Wednesday, November 13, 2019

“Praying with Jane” (Austen) by Rachel Dodge

With all of the movies, remakes, novelizations, satires, and articles, the one thing you rarely if ever read about Jane Austen is her devout religious faith. 

Her father was an Anglican clergyman. The practice of the family’s faith was daily, including family morning and evening prayers, prayers before and after meals, private prayers, prayer before bedtime, and two lengthy worship services on Sunday. The family read devotional books together. 

In a short work, author Rachel Dodge helps to broaden the understanding of Austen’s faith. Praying with Jane is a devotional work with 31 daily entries that use three beautiful prayers written by Austen herself. Dodge structures each entry with a portion of the prayer, a brief discussion from Austen’s biography, letters, or works, and an invitation to pray, including a short prayer.

Rachel Dodge
“Reading Jane’s prayers,” she writes in the introduction, “is a bit like looking into her heart. In them, we get to know another side of Jane’s personality—a more serious and reverent side. They reveal a genuine, practical faith in Jesus Christ.”

Dodge is an author, speaker, workshop leader, college lecturer, and a writer for the Jane Austen World blog. In addition to Praying with Jane, featured during the month of October at Literary Life, she’s currently working on a devotional based on Anne of Green Gables.

You can likely read Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility and enjoy the works without knowing the details of the author’s life, including her religious faith. But to read a short, simple work like Praying with Jane is to have one’s eyes opened about underpinned the works and life of one of English literature’s most beloved authors.


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Six Reasons Why Authors Edit Their Manuscripts

Editing has been much on mind lately, and I’m learning that editing requires more of my time and focus than drafting the original manuscript.

I’m working on the fifth, and final, novel in a five-book series. This one has taken more time to write; I’m aiming for something more ambitious than its four predecessors. I’ve been through the complete draft five separate times and worked on partial segments countless other times. I know I have at least two more complete editing reviews before I turn it over to the official editor and publisher.

Editing is meticulous, time-consuming work. Writing the first draft can be exhausting and certainly more exhilarating, but editing is often where the real work starts – and seems to never end. It’s not perfectionism. Instead, editing is a complete mental, emotional, and spiritual engagement with the text you’ve created. 

As I’ve worked through this manuscript, I realized I’m editing for six reasons.

To continue reading, please see my post today at the American Christian Fiction Writers blog.

Photograph by Andrew Neel via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Songwriting and Writing: “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson

"Songs require patience,” writes Andrew Peterson in Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making. “Books require endurance. Songs are 100-meter dashes. Books are marathons. You have a lot more opportunity to question your sanity when you're battling your way through the jungle of a novel for a year." Peterson writes both songs and books, and he knows the challenges of both.

I’ve read a multitude of books about writing, fiction writing, publishing, book marketing, writing style, writing challenges, writer’s block, and several other categories. Never have I read a book about writing that spoke directly into my soul. Until Adorning the Dark

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Armistice Day, “Poppy Field” by Michael Morpurgo, and the Poppies at the Tower

Today is Armistice Day. How do you make sense to children (and possibly adults) about a war that happened a hundred years ago? You might focus on a symbol, like British author Michael Morpurgo did with the poppy.

Morpurgo’s Poppy Field is the story about a contemporary boy, Martens Merkel, who lives on a farm with his mother and grandfather in the Flanders region of Belgium. In World War I, the farm was part of the site where the three battles of Ypres occurred. In a very real sense, the battles and the war are still going on; Martens father was killed a few months after the boy was born when his tractor uncovered a live shell from the war. 

The family has a framed fragment of a poem, something that serves as a talisman of sorts for the family. The grandfather’s grandmother, as a little girl, got it from one of the soldiers with the British Army. She was selling eggs and giving away poppies that grew in the family’s fields, and he has crumpled the paper and thrown it away. He told her she could keep it.

The poem turns out to be an early draft the most famous poem of World War I, written by Canadian surgeon John McCrae after the death of his best friend.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The grandfather tells the story of the poem and his grandmother, and how the story continued to play through the family and the next world war. And he talks about the poppies. 

Michael Morpurgo
Morpurgo’s moving story is beautifully illustrated by Michael Foreman, a noted British illustrator of children’s stories. The book includes an afterword by the Rev. Nigel McCulloch, former national chaplain of the Royal British Legion and bishop of Manchester. It was through the efforts of an American woman, Moina Michael, that the American Legion came to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. A French woman, Anna Guerin, inspired by Michael, convinced several governments and the Royal British Legion to adopt the flower.

Morpurgo is one of Great Britain’s best-known and best-loved children’s writers. He’s written some 130 children’s books and won numerous prizes and recognitions. In 2018, he received a knighthood for his services to literature and charity. He’s also the author of the successful stage play War Horse. Michael Foreman has had solo exhibitions in London, Paris, New York, Japan, and Chile, and most recently at the National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle, England. He’s won numerous awards for both his writing and illustrations, and has received the Kate Greenaway Medaltwice for outstanding illustration in a book for children. 

Remembrance Day, as Armistice Day is called in Britain, is a much larger celebration than it is in America. For the centenary anniversary of the war, artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper created an exhibition at the Tower of London, entitled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” that filled the tower’s moat with 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each casualty of World War I from Britain and the Dominion countries. 

We saw it in September 2014, as it was still be assembled. I’m not sure what was more moving: the sight of the installation itself or the profound silence of the large crowds gathered to view it.

The Imperial War Museum has published Poppies: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, a commemoration of the Tower of London installation and the 19 different locations to which parts of the installation traveled in Britain through 2018. Most of the ceramic poppies at the Tower were sold to individuals to raise funds for various charities, and some nine million pounds was realized (we have one of the ceramic poppies in our home), Two parts of the installation, “Weeping Window” and “Wave,” traveled to various cathedrals, museums, public buildings, and even a pier. 

The book chronicles the original installation at the Tower and the installations at the 19 sites in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. There’s a text for each location and numerous photographs. To read the texts and see the photos is to experience that Tower of London installation all over again. 

A children’s story and a commemorative book offer two different ways to remember what happened from 1914 to 1918, and to honor the men and women who fought and lived and the men and women who fought and died.


Top photograph: A partial view of the poppies installation at the Tower of London in 2014).

Sunday, November 10, 2019

How to describe a friend

After Philippians 2:19-30

How he said it, describing
the friend he was sending
to help: my brother,
my fellow worker,
my fellow soldier,
your messenger,
your minister to my need.

My brother: someone as close
   to me as one sharing
   the same parents.
My fellow worker: toiling
   with me in the vineyard,
   on the farm.
My fellow soldier: fighting
   alongside me, for this is
   a battle, this is a war.
Your messenger: he comes
   from you, is sent by you,
   to communicate with me.
Your minister: he was
   appointed by you to come
   to help where needed.
And more: the one who
   almost died.

Photograph by Tyler Nix via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Saturday Good Reads

It was a 21st-century morality tale that exemplifies what social media can do. A young Iowa man holds up a sign during an ESPN-televised game, asking for beer money. Donations pour in. The young man makes a donation to a children’s hospital. Anheuser Bush jumps in with a sponsorship. Then a newspaper reporter finds old tweets the young man made when he was 16. The story runs, outrage ensures, the beer company cancels its sponsorship. Then people find old, just-as-boneheaded tweets by the reporter. Outrage ensues. The reporter ends up fired. Now the reporter is telling his side of things, and I can’t say I’m entirely convinced. See “Twitter hates me. The Des Moines Register fired me. Here’s what really happened” at the Columbia Journalism Review.

The recent Amazonian Synod held by the Catholic Church in Rome embraced some revolutionary (for the church) ideas, including the possibility of married priests in certain geographies. Controversy erupted over certain images of gods being placed in a church, then stolen, then replaced, and finally missing from the closing ceremonies. Dwight Longenecker at The Imaginative Conservative also looks at the old Enlightenment image the synod embraced, that of “the noble savage.” 

Jeff Bilbro at Front Porch Republic takes a look at a famous story told by Wendell Berry, about a story that stopped being told. At first, the story has elements of some of Mark Twain’s humorous writing, But then it becomes something of a moral fable. See “Two Great Interruptions.”

One of the most moving things I read this past week had to do with a boy coming home from school, and his grandfather sees the sadness in the boy’s face. As you read “Peyton’s Saunter” by Doug Spurling, you understand once again what divorce leaves in its wake.

More Good Reads

Writing and Literature

Author: Are You Doing These Marketing Activities? – Sarah Bolme at Marketing Christian Books. 


Mysterium Tremendum – Peter Venable at the Society of Classical Poets.

A Visit to Stonehenge – Jan Sizemore at Facebook Poetry Society.

A Portable Paradise – Roger Robinson via The Guardian (poem of the month).

A Villanelle and Video – Joseph Charles MacKenzie at the  Society of Classical Poets.

Owls – Nicholas Friedman at Literary Matters.

Sometimes autumn – Kathleen Everett at The Course of Our Seasons.


How Can Christians Bring Something Greater to Politics? – John Pletcher at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics. 

Final Words to my Faithful Flock in South Africa – Clint Archer at The Cripplegate.

Who Could Ever Be a Saint? – Seth Lewis.

British Stuff

The Queen’s Speech and the Principle of Subsidiarity – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative.

Eyewitness to History: The Battle of Culloden – Kimberley Jordan Reeman at English Historical Fiction Authors.

News Media

Christianity and Freedom of the Press – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

American Stuff

Did Christianity Profoundly Influence the Founding of America? – David Hall via Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition. 

Life and Culture

Death of a Critic – Samuel D. James at Letters & Liturgy.

Japan in 8K 60fps

Painting: Woman Reading, oil on canvas by Jacque-Emile Blanche (1861-1942)

Friday, November 8, 2019

An empty place

After Matthew 26:26-35

What did it look like,
this empty place, designed
as an end but instead
became a beginning?

What did it look like,
these walls of stone
carved from the hill?

Was the stone cold, or warm,
was it dusty with flakes
of rock, stony remains?
Was it cold with death’s
dampness? Did it smell,
this place created as
a final repose?

Were the strips of cloth
scattered or gathered
neatly, was a shroud
left behind, stained
with the likeness
of its wearer?

Did the glow of change
remain, could the shadow
of eyes opening, heart
beating, first movements
of arms and legs be felt, 
be sensed or contained
as a memory?

What was it like
to see the place
and stumble like
a drunkard,
the reality of emptiness
crushing the shock
of a body disappeared?

What was it like
to see nothing and 
see everything?

Photograph by Simon Wood via Unsplash. Used with permission.