Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Fascinating Look at How Dictionaries are Made

Like most people, I have never given the dictionary much thought. It’s a useful tool that I appreciate having, but I never considered that there are people whose job it is to write all those definitions. In her new book, Word by Word, Kory Stamper, lexicographer at Merriam-Webster (located in my hometown of Springfield, MA), takes you behind the scenes of what actually goes into creating a dictionary. 

She states, the dictionary “is a human document, constantly being compiled, proofread, and updated by actual, living awkward people. In that unassuming brick building in Springfield, there are a couple dozen people who spend their workweek doing nothing but making dictionaries – sifting the language, categorizing it, describing it, alphabetizing it.”

Word by Word is awesome for anyone who loves the English language. Stamper’s writing style is incredibly engaging with a healthy dose of humor. This book was both fascinating and laugh-out-loud funny.  There is a healthy amount of swearing in this book. After all, all those expletives count as words as well. But even with that caveat, I am heartily recommending Word by Word. I’ve never read anything like it before and it opened my eyes to a whole new appreciation for both dictionaries and the English language. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Your Word is My Delight: A Catholic Writer's Retreat

Do you need time away to finish or start a manuscript? Work on that proposal? Organize your writing project? Finish work to meet your editor’s deadline?
On October 8-12, 2017 the Catholic Writers Guild, for the fourth time, is offering a writers retreat near Lansing, Michigan.
St. Francis Retreat and Conference Center, 703 E. Main Street, DeWitt, MI, is situated on a 93 acre site of woodlands, meadows, and prayer gardens.
$550 includes a private room with a bath, three meals a day (and all the coffee you can drink!), internet access, breakout spaces, resource library, three daily presenters, critique sessions, Mass and reconciliation.  
The power of the Catholic Writers Guild is why we can keep the cost so low! This retreat, offered every other year, is popular because it is a true writers retreat offering you abundant time to work at writing, and time to critique with other Catholic writers.
You can register on line at http://tinyurl.com/cwgretreat2017 , or if you have questions email the coordinator, Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB at retreat@catholicwritersguild.com .
Handicap accessible and dietary needs accommodated.
If you fly into Lansing Capital Region International Airport, a shuttle to the retreat house—only 7 minutes away—is provided.
Retreat is limited so register soon!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Register for Catholic Writer's Online Conference by Feb. 10th

The Catholic Writers’ Guild will hold its annual online conference for writers Feb 17-19, 2017.  This faith-focused authors conference offers presentations covering all aspects of writing from the faith aspects of your calling as a writer to publishing and marketing your books.  There will also be online pitch sessions with noted Catholic publishers and secular publishers.

The conference will be held using webinar software, making the experience more personal and immediate.

"Last year, we had amazing success with presentations in webinar format. It took the learning to a new level," said organizer Karina Fabian. Fabian said the workshops offer terrific opportunities to ask in-depth questions and get feedback from knowledgeable instructors.   
This year’s sessions include a wide range of talents, including speakers like Lisa Mladinich, host of the TV talk show WOMAN; Lisa Hendey, author and founder of CatholicMom.com, horror author Karen Ullo, and attorney Antony Kolenc. In addition, there are practical workshops on indie publishing, Goodreads, characterization and more.
Pitch sessions give authors with finished books a chance to personally interest a publisher.  Pitch sessions include well known Catholic publishers like Our Sunday Visitor and Ave Maria, and secular presses like Liberty Island and Vinspire.
"Every year, we hear back from an author who finished a book, started a project, or got a publishing contract thanks to the Catholic Writers’ Conference Online.  Plus people make contacts and good friends.  It’s a terrific opportunity, especially for those who can’t afford to attend a live conference,” Fabian said.
This year’s conference is $40; $30 for members of the Catholic Writers’ Guild. To register or for more information, go to https://catholicwritersguild.org/online-conference.

Monday, December 26, 2016

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.