Okay, friends! Loved your definitions and attributes of women's fiction. Now, tell me who your favorite women's fiction authors are (male or female!) and why!
This past weekend, Will and I had the pleasure of hosting Tom Davis, President of Children's HopeChest and author of Fields of the Fatherless, here in Lexington . Tom's heart for the orphans is so large, you expect to see it bursting from the corners of his eyes. Ty and I will hopefully be headed to Swaziland with Tom and Children's HopeChest this coming autumn.
Tom's book Red Letters, a call for Christians to find the heartbeat of Jesus within themselves by joining with Pure Christianity (visiting the widows and the orphan in their distress) will be released at the end of September by Cook Communications. Cook is also publishing the next book Will and I will write together, More Than Enough (working title). Pre-order this book!
Cook will also be publishing Tom's first novel, Scared. I'm his writing coach/developmental editor. This weekend we spend hours and hours talking fiction, what makes it work, what doesn't. It was exciting to sit out at The Owl, talk about plot, character, setting, pacing and resisting the urge to overexplain! Among other things. Scared tells the story of a photojournalist's last chance to keep his soul and the Swazi orphan Adanna who shows him the way.
Check out Children's HopeChest and pre-order Tom's book!
I had the privilege of speaking to two women's book clubs from Horizon Community Church in Cincinnati. One at lunch and one at dinner. Something magical happens over food. I don't know what it is. And if it's yummy, so much the better.
Thanks for hosting me, lovely ladies. And thanks for reading Quaker Summer. I had a great time meeting you and sharing with you. I pray that, through you, the Kingdom of God will expand.
I pray that for all of us.
You gotta love these things! When it comes to classics, I'm all about the printed matter. I don't care about the cover, paperback: trade or mass, el cheapo hardcover, it really doesn't matter to me. Now, with new books coming out, I do like to see what's up in the world of cover design and packaging, and I'm totally a sucker for a great image. I may not eventually buy the book, but that's definitely the reason I pick up a book in the first place.
At Joseph Beth Booksellers this afternoon, I found a nifty rack of Dover Thrift Editions. I've bought a couple of these before, A Christmas Carol, and a collection of the poems of Robert Burns, but I haven't seen these guys around for a while, so I picked up a few to finish up my Year of Reading Dangerously. Kafka's Metamorphosis (pray for me, I hate bugs--I mean look at that roach shadow on that cover to your rights--shudder), Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson and Ibsen's An Enemy of the People. With Jared's discount, I got all three, with tax, for $4.08. Just love bargains like that.
So with YoRD ending soon, I'm trying to figure out what next year's focus will be. I resolved to read good writing this past year, and I ran the gamut from Henry James to John Irving to Capote to Trollope to William S. Burroughs, and it was a journey I'd encourage any writer to take. And was it dangerous? Oh, yes! I've been ruined!
This coming year, (my birthday is soon--I can't believe it's been almost a year since my birthday when I started this thing) I'd like to focus a bit and read great books published at least after WWII. Any suggestions for a catchy name for my year? And please, suggest some books and authors too! Unfortunately, I realize that the Dover Thrift Editions won't be servicing my literary needs this coming year. Bummer. Should it be the Year of Reading Full-Price? Or the Year of Reading from the Used Book Store? I'm all ears. (Thank goodness I'm not all legs--like that yucky roach. And I've got to be honest, I don't care who that roach was before, I would boot it out of the house with a big old broom no questions asked!)
Psst! Laying off the Internet will give you more time to read. (Yeah, I'm basically telling you not to come on this blog so much, but in the interest of literature and literacy, I'm willing to make the sacrifice.)
Because of my Lenten blog fast, I read up a storm these past six weeks. Now for the most part, the offerings in my Year of Reading Dangerously have been delightful. I was beginning to wonder if I was just a literature wannabe, a good reading suck-up who convinced herself she was enjoying these books because she wanted to be seen as intelligent and capable.
Thankfully, a novella by Henry James proved me wrong. One of the first books I read during Lent, The Turn of the Screw, well, just use your imagination because I try to have respect for the dead. However, also imagine me vowing never to read Henry James again because if there's one thing I've learned this year, there's a banquet table of great works waiting to be gorged upon! If you like Henry James, I'll say right up front, you're probably smarter than I am.
Next in the "No, actually, I don't like everything" line came The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. Now, now, all you Hemingway fans will probably think I'm ridiculous, but I just didn't care about any of the characters but the narrator and really wanted to know more about him. As usual, the writing itself--well, what can I say? I love the man's style. But I re-read The Old Man and the Sea two books later and set it down with that sigh, that "Oh, yes."
What did I learn from Hemingway? You just don't need to tell every little thing about your characters. I tend to overshare. At least that's what my editor at TN says. She calls my characters "navel gazers". Ha! I think she's onto something. How do I reveal as much about them as I do now without quite so much internal dialogue? What else did I learn? If you don't love your characters, most likely your reader won't either. Ty's been encouraging me to read his short stories, so I'll get onto them soon.
Stephen Crane's "Maggie Girl of the Streets" and other short stories came next. You know, as spare as Hemingway is, I still loved Crane's descriptiveness. Never too much (IMO) and dead on. I love beautiful writing, poetic writing, because there's something about the tender use of words that speaks to my emotions in a way bare bones storytelling never will (I don't consider Hemingway truly bare bones, btw). I know it's not that way for everyone. And though Crane writes a heartwrenching story of abuse and poverty, I was captivated by the beauty of his words. In short I learned, you can be both raw and lovely. It's never either/or. (But then, not much is.)
In a bigger sense I saw how easy it is to appreciate different styles in writing, that one isn't necessarily better than the other, just different.
The Warden, by Anthony Trollope. Okay, Trollope is hilarious! And this book is a must read for anyone wondering how the church is so content to feed itself at the expense of mission and mercy. This examination of a tender Christian conscience in the face of gross justification for self-interest in the church institution shows that the problems we face are not new. What I learned? Great spiritual truths and prophetic themes can fit beautifully within a story without coming out and saying it! For those who want to speak into the church, this is a good book to read to see how it's done.
Tolstoy's Divine and Human. This collection of stories was put out by Zondervan around 2001, I believe. (It's up on the nightstand and I don't feel like running upstairs.) Simple tellings, large lessons. I can't imagine anybody publishing such simply written tales these days. What I learned? People like to bandy Tolstoy around, but I bet they wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole if he showed up with manuscript in hand. I'm reading War and Peace now, a chapter or two a night, and it's wonderful. I'll get back to you next year this time on it!<G>
That's about it for now! I just finished reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. (Gosh yes! An Oprah pick and how humiliating is that? I actually dreamed last night I was in the audience for this particular show. Good grief!) If you're wondering whether or not to read this, I'd highly recommend it. It isn't for the faint of heart however, but it's filled with love and, at least to me, is a story of God's provision for those who resolve to do the right thing. It's my first Cormac read and certainly won't be my last.
Oh yeah, I read some Fitzgerald, and loved it. But then you'd figure that one out, wouldn't you?
Happy reading! Resolve to keep it a challenge. I think you'll be glad you did in the long run!
My first foray into modern literature began after I met Will who suggested I read his copy of "Slaughterhouse Five," by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. It clued me in that some authors had unique voices with which to tell their experiences, some that made no sense to them.
This morning, on my way home from the cabin after a previous fourteen hour day of writing, I heard, sadly so, that Kurt Vonnegut died last night in New York at the age of eighty-four. Just before Lent, I had read his novel Bluebeard, a wonderful piece about a WWII veteran who became an abstract expressionist painter. (I love abstract expressionism, something you either "get" or you don't, and no, a monkey couldn't do it if given paint and a canvas!<G>) I laughed myself silly reading this book, sympathized deeply with the main character, enjoyed the satire.
It had been years since reading Slaughterhouse and Hocus Pocus. I loved the book, so I researched Vonnegut a little bit, felt pen artist and jazz afficionado. Say what you want about him, but true characters leave a bit fat hole in the world when they die. I'll miss knowing the old curmudgeon is around, the man who said he should sue the tobacco companies because he'd been smoking all his life and didn't get cancer.
He also wanted his epitaph to be: The only proof he needed that God exists was music.
One of the pieces of writing advice from Kurt Vonnegut I'm now following: "You don't need semi colons. All they do is show you went to college."
Or . . . It's Great To Have Good Friends.
I could say A Moveable Feast, a memoir of Hemingway's Paris days in the 1920's, afforded me many insights, enabled me to learn a thing or two. The chief and most "duh" one would be the fact that I can now spell the author's name correctly.
No, there aren't two Ms in Hemingway. Who knew? (Don't answer that!)
I'm not much of a reader of books on the craft of writing or the writing life. But then, I've always needed to figure out much of life on my own so this doesn't surprise me or cause me dismay. However, I'm a firm believer that reading good writing: the classics and the top of your chosen genre, is the greatest teacher. Unfortunately, this method takes a great deal of time; fortunately, if you're a fiction writer, it's highly enjoyable!
However, A Moveable Feast enabled me to read a book on the writing life and learn from the writing as well. A lot of contemporary editors would have a field day with Hemingway's prose, and part of me smiles because we Christians want formulas to follow (sinner's prayer anyone?), rules to obey, steps to take to achieve our perceived goal. It's no different at Christian writer's conferences and in critiques. Shoot, I yack about POV, passive verbs and dialogue tags as much as anybody else. But despite his breaking of the rules (and maybe because of it!), Hemingway hurtles you through his prose, ushering you seamlessly into his world while still maintaining a unique style. My biggest concern with conferences and the same rules being touted over and over, is that a homogenization can and does occur, (if some of the critiques that pass through my hands at conferences are any indication). And who wants that? (Oh, but the shining ones are worth it all, aren't they? How I love holding some pages in my hand and thinking, "Oh yes! They've got the gift! What can I do to help?")
While Hemingway doesn't delve into craft, he paints a portrait of a writer's life and what struck me over and over again was that they were a real community there in Paris and each had their part to play and hearing the names: Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Fitzgerald, Ford, Stein, bandied about like I'd talk about my own friends, made me realize that while we write alone, we aren't lone writers. Or shouldn't be, anyway. In a profession understood by few, we need to stick together, encourage one another, simply be available.
I guess that's not so hard. I've made some wonderful friends along the way, friends who have sweetened the journey and allowed me to feast with them wherever we may find ourselves. You know who you are. And even if you just suspect it's you--be assured it's you too! It's easy to take all that for granted sometime. So let me just say thanks. (I couldn't put all the pictures up. That would take a dozen posts.)
Best of all, it caused me to remember my own writing friends and to be thankful for the encouragement they've been throughout the years. A good book will do that sort of thing for you.
pictures places in no particular order!
"I was getting tired of the literary life, if this was the literary life that I was leading, and already I missed not working and I felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life."
. . . the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life.
I resonated with that phrase. How many days have I wasted, unable to concentrate on writing, or even to figure out the thing at its core, days when it all seems a little crazy to be putting words down on paper, describing the lives of people that never existed, never did one real thing, never changed the world. The least I could is write biographies of great people! But somedays, I can't, or don't, even write about my own made-up worlds.
On these wasted days, I have to admit, a certain loneliness does try to push its way from my heart and out through my skin. Naturally, I view the rest of the writing world generously and suspect they all got their word count in no problem, they're actually working on other projects just to fill in the time and their inboxes echo. But I sit in my bubble of disappointment.
Hemingway had it right. There is a sort of death loneliness about wasted days. We know we have so few days to really spare. I'm always keenly aware of my mortality, as though a big clock walks behind me doing some sort of tapdancy shuffle.
So I propose this: If we see a day is going to go to waste, well, let's waste it well! (Hey, I'm not dillusional! We are going to waste some of our days. It's inevitable!)
Call a friend or a family member and catch up, schedule an impromptu coffee with someone, read, sit in a church, work on that craft project you've beeing wanting to finish, cook a great meal, listen to music. All of these are productive in their own right, but they're also nourishing. Maybe we waste our days at times because we fail to provide some food for the psyche. Here's a thought--maybe we should take time to feed our souls in the first place and perhaps, we'd have steam to make the most of the days we are given.
Link: RELEVANT MAGAZINE.
Katy Raymond wrote an article for Relevant about Will and me and our journey to living in urban Lexington. Thanks, Katy! And to anybody who has found their way to this blog due to the article . . . welcome!
from the article:
THE ANTI-COMFORT ZONE
I’m a big believer in comfort zones. I figure God made them for a reason, and if I could, I’d crawl into mine and live happily ever after. It’s been said, though, that the best stuff in life happens to us when we purposefully step out of our zones. If these are words to live by, my friends are the philosophy’s perfect poster couple.