probably because it was something that went right as everything around me exploded.

I’m not sure I’d choose to continue that combination of progress through explosions, but I suddenly understand how Goethe (family man, lawyer, politician) could write despite too many responsibilities. It was yet another lesson to be learned through creating. I’m sure there are so many more.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TV Shortens Your Life....

...so go read a book!

A new study says watching TV over the age of TV can cut up to 5 years off your life! Wow.

Researchers believe it's probably due to activities related to television (overeating, lack of exercise) than the actual TV itself, but it's still worth investigating.

Other studies have shown mentally curious people who read daily are less likely to get Alzheimer's, than those who don't, so here's yet another reason to ignore the plasma screens and pull a classic off the shelf!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Snagged Mine on Saturday

If you haven't perused the most interesting part of every contemporary bookstore - the magazine section - then you might have missed The Atlantic Monthly's 2011 fiction issue. It's always a mix of new and established writers, often covering issues of faith.

For a snapshot of current short fiction, I find this the most reliable available. (Maybe because The New Yorker too often relies on established writers sticking to the famed New Yorker style, while The Atlantic Monthly has no such limitations.

Or check it out on The Atlantic's site.


Friday, August 12, 2011

London Rioters Ignore Bookstores


Another sign of the Apocalypse: the UK rioters hit every type of store possible - except bookstores.

Maybe that proves the rioters weren't Pentecostal..?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Words to Live By: Creating Your Future

"Goals are the way we time travel into the future that we want. You can drift, or set goals and get to where you want to be." -Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia.

So what type of future do you want to live in every day?

If it's writing related, then it will include writing daily, creating an adequate support group for your efforts (local or via the internet), sources of inspiration, moving out of your comfort zone to attend local author visits and writing conferences, reading author interviews for tips, and finding internet sources for regular feedings.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Words to Live By: Circumstances


"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them." -
George Bernard Shaw

So what do you want your circumstances to be soon? Whatever it is, I guarantee it will push you out of your comfort zone to achieve it!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Appendix A: Favorite Summer Reads

Despite the sun setting on Summer 2011, Maud Newton (whose thoughts are not to be missed) & others of note share their favorite Summer reads.

I'm wracking my brains as to what I would include in this list (most of which I've never even heard of, much less read), and so far have come up with nothing.

Do you have a suggestion to add?

Friday, August 5, 2011

FFW: It's All About the Awards

The latest on the "shouldn't-be-missed" Festival of Faith & Writing at our sister site Collideoscope.
If you're wanting your writing to include Christian themes, then follow FFW.

Monday, July 18, 2011

On The Pretensions of Poetry

Am I pretentious because I know the names of two living poets and enjoy their works? Or am I pretentious for pointing it out? Or am I just a passionate reader who’s willing to share his passions even if the passion happens to be poetry (ewww!) now and again?

Whatever the case, Scott Cairns is a former Baptist who is now a Greek Orthodox. His work carries more formal properties (to my mind), while Christian Wiman is the former atheist who was raised by fundamentalists and now finds himself amazed to believe in God. Wiman has a new book, Every Riven Thing, that’s quite amazing (and accessible).

There’s a great review here and an audio interview here.

If you write, you can learn from anything – even poetry. (Wiman’s precise word images can startle you alive.) If you haven’t given poetry a shot lately, try it now. You might get to know the name of a living poet.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Appendix A: We've Lost the Ability to Tell Stories

Screenwriter and former nun Barbara Nicolosi has a brilliant post on storytelling on her blog, that begins an interview. It starts like this:

"My opinion is that we have nearly lost the ability to tell a good story.

Don't miss the rest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Your Writing: Give It a Chance to Exist

If there isn't a reader, the text doesn't exist: that's the premise of reader-response criticism. It's fun to think of all the books in the world that don't exist because I haven't read them, starting with most of the books on the list "100 Greatest Non-Fiction Titles." (Thanks, Kent!)

But what about your text? Is what you've written being given existence by others? There are several stages at which existence can be thwarted.

For those of us who have trouble transmitting the text from our brains to the page, a group of other committed writers may help. You know they're going to ask you about your project; it becomes easier to work on it than it is to dodge the questions. It also helps to know that you have an immediate audience. Granted, your text at this point is still in the embryonic stage, but it does exist because what you've written has been read by other eyes.

Others of us abort our text at the publication stage. You've written something, your writers' group has helped nurture it, but you haven't delivered. Publication can be scary. You have to accept that the editors might hate your child and throw it back at you. You have to give your baby a chance to live.

If there isn't a reader, the text doesn't exist. How are you giving your writing a chance to exist in the world?

Photo Credit: My amazingly intelligent niece at four months

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hey Kids! Christian Comics!


Looks like someone else is jumping into the Christian comics realm. Publisher's Weekly offers a nice profile of Kingstone Media Group's new venture.

While Kingstone's site has many comic previews on Elijah, Revelation, Pilgrim's Progress and even biographies of a Baptist pastor on the Titantic.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Confessions of an Ex-Bookworm

Rebecca's summer reading woes plus Kent's news that The New Yorker Fiction issue is out led me to discover a delightful essay this week: Salvatore Scibona's "Where I Learned to Read."

There's no twist for me to spoil; it's more or less a personal look at one writer's track to his future as a writer and, importantly, a reader. But as I read, waves of nostalgia (ugh, the cliche!) rolled through my mind--I remembered when reading was fun and magical. I remembered when I was "a bookworm."

Now beside my bed sits my one-year Bible alone--nothing else. Nestled in my still-packed vacation bag is a literary novel of notable critical acclaim I got 7 pages into. On my desk sits the unread 6 or 8 self-help books I ordered over the course of the year to magically transform me into a better teacher, disciple, and time-manager (ha), which I never cracked open.

I have always heard you make time for the things that matter. But I remember a time when I didn't have to "make time" for reading. I am not sure when I stopped reading. Did I lose the "bookworm" bug or was I ever truly a "bookworm" to begin with? Oh you know, the people who would rather be left alone with a book than... well, anything. Maybe you don't have to fit that cliche to be a reader; maybe you don't even have to be a voracious reader to be successful at... whatever it is you pursue. So why do I feel guilty?

These are questions I don't have answers for today. What I do have are some fantastic quotes from the essay that spawned this ramble:
  • About the writer's childhood: "The television stayed on day and night, singing like a Siren in the crowded house. 'Come sit by me and die a little,' it said."
  • "As long as nobody had assigned the book, I could stick with it. I didn’t know what I was reading. I didn’t really know how to read. Reading messed with my brain in an unaccountable way. It made me happy; or something."
  • About working to pay his way through a literary-driven college: "I carried bricks and mortar to rooftops during the summers, but if I hadn’t made time to read the night before, my legs wore out by noon. Even my body needed to read."
  • Upon the reading immersion he grew to love in college: "The gravity of the whole thing would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so much fun, and if it hadn’t been such a gift to find my tribe."
What "tribe" do you claim? Are you a "bookworm" or at least the casual reader? However you define yourself, I hope you never outgrow reading. I wish for you the time and inclination to read and enjoy it this summer. Even if it's just the little occasional gem like this essay, I am determined to do better personally. So here's to our "tribe" at Word, helping bring out the "bookworm" in all of us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

100 Greatest Non-Fiction Titles

The (UK) Guardian offers an impressive list of the 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books of all time. It's a great list of classic and contemporary titles. Sadly, I've only read about 12 of them (partially or en toto).

How many have you read?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our Twitter Feed

...is acting up off our blogs, as we're not getting picked up. Joel opines on Kafka and Derrida, thoughts on the (Pentecostal) teensbeing all right in Word, while Momo has some good stuff on theNBA Finals.

So we're posting, but there's a feed disconnect. Running a test now.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Unbearable or Unbelievable?

A very simple lesson that too many seem to ignore hit me upside the head earlier this week.

I'm reading a couple different series with the 8th grader with diametrically opposed results.


He expressed interest in The Looking Glass Wars, so I snatched up an audio copy in advance to see what it's about (& to be able to discuss the title later). The concept is cool: What if Alice in Wonderland were true, but Lewis Carroll didn't believe Alice's telling of the real story of a mean queen named Red, card soldiers, Hatter Madigan the bodyguard, and the Cat assassin. This is the real story. Sadly, the real story is dull, predictable and unbearable. It reads more like an outline for a movie than an actual story. It's what's wrong with most Young Adult (YA) literature. There just isn't much imagination thrown into the characters or situations or settings that haven't already been covered (though I'm almost at the point of the Looking Glass maze, so that might change my evaluation somewhat).


The other series we're reading is The Asterix Adventures, a French comic collection that has spawned movies and even a theme park outside Paris. It's the story of a small Gaulish village that continually prevents Rome from conquering it due to smarts and a magic potion that makes the villagers super strong. It is witty, fun, and hilarious (those aren't the same things). The creators wring every bit of creativity out of every panel. (See example.)

The Same Limitations
Honestly, there are only about 7 plots in the entire history of storytelling (some say fewer), but it's the imagination you put into the story itself that makes the difference. It doesn't even have to be original. It just has to surprise.

Now go check out Asterix The Legionary for the start of a very long and happy reading season.

The (Pentecostal) Kids Are All Right


So the older brother told me his sister, who graduated from high school in May, decided to read Anna Karenina for the summer before she moved off to college. Turns out she liked a couple short stories she read in a lit class and saw AK on the library shelves, so she picked it up.

I checked with her to make sure it was true. Yep. All 900+ pages by a teenager who is heavily involved in her local church just because.

I told her I'd been given opportunities to share Christ because of doors opened by sharing a love for books. She nodded. I also told her to read at least 10 pages a day or she'd lose track of everything going on in this classic. She laughed. It's a wonderful, lively masterpiece that you must put on your bucket list if you haven't read it yet.

In the meantime, don't fret about all the Pentecostal teenagers who don't seem serious enough to handle today's world. There are always those who choose the narrow road, they just might not be getting noticed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Yorker Summer Fiction Issue ...

...is on newstands now. Or check out their web site at the many big names who are writing in this issue. I'm not sure this issue is all that daring (I haven't read it yet), but it's always worth examining to see what many feel like is the finest publisher of short fiction in the Western world.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Appendix A: You Can Read What You Like

Some of us still don't have a summer reading list finalized because we're scrambling to keep up with an estimated 3000 pages of assigned reading in a class on church history at UGST.

But whatever else we can't squeeze into our reading schedule, let's make time for J. Mark Bertrand's essay, "I Know What You Read Last Summer." He writes: "As much as I agonize over summer reading, you can't get it wrong. High-brow or low-brow, genre or literary, timeless or trendy, you can read what you like."

It's a good thing I like church history.

Photo: The C.S. collection at Covenant Theological Seminary, Saint Louis

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mind Games

Is it just happening to me, or is there a voice narrating your life, too? In the film Stranger than Fiction, the protagonist is an obsessive guy who has followed the same routine every day of his life. One morning, though, he is standing before the mirror and hears a voice describing the way he brushes his teeth. Soon he realizes that the narrator isn't just describing his actions; she is actually plotting them, and she seems to have a vendetta against his life.*

My narrator isn't so deranged. I'll give you an example of the kind of stuff she writes about me:
It was Sunday evening, night really, and she was home from church. The clock on the wall behind her was ticking persistently as she sat at the kitchen table typing on the black Dell. The strains of easy listening instrumental music were playing on Pandora. If only she'd written this blog post earlier, she thought.
Ms. Narrator's voice is pleasant enough, her tones lending a seeming significance to the mundane.

But it suddenly struck me a few nights ago that this voice lending significance to each and every action is only one of the voices vying for a place in my mind. There is definitely another voice, belonging to a deep-sounding, worldly-wise man. Think: Screwtape.
You really think you matter? That you can make a difference? The world is a big place, and you are just one out of billions. Who's to say you have a better life than any one else? Is there really such a thing as truth?
The skepticism of Narrator II is intimidating. The questions he asks seem as vast as the universe. (He calls it a "multiverse.") You hear him, too?

But Ms. Narrator's endless chatter strikes me as naive. Yes, my life and actions matter, but perhaps not to the extent she imagines.

I've come to believe that somewhere between his skepticism and her idealism lies the reality of it. There is yet another Voice narrating, a still, small voice. And I'm so often wont to tune It out because I like to play this game with Ms. Narrator and Narrator II. Yet the Voice is speaking all along, overriding others' narrations, to imbue my each experience and very existence with meaning.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).

*Disclaimer: Illustration from film not to be considered an endorsement.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Free Literary Stuff for the Summer

A Not-so-Mid-Summer Night's Activity
Last night some friends and I took in a great Shakespeare production. The kicker: it was free. As I contemplated the impressive set and production in general, it made me wonder what else is out there that we literature-lovers can enjoy no matter your budget.

Here are a few ideas; please share others!

Theatre | Keep an eye on the events calendars for your area. Many areas offer free community productions; you may be surprised at what you find, especially if your city has a nice park system. And if you have a college or university in town, you can sometimes find affordable dramas of various genres. A quick google will usually tell you if something is Christian-friendly.

Library Readings & Bookstore Events | We've mentioned on the blog several times the readings offered at libraries. The size of your city will affect the popularity of the writers you meet, but at any rate, what an interesting way to spend an evening. Likewise, your local bookstore will frequently host an author promoting his/her latest book. Yet another venue to hear from writers on the front lines making it happen.

Online Resources | How long has it been since you've set aside some time to research whatever you're writing about or interested in writing about? The word "research" sometimes scares us, but it can feed your writing interests and be fun when you find new articles, pictures, interviews, etc. on your subject. The internet offers a variety of impressive resources all from the comfort of your own home. On an Edith Wharton kick? See what's available online. For most classic writers you can find a website sponsored by a society devoted to that writer with tons of great resources.

Writing Groups & Book Clubs | Almost every city or town has a book club (or several) as well as writing groups. Have a special interest in a certain genre? There's probably a group just for you that is offered through your local library for free. Maybe joining would help you pursue your reading/writing goals?


Why?
Why not? I would argue despite the dumbing down of America, our culture generally gets the "why" of art. Whether through the rise of mass media or educational trends, this generation is familiar with art appreciation. I rarely have to "sell" Shakespeare when I teach World Literature. But suffice it to say, the arts broaden our horizons and enrich our experience.

For the writer, it's even more crucial to stay connected to literature. It keeps you committed to your craft and it recharges you mentally. And I submit that summer is a great time to recharge--even on a budget.

Recently Read: N.T. Wright's Simply Christian - an apologetic crafted in the vein of C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top 20 Literate US Cities

Amazon released an interesting list of the Top 20 Literate Cities in America.

The Top 5 are University cities, but after that it gets interesting, with major metro areas stealing the spots - though not as major as you might think. It's a fresh way to evaluate our country, that's for sure!

Eugene Peterson Article: In Print At Last!

Almost nothing on Earth feels better than finally seeing your article from month's ago appear in print (and on the web) with a nice check. That's the feeling I got to enjoy today!

I snagged the interview at Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writingin April, 2010.
The next festival is April 19-21, 2012 and Marilynne Robinson (among others) has already agreed to attend. Don't even think about missing it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Freelancing is Not Writing

The weird thing about freelancing your writing / editing skills is that even when you're freelancing, you're not actually writing because it's not what your heart yearns to write. Oh sure, you're typing out lovely sentences or remolding other people's efforts into shiny attractions, but it's not where your heart beats. It enhances your craft immensely (a must) and creates cash flow, but it's not your deepest calling.

For whatever reason, it's often difficult for me to switch from freelancing mode to deeper calling writing. I can zip out the emails, scribble down cool stuff the kid did, and create marketing materials at work while freelancing, but the undercurrents of hope and desire demand an immersion that often frightens me. This immersion demands an effort I may not be able to enact--so it's easier to choose lesser pursuits (or chase distractions) than to face it.

Nose-to-Nose
Maybe that's how everyone feels when standing nose-to-nose with their calling, but when you're alone with the laptop, there's no one to cheer you on. That's why reading author interviews, author biographies, literary journals, and writing books is essential for my well-being--it maintains my perspective.

This little "Best Advice" tidbit from Narrative Magazine is what is pushing me on at the moment:

“We were talking about our creative writing students at Stanford, when the poet Alan Shapiro told me, “The most important talent is the talent for work. Without that, nothing else much matters.” Over the years I have found that advice increasingly persuasive." - Ron Hansen


Hmmm
Not "quality work," not "immortal sentences," not "stunning characterization," but work.

Freelancing may not be writing, but maybe it isn't a waste either. Maybe it's what my life needs to add texture and humanity to my deeper calling. Maybe I just need to learn to live with the fear so that the work can accumulate into something greater.

Though I cannot glimpse its completion now, I must continue to compose it in faith.