Posted in Writers, Writing

Resources for Writers

PhotoFunia-writers write

If you love to write for the sake of writing, then you will find a way to write no matter what.

If you think that you have the great, American novel in you, there are plenty of people out there willing to take your money with the promise of helping you somehow get there.

What I love about this internet world that we live in is that we all can write and reach a fairly wide audience as long as we are willing to share our writing while knowing we may never see monetary remuneration, but only know the intense satisfaction that comes when even one person other than a blood relative has read something of ours and been moved by it.

Through the last few years of writing a blog, self-publishing novels, and studying marketing for my day job, I have come across several free services and tools that may help others with their writing goals. Here are some of these resources:

To Publish:

Kindle Scout:

If you’re willing to release some control of your book for the sake of potential exposure to readers, this program through Amazon might be the ticket. Basically, Scout allows you to put your story in front of potential readers, who vote on the books they would like to see published.

I have opted to try this for my latest project, Camden Meets His Match, which is a continuation of my last book, The Texas Stray.  You can check out my campaign page here. Thanks in advance for taking a moment to check out my book and, hopefully, vote for it.

Even if you don’t get published through the Scout program, you can e-publish your book by creating a direct account with the major publishing outlets: Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Itunes. Amazon has created an e-book on how to format your book for Kindle that will help you create  novel pdfs that are compatible with any E-Reader.

PhotoFunia-Camden

Lulu:

There are several direct publishing houses on the internet. These publishing houses practice publishing on demand, so that you can have a physical copy of your book. They literally wait to publish a copy of your book when the book is actually ordered.

I have used Lulu.com for this process in the past. Besides providing the hard copy book, Lulu also has made my books available in the major outlets for either hard or electronic copies. The only cost to the writer is ordering one copy of your book to approve before Lulu distributes the finished work.

As long as you are comfortable with your editing abilities and cover design, you can create your own book with this resource without having to pay exorbitant fees.

To Market:

Internet:

If you want to have an internet presence, you need a website (like a blog), an email where readers can reach you, and at least one social media account. Each blog you post should also post on your social media sites. Most PR people would also insist you have an email list where you can send newsletters to potential readers.

Obviously, WordPress offers what I think is the best platform for blogging. I maintain a free site for my writing, but I have also created a paid site for my day job. Both have found readers and are easy to study stats, key words, etc. Google also offers a free blog service called Blogspot.

A Facebook page costs you nothing unless you decide to advertise your page. Postplanner is a low cost Facebook service that helps you find interesting things to post if following other pages isn’t sufficient for you.

If you have more than one Google+ page like I do, you might want to check out Hootsuite, a service that allows you to schedule posts for Google+ pages.

Constant Contact is a great email service, though it costs you according to how many people you have on your email list. Speaking of email, do you have your blog or web address listed in the signature line of your personal and business email? This is a simple, often overlooked, way to promote your author endeavors.

PhotoFunia-share what you love

Business Cards:

With sites like Office Depot and Vistaprint.com, you can create very professional business cards that promote a particular project or yourself as an author at rather inexpensive cost to you. These can be handed out at events you attend, in your daily course of living, and left at cooperating businesses. Let people know where they can find your books, where to find you on the web, and even your author email address in case they need to communicate with you directly.

The Library:

People do still get books from the local library. I visited my local branch and donated a copy of my first two books. After a review process, they went onto the circulating shelves. Now, I show up in any search of the library catalog, and I have made my books available to even more readers.

Pictures:

There are so many wonderful programs for designing graphics, many of which are free (especially for noncommercial use). Here are just some of the programs I have used:

  • Canva.com–graphics and pictures. Some elements cost money, but if you don’t use them, the service is free. Also, the graphics are available in pre-set sizes, including Kindle book covers!
  • Photofunia.com–upload your picture into pre-designed graphics like bulletin boards, canvases, etc. The site also has several pictures that just take text to help you make a quick graphic for a blog post.
  • Picmonkey.com–fun picture editor that has a free and paid version.
  • Freedigitalphotos.net–gobs of stock photos you can use for FREE as long as you follow the attribution requirements.

Whenever I search for images online, I always use the extra search tools in whatever search engine I am using to narrow down the search to those images which are public domain or otherwise valid for my use (not protected by copyright). I have never worried about my own images enough to figure out how to set the copyright for myself, but it’s worth some investigation if you put a lot of effort into your picture and graphics work.

Other Resources:

I have found quite a few of the tricks I have mentioned here through a couple of emails I get each week: Author Experts and Publicity Hound.

Goodreads is another great resource to connect with readers. You can easily create an author page, make your books available to readers, etc. through this free organization.

Finally, I’m convinced that Amazon has some of the best SEO practices on the planet, which means establishing an author page with them is very helpful. They send regular emails with helpful tips. You can also increase traffic/interest in your own site by doing other authors the great favor of reviewing their books.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully I’ve mentioned a few resources you did not know about. Also, please share any resources you regularly use that I have failed to mention.

If you don’t enjoy writing, do something else. If you do enjoy writing, make full use of the variety of resources available to modern writers to make your finished works the best they can possibly be.

 

Posted in Christian Fiction, Writing

This Work In Progress: A Writer’s Perspective

First Draft Cover for my next novel
First Draft Cover for my next novel

When I taught college freshmen English, a lifetime ago, we used a textbook titled, Works in Progress.  The concept was that any writing is a process of planning, researching, planning some more, writing, editing, and editing, and editing.  We would require multiple drafts of the same paper from our students.  We emphasized group critiquing to help them find their own mistakes better once they had the easier practice of seeing the mistakes in somebody else’s writing.

In other words, if they learned nothing else, the students learned that writing is most definitely a serious business.  But they also learned that writing is a fluid one too.  I would remind them that even published poets have been known to interrupt a reading to correct a word and explain that the next time that particular poem was published, the poem would be “corrected.”

Mark Twain put it this way: “Find the right word, not its second cousin.”

Admittedly, my blog posts are thoughts I have prayerfully crafted to convey thoughts I feel the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart to share, but there is an immediacy to blogging that doesn’t lend itself to the laying aside of a finished draft for the needed perspective that makes for truly great editing.

My fiction writing is different.  Once I complete a novel, I have to let it set for a while before returning to it.  I need the “this is my baby, so it must be perfect” feelings to wear off so I can more truly see the novel for what it is.

I know that there are as many ways to craft a novel as there are people out there trying to do it.  Of course, there are core truths to a good story that any good novel should have.  If you are new to writing, you should study the kinds of novels or writing you want to do to help you determine those elements and patterns.

Of course, my master’s degree in English is with an emphasis on creative writing.  I have even taught creative writing at the sophomore level at university.  But, I always have new things to learn about improving this craft that I love.

My latest draft is a spin-off of my last novel, The Texas Stray.  It is giving me fits because it covers themes and characters that are outside my comfort zone and experience.  One character does not know Christ.  Another is on the path to finding Christ again.  The novel covers issues like divorce, alcoholism, and adultery because some of my characters are truly broken.  My goal is to create a story that shows how God unbreaks us.

There are questions that keep me up at night about this draft.  Can I do some of these subjects justice?  I am not experienced first-hand with the three issues I just mentioned (by the grace of God).  My main hope is to tell God’s truth about these types of things without being judgmental or insensitive.  I know it can be done because I have known people who have survived these things and held on to their belief or found their belief in the Creator.

My other worry is how I have labeled my novels so far.  I call them Christian Fiction because God is at the core of the writing I do.  However, do I mislead?  In other words, even though it is possible to grow up in a household where people don’t curse or get divorced or cheat at Monopoly (I know because I grew up in such a household), is it wrong to call a novel a Christian novel if some of the characters are not so good?  What if even your main character says a bad word or makes a dumb decision?

These questions are especially perplexing to me with my latest draft because my main characters are really fallen people in a fallen world who have a hard time finding their ways to redemption.  They have material distractions, a wavering moral compass, and holes in their souls they don’t even know how to define, much less fill.  In other words, I am telling a story that is largely overshadowed by what not to do.  Does that make it a less Christian novel in some way?

As I begin the true editing process of this work, I have narrowed down the overriding themes of my first draft.  Do I have too many or are they closely-related enough to work together?  Most importantly, how do I integrate God’s answers to my characters’ struggles without it seeming to be “preachy” instead of being woven naturally into the narrative?

These are not questions I expect anyone to answer for me.  I have to answer them myself.  I offer them here as a peek through the looking glass that is the writer’s process.  It is a laborious task with very little benefit at the end of it for most. (There can be only so many Francine Rivers or Tracie Petersons out there.)  But, I do it anyway because I feel compelled to write.

My goal is not to eventually quit my day job.  My thought is that I will continue to labor in full faith that God will get His message to the people He put me here to use this talent to get the message to.  That’s why I write a blog as often as I feel I have something to contribute.  That’s why I spend my free time sweating over storylines and characters knowing that the finished work will be something I publish myself, my only hopeful goal the other-worldly one we all seek, that of the Father blessing our final journey with these two words: “Well done.”

Like the essays my college freshmen grudgingly turned into their overworked TA so many years ago, this life of mine is too a work in progress.  Thank YOU for joining me for part of the journey.  This yoke we share is not a heavy one, according to the ONE WHO SAVES.  May your burdens this day be light.

In Christ,
Ramona

Posted in Living, Writing

The Gathering Stone–A short, short story

stone_tablet

The wind whipped icy fingers that cut through the knitted scarf I had wrapped around my neck before plunging headlong out of my mother’s house more than a half hour before.  If I stayed out here much longer, stamping from foot to foot, I might just freeze to death before I could even begin the grand adventure about which Mother’s caustic comments had sent me flying out the door in the first place.

I let out a puff of indignant breath, watching it billow and dissipate in front of me.  She wasn’t going to check on me.  She was going to rock in her favorite chair in the parlor, working on the cross-stitch she planned to donate to her church’s auction for some mission in Africa, carrying on as if nothing untoward had happened at all.

She could support other women’s daughters traipsing off to the far reaches of the earth as long as God’s name was attached to it, but let her own daughter propose a little trip to Central America as part of her anthropological studies, and it would seem the very heavens were destined to fall in.

“What on earth are you doing out here, Melissa?” my Aunt Gertie’s voice, sharp like a knife, split through the cold and my thoughts, making me jump despite myself.

“You don’t want to know,”  I pouted, hating that I sounded like some petulant child and doing my best to keep my teeth from chattering.

“I certainly don’t want to know out here in this freezing weather,” she shot back.  “Come back inside this house before you catch your death, and then you can vent until your lips are blue, if they aren’t blue already.”

She turned back into the house without giving me a second glance, and I followed her before I could think myself into a stubborn stance that could only end in frostbite.  Gertie was in the kitchen, pouring tea from the thick, brown pot she had purchased thirty years ago on her one trip to England.  She silently poured a second cup as I stomped my feet and tentatively felt the tip of my nose.  I wiggled it once I was sure it wouldn’t break like an icicle.

“It’s not this cold in Belize,” I muttered, watching Gertie splash a dab of milk in both cups.

She held up her hand without looking up.  “I know you prefer your tea plain, but you need it.  You could be Rudolph the Reindeer, don’t you know.”  She gestured at the chair across from her.  “Sit.  Drink.”

I obeyed robotically, feeling the smooth liquid warm my belly and slide to my toes, which tingled annoyingly.  “All I want, Aunt Gertie, is to spend the semester abroad.  It’s the most popular course in the department, and they only have the one slot left.”

Gertie poured more tea into her cup, giving me one of her famous, side-long glances.   “And you’ve got the money to pay for this popular course, I suppose?”

I sank into my chair.  Leave it to Gertie to cut to the heart of the matter.  “Isn’t that what my college fund is for?” I spluttered finally.

Gertie raised a perfectly coiffed eyebrow.  “So, you earned the money that’s in that fund?”

This would be a losing argument.  I’d already had it with Mother, who likewise refused to count all my hours of studying for the top grades I had been bringing home since kindergarten as ‘work.’  “I might as well be back out in the garden,” I exclaimed.

“To the gathering stone,” Gertie agreed, nodding absently.  Her dark eyes looked into a distance I couldn’t see.  She snapped back to the table quickly.  “You may as well settle in your mind that you won’t be going anywhere except to the campus up the street until you are a woman full grown, with your own means of taking care of yourself.  If you hadn’t noticed, the budget in this house isn’t . . .,” she stopped herself.

I grimaced.  My father had been dead for almost a decade, but between Mother and Gertie, it might have been yesterday.  “Is it any wonder I want to experience more of the world?” I asked, thinking more of my desire to be away from the sorrow, to have a day where I did not have to be reminded as if I could forget that I was fatherless.

“Just because your father’s days were cut short doesn’t mean that you have a short life to live,” Gertie comforted, patting my hand with her boney fingers.  “You will have plenty of time to travel once you have graduated.”

I ran my palm around the curve of the brown teapot.  “That’s easy enough for you to say.  At least you’ve seen a little of the world.”

Gertie stood up suddenly and began gathering the tea things, her back turned to me.  She coughed and switched the water on in the sink with more force than was necessary.  “Seeing the world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” she said in her cutting voice again.  “But, as I said, you’ll find out for yourself soon enough.”

Mother showed her face in the kitchen doorway then.  “Have you talked some sense into her, Gert?” she asked.

“I’m sitting right here,” I said.  “Why don’t you ask me?”

When she turned to me, her blonde hair streaked with gray, her eyes looked more tired than usual.  For the first time in my life, I had the feeling that I had somehow failed her.  I was almost ready to give up my dream then.  Almost.

“I can see what you are thinking,” Mother blurted, pulling a chair from the table and having a seat.  “I am not trying to make you feel guilty or even trying to keep you from growing up.  We don’t have the money, Melissa, and that’s the bottom line.”

“But if I could get the money?” I asked, feeling the first glimmer of hope.

“Then you could apply it to the second mortgage we’ve taken out on the house to keep up with our expenses.”  Mother spat.

Aunt Gertie sat back down again, and we three sat looking at each other, the silence in the room so deafening that even the ticking of the clock over the kitchen sink came to me as if through a thick wall.  I could forget about Belize, about the Mayan ruins in the jungle and the weekends on the beach with handsome Mike Spears in swimming trunks.

“What did you mean by a gathering stone in the garden, Aunt Gertie?” I finally asked, unable to look at my mother any longer.

Gertie just kept herself from jumping out of her own skin.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

Mother shot Gertie a withering look.  “What have you been telling her?”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Gertie shot back, “as you well know.”

I stood up and pulled my coat back on, wanting, no needing, to get away from them, from my life.  “You said it was in the garden,” I said.  “What does it look like?”

Mother stood up then.  “It doesn’t look like anything because there is nothing there.”

“Then why would Aunt Gertie say something about it and then get all dreamy-eyed?” I shot back, my sympathy for our financial troubles evaporating again.

Mother sighed from her toes.  “The gathering stone,” she said, “isn’t in our garden, Melissa.  It was in the garden where Gertie and I were girls.  Take off your coat.”

I shrugged.  “I’ll go to the museum then.  It’s free today, and there’s an exhibit on shrunken heads I’d like to see.”

“Don’t be gruesome, Melissa, just because you are disappointed,” Mother ordered.

“Life is disappointment, Mother,” I said, just keeping myself from wincing at the drama in my own words, but I had gone too far to stop myself now.  “Can’t you understand how I might want to escape the disappointment, just for a little while?  Just for one semester?  Aunt Gertie did it!”

Gertie came up behind me and ripped off my coat suddenly.  “Sit down, Melissa,” she said in her sharpest voice yet.  It startled me so, I did exactly as she asked.

“I don’t know what made me mention the gathering stone today, dear,” she began in a softer tone.  “Perhaps all this talk about travel is what did it.  Your mother and I took our first travels at the gathering stone, you see.  It was a huge chunk of rock, a boulder to our young selves that we could climb upon and pretend.  That rock was a raft on the Amazon, an airplane soaring over the Atlantic, our wedding altars.”

“So, you called it the gathering stone because?” I said.

She shrugged, remaining silent.  Mother answered.  “Because our dreams were gathered there, I suppose.  Now, let’s pick out a good movie and make some popcorn.  I’m in the mood for a comedy.”

I glanced between the two of them.  “There’s more to this than you’re letting on,” I said.  “If you think I’m just going to forget something as mysterious sounding as this, you’re crazy.  What was the gathering stone, really?  Did you meet your boyfriends there or sneak out at midnight to light candles and chant like the Ya-Ya Sisterhood?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mother scoffed.  “We were young children without Xboxes or computer games.  We had to use our  imaginations.  That’s all it was.  Now, let’s go to the living room and relax.”

I was all ready to grab my coat again and head to the museum, or the Starbucks in the Student Union.  I had at least five dollars in my left pocket and a bit of a gift at getting the boys from my classes to buy my lattes for me.  Sitting down with my Mother and Aunt for two hours watching a movie, being forced to stew in the juices of my latest disappointment was just too much to bear.

“Don’t go,” Aunt Gertie’s voice stopped me.  It was a pleading voice, not the sharp one that had greeted me an hour before.  “There’s really something you should know, Melissa.”

“If you open your mouth, Mother, to tell her to be quiet, I’ll scream until I faint,” I promised.

“Very mature,” Mother responded, but she stayed silent otherwise.

“What do you want to tell me, Aunt Gertie?”

“I’ve never been to England,” she blurted.

I blinked.  Hard.  Three times.  “What?”

“The teapot,” Gertie said, swallowing.  “The teapot is from England, Melissa, but that’s not where I got it.”

“Why would you tell me it was?” I asked, feeling sad and outraged all at once.

“Did I?” Gertie asked, her voice rising to a strange pitch.  “You’re sure I didn’t just talk about England so much that you assumed I had been there?  I’ve read an awful lot about it, you know.  I spent many an evening at the gathering stone reading about it.”

“So, why did you never go?  What would be holding you back?”

Gertie smiled a sad smile, a face that showed me more than anything the depth of my own ignorance.  It had not been an easy life for all of us, but Gertie had always been the tag-a-long, the tall, awkward sister to Mother’s attractive curves and curls, all angles and hard lines.  Mother had lost her husband, but Gertie’s only wedding altar had been the stone in her parents’ garden.

And now I knew she had never been anywhere, she who had toted the brown teapot from church social to bridal shower for decades, explaining the fine points of high tea and knitting teapot cozies as if she had not only visited the United Kingdom but become one of its citizens for a season.

“You’re trying to shock me into forgetting about Belize,” I said.  “Forget about it.  You already made your point with the second mortgage threat.  I know I might as well tuck that idea under your gathering stone and move on.”

Gertie laughed, a bubbling sound that seemed to come from her very core.  “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”

“Now, can we watch the movie,” Mother asked in her most bored voice.

The two sisters walked out arm in arm, discussing what title they wanted to slide into the DVD player.  I stayed in the chair a few moments, staring at the teapot and trying to imagine younger versions of my mother and aunt on a huge stone in their parent’s back garden.

Finally, I decided it wouldn’t matter if Gertie had made it to England in reality or only through her own imagination.  Somehow, her stories were so real that they might as well have been.

Now, if there were only a gathering stone in our own garden, even just a small one I could carry in my pocket, well then, maybe, I could dream myself into a college course of a lifetime.

Or I could check out a book at the library.

I threw some popcorn in the microwave, slipped off my sneakers, and rubbed the now cool crockery that had been the symbol of Gertie’s independence for the length of my lifetime.  It was cold comfort, but it was the closest thing to England I was likely to get in a wintertime of Sundays  tucked into the cupboard that served as our computer station, “Pinning” fantastic pictures to my board titled “Where the Gathering Stone Stayed.”

Posted in Christian Fiction, Writers, Writing

Is There Art in This Fiction?

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This apparent sketch of a domestic kitty cat isn’t actually a sketch at all. It is a picture I took of my feisty critter with a digital, “dummy” camera when he had snuggled himself under the blanket thrown over a chair. I was able to convert the picture at a great website called photofunia.com, which you can use for non-commercial effects such as this. In other words, what appears as decent art is in fact a picture I can really take no credit for.

The act of writing, whether it be a blog, a newspaper story, or fiction, should always strive to be a work of art, crafted with much consideration of word choice, phrasing, rhythm and meaning. It is not something where one can claim, “they have an APP for that!”

Even those of us who give the credit for any writing goodness to God have to work to stay in touch with the whispering of the Spirit in us that leads, hopefully, to the message of Light He would have us give.

It occurs to me that this blog, which I began mainly because I was self-publishing my fiction, has become something else entirely. I named it “GoodChristianFiction” because I hoped that people looking for Christian novels to read might stumble upon this title and be intrigued enough to check out my books.

Instead, my blog is most often about my own questions about living a Christian lifestyle. Of course, if truth be told, the messages I blatantly write in my blog are the same messages I am trying to convey more subtly in my works of fiction.

I am thankful that more of you than I imagined have found interest in what I’ve had to say. I hope that in the coming year, I continue to listen to the Holy Spirit and, hopefully, convey the messages God would have me convey. But, you may also see a little more posts on the art of fiction, this craft of loving words and wanting to share the unique ways you have found to put them together. I do have a graduate degree in the subject, after all, so one would hope I’d have something valid to add to the “fiction” conversation.

Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote:

Easy reading is d—m hard writing.

Hemingway claimed that the first draft of anything was garbage. Mark Twain cautioned to find the right word, not its second cousin. Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, offers advice about writing that is perhaps best:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

So, in this thankful season, let us all be thankful to we writers who have chosen to write our words instead of hoarding them. Perhaps, in this way, we are focusing our treasure in heaven where all things of true love, like real art, abound.

Posted in Romantic Fiction, Writing

A Moment to Celebrate

Even though I have been able to publish my books through Lulu.com and at Barnes and Noble, it took me a while to get everything prepared properly for the novels to get onto Amazon for the Kindle. Finally, this weekend, I sat down and finished the process.

You can find the official Kindle page for each one at the links below:

  • THE TEXAS STRAY

    MACY’S TREASURE

  • I applaud all the writers who are going to be taking on the challenge of November’s National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. Since I am about two-thirds of the way through my third novel, I am going to forego the challenge this year and hope I can finish the first draft of this novel.

    “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
    —Catherine Drinker Bowen

    Here’s to hoping that you find more than just a few of the right words in my writings. Thanks, as always, for the opportunity to be read.

    ~Ramona

    Posted in Christian Living, Writing

    The Question You Live By

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    Every story, or song, or poem, or LIFE has at its core the purpose of answering the only question that really matters.

    Several questions may be floating around in your mind at this moment. Certainly, life itself is fraught with questions. Most certainly, the world in these most recent of days, when everything seems a bit tilted on its axis, when at the moment you think you have heard the worst of something, another evil thing even more horrible rises to the surface, the questions scream at us:

      Why does a loving God let this happen?
      Why does evil win?
      What is the point?
      Why am I here?

    The answers to metaphysical questions, to questions about the ramifications of free will in a fallen world, even to questions about the choices of an omnipotent God when we ourselves see only in part (1 Corinthians 13), are the kinds of answers that, once we actually have them, the questions themselves will no longer matter, for at that point we will no longer be part of this world, but literally in the next one.

    But none of these profound and dear questions are at the heart of what it means to be human. And answering the question of being human is what lies at the core of every life and every creative thing produced to explore humanity.

    And the question that is the core of all of that love, hate, mercy, fear, kindness and anger is this:

    How do you cope?

    We can think and question all that we want, philosophize and theorize, but how we actually make it from one breath to the next, from one catastrophe or challenge to another, how we are bent to our knees, being beaten down by the horrors of a world where the evil one exists and yet rise again, Phoenix-like from the ashes of our own existence, these answers are the core of all things good. The reflections of survival through coping are what give us heroes–in real life and in fiction.

    The Bible is replete with sagas of men and women who face the absolute worst that a fallen world has to offer and come back again. Long before there existed a peoples who called their maker, LORD, Job became an unknowing puppet in a game played by the devil. Job questions God, demands an audience with God, but never turns his back on God, even when it seems that God has turned His back on Job. In the end, Job sees returned to him in plenty all that he had lost.

    David, who has a heart like God’s, offers an even more complicated series of lessons in the art of coping. He has to survive being hunted down by his former mentor like a fox being trailed by a pack of bloodhounds. He rises to kingship only to be felled by his overwhelming lust for another man’s wife. The first child of that relationship falls ill and dies, the second becomes the king of great wisdom who actually builds the temple David longed to erect for God. In the stories told about him, and through the record of his psalms, we get a vivid picture of a man of great power who always loved God more, a king willing to dance in the street like a child in celebration of the LORD.

    From prophets to disciples, the Bible gives us glimpses of what it means to be human in the light of He who casts away all shadows. Through rejoicing and prayer, through forgiveness and love, those who cope by taking on the yoke of Christ will find that the narrow way, though not easy, is the most rewarding.

    Remember when the disciples asked Jesus why the people in some great tragedy of the day had had to die? The disciples thought it was because the people must have done something really awful. Jesus tells them that the people who perished were no different from anybody else. They died so that God’s purpose might be fulfilled. Paul reminds us that we see here only partially, as in a mirror. The question of why just isn’t as important for us to know about as the what, which is following God’s command to love Him first and foremost and love others as we love ourselves.

    How do we make things better, today, for the people we meet, the people we know? What resources do we have that we aren’t putting into use? Why not shine the light Jesus so generously gave for us to shine?

    In the opening scene of the greatest story ever told, your story, your soft eyes open. The glare of a single light above your mother’s bed or of a thousand lights in a sterile hospital room, send you into a wail of fright mixed with the joy of being alive. The air, air, so different from the amniotic fluid that has been your safe, warm blanket for nine months, riffles across your exposed skin, feeling sharp and making you long for the feel of the heartbeat to which you have grown to know as home.

    What do you plan to do about it, this brisk entry into a reality you do not know a thing about, laying before you waiting to be learned?

    That’s what great storytelling, and living, is all about–the stepping across new thresholds, stumbling, and rising again on our way back to the place every soul knows as home.

    Posted in Poetry, Writing

    National Poetry Writing Month #30

    On Endings

    For the final day of National Poetry Writing Month

    Being neither Whitman nor Frost,
    we have come anyway,
    to this place of words,
    to this gathering of minds
    brought to us by a digital world
    that even cummings’ imagination
    did not lay onto an altered page.

    Equalized by these aughts and ones
    that string together like DNA,
    this man-made code that awes us,
    leads us, Babel-like, too close
    to the throne of God,

    we are drawn to the light
    of our touchable screens
    like moths yet to be burned,
    seeking connection or truth,
    the litany of an age long since
    numb to what it knows

    of blood and tears and war,
    forever proving the depths
    to which a species given choice
    will fall.  We rise

    to forgiveness with humbled hearts,
    kept honest by our love of words,
    and the peace of a yoke
    laid upon us by a God
    willing to die.

     

    Ramona Levacy
    April 30, 2013

    Thanks for joining me on this journey of 30 days straight of poetry writing.  Congratulations to everyone who took up the challenge!  May we poets continue to grow in number and the love of a well-turned phrase never die.