Monthly Archives: July 2009

Oxford C.S.Lewis Society

a glorious time in a glorious space

a glorious time in a glorious space

My sabatical travels have ranged far and wide. One of my best trips was a short visit to Oxford last February. While I was there, I spent most of my time at the Bodleian, studying Tolkien materials.  

I also presented a paper to the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society. Officers Brendan Wolfe and Judith Tonning offered a warm welcome.  It was really a lovely evening, and I was both enlightened and encouraged by this remarkable group.

I used the occasion to offer my first formal presentation of some new research on Warren Hamilton Lewis. Warnie stands in his brother’s shadow, and his legacy has been marred by his well-known struggles with alcohol. But there is so much more to know about this man: a fine writer, a gracious friend, a key member of the Inklings. I have been studying his letters and look forward to writing more about him.

If you are interested in C. S. Lewis, I urge you to support the work of this Society: http://lewisinoxford.googlepages.com/

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When Projects “Hatch”

chicken, basket, bookshelf

chicken, basket, bookshelf

Several months ago, I wrote about my ceramic chicken, the one I use to store projects that are on hold. Sometimes I am waiting to hear from a publisher, sometimes a piece is just plain stuck, sometimes I need to gather additional materials, sometimes another deadline interrupts. Sometimes I just give up. In all of these situations, I find it helpful to put the project in a flat basket on a bookshelf, and set a large ceramic chicken on top.

Yep. I really do. It serves as a visual reminder that sometimes things just need a little time. Even though I am tempted to fret or feel discouraged, when I see that a project  under the chicken it helps me to remember that it’s not over, it’s not hopeless, it’s not ruined, it’s not wasted. It’s just not ready yet. It needs more time.

The hardest ones for me to deal with are those projects that have gathered up a stack of rejection slips.  When I am trying to pitch a book, I usually start with a list of 20 or so preferred publishers, then I put them in order of preference, then I print out a list of addresses and prepare a stack of envelopes, then I print out two copies of the proposal.

A rejection letter comes in; a new cover letter gets printed and slipped into the next envelope and a new proposal goes in the mail to the next address on the list the very next day.

But sometimes I run out of addresses. That’s what happened in the case of my devotional book “Clay in the Potter’s Hands.” Stacks of rejection letters, hours of pitching it at writers conferences, all kinds of trouble and nary a nibble. So that particular book manuscript has been sitting under the chicken for a very long time.

Today it hatched.

Here’s how it happened. I am working on two scholarly articles at the moment, one for a conference and one for a book. Both are due in a couple weeks. Today was a writing day: Wake up, take Sierra to school, come home, sit down, write, write, write, pick Sierra up from school.

The day was going great. Until I got to the “write, write, write” part. It wasn’t exactly writer’s block. It was more like writer’s restlessness. I didn’t mind sitting and writing. I just had absolutely no juice whatsoever for the projects I was working on.

I pushed words around for a while, took a walk, pushed, fiddled, did some laundry– hey, if you’ve ever written anything, you know just what it looks like. Except underneath the “I don’t wanna write” part there was another part that whispered, “I DO want to write. I just don’t want to write THIS.”

In frustration, I looked under the chicken, saw the pottery book, pulled it out, sat down. And started writing.

The whole process of re-reading and re-vising was so fluid, so alive, so engaging, so exciting. I was late picking up Sierra from school because I was having So Much Fun. I lost track of time.

A publising plan, a timetable, and a thousand and one other decisions are waiting in the wings. I’ll get to them. Later. For now, I’m having an absolute blast watching as this new hatchling breathes the breath of life. And feeling the profound privilege of being present as it does.