Friday, October 21, 2016

What is the Aim of our Writing?

I recently read Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card. The book offers a reflection on creativity in terms of faith

Card begins with the Gospel story of Jesus scribbling in the sand. A woman had been accused of adultery. The Pharisees had brought her to Jesus as part of a trick to find out what he would do. Instead of saying anything, Jesus bent down and wrote in the sand. Once he finished writing, he stood up and stated "Whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

We have no idea what Jesus wrote and it really doesn't matter.

What Jesus did that morning created a space in tome that allowed the angry mob first to cool down, then to hear his word, and finally to think about it . . . It made time stand still. . . .Jesus' action created a frame around the silence - the kind of silence in which God speaks to the heart. In short, it was a supreme act of creativity. It was art. . . .

All the art ever done in his name since that day cannot hope to be more, and should not be allowed to be less, than Jesus' scribbling that morning in the sand. If what we create, write, dance, or sing can open up such a space in time through which God may speak, imagine the possibilities! . . . From the flat, gray point of view of the fallen world they are only scratches and scribbles in the sand, but in the light of eternity they become the occasion for divine revelation. What more could we ever hope for, and once we've seen this new possibility, how could we ever settle for less?

The book is excellent and offers much food for thought. While it is geared most to musicians, most of it applies to anyone who is Christian and involved in creativity in any way.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Image & Likeness Theology of the Body Anthology Coming 10/22

I'm thrilled to have a short story, "The Walk," published in Image and Likeness to be released on St. John Paul II's feast day, October 22nd. 

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”  But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings?  What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift?  What does life require of us when we give most deeply?  
 
Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more.  By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure.  Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.  

With a foreword by international Theology of the Body voice Damon Owens, Image and Likeness puts life and breath into St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in ways that readers won’t soon forget.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Five Rules of Incorporating Faith into Fiction


Today, I am thrilled to host Karina Fabian as a guest blogger. By day, Karina is a mild-mannered reviewer of business software and services for TopTenReviews.com. After hours, she’s a psychic intent on saving the world; a snarky dragon who thinks he saves the world all-too regularly, a zombie exterminator who just wants her world clear of undead vermin, and Catholic religious sisters whose callings have taken them off our world. Needless to say, her imagination is vast, her stories legion, and her brain crowded. When she’s not converting her wild tales to stories, she’s enjoying time with her husband, Rob, their four kids, and their two dogs.  Her new work of Catholic Science Fiction, Discovery, is now available.


Five Rules of Incorporating Faith into Fiction

With the Enlightenment era came an anti-religious fervor that not only permeated science and philosophy but also literature. Now, some 200 years later, the pendulum is swinging back, and people are again interested in seeing stories that show an expression of faith in a familiar and religious way. However, in those two centuries, we seem to have lost the knack for weaving the faith and fiction, and that has led to heavy handed or even preachy expositions rather than a beautiful demonstration of faith in a good story that influences the reader. 

We know it can be done. Many of our best loved classics have religious underpinnings in the theme and worldbuilding. We can do it again, and I think the key lies in five simple rules.

#1  Tell a good story.   If you are only writing your story because you have a message to send (or an ax to grind), then write an essay.  Good stories have characters you love—or love to hate—plots that are exciting and intriguing, and settings that bring you into the story.  Know the art of storytelling, and let the story deliver your message—not your message dictate your story.

#2  Give the reader complexity.  Readers are more sophisticated, for the most part—they do not want a simplistic Good and Evil scenario.  Nor do they want “plastic Jesus.”  Whether it’s your priest hero or the church your main character attends, let the reader see beyond the surface—the good and the bad, and the stuff that isn’t so clear.

#3  Know the religion you’re writing about.  Don’t let ignorance lead you to misrepresent a faith, whether someone else’s or your own.  Do some research, get someone of that faith to read your book, and also examine your own motives. For example, in the Rescue Sister’s story, “Antivenin,” (Infinite Space, Infinite God II), I had a Pentecostal snake handler.  Personally, I think the idea of handling snakes to prove your faith is nuts, but the idea was fascinating.  I’m lucky enough to have a friend whose mother was a Pentecostal minister, and she read the story for me, noting that a lot of what this minister did is NOT the way the church approves—even down to the kind of snakes I’d put on the spaceship.  I did more research and discovered other errors.  When I fixed them, it made the story stronger because I had added a new dimension to the character, that he was rejected by his church because of his excessive ways.

#4  Don’t use religion as a crutch.  There’s nothing more dissatisfying in a story than an easy answer—yet (ironically) the temptation is to use religion to solve the conflict.  The person “finds God” and suddenly their attitude changes and all their problems start to fade.  Or someone prays and the miracle happens, The End.  Life is messy.  Good fiction, while more clearly portrayed than reality, is not cut-and-dried, either.
#5  When submitting, know the publisher.  No matter how good your story is, you still have to follow their guidelines and conform to their philosophies.  A good example is Rachel’s Contrition by Michelle Buckman.  It’s a powerful story of a woman who loses a child, and her faith—Catholicism—is an integral part of her healing, and thus of the story.  Michelle has been successfully published with CBA publishers, but this book was too Catholic for their tastes.  She had the choice of removing all traces of the religion—changing the theme and character—or going to a smaller, Catholic press. 
I have a reputation for being a faith-in-fiction writer.  My faith informs my identity, and it fires my imagination.  I’ve been very proud of the books I’ve written and edited, the latest of which is Discovery. I would classify it as a “Catholic Pride” novel, because not only can you not take out the Catholic elements and keep the story, but the faith itself is a kind of hero in the book. However, most of my books are not so obvious. Nonetheless, my characters often have a religious side that does not want to be hidden, and my worlds have religions. That’s a reflection of life.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sunflowers in a Hurricane Reviewed on Reader's Favorite

Reader's Favorite just posted a 5 Star Review of Sunflowers in a Hurricane.

Sunflowers in a Hurricane by Anne M Faye is a tender and sensitive story that is also heart wrenching and emotional. George and Dottie share a powerful love that is cut short when Dottie dies in childbirth. George is left alone to raise his daughter, Katherine, if he can. As time goes on, we find George alone, but he befriends his new neighbor, Ruth. Ruth is a thirteen-year-old girl and has moved into her grandma's house with her mother, Cheryl. Cheryl has her own story of a broken heart and a life changed by circumstances. She and Ruth have returned to put things in order after Cheryl's mother's death. Returning to Meadowbrook was never in Cheryl's plans, but now she is here to deal with the present while trying to avoid the past. As George and Ruth become closer and their lives intertwine, the unusual friendship may be able to heal new and old wounds for all three of them. There is no reason that these two should have become such fast friends...except that they needed each other.

Anne M Faye introduces us to well developed and emotionally vulnerable characters in a well written story that draws you in from the first page. George, Ruth, and Cheryl, as the central characters, are endearing and tragic at the same time. George and Cheryl have both experienced life altering events and both have made choices that they have had to live with, good and bad. Anne M Faye's story is multi-generational and is touching as the friendship and trust between George, an old man, and Ruth, a teenage girl, grow and they find a deep caring for and understanding of one other. I enjoyed this book very much. Well done. - Deborah Stone, Reader's Favorite

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Using Art as Inspiration for Writing

In the July/August edition of Writer's Digest, Donna Baier Stein writes about using art as inspiration for writing. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but visual images can be an especially powerful source of writing ideas because they appeal to our senses and are in themselves a creative act. Stein offers some suggestions about where to find images including museums, online art collections, local galleries, books of art from the library, and collections of poster prints. I would add photographs to that list. We are bombarded with photo images today and every one has a story.

When using these images as Ask questions about the image. Who is in it? What is the backstory? Can you think of an alternate backstory?

Many works of literature have been inspired by art (and no doubt the opposite is also true). And yes, I have done this myself. My novel The Rose Ring was inspired by the wallpaper border in my kitchen. I spent years thinking I wanted to write a story about someone who lived above the bookshop. It took a while, but the story finally materialized.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

I recently read the New York Times Bestseller, The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. This is an incredible debut novel. This is definitely a secular novel, but the prose was amazing and the story line kept you thinking. I didn't want to put this one down.

It tells the story of Eva and Jim throughout their lives. It actually tells the story three different ways (which if you have a poor memory like me can be confusing - I had to keep going back to remind myself what was going on in that particular version). The only thing that happened for certain was that they met in college and that there is a lasting connection between them. After that, their lives took radically different paths depending on what they chose to do next, although their lives do intersect in various places.

Like life itself, all three versions had their joys and pains, but it made me think about the choices we make in life and how seemingly inconsequential decisions as well as the bigger choices can have long-lasting implications. One can often only see in insight how the road diverged.

Barnett is an incredible writer and this is a book well-worth reading not only for the story but for the study of the writing craft.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sunflowers in a Hurricane, Chapter Three




Sunflowers in a Hurricane by Anne Faye

Read Chapter One and Chapter Two.



Chapter Three

1986


Ruth



“I
 don’t understand why we have to leave today. You know the party is tonight.” Kim and I had been planning it for a month. She was counting on me. We were celebrating finishing 7th grade. It was going to be our first boy-girl party ever. Not to mention, by some miracle, a few of the popular kids were supposed to be going. Plus, Kim had said that Angie told her that Pete said that Ron, who was the cutest boy in school, might make an appearance. And I was going to miss it. This sucked big time.
“I know and I’m sorry. But we’ve been over this. We need to get to Massachusetts. There are arrangements that need to be made.” My mother did not seem sorry. In fact, I was convinced that she was taking some weird joy in ruining my life.
“Can’t they be made a day later?” I shoved my suitcase and backpack into the back of our beat up two-tone brown station wagon. I doubted the heap would even make it. 
“Do you honestly think that I scheduled your grandmother’s death?”
“No, but it’s not like you two were close,” I pointed out. “I met her twice in my whole life, and one of those I don’t even remember.” I felt bad that she was dead, but it wasn’t like she wouldn’t still be dead a day later.
My mother slammed the hatchback shut. It was piled up with garbage bags filled with our belongings and wouldn’t close. She opened the door, pushed the bags in, and slammed it with even more force. I was surprised the car didn’t break.
“It’s so stupid that we have to take all our stuff. We’re going to come back.” Ohio was my home. My whole life was here.
“Yeah, but we’re going to be there for a while, and I can’t afford to pay for an apartment we aren’t living in.”
“We need to come back soon.” The sooner the better.
“This is no picnic for me either.”
My mom got in the driver’s seat and I slumped into shotgun. We pulled out of the driveway, a Carly Simon song playing on the radio. Where was Bon Jovi when you needed them? This was going to be the worst trip ever. As we headed down the road, I kissed my entire summer goodbye.