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 e-copy of Wet Thaw, two award-winning short stories by me. Or you can connect by Facebook or by email: deb@debelkink.com.


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FLYING BEYOND THE STARS: CHRISTIANS WRITING FICTION

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, we can regard genre as 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.

(First appeared as “Method and Message” Fall 2014 in Inscribe’s Fellowscript Magazine)

2 responses to “FLYING BEYOND THE STARS”

  1. elma neufeld says:

    I love your approach, especially that last paragraph!

  2. Elma Neufeld says:

    This explains it so well!

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FRENCH BAKING

I’m currently in the South of France, where the countryside in warmer seasons is saturated in lavender and olive, yellow and azure. But it is winter even here, and so the colours are more subdued–except in bakery windows!

On this vacation again I’ve pressed my nose up against the glass of many patisseries and boulangeries (they still make a difference here between which shops sell sweet delicacies and which yeasty breads). I’ve sampled my fair share as well, with more to come. And there’s one thing I’ve noticed over and again:

French baking always tastes as good as it looks.

This comes as a surprise to me every time I bite into a crusty croissant, flakes flying into the air, or lick a dollop of chocolate from a mousse cake, or crush the ripe raspberry of a tart, its flavour exploding in my mouth.

It surprises me that such beauty to the eye gives such pleasure to the taste buds, that the gastronomic reality is equal to the artistic presentation. (I sound almost sacramental here!) I have to admit that this is not the truth for most Canadian bakeries, where too often pristine cakes smothered in snowy icing and piped in berry blue taste of styrofoam wrapped in bitter lard–a temptation only to naive children who won’t believe for a while yet that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.

And yet here in France, it seems, every bite is true.

I see a philosophical corollary here, of course: Am I internally the person I attempt to project outwardly? Am I made of quality ingredients or substandard fluff? Does my character satisfy or disappoint?

But I have to be honest here. Call me shallow, but more important to me at this moment–as I wander the cobblestones and backstreets of a country where father taught son taught grandson the great culinary arts, where ingredients are treated as family secrets, where agriculture is a proud tradition and people shop the local markets daily–more important is my mouth.

French baking could almost convert me to hedonism.
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5 responses to “FRENCH BAKING”

  1. Wayne says:

    I love the imagery of this post. I hate to go there, but how are the prices for the French baked goods v. Canadian?

    • Wayne, the price of food (like breads and pastries, if not full meals) is extremely reasonable. You can buy the best croissant for $1US (or a dozen for 30 cents each), and a small baguette about the same. A raspberry tart (for two to share) is about $3.25 at a sit-down cafe, with an espresso under a dollar. Meals are another thing; unless you dine at noon on the “plat du jour” (almost always a deal, and delicious to boot), they can be as expensive as at home BUT always seem to taste infinitely better.

  2. Lorenda says:

    Thought-provokingly delicious.

  3. elma neufeld says:

    Okay, you sold me on it! My mouth is watering. You have an appreciation for beauty and able to describe it in such excellent terms! Having had the pleasure of having French pastry in France myself, I completely agree with you! I know what you are saying about some of our Canadian desserts. It fools me every time.
    Thanks for the post card of Picasso’s art plate. I think he did quite a number of them. France speaks art everywhere.

    • Thanks, Mom! I think the reason for the exceptional quality of the French (European?) baking is often the ingredients used. I must say that I’ve had some wonderful desserts at YOUR table, and also from the kitchens of many friends who, like the French, pay special attention to details and quality of what’s going into the mixing bowl. But really, as far as store-bought goodies, the French have it all over anything I can purchase at home!

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Publishing Contract          PUBLISHING CONTRACT

I just signed my second book contract! The flush of excitement (fear?) isn’t nearly as overwhelming this time, maybe partly because publishing this book isn’t really a “new venture” but a reworking of graduate research I completed back in 2001.

This is the brief story behind my upcoming book, ROOTS AND BRANCHES: THE SYMBOL OF THE TREE IN THE IMAGINATION OF G. K. CHESTERTON:

When I returned to the classroom, after finishing off home-educating the third child, I found just the scholarly and spiritual nourishment I was looking for. Seminary offered me access to the brilliant minds of godly professors who urged me on towards my goal of clarifying my religious beliefs and rebooting my literary skills so that I could write theologically informed fiction. It worked, though it took me a while. My subsequent novel, The Third Grace, won a Canada-wide, “book of the year”-type of award in 2012 and (besides all sort of editing and other writing-related work) I’ve placed in several short story contests as well. I’ve been busy with drafting my second novel and am on the brink of sending off a proposal for it to attract the agent of my dreams.

So when, a couple of months ago, I received an email out of the blue from a small publishing house interested in my decade-old research on G. K. Chesterton–the late-Victorian apologist, essayist, and novelist–I faltered. The publisher told me how, as a member of the American Chesterton Society, he was reading a novel by GKC that needed explanation–and he found my article online and loved it. Still,  I couldn’t quite believe there was a niche audience wanting to read an academic book full of footnotes, but the publisher patiently prodded me, answered my questions, assured me of veto power, raved about the content, and promised me some fantastic endorsements–which he is delivering on.

For example, Dale Ahlquist (whom I repeatedly reference in my research) is one of the Chesterton experts lined up to say nice things about the book, such as:

There are few intellectual exercises more rewarding than the close reading of a Chesterton text. And too few critics have made the effort. . . . Perhaps they are intimidated to offer a critical analysis of a writer who is himself a master literary critic. But Deb Elkink has risen to the challenge.

So I’ve signed and am now immersed in edits and emails and eating/sleeping/dreaming all things Chesterton. And I like it. I’m having fun and learning loads.

Moral of the story: Write with all your heart. You never know who will read your words–or when–and bring them back to you.

But now my novel manuscript is calling me . . .

2 responses to “CONTRACT”

  1. elma neufeld says:

    A great chance for me to congratulate you on getting the book on Chesterton “Roots & Branches”published, or into the hands of this publisher. Even though you didn’t expect to have anyone ever read it! I’ve known you to be thorough in everything you do, and this is a great example of your commitment to who you are.

  2. Excellent post, Deb. 🙂

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Short story win       PRIDE

I am so delighted to have won TWO honourable mentions (with the third short story I entered also selected as one of 35 finalists) in this wide-reaching contest that attracted well over 1,000 entries, awarding only 12 prizes. And in my delight I’ve been sharing the news everywhere, many friends and associates rejoicing with my giggling joy.

I mean, who’d know if I didn’t tell them?

It’s encouraging to me to be recognized by such a popular, international contest (judged blind, my name not appearing on the entries). The money I received wasn’t significant, nothing like the Grace Irwin prize offered yearly by our own Canadian organization, The Word Guild. But gaining recognition in these types of contests tells me that I’m on the right track–and every writer needs that sort of encouragement. I hope that my advertising spurs on other writers in my circles to enter contests or send out pieces for publication, even older work like the stories I submitted. We need to get the word out that writers are appreciated and being read.

But I wonder where the line is between sharing of news and prideful crowing?

My husband and I have been reading Proverbs together in the mornings lately, and that book is chockfull of warnings against pride, such as:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom (11:2).

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (16:18).

One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honour (29:23).

My sister assures me that feeling proud is correct (as in the dictionary definition: “much pleased [exultant] . . . having proper self-respect”). I know that in my heart I don’t feel the sort of pride that elevates my own opinion of myself above others (as in the biblical story of Lucifer); rather, I give the glory to the God who created me and affords me the opportunity to write at this time in my life.

But even if my internal attitude is good, does my broadcasting come across to others as boastful? Maybe it is boastful. As Proverbs says:

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give (25:14).

These warnings demand self-reflection. My goal is humility, wisdom, lowliness in spirit: How does this interface with my sharing wonderful news that has the ability to cause envy in others? (I know this ability experientially, as nothing can rile up my covetousness like the publishing successes of others!)

How do I avoid becoming a cloud without rain? How do I better give of my gift?

5 responses to “PRIDE”

  1. I’ve been surprised by Christian writers freely sharing their successes. Not being in that situation, I don’t know what I would do. There is the proverb I drummed into my children in years past, “Let others praise you and not your own mouth.” But, as you say, this is just sharing information. Something to ponder…

    • Thanks for the comment, Eleanor. Over and over I’m being told by many sources that, especially in this current publishing environment, we writers need to market ourselves, but this doesn’t sit well with me. I’m conflicted.

  2. Lorenda says:

    I just noticed your last comment about feeling conflicted about marketing yourself. I would imagine that might partially be due to observing conceited writers or at least those who do not come across as humble. I don’t know who this blogger is but I just came across this post defining the difference between conceit and pride. I liked it: http://primility.com/difference-pride-conceit/

    • Lori, thanks for that interesting link. The blogger teases out the difference between pride and conceit, and the role of humility in allowing pride to express itself in a beneficial and proper way.

  3. elma neufeld says:

    Reading the link (Lorenda) on pride-conceit helped me to re-define the difference. I think some people can only see one side or the other. Maybe a reflection on their own views?

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Green Bean Soup 1          SIMMER, SCOOP, SLURP

Soup making is more art than science.

Baking chocolate cupcakes is science, as anyone who’s added a pinch too much soda knows. And of course entire cookbooks have been devoted to soup recipes (take the title of this post, which is the fictional name of a cookbook I refer to in my upcoming novel)–as though the exact ratio of water to bone really makes that much difference.

No, making soup is more a relationship than a religion. You taste your way into a good pot of soup.

So Mom and I put together a batch only partially following the Mennonite cookbook version some of you might know. Extrapolate on this “recipe” based on what’s in your fridge:

GREEN BEAN SOUP

Combine in pot and simmer till meat is tender:

  • 1 meaty ham bone, 1-2 pounds (we used a chunk of ham steak and a couple of links of smoked sausage)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cups cold water

Remove meat and strain through cheesecloth (or just a sieve, as we did), returning broth to pot and add:

  • 2-3 cups fresh green beans (or yellow–or even the new purple kind), cut up
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 3 medium potatoes, cubed (better to use baby potatoes and don’t cut too small)
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns in spice bag (or a good grinding of pepper straight into the pot)
  • Salt to taste

Simmer till veggies are tender, correct the seasoning, then add and simmer another half-hour:

  • 4 sprigs summer savory (this time we used a handful of fresh dill instead, just added at the end)

Cut meat from bone and return to the soup.

Serve with thick, yummy farmer’s cream or a scoop of sour cream (or both!) and slurp away.

Green Bean Soup 2Green Bean Soup 3

 

 

4 responses to “SIMMER. SCOOP, SLURP”

  1. Charlene says:

    Can’t wait to try this, Deb! Thanks for posting!

  2. Carol Bayntun says:

    We make this bean soup the way Mom always did. What I find interesting is that she called the herb in the recipe “papakrutte” which does mean savory. We try to use Winkler farmer sausage when we make this soup it has the smoky flavour built right in. I add both dill as well as savoury in this recipe. Realize of course that this recipe is best with fresh vegetable from the garden as well as freshly baked buns.

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 Sweet Taber Corn Corn Chowder finished         CORN CHOWDER

It’s corn season here in southern Alberta, where the long hours of sunshine ripen golden cobs to sweet perfection.

As some of you know, I’ve been collecting soup recipes for a while on behalf of the main character in the novel I’m currently drafting (almost done!). So in celebration of the season and my dear protagonist, Libby, I’d like to share another soup-making episode with you.

Sometimes after a corn feast, a few cobs remain. Rather than heat them as leftovers, I make this soup:

I sauté bacon, then use the drippings to soften a small chopped onion, a cubed potato, and some sliced celery. I make a roux with flour, add the de-cobbed corn, salt and pepper, and a box of chicken broth (though Libby doesn’t ever take shortcuts like that when an old hen is at hand), and simmer till cooked. Then I add a couple of glugs (say, ½ cup) of dry white wine and the same of heavy whipping cream, and heat just to a simmer. I top with shredded, aged cheddar and snipped chives.

WOWZER!

Now that you’re salivating, let me give you a “taste” of my novel. In this excerpt, Libby is applying for a job at a mom-and-pop diner named Phil ’Er Up—not at all haute cuisine—and initially the owner/chef seems disinterested:

“Experience?” Phil wiped his hands on his apron.

“I’ve worked with the public most of my adult life, usually in sales.” She hoped he’d skip over the part of her résumé that showed lack of references from her most recent employer.

“Cooking jobs?” Apparently Phil didn’t speak in full sentences.

“Uh, well not in a restaurant, per say, but I’m handy with soups.”

“Sorry, no openings.” Phil turned away, crumpling the sheet of paper into a ball and aiming at the garbage can.

“I should mention that I just completed a seminar over at the Belle . . .” She hadn’t finished her pathetic pitch before Phil spun around.

“Virgil Oxenbury’s seminar?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Got Simmer, Scoop, Slurp right here.” He reached for the cookbook and slapped it onto the counter between them. “Certified?”

“My certificate is coming in the mail.” She hoped so, anyway. “I love to design soups. I’ve been cooking since I was quite young and have a real repertoire of recipes I’d love to share with you.”

“Such as?” Phil removed his bib apron, waved towards a table, and poured two cups of coffee. She assumed she should sit.

“I make a terrific Beet Borscht with dill and shreds of beef—”

“No Ukrainian.”

“Um, well I have a great little Thai Chicken Coconut Soup with lemongrass and chili seasoning—”

“No Asian.”

Libby sipped her scalding coffee. Apparently this wasn’t a very ethnically diverse restaurant. What attracted Phil to Chef Virgil if not his global palate? She’d love to describe her fantastic concoction of Butternut Squash and Mango soup—fragrant with fresh ginger and turmeric—but Phil’s ban on Oriental flavors put the kibosh on that idea.

Libby glanced at the paper placemat menu lying on the table in front of her. Ah, he was playing to the Midwestern taste for down-home farm cooking. She could do that!

“My Corn Chowder would knock your socks off, Phil.”

To learn whether it does or not, you’ll have to wait till the novel is finished!

 

 

8 responses to “CORN CHOWDER”

  1. Charlene says:

    Oh my! Can’t wait to try this, Deb!

  2. This one has a new (soup) flavour from your first novel. I like it! Libby should consider marketing her soups in cans. “Follow the bouncing bean…” 😀

    • Hmm, you’re tapping into an element of my story that might please you, Eleanor! If only I could get this novel finished off! But I think novels (like good soup) take a certain time to simmer until all the flavours merge, don’t you?

  3. elma neufeld says:

    I can’t wait to read you’re next novel! But I’m not waiting to make this soup. I shall have some for supper tonight!

  4. Hi Deb – sounds great – both the soup and the book. 🙂

  5. Thanks, Marcia. Remind me–do you have food featured in any of your novels? Tell us about that!

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SUNHAT          NOT SO ENGAGING

I’ve been a very errant blogger of late because my head has been in the clouds of novel drafting. I’m just at the stage now of cleaning up my manuscript so I can see what I really have, and then I’ll  begin edits in earnest before I send it off for the perusal of a select few victims and finally pitch it to the agent of my dreams.

Also, it being summer, I’ve been physically running to and fro; for example, I spent five days in July celebrating my 60th in NYC with my daughters, and tomorrow afternoon I’m going tubing with them down the South Saskatchewan River. (Note the Chinese sunhat I’ll be donning for the event.)

And now another lovely dalliance has arisen, as I’m leading a couple of workshops for the Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship conference in Edmonton on September 26-27–demanding some quality development time. I’ve been a women’s speaker for quite a few years now, with the Stonecroft organization and also more recently for several church retreats. However, this is my debut as a facilitator for writers, and I’m excited to share what I’m learning and stimulate conversation to learn more.

The conference, featuring the joyful and hilarious Phil Callaway as plenary speaker, has as its theme PROCLAIM THE WORDIt’s open for registration, if you’re an interested writer and plan to be in the area this fall.

Meanwhile, I have a manuscript to deal with, so I’m once again begging off from “engaging” further with you through plentiful posts. But drop a note into the comments below and tell me what’s keeping you busy this summer!

2 responses to “NOT SO ENGAGING”

  1. Renita says:

    Oh Deb, you are a woman of inspiration! I wish you God’s richest blessing and care as you embark on new journeys.

    You know, not so many years ago “60” was SENIOR and women of that ilk not only looked old, but worse, acted old! Thank you for evidencing that aging still means LIVING and living abundantly!! God is truly pleased by that I’m sure.

    I look forward to that new novel but in the meantime, take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically! Love ya’

    • Renita, thank you so much for that blessing! Yes, 60 is the new 40, and I’m so thankful for my health and the JOY that I have in my life–the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects you mention that we all need to care for.

      (Also, I’m thankful for good makeup that covers wrinkles and well-cut clothes that hide bulges; that doesn’t sound so very lofty, but it’s true!)

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          LEMONY YUM

A friend of mine in Saskatchewan—a neighbour I know from ranching days—is a farm wife who grows lentils. I asked her for her favourite recipe, then tweaked it a bit, and might use it as one of the soups appearing in my novel. (Feel free to improvise your own ingredients.)

It’s delish!

LEMON LENTIL SOUP

A splash of lemon-infused olive oil (a tablespoon or so)

A large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 cups red lentils, cleaned and rinsed

6 cups chicken stock

Zest and juice of 2 large lemons

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

To taste: sea salt from the South of France and freshly ground Turkish pepper brought home from Istanbul!

Method:

1. Heat oil in large saucepan.

2. Add onion, garlic, and paprika (or hot pepper flakes). Cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Add cumin and lentils, combine well. Add stock, salt, and pepper, and bring to boil.

4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender and soup is beginning to thicken, about 30 minutes.

5. Add extra liquid if needed. Add lemon juice.

6. Serve sprinkled with cilantro (or regular parsley).

photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

 

2 responses to “Lemony Yum”

  1. Wendy Nelles says:

    Great post Deb.

    Encouragement is lifeblood for everyone.

    And I want to try that lentil soup recipe, sounds so good and so healthy!

  2. Thanks, Wendy! I have a few more recipes I’ll be posting over the next month or two–of soups that I mention in my upcoming novel (though it’s not meant to be a recipe book in any way and only hints at the actual ingredients or method). My main character, Libby Walker, is fixated on soups for a particular reason that comes clear at the end of the story. In fact, today I just made a batch of the very last soup mentioned in the book. But it’s a mystery I’m not giving away here–at least not yet! : )

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Vines in the South of France

FAN CLUB 

I just got off the phone with my dear friend Christelle, whom I met twenty years ago in a small town in the Savoie department of the Rhône-Alpes and who now lives in the South of France with her husband and two boys. Christelle is a true Frenchwoman, a university teacher who has taught me much about enjoying life (and food!). She tells me she’s enamoured with my novel, and our discussion today centred around her continuing education and her plans to use The Third Grace as a text in her graduate studies.

“I love how allusive of the Bible your writing is,” she said to me. “This isn’t common in France, and your book makes me want to go to the Bible and read it for myself.”

I get goosebumps just typing this. Here is a reader who understands my whole purpose in writing fiction! Someone—of another culture, at that—gets that my literary intention is to point back to the Scriptures, and is intellectually and spiritually stimulated to pursue God’s Word because of my imaginary story.

This is my satisfaction in writing—to know my words make a difference.

Two years ago this month, The Third Grace won The Word Guild’s prestigious Grace Irwin Award. You’d think this would be enough to carry me through the drafting of my second novel, almost done now. The validation of the award does go a long way in that direction and, anyway, I’m writing out of a solid conviction that I have a contribution to make. But yet I find myself flagging, wondering if all this time spent in my head really makes a difference to flesh-and-blood people out there in Real World.

My fan club is either minuscule or shy, but every now and then I learn about someone else who’s read my work. For example, upon request from a local business owner, I stopped by her establishment this past week to sign my book. When I walked in, she got all excited and dragged out her very worn copy (What, was she reading it in the tub?) for me to add my John Henry. It encouraged me to see her delight in having the signature of “the actual author” and hear her inquiry into when the next book would be out.

Granted, not everyone likes The Third Grace. I was at a cattle branding recently and a neighbouring rancher with cow poo on his boots told me his wife forced him to read it.

“I didn’t get it,” he said to me. “Your words are too long.”

I grinned and thanked him for his sacrifice in making it through to the end. I meant it; not many men I know have read the novel, and it honoured me.

I’m not alone in enjoying acknowledgment.

Yesterday I read a Facebook post from a fellow writer who’s many more times published than I am or might ever hope to be. Linda Hall expressed a similar thrill over a recent review of her latest book—number 19, I believe. That “famous” writer still gets a positive charge out of one review.

My point isn’t to elicit more praise from my readers! In fact, if you are compulsively driven right now to tell me how much you like my novel, please save it because I’ll know you think I’m pathetic.

My point is that for some reason I’ve tended to believe people who are having successes don’t need positive feedback from others, as though I should “save” my verbal support for those who are more obviously struggling in their lives. But my own experience with the publishing of my first novel, as well as my observation of those who are more proficient or qualified, is telling me something very different.

We all need encouragement.

How can I, today, spur someone on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)?

Whom do you know needing a cheer of support, a confirmation that he or she makes a difference in your life? Perhaps it’s your pastor, or a politician, or another writer immersed in solitary work.

Join me in taking time today to tip your hat to someone you think shouldn’t need it.

4 responses to “FAN CLUB”

  1. Linda Hall says:

    Lovely sentiment. Lovely thoughts. I’ve never been to the south of France, but it’s definitely on my list. And yes, encouragement is so important.

  2. Linda, your words have often encouraged me. Your novels are wonderful, of course, but your personal comments have touched me deeply. The first time I met you, you’d just published THE JOSIAH FILES and told me that, no, I wasn’t too old to start writing novels! Then, years later when you facilitated a Write!Canada class, you said you understood me better by putting my face to my writing (“ethereal” is the word you used, I think). After my joyful win of the Grace Irwin Award at the banquet two years ago, you made a point to address me (in my flustered state) to assure me that, yes, I could write another book. Thank you for your support!

  3. Elma Neufeld says:

    It’s so good to read this, your blog. I work alone at my painting as you know and I understand the need for feedback of one kind or another. Why are we doing what we’re doing? Does it touch someone out there? Does my work speak? Then I ask myself is it fulfilling enough for the painter just to work on and on? Or the writer to write on and on? YES, in my point of view I’d say in the fullest sense it is. We know the drive behind our work, the passion that makes us do what we do. But when someone appreciates a work that’s been ‘created’ solely by one person it’s a huge encouragement, now no longer only one’s own opinion. I know I must remember to encourage others in all their work.

  4. Elma (Mom), thanks for sharing your perspective as a working visual artist. I wonder how often personality comes in to our choice of work. For example, I know many writers are introverts–it seems overwhelmingly to be the type that is attracted to writing (and I suspect painting as well)–though I am no introvert! So then your question of drive or passion begs a second question: Is the expression (writing, painting) fulfilling in itself, if it “disagrees” with personality type, to motivate the writer/artist to keep going? I suspect this has different answers for different people.

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Toes 3         THE TAO OF TOES

I’ve found a great pedicurist who makes my feet look cute. So for a break from my everyday schedule of writing that plays havoc with my neck and shoulders, I thought I’d book a different treatment at the same spa.

My appointment yesterday for a deep-tissue massage led to an interesting discussion with the therapist, whose answer to all life’s problems lay, she explained, in the personal application of astrology—a “scientific” system that I should use in getting to the psychic root of my muscular pains. Didn’t God place the stars in the heavens in the expectation that we would use the spiritual powers they afforded?

Earlier in the receiving lounge a waiting client, an aging truck driver wearing plaid flannel, witnessed to me about the wonderful help he was receiving there for his diabetes through reiki (which he pronounced “reekie” like it was a bad smell)—a Buddhist practice whereby the life force energy is transferred through the palms of the healer by the laying on of hands. During his testimonial to me, his portly wife finished her session and limped into the lounge to join us; yes, she proclaimed, her aura was finally adjusted.

Now, I live in a small city built upon the industries of agriculture and natural gas, where Sunday mornings the cops still set up radar traps to catch churchgoers. Most residents here are politically conservative and culturally down to earth, their feet firmly planted in the soil while their heads brush the heavens (to coin G.K. Chesterton). Yet, in the span of two hours, I faced the encroaching tide of Eastern mysticism so at odds with Western sensibilities—a philosophical corrective for our era, many would say, that allows the circular flow of “balance” to trump the linear march of propositional “truth” as the source of peace. All religions are the same, they declare; all cultural viewpoints carry equal validity for seekers of harmony.

Everyone is looking for inner peace, striving to find rest for the soul.

This is the message behind my next novel, which in my drafting has now hit the noteworthy word count of 80,000 (only 20K to go). I’m grappling with a character who believes—like the massage therapist yesterday—that she can chase down peace and the fullness of life if only she tries hard enough to let the organic fullness of The Universe speak into her existence.

In my story, Libby (a 50-ish, single salesclerk in Minneapolis who loves cooking soup and hates apartment living) is on the verge of her first house purchase after years of caring for her only real family—her recently deceased grandmother who is speaking to her from beyond the grave through a letter and the bequest of an antique child’s ring. But Libby’s younger friend Sybil (zany owner of Amulets Alternative Apothecary) is begging her instead to blow her budget on traveling with her to sacred places around the world—a monastery in Japan, a mountaintop in Africa, a mosque in Istanbul. They compromise with a road trip to North Dakota, up near the Canadian border, to take in a tour through a mansion museum led by the newly wed and very pregnant historian-curator Paige (who speaks on behalf of the town’s founder and builder of the mansion). In that old house Libby discovers her cultural heritage and the true meaning of “home,” to enter her personal rest.

Wish me luck (or, perhaps I should say, pray for providence) as I push on to the end of my theological exploration. Like any piece of fiction, my novel is just a little story—but I know how influential story can be to potential readers who are treading out their own walk of life.

 

8 responses to “THE TAO OF TOES”

  1. Looking forward to this, Deb. Stories can make a big difference in readers’ lives.

    • Thanks, Janet! Your own stories testify to this truth!

      For others reading this comment, I recommend you buy Janet Sketchley’s novel HEAVEN’S PREY, wherein the main character comes face-to-face with a brutal rapist-murderer and the question of forgiveness.

  2. Elma Neufeld says:

    Deb, I can’t wait to read your book. Thanks for this appetizer!

  3. Gwen says:

    Sounds pretty interesting and timely, Deb. I look forward to reading this novel.

    • Thanks, Gwen. In fact, YOU have been an inspiration for some of it, with your direction towards sources that deal with the “New Spirituality” making its home among us. I trust that this novel will be provocative; I’m working at saying something without coming right out and saying it. How artistique of me, non?

  4. Ingrid Bizio says:

    Can’t wait to read it, my friend!!! I chuckled at the pronunciation of “Reiki” and could literally picture the truck driver in plaid flannel and his portly wife!

    • Thanks for your response, Ingrid. You and I have missed a lot of coffee opps because of my nose being in this manuscript. I will emerge eventually into society again and meet you at Starbucks!

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