Saturday, November 15, 2008

I've been substitute teaching 9th and 10th grade literature this past week. The classroom I use is liberally papered with posters and postcards bearing photographs and painted portraits of famous authors and poets. As I was gazing upon the faces of these masters (such as Dickens, Austen, Hardy, Hemingway, Angelou, etc) I discovered something.

Within the eyes of some of the world's greatest writers, there seems to be a sort of tortured but expectant vacancy. This vacancy is not a lack of intelligence or even attention, but rather the expression of a mind which has been utterly splintered by imagination; a view within a source of living creative energy which is so prismatic in its make-up that it cannot be still in even the most mundane circumstance, as I would imagine sitting for a portrait would be.

The creative giant is ever listening to the mythological Muse; she can never be completely content in the moment because a stream of imaginary moments are constantly flirting with each other in the background. Scenes and scenery, action and reaction; particular voices, which reside within the writers' minds may be yelling or whispering, but they are consistent in their chomping at the bit; their anxiety in waiting for this writer to finish whatever current business is occupying her and let them out to BREATHE.

So I need to learn from the masters. Inhale, exhale... and let them out at the appropriate time (those sweet uninterrupted hours I spend alone with my keyboard and screen.) I need to allow for the vacancy without letting it damage my ability to be in the "now"; I need to be ever watchful for when the real and the imagined collide in epiphany ... because Fiction Mirrors Truth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rumors of Glory in THE SHACK

In his novel, The Shack, author William P. Young writes, "...Rumors of glory are often hidden inside of what many consider myths and tales."

Sounds familiar. Almost like a mirror... Hmm...

As a writer, I had been intrigued by the unexpected success of this little book; The Shack had been on my reading list for a while, but I hadn't gotten to it yet. One day I met a friend for lunch and she told me about the spiritual explosion she'd experienced as a result of reading The Shack. With easily digestible sentence and paragraph-sized morsels of the Holy, my friend's perceptions of herself, her world, and her God were dramatically changed by the truth mirrored within the pages of this amazing work of fiction. Resting in the new found wonder of "living loved", she possessed a joy I'd never seen the depth of in all the years of our friendship. I knew I had to get my hands on this novel. And I'm so glad I did!

The story started out surprisingly slowly; after my friend's comments, I assumed I would be smack dab in the middle of the action from page one. I have to admit I sighed a few times at first, but her change had been so real, so authentic that I had to give the book the benefit of the doubt and hope I just wasn't so shallow that I was missing the profound along the way. I patiently waited through the first chapter or two... and then I began to lose track of time. The "telling" of a story turned to the showing of a remarkably surprising and sedate adventure.

Quite suddenly, I was enraptured by the tale. I was in the shack, in the lake, in the woods, in a wood shop, and in a garden... and all the while in the midst of the divine.

There were moments I was uncomfortable with what I was reading; moments when my personal paradigms and preconceived prejudices about the traditional Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were challenged. I squirmed, I furrowed my brow... and I realized how cramped the great I AM would be if He limited Himself to showing up within the three compartments of the box my mental pictures had painted for Him.

So... I opened my spirit to the Holy Wind. When I lifted the protective lid off the funnel of my soul and soaked up the tender dialogue and carefully wrought prose of Young's work, beauty and truth poured into my heart and mind.

Questions and uncertainties I had long written off as inexplicable (this side of Heaven) were suddenly illuminated. Through reading The Shack, the Trinity became mentally approachable as an inseparably unified Person... and three distinct Persons... in a way which erased the abstractedness of the concept. I was there with Mack and his companion(s)... I was there, asking the questions; I was held, loved, and, yes... changed.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that "Hope and Despair meet on the porch of Death." and I say, Theology and Imagination meet on the porch of The Shack... And while you recline in the very center of a truly circular love relationship, you are offered coffee and pastry and love without limits.

Myths and tales abound, but seldom has our generation been privy to such a glorious rumor. A beautiful reflection of truth has been funneled through the pen of William P. Young and it should not be missed.

Get your feet wet and read The Shack -- because Fiction Mirrors Truth...
...and Truth should be bathed in regularly.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What's In a Name?

I’ve been editing and rewriting sections of my contemporary novel this week. Following Strunk and White’s advice to “omit unnecessary words”, I am slicing and dicing my way to a tighter flow.

My eyes are always straying to the word count meter in the lower left-hand corner of my computer screen. When a rewritten scene makes the numbers climb, I grimace; but when I highlight an entire section to delete… oh, baby! I almost feel like the bullied kid on the playground when she finally fights back.

It feels good.

I have a total word count range I’m going for with this book, which is new territory for me. As I get further into this draft, hacking and splicing away, I find that while I’m cutting the fat, I’m falling in love with my characters again. A few of them are growing smarter, funnier, and more vibrant; but in other cases, I’m making people disappear all together.

Like the character “Guy” in the movie Galaxy Quest, I’ve realized I have some disposable characters. I may know everything about them, but my readers certainly don’t need to. When all's said and done, Crewman Number Six doesn’t need a name; he’s just not that important. He’s just food for the lava monster.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Tug of Another World

My goal for this summer was to finish my contemporary novel and get its proposal spit-shined and ready for my agent.

I think I may need to stop setting goals.

The idea behind the goal was to get used to an imposed deadline. When The Ryn is picked up by a publisher, there will (very likely) be a deadline put on me for its sequel, Prophet's Daughter (which is in its beginning stages). I wanted to give myself a deadline as well as have a second, very different manuscript "out there" making the rounds of the publishers.

As I'm sure you've surmised... the contemporary novel is still unfinished. So much for setting goals...

I missed out on a lot of family time during the summer and autumn of 2007 because I was on an extended mental trip to E'veria, editing and re-writing multiple drafts of The Ryn. I was unavailable mentally and often physically and emotionally to my family because I was so wrapped up in those characters in that other world. Finally, in February of 2008, I got a wake up call from two fellow writers. Charlotte Cole and Preslaysa Williams gently, but firmly, explained the selfishness and sinfulness of my behavior. I tried to make excuses, but they all fell flat--I was sacrificing one call for another. I needed to find balance in my writing life and family life. I needed to re-evaluate my priorities.

With God's help, I found that balance during the spring of 2008. I wrote when my kids were at school and quit right before they got home. I wrote when they were at play dates, I researched while they played Webkinz at the library. I planned and served actual meals instead of the afterthoughts that had sufficed over the past year's intense time of writing.

No, I wasn't perfect. Some days I failed. Okay, there were a few stretches of days in which I failed miserably... but I gained a new awareness that did not let the failure grow into a habit.

And then came summer vacation.

Writing time was a near-constant source of frustration this summer. For the first six weeks of summer vacation, I bemoaned my lack of quality writing time and whined a lot about how I wasn't possibly going to meet my self-imposed deadline.

Then we took a vacation. Four short days of Florida fun that allowed me to step back from my whining and re-evaluate my goal.

Suddenly, I realized I could still use what little time I had not to create, but to edit, to polish, and to refine what I had already written. So I did. I took the little snatches of time for what they were... and something magical happened.

I started hearing from God again about my writing... and, just in time for school to start again, I started to feel the tug of another world (to paraphrase Mr. Lewis).

When the big yellow bus takes my girls to their assigned locations, just ten days from now, I'm heading back to E'veria. As it turns out, God has some big plans for a certain reluctant prophet and a missing child that he wants to let me in on. And the timing couldn't be better. Isn't that just like Him?

My contemporary novel is not shelved, but side-lined. It's waiting. Waiting breathlessly for those snippets of time that take more attention to detail than creative prowess. And I believe it will be finished... that creative prowess will return to have its moment in the sun... but on a deadline set by a higher authority than some thirty-five-year-old sometime-whiner.

That other world is tugging at me. When school starts my workday schedule will take me across the varied planes of reality and into a little known kingdom where Truth is sought in new and fantastic ways. I pray Christ's reflection is evident even in the first draft of Prophet's Daughter... because when a story comes alive, Fiction Mirrors Truth.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Countdown to Prince Caspian!

I listened to a fabulous interview with Douglas Gresham this morning on Air 1 radio. If you'd like to listen to it, the link and instructions are below.

Douglas Gresham is the stepson of C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Gresham is the co-producer of the soon-to-be-released film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian as well as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. He is an unapologetic believer who credits the Holy Spirit with fulfilling of his lifelong dream of seeing these books become films.

Most of my friends know that I am a HUGE Narnia fan and have read each of the books dozens of times (I try to read the series every 2 years because they become more and more meaningful to me as I mature in my walk with Christ.) I encourage those of you who have not yet read The Chronicles of Narnia to read them now. If you haven't read them since you were a child, pray about reading them again and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal himself... and Christ... in a new and fresh (and bigger)way through these books.

"Welcome, Child," he said.
"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
For a while she was so happy that she did not want to speak.

From the book The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis. Copyright 1951 by C.S. Lewis (Pte) Limited. Copyright renewed 1979 by C.S. Lewis (Pte) Limited.

Although I had read the previous passage many times before, when I read it aloud to my children last winter, I got all choked up. I continued reading, but my heart prayed for my girls to someday have the same awed reaction to that passage; to know how high, how wide, and how deep is the love of Christ... and how profound it continues to be in its immenseness as we mature in our faith.

Please go out to see Prince Caspian when it comes to a theater near you. Don't wait until it goes to DVD. But please, take these next few days or weeks to visit or revisit the books. See how Aslan--the allegorical Christ figure-- gets bigger and how important it is to follow Him even when everyone else doubts or tries to lead you in another direction. There will be differences in the film version from the book, but I would ask you to pray. Pray that the the message of TRUTH, mirrored through C.S. Lewis's timelessly classic stories, would remain in the film versions of these books.

Support positive, faith-affirming films by going to see them. Even if your kids are too little to go with you, make it a date night, or go with a friend.

If The Body supports this film with our box office dollars, it will help ensure that the next book--The Voyage of the Dawn Treader-- is made into a feature film as well. Encourage all your friends to go see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian to help ensure that a CHRISTIAN fantasy movie becomes a blockbuster this spring (only a few more days until its release!!!!!) and help ensure that the series of films continues!

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the next book in the series (after Prince Caspian) and it is my favorite of the Chronicles because I find my own reflection in the characters so easily. Voyage has an incredibly moving, allegorical salvation message using the character of a horrible little boy (Eustace Scrubb) whose selfishness and greed turns him into a dragon. Aslan has to painfully rip off layers and layers of sin... I mean scales....and wash him clean (even though it stings like crazy on Eustace's raw body) before he can be a boy again. By Aslan's painful, vicious tenderness, Eustace is transformed from his Dragon-self, both physically and spiritually, into a new creation; a kinder, more humble boy who must example his inward change to his shipmates before they accept it as authentic.

Characters from the previous books/films also have to deal with temptation in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and example the need for spiritual growth even though they have known Aslan for quite some time. (sound familiar???) I believe if Voyage is made next--and made with integrity (and Douglas Gresham as co-producer again)--it will be a mighty tool to spur discussion amoung our Christian kids and their unbelieving or on-the-fence friends about the reality of greed and selfishness and pride as sin and the redeeming power of Jesus Christ through the Gospel.

These films are a gift from God, by way of Hollywood, to help us know HIM more and to help us share Him with others.

I encourage you to go to, click on "morning show" and then click on "interviews" and find "Douglas Gresham, Part 1 and Part 2" and listen to the interview. Then grab a Chronicle and find a comfy chair. Before you read, close your eyes and and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your imagination on your journey through Narnia; then open Chapter One and go "further up and further in"... because fiction mirrors truth.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Spring!

Mel Brooks said it first, but Anne Lamott echoed him, applying his strange advice to the craft of fictional characterization:
"Listen to your broccoli and it will tell you how to eat it."
I've been listening a lot lately. The problem is, I have a female stalk of broccoli that is very conflicted about the direction her story is going; and she's not too happy about where she's at.
Looks like it's time for a major re-write. Again.
I love this part.
I love the electricity; the zzzing! that I know will crackle through the air when my "broccoli" finally speaks; that beautiful "aha!" moment when I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, exactly who she is, who she wants to be, and what she's going to do next to reach that goal. I live for those time-out-of-mind hours spent frantically pounding out her story; those times when I know that I cannot at all take any sort of credit for the magic that shows up on the page... because it's bigger than me.
When it's good, it's Him. He's the author and I'm the transcriptionist; translating a particular truth into fiction; a Truth that burns in my heart like a fire.
Among many other wonderful things things I learned at the Writing for the Soul Conference last February, author Diann Mills pointed me toward Jeremiah 20:9; it has since become the motto for my writing life.
But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
- Jeremiah 20:9
The fire is not hot enough yet to steam this particular stalk of broccoli... but it's getting warmer.
Like the trees which were bare on Wednesday, but are now exploding with scent and bloom, my broccoli is getting ready to speak... and I'm getting ready to listen; no, to translate. Because Fiction Mirrors Truth and, while fiction blooms in season, Truth is evergreen.
I'm listening.
After all.... it's Spring.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I recently joined an online community of writers. This week I started submitting blurbs, wanting so badly for my work to be read that I picked out a scene of action from my completed fantasy novel. This particular scene comes late in the book and made little sense without the knowledge that comes from having read the preceding 7/8 of the work.

I am such a dork.

Last night, as I tried to go to sleep, I realized that the reason I had posted was to get the "attagirls" from other professional writers... I needed some justification for the hours (1 year+) spent creating that manuscript in my little cave of an office. Guess I should have hit my knees instead of my keys. Lesson learned... I hope. I have a track record with God of being a repeat offender in the area of "glory" seeking... sigh.

What I got from my community--from writers whose opinions I respect-- resembled nothing remotely like a pat on the back, although one guy worked really hard to make his critique sound "nice." (He may be my new best friend...) Instead of "attagirl", I got the reactions of some very confused readers who had no idea why this scene should be considered a good example of my writing ability. Ouch.

So... I went back, detached myself, and tried to read the post as if I knew nothing about the characters other than was included in the little blurb of action posted. Turns out, I agree with the critics. Double ouch with an "I'd better nuke this off before a publisher reads it and remembers my name as a future member of the slush pile!"

The moral of the story? Well, if you go fishing for compliments, you might just catch a smelly old shoe. Healthy, lowfat salmon swim upstream--I guess I need to look UP a little more before I put my writing out there in the big river.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My very strange sense of humor was on full tilt this week.

While perusing, I saw an ad which I'd seen countless times before but, for some reason, this time it tickled my funny bone. This was an advertisement for the wonderful technological advancement called the Amazon Kindle. I had to laugh at the brilliant marketing verbage that went into the ad copy, toting the selling point of the Kindle as a wireless, portable reading device.

Does anyone else see the irony here? A wireless, portable reading device; hmm... what a novel idea!

I have shelves and shelves of wireless, portable reading devices and, while they work very well to kindle my imagination, they bear no Amazon logo. All this time I had no idea I was so cutting-edge, technologically savvy!

It brought to mind a line from The Princess Bride, spoken by Peter Falk's character. I will paraphrase, "When I was a kid, Kindle was called books!"

Another funny happened at church which, quite often, is the breeding ground for some sort of overheard, unintentional wit. This particular dose of humor came my way during a rehearsal for our Easter cantata.

We were beginning to block scenes, going through the stage directions with our drama guy (affectionately referred to as "The Snaver") and he was giving individual direction to the actor playing Jesus. They had just paged through the crucifixion scene when Mike (the actor) asked, "So, does Jesus come back?" To which The Snaver replied, "Uh... no."

Of course, Mike meant "back on stage" and The Snaver meant that this particular dramatization did not contain a resurrection scene for the actor, but it was, instead, played out in song and on the big screens; but, the q&a exchange, out of context, was such a direct antithesis to the Easter message, I found it utterly delightful in a sick-sort-of-way. Again, I was the only one who caught it, but I laughed my tail off. When I shared my take on the exchange later with The Snaver, he thought it was pretty funny, too.

So there's your pre-Palm Sunday dose of humor. Hope it cures your blues for a moment or two. And, by the way, He does come back.... and He's coming again.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Learning Curve

There seems to be quite a learning curve for some of us in the over-thirty crowd when it comes to computer literacy. For me, the curve resides at the bottom of a roller coaster hill and often threatens to throw me right out of my seat.
When I was a senior in college, in 1995, my fellow students gave a presentation in a business class with the subject "What is the World Wide Web?"
Oh my.
So here I am, thirty-five years old, trying to grab my little piece of cyber space. I can guarantee no flashy graphics, no techno-savvy jargon, no fantastic new gadgets that will blow your mind... but you may see a piece of my heart every now and again.
Thanks for reading, and for seeking Truth in every realm.
Jeremiah 20:9