Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last Chance: Between Worlds

The last idea I mentioned as a possible name for the new blog was Between Worlds.

This idea came from an address by N.T. Wright on "The Bible and Christian Imagination." Here's the part I love:

..."We find worship offered God by the angels, who in Isaiah 6 sing day and night, without ceasing, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts, The whole earth is full of his glory.'
And we say, yes, it is — the whole earth is full of God's glory. I see it. I catch it on the sunrise and the sunset, the flight of a bird. . . Then we remind ourselves that it's also a place of violence and destruction, and of terror and shame and fear which invade our own souls. And then we move on in Isaiah and just a few chapters later in Isaiah chapter 11 we find there a vision, an extraordinary vision, of a world healed by the love of God, a world in which the lion and the lamb will lie down together. . . We, my friends, are called to live between the vision of the world which is already filled with the glory of God, and a world which is yet to be filled with the glory of God. . . .God's call to Christian artists [is] to have this unique vocation of enabling people to see what they can't otherwise see, to see that the world is already full of the glory of God, and that it will one day be filled yet fuller."

Let us know what you think of this idea. And remember--each comment gets you an entry into this weekend's drawing for a $15.00 gift card. It's not too late to enter--but this is your last chance!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Story Quest

I recently started reading a book by Madeleine L'Engle called The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth. I was excited when I started the book because I found another book of hers--Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art--so inspiring.

Sadly, I've been disappointed in The Rock That is Higher. It just wasn't exactly what I expected. But the quote on the cover blew me away:

"If we open ourselves to story, to fairy tale, fantasy, myth, novel,we cannot help being aware of the ultimate unexplainableness of the deepest depths. We know we are on a quest, but we do not know the entire nature of the quest, nor where it is going to take us. . ."

Somewhere in that quote is the essence of why I read. Why I write. How the whole experience is in some mysterious way connected, for me, to God and Eternity. I'd love to find a name for the new blog somewhere in there, but all I could think of was Story Quest.

Any other ideas out there? And just in case you've forgotten, comments will get you an entry into this weekend's drawing for a $15.00 gift card.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Easier Way to Enter the Contest

When I asked you to enter the drawing for a $15.00 gift certificate by suggesting ideas and names for my upcoming blog, I obviously stunned you into silence. Things have never been so quiet around here. Never before have my attempts at bribery come up so empty-handed.

Okay, the drawing is going to be held in about a week, so I'm giving you another chance. I'm going to list the ideas that Kristi and I have been kicking around so far. You can just tell me which one(s) you like, and you'll get an entry in the drawing.

First, I have to tell you about the fish angle. Yes, you read that correctly.

When Kristi was thinking of starting her own blog, she was going to call herself "Little Fish," because she feels like such a tiny little fish about to tackle the huge pond of Hollywood. And then I often think of myself as a fish out of water, because my poor writing never seems to fit in. It's too commercial to be literary and too literary to be commercial. Too Christian to sell in the ABA and too secular for the CBA. Too much suspense for the romance genre, not enough to be pure suspense. You get the picture.

So last week I had a brainstorm. "Fiction, Faith, and Fish"! I loved it. I loved the way it sounds, and it's intriguing. Kristi could be Little Fish and I could be Fish Out of Water. Only trouble was that we're not just going to talk about fiction. Kristi's first interests are film and theater and acting. And Fiction, Film, Faith and Fish starts getting too long and complicated.

So I started looking for some other words that start with F that have something to do with the broader idea of telling a story. I got things like:

Flight of Fancy
(And then there were Fib and Fabrication, but do we really want to go there?)

From that, I had an idea like: Figments, Faith and Fish. Under the title we could write:
Figments: Of the imagination, whether expressed as story, film, drama or image.
Faith: In a God who created us in His own image, so that we possess the desire to create worlds of our own.
Fish: One little fish about to try her luck in the big pond of Hollywood. One writer fish who always seems to be out of water ETC ETC YOU GET THE IDEA.

(Hmmm...from reading the above, I also like "In His Image.")

Other ideas being kicked around:

Flight of Faith, Fiction Fish
Flight of Fiction, Faithful Fish
Flight of Fantasy, Fish of Faith
Flight of Fiction, Fish of Faith.

Earlier, we suggested
The Joyous Journey (from Surprised by Joy, the C.S. Lewis book)
Story Quest
Between Two Worlds

What do you think?

Maybe you'll help us get this nailed down from this post. If not, I'll share some quotes that influenced some of these ideas and give you yet another chance to provide input. Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While His Wife is Making Up Stories...

While his wife is struggling to make up good adventures, my husband Dave is off having real ones in the wilds of Chile. He's working down there for six weeks. I'll let him tell you about his weekend:

The day started with me buying a cup of the strongest coffee I ever drank in my entire life. I learned that even though a company is a U.S. company, that doesn't mean the employees speak a word of English. I now know how to ask for a "cafe grande" at the Dunkin Donuts shop.

I met up with William "Willy" Tang (grew up in San in Miami) and we were picked up by a local tour guide. We were told the night before someone would come around and pick us up and take us to the Maipo Valley and the cost would be 180,000 pesos, or 240 dollars. I wouldn't normally spend that kind of money, but after things worked out like they did, I was glad I did.

First we met the tour guide Natural (the closest we could come to his name in Spanish). He then introduced us to Jorge, the driver. And then if that wasn't enough, we met up with a "trekking guide" Rodrique (Rod). He was running late, so we did a little shopping (little tents set up for weekend selling) in San Jose de Maipo, the little town where we met the trekking guide. Once we connected with Rod, we started up into the mountains in the van. The road soon became something that only vaguely resembled a road. We were moving slowly up the mountain. Finally we made it up to a little open area where some kids and a dog were playing and parked. Rod went up to the house and apparently obtained permission for us to use the trail. When he returned, we started up the mountain.

Since Willy is an entomologist, he had an insect net and an aspirator and was collecting insects as we went. We would turn around and Willy would be nowhere in sight. Finally Rod said, through Natural, "We will have some really good collecting areas up ahead." Of course this really meant, "Hurry up...let's go!" So I think Willy caught on because he picked up his pace. We walked for a good hour and finally came to the most rickety bridge--really just a lot of small logs tied up side-by-side--across the creek.

Pretty soon Rod began to whistle really loud. He continued to do this several times and then finally crossed the creek and disappeared up the trail. After a couple of minutes he returned, but with an old man. We all crossed the creek and made it up the hill. We eventually learned that the old man was named Lalo. We walked up to his "house." He pulled some chairs around for us under the trees and we sat down. His dog stretched out on the ground near us and his extremely scraggly chickens, who were pretty much tame, walked around us.

The Chileans talked to Lalo at length and then as the conversation progressed, I noticed that Lalo started to drop some English words in here and there. Eventually he just straight out began to speak English. As it turned out he had lived in England for 5 years, and then went on to Germany, then to France, and finally to Spain. He worked in various jobs in all those countries. Some time ago, he returned to Chile and has been living up in the Andes in his shack for 23 years.

He had a black cook pot hanging over a fire pit, lots of fruit trees, and of course, his chickens. I asked him what the dog eats, and he said the dog has guardian angels who take care of him. Willy asked him if he had cable t.v. (a strange question to ask an old hermit living up in the Andes...but remember, Willy is an Entomologist). He said he only had a c.d. player he listens to sometimes. He also had his gun leaning up against the tree and he said he shoots rabbits from time to time for meat, but he doesn't want to overdo it because there are hunters that come up there and would be upset with him if he over-hunted the area. Rod mentioned through the interpreter that the first time he came up that trail Lalo met him with his gun and demanded, "Who are you and what do you want!!!" They have been friends ever since.

We talked for about an hour and finally got up to go. Lalo shook all our hands and gave us a hug. Well, anyway, maybe I had the honor and distinction of meeting the Ernest T. Bass of Chile. Or maybe what really happened is I saw a reflection of myself in Lalo. Maybe sometime in the future I will be sitting around telling anyone who happens by about all the places I have worked. Even if I don't, so far the highlight of coming to Chile has been meeting Lalo.

(Lalo and Dave outside Lalo's House)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Greetings from Kristi

Since Kristi will soon be sharing a blog with me, I thought I'd let her introduce (or reintroduce) herself to you:

Greetings! Some of you know me well, and some maybe not so much. But here I am anyway, writing to let you all know about a couple of awesome things that are going on in my life right now. So, patience, Grasshopper- this is a little long but quite informative!

Many of you may be aware that I finally finished my bachelor’s degree in May, graduating from Kennesaw State’s cutting-edge program with a Theatre and Performance Studies major, and a Film Studies minor. Before I graduated, I began to pray in earnest about what my next step should be after graduation.

I spent much of my twenties “gathering life experience”, or as some might call it, wasting time. Don’t get me wrong- there were some bright lights amidst the fog- not all of that decade was time and energy lost. But one day, during an extremely difficult period, I asked God to take over anything I was trying to hold onto, because that is the only way, I truly believe, to make the most out of every second- to really be who we are meant to be. I did not- do not- want to waste time anymore.

And now, thanks to God, here I am, a few years later, officially educated. But the question has still remained--or at least it had until a few months ago- what next? I tried a few different possibilities--sometimes the process of finding God’s way for us is by having doors closed in our faces, while others stay open, or are thrown open wide. Usually through this process, we learn a lot along the way, if we are open to it.

That is the attitude I tried to take as I put in numerous applications for grad school last year, dragging members of my family around the Southeast with me as I auditioned for various MFA acting programs, as I wrote treatments for filmmaking programs, as I tried to demonstrate my ability to handle an MA/ PhD program, and as I failed to get into any of them. That is the attitude I tried to keep as I graduated, still working the same job I had before I started. I tried different paths in and around the Atlanta area, some resulting in failure, some in success. I had an amazing experience building a new show from scratch for the North Carolina Renaissance Festival. That collaboration and travel experience taught me so much about myself and working with others to make a production where before there had been none. My two partners in that process were wonderful, and I will never forget them!

And yet still, the question remained- where do I go from here (here being the Atlanta area), or do I stay here, and if so what do I do? I had been playing with the idea of moving to Los Angeles for a while (much to my sweet mother’s dismay). Over the last couple of years, a growing feeling- maybe even a calling- seemed to be settling in my heart for the West. Still though, that is a big move, and I just was not sure. Until probably 5 ½ - 6 months ago. I had been reading a series of fictional books which moved me so much, not only as a reader but as an artist--as a PERSON--that I knew I had to go for it. Do you ever have an experience like that, where one event in your life can have so much impact on a seemingly unrelated second event? I find this seems to happen a lot when God is involved. There was a peace inside me now about what I had to do that I had not known before. I had to follow my dreams, the dreams I believe God has laid on my heart to seek.

I have asked myself, what is it I am seeking? Fame? Money? A secure spot on Hollywood’s A-list? Not necessarily noble ventures. The main thing I have to seek is God’s glory. I want to explore through poetry of performance and writing, and hopefully eventually, my own filmmaking, God’s Truth and Beauty. Does that mean every venture I undertake will be puritanical in nature? Not necessarily. Sometimes to find Truth, ugly and uncomfortable elements must be exposed first. Does that mean I won’t have to do a few cracker or toilet paper commercials? Please. I hope I can get those gigs! But the glory of God is why I believe I am being led to go there, and God willing, I will be successful in following Him.

Now, on to the second exciting development in my life recently (and I will try to make this brief). I am starting a BLOG! Actually, I will be sharing a new blog with fellow artist and wonderful aunt of mine, Robin Johns Grant. She is a writer, and we are sharing many similar experiences in our walks as Christians and artists these days, and are both very interested in exploring the crossroads of the two. How does one stay true to God, and true to her calling as an artist? This is one of the questions which will be a recurring theme in our blog, but we’ll be delving into other important areas as well, such as will there be another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, or whether or not Rupert Grint is too young for me. Or where exactly is my position in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?

I will also be giving updates on my progress as I ready for my move to the West, which is scheduled for late April. My dad and his wife are generously helping me relocate, and we will be viewing some of the West along the way. What an adventure! I will share my victories and losses once I get there, and of extreme importance- my celebrity sightings! Sometimes Robin will post, and other times I will, but I hope that everyone reading this will check it out, and keep in touch! I will strive to do the same.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Big Changes, Part 2

Last time, I gave some exciting news about upcoming changes to this blog—including its name. I announced we’re going to have a contest so you can help us name the new improved blog, and maybe win a $15.00 amazon gift certificate in the process.

So what’s going to be different about the new blog?

My niece Kristi will share it with me. So you’ll actually get a break from me every week!

The new blog will have a broader focus:

I write fiction. Kristi writes fiction, acts in theater, makes films. So hopefully we can talk about a lot more art forms.

Kristi will bring in new readers from theater and film. Should be interesting to get comments not just from writers and readers, but from actors and film-makers and lots of other creative folks.
I hope to write reviews of not just CBA fiction, but books published in the secular market, movies, classic books. And I’d love to connect with authors and artists you might not get to read about in the other blogs you follow. That’s my hope, anyway!

We’ll look at how Christianity and the world of the arts mesh—and how they might conflict.

We’ll still talk about perseverance, but I’d also like to focus on the creative journey of this upcoming year, for myself and for Kristi. Are we led to persevere and wait without moving? To make big changes? What surprises lie along the way?

We’ve had a few ideas for blog names, including:
The Joyous Journey
Story Quest
Between Two Worlds

All of those quotes were inspired by someone like C.S. Lewis or Madeleine L’Engel. I’ll share some quotes with you later.

In the meantime, start thinking!

I’ll announce the winner of the drawing on February 28.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Changes Coming to this Blog!

This blog is about to change!

Before I took my long blogging break a couple of months ago, I gave a hint that I would have an announcement about an upcoming change to the blog. I didn’t mention it again because the change has been slower in coming than I would have hoped, but I’d like to tell you a little bit about it now. Plus, you’ll want to keep reading, because there’s a contest and a chance to win goodies in it for you!

The bottom line is, The Queen of Perseverance is going to fade away, to be replaced with a new blog that I share with my niece.

Three or four months ago, Kristi (the aforementioned niece) told me she would like to start a blog and asked my advice. I was excited to hear this, because I’d been wanting to ask her for some time to share a blog with me. Over the past couple of years, Kristi’s and my interests have really meshed. We’ve done a lot of talking about our creative dreams, story ideas, ambitions—and how all that fits into God’s plan for our lives. We’ve both read a lot of C.S. Lewis and been inspired by his ideas about Christianity and the imagination, about our longing for something beyond ourselves that is ultimately a longing for God.

Beyond our interests, Kristi and I are both searching, trying to find where our creative interests fit in our service to God. It’s something we’ve both been trying to work out for a long time. (Okay, I’ve been at it a lot longer than Kristi has, but still, she feels a little weary at times, too.) Even so, we both have a feeling that the upcoming year will be pivotal, that we’re both going to be on a journey that will lead us to some answers one way or another.

I, for one, just finished up up a romance novel geared toward the CBA (Christian Booksellers’ Association). My agent advised me to write it to try to help me break into publishing. I’ve been doing a lot of things like that over the last few years, trying to reach that publishing goal. I haven’t gotten published and haven’t been terribly happy with my writing, either. I’ve been talking to God about all this, and my intention is that, if this manuscript goes nowhere, I’m going to take a whole different path. I’m going to start working on a couple of projects purely because I’m excited about them—not because I can figure out what market they will fit into, or because they will pigeon hole tidily into a particular genre. I may even pursue self-publishing or small presses. I daily pray for God to show me which fork in the road to take, and I’m willing to be flexible.

And if it does sell—well, my journey this year will definitely be different! So I’m excited to see where things are going.

As for Kristi, she graduated a few months ago with a degree in theater and film studies. She’s been acting locally on the stage, writing plays, and making some short films, but she’s wondering where her career is going, too. She feels God is calling her to go to L.A. and try to break into the industry there. Talk about a journey!

So…one way or another, it’s going to be an interesting year. I’m hoping all of you will share that with us. And now…this is where you come in.

We would like your help in naming our blog. Also, if you have any ideas for a tagline, or a pertinent quote we could use on the mast—any suggestions like that would be helpful. And for each suggestion you leave, you’ll receive an entry into a drawing for a $15.00 gift certificate. (You can also email me your thoughts, if you don’t want to post. Just use the “Contact me” button in the right-hand column of this page.)

I’ll give more information about the upcoming blog next time, so you might want to wait until then to send your suggestions.
Until then, start thinking!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Very, Very Good Excuse

My excuse for not blogging so far this week? I FINALLY finished my manuscript! Yes!!

Or at least, I'm finished as far as I'm concerned. I just hit the "send" button and shot it off to Janet, my agent. Now I'll just have to wait and see if she thinks I'm finished. If you would like to say a little prayer for me on that score, please feel free. I want her to have wisdom and guide me in the right direction, but I'd also like to be finished up with this project. At least unless someone gives me a contract and then wants changes. I'll be quite happy to work on it some more then.

But if not...well, I'm ready to move on. Those of you who have put up with my whining and dragging my feet know that this manuscript has been a struggle for me. On a happy note, I have some new ideas I'm excited about, so no matter what happens, I'm looking forward to writing this year.

Anyway, I just wanted you all to celebrate this milestone with me. I'll try to write something more substantial soon. But not tonight. It's fairly late already, and I have to get up at 5 a.m. to drive to an out-of-town work meeting. That may be fairly normal for a lot of you, but I don't do 5 a.m. I'm also dreading the drive because I not only have to drive to Atlanta, but all the way through it and about an hour beyond. All in morning rush hour traffic.

I'm hoping GPS Lady will find me a way around Atlanta. But I've told you how snitty she can be.

Like I said, pray for me!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fascinating Research Site

In one of my library journals recently, I read about a new digital collection called Slavery and Abolition in the U.S., which was put together by Millersville University and Dickinson College from their library's holdings. If you enjoy reading first-person accounts of life in other times, or if your fiction is set in the 19th century in America, this site could possibly be a gold mine.

With support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the two institutions have digitized and put online for the public approximately 15,000 pages of first-person narratives, legal proceedings, anti-slavery tracts, religious sermons, and more. Through these readings, you can get a glimpse of the debates and ideologies of the time.

I'm always fascinated reading first-hand accounts from "regular" people who lived in explosive times. I was amazed when I went to look on this site and clicked on a book of letters written by a Virginia man. I discovered the first letter was dated 1858 and was written when he visited my home town! It gave me an odd feeling to read his description of the fort and the cemetery on the river--which I still frequently drive by. But reading his description of a slave auction held in my own city was just downright bizarre.

Also interesting was the preface to the book, written by someone other than the author, who decried the tendency of fiction books to write social issues into their plots and try to effect change through their stories. He mentioned not only Uncle Tom's Cabin on the one side, but also the novels written as "answers" to it from the other side of the debate. This editor despised them all and said such issues had no place in fiction. Hmm...sounds like a debate that's still going on today, about the place of religion or issues in novels. Only the issues themselves have changed.

I've only checked out the one book, so don't have deep knowledge of this site. But it looks promising. I haven't tackled a historical novel yet, but I do know from my writing that I love reading first-person narratives on any subject that touches on my novel's background or plot. I don't know a better way to add color and accuracy.