Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Crit Group


Chiaroscuro Posted by Picasa

Awhile back, I was looking for people interested in setting up a critique group, here. Along with a great crit partner, we posted some ideas for the kind of people we'd like to find for such a group. After it was up, I wondered if anyone would contact me or my friend, Linda. Well, a number of people did! And yesterday, we finished putting the new group together. We're very excited about it! The group is called Chiaroscuro--check it out!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Deborah Gyapong

Awards - The Word Guild:

WOW! Congratulations to Deborah Gyapong of The Masters Artist! Way to go, Deborah! Oh, and she also won in the Short Story competition for a story entitled The Thong that was published by Infuze Magazine.
"The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award
Winner: Deborah Gyapong of Ottawa for a novel, The Defilers.
Given to encourage first-time Canadian authors to write fiction and non- fiction books expressing Christian faith in a clear, original and inspiring way. Open to writers who have not had a book published previously by a royalty-paying publisher. The winner receives a book publishing contract and an advance of $1,000 against future royalties. Sponsored by Castle Quay Books Canada (an imprint of Augsburg Fortress Publishers Canada) and Essence Publishing."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Celebration of New Christian Fiction V

This month's Celebration is now up. Enjoy it! And thanks go out to Marcia Laycock for hosting it!

And if you're a writer interested in the new Christian fiction and you're also a blogger, join us! Leave a comment with your e-mail (don't include the "at" sign or you'll attract the bots) and I'll add you to the list for the July Celebration.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Writing from a Place of Faith


"Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar." E.B. White Posted by Hello

A wonderful writer, Mary DeMuth, said something recently on The Writers' View that I quote with her permission:
"Write from your passion. Be attentive to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Be willing to walk through difficult places personally, holding the hand of Jesus, so that you have something to offer others. Beyond that, hone your craft. And let the pieces fall where they may."
If we write what's on our hearts, especially if it's something out of the mainstream of what's considered "normal," we risk exposure and ridicule whenever someone reads it. Face it, you cannot be a real writer unless someone reads your writing: family, friends, crit partners, or the strangers who become your readers. All of them read your words and then, guess what? They judge you. Are you foolish or wise? Saint or sinner? Proper or improper? You're baring your soul and some people won't understand you or your vision, some will have a knee-jerk reaction and label you different, strange, improper, or heretical.

As a writer, it's a risk we all take.

In my own case, the Lord led me to write about a gay Christian man in my current novel. Doing so has been an act of faith. He isn't a man coming to his senses because he finds himself with a deadly disease, which is the case in several CBA novels. Rather, the character is a successful film producer, a divorced father of two, and a devout Catholic who has also been gay since his teenage years. A man who loves God and has remained celibate as he's fought that part of himself that conflicts with his beliefs.

Even given such a characterization, this flew in the face of my evangelical background, so it became a huge act of faith to keep writing the story, to let this complex man live out his part of the tale without my interference. If I like this man (which I do), am I condoning his lifestyle? That, unfortunately, is what some people will say. Yet, the whole point of writing him has been to address the issue in a way that humanizes him so others could see him in a proper light. Gay people are people loved by God just as much as He loves me, or Billy Graham, or anyone else. Let's just agree on that one fact.

Did it work? Well, the jury is still out on that one especially since the novel is just coming to a first draft conclusion. And while this character is significant to the story, he is not the protagonist, so his impact may be lessened. He also "falls" in the novel ... he sins. It happens in almost every novel, but letting him fall might be the end of him for some. We'll see. I've had both negative and positive feedback. So, in the end, it remains an act of faith to write this, setting myself between zealots on either side of the issue when all I really mean to do is bring things back to basics: no one can begin or maintain a relationship with God if they are constantly reviled.

In the end, though, Mary has it right. I am writing from my passion. All I can do it lay it at the feet of Jesus, and see what comes of it. Like anything else, that risk is what makes it an act of faith in the first place.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

African-American Christian Fiction

Nashville City Paper:

I thought this was interesting in light of two things: (1) Dee Stewart made a fascinating comment on Mick Silva's post here about African-American CBA fiction; (2) I am writing about a gay man in my novel, and feel that it's an issue Christian fiction (not necessarily CBA fiction) should be exploring. [If I recall correctly, Lisa Samson has a gay man in her latest novel. I hope he's not dying of AIDS.:)] I'll have more to say about both issues, but for now, read this article. I'd love to read Murray's book!
Author Victoria Christopher Murray wasn't really conscious of operating in a new fiction genre when she began writing novels in 2000. She has now become an established best-selling writer in the area of African-American Christian fiction, which Murray said many publishing houses didn't even want to acknowledge or embrace a few short years ago. She will discuss her new book Grown Folks Business (Simon & Schuster) Saturday during a book signing at Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore.

"I wanted to do books about real-life situations and characters, but from a spiritual perspective," Murray said.

Her latest novel explores a subject that has lately been heavily in the news, the issue of men who leave their wives for other men. But Murray's book is told from the standpoint of a devoted wife and mother that now must handle the emotional devastation of being abandoned by the man she thought she knew.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Christian Fiction

Over on Mick Silva's blog, he's been interviewing Brandilyn Collins. She's made a passionate, knowledgeable, and quite extensive defense of Christian fiction, and even brought along some of her friends from ACFW to lend support. I have no quarrel with what she's saying, but something nagged at me as I read Part 1 and Part 2. I finally realized it was her defense of "Christian fiction" that bothered me. It is, of course, what she writes. But look at this comment from Dave Long. He made it in a Faith in Fiction post on November 17, 2003:
It's not going to change, but I think we are using the wrong terms in our discussions of Christian books and literature. Everybody says Christian Fiction when they are talking about books like Left Behind or Ted Dekker or Beverly Lewis, but they really should be saying CBA Fiction.

In my mind, Christian Fiction encompasses a far broader spectrum of writing and writers. Crime and Punishment is a Christian novel. Anne Lamott's Blue Shoe. Grisham's The Testament. These are all works of Christian fiction, but find themselves outside the category because, for the most part, they are not carried at Christian bookstores nationwide.
I'm betting that's what Brandilyn means when she's discussing Christian fiction--CBA fiction. According to The Complete Guide to Writing and Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope Stokes, CBA fiction comes with specific requirements as to worldview (which must be evangelical Christian) and other content (no foul language or misuse of the Lord's name, a minimal level of sexual involvement even with married characters, no graphic violence). As Brandilyn says, it's been changing and it certainly isn't what it used to be years ago, but there are still specific things you can and cannot do in CBA fiction. The consumers expect it (the legion of my former friends, the righteous-grannies-with-the-killer-attitude**) and they would be quick to complain if those specific areas changed.

However, those rules do not apply to all writers of Christian fiction. Such writers may restrict language, sex, or levels of violence, or they may not. They may write about Jesus, or His church, but even if they do, they probably don't proselytize because if they did, they would likely offend their secular readership. They may also choose to suffuse their novels with layers of Christian values rather than any direct religious reference. I'm talking about the likes of Anne Lamott, Leif Enger, Marilynne Robinson, Brett Lott, Jeff Berryman, Anne Tyler, and Susan Howatch, not to mention classics by such notables as J.R.R. Tolkien, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Flannery O'Connor, Leo Tolstoy, or Willa Cather. They are Christian writers. Some of them would be acceptable to the CBA, some would not. That's why "CBA fiction" makes it clearer what we're discussing.

I do not, however, expect this distinction to catch on. :-) I do think, however, that there's room in the vast publishing worlds of the CBA and ABA for all of us. Right?

**I am, in case you don't know it, a grandmother who used to do a lot of tsk-tsking whenever anyone pushed their toe over that line the least little bit.

Just a Minute

Just a Minute

I like Michelle's way of thinking here, especially the last line! We should all be so level-headed!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bret Lott

A Jewel of a Writer - Christianity Today Magazine

A wonderful article!
And yet—if you've read Lott's novels, you might think, Hmmm. He's actually a lot less evangelistic or teachy or preachy than lots of "contemporary Christian fiction." Indeed, his novels aren't really overtly Christian at all.

"I'm a Christian who's a writer," Lott says. "I'm not a Christian writer, so to speak. If people are going to read my books, they're not going to encounter the traditional salvation scene. C.S. Lewis once said that we don't need more books about Christians; we need more books with Christian values built into them. That's what I'm trying to do in my fiction. I'm not trying to write Christian fiction that preaches to the choir. The choir already knows the drill."

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Candyland

Brian McLaren: An Open letter to songwriters

Great article and some of it applies to writers as well:
Sometimes I think we’re too happy: the only way to become happier is to become sadder, by feeling the pain of the chronically ill, the desperately poor, the mentally ill, the lonely, the aged and forgotten, the oppressed minority, the widow and orphan. This pain should find its way into song, and these songs should find their way into our churches. The bitter will make the sweet all the sweeter; without the bitter, the sweet can become cloying, and too many of our churches feel, I think, like Candyland. Is it too much to ask that we be more honest?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rant--> Warning: Contains Attitude


Posted by Hello

After an absence, Mick Silva returned to the Internet yesterday via his newly renamed blog, Your Writer's Group. When I read his account of what made him take his blog offline, I was sad--sad that his articulate-yet-civil arguments on the state of Christian fiction had been challenged by friends as well as Christian authors. It reminded me of how another person who works in the CBA had been slammed by Christians both amateur and professional for her/his strong-yet-tempered opinions on the same subjects. I'd witnessed that from the sidelines and been amazed by the divisiveness. I've also been the recipient of outrage and/or strong opinion that I'd write anything without making Christ the reason for my every word. In the minds of some, that is incomprehensible.

This feeling of sadness was exacerbated by a comment on my blog yesterday that led me to a rant on another blog. I admit I did not read the whole (long) thing, but the gist seemed to be that Marilynne Robinson was expected (by the blog's owner) to lead him/her to Christ through her writing. That she failed to write what would amount to a sermon that would bring this man or woman to the Lord was seen as her failure rather than that of the man/woman running the blog. Where personal responsibility fell in this argument I'll never know, but apparently, Marilynne will be standing next to this person on Judgment Day taking the heat too.

I don't read much CBA fiction anymore, but I not only support those who write it, I know from personal experience that most of those folks are fine, hardworking, selfless, dedicated people. I don't question their calling. I don't ask them to change the way they write or write for the ABA because that happens to be my preference. I accept that they fulfill a need and would not want that to change because I know many people who voraciously read their books.

That being said, I told Mick yesterday that his comments made me sad. Why? Because he was accused of being too strident, though I never experienced him as such. To me his writing was like summer rain on dry, scorched earth. Those of us who choose to write outside the CBA are (sometimes) trashed by our families, friends, and strangers because, as the writer of that blog said, we're Christians so we must write about Jesus. We cannot just write. We cannot attempt to improve our own writing, keep to ourselves, and be left alone by others. We are beaten up by folks who question our salvation, who lecture us on what our subject matter must be, who revile us because we allow cursing, drinking, drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, divorce, etc. into our writing. And if we suggest that, yes, for us, the writing within the CBA--some of it, not all of it--is not realistic to us or up to our expectations, well, we are soon set straight, sometimes with scripture references.

I'll be frank: the whole thing gives me a huge headache. We have Mick and Dave Long talking about these issues. We have a discussion board, although something happened to it and it now has very little of the discussions on it that it once did. Now Mick has been taken to task, Marilynne Robinson has been chastised, and I am wondering why I can't simply write and be judged on my merits as a writer rather than my theology or lack thereof. I am a writer doing what I believe God wants me to do. Why isn't that enough? No one will be forced to read my books. I promise.

Friday, June 03, 2005

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S GOOD AND HOLY...

HELP, PLEASE, HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ursula stared at her reflection in the mirror, watching as the pupils of her emerald-green eyes widened with fear. Could it be true? She tossed her fiery-red hair, nostrils flaring, refusing to give way to the tears that teetered like sparkling diamonds at the corners of her large eyes--gorgeous eyes swept by incredibly long lashes. No, she wouldn't believe it. Never. She could not be one of only two writers left in what once had been a thriving, active critique group. No, no, a thousand times, no!

Okay, now that our example of bad writing is over (and we do admit that it was fun to write), perhaps we should get down to business? Although neither of us is named Ursula, we are the last two members of a once great, but now defunct fiction critique group and we're searching for a couple of new writing partners. Preferably people whose writing does not resemble the above.

Who are we? Pat lives in Southern California, and Linda is in South Africa at present. We started out writing within the framework of the CBA, but now believe that Ted Dekker got it right at Mount Hermon in 2004 when he said if the light of God is to shine through your writing, you must paint the dark with equally strong brushstrokes. We are fans of Christian writers who've chosen to write this way (most notably, Susan Howatch), but also support more CBA-focused writers like Randy Ingermanson, Brandilyn Collins, Fred Whittington, Karen Hancock et al.

Who are you? Anyone interested in joining us in this writing adventure would have to be serious about their writing, not easily offended by secular language or situations, comfortable with the whole "emergent Christian" thing, ready to classify themselves as either a Junior or Senior writer according to Randy Ingermanson's list as well as someone who would not be upset by a request for writing and critique samples. [We would, of course, provide the same for you.] We'd like to sit down for virtual tea and talk about writing, families, friends, and faith, get to know one another and see if we're a match. As "writers-who-are-Christians" rather than "Christian writers," we'll bring support, humor, strong editing and critique skills, as well as prayer support to the table.

If you're interested in becoming part of a serious, hard-working fiction crit group, if you're the kind of writer who likes hanging out at Dave Long or Mick Silva's blogs, if you agree with this statement, and if you think Lisa Samson, Jeff Berryman, Leif Enger, Ted Dekker, Marilynne Robinson, and other writers of "new" Christian fiction are cool, contact us at ploomis-at-adelphia-dot-net or lbennett-at-gmx-dot-net. Let's talk!

**And if you're into nonfiction instead of fiction, e-mail me too because I have a great person who'd like to start a nonfiction writers group (or a fiction/nonfiction mix, if that's what you do).**

Update: We have found an awesome group of writers thanks to this post! It's amazing to see the people who've come into our lives, wonderful folks with strong writing skills and the desire to refine those skills even more. Thank God for bringing such people our way! He knew just who to send!