Wonderful News

2f01385b8f6041e792cbae51ffd66db8A few minutes ago, I received word that Ruminate will continue publishing. I’m so excited that I had to share this news with my loyal blog readers. Thank you for your support of our Art Matters campaign. We dreamed big (like the Scrabble letters told us) and were encouraged at the tremendous response.

This is wonderful news for many, many people. Most obviously, those of us who invest time and energy into this literary journal, but also writers and artists. Right now, our nonfiction contest is running, so if non-fiction is your niche or if you’ve got a stellar piece of creative non-fiction, consider submitting your work. As well, our short story contest is currently open to submissions. (I already have several to read!)

Thank you again for your support. This is encouraging to me.

And now for a moment of blatant self-promotion . . . If you’re on Pinterest, guess what? I’m on Pinterest, too. I’m creating boards based on my current WIP (revolving around a young teen named Cady), writing, quotations, various science/math/art research interests, and funny (to me) photos. I’d love for you to follow me and for me to follow you.

Don’t run on air

In Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, homicide investigator Landsman has just informed a rabbi’s wife that her son has been murdered. The rabbi is powerful and corrupt man and has driven his son away, into a lifestyle of poverty and heroin abuse. Now the rabbi’s wife asks Landsman if he is married. Landsman is divorced. Then she says:

My marriage is a complete success,” she says without a trace of boastfulness or pride.

Landsman is skeptical. The wife asks if he remembers the old cartoon where a wolf chases another animal off a cliff.

51f8a92b22724c5cb64f303d22761b87“Then you know,” she says, “how that wolf can run in the middle of the air. He knows how to fly, but only so long as he still thinks he’s touching the ground. As soon as he looks down, and sees where he is, and understands what’s going on, then he falls and smashes into the ground. (. . . ) That’s how it is in a successful marriage,” says the rabbi’s wife. “I have spent the last fifty years running in the middle of the air. Not looking down.”

–Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, pages 209-210

A delusion. But a powerful delusion and one that many people share. How many of us claim to have success because we refuse to look down?

The success can be in relationships, in business, in other endeavors. We’re a success only in our own minds.

Ignore the cracks in the foundation, the shaky ground, the lack of solid matter underfoot. It’s easier to pretend, like the rabbi’s wife pretends. It’s easier in the short run to ignore the problems than to look down and face a calamitous fall. 

A church friend was relating why her job situation is stressful. In their small company, only she and another man are full-time employees in the regional branch. The company has grown too rapidly and it is apparent that their current systems and organization cannot handle the growth, both present and future.

At least, it’s apparent to her. The manager is doing a marvelous job of running in the air and not looking down. He won’t stop travelling long enough to reorganize and restructure, and she doesn’t have the authority or the knowledge of the entire system to do it herself. So she’s frustrated, knowing that this cannot work, that collapse is almost inevitable.

I’ve written four novels. In writing novels two and four, I had glaring problems from the start. The less said about Novel #2 the better; I learned a lot about writing prose in the year I spent running in the air, but once I looked down and admitted the truth–this will not work–the book fell apart.

In my current work in progress, there was a particular character who didn’t belong in the story. I knew it or had an inkling of the truth all throughout the writing of the first draft; I continually had to make excuses for the protagonist’s father to be absent during the story’s events, and his off-the-page presence detracted from the tension between the protagonist and antagonist. After all, dear Daddy could always swoop in at the end and save the day, take the power away from big bad grandpa, and the girl protagonist would have done nothing to change her own situation, a deus ex machina. The character had to go.

But I did a terrific job of refusing to acknowledge the problems with having the father as a character. Then one day, I looked down and saw the problems.

It could’ve killed the manuscript, but it didn’t. Why? Because once I acknowledged that there was a problem, I began working (thinking, ruminating, talking to myself) on a solution. (Oddly enough, I found it through an off-hand comment of my pastor’s during a sermon illustration.) Unlike the rabbi’s wife, I looked down.

So there’s the challenge: be willing to look at reality and be willing to do what it takes to work on problems that are within your control. Does anyone have any experiences they’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!

Growing up to ourselves & growing into our gifts

41e9cc9716fb446780fbdd7cd488e365“Is my IQ okay?”

“More than okay.”

“What is it?”

“I’m not going to tell you. But it assures me that both you and Charles Wallace will be able to do pretty much whatever you like when you grow up to yourselves. You just wait till Charles Wallace starts to talk. You’ll see.”

–conversation between Meg Murry and her mother in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time

I find this phrase of Mrs. Murry’s telling: When you grow up to yourselves.  Grow up “to” yourselves, rather than simply “grow up.” What does she mean?

I think she means that, while both children are intelligent, they are still children. Their adult selves will realize the implications of the gift of profound intelligence: the responsibilities, the joys and benefits, the need to use their lives to help—not harm—society, and how to handle those who don’t understand them. They will be able to separate who they are as individual people from what they do as intellectually gifted people.

Right now, Meg is a young girl who doesn’t know who she is. Being told her IQ wouldn’t tell her who she is, nor who she will be. It’s just a number. And one number cannot express the full measure of a person’s intellect, much less the full measure of a person’s self.

Mrs. Murry tells her just enough—you’ll be fine—to counteract the lies of those at school who believe Meg is stupid because she doesn’t “do” math the “right” way.

She does it her way because she’s brilliant and understands it at a different level than her teachers. This doesn’t endear her to the teacher or administrator, who don’t appreciate her abilities in math nor her inability to explain herself. (That’s a different post.)

It might be tempting for Mrs. Murry to hop in her car, drive to the school, and chew out those dimwitted, clueless teachers. Because, obviously, if they’ve scolded her brilliant child, then they’re at fault.

Never mind that they are authority figures and therefore should be respected for their position, even if they haven’t earned that respect with their actions. (A lesson that Meg, in her immaturity, hasn’t yet learned.)

Never mind that often, we have to jump through seemingly pointless hoops to do something. (Another lesson Meg hasn’t learned. Sometimes you just need to roll your eyes, jump through the hoop, and do it the “right” way, no matter how frustrating that is, because that’s how you move forward to a place where you can do it your way.)

Never mind that Meg is still a physical child. She isn’t an adult, and she doesn’t need her mother to allow her to act like an adult (minus the average adult’s life experience) in this situation. She doesn’t have the life experience to put this one incident in a broader perspective.

It’s a bit like what a literary agent has written about extremely young wannabe authors; they may be terrific, gifted writers, but the majority of teenagers don’t have the life experience to write a publishable novel. It can happen. But it’s highly unusual.

(I’ll second this as a short story submission reader. The young authors like to tell me how old they are, and some write good stories compared with their same-aged peers. But how can a sixteen-year-old compete with a someone who has been writing professionally longer than the teen has been alive? So, young writers, keep writing, keep submitting—it’s good practice—and keep learning. Then, when you do have some more life experience, you’ll be ready for whatever story you want to write. Okay, that’s enough advice from Granny Laura.)

Recently, I’ve been kicking around this idea:

With personal gifts, it’s a blessing to find success at an older age versus a younger one.  

The more I’ve read about “gifted children”—so-called prodigies and such—I find something sad about many of them. It’s a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, there are astonishing achievements.

On the other, for some, their “giftedness” overwhelms their existence. Their gift is their entire identity. They aren’t allowed to be children because the surrounding adults focus on “the gift” to the exclusion of all else and the child doesn’t have the maturity to separate “who I am” from “what I can do.” This can lead to a number of negative outcomes.

But if, like Mrs. Murry, the parent allows the gifted child to be a child, to be cherished for who she is (no matter how odd she appears to others), to struggle from the cocoon of immaturity and emerge into adulthood all the stronger for having struggled—if the parent does that, the child has a chance to grow up to her self (who I am) and to separate it from her gift (what I do). That’s eventually what happens to Meg.

As someone who doesn’t have a Meg-sized intellect (and definitely not a Charles Wallace-sized one!), it’s still interesting to think of the ways I’ve grown in my abilities. For example, I don’t think I was ready to write a novel until I was thirty. I’d tried before, once as a teenager and once as a new college graduate, but the stories were weak.

I wasn’t ready until after my diagnosis with bipolar disorder, two pregnancies, secondary infertility, a miscarriage, any number of medication changes and bipolar swings, and all the things that happened during my twenties. Looking back at that first draft of that first novel, I torn between cringing and laughing. Really? Did I really write that? Did I really think that was going to work?

Yeah. I did.

I know better now. Why? More experience, both in life and in novel-writing. I’ve grown up to myself, as Mrs. Murry phrases it, and I’ll undoubtedly keep growing more in the future.



At the risk of being annoying, I’d like to share a NEW video from Brianna Van Dyke, editor-in-chief of Ruminate.

We’ve got about 72 hours left in our campaign to raise 52,500 dollars. (Lots of people decided to be monthly donors. Good for them. Thank you!) We’re at 27.77% as of now, and a lot of momentum going.

There are several blog posts of interest over at the Ruminate home. Sophfronia Scott, board member Judith Deem Dupree, and other authors have shared their passion for seeing this literary journal survive. Even other literary journals are tweeting and sharing about our #artmatters campaign.

I mentioned the campaign to our Sunday school class this past week. No one had heard of us. (That’s not surprising, given the church demographics. Lots of engineers, few art-literary people.) The teacher asked if this was something to pass on to the church mission team.

No, it’s not.

We’re not publishing the Christian fiction you might find at Lifeway. But we have published short stories and essays that later won Pushcart Prizes and mentions in Best American Essays. (Click through to read Jeremy Jones’ personal and beautiful post about his Ruminate essay about his grandfather’s death, which later was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays. ) And it’s incredible to think that I get to be an itty-bitty part of this wonderful journal.

No Stumbling Blocks: Disability, Autism and the Church (Leviticus 19:14)

Laura Droege:

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation at church with a member who has a son with rare but severe disabilities; eventually it will take his life prematurely. Often, she and her husband cannot attend church because their son requires 24/7 medical care. She was passionate about how the church universal needs to be more mindful of those in the church family who have disabilities, whether that person attends the service or not, and those who are their caregivers (should they require one). Here’s a great post calling for churches to be more aware of the members’ needs, and actively work to integrate those members who may be marginalized for their “disability.” Everyone is valuable and everyone has gifts that can build the church. Integration may make some uncomfortable, may require creative thinking, and may be difficult for those who like things “their” way. But it’s worth the effort!

Originally posted on The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog:

World-autism-awareness-day“Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD”

Leviticus 19:14 is one of those verses that you’d hope was unnecessary. The idea that someone would deliberately trip a blind person, or exploit someone’s deafness, is reprehensible and offends our sensibilities. Don’t put stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or wheelchair users or those with autism or…

Parenting autistic children is a whirlwind of emotions – love, compassion, joy, frustration, anger, exhaustion, happiness, doubt, occasionally all within five minutes. It’s the invisible stuff that most defines autistic life – always knowing where the exits are, always building extra time into itineraries to make room for the epic putting on of shoes, always having to be one step ahead of your child’s individual quirks and traits and obsessions. People don’t see these things, the battles…

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Art Matters

Hear Brianna Van Dyke, editor-in-chief of Ruminate, talk about the journal’s beginnings, journey, and current need. It’s less than 2 minutes, which is 1/720th of your day. Not a bad investment of your time, right? Right.

The campaign only lasts for 10 days, so don’t miss out on the chance to be Watson, Jane, Rosencrantz, Huck, or Frodo and Sam. (Clueless on those literary references? Read the donation page!  I thought it was funny.)


Art matters . . . help us save Ruminate!

A few weeks ago, the editor of Ruminate emailed me. The journal will be launching a campaign to raise funds. We need three full-time staff members to handle all the work of managing, editing, and marketing and outreach. We currently have two who are paid small stipends (and hold full-time jobs to make a living), and the rest is run by volunteers; this isn’t sustainable anymore.

Unless we are able to raise $60,000 during the campaign, the journal will be closing its doors in January 2016.

Fear overwhelmed me.

This fear surprised me, the way a riptide surprises a swimmer and sweeps them from their intended route. And I had to wonder why. Why did this possibility cause me so much fear? Surely I’d realized the possibility before; nothing physical lasts forever. Literary journals cease publication more often than not. Why the sense of loss? That fear of losing something precious?

Then I realized: Ruminate is more than a literary journal. It’s a lifeline.

I live in a technology-drenched area of the country. Rockets and missiles, computer data and quantum mechanics: these flow around me, bewildering and alien to my mind. Even more overwhelming is how all of us, regardless of our personal geography, are drowning in our ocean of objects and phones and computers and i-this-or-that things. Our faces plastered to a screen, texting, sharing, over-sharing, focusing on the almighty i.

I, me, myself, doing this or that on my i-object: I feel like I’m drowning in myself (or a technological version of myself) and I don’t even own a smart phone.

Then I open the pages of Ruminate. The eyes of my heart lift from the surrounding sea of myself, and I see the lifeline thrown to me.


It pulls me toward something beyond myself. The art and poetry and prose link me to beauty, all those good and fearsome incarnations of it It links me to truth, to questions about truth, to all the vast implications of what it means to live in truth.

Breathe it.

Gulp it into my lungs.

No longer drown in fear.

Or, if the fear does not disappear, it shifts into holy fear. Take off your shoes, for this is holy ground. Grab this lifeline of beauty and truth, for it will free you from yourself.

How can I bear to see this end?

I read fiction submissions for the journal. I have marveled at the range of quality, voices, and ideas that fill my slush pile.

The best stories captivate me. I’m inspired to be a better writer and, more importantly, to be a better person. Some are glorious failures, the promise hidden beneath poor editing. Some aren’t.

But they all serve a purpose. I’m reminded that some person sat and wrote a story, cared enough about their narrative to try to capture it on paper; they may have failed, but they tried. The author cared about words and stories, and believed in their power to capture reality, move a reader’s heart, or change the world. They had the urge to create. So they did.

But when the stories succeed, they are glorious. I read them, finish, and immediately want to read them again. I look at the visual art, savor the poetry, delight at the prose, and realize that this lifeline is stronger than I’d first imagined. I grab this offering. I wrestle with it, phrase by phrase, image by image, working with the art as it tugs me toward truth and beauty.

Those who have created this art and those who throw out that lifeline, who invest time and energy into putting this journal into our hands, should be paid.


This gives them the ability to continue creating, to continue throwing out those life lines. Line after line after line to people like you and me, desperate and drowning in ourselves. We need art the way those caught by a riptide need rescue.

Art matters.

I believe that, and I believe that you do, too. And right now, it matters that you care enough to take action. Won’t you consider making a donation today? Every dollar counts.

Even if you cannot donate money, you know people who can and will. Each of us has a wide range of contacts through our social media accounts, and we cannot know who among them will be moved to help us.

Please share this post. Share our need with your connections. Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs:  all of those are full of people who believe what you and I know to be true.

Art matters. Help us continue our work.