I had dreamed that today, as I turn 40 years old, I would ship out my finished book to a publisher. But God had other plans. As I round the pole and head on back toward the finish line of life, I have:
- a beautiful, snugly baby boy
- two (close to three!) teenagers who enjoy me and like to talk with me
- a whole pack of middle kids who want to sing songs and hear stories
- fifty or so fun and thoughtful students who are committed to learning (except for the day before Thanksgiving Break)
- a new lead on solving these health issues
- a wife who is still sane despite everything I just listed.
Oh, and I have a draft of the book. It’s a theology of Scripture inspired by St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine. Footnotes need work (bother footnotes), and the last chapter is just a ta-a-ad incomplete, but it’s a book.
What’s in it? Glad you asked: Continue reading “My book as of now”
When I first met the woman who would become my wife, her family had been saying a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus every night for as long as she could remember. It was a variant on the Renewal of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart. Now Jacinta and I have said that same prayer every night with our kids for years and years.
A few weeks ago, we began Project Bard: we determined to build a treasury of songs by singing more or less every night–rounds, hymns, camp-fire songs, whatever. To approach the ocean by little streams, we began with some of the goofier selections from Cedarmont Kids’ 100 Singalong Songs for Kids.
We always end our singing session with night prayers, so one day it hit me: why not sing night prayers? It wasn’t hard to adapt our Sacred Heart prayer to a traditional hymn tune from the Roman Breviary, drawing on Fr. Samuel Weber’s Hymnal for the Hours. The result was just a little thing for my family, not really memorable poetry, but given Austin Kleon’s principle about sharing your work, and given that today is the memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, I think I’ll toss it up here: Continue reading “Sacred Heart Enthronement Hymn”
These days, anyone familiar with the medieval “question” format has probably met it through the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. To the modern eye it seems stuffy or even pretentious, with its stilted language and logical distinctions and its appearance of completeness. We prefer the humble “essay,” a word that means an “attempt,” an effort in the right direction.
But over the years I have come to love the “question” format. Each “article” within the “question” is a dehydrated debate. Just add imagination, and you have a rowdy crowd of objectors who even disagree with each other and an enthusiastic team of supporters whose support is sometimes as embarrassing as the objections, and in between them the master whose mental agility alone can keep order. Here are just a few of the things I like about the “question” format: Continue reading “5 reasons I love the scholastic “question””
Reading C.S. Lewis’s autobiographical Surprised by Joy, I was reminded of a useful distinction between two meanings of the word “fantasy.” One is the meaning I outlined in a previous post, namely a kind of literature that brings one into contact with the Other. The second is the self-indulgent fantasy we turn into the verb “fantasize.” Lewis draws the distinction nicely: Continue reading “Fantasy vs. fantazy”
I saw a fellow suffer such a crushing blow
as would have forged a saint out of a lesser man,
and yet he would not suffer, would not cry, or bow.
He kept his head erect, maintained a steady hand,
and sailed away with stolid cheer the sea to cross
and leave a matching wreckage in some other land.
He gave us one glimpse only of his inner gloss,
a single lifting of the curtain: as he turned,
he shook his fist at all behind who mourned his loss.
If you have a teenage reader, you have had this problem. All through their childhood you have fed them good books, fended off junk and inappropriate material, and maybe even previewed library books they wanted to read. But one day they show up with a stack of Young Adult books, each one three to five hundred pages long, none of them familiar, and all of them so—so teen.
And you realize you just can’t do it anymore. You can’t keep up. Continue reading “X-Ray Reads: for the voracious teen reader”
Last Tuesday, I gave a lecture to the Wyoming Catholic College community about “the Christian dignity of story.” In the Q&A session, a young man asked my opinion about the difference between fantasy and science fiction: after all, they both make up not only plots and characters but even universes, so they seem to operate at a similar level of abstraction from reality.
At the time, I had to confess that I didn’t have an answer. But later, with some help from Joseph Susanka, I reached a point of clarity worth sharing. Continue reading “The difference between fantasy and science fiction”
Around the turn of the year, I asked myself: If my circumstances were to change dramatically—if I suddenly lived somewhere else and did something else—what would I regret not having done with my time here in Lander, Wyoming? The first thing that came to me was:
Not having spent time with irreplaceable friends.
So it was that yesterday I had lunch with Joseph Susanka. We were roommates in college for four years, we talked each other through the ups and downs of courtship, and we have now worked at the same place for seven or eight years, and yet we hardly ever see each other. How dumb is that? Shortly after the new year, we agreed to get together every second Thursday for lunch and a conversation.
Topics are all over the place. Combining a classical education at Thomas Aquinas College with two years of film school in Los Angeles, Joseph loves movies and all the fundamental elements of film: photography, music, and story—and when you think about it, that’s a huge umbrella. His online movie reviews have acquired something of a following.
Last year, Joseph was invited to give a talk in Gallup, New Mexico about movies, and in a single, tightly-structured lecture he covered:
- Flannery O’Connor
- Thomas Aquinas
- Joan of Arc
- The Batman trilogy
- “No Country for Old Men”
It’s a penetrating piece with many implications. I highly encourage both of my readers to to check out www.josephsusanka.com in general and “The Brutality of Grace” in particular.
When I pointed out this morning that our baby Matthew would have been killed had he been in those villages near Bethlehem, my fifteen-year-old daughter Bernadette was thoughtful. This evening, she gave me a set of poems she had written, and I want to share them here:
Have you ever seen a baby’s smile light up the room?
Seen sheer happiness for no more reason than a laugh?
Have you ever heard a baby’s song without a tune?
Or, playful, fought him for your bread, at least a half?
Continue reading “Poems for the Feast of the Holy Innocents”
For those of you tracking my adventure in novel writing, the word is in. At a writer’s conference last June the owner of a literary agency invited me to submit my work, and a few days ago I got this note:
Thank you for allowing me to read your submission for THE ROBOT’S MAKER. I really enjoyed your engaging narrative voice as well as the light touches of humor throughout. However, I unfortunately didn’t quite fall in love with the story in the way I would need to to offer you representation. Therefore, I do not think we would be the correct agents to market this project in today’s competitive book publishing industry.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to read your work. I wish you the best of luck with THE ROBOT’S MAKER and your future endeavors.
Shira S. Hoffman
Now isn’t that about the sweetest rejection letter one could ask for? I’m truly grateful to have achieved my first goal, which was to get a rejection letter from a literary agent.
Continue reading “Update on the novel writing”