Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poem: Second-hand, hand-me-downs

Again and again, the kitchen in our church

becomes an obstacle of plastic bags

filled with clothes -- the first owners dead, moved, slimmed-down, fattened up, no longer pregnant.

Or toys. Or DVD's. Or China.

All in excellent shape.

They're in excellent shape because they were given with love.

Unlike the stuff one gives to the thrift shop

where the recipients are strangers.

My friends' kids

get glutted with books I've reviewed

books I've liked.

(Why share what was hated?)

When I visit them they greet me with eyes open

look behind my back for the latest

second-hand-but-first-to-them book.

I have one acquaintance, though...

very rich. A clothes horse.

She brings me clothes.

haute couture, high-end....rarely-worn.

She drops them at my gate

without asking.

without stopping to chat.

I don't know the woman.

But sometime in the past,

she determined to give me her hand-me-downs

determined to upgrade my style.

I wear jumper dresses and jeans,

not stylish for someone not yet an old lady:

this bothers her.

Should one wear clothes from such a giver?

Second-hands. . .hand-me-downs. . .

Ideally, such giving should be communal, should be born from love.

And yet I have worn them.

Because they were beautiful

and one like me could not afford them.

She smiles when I meet her at some hoopla,

glad I'm wearing her gift.

But those smiles. . .

they kill me little by little.

The day will come when I will be strong enough

Not to accept her cast-offs

lying at my gate.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poem: Adam's First Word by Carole McDonnell

Adam's first words we do not know;

they were not given us.

And what would we understand of them

we, who know so little of life and God?

Did he open his eyes --suddenly

arising from non-being and dust--

and look around at the world

and at his maker

and (smiling in awe)

say, "I Am,

I also now am."

We do not know.

Perhaps this is why

the conversation is left to our

imaginative surmising.

His other conversations

--with God, with angels--

we do not know.

Perhaps they are too personal,

too initimate,

too playful,

too profound to understand.

The first words we hear

from that first Man

was praise to the Friend

who had made a new friend or him.

It is a gasp of delight and wonder,

an ejaculation of appreciation

to the creativity of one whom

I suppose he considered his father.

"You've done well this time!

This is the right way to create!

This is the right creative choice you've made!"

Wonderful "first words"

I think.

And yet. . .

I still wonder:

What did that First Man say

when he opened his eyes

and found himself suddenly a new being,

suddenly alive?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The fantastical arrives in Game of Thrones

I watch a lot of reviews. Hey some folks like reading novels. I like reading reviews. So I've been watching reviews of Game of Thrones on the internet. And an interesting note has crept into the reviews: dislike of the fantastical intrusion. Especially in the finale for season 4.

Yep, apparently, they don't mind dragons here and there, or warging but full-on fantasy is annoying, boring, uninteresting, weird.

Ya see I find this opposition to the fantastical interesting on two counts. First, folks have gotten used to the rational and to the exploration of human power that the fantastical does seem odd. Second, George R R Martin is the writer who has created this stressing problem for these reviewers. Of course not all reviewers hate fantasy, and lovers of fantasy don't have to be religious. But it's interesting that an atheist should create a scenario which essentially echoes the supernatural Day of Wrath...a day when the seemingly rational universe opens up and the magical is revealed.

Let's face it: the folks in Westeros are like the readers of the Game of Throne books and like GRRM. They are pretty involved in unbelief. They don't believe in the supernatural. All the while the supernatural exists around them and is ready to show them what supernatural evil is like.  The world of Westeros is going on in its own human worldly way utterly unaware of encroaching evil or of spiritual matters underfoot. And as I said an atheist writer is presenting this scenario.

Reviewers love the machinations; they love power-struggles. They love the gamesmanship of human power. They love the rational of a known world. They don't like the idea of the unknown supernatural. The supernatural will probably be made rational and understandable in the final end of the series. But for now the supernatual exists. The supernatural cometh. The world we want to ignore is unveiling itself. And yes, GRRM is the one showing this strange situation.

This is what is interesting about Grace. Grace is everywhere, and truth is everywhere...even if the world, the rational, the atheistic don't want to acknowledge grace and truth. And this is why I often laugh when Christians talk about their need to affect culture. Seriously, Christian artwork rarely affects the world. Overtly Christian movies are seen mostly by Christians -- as are Christian book. So the cultural wars --wars that should disturb people by making folks uncomfortable with the whole notion of the supernatural-- are not being won by Christians. It is an atheist now who is making rational people squirm. Love that.  

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Notes to a newbie writer

Yes, we all want all our books to be read. . .and loved by everyone. . .but I'm not sure that's possible if one is true to one's own voice.

Think of it as math and subsets.

 There are core fans who will love everything you do, even your failures. There are folks who will like tangents, subsets of your work. Some of it is the way one writes, the stuff one writes about, the genre. My fantasy is well-liked by most, especially my core fans. Some others like my fantasy but hate me being christian. Others just don't like my fantasies but like my bible studies and reviews. So far you have possible fans in these circles: Folks who like true-to-life stories without any pious false bullshittery. Folks who like YA stories. Folks who like Black stories. Folks who like Black YA stories. Folks who like stories about the triumph of human adversity. If there are aspects of your work that complement these different stories, some folks in these circles may like them better or not like them at all.

Think of it as a conversation.

It's like the books in the world are all having conversations. Some are great conversations, some not so much. Our books are our contribution to the conversation. If we repeat what the guy next to us is saying, some folks will like us, some will think we have no voice of our own and are merely copycatting. If we are timid with our voice -- from lack of confidence in our craft or because we are newbies, folks who can recognize that will think we don't believe in what we're saying. If we are asking folks to plunk down their $3.99 for our ebooks (or $14.99) in an important conversation, we should be honest at all cost to us..because the world needs our spin on this great conversation. If we are just playing,then we can play to the restrictions...and restrict ourselves to what folks will buy. I tend to think the world is in crappy shape. I think young black kids need to see fantasy stories with black folks in it. And i also want to heal myself. I tend to think little black girls want to see themselves as sexy and cute and i feel religious books need to be honest because they just are not. So I can't really write without being true to my voice.  But there is always a way to make some money and always a way to get one's book read. They say if one has about 11 books online, one can make a good some a month... so am aiming for this. Will see.

I hope i didn't make you feel that your book should not be bleak. If you want it to be bleak, then go for it. The thing you have to ask yourself is this: Is the book about bleak lives or about a bleak universe? If the characters' lives are emblematic of a world where there is no joy etc, then you don't need to occasionally show other good things...because hopelessness is everywhere. When one writes a story on subsequent drafts, one has to step back and outside of the characters to see if the narration can balance what's happening in the characters' lives. Because if one focuses too tightly on the characters apart from everything else, then there is a claustrophobia and an inability to see past the characters' lives. Which is okay..although that world is enclosed. But if the world is basically good and the characters in it are having a bad life, then there has to be moments in the narration where light shines through...even if the characters themselves don't see the light. The author has to step outside of her identification with the characters' plight..and show that the sun is shining and good is happening, except that the characters are not yet part of that good.

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