Deb Elkink

On this page, ENGAGE with me personally. I’ll post articles I hope you find winsome, as well as bits of news and musing about my current activity. I welcome your comments.

Subscribe to my email newsletter to receive a free ebook of Wet Thaw, two award-winning short stories by me. Or you can connect by Facebook or by email: deb@debelkink.com.


 

VAGABOND COME HOME

Mondays at noon hour I took piano lessons. On one particular Monday in 1966, I passed beneath the recently inaugurated Maple Leaf that flapped from the school’s flagpole, and I left behind the playground noise to cross the road and open the gate to the woodland pathway of my music teacher’s estate. Delicate lily-of-the-valley spring blossoms poked up through the Manitoba undergrowth, their tiny white bells giving off a luscious scent. Raindrops shook from the canopy above to tickle my hair. I mounted the steps of the two-story brick cottage and heard the footfall of Miss George—about the age of my maternal grandma but oh! so different—before she opened the door. Her sturdy legs were encased in beige stockings, and she tapped her toes to an internal rhythm.

My grandma had never greeted me at the door of her farmhouse; I’d never heard the floorboards squeak beneath her step. By the time I was born, the creeping paralysis had ascended from her non-tapping toes clear up past her shoulders, leaving her completely immobilized from the neck downwards.

“Go on through to the bathroom, Dear,” Miss George said, “and remember to pat-pat-pat dry.” I lathered up with a floral button of Yardley soap and dried as per instructions on a lace-trimmed guest towel that would never have withstood the rigours of my three brothers. This was a feminine household of two spinster sisters whose people hailed from England and whose parlour boasted a sepia photo of an elegant foremother disembarking a Victorian carriage.

In contrast, the most notable picture in my family was of Grandma in her wheelchair, fuzzy slippers showing unscuffed bottoms. It’s almost ironic that her own fleeing mother—my great-grandmother—traversed sea and soil by boat and train and Red River cart, chased by rising Russian nationalism from her home on the banks of the Dnieper River in 1874 to settle in a sod house on the banks of Manitoba’s Scratching River.

So Miss George’s British heritage seemed glamorous, unburdened as it was with wheelchairs and oxen-drawn carts.

I lined up my blouse buttons with Middle C and stumbled my way through “Baby Elephant Walk,” and then Miss George said, “I have something to show you. Follow me.” Curiosity flaring, I trailed behind her up the stairs to her enchanting antique trunk full of surprises.

Miss George had already let me hold a bone china teacup so fine my finger shadows showed through. And last week I’d blasted away on the fox-hunting horn after she prompted me to purse my lips—a thrilling cry that summoned my imagination to distant fields. Today she pushed aside tissue paper and withdrew a mass of crinoline netting and an emerald green gown.

“It’s silk taffeta. My aunt brought it over on the steamer.” She shook out the wrinkles and held it up to my shoulders, the smell of moth balls making my eyes sting. “It would fit you if I laced it up tightly.”

“I can try it on?” My voice squeaked.

She corrected my grammar. “You may. And then we’ll run on the lawn.”

She coached me in the proper method: I was to sprint while lifting the skirts, then stop abruptly and drop the hems to trap the air as I sank into a sitting position. That taffeta billowed out about me like the royal robes of a princess in some foreign land. The word “immigrant” began to hold more magic for me.

Soon I was a teenybopper wearing fishnets and groovy go-go boots. During the summer of 1967, hippies in transit between Yorkville and Gastown overran Winnipeg’s streets and parks. They strummed guitars and sang their songs of freedom—of four strong winds and seven seas that bound them to move on. A little too young to be swept along in the momentum of their pilgrimage, still I wore their love beads and dreamed of hitching a ride on the open road.

Maybe I was rebelling against my grandma’s enforced stillness. Or maybe my genes were imprinted by my great-grandmother’s journeying, initiated generations before her in the Low Countries of Europe during the Reformation. Patriotism had gained no foothold in my pacifistic ancestry of wayfaring conscientious objectors. None of my uncles (unlike those of my classmates) had served militarily in Italy or landed at Dieppe; no war photos of decorated officers sat on my piano.

My parents encouraged my growing wanderlust. Dad spun tales of running away to join the circus and of riding the rails with the last of the Great Depression hoboes; Mom shared newsy bits about shirttail relatives in Belize. I was primed for travel, and before my teens were over I’d already crisscrossed Japan from Tokyo to the southern tip of Kyushu: I’d slept on tatami mats in a millennium-old monastery, negotiated the sacred tea ceremony, and plucked out a tune about cherry blossoms on a koto. Since then I’ve tramped thirty nations—touring wineries in Chile and avocado plantations in Mexico, rambling the streets of Barcelona, trekking the Garden Route of South Africa. Amazed, I’ve wended my way through twisted alleys in Istanbul and promenaded broad boulevards in Paris.

Something about the familiarity of home makes “away” so alluring, but something about the contrast of the foreign brings home racing back to the heart. And so increasingly my affections have turned to the geographical majesty of my own land, Canada offering exotic adventure within her expansive borders and leaving me agog at our own inheritance.

Indeed, my very first pen pal was an Inuit from Inuvik who mailed me an ookpik. It matched my hand-stitched Arctic sealskin mukluks and foreshadowed a flight I made years later when co-ferrying a Cessna aircraft up to Pine Point on the edge of Great Slave Lake. We soared over Peace River country, over muskeg and boreal forests and the mighty Hay River, navigating by way of waterfalls and lakes.

I’ve strolled Pacific Ocean beaches collecting sand dollars brought in by thundering waves off Vancouver Island, and I’ve meandered beneath stands of great cedars that West Coast Aboriginals used to carve into totem poles. I’ve stood on glaciers, and climbed Rocky Mountain paths, and clambered up hoodoos in the Alberta Badlands. I’ve pushed my way through grain fields blowing in the prairie winds and slept beneath the stars on the walking dunes in the Great Sand Hills of Saskatchewan. I’ve paddled and portaged, like the voyageurs, on waterways emptying into Hudson Bay. I’ve hiked the Niagara Gorge to the roaring of the falls and sauntered beneath scarlet maples that shook me like a cry of bugles going by, then eaten my pancakes with the Quebec syrup bled out of those trees. I’ve dabbled in the tidal pools of the Atlantic Ocean near the pier in Halifax, where my own great-grandmother first set her sole on Canadian turf after her long passage—the passage of a people in transit.

And though I continue to vacation in far-off places, my own soul has found sojourn, my restless wandering satisfied in settling itself into home.

 

7 responses to “VAGABOND COME HOME”

  1. Lori says:

    How captivatingly you write! It makes me want to go out for a walk in this great land of ours. How blessed we are and how thankful for my heritage. Thanks for sharing your memories – and so eloquently.

  2. Nettie Balzer says:

    Beautiful! I lived it with you while reading the story. You make things come alive – loved it!

  3. Elma Neufeld says:

    I loved reading this (and I’m sure I will again) Truly spellbinding!

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WIN YOUR SIGNED COPY!

I can’t believe it’s been five years since my debut novel was published, and to celebrate I’m giving away THREE postage-paid, signed copies (with gold-foil award seal) to readers who most creatively answer (at “Leave a Reply” below) the following question: If you were going to Paris this spring, what would be your first tourist stop and why? 

Get your creative juices going and check out Google to drool over the wonderful City of Lights! I can tell you right now that MY first stop (after a bakery for a raspberry tart and café crème–YUM!) would be to . . . let’s see . . . maybe Sainte-Chapelle because of the way, the last time, the multi-colored sunlight fractured the air above my head, the stained-glass kaleidoscope surrounding me like a halo of rubies and sapphires and emeralds (as it did to the novel’s main character in chapter 18). Or maybe I’d visit the Louvre to gaze upon the statues that became the novel’s icon (chapter 19). Or tromp though (chapter  14) the basilica of Sacré-Coeur or glory in the sheer decadence of Opéra Garnier or . . .

I can’t decide! HELP ME!

29 responses to “WIN A COPY”

  1. Susan Munro says:

    My first stop after arriving in Paris would have to be a wonderful little cafe with outdoor seating. I love to people watch and can’t imagine a more wonderful way to start my vacation.

  2. Elma Neufeld says:

    Revisit the Louvre! I missed much of it the last time even after four days of many hours each day.

  3. Ingrid Bizio says:

    My first stop would be Sacre Coeur Cathedral, because the last time I was in Paris (1978), the ONLY time I was ever in Paris, I was only there for a day and never got to see it. I have always wanted to go back but never got the chance!

  4. Ingrid Bizo says:

    Sacre Coeur Cathedral, because the last time I was in Paris in 1978, the ONLY time I ever was in Paris, I was only there for one day abd visiting didn’t get to see it. I’ve always wanted to go back but never got the chance!

  5. Kerrie says:

    I would first get myself some chocolate and bubbly Champagne! Then I would arrange a whole day to wander the grounds and palace at Versailles! It is so beautiful there! Then I would hope that my friend Deb, who is a Paris expert, would take me on her personal tour of the City of Lights! We could stroll along wearing stylish hats and experiencing the wonders of Paris!

  6. Arlene Schapansky says:

    We do have a connecting flight to Paris next month on our way back from Rwanda. Unfortunately we won’t have time to visit, but my first stop would be to see the 700 year old Sainte-Chapelle. I would love to experience the stained glass windows, see the relics, and take part in hearing music echo throughout the building.

  7. Lynn Krivak says:

    As a lover of all kinds of art I would visit the Louvre for a third time, without hesitation. This time however I would seek out “The Three Graces”, as your delightful novel had not been written yet; and my main priority has always been paintings, as I focus most of my work on painting. There is so much to see at this wonderful palace of art I am sure I will need ongoing trips in my future!

  8. Choosing a first stop for a dream vacation to Paris, the city of love and lights seems almost surreal. How to choose one famous spot I’ve longed to visit over another for the honor of being first iconic tourist destination. I believe I treat myself to a tasty French pastry near the Eiffel tower as I waited for the company of Deb,a fellow Canadian, well versed with the sights, sounds and tastes of this delightful city. I would feast my eyes on the tower from a distance before standing beneath it – or climbing it. I’d listen the music of French speaking voices and allow my taste buds to savour the delicacy placed before me. Simply enjoy being in the moment.

  9. Talitha says:

    I’m 100% with Susie on this one! I love visiting cute little cafes all over the place! That would absolutely be my first stop and then I might go check out some of the more touristy places next

  10. Ellen says:

    The Rodin museum because the one time I was in Paris, I walked a couple of miles to get there and it was during business hours, but they had closed early. 🙁

  11. Pat G. says:

    I think I would need to find a grassy spot not too far from the Eiffel tower, so I could enjoy a simple picnic lunch and soak in some of the sights and sounds around me, before heading off to visit the Louvre. After a long flight, I need a little bit of time to get ready for hours and hours of sightseeing. Beware, I might forget all about time once I get inside the Louvre!

  12. AND THE WINNERS ARE . . . (but first, I must say that I couldn’t subjectively choose the best three, so I put all your names into a hat and pulled out) . . . LYNN, TALITHA, and PAT! Congrats, girls–I will be contacting you for your addresses.

    • Pat G. says:

      Wow! Thanks so much, Deb! I never tire of reading, and I look forward to getting lost in The Third Grace. Hmmm….will this fuel my interest in a “real” trip to Paris? I’m ok with that!

  13. Pat says:

    Deb, my book arrived yesterday, and I’m excited! I look forward to reading it; will keep you updated! Thank you! Your generosity is beautiful.

  14. Lynn Krivak says:

    Deb I am thrilled to have received an autographed copy of your book complete with such a lovely personalized inscription inside. Thank you so much for this gift. I will treasure it and enjoy re-reading your novel. What an honour to have this copy of “The Third Grace” in my library ❤

    • Lynn, I see I neglected to answer this comment of yours. Sorry about that. I’m thrilled that you were thrilled. : ) I’m going to do another contest one of these days soon . . .

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Talking Mouth          RETELLING TIMELESS TRUTHS

Maybe it’s because I talk a lot that I feel my words are cheap. They slip out between my flapping lips in copious quantity, some to enter the ears of intended hearers and many to slide into oblivion. Add to this the fact that I myself often ignore what I’ve just said (causing me to repeat it) and you have a recipe for blather. The idea that my words lack worth was reinforced by the constant shushing I encountered as a chattering girl and, incidentally, still hear on occasion. Maybe my disdain for my blabbermouthery taints my estimation of my writing, too, so that I think what’s been read once is done and gone and should be laid to rest.

I don’t assign this judgment to others’ words, spoken or written. I treasure and revisit the expressed thoughts of my friends and mentors, of strangers I want to know, of icons who’ve proven wise. Why don’t I extend this gentlewomanliness to my own words? After all, the same God of these people is likewise recreating me in the image of His same Son, bringing me into maturity and granting me wisdom, equipping me to serve through words.

I’ve learned over time that my underlying (fleshly) motivation in communicating has been my need to feel I’m heard and understood; publishing brings validation. So I’ve tended not to submit a once-published work for reprint or to excerpt a passage for reapplication. After all, it’s been read already; that is, an audience has heard and understood me on that particular subject, so my immediate need is assuaged.

However, God allows me a compulsion to speak or write not in order to satisfy my own agenda but to bring Him glory.

This has led me to rethink my strategy on recycling work. My written words are much less copious than my casually spoken ones—more closely edited, weighed, and checked for meaning and impact. I don’t write off the cuff; rather, great deliberation goes into the crafting. Why would I abandon these valuable stories to float in cyberspace or (in paper) to line the bottom of some old lady’s drawer?

And so, fingers crossed, a couple of years ago I entered the highly subscribed Tom Howard/John H. Reid contest with a short story that a decade before had won recognition from the Canadian Church Press after its publication in Faith Today Magazine. Along with this vintage tale, I sent in a more recent one that had received the Graham Greene award from Athanatos, an apologetics organization. That is, I knew both published pieces had been judged as literarily worthy. Lo and behold, I received honourable mention for both stories (and subsequently have reissued them yet again through Kindle under a lovely book cover as a gift bribing readers to sign up for my newsletter).

These wins for older work, then, are personally encouraging to me and beneficial for promotional purposes. However, reusing previously published stories is possibly even more important on a ministry level. After all, as Paul pointed out in Romans 10:14, how will people call on God unless they believe in Him, and how will they believe without hearing, and how will they hear without our telling and retelling His story?

Published words, though years old, have as much life left in them as they have truth conveyed by them. Tastes change and trends bring new connotations, so some of my stories need revision. But a well-written, once-printed piece often has more timelessness and timeliness than I first intend, and God’s truth is always applicable.

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IMG_4312

“IF YOU’RE AFRAID OF BUTTER, USE CREAM”

I myself could have uttered these famous words attributed to Julia Child, who brought France to the tastebuds of America. Now, Germanic genetics have often been blamed for my own love of high-fat dairy products, but Julia’s quote makes me suspect that untraced Gallic blood might run in my veins.

I recently found a local supplier of 52% BF cream, which is almost too thick to pour. I use it in moderation (smirk); it’s possibly the reason my doctor has put me on cholesterol medication. But when it comes to food, the French are never wrong.

Two decades ago, my daughters and I spent a few months in the Rhône-Alpes area of eastern France—my first extended visit to that country. We tucked ourselves into a furnished flat set on the shores of Lac du Bourget (not too far from Mont Blanc and the Swiss border) and attempted to fit in with the locals—especially gastronomically.

We breakfasted on yoghurt that came in little glass jars, produced at a family-run plant just down the road. We lunched on heavenly fondue savoyarde, dipping pieces of baguette into melted Comté, Beaufort, and Gruyère perfumed with regional white wine and a whiff of garlic. We gorged on traditional Reblochon and ancient Tomme de Savoie. We learned the terms chantilly (whipped cream) and crème fraîche (slightly fermented cream fabulous in coffee). And we couldn’t wait for the Saturday market, where local farmers laid out pucks of chèvre—goat cheese dusted with ash, marbled with mould.

A century ago, Englishman G.K. Chesterton observed,

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese [but] Cheese is the very soul of song.

Sigh. Writing this post has made my mouth water, but France has brought more to my heart than to my lips (or hips!). I’ve felt a metaphysical connection since the first time I visited Paris in 1989, where I finally understood why people eat Roquefort (long before I was introduced to that heavenly crème fraîche). Over the years and through my travels, I’ve made several sound friendships with French women whom I consider my soulmates partly because, I admit, of their love for high-fat foods.

So now, at the risk of spiking my cholesterol reading, I’m going to brew a cup of coffee and add a dollop of my 52% cream. It’s the only thing that will stop me from drowning in saliva and tears of yearning.

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2 responses to “BUTTER FAT”

  1. Elma Neufeld says:

    I very much enjoy reading all your newsletters. This one makes my mouth water, it came along with a rush of wonderful memories. You invited me to join you and my granddaughters in France for a few weeks. One memory was on the Saturday we went to the market to shop for all the different cheeses for a fondue. Your friend Christel prepared and served this up for us the way the French do it. What an experience that was, I’ll always remember it!

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Journal 2 copy          GIFTS

Last week I held a little giveaway on Facebook, awarding this red leather journal to the third person who signed up for my new quarterly email newsletter (see the first edition of that newsletter here) telling about what’s happening in my writing life. This generated a bit of excitement among my friends—a dozen of them responded by clicking this link and filling in the simple form with name and email addy. The journal has been sent to the winner, but so many nonwinners expressed disappointment that I ordered a couple more for future giveaways. In this way I’m slowly building my list and am mindful of not abusing the trust of my subscribers; I promise them I’ll write only four times a year (or when I have exciting news). That’s their gift to me—a listening ear. Everyone needs an audience, right?

A regular email list, I am told, is what convinces publishers to take on new books. And I have a book to publish (my second novel–read more about it in my newsletter)! I chose the specific giveaway item of this red journal because it suits the plot of my novel (now in the hands of my literary agent). The manuscript’s working title is  The Red Journal (though who knows what the official title will be!); the Victorian anchor and compass symbols on the gift hint at elements of my plot.

People love to receive gifts, but I’ve been realizing how much I love to give gifts! So I’ve decided to make a habit of ensuring that my newsletter recipients are rewarded. The first thing I give all my subscribers is an e-copy of Wet Thaw, a little collection of two award-winning short stories—so if YOU would like a taste of my writing style, sign on up! Then I also plan to give all those on my subscription list a chance to receive some special treat (postage on me)—a signed copy of one of my books, maybe, or a frame-worthy piece of original artwork, or a vintage item that speaks about a character’s personality. I’m having FUN dreaming up possible items that would delight my readers.

What would YOU like to see in my “giveaway” box? Feel free to offer me ideas in the comments below.

13 responses to “JOURNAL”

  1. Heather Arnelien says:

    Hi Deb! I’m excited to read your upcoming novel! I’m curious as to the music tastes of your characters! They do have music tastes, right? So, how about a cd of their favorite artist, or a cd that is popular where your characters live?

    • EXCELLENT idea, Heather! I’m going to put that into my “gifts” file and think about what cd would be the perfect expression of MDM, a delightful character that has very specific tastes.

  2. Talitha Murengi says:

    A characters favorite food or treat! Like some delicious coffee or chocolate 😉

    Something from the country they are from or where the book setting is.

  3. I always vote for chocolate and since we have at least one chocolatier here in Alberta …

  4. Erin DeOrnellas Tran says:

    I would love a collection of your favorite recipes.

  5. Erin Tran says:

    Chocolate is always a good idea!

  6. Lynn Krivak says:

    Deb…Wet Thaw was a delightful read. As always, full of description which takes the reader on a pleasurable journey. You paint my imagination with your well chosen words. Always delightful to read anything from you whether it is 5 lines or over 300 pages. Thank you once again Lynn

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WET THAW COVER          WET THAW

Isn’t this a cool book cover?

The art issues from the paintbrush of talented Lorenda Harder and is meant to entice readers, of course. But my little, two-story ebook is so cheap (under a buck U.S.) that I wonder if it will just melt into the massive pool of other cool-looking books.

I had to put a price on it for Amazon browsers wanting a quick taste of my style. But my real intent in publishing this very brief book was as a free gift I can send those interested in subscribing to my email newsletter. This short email will appear quarterly or so–just a catch-up to let interested friends know what’s going on in my writing life and to offer other fun, free things that I dream up (mailable art or antique hankies–something surprising).

I’m quite proud about getting through the Kindle publishing process, as I don’t consider myself technologically savvy. (I hear my children snorting at this understatement.) It certainly challenged the little grey cells and offered all the potential for a real flop. I had to design and upload the cover, ensure the stories were worthy, decide on a publication date to coincide with my first newsletter (that was a whole other challenge!), convert the document into a couple of different formats, and preview, edit, tinker . . . It took a while.

In the story “Wet” Beth faces a life-changing decision when she returns to the rainy island of the childhood home she abandoned as a troubled teen. In “Thaw” two touring girlfriends from radically different traditions experience the haunting atmosphere of Istanbul under the rare cover of snow. Check out a few reader reviews here.

I’m pleased with the result–a gift to send interested friends. Are you interested? If so, do subscribe.

 

 

 

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 Sleeping Komodo Dragon         SLIPPING BY SLEEPING DRAGONS

It’s said that reading fiction requires willing suspension of disbelief. We writers strive to weave a fictional dream of gossamer threads and avoid anything that might break the spell we cast.

And so we choose our genre and build our story idea around specific conventions—checking vocabulary lists for children’s sci-fi, building psychological tension into thrillers, consulting timelines for historical fiction. We study the markets and adapt our approach to connect with the audience in mind. There’s no end to the preparation and research we undergo as we hone our craft by studying how-to books and attending writers’ workshops and reading great literary works.

Our method is limited only by our diligence.

Popular writers apply a variety of stylistic methods in their novels—think of the unconventional plot of The Time Traveler’s Wife, the language of Harry Potter’s magical spells, the sensuality in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Generally speaking, genre is neutral (excepting, perhaps, erotica or horror, where the purpose of the fictional dream might be sinful).

As Christian writers of fiction, we are even more equipped than secular authors, with metaphysical resources to employ many artistic methods; Francis Schaeffer said,

The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.

But fiction writing is not just about creative method, which varies over time and across cultures. Message is also intrinsic to great story; underlying theme animates the tale and conveys the writer’s main point. Inherent message is pivotal to true literature and must be balanced against the method. Leland Ryken (in The Christian Imagination) put it thus:

Literature is built on a grand paradox: It is a make-believe world [fictional method] that nonetheless reminds us of real life and clarifies it for us [spiritual message].

I once attended a panel on which Christian agents, authors, and editors were asked what was more important to fiction—method or message. Did they favour character- and plot-driven manuscripts of high quality, or was theological meaning peremptory? The ensuing discussion criticized the heavy-handedness that for so long defined “Christian” fiction as something that imparted moral lessons.

The sweep of literary history shows Aesop’s fables teaching ethics, cycle plays in the Middle Ages dramatizing Bible lessons, Sunday school papers of the last generation promoting norms of right living. But, although didactic prose has fallen out of favour, even today’s most superficial novels (such as Fifty Shades of Gray) inevitably shout out the underlying values of the writer. As Steve Turner has noted in Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts:

Writing is inseparable from a point of view . . . You can’t write and not have a point of view.

So how do we, as Christian writers of fiction, ensure our spiritual message comes through our genre’s method?

Before we set fingers to keyboard, we must know our biblical material—at least the basic principles we intend to convey—whether we actually quote Scripture or write in the most veiled and elusive manner. Let me refer again to the wisdom of Ryken:

Christians believe that the Bible and the system of doctrine derived from it are authoritative for thought and practice. Christian involvement with literature, therefore, begins with the belief that the Bible and its doctrines will determine how we should view literature itself and will provide a standard by which to measure the intellectual content and morality of literature that we read and write.

Paul the Apostle, grappling with allegations made by legalists trying to discredit his message of grace, argued for allowing changes in method of communication in order to suit the audience—as long as the message didn’t wander from the truth of the Word (Gal. 1; 1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul made cultural and stylistic changes in the way he preached but never compromised God’s propositions. In the same way, our unchanging message becomes appealing to fiction readers when we adapt our method to their sensibilities.

Great Christian fiction is able to “steal past a certain inhibition,” as C.S. Lewis put it; that is, transcendent morals properly fictionalized can slip by the sleeping dragons of reader resistance to truth.

 

This article originally appeared in Fellowscript (vol. 32, no. 4, Nov. 2014), the magazine of Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. 

 

2 responses to “SLIPPING BY SLEEPING DRAGONS”

  1. Wayne says:

    Are you allowed to use the word erotica in your blog? Someone might think it pornographic. I think one can have a good work of fiction provided it has interesting/compelling characters though the plot is weak, though perhaps it cannot he nonexistent. One of my favorite movies is NORTHFOLK about a dying town. One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place in a grey diner. The protagonist(s) enter the diner and must guess what food the diner has left. The characters are fascinatingly dull. The diner owner is the ugliest women I have ever seen, and there is almost no dialogue yet it works-how is that possible? Because I am involved. That is one way to pass the dragons. Oh, the movie is described on Wikipedia as, “Visually poetic, but may be too dramatically inert for some.”

    • Thanks, Wayne, for your comment. (And yes, I allow the word “erotica” on my site, whether thought pornographic or not. : ) Your point is excellent: Reader engagement is the thing, isn’t it? What an elusive goal, though–and one all of us writers strive towards. You, for example, engaged me with your line “The diner owner is the ugliest woman I have ever seen” as I then pictured what a hag she must be!

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Candle FUNEREAL JOY

This morning I attended my first-ever Hutterite funeral. It moved me. But first things first:

GLOSSARY:

  • Hutterite describes a group of pacifistic, separatist, German-speaking, religious dissenters from 16th-century Moravia (of the same Anabaptist rootstock as the Amish and Mennonite) who fled persecution and now live communally in agriculturally based, one-hundred-soul colonies clustered mostly throughout the prairies of western Canada and northwestern U.S. I am proud to call the Hutterites my neighbours and friends. (Here’s a set of photos and more info for the curious.)
  • Funereal is not a typo but the adjective describing the character “appropriate” to a funeral–generally thought synonymous with words like morose, doleful, or bleak.  The service I attended, with an estimated thousand mourners in attendance, honoured the financial manager of our local colony, an influential Hutterite leader. The character of his funeral was not “appropriate” by this definition.
  • Joy (not gloom) was the attitude pervading the very black-clad gathering of cousins, brothers, offspring, and all manner of extended family who attended from sister colonies as far away as Peace River (fourteen hours’ drive). Tears flowed but joy abounded.

So, with definitions out of the way, I have a simple observation: Death brings hope. 

Of course, this is anti-intuitive and I’m not making light of the sorrow experienced by those who will miss the face and voice and wise counsel of their beloved. But what I saw in that huge crowd of interconnected family (though the words of sermon and song were almost all unintelligible to me) was a founded belief that Christians know where we are going when this life is over.

The preacher’s brief English homily applied Scripture so beautifully, reminding us that blessing follows those who die “in the Lord” (which assumes a life having been lived “in the Lord”).

My Christian friends, in this new year (which has already begun dying), be filled with hope that our future is sure!

6 responses to “FUNEREAL JOY”

  1. Adena Paget says:

    Thank you for your thoughts and information. Being of Mennonite roots, I can identify with the belief and faith of the Hutterite people. It is quite wonderful to know the hope and faith we share with these people.

    • Adena, thanks for your comment. It’s so true. Hutterites (as a group) live a life very different from “the world” and from most of Christianity (they show us one form of communal living I find very interesting and workable, at least in the colonies I’m familiar with). Yet, different as we “post/moderns” are from them in lifestyle, we do share a common faith in Jesus Christ. I really enjoy the friendship of the Hutterites in our neighbourhood.

  2. Ron Hughes says:

    Thanks for this, Deb. In recent years I’ve been learning more about, and appreciating, our Christian siblings with Mennonite roots. I’m glad you opened another window!

    • Thanks, Ron. The website I linked is really lovely, isn’t it? The Hutterites have historically been very shy about allowing photos to be taken, but that and some other areas of lifestyle are changing. Unlike the Amish in your part of Canada, the Hutterites here don’t disapprove machinery–they are amazing farmers and run HUGE equipment. The women all sew their archaic-looking outfits on top-end Bernina and Janome machines, and the new schools are stocked with computers. Watching the society evolve while they keep strictly to 16th-century dress codes and fashion rules is fascinating. I believe they don’t send their teachers/preachers to seminary, and their sermons are all read from the texts of Jacob Hutter, if I have it right. Just a really interesting society.

  3. Isn’t it a little confused to voice admiration for the Hutterites across the board? We can legitimately admire their orderliness, work ethic, efficiency and resistance to fashion trends. But we ought to openly decry their laughably inconsistent legalism, their apparent satisfaction with religious form rather than heart transformation and their serious neglect and suppression of Bible study and evangelism.
    And if someone is trusting in their works to give them hope of heaven, do we actually share the same faith?
    Wycliffe has translated the Bible into Hutterische, which might make a wonderful gift for our Hutterische friends.

    • I absolutely agree, Eleanor, that we can’t claim the Hutterian “way of life” as being anything more than a cultural expression, just another religious society. Don’t read me wrong–I’m not admiring them “across the board.” Individual heart transformation and not groupthink is the only way to understand the Bible and have a relationship with Jesus Christ! However, I personally know many people in this particular colony (each colony being different, even if of the same “denomination”). And these are fine people who by and large love Christian principles (as far as I’ve seen in getting to know them–confirmed by this funeral). Legalism is always a problem, no less with Hutterites than with Amish or Mennonites or, in fact, with other “theocracies” such as what we see in South Africa with that somewhat closed society of Reformed believers who seem to me to connect their doctrine with political positions. But I do ADMIRE that, when societies like this are built on the essentials of Christianity and the Bible, they have a great starting point we can relate to and support and even learn from. So no, Eleanor, I’m not confused, but I do hope I’m not confusing others. Thanks for drawing the conversation in this direction!

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Signing Annie 11.15          SIGNING

I spent several hours yesterday in the lovely environs of Annie McGuire, an interior design studio in Medicine Hat. I signed a few books, had lovely chats with several readers, and met another local author. It was an altogether pleasant day.

Most of my writerly friends declare themselves to be introverts and, indeed, an extroverted personality like mine isn’t seen often in authorial circles. Generally writers find the solitude of writing to fit their natural impulses. Now, I love the focused aspect of writing alone in my home with no one else nearby, with phone silenced and no music to interrupt me, with only the keening of the wind and the kitchen window view of our little red barn to inform my senses. This leaves my imagination unhampered. However, my extroversion needs feeding! So a day with the lovely ladies at Annie McGuire did my heart a world of good!

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THE THIRD GRACE (thumbnail) jpg          READING

I’ve almost completed writing and editing (first round) on my new novel and am looking forward to hearing back from a few publishers considering it. Meanwhile I’m not forgetting my first novel, and lately I had the honour of being featured on The Mighty Pen–an excellent program on HopeStreamRadio. For those of you who’d like to hear me read a bit of The Third Grace, check it out!

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