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Archive for March, 2012

Once again I’m linking to Jon Acuff for today’s dose of Christian philosophy.  This entry has everything:  humor, Jesus, and a fun opportunity to help out.

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Yesterday I met two friends after work for drinks and dinner.  Well, they had drinks.  I enjoyed two glasses of cranberry juice, because I have migraines and had to give up alcohol in all its forms.  Anyway, one of them brought up the subject of my book.  She’s read it and apparently liked it.  Or she’s a good friend who supports my efforts.  What’s important here is that she brought it up.

Anyway, the second friend, upon hearing about Authonomy, wondered why I wasn’t submitting my manuscript for publication.  “What,” she asked, “is holding you back?”

What, indeed?

I babbled something about the amount of work involved in submitting a novel, because it is a lot of work.  And then I wondered if that was really the truth.

I’m pretty happy getting feedback on Authonomy.  The version of my book currently uploaded is significantly better than the one I originally submitted.  I feel I’m part of the Authonomy community.  And that makes me wonder if I’m just using it to delay what real writers do:  get published.

One thing is holding me back.  I’ve written a book about characters who make decisions based on their faith.  Lots of people would call that a “Christian book.”  But they are regular people living in the regular, worldly world.  So the book includes scenes that a Christian publisher might not accept.  Would a mainstream publisher want it?  I have my suspicions.  I’ve been told that the ‘rule of thumb’ in YA books is that “the J-word is acceptable only as an oath.”  So I don’t think mainstream publishers will want to promote my book.  The J-word appears with alarming regularity throughout.

So do I submit it, knowing I’ve created a strange new genre:  realistic Christian fiction?  Or do I just publish it on Kindle and see if there’s a market for it?

But now I do wonder what’s holding me back.

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A Boy from Spokane

I don’t know why the story of Steve Gleason resonates with me.  Gleason, as you might have heard, is the New Orleans Saint recently diagnosed with ALS, a neuro-muscular disease that affects professional athletes at rates higher than the general population.  ALS is also called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” for the famous baseball player who had it.

Steve Gleason was born in Spokane, where I attended high school, in 1977, the year I graduated and began college.  In general, when I hear ‘boy from Spokane” I automatically translate that phrase into an unflattering portrait.  I lived there from the ages of 14 to 21, and can sadly not relay many uplifting stories about any boys from Spokane.  I tried, and I failed.

Steve Gleason went on to play football at Washington State, my husband’s alma mater.  More important, he played there during the 1997 season, the year the Cougars beat UCLA in the home season opener, the year the Cougars beat USC in LA.  The year we romped through Husky Stadium, when Lamont Thompson intercepted Brock Huard three times and Ryan Leaf and Michael Black and Leon Bender and Chris Jackson and a host of other players performed feats of athleticism not seen before or since.  The year the Cougars went ten and one in the regular season, and took thousands and thousands of grateful, long-suffering fans to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.  Whenever I hear the name of a player from that season, I feel a sense of obligation, of debt.  Even if he’s a boy from Spokane.

(more…)

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Sunday’s Reflection

I’m considering writing an inspirational post every Sunday, because it seems like a good idea for a Christian writer to occasionally write about Jesus.  But there are other writers who do this much better than I do.  For my first Sunday post, I’d like to introduce you all to Jon Acuff, the funniest Christian writer on earth.  He has a website called “Stuff Christians Like.”  He does a great job of writing about living as a Christian in a world that isn’t always Christian.

I thought this post was really good:  http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/03/thinking-youre-naked/

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In roughly the same year as Pat Conroy motored in his little boat out to Daufuskie Island to teach Gullah children about brushing their teeth and classical music, I attended Alice Birney Elementary School in Charleston, South Carolina and read what has remained my favorite book.  Both Alice Birney Elementary and the school on Daufuskie played an active role in the great experimentations in education of the sixties and seventies.  Daufuskie hired its first white teacher, and my school tried out block scheduling, independent learning, and sorting children by ability.  While the children of Daufuskie weren’t allowed to leave the island, I was given unprecedented freedoms.

Our Health teacher drew a grid on a sheet of butcher paper six or seven feet long.  She wrote our names into the wide column on the left and wrote the names of health-related topics in the angled row on the top.  She showed us her file cabinet, its top drawer filled readings on each topic.  The second drawer held the quizzes.  She told us to choose a topic, read the material, put it back, then take the test.  Each time we passed a test, we got to mark an X in the associated square.  We felt like we were in college, learning at our own pace, choosing our subjects without interference from adults.  Later in the year, she organized an evening field trip to see Jesus Christ, Superstar, playing the soundtrack while we read our health topics.

Mr. Simpson, our health teacher, was the only African-American person we encountered on a daily basis.  One day during square dancing, a tall ungainly boy released the hand of his partner, the only girl in the lowest class on the academic rung, in a way that signaled his disgust at having to touch her.  Mr. Simpson lit into that boy like a drill instructor cussing out a disobedient recruit.  He made clear to that boy and everyone within hearing distance that we had no business treating anyone, male or female, black or white, with anything other than the utmost respect.  Just like the poster says, I don’t remember what he was wearing or what he said, but I will never forget how it made me feel.  At Graduation, we all begged to have our mothers take pictures of us with Mr. Simpson.  We loved him.

And in the sixth grade, we received copies of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Our teacher, much older than the Health teacher and Mr. Simpson, curled her lip as she handed it out.  She mispronounced Calpurnia as Calpurnicka, Zeebo as Zebbo.  We gathered that she wasn’t fully committed to the idea that we white children should have to read about this kind of thing.

This kind of thing being courage in the face of bigotry.

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The picture at the top of my blog is a photo of an area called The Palouse that extends from central Washington to northern Idaho.  It’s essentially the silt left behind by the ice age.  Unlike the stark cliffs and coulees in other locations, The Palouse features rounded hill after hill after hill.  Surely beautiful in their unadorned state, these hills now produce wheat and lentils in topsoil twelve feet deep.

Wheat farmers plant their crops in tidy furrows created by the mechanized cultivators and planters that revolutionized farming.  These furrows imprint on each hill a dreamy, mesmerizing pattern, visible in deep cocoa brown after planting, then frosty white as precipitation, which falls in the form of snow, nourishes the crop, then an impossibly bright green as the winter wheat pokes through the ground, and finally, a vivid, proud, and waving gold ready to be harvested.  Even the stubblefields retain the pattern, scruffy and disheveled after the harvest.

The sun alters this scenery in a million different ways.  In the early mornings, you’d swear the wheat glows as the sun burns off the dew.  Late afternoons turn the brown fallow fields marvelous shades of purple and magenta, and when the sun disappears entirely the contrasts intensify between land and water, nature’s gifts and man’s embellishments, angular fence posts and curved hillsides.

I attended Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, and from my dorm window watched the wheat mature over five growing seasons.  If I stayed on campus in the summer, my allergy-prone eyes and nose announced when harvest began; the air filled with dust and humidity and tiny molecules of wheat.  Then the cycle repeated.  Today, my husband and I love to drive along the back-roads of this region, where we see hawks perched on fenceposts as they seek an early morning meal, barns of every style built by farmers of old, who hitched forty horses to early combines, and silver grain elevators rising tall among the hills.

Over a million acres of fertile silt hills make up The Palouse, and these acres produce an astonishing amount of dryland wheat.  It’s the home of two land-grant universities, The University of Idaho and Washington State University.  Photographers and painters, such as Z.Z. Wei, flock to The Palouse to capture the undulating gold, green and brown hills, the enormous cobalt sky, sometimes dotted with wispy white clouds or obscured by gray rainclouds, and the big red angularity of the combines and barns.

I think it’s beautiful.

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One of my fellow Authonomites put together a book of short stories at Christmas.  Here’s my contribution.

Christmas Story–by Audrey Bennett

I found him slouched on the sidewalk next to an abandoned building.  Craig Hannigan, quarterback of my high school’s undefeated football team.  Would he remember me?

I stopped and caught his gaze.  “Can I buy you lunch?”

When he held out his hand, I shook my head.  “I meant I’d take you to lunch.”

He squinted up at me, shading his eyes against the bright winter sun, wrinkling his nose as if he’d just noticed the odor emanating from his clothes.  “You’d eat with me?”

I raised my eyebrows and grinned.  “Yes.”

He rose and said, “Where?” as his arms gestured at his torn and dirty clothes.

I pointed at the closest restaurant, Cyrus O’Leary’s.  Famous for its pies and for its employees, who wore what’s called “flair.”  Lots and lots of flair.

He cocked his head.  “You know me?”

I poked at a crack in the sidewalk with my warm boot and squinted back.  “High school.”

“They won’t let me in there.”

“Sure they will.  You’re with me.  Come on.”  (more…)

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